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L. Neil Smith's
Number 535, September 6, 2009

"Void the Bill of Rights, you void the Constitution."

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After Ethics and Morals, an Article on L. Neil Smith's Religion
by Ian Titter

Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise

L. Neil Smith tells us that he is an Atheist. He also writes that he finds all religious ridiculous, yet I have gained the impression that L. Neil Smith is very religious.

Perhaps at this point I need to explain myself.

Science is evidence-based belief, whereas religion is faith-based belief.

Disbelief in God, or gods or a god, does not necessarily preclude other forms of belief taken on faith. If this is possible, then a religion based on a faith in something besides the "supernatural" can exist and I think L. Neil (and others) have such a faith.

Look at The Libertarian Enterprise archives for a start. Although L. Neil tells us that he has been a Libertarian since his youth, many of the articles he writes are about ways in which the United States could be improved if:

  • All laws passed since 1912 [footnote 1] were repealed,

  • The Constitution of the USA, and the 'Bill of Rights' were properly upheld by the courts,

  • Politicians were made legally accountable for their actions [footnote 2], eg: obliged to uphold their Oath of Office,

  • The Zeroeth Amendment [footnote 3] was in the 'Bill of Rights',

  • Article 1, Section 6, [footnote 4] of the U.S. Constitution was repealed,

  • A Penalty Clause written into the Bill of Rights [footnote 5], and

  • A Constitutional amendment mandating total separation of medicine and state. [footnote 6]

There are other subjects that L. Neil has written about that cover similar ground. He also supported the candidacy of Ron Paul for the Republican Presidential Nomination of 2008 on the basis that Ron Paul was an avowed upholder of the U.S. Constitution.

This faith-based belief in the efficacy of a re-made United States of America based on upholding the Constitution as it was written, (or a modified new version), represents my evidence that L. Neil Smith is religious.

Perhaps it is an interesting example of Orwell's doublethink [footnote 7].

People claiming to be Libertarians today generally fall into one of two camps. These have been characterised as 'Purist' and 'Pragmatist'. L. Neil Smith favours the Purists who want the spread of a 100% complete Libertarian program instead of the gradualist Pragmatist camp who favour a compromise position to begin with. They (the Pragmatists) favour getting into government as Libertarians without being too Libertarian to scare the voters and then getting a bit more Libertarian as time passes.

L. Neil Smith is Purist in his Libertarian political position, but Pragmatic in his 'religious' position.

I don't see any other basis by which he can call himself a Libertarian yet continue to advocate the 'benefits' bestowed by the U.S. Constitution.

I think Libertarians rely on principles. They have no need for written law, rule, regulation or statutes. Any written explanations they use are created to improve their understanding of the principles they espouse. Each Libertarian is sovereign, self-governing and independent. Unfortunately, the rest of the world has yet to catch up.

Governments have written laws, regulations, statutes, constitutions, charters, and rules that they claim to follow, and require their citizens to obey. Governments use force to coerce compliance although they have passed so many laws that no one can know them all. Ignorance of a laws existence is held to be no excuse for breaking it.

Once upon a time, much of the world was ruled by monarchies. In England, the aristocracy forced their king to agree to limits on his power on several occasions. The document entitled "The Magna Carta" is the best known of the earlier agreements and is cited as the basis of much common law.

The Constitution of the United States of America and its subsequent amendments was an attempt to set a limit on the government of a Constitutional Republic. As such,it has much in common with the Magna Carta.

Both are historic documents. Both attempt to limit the power of ruler over ruled (or governor over governed). Both have been seriously weakened in their current application by actions taken over time since they were written.

Any attempt to invoke the Magna Cart in an English court in the present day would be useless. The world has changed and the nature of society and government with it. The interpretation of the U.S. Constitution by the courts of that country is going the same way, as courts there reinterpret it to suit the current day politics and morality.

L. Neil Smith's nostalgic desire for the reimposition of a strictly enforced version of the old historic document is therefore misplaced, and as I've said, has elements of a religious nature.

I've seen L. Neil's view of libertarian society in his science fiction and I'd like to think we will get there, or somewhere very close to his depiction.

Although The Libertarian Enterprise has been published for over 500 issues I see little sign that any sort of progress towards a Libertarian society is being made. Most of the time, the writing of professed Libertarians reminds me of a 'Blonde' joke.

A blonde standing on one side if a very busy road cannot figure out how to get to the other side. Spying another blonde across the road the first calls out to the second, "How can I get to the other side?" To which the second blonde calls out in reply "You are on the other side."

There are screeds written about the wrongs we live with, and other screeds written about the libertarian style of society that would be better, but only a few ideas put forward about how we get there from here.

I've got my own opinions regarding the worth of the Libertarian Party and the Free State Projects, which seem to be the currently favoured approaches, but I'll leave them for an article on the subject at another time.

Post Script

Perhaps I should have explained earlier in the article. I was born and still live on the island continent of Australia. The national government here has a Constitution but no Bill of Rights. As a consequence, I look at the U.S.A. from the perspective of an outsider. (It is probably a bit like being Canadian but separated from the U.S.A. by a wide moat called the Pacific Ocean instead of a common border.)

Proposals for the introduction of a 'Bill of Rights' here have come to nothing. Similarly, a referendum proposing to change Australia into a Constitutional Republic failed because the public wasn't convinced that they could trust the politicians to set up one that improved on the current deficient system.


1. "The Last Test of Democracy: Part One" by L. Neil Smith,

2. "propose a Constitutional Amendment providing that, if any public official, elected or appointed, at any level of government, is caught lying to any member of the public for any reason, the punishment shall be death by public hanging."

3. I. Any public official or employee who, knowingly or unknowingly, violates—or participates in the violation of—any provision of the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution shall, in full public view and over such media as exist at the time, be hanged by the neck until he is dead.

II. The word "he" is not to be construed so as to exclude female public officials or employees.

III. This amendment, upon ratification, shall be inserted in the Constitution just before the First Amendment.

4. "I therefore propose that we repeal Article 1, Section 6, excise it from the Constitution like the malignant, self-serving growth it is. We will compel office-holders everywhere to operate under exactly the same constraints that we do, and to leave our liberties the hell alone. If that isn't a reform program that should appeal to major segments of the right, the left, and libertarians, I don't know what is."

5. and "Empire of Lies" By L. Neil Smith, Presented to the Libertarian Party of New Mexico, Albuquerque, New Mexico, June 15, 2003

6. Introductory message by L. Neil Smith, The Libertarian Enterprise, Number 532, August 16, 2009

7. In 1984 by George Orwell, The ability to hold two opposing ideas in your head at the same time is called 'doublethink'.

[See next article for L. Neil Smith's response]


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