Big Head Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 395, November 26, 2006

"The other parties are afraid to talk about the future.
We are the future."


Of The Dead Speak Nothing But Truth
by L. Neil Smith

Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise

If you're a libertarian and are unaware, by now, that the world's premiere free market economist, Milton Friedman, died last week, it must be because you live in a cave or use the same Internet service I do.

We have much to thank "Uncle Miltie" for (my younger readers may not know that the nickname was first applied to the wildly popular 1950s comedian Milton Berle, a contemporary and competitor to Sid Caesar). Friedman and his wife Rose probably did more than anyone to popularize the concept of markets unconstrained by anything except the laws of nature that happen to apply to them. He was a big part of an intellectual revolution so huge, and so threatening to those—like the Bush family—who exist only to control the lives of others, that it gave accidental birth to the hideous reaction we are living through today.

I owe a personal debt to Uncle Miltie, as well. I met Cathy, my life's companion of more than 25 years, as a direct result of Free to Choose, the great miniseries he and his life's companion produced for television.

I didn't see it with Cathy, but when a complete horse's patootie of a variety we're all too familiar with these days—the Born-Again Whatever—apparently unaware that the Friedmans were Jewish, wrote a very long, complicated essay for a local paper explaining what Milton and Rose really meant by Free to Choose (it apparently had something to do with Jesus, I forget exactly what), Cathy wrote an even longer one carving him open, dragging his bowels out, and strangling him with them.

For me, it was love at first read.

However we must never forget a negative debt we owe Uncle Miltie, too, one that changed the course of history and made it immeasurably harder to regain our freedom. I haven't seen it mentioned much in the many eulogies to him that have been published over the past few days, but there's an extremely important lesson here that must not be overlooked.

Working for the lying, tyrannical, murderous Franklin Roosevelt Administration during the Second World War, Milton Friedman actually invented tax withholding, so that delivering a substantial fraction of our living substance to the state in each paycheck could be rendered as painless as possible, and therefore much less likely to trigger any sort of revolt. It's worth noting that Roosevelt was re-elected three times.

Can a lifetime of "good works" make up for something like that? I don't know. I don't know how even to begin measuring moral debt of that magnitude. The ability of the federal government to steal any amount of wealth it desires, and use it for anything it whimsically decides to, represents 99% of the American Nightmare, a nightmare that began, not on September 11, 2001 with the Fall of the Two Towers, or on December 7, 1941 with the Japanese attack Roosevelt deliberately provoked on Pearl Harbor, or even on April 12, 1861 with the shot heard round the world at Fort Sumter, but when George Washington declared war on western Pennsylvania whiskey farmers, on August 7, 1794.

This is not to excuse Dr. Friedman, but to point out that, as an educated man, he knew the hideous beast he was serving, and served it anyway.

We are what he served it.

Medium rare.

Every excess, every evil, everything the government has done since then is, in some part, Milton Friedman's doing. Perhaps if there had been no income tax to pay for them, and the Texas National Guard had to raise money with bake sales, there would have been no tanks at Waco.

Perhaps, without an income tax to support them, there would have been no American incursions and interference over the past decades in the Middle East, and therefore no September 11, no Patriot Act, no TSA gropings or fascistic and unconstitutional Department or Homeland Security.

One begins to understand the need for a concept like Purgatory.

But there's something much more important to understand here, and it is this: so-called minarchism—advocation of a "small", "weak" state—is not libertarianism. Uncle Miltie was a minarchist, and look where his cooperation—his collaboration—with the state got us. Despite fascist and socialist critics already gnawing on his still warm body, he was a moderate by libertarian standards, a gradualist, a "burrower-from-within". As a direct result, the American Productive Class, from that day to this, has been repeatedly and thoroughly sodomized.

So to those who did the same to the Libertarian Party platform in Portland last summer, I say this: you are fooling nobody but yourself. Your actions, your attitudes not only fail to lift the yoke of serfdom from our shoulders, they actively add to the burden we all bear. As much as any jackbooted thug or shiny-pantsed bureaucrat, you are the enemy; your protestations to the contrary fall on ears long deafened by the barking imperatives of the authoritarian state you help to maintain.

So forget ideologies. Forget politics. Forget Republicans versus Democrats, conservatives versus liberals, fascists versus socialists. They're only there to provide an ever-changing panoply of excuses, rationalizations, and justifications. Government is about stealing and nothing else. That's all it's ever been about. That's all it'll ever be about.

When you claim you're for "minimal government" what I hear is that you only want to steal from me a little. When you attempt to dismiss me as a "purist" (as if that were a bad thing to be, instead of the only thing), saying that you're a "gradualist" and braying that "the perfect is the enemy of the good", what I hear is that you want to go on stealing from me for as long as I continue to let you get away with it.

We've tried your way since the founding of the Libertarian Party—by moderates—in 1971. It didn't work, way back then, and it was morally repulsive. It still doesn't work today, and it's still morally repulsive. As much as we may have loved him, as much as we surely owed him in the end, Milton Friedman lived and died the poster boy for that syndrome.

Libertarianism is about not stealing.


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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