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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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L. Neil Smith's "Religion"
by L. Neil Smith

Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise

Elsewhere in this issue of The Libertarian Enterprise, there is an article from one Ian Titter, accusing me, in essence, of hypocrisy because, in his view, although I call myself an atheist, I am "very religious".

This will come as a surprise to some, including the Lutheran chaplain who counselled me through my God & Country Award in Boy Scouts. He knew I was an atheist. His principle concern was that I be an educated atheist. I have read through the Bible a couple of times, two different translations of the Koran, and the Book of Mormon.

"Science," Titter pontificates unnecessarily to the readers of these virtual pages, "is evidence-based belief, whereas religion is faith-based belief." Having established that you don't need a deity to be religious (correct: some of my best friends are Buddhists), he then takes a leap he doesn't deserve without more to back it up, asserting that, in order to be religious, you don't need to believe in the supernatural.

Normally I'd let this pass and get on to the main event. But since this is the way Titter "reasons" throughout (it's also his principal method of argument), I think it's important to spotlight it. Without offering further support for his contention, he goes on to mention a number of my published political positions, advising the reader that, in my belief, they're all "ways in which the United States could be improved". He then points out that I supported Ron Paul for the Republican presidential nomination in 2008 because the good doctor's a Constitutionalist.

Titter's next words give the game away: "This faith-based belief in the efficacy of a re-made United States ... based on upholding the Constitution ... represents my evidence that L. Neil Smith is religious."

Hold it right there. A few years ago, I wrote a reply to a fellow who tried the same kind of loose talk and fancy footwork, in which I took away a "therefore" he didn't merit and ceremoniously broke it in half. Now I hereby take Titter's implied but unearned "therefore" and break it in half, as well. So far, at least, he has failed to make any case. He could just as easily—and validly—said that L. Neil Smith has written all these political presciptions and is therefore a bicycle.

Or an artichoke.

Do I believe that the measures I advocate can change things for the better? Of course I do, or I wouldn't have bothered to write about them. (Incidentally, my one goal is and always has been to improve life for myself and other individuals, not so much a collective like the United States.) Do I believe it on the basis of religious faith? Absolutely.


Look: I believe the sun will rise tomorrow for two reasons. First, I understand the physical principles involved—barring the sun's going nova, which we won't know about for another eight minutes (and may never know, most likely because in all the excitement, we'll be vaporized). I also believe it on the basis of past performance: the sun has come up every morning of my existence, roughly 23,000 times so far.

In the same way, based on my knowledge of history and human nature, I have confidence that the measures I've proposed will have the effects I expect them to. I understand that life was better (not necessarily easier, mind you, we do love our dishwasher) when people had more freedom, and that the loss of a significant amount of that freedom occured in 1913, when the Federal Reserve banking system and income taxation were imposed on Americans, followed by tons of so-called Progressive Era legislation that has us bound hand and foot today.

The other items on Titter's list of bellyaches work the same way. Anybody who doesn't think we'd be better off if the Bill of Rights were stringently enforced, or if the penalty for its violation by politicians, bureaucrats, and policemen—or for lying to the public—were too terrible to contemplate, has problems that I can't fix. As Jesse Stone might express it, that's a shrink problem. I fix political problems.

Or try to.

Like science (and quite unlike religion) my ideas are subject to constant reexamination in the light of new information. I used to think private security companies were a good thing (The Probability Broach, is an example). Now, having lived another 30-odd years, I realize self-defense can't be delegated. It's an individual bodily function, like sleeping or eating, that can't be done for you by somebody else. Seeing Blackwater in Iraq and elsewhere only confirms it.

I do have high regard for the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, but I'm willing to bet that Titter knows nothing about the content of that regard. Moreover, my high opinion of Congressman Paul does not mean I share his religious views as Titter clumsily attempts to imply. While I gather that Ron is religious, I know absolutely nothing about it because he has very politely succeeded so far in keeping it in his pants.

Unlike most conservatives, who regularly expose themselves in public.

Titter gets off his trolley at the corner of Unsupported Assertion and Wild Surmise, and heads (with a stop at the Non-Sequiturs-R-Us bargain basement) for the Willful and Aggravated Conflation shopping mall.

In today's libertarian movement there is a schism, he informs us, between "purists" and "pragmatics". I won't delve into his pretzel logic here; you can read what he says for yourself. The point Titter struggles to make is that I contradict myself (which somehow makes me religious) by claiming to be both a "purist" and a Constitutionalist simultaneously.

"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."

That's because you're not looking very hard, old rutabaga. If you're going to pretend to be a scholar of my works, then be a scholar of all my works. If you were, you'd know that I am not a "Purist"; that's a word used by the other side in what might be called their War on Integrity in an attempt to defame those who have it—integrity, I mean.

What am I, then? I'm a libertarian, that's what I am. I represent the libertarian wing of the libertarian movement. Those others aren't libertarians at all—for the most part, they're crypto-Republicans who disdain and reject the Zero Aggression Principle which, along with the concept of absolute self-ownership, is the very core and basis of libertarianism.

They're also fools. They never seem to realize that no matter how they labor to deceive voters, any real libertarian like me can come along and queer their pitch in five minutes, by telling the truth. They'll have to spend their time, energy, and money reestablishing their credentials, explaining why, if they're libertarians, they don't embrace libertarian ideas (especially the Zero Aggression Principle), and denouncing real libertarians. Me they'd like to paint as a kook or extremist. Trouble is that I've been in the movement longer than any of them, 47 years, since 1962, when I was 16 years old. I wrote a fair amount of what they're trying to jettison now, and what I didn't, I learned from figures who only linger as ghosts and legends to most of them.

"Libertarians ... " Titter writes, " ... 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."

And here we come, at last, to the heart of Titter's failure to read plain English. He turns out to be a Spoonerian, and makes exactly the same mistake Lyander (not particularly libertarian on the subjects of rent and interest) did, himself. The Constitution is not the social contract that it's been widely advertised to be for centuries. It's a charter—an operatng system, if you will—for a strong central government, and thus essentially inimical (Titter's right about this; so is a broken clock, twice a day) toward a philosophy of individual liberty.

The first ten amendments to the Constitution, which we commonly refer to as the Bill of Rights is actually a bill of restrictions, spelling out (amplifying the clear language of Article 1, Section 8) a number of things that government is not allowed to do. The fact that it has been frequently violated does not reflect against its validity, but against the criminality of those who claim some kind of right to rule.

The truth is that the Bill of Rights does not apply to you or me, but to the state. As Titter would know, if he had really studied my works and not just skimmed a few to find arguing points, my position—and it's perfectly consisent with my anarchism—is that, as long as we permit the government to exist, it is going to be compelled to operate strictly within the parameters established by its own founding documents.

The Bill of Rights was written by one of Hamilton's Federalists to assuage the suspicions—all too well founded, as it turned out—of Jefferson's Anti-Federalists with regard to the Constitution. Thus it became the contingency on which ratification of the entire document depended. Void the Bill of Rights, you void the Constitution. Void the Constitution, and any government that claims to derive its authority from it is also void, and nothing more than a gang of murderers and thieves.

It's at this point that my correpondent takes up the Magna Carta, inappropriately comparing it (as indeed many have before him) to the Constitution.

I suppose Titter can be forgiven his error. He's Australian, as he is at some pain to establish somewhere in his letter, and the victim of almost 800 years of British propaganda. Magna Carta may represent the first time in recorded history that a monarch's pet thugs forced him to respect what they saw as their rights and privileges. I doubt that it's the first time it ever happened in all of human history. In any case it has absolutely nothing to do with you or me or individual rights. Both sides in this dispute would have been shocked at the suggestion.

"Any attempt to invoke the Magna Carta in an English court in the present day would be useless," he says. "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."

The way the Supreme Court did with Dred Scott?

Get this through your head, Twitter old garbanzo, judges in this country (exactly as in yours) are just people, entirely as subject to corruption by power as anybody. To rise to the point where they're interpreting and reinterpreting the Constitution, they have to be pretty thoroughly stupid, evil, or insane to get through the filters that a democratic system has created. The topics with which the Bill of Rights concerns itself are timeless, and any changes the silly courts have tried to impose on them—a pursuit, Jefferson informs us, that's equally timeless—will ultimately prove to have been meaningless.

Think: have we reached a point where people no longer have a need or right to defend themselves from physical violence? The bureaucrats and legislators of New South Wales, protected as they are by hordes of machinegun-toting cops, think so. I say, consider the source. Thanks to them—and to the Draconian weapons laws they leaped to impose on your people following the suspiciously contrived-appearing Port Arthur killings—your country now has the highest violent crime rate on the planet.

Despite them, some ideas are true "for all men in all timess". One of them is the unalienable individual, civil, Constitutional, and human right of every man, woman, and responsible child to obtain, own, and carry, openly or concealed, any weapon—rifle, shotgun, handgun, machinegun, anything—any time, any place, without asking anyone's permission.

My desire—no, make that demand—that the highest law of the land be stringently enforced is hardly nostalgic, as Titter claims, nor is it in any way religious in character. The document containing that law may be old, but it is far from obsolete. To as superficial an observer as Titter, we libertarians may appear to have made little progress, but what he's seeing, from half a world away, are the death throes of Leviathan. Fewer every day are willing to put their trust in the state, and we libertarians—the entire movement, not just The Libertarian Enterprise—have had more than a little to do with that.

Government, to be truthful, has had considerably more.

A civilization the size of this one—three-hundred million inhabitants and almost 400 years of history—has enormous inertia, as Barack Obama is discovering, no doubt to his gibbering Marxist frustration. Soon after I became a libertarian in 1962, I predicted it would be at least 75 years before we had a libertarian society to live in. At a little over 60 percent of that number, I'd say we're slightly ahead of schedule.

My advice to Titter is that he stop wasting time and energy on me (he's going to draw back a stub every time, but maybe that's what he really wants) and do something significant to the cause of freedom in his own country, maybe by establishing a chapter of the International Bill of Rights Union I've proposed. I would be delighted to help. I've always been fascinated with Australia (the late A. Bertram Chandler is one of my favorite authors) and I often daydream about visiting down there.

But I won't go unless my guns are welcome.

So get busy, Ian.

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 Where We Stand: Libertarian Policy in a Time of Crisis 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. Links to Neil's books at are on his website


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