L. Neil Smith's
Number 300, December 12, 2004

Bill of Rights Day December 15

The Libertarian Enterprise At Three Hundred
by L. Neil Smith

Exclusive to TLE

So here I am, snuggled deep in the warm, comfortable prairie dog burrow that a novel often becomes after you've been writing it for a while. I hear a noise. I look up for a moment. I stick my head into the clear, cold air of the Colorado High Plains, and what should I discover?

The Libertarian Enterprise, the modest little online broadsheet I started back in 1995, is about to unleash its three-hundredth issue on an innocent, unuspecting world. Three hundred! How could it have happened?

I went to the TLE website, ncc-1776.org, looking for clues, and found a button at the bottom of the page labelled "Back Issues". I clicked on it, and went directly to the first issue, to see what we offered back then, and what I said about it the first time TLE appeared.

I listed a number of things that TLE was not going to be. It was not going to be an inside-the-movement gossip rag. It was not going to be a springboard from which we meant to leap on those we disagreed with and stomp them to death if we could. At the time, I'd recently been appalled by a piece about the late Samuel Edward Konkin III, in another publication, which was more interested in his clothing and his personal grooming habits than his ideas, or the color of his character.

There was a consistency between that item and other articles that publication ran that encouraged me to describe its activities (in a paraphrase of something that was once said, unjustly, about the works of Raymond Chandler) as "eunuchs beating each other to death with shoelaces".

That publication is still around, just like TLE, and although I haven't taken a look at it in a long time, I gather from those who read—and even write for—it, that it remains pretty much unchanged.

So does TLE, only in a good way, I think. That first issue contained articles written by many of the same folks who still write for TLE, and we still seem to have the energy today that we had back then.

There are some reasons for this. One is simply that every single piece in the publication is not only signed (an absolute must, I believe, in a journal written by individualists) but his or her e-mail address accompanies the signature. In TLE, a person retains moral and intellectual responsibility for what he or she writes, and can be addressed directly, if need be, by the readers. For the same reason, I have always discouraged (without 100 percent success) the use of pen names.

The object of TLE, as I explained it in that initial issue, was not to communicate with libertarians, but to communicate libertarian ideas to a very non-libertarian society. I don't know how successful we've been with that. We did violate our policy when it developed that the Libertarian Party had become the property of a group who wanted to soft-pedal all of its principles in order not to drive off potential Republicanoid donors, and then take the money (at least two million dollars, as near as we could figure it) and stick it into their own pockets.

We were more successful there. In his first Presidential campaign, that faction's candidate complained bitterly that TLE and yours truly were responsible for his poor showing. He later denied it, of course, and his second campaign demonstrated that he was perfectly capable of a poor showing on his own, without our help—or much of it.

When the hijacked airliners smashed into the towers in 2001, our editorial policy—strict adherence to what became known as the "Zero Aggression Principle", as well as the Bill of Rights—remained what it had always been. In a so-called libertarian movement that turned out to be stuffed with cryptoneocons eager to humiliate themselves at the feet of George Bush, and positively drooling at the prospect of dropping bombs on pregnant widows and ten-year-old goatherds in countries that didn't have anything to so with September 11, 2001, I have had e-mail from individuals thanking us for our philosophical consistency.

No need to thank us, it's what we do. But you're welcome. Every passing day, in Afghanistan, Iraq, here at home vindicates us a little more.

Another satisfaction lies in the fact that, long before the first issue of TLE, I had identified Abraham Lincoln for what he was: a mass-murdering megalomaniac and an American predecessor to V.I. Lenin, Joseph Stalin, and Mao Tse Tung. I wrote a column to that approximate effect which found print in the Las Vegas Review Journel. I was vilified for it, of course, but also backed up by at least one history professor at UNLV. It was great fun, and I'm still absolutely certain that abolishing the modern police state begins with discrediting its god.

But I am not a scholar in the academic sense, nor any kind of historian. I am an author of fiction who struggles to find a different way to convey great truths to people trying to overcome the massive injuries done them by the public schools. So I am glad that real scholars and historians—people like Jeffrey Hummell and Thomas DiLorenzo—fill the bandwidth today, telling shocking truths about Lincoln and his war that even I wasn't aware of. If, in the most microscopic way, we managed to help that development along, I am pleased.

If not, I am still pleased it's happening.

And who made TLE happen? I was the first editor. I believe my wife, Cathy, was on the masthead for a while—in fact, she gave the publication its name—but she was busy at a demanding full-time job, and raising our daughter Rylla, who was five at the time, to stay for long.

Our next editor was the lovely and talented Yiing Boardman, who (although she may not know it) taught me to delegate authority and then to trust the person or persons I'd delegated it to. Thank you, Yiing, you gave the publication a style and grace it didn't have before, and it's a great pleasure to reread the issues of TLE you created.

The real beneficiary of what Yiing taught me was John Taylor, who ran TLE, I believe, for the longest period of any of our editors. I left him alone as much as I could bear to, and he made TLE a real "power" in the movement. John became one of my closest friends and, although we've never met face to face, I would happily place my life, and the lives of my wife and daughter, in his hands. Eventually, he had to move aside because he found—as I had before him—that it's next to impossible to edit a publication and write for it at the same time.

And no, I don't know why.

Dan Weiner was a unique individual I met on the Smith2004 mailing list, and my first choice to succeed John. Dan was a politically active gay libertarian, and a founder of the Pink Pistols organization in Texas. Dan was an extraordinarily open personality from whom I learned a great deal. He could be, by turns, witty, serious, silly, and full of righteous moral indignation when circumstances called for it.

Dan was also the shortest-tenured editor TLE ever had. Shortly after he took over—and we had met and enjoyed each other's company at the same New Mexico LP convention where we first met Mike Badnarik—he discovered that he had a malignant and inoperable tumor in his brain and died of it within just a few weeks. We still miss Dan very much.

For all the years that TLE had been online, the last thing any of its editors did was send the final copy to Ken Holder and his wife, "Dangerous" Pat, two of the finest people I've ever had the honor to know. They put it up on the Web for the whole wide world to see. After Dan passed away, Ken offered to take over the editor's job, and did so, very admirably and adroitly. What he's given to TLE (besides hours and hours of hard work) is its distinguished appearance in cyberspace.

TLE today is pretty much what Ken and Pat have made it.

Some of the things I meant to do back in 1995, we never got around to somehow. We decided to remain a free journal and not to charge for subscription, a decision I'm still highly satisfied with today. Nor did we ever seek much advertising, which has its good points and its bad ones. We did go from e-mailed individual copies to an all-Web presence.

For 2005, we have two minor and transparent changes in mind. First, John Taylor is going to help us find dates of libertarian significance throughout the year, and recruit people to write about them.

Second, after reading about a middle-aged mother-to-be getting probed and groped by airport thugs in public, while her husband and children were forced to watch, I've decided that something has to be done. The police state we live in today was born—precisely as I predicted it would be in the 1970s—at the nation's airports, and that's where it must be ended, if it is to end everywhere else in America.

We'll be doing at least one article a week on this barbarism, two if we have the material. John will also be ramrodding this effort. At the end of the year, we should have enough columns for a book on the subject.

We'll keep up whatever pressure we're capable of generating, and encourage other publications and organizations to do so, until things change significantly for the better—that is, until you can walk, unsearched, aboard a commercial airliner with your gun openly on your hip.

In the meantime, we appreciate the donations you send to help keep TLE going. You could also help, if you would, by passing the TLE articles you like along to others, and by sending folks you know our URL.

The more readers we have, the more effective we can be.

Thanks for sticking around,

L. Neil Smith, Publisher
The Libertarian Enterprise

Three-time Prometheus Award-winner L. Neil Smith is the author of 23 books, including The American Zone, Forge of the Elders, Pallas, The Probability Broach, Hope (with Aaron Zelman), and his collection of articles and speeches, Lever Action, all of which may be purchased through his website "The Webley Page" at lneilsmith.org. Autographed copies may be had from the author at lneil@lneilsmith.org.

Neil is presently at work on Ceres and Ares, two sequels to his 1993 novel, Pallas, a decensored and electronically published version of his 1984 novel, Tom Paine Maru, and on Roswell, Texas, with Rex F. "Baloo" May. A 180-page full-color graphic novel version of The Probability Broach has just been released.

TLE's Editors:

L. Neil Smith, Issue No. 1

Yiing Boardman, Issues No. 2 to 31

Cathy L. Z. Smith, Issues No. 32 to 43

John Taylor, Issues No. 44 to 224

Dan Weiner, Issues No. 225 to 232 (listed as Editor until Issue 247)

Ken Holder, Issues 233 ("Acting Editor" until Issue 248) to date


Serenity, the FIREFLY movie
Serenity: The Official Movie Website

Help Support TLE by patronizing our advertisers and affiliates.

to advance to the next article
to return to the previous article
Table of Contents
to return to The Libertarian Enterprise, Number 300, December 12, 2004