Big Head Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 386, September 24, 2006

"Government is about stealing."


Death of a Generation
by L. Neil Smith

Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise,

My mother died night before last.

It was not unexpected. The small nursing home only three or four blocks from our house called us, and we went over to see my mother one last time and to begin all of the formalities associated with dying in America.

As I looked down at her dead face, the first thought that came to my mind, completely unbidden, was that here was the end of another life—exactly like my father's which ended in 1991—that had been callously used, drained, and distorted from its proper, natural shape by the one predator on the food chain higher than human beings: the state.

Tom Brokaw, one of many collectivist mouthpieces who made long, highly remunerative careers deceiving those whose lives he helped the state to use, drain, and distort, famously called my mother and father and their contemporaries "The Greatest Generation", a snide, lying phrase and poisonous concept eagerly adopted by an even more notorious collaborator, Rush Limbaugh, a pompous, cynical, hypocritical windbag—and Eddie Haskell wannabe—who made his career by sucking up to those of his elders whom he perceived to exercise more power than he had.

In fact, they were the most politically exploited generation (my dad was born in 1919, my mom in 1926) in American history. Growing up in the shadow of the mechanized mass butchery their parents had called the "War to End War", their earliest memories, for the most part, were of the "Great Depression", a worldwide economic collapse most of them never really ever understand had been caused by the very leaders they adored and their mercantilist cronies—exactly the same sort of tight circle we see today with George W. Bush and his big business buddies.

Having somehow managed to survive not only the Depression, but the nearly genocidal government policies supposedly intended to end it (but which actually made it far worse and more prolonged than it might otherwise have been) they were then informed that an unprecedentedly monstrous evil had arisen in Europe that Americans had some moral responsibility to deal with. They were not told it had been created and empowered by exactly the sort of policies that had engendered the Depression.

The fact, of course, was that government economic policies had utterly failed—more people were out of work in 1941, when the Japanese were goaded into attacking Pearl Harbor, than had been in 1932, when the current administration came to power—and politicians believed that a big war would cover up that failure and save their careers.

And so my parents' generation, used and abused by government from birth, were used and abused again, their individuality trivialized, mocked, and stomped out of them, their lives and hopes and dreams and wishes ripped to unrecognizable shreds in a world conflict between competing brands of fascism that killed an estimated sixty million people, among them, conceivably, the biologist who might have found a cure for cancer, the philosopher who might have discovered a basis for lasting peace, or the physicist who might have created an interstellar drive.

"Don't you know there's a war on?" became an excuse for any kind or degree of government excess, no matter how illegal, bloody, or atrocious.

My father's story is somewhat more poignant. A mere four years after the conclusion of the most blood-drenched episode in human history, the government that had helped to start it, and unnecessarily involved them in it, had the unbelievable temerity to recall (a term actually meaning "re-enslave") the individuals who had fought for it from 1941 to 1945, so they could fight yet another war, this time in Korea.

My dad was a flyer. He'd flown 25 or 26 "missions" over Germany, having been talked into dropping high explosives on people who mostly never did him any harm and who, in fact, saved his life when his plane was blasted from the sky and he was caught by soldiers and imprisoned for a year. He was training on newer, bigger, more lethal aircraft when the Korean War ground to a dirty halt and he avoided being sent there.

Instead, after a short stint with United Airlines where he was fired (or quit) for denouncing corporate policies that were getting men killed, he went to work for Strategic Air command and rode jet aircraft loaded with hydrogen bombs up over the North Pole to the edge of Soviet airspace a couple times a week for I don't remember how many years.

Being in S.A.C. meant being in one kind of technical school or another pretty constantly. It was while we were stationed at Mather Air Force Base near Sacramento, California (I was in second and third grade at the time), that Dad ran across corrupt military instructors taking bribe money for the answers to examinations being taken by the men whose job it was to fly those B-52s ferrying H-bombs over the Pole.

This didn't strike Dad as very good for the country, and he also resented it personally because academic studies had always been a struggle for him. He'd spent countless hours, countless days, and countless months studying into the night (while flying missions and doing another full-time job on base), trying to do things the right way.

Instead of being commended for reporting the cheating he had witnessed, he found himself in the deepest trouble possible in the military without actually being discharged out of hand. He was removed from S.A.C., and spent the rest of his military career, basically until I graduated from high school, being hidden out by his political friends at one obscure air force base after another: Goose Bay, Labrador; St. John's, Newfoundland; Fort Walton, Florida. He retired as a major, when those who had bought the answers retired as full colonels.

I don't think my dad ever fully understood what had happened to him. He came home and (after learning the hard way that he and Mom were too honest to sell real estate) went to work for Teledyne Water Pik. He was fired for "incompetence" when he had worked there for nineteen and a half years—just before he could start collecting his pension (a practice spreading through the corporate world today like some kind of plague)—successfully sued them, paid most of the money to his lawyers, and died of prostate cancer, a broken, disappointed man.

Through all of it, my mom stood loyally beside my dad, suffered through all of it with him, finally put him in the ground, and slowly began dying, herself. A true member of "The Greatest Generation", she never stopped believing anything she was told by those in authority, be they local and network TV news anchors or Republican politicians, and—except during the Vietnam war, when she had two draft-age sons—I could never really talk politics with her. I think she believed, deep down inside, that the Libertarian Party was somehow vaguely illegal—and also morally wrong for wanting to "force" people to be free.

I find that I've left a few things out—the wartime rationing, for example, that served no purpose whatever, except to con Americans into believing that they were engaged in some kind of life-and-death struggle with tyranny—when tyranny had already arrived here long before the Second World War, forcing individuals who falsely thought they were free to live lives that they never would have chosen for themselves.

Also, it's bad enough to be crushed under the thumb of a tyrant, but to be forced to pay for having the dirty done to you exceeds all reasonable bounds. I have no idea what my parents paid in taxes over the years—like most of their generation, they were very private about their finances—but I know that people today pay out about half of whatever they earn to one gang of governmental brigands or another.

Which means, in economic terms, that when two people are taxed for a lifetime, one whole human life has been used up, consumed by the ravenous state. There were 130 million Americans during World War II, and 300 million Americans today. The waste, the wanton destruction, the utter obliteration of human lives represented by American taxation makes the Nazi Holocaust, the Soviet Union's mass starvation of the Kulaks, and the Chinese massacre of the "landlords" look like small potatos.

And what of the future those lives might otherwise have created?

Although I started out (as we all are inclined to do) a lot like my folks, a proud military brat who actually pitied civilians for the aimless, purposeless lives they led, an American kid who also pitied foreigners because they could never be free the way we Americans were, my personal epiphany arrived when I was in sixth grade, when backward, primitive Commies put some machinery into orbit before wonderful, technologically advanced America, and everyone in the government, from the President down to my elementary school principal dirtied their pants.

Over the next couple of years there followed endless batteries of intelligence tests and probing interviews with bureaucrats that slowly convinced me that I (along with others in my class who were bright and interested in technology) was about to be stripped of my identity and individuality, and was being sized up for development as a weapon, to be used (and used up) by one group of idiots in funny hats against another.

After that, I never believed anything anyone in government had to say. In time (too much time, unfortunately) I came to understand that corporations were a big part of it, too—ultimately I saw they were driving it—and I promised myself I would never indenture myself to one.

This resolution was only reinforced by the Kennedy and King assassinations, the Vietnam war, and what I learned about Operation Keelhaul. Watergate came as no surprise. It's why I know we've never heard the truth about the U.S.S. Liberty, Gordon Kahl, Waco, or Oklahoma City. It's why I'll trust my own eyes, thank you—rather than the excrement spewed by government and the media it's "embedded" with—in deciding that the World Trade Center was demolished from inside, just like the Old Endicott Building in downtown Scranton or wherever.

The world of today's politics makes Renaissance Italy look like Disneyland.

And so I have lived my life, 60 years, so far. Am I happier than my folks were? I doubt it. Am I freer? Absolutely not, in a physical sense. Do I know who the good guys are and who the real enemy is? I certainly do. Will I die any less disappointed with life than my dad did?

There, I think, I have something of an advantage, however small. I have learned what's important in life: my wife, my daughter, my work for its own sake, starting thousands of tiny brushfires that statists will half kill themselves trying to put out over the next century or three.

I know something that very few—almost none—of the previous generation did. Forget all the political and philosophical divisions and false distinctions that we're accustomed to thinking about. An early intuition I once had, that libertarianism is not an ideology, but the absence of one, was correct. Differing ideologies simply provide differing excuses for government behavior that is always the same.

In the end, you can't get around it.

Government is about stealing.

From the august federal level down to the petty criminals who run whatever city you live in, It's about stealing and absolutely nothing else.

So if you're a Republican, a Democrat, a Green, or a "libertarian" mini-statist, what you're admitting to the whole world is that you're a thief. You're admitting to your neighbors that you want to steal their money, their houses, their weapons, their jewelry, and their children.

You're admitting that, if they won't cough up in a manner that appears comfortingly voluntary, you'll send your thugs (because you lack the balls to do it yourself) to beat them up, kidnap, or kill them.

You're admitting that you differ only by degree from Jesse James, Jimmy Valentine, Boss Tweed, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and Mao. Like Hitler and Stalin's moral cousins Churchill and Roosevelt, whose phony sainthood will last only until "The Greatest Generation" dies.

And history identifies you for what you truly are.

Four-time Prometheus Award-winner L. Neil Smith has been called one of the world's foremost authorities on the ethics of self-defense. He is the author of 25 books, including The American Zone, Forge of the Elders, Pallas, The Probability Broach, Hope (with Aaron Zelman), and his collected articles and speeches, Lever Action, all of which may be purchased through his website "The Webley Page" at

Ceres, an exciting sequel to Neil's 1993 Ngu family novel Pallas was recently completed and is presently looking for a literary home.

A decensored, e-published version of Neil's 1984 novel, TOM PAINE MARU is available at: Neil is presently working on Ares, the middle volume of the epic Ngu Family Cycle, and on Roswell, Texas, with Rex F. "Baloo" May.

The stunning 185-page full-color graphic-novelized version of The Probability Broach, which features the art of Scott Bieser and was published by BigHead Press has recently won a Special Prometheus Award. It may be had through the publisher, at, or at

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to return to The Libertarian Enterprise, Number 386, September 24, 2006

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