L. Neil Smith's
Number 307, February 20, 2005

Happy 90th Birthday, Dad!

Under False Colors
by L. Neil Smith

Attribute to: The Libertarian Enterprise

I received a message the other day from my old friend—call him "Russell"—warning me that somebody named "Mike" was misrepresenting me, or rather my ideas, online. There followed about a hundred lines of dialog between another old friend of mine, "Anton", and this "Mike" individual, of whom I had heard, although I'd never conversed with him, myself. Sad to tell, he's a vice chairman of a state Libertarian Party.

The exchange begins when "Mike" asserts, "It is clear that if you believe that [the] ZAP is a universally objective principle you hold to ... "

Let's stop here for a moment and examine the mistake "Mike" has already made in his eagerness to get to the point he really wants to establish.

For those uninitiated in the ways of libertarians, the acronym "ZAP" stands for "Zero Aggression Principle", a slightly different term some of us have settled on lately for what the movement has long called the "Non-Aggression Principle". What it says is that nobody has any right to initiate physical force against anybody else, for any reason.

Skipping over a lot of nitpicking that goes on among libertarians about formulation and implementation, what it means is that we're not pacifists. We will fight, we just won't start it. And if everybody acted that way—not starting it—about 90 percent of the world's problems, give or take the occasional volcano or tsunami—would be solved. I changed the name simply because I thought that the acronym "ZAP" was a lot more dynamic and attractive than the more traditional "NAP".

One of the best and, to me, most interesting features of the Zero Aggression Principle is that so many different folks arrive at it from so many different angles. I'm not sure where it came from originally. I first read of it in Ayn Rand's essays, but later heard it explained in greater detail by Robert LeFevre. Other teachers have taught it, as well.

In Independence Day, Will Smith puts it in terms his character might well have learned from his mom: "Don't start nothin', won't be nothin'!"

I wonder how that would look, rendered in Latin.

Now it's undoubtedly true, in many instances, what "Mike" asserts about the Zero Aggression Principle being held by some as "universally objective", by which I think he means "rooted in natural law" like the Pythagorean Theorem, or Newton's laws of motion, but it certainly isn't by every libertarian, and possibly not even by a majority. Many libertarians just see it as the only practical way killer apes can get along.

Thus when "Mike" continues, "... then [meaning 'therefore'] you are morally obligated to contribute to liberating those who [have been] initiated against and [are] unable to defend themselves ... " he skates out onto thin ice, breaks through, and falls in. Like so many others who labor to make a point they know damn well is spurious, he doesn't deserve that "therefore", and with a ceremonious drumroll I pretend to be hearing, I hereby take it away from him and break it in half.


Because even if there were a "universally objective principle" that nobody has a right to initiate force—I suppose you might be able to derive it from self-ownership—it doesn't logically follow that individuals have a moral obligation to protect others. At best, that's a non-sequitur, and at worst, it's altruism, one of the three legs (with mysticism and collectivism) that support totalitarianism. Most of us who call ourseleves libertarians swore off of it long, long ago.

Knowing his audience, "Mike" tries to dodge it, to make it seem like an act of enlightened self-interest: " ... because as history has shown, initiators will eventually get to initiating against you, always."

No they won't. History doesn't show any such thing. Some will and some won't. Recent studies, for example, demonstrate what we knew all along, that the U.S. was never in any danger of invasion by Japan or Germany, and that we could have sat out World War II in perfect safety.

What history does show is that warmongering tyrants from Lincoln to Wilson to Roosevelt to Bush have always made the same claim that Mike does in order to get what they want. What they want, of course, is war, which is the health of the state, and of their political careers.

Following a long series of historical "examples", nearly every one fallacious, he goes back to misrepresenting collectivism as a form of individualism:

"So in the end, it is really self-defense ... If you refuse to act on your principles, you are a hypocrite and externalizing the costs of your self-defense on others as well as endangering them. Inaction in the presence of tyranny against anyone breeds more tyranny against everyone."

The inconvenient fact for "Mike" is that blocading somebody else's borders and letting upwards of half a million kids die for lack of medicine and proper nutrition, invading two countries that never did anything to America, and murdering tens of thousands of pregnant women and ten-year-old goatherds can hardly be considered acts of self- defense.

More than that, his attempt to tell real libertarians what their principles consist of and whether they're living by them properly or not, is pathetic and laughable. It might work on liberals, or freshman philosophy majors (I was one of those once, myself) but it won't with grownups. His gabble about "externalizing the costs of self-defense" and endangering others may go over great in dormitory bull sessions, but it is nothing but words, meaningless assertions he doesn't even respect his correspondents enough to try demonstrating with facts and logic.

But the really fun part is when he finally pulls his pants down and shows us what he's got. It isn't very much, sadly enough, but this is what he has been leading up to, all along: "The national LP," "Mike" whimpers, "has put itself so far out to lunch with its idiotic anti-war message that it is simply not being listened to by the GOP anymore ... "



The country's right-wing socialists are being put off by the truth!

He wabbles onward, " ... where once we had significant influence (the presence of our people writing the tax cuts is a lingering influence) ... "

I don't know who "our people" are supposed to be. Anybody who writes policy under which even one individual has a cent stolen from him is not "our people", simply another enemy who has to be dealt with.

And here comes the reason I was sent this tantrum: " ... but the LP's loopy treatment of our own government as the bigger threat to liberty, and in some cases (like L. Neil Smith) saying we deserved 9-11 ... "

Wrong again. In the first place, whenever you say something like "our government", speak for yourself. I didn't order it. I don't want it.

Moreover, "Mike" doesn't deserve to use the word "loopy" until he actually makes the case, so I'm confiscating it from him until he does.

It's embarrassing to see him proving himself to be so completely ignorant of American history. From the War between the States until this very day, the US government has always been a bigger threat, not just to liberty, but to life and property, than any foreign tinpot.

Tell me, who was a greater threat to Americans, Kaiser Bill or Woodrow Wilson who continued the American Lenin's work, turning this handful of independent republics into a socialist dictatorship? Hitler and Mussolini or Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who built on what Lincoln and Wilson hd done, while giving half of the world away to "Uncle Joe" Stalin? Ho Chi Minh or Lyndon Johnson who read our mail, infiltrated anti-war groups, and had political opponents silenced, using the IRS? Saddam Hussein or George Bush, who uses the Bill of Rights as toilet paper?

Just for the record—and if you remember nothing else I've written here, please remember this—to the best of my recollection, I've never said that we deserved what happened on September 11, 2001. A collectivist like "Mike" or his philosophical buddy Ward Churchill might make such a mistake, but a genuine individualist would not.

What I have said is that previous administrations going back more than fifty years are responsible for what happened on that day, first because they threw in with European nations and corporations that treated people in the Middle East like dirt, switching their borders around, replacing their leaders at whim, even rounding them up in concentration camps, and killing anybody, man, woman, or child, who resisted.

Finally, despite poverty and relative helplessness, they found a way to strike back effectively. Washington and its various up-suckers ran around like shortened chickens attempting to deny the plain truth, mostly by blaming everything and everybody else ("They hate our freedom").

"... has prevented us," "Mike" exposes himself more, and it isn't pretty, "from having any constructive contribution to the debate over how the war on terrorism is prosecuted domestically. The GOP is only listening to the police chiefs associations while the LP is talking conspiracy theories and the ACLU is conspiring with terrorist prisoners."

Okay, let's dissect this tangled ball of headworms. First, it is not Republicans who determine who gets to debate anything. And what good would debating do, if we were only allowed to say whatever it is Republicans want to hear? Most importantly, there can be no legitimate debate over the War on Terror, aside from stating the fact that it is illegal.

And exactly like their identical evil twins the Democrats, where civil and constitutional rights are concerned, Republicans never listen to anyone but police chiefs, anyway. We weren't going to change that.

"Mike" apparently believes he can defeat his opponents with magic words, like "conspiracy theories". Yet the First Continental Congress was a conspiracy, and an illegal one at that. The Jekyll Island conference that gave us the Federal Reserve, the Income Tax, and ultimately World War I and the Depression was a conspiracy. So was the Manhattan Project. And what was that in Dave Nolan's living room in 1971?

The current conflict started, 9/11 was only an excuse, because George Bush, his friends, and family wanted to drive an oil pipeline across northern Afghanistan for a decade before the airplanes hit the buildings. They also wanted control of the world's second largest supply of oil, tucked neatly under Saddam Hussein's penny loafers. If that doesn't meet the definition of conspiracy, I don't know what does.

"... the ACLU is conspiring with terrorist prisoners ... " "Mike" informs us. I never realized that it was possible to get so many lies, errors, and inanities into a little sentence fragment only seven words long.

In the first place, the ACLU is more like a gigantic law firm than anything else, specializing in civil rights cases. I have a number of arguments with them, serious ones, but I'm glad they're there in times like these. I would point out to "Mike" what he knows perfectly well already, that conferring with a lawyer—especially when you've been kidnapped without due process and are being tortured on a daily basis—can hardly be described as "conspiring". And being described as a "terrorist prisoner" before you've even been charged, let alone tried and convicted, lies at the very heart of what makes these perilous times—and "Mike" something other than the libertarian he claims to be.

"If anyone is to blame for the current state of affairs, it is the LP national leadership and the purist pacifists posing as zapsters in the movement."

Now what movement would that be? If it's a movement that includes "Mike" it certainly isn't the libertarian movement. "Purist" is what people who have and act on principles get called by those who don't, themselves.

It's what crypto-Republicans like "Mike" call libertarians.

The same people fondly parrot the line, "The perfect is the enemy of the good," meaning that those of us who insist on the "perfect"—by standing on principle and avoiding compromise with evil—get in the way of those whose view is "more realistic". But what I've noticed is that if it weren't for those of us who insist on the perfect—embarrassing the gradualists and compromisers by reminding them why we all got into politics in the first place—there'd never be any good.

I'll repeat that thought for the benefit of those like "Mike" who didn't get it the first ten thousand times I said it. If it weren't for those of us who insist on the perfect, there'd never be any good.

"What am I doing?" Mike asks rhetorically, to contrast himself with the "purist pacifists posing as zapsters" and the ACLU, those Islamofascistsymps.

"I wrote a five-page bill for my state legislature to establish a citizen anti-terrorism marksmanship program mandating that any resident of the state can purchase an automatic rifle provided it is entirely ... manufactured [in-state], without going through BATFE hoops, so the residents can fulfill their [state] constitutional right/responsibility to keep and bear arms 'for defense of themselves, their family, their property or the state.' Of course, nowhere in the bill," he gloats smugly, thinking he's clever, "is the word 'militia' mentioned."

Good for "Mike". (I hear they're trying this in Montana, too. I wonder who thought of it first.) This country really needs another law—almost as much as it needs another lawyer—and when the feds find out, I'm sure the same forces who murdered Vickie Weaver and her boy, and all those kids at Waco, who robbed, raped, murdered, and burned a path across the South over the issue of nullification won't mind a bit.

It's long past time that individuals like "Mike" were made to understand that the Libertarian Party is not now, and never was an appendage of the Republican Party. The latter is a warm, loving friend of huge, voracious government and a vicious, bloody-handed opponent of individual liberty. It's always been that way, since its inception in the middle of the 19th century. Any claim Republicans make to wanting less government and more freedom is a low, belly-crawling, barefaced lie.

So to "Mike's" libertarian constituents, I suggest that it's time to remove him from the office he holds under false colors and find somebody to replace him who believes in the ZAP and really is a libertarian. I've heard that he's a big supporter of the Free State Movement, but, frankly, I wouldn't care to live in any state he'd "freed".

To "Mike" I say, you're not a libertarian of any kind, and you don't deserve to be in the Libertarian Party, let alone be one of its officers. I've known a hundred of you who believe with Lenin that freedom is so precious it must be rationed, but who don't have the cojones to be a little fish in the Republican Party pond where they belong.

Go away. Crawl back under the rock you came from. Or go play in traffic. At the very least pay attention to the .sig I was amazed to find at the bottom of your message. Mr. Pitt was talking about you, "Mike":

"Necessity [George Bush's phony war on terrorism being a perfect example] is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves."
—William Pitt (1759-1806)

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 http://www.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 185-page full-color graphic novel version of The Probability Broach has just been released by BigHead Press.
You can order The Probability Broach: The Graphic Novel from:
Laissez-Faire Books and Amazon.com


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