Bill of Rights Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 434, September 9, 2007

"A standing government is a bad idea."

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Letter from A.X. Perez

Letter from Sean Clifton

Letter from Jim Davidson with Reply from A.X Perez

Letter from L. Neil Smith

Another Letter from A.X. Perez

Letter from James Thoreau

Another Letter from Jim Davidson

Another Letter from L. Neil Smith

Letter from Sean Gabb

Re: "Thoughts About Money and Other Things", by L. Neil Smith

"Men Dream."

That's what King Leroy's wife said in Farewell to the King.

Men dream of wealth and freedom and justice. These things go together. Deny one, and the other two fall. Starving people sell themselves into slavery to feed their kids, to be oppressed and worked to death.

Men dream. And sometimes men work to make their dreams to come true. And they create and enjoy wealth, freedom, and justice.

Money and weapons are useful (some would claim indispensable) tools for creating,sharing, and defending wealth, justice, and freedom.

Men dream, and use their tools to make dreams come true.

Or as Warren Zevon put it "Send,lawyers, guns, and money."

The dichotomy between gun rights and economic rights is fallacious, you can't have one without the other.

Be a gnome who mines flint.

A.X. Perez

I would like to suggest placing the navigations links (next article, previous article, TOC) at the top as well as the bottom of each article.

Sean Clifton

[Hey, good idea. How's that look?—Editor]

Dear Editor,

Generally, I have liked the things that AX Perez writes. But, his recent letter was terrible, and he ought to seriously re-think his proposal.

He asks, "So what if Texas (and other states for that matter) go into the business of selling guns and ammo to replace their lost Federal funds and/or reduce their own taxes?"

The answer may be found in New Hampshire, and in several other states, where the government runs all the package liquor stores. Prices are artificially elevated. People drive over to other states to get better prices. The government does a lousy job providing variety and quality, and is slipshod in all manner of customer service. The government cartel prevents other competitors from providing quality products at lower prices.

Having state governments run businesses is an evil, vicious, tyrannical idea. It is bad for merchants. It is bad for consumers. It is bad for the economy. It ought not to be tolerated. Government is a bad, bad, evil, nasty thing. It should not be encouraged to do anything. It certainly should not be encouraged to compete on unfavorable terms.

Do concealed carry license holders feel they have been screwed by government when Texas goes to Vermont (and Alaska) style carry? Good. They should be ashamed of themselves for getting a license from the government for a God-given right they had in the first place. They should be ashamed of themselves for paying a fee to carry a license to carry a gun when they ought to be working harder to starve the state.

Frankly, I don't understand why Mr. Perez wants the government of Texas to have money. The state legislature meets every two years for five months, and for sundry emergency sessions called by the governor. It would be better if it met every five years for two months, or every fifty years for two weeks.

A standing government is a bad idea. The state legislature is endlessly trying out bad ideas—like lowering the speed limit on the Interstate highways after dark from 70 mph to 65 mph because some legislator had a burr under her saddle about driving at night. The state legislature is endlessly making the business environment different by adding or subtracting legislation and by changing the regulatory environment.

There are two things that have a governmental aura about them which may be useful on an ad hoc basis. The first of these is courts. When a crime or tort happens, it may be useful to call on persons of sound judgement to judge these matters. Then, when they have come to a judgement, send them back to their businesses and farms. An ad hoc court may be useful, but a standing court is going to have a standing army of police to enforce idiotic laws and ordinances to fill up the court with cases—and generate revenues to fill the maws of all those cops.

The other ad hoc governmental entity would be a militia, which would be called up by members of the community in times of actual invasion or widespread disturbances of the peace. Obviously a standing army is an evil thing, causing all manner of foreign occupation and intervention in other countries.

The rest is not needed. The State of Texas is not needed to build roads, provide phone service, provide electricity, nor regulate (nor tax) any of these things. The State of Texas is not needed to regulate the market for cattle, oil, or other commodities. The State of Texas provides terrible education and ought to be actively prevented from being in the business of running schools.

Indeed, government-run schools are an excellent example of what would happen if this craxy idea by Mr. Perez were allowed to go forward. If the government were in the business of selling guns and ammo in the same way, and to the same extent, that it is in the business of providing "public" schooling to children, we should see the same level of quality—next to none—and the same sort of lazy, indolent, and rude teachers and administrators clamoring for more money, as well as all the other features of poor performance and inadequate preparation that we find from schools.

Get a grip, sir. We need nothing from government.

The worst thought I've had in connection with government gun and ammo sales is that the things won't work just when they are needed most to kill governmental tyrants.


Jim Davidson

To Which Mr. Perez replies:

I proposed having the government get into the gun business as a way to get it to earn a living honestly. If this proposal is a bad one I'm not emotionally committed to it.

I would love to see taxes and reliance on government services go away simultaneously. Competent, polite teachers (like me, ahem), cops at all levels of government, etc. undoubtedly will be able to find work in the private sector. Retirees can transfer their vested funds to private retirement funds, tax paid roads can be replaced with toll roads, tax paid schools can be replaced by private schools. The money saved in taxes can pay tolls, tuition, and service contracts and there will still be money left over in the former taxpayers hands.

It is still important that the states and fed have a source of income to provide services during the transition period while they are withering away. Otherwise we might get a situation where we reimpose tyranny on ourselves simply because people can not wait for private enterprise to finish replacing government as a provider of these services.

There will be a transition period while the current megastate is being replaced by the smallest possible state to none at all. Paying off government debts and keeping government services in place for the five to ten years it will take to transfer the governments' (all levels) "customers" to private providers are part of this transition.

As long as the state is paid for by taxes it will not die, collecting these taxes will become even more of an end in itself than it is now. If we can get the state to earn its living some other way (Importing olive oil and investing in desert resorts comes to mind, apologies to the of course non-existent mob.) perhaps the last time we get "congressed" (Did you know the Kama Sutra uses congress as a euphemism for sexual activity?) will be so that the government can dissolve itself and reorganize as a limited liability corporation whose sole purpose is to sell specific products to voluntary customers.

So you don't want them selling alcohol or guns. Fair enough. Come up up with a product for them to sell so the only money they get from us is handed over voluntarily in exchange for a good or service we want, not protection money to avoid imprisonment, assault or forcible forfeiture of property.

Besides it's still a good way to bug supporters of gun control.

A.X Perez

Dear Ken—

In response to my recent column "Thoughts About Money and Other Things" Tim Butler wrote

You wrote:
> Here's why: the information that money conveys
> is called "price"—a word, in the study of economics,
> with a technical definition. Each of us contributes to
> the pool of that information whenever he buys something. . .

Ever taken 20 minutes or so to ponder the real difference a Star Trek-style "replicator" would make in the whole theory of "economy"? It's the reason that universe no longer has any use for money. . . and a short period of examination will blow your mind.

The replicator simply reproduces, on demand, any object below it's critical size maximum threshold that it has a proper template for. It does this by manipulating micro-forcefields to mold matter at the molecular level. You want a cold glass of Chardonnay or a loaded Kimber .45? Just speak into the pickup, wait about six seconds and it's yours!

Consider: What has just occurred is a complete divorce of production and human effort. It no longer "costs" anything in terms of time, labor or investment to produce any item you want. The old communist ideal of "to each according to his needs" actually becomes not only possible, but inevitable. Substitute "wants" for "needs" and we get nirvana, at least from an economic perspective. (I don't even want to start into the political aspects of this. Needless to say, the advent of the replicator would be fought bitterly enough to cost us a goodly percentage of the current population.)

Luckily(?), the replicator is a complete fantasy as our physics does not yet admit to the possibility of the generation of forcefields of any size or strength, let alone their manipulation at anything like the necessary degree of delicacy. In the absence of another Einstein to unravel the concept, it ain't gonna happen.

However. . .!!! We are indeed approaching just exactly that sort of revolution, in a time frame only a couple orders of magnitude longer, with the introduction and continued sophistication of nanotech!

You want a mint 1965 Chrysler Imperial, complete with a full gas tank? Simply visit your local distributor's website, download the program/spec, load it up to a thimble-full of the "blank" nannies you keep beside your desk, and take them out and sprinkle them over some old junk you have lying around in the back yard. Come back in about 72 hours and presto!, there's your Imperial with the key in the ignition waiting for you to take it for an introductory spin around the state.

The ONLY "investment" necessary for this to happen would be for someone to write the original program/spec (which would undoubtedly be wildly simplified by a lot of "pick and choose" type software to begin with), and providing the necessary raw materials for the programmed nannies to reshape.

Just what does this idea do to the entire theory of "economics"? And is this why nano-tech is getting such short shrift in investment bucks?

Granted, this is probably a wildly simplified vision. . . but would Eli Whitney have believed the possibility of the Chrysler Imperial to begin with, much less the idea that they could be produced by identical hundreds on a daily basis?

Tim Butler
Rock Hill, SC

And I replied:

Thanks for writing—

On several occasions I've dismissed Star Trek's replicators as a dead giveaway of the series' left wing socialist character. I stand by that. It's nothing more than a "wishing will make it so" box, and even if it existed, it wouldn't do away with money—as I'm sure the Ferengi would be at some pains to point out.

First, replication would require a pattern, as you say. That's intellectual property and somebody would want to be paid for it. I certainly would, although my taste in vintage cars runs more to the 1937 Cord Phaeton.

Second, replication would require energy—lots and lots of it—which may come close to being free someday, but sure as hell isn't right now. This reminds me I should point out that somebody (guess who) would be called upon to pay for StarFleet's ships and personnel. Nor do I see real estate in the San Francisco area becoming any cheaper in the 22nd, 23rd, and 24th centuries.

Third, replication would require raw materials. If you want a gold-plated phaser, you can't just summon the gold for it out of thin air. You have to have a supply of it in a bin somewhere. If, on the other hand, the replicator creates objects by recombining particles at the subatomic level, then it's going to require a lot more energy and a lot more intellectual property than I originally suggested.

Finally, I don't see that particular society allowing uncontrolled use of replicators. These are the folks who impose a death sentence if you visit the wrong planet, after all, and who have made gene-tailoring an imprisonable offense. Why, if replicators weren't strictly regulated, some socuially irresponsible somebody might make a gold-plated phaser! And, naturally, the licensing and regulation costs money.

I don't think there'll ever be a free lunch. The best we can hope for is that lunches will get better and cheaper as we go along, thanks to private capitalism.

L. Neil Smith

"All men are created equal and endowed with certain unalienable rights. . .  governments are created among men to protect these rights."
—Thomas Jefferson

"And to secure for ourselves and our posterity the blessings of liberty. . . "
—Authors of the US Constitution

The Bill of Rights addresses these points in that it describes some of these inalienable rights and therefor helps guarantee the blessings of liberty.

These rights are the heritage of all mankind, not simply those with the good fortune to be born in America. At the same time there is a whole lot more of "them" than there is of us. Either we export the Bill of Rights or over time the values that deny this heritage will be spread to us. Already they contaminate the mind set of too many of our political leaders, academics, and journalists.

In evolutionary terms genes and memes ( i.e., culture defining ideas and yes I know it's more) must either be spread or die out to inbreeding.

We exported MCDonalds, Coca Cola, Disneyland,and democracy. Now we must export liberty.

And Quit picking on TR. OK, so he was a tyrant, but he was a fun tyrant. Too bad he didn't have advisors to show him how to achieve his goals Constitutionally at the pace he wanted to work at. Perhaps that is what all leaders need, someone to show them how to exercise power effectively in a manner that protects and promotes liberty instead of trying to crush it.

There are of course leaders whose goal is to crush freedom. As the prisoners at Gitmo and other places we have stashed captured "enemy combatants" in the war on terror have their cases resolved, including the release of those falsely accused, the new homes of this next generation of unfun tyrants is created.

Let the free men of the world unite to help these shriveled soul monsters settle into their new homes.

A.X. Perez


Re: "Of Rails and Liberty"

Daniel Jennings does a fine job in reviewing some of the factors involved in the change from electric trolley cars to clogged highways in his recent essay.

However, he misses the now well-documented efforts of Standard Oil, General Motors, Phillips Petroleum, and Firestone to buy up trolley systems all over the USA. Once bought, the trolley cars were scrapped and the rails torn up. Where services were replaced, the company at the center of this scandal replaced the trolley cars with General Motors buses.

This situation is documented fairly well by those guys at Wikipedia.

The scandal resulted in an anti-trust suit. Eventually, the Supreme Court of the USA (SoCoTUSA) weighed in and found that there was indeed a conspiracy to eliminate electric trolleys all over the country. But, the punishment did not fit the crime. "GM was fined $5000 and each executive was ordered to pay a fine of $1." Gosh.

James Thoreau

Dear Editor:

One of the more interesting resources online is Wikipedia.

Recently, I ran across a Wikipedia entry on the Free State Project and noticed a red link to The Libertarian Enterprise, in the paragraph mentioning the first essay on the topic. Well, I thought, if there is no wikipedia entry on TLE, maybe I should start one.

So, I did. It is here.

It is, in my view, fairly lame. I didn't go through and identify all the authors of significance—just some few that I recall and particularly like. So, other Wiki editors are welcome to add to that list. One could also create articles on some of the fine people listed, such as Aaron Zelman.

More could probably be said about the history of the publication.

But, like all things, it is a start.


Jim Davidson

[I use Wikipedia frequently but it never occured to me to put "us" in there, but then I'm not very bright. . . or something—Editor]

Dear Ken—

As I've had occasion to mention before, a little while ago, I wrote an article for Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership called "The NRA Disgraces Itself—Again". You may read it at . Mostly I've had excellent feedback about it, but there have been one or two exceptions, the first of which I wrote about here in The Libertarian Enterprise .

This morning I received a second negative response from somebody calling himself John Scirica, to wit:

You wrote:
> We live in a culture where the Congress has given
> away its legal right and duty to declare—or to
> refrain from declaring—war, and the military that
> liberated Europe in two successive world wars, that
> distributed food and clothing and chewing gum to
> starving kids, now massacres entire neighborhoods, and
> terrorizes and tortures helpless prisoners."


I found your article very interesting. It makes me
think very deeply about the NRA. I am a life member
and am now somewhat torn in my decision to possibly
separate myself from them. I am also a 30 year
Military Veteran and your last sentence above also
makes me wonder. Are you sure you meant what you
said. Do you actually believe that America's armies
of the past never committed atrocities or tortured
prisoners? If you do Neil.............. You are very
very misinformed. Regardless.......... Our armed
forces have always been "above the rest" and today are
still better and more humanitarian than ever. I speak
from experience.......... Do you.

I hope you continue to write and inform us on the NRA
issues and that you stop making "drive by" comments
about our forces.

John S.

To which I replied:


I grew up in the military. My dad was a 30-year man whose service included being a B-17 bombardier in the European Theater, a prisoner-of-war in Germany, perhaps a decade in Strategic Air Command, and about the same amount of time in North East Air Command. (where he'd been "hidden" by his friends after blowing the whistle about test questions being sold by instructors at Mather AFB. I always listened and looked attentively and know the military inside and out. I stay current because many of the most loyal readers of my novels are military people and keep me informed.

I know about plenty of atrocities in the past, to be sure. Operation Keelhaul in Europe, the massacres of POWs in the Pacific. I know a man who was actually present when prisoners were used in Vietnam (during the "Tiger Cage" phase) as test subjects for small arms ballistics experiments.

I also know about the kindness and generous nature of most of America's G.I.s, and tried my best to balance that. So don't you ever accuse me of making "drive-by" comments. It isn't in me to do that.

"Above the rest" you say? I say that's irrelevant. Morality doesn't operate on a curve. An individual or an organization either act correctly or they don't. Today, our forces are little better than the Imperial Stormtroopers in Star Wars, and you know as well as I do the kinds of incidents in Afghanistan and Iraq I'm talking about. Hell, it was a National Guard unit that supplied the armored vehicles at Waco—I have not displayed or saluted the flag since it flew from their antennas. Our country is in deep, deep trouble, and unlike many of my conservative readers who seem to love bad news, I hate having to report any of it.

But that won't stop me from telling the truth, especially if I think it's the only way to change things.

Thanks for writing,

L. Neil Smith

1) If you have not doen so yet, please consider for yourself or for your students the Chris R. Tame Memorial Prize. You need to supply me, on or before the 1st October 2007, an essay of around 2,000 words on the subject: "Does Britain Need a Libertarian Party?"

Whoever writes the winning essay will get £2,000 (TWO THOUSAND POUNDS STERLING). This competition is open to everyone in the world except officers of the Libertarian Alliance. Just because you may not be British does not prevent you from offering us advice!

You can find the rules of the competition here:

2) You can also still book places at the Libertarian Alliance and Libertarian International joint London Conference. This will be held at the National Liberal Club on the 27th and 28th October 2007, and will be a glittering event. Full details here:

3) I gave a lecture last night on the Greek Philosopher Epicurus. Here is an extended text of the lecture. You may leave comments—and these are welcome—by clicking on the "comments" button at the head of the lecture. Go here:

Sean Gabb
Director, The Libertarian Alliance

Download my new book—"Cultural Revolution, Culture War: How Conservatives Lost England, and How to Get It Back"

[I highly recommend the essay on Epicurus—Editor]

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