Big Head Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 522, June 7, 2009

"They sense that the Age of Authority is over"

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El Neil Then and Now
L. Neil Smith: Then and Now

Energy Is Free
by L. Neil Smith

Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise

Elsewhere in this issue of The Libertarian Enterprise you'll find a couple of things I wrote in 1978 and 1980 predicting certain unpleasant developments in what we laughingly call our civilization, and proposing countermeasures that badly needed to be taken to prevent them.

Obviously, those countermeasures weren't taken.

Reading those essays for the first time in 30 years last night, exhumed with the kindly assistance of Jeff and Suzanne Riggenbach from the long-dead periodical Reason/Frontlines (remember TLE made its own debut a full fifteen years later, in 1995) even I was shocked at the deadly accuracy of my predictions. My wife and daughter, to whom I read the items aloud, were more than a little surprised, as well. No crystal ball or Ouija board had been used in the process, simply my understanding of history and human nature, leavened with a little common sense, which turns out to be less common than we might have believed.

Or hoped.

In between these essays, I completed and published my first novel, The Probability Broach. Although the libertarian movement loved it, for the most part, and it "converted" many others to the cause, as well, my magnum opus was largely overlooked by the mainstream, (which has manifested a bad habit of sticking its fingers in its collective ears and chanting "I'm not listening! I'm not listening!"), possibly because TPB made some dire predictions of its own, among them that a fake energy shortage would be used by the government as an excuse to deprive Americans of many of the pleasures and conveniences of the 19th and 20th centuries, including the private automobile and fast food—along with one very important 18th century amenity, individual liberty.

I deeply regret to say that most of my predictions of that nature have either come to pass already, or are in the process of doing so today. Believe me, I take absolutely no pleasure in being proven right in this manner. Being wrong is not a problem (at least it isn't for me) when what I've predicted amounts to the end of everything that human beings have striven to accomplish over the past eight thousand years. I would vastly rather have everybody pointing their fingers at me and laughing, while we all luxuriated in the manifold blessings of peace, freedom, progress, and prosperity in a 21st century libertarian utopia.

What I wonder now is whether we (I use the term loosely) still possess the courage and determination (assuming we ever actually did) to reverse the unfortunate course upon which this country seems to be set.

Given my record, frankly I'm afraid to make any predictions.

Many folks I know seem to be frozen in shock, paralyzed at the swiftness of what even Pravda has called "America's descent into Marxism" (which I predicted in Forge of the Elders). The only moxie they've managed to evince so far is the astonishing volume in which they're buying guns and ammo, the current sales figures for Ayn Rand's Atlas Shrugged, and the fervor of their "Tea Party" demonstrations (desperately under-reported by the captive media like demonstrations against the war in Vietnam initially were in the early 1960s) that frighten the excrement out of those who mistakenly believe they own us.

An overwhelming majority of Americans strongly disapprove of the multi-trillion Bush-Obama "bailouts"—a form of looting even Rand failed to imagine and predict—and place "global warming", perhaps the ultimate energy argument, dead last on their list of priorities. I don't know if you've noticed, but the #1 subject of defense industry research and development at the present moment is high-tech crowd control, including means of inducing pain in hundreds of people at once.

Waterboarding for the masses, coming soon to a Tea Party near you.

Of course they have to do this, those who mistakenly believe they own us, because, thanks very largely to the Internet (which serves not only as a means of unauthorized communication but a sort of external hard drive for our species), the bald-faced lies that have served as the foundation of their putrescently corrupt rule for the past century and a half are wearing thin. They know it. More to the point, so—increasingly—do we whose freedom, fortunes, and future they have stolen.

Take the issue of energy alone.

More and more individuals understand that there's no real problem here, except that which government and its mercantilist cronies have engendered. Proven untapped reserves of petroleum, natural gas, and coal under the North American continent alone are sufficient in and of themselves to maintain Western Civilization—at the highest rate of expansion it ever achieved—for centuries yet to come. (That's the real reason the coal industry has to die: it threatens a political power structure based entirely on false scarcities.) Standing in the way like perfect idiots are religious fanatics of the environmentalist persuasion, morons whom we must no longer appease, but curtly dismiss, resist, and shove aside as the mortal enemies of humanity that they are.

More recently, we have learned that "peak oil" is another lie that the Parasitic Class has employed to keep the Productive Class in line. Fields formerly described as "exhausted" are replenishing themselves from the bottom upward by geologically younger petroleum continuously being "manufactured" by natural processes—non-biological processes first described by astrophysicists Thomas Gold and Fred Hoyle and applied by Soviet petroleum geologists—occurring deep inside the Earth.

Meanwhile, newer energy technologies like catalytic fusion, thermal depolymerization, and, yes, nuclear fission, heretofore suppressed by governments and industries threatened by them (I can't think of a single ox that isn't gored by the prospect of households running on their own self-contained energy source)—plus the usual gaggle of useful idiots who want their eleven days back—are slowly beginning to throw off the attempt to stop or control technological progress.

Historically, the more energy there is at any given individual's disposal, the more independence and freedom he is likely to enjoy. If you want to know why governments are playing so rough recently it's because they sense that the Age of Authority is over. Their days are numbered.

For all practical purposes, in the long run—but no longer, I imagine, than the next century or so—energy, in a universe brimming over with it, will be free, and the current "hydraulic despotism" we labor under (where the critical commodity isn't water, but the second most abundant liquid on Earth, oil) will be a relic of the shameful past.

Meanwhile, there is no shortage of energy in our culture. What we suffer, instead, is a shortage of intelligence, a shortage of sanity, and, most of all, a shortage of basic decency, honesty, and integrity in government, industry, and science that threatens to fling all of us, along with all of our most cherished hopes, our dreams, and our aspirations, onto the same reeking midden heap of history where you'll find the ancient Sumerians, Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Incas, and Aztecs.

What are you prepared to do about it?

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 more than 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 is currently running as a free weekly serial at

Neil is presently at work on Ares, the middle volume of the epic Ngu Family Cycle, and on What Libertarians Believe with his daughter, Rylla.

See stunning full-color graphic-novelizations of The Probability Broach and Roswell, Texas which feature the art of Scott Bieser at Dead-tree versions may be had through the publisher, or at where you will also find Phoenix Pick editions of some of Neil's earlier novels.


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