Big Head Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 542, October 25, 2009

"I am about to embark upon a new adventure."

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Current Events
by L. Neil Smith

Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise

All week. I've had to listen to and watch various accounts of the adventures, misadventures, and nonadventures of a little kid everybody's calling "Balloon Boy".

The story started right here in my hometown of Fort Collins, Colorado, took up a lot of time on radio and TV, and everybody seems to have a theory about what happened, the characters involved, and what should be done with, to, or about them. Most of these involve fines and imprisonment, at least for Balloon Dad.

I have a slightly different view, which I owe mostly to science fiction author Harry Harrison's splendid stories of The Stainless Steel Rat, a philosophical felon who justified his profession of bank robbing as a public service.

I can tell you, as a former police reservist, that despite anything they're saying now, all of the professionals in the military and law enforcement enjoyed this outing tremendously, especially the helicopter boys who got to chase a flying saucer balloon. They got to justify their existence, look like heroes to their girlfriends and the public (the moron who attacked the evil balloon with an axe or shovel should get a special medal for gratuitous stupidity) and play with all their toys.

The media loved it, too, of course. First they had a screaming human interest story about a child in mortal peril, and now that it's proven to be a hoax they can get all self-righteous about it. Truth is, they fell for it and fell hard. Now they're engaged in what Behaviorists call "displacement activity", like a cat vigorously licking its paws when it's been caught up to no good. Maybe we should put them all in a balloon and send them into the stratosphere without benefit of oxygen.

While they were jerking off, important things were happening that didn't get reported.

As for the Balloon Family, my bet is that they'll get their own TV show. Ten years from now, the kid will have grown up weird, which may actually be a benefit in this culture, or he'll end up paying for some psychiatrist's golf clubs.

No harm, no foul.


Cautiously, I'm beginning to think that we might get through this whole ugly mess. Not only do personalities like Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Glenn Beck have Obama's number, but people in general, including his own party, are beginning to gather to push him off the back of the troika. His poll numbers are deeply embarrassing, and, so far, his splendid majority in Congress hasn't done him any good.

I have been encouraged, as well, by the tea parties, the so-called town meetings, and especially the march on Washington and the rise of Oathkeepers. Nor will the birth certificate question lie down and die quietly. The resistance to Phoney Phlu innoculations is pleasantly surprising, as well. The number of different interests that the God-Emperor has gratuitously alienated and have rallied against him is astounding and wonderful. And he can't fall back on his base, because they feel he's betrayed them, too.

Best of all, and unlike their vaunted "revolution" of 1994, I think conservatives are proving more and more unwilling to settle for the election of mere RINOS this time around. They've had good leadership and example in this, most recently with Sarah Palin publicly rejecting a Republican candidate endorsed by Newt Gingrich in favor of a conservative.

Meanwhile, Libertarians have to accept the fact that this is not our revolution, as it stands. What we must do—aside from using this opportunity to cleanse our own party of the LINOs that have nearly destroyed it—is try, from the higher moral ground we occupy, to guide what's happening as much as we can. Conservatives are anxious to push many policies that we reject as vehemently as those of the Democrats.

The good news is that, although they will never admit to it, they're out of ideas—they have been since at least 1964—and they're highly anxious to get some from us, if they can do it quietly and file the serial numbers off afterward.

The most important message we can send (although it is only one of many that need sending) is that recovering from this economic mess can be quick and easy if they want it to be. If you've read my "Maidenform Bra" speech, you'll understand why I say this.

This is not the time to give up, to run away, to go hide, as some of my correspondents want to do, under a rock. Leave that to the Democrats. For libertarians, it's a time to get busy.

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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