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L. Neil Smith's
Number 471, June 8, 2008

"Party like it is 1773"

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Of Course You Know, This Means War
by L. Neil Smith

Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise

Sometime around 164 B.C., after the death of that itinerant bully Alexander the Great, his successors in the part of his empire that included Palestine decided that the locals should start thinking and acting more like their conquerors, a process that came to be called "Hellenization".

Like the Romans who followed in his thugsteps, Alexander had been bright enough to leave certain aspects of local culture be. Religion, sort of a conqueror's third rail, was at the top of that list. Letting subject people worship whatever and however they wanted avoided many pointless clashes and made tax collection easier. Then along came an idiot named Antiochus, who outlawed the practice of Judaism, seized the Jerusalem temple, converted it to the worship of Zeus, and — just to rub the Jews' noses in it — forced them to start sacrificing pigs there.

It's important to point out here what the Jews didn't do about their hijacked temple. They didn't say, "Oh, what the heck, if those Greeks want it so bad, let 'em have it. We can always build another one." Or, "It wasn't that great a temple, anyway. There was plenty wrong with it. Maybe we're better off without it." Or, "Perhaps we should never have built a temple in the first place. It's such an unJewish thing to do, and it only attracts ruffians and riffraff like Antiochus."

Instead, one courageous Jewish priest refused to sacrifice a pig and instead urged his fellow Jews to fight the Greeks. After his somewhat predictable death, his sons — particularly one called Judah, nicknamed the "Maccabee" or "Hammer" (the same handle adopted by the fellow who changed the history of the world by stopping Moslem expansion into Europe at the Battle of Tours) — waged a successful guerilla war against the Greeks and eventually drove them out of their city.

And their temple.

There followed a period of ritual (and undoubtedly quite literal) cleansing and rededication, during which a miracle occurred involving lamp oil, which was celebrated forever afterward as Chanukah, the Feast of Lights — but what's really being celebrated is a military victory.

All this history returned to mind — I first learned of it while researching The Mitzvah, a novel I wrote with Aaron Zelman — when I began seeing the reactions of various libertarians to the Presidential nomination of former Republican congressman Bob Barr, an interloper, carpetbagger, scavenger, and parasite who latched onto the Libertarian Party to salvage his failing political career and will no doubt hand it back when it has served its purpose, a drained, broken, lifeless wreck.

Barr is a lawyer, a former CIA employee, a U.S. Attorney, and 1994 Gingrich-style Republican "Revolutionary" who served four terms in Congress as a vicious and sadistic drug warrior, anti-abortionist, and reinterpreter of the highest law of the land, who fallaciously asserts the existence of a "constitutional right and responsibility of Congress to pass laws protecting citizens from dangerous and addictive narcotics".

He dodges ripe topics that only the Libertarian Party could dive into feet first, whimpering, for example, that the issue of outrageous gas prices is "complicated" and market driven, when it is actually part of a transparent attempt to reduce us under absolute hydraulic despotism.

He is also a chronic waffler with a habit of performing terrible authoritarian acts that needlessly place innocent individuals in prison or in other peril, and endanger the nation and its Constitution as a whole. Recently he claims that he regrets opposing medical marijuana and voting for the USA Patriot Act. He also tried to outlaw the practice of Wicca in the military. When will he tell us he regrets that?

The man wanders all over the place, politically, philosophically, and ideologically, with no discernable rhyme or reason, no logical connection or consistency between the various random stances he takes on issues — and then later abandons when he finds them inconvenient. Above all, Barr clearly misses the entire point of libertarianism — which is the enjoyment of untrammeled self-ownership — and of being libertarian.

It's been said that crafty old Alice Roosevelt (daughter of Teddy Roosevelt) helped thwart Thomas E. Dewey's presidential aspirations by observing — as publicly as she could — "why, he looks just like the little man on the wedding cake!" Someone in the media is bound to see, sooner or later, that Bob Barr closely resembles Milburn Pennybags, the little man in the Monopoly game. If I noticed it, they certainly will.

Those within the Libertarian Party who support Barr see him as the key to winning more publicity and more votes than they've ever managed to get before now, and they evade the questions, "Publicity for what?" and "Votes for what?" Certainly they will not be publicity and votes for libertarianism, or even — if we examine Barr's record — for more freedom.

They're like farmers, irrationally raising a crop of black, musty mildew because it's so much quicker and easier than raising wheat or beans or corn. Why, the stuff — mildew — practically plants and raises itself, and there's always more than anyone could possibly ask for.

Of course the trouble is that, in the end, all they've got is mildew and nobody asks for it. They never seem to get that, somehow. The real thing takes years and plenty of elbow grease and skull sweat. And now the years we've put in have been wasted, set back 30 years by the party's nomination of this shabby Libertarian-In-Name-Only, this LINO.

Some might wonder how this travesty occurred "all of a sudden", but the dismaying truth is, it started happening as early as that very first Libertarian Party national convention 36 years ago in 1972, when the inevitable cowards and temporizers started demanding that we "radicals" (defined as those who remain consistent to the principles that are the reason for having created the Libertarian Party in the first place) "tone down" our rhetoric and pursue a policy of lying to the public about what we believe, so as to fool them into becoming free.

They were always willing — eager — to tell us what the public thinks, what it wants to hear, although how they knew was anybody's guess. (Beware the guy who's eager to tell you what other people think. Ask him if he took a poll — or if he's telepathic.) Mostly they were projecting their own timidity, an abject fear of being ridiculed if they ran for office on a platform of undiluted libertarianism. What they didn't understand, and refuse to understand even today, is that the real danger any third party faces is being ignored. And the only way to overcome that is to make your rhetoric as flamboyant as you can within the principles that drive and guide you.

We "radicals" wound up spending as much time and energy fighting these cretins as we ever did working to change society, and, for the most part, the best and brightest of the movement were driven out of the party, many to begin their own undertakings, and some to drop out altogether.

By the turn of the century, those I'd labeled "Nerf libertarians" in a speech I made at the 1993 national convention were managing to gum the works up to a degree that seriously crippled the party. What I have more recently termed the Zero-Aggression Pledge, which had always separated real libertarians from the pretenders, and made political life impossible for hordes of chameleons and shape-shifters who erroneously believed they could make libertarianism into anything they thought the gullible electorate would vote for, came into increasing question.

The national platform, long an object of considerable pride among real libertarians and praise even from non-libertarians, was watered down until the party lost the meaning and became easy prey to those who never knew what "meaning" means, nor understood the principle of principles.

But by stripping the platform of its cogent thrust and especially by de-emphasizing (and often ridiculing) the Pledge, the party didn't broaden its appeal — which was always the excuse offered for turning the party's core ideology into pabulum — it lowered our shields, as it were, so that Barr and his crew of aliens could beam aboard and take over.

Undoubtedly, the frequent, feeble attempts of these creatures to dismiss their more principled opponents as "purists", "absolutists", and "anarchists" will continue, steadily increasing in volume and pitch. An insoluble problem — for them — is that many of us freely acknowledge all those "dirty" names and truly glory in them. But the worst difficulty — for them — is that what we actually are is libertarians.

And they're not.

And we're not afraid to mention it in public.

The same public they're trying to fool.

Now a very simple (if somewhat depressing) truth is that we can't influence the outcome of this particular election, and neither can Barr and his hangers-on. One way or another, a right-wing or left-wing socialist scumbag will be chosen in November by a hundred million products of the public education system to rule them and suck them dry.

However we can use this time to render the Libertarian Party useless to Barr and anybody like him, now or in the future. We can reset the drifting definition of libertarianism and decrease Barr's electoral effectiveness — even if he's "successful" what will it mean, if it's at the expense of everything the Libertarian Party was created to stand for? — by forcing him to waste time and effort disavowing real Libertarians and distancing himself from what we stand for.

The key to getting rid of pests like Barr is simply outshouting them — you might call it the "Big Truth" — a relatively easy task, since the LP has such a low public profile and the media have no reason to raise it. Real libertarians can make more noise, and without breaking a sweat. We're used to it. We can use the megaphones we have developed over the years to tell the voting public what libertarians really believe, and then stand back and let Barr try to explain it away.

We always tell the public openly that our party has been stolen by Republicans and that we're trying to get it back. They'll understand: their country has been stolen, and most of them would like to get it back. It's even possible the media will love telling a story like that. I'm often accused of airing libertarian linen in public, but my general experience is that it's the only way it ever gets aired at all.

Ultimately, we must regain control of the Libertarian Party and cleanse it, which is to say, employ our principles to render it uninhabitable by anyone who isn't a real libertarian. Then we can let Barr and his friends crawl back under the Republican rock they came from.

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.

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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