Big Head Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 559, February 28, 2010

"I have sworn upon the altar of god,
eternal hostility against every form
of tyranny over the mind of man."

Previous Previous Table of Contents Contents Next Next

Never Argue with a Fool
by L. Neil Smith

Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise

From time to time, people correspond with me privately about something I've written for The Libertarian Enterprise, and I feel it might be helpful for my other readers to see how such a correspondence progresses.

One word for it, anyway.

This time the message came from a Lawrence Miller, of Wallingford, Vermont, who, I'm absolutely certain, thought he'd found the ultimate argument against me. "I can see," he begins, "why you didn't get many votes in your quest for public office. It appears that people have more good sense than you do, judging by your article, 'The Muslim Menace'."

He then extracted the following from Wikipedia:

"In 1999, Smith announced that he would run for president in 2000 as an independent if his supporters would gather 1,000,000 online petition signatures asking him to run ... After failing to achieve even 1,500 signatures, his independent campaign quietly died. He next tried an abortive run for the Libertarian Party nomination, which ended almost as quickly when, in the California primary, Harry Browne overwhelmingly defeated him, 71% to 9%."

To which I replied,

"My dear Lawrence,

"I plan to forward your letter to The Libertarian Enterprise where it can be enjoyed by all of my readers. For the nonce, allow me to explain that I never wanted to run for President—my health wouldn't have supported it, and I have to earn a living—although many extremely well-meaning individuals wanted me to, and I set conditions on it which I was certain could not be met. What I wanted to do was remain a continuing threat to the LP leadership which had begun to destroy the party.

"Interestingly, I never offered my name in California, nor conducted any kind of campaign there, so I regard my nine percent to Harry's mere seventy-one as a coup, basically achieved in my sleep.

"Of course, when I ran for President in Arizona, in order to deprive the leadership of fifty-state ballot status, I got a higher percentage of the vote after campaigning for eight hours than Harry managed to get nationwide after campaigning for eight years. These are subtleties that Wikipedia doesn't cover.

"But you seem to have a worse problem than simple political naivete, Lawrence. The truth is very seldom popular, but it is the truth, and that is enough. Long ago, I chose the truth over popularity, to the detriment of my bank account. But I can look at myself in the mirror when I shave in the morning, my wife thinks I'm a hero, and my daughter has all the integrity I could ever wish she had.

"I don't know—and don't care—what your specific complaint about my article may be. But if you're looking for excuses to drop bombs on pregnant widows and ten-year-old goatherds, you'll have to look someplace other than the mythical Muslim menace, because (as I implied in my piece) I'm going to encourage people who don't want to do those things to point at you and laugh.

"Have a nice day."

Lawrence was back in a trice, with:

"Oh, come on now. You tried for the nomination for POTUS twice and failed badly. Why can't you admit it? Now you are crying sour grapes. (I never wanted to be in the play anyway.) I would expect more from someone who poses as a true Libertarian. Why haven't you corrected Wikipedia? It does accept edits you know. Please post this response too so the readers can have the benefit of a full discussion."

To which I replied, "I'd be happy to post your response, along with the fallacies it contains. I note that you have twice failed to spell out what you objected to about my article. What's the matter, starting to feel a little bashful?

"Or ashamed?"

Lawrence responded, "Apparently I've touched a nerve. Authors shouldn't be thin-skinned. It doesn't become them."

Never, in all my sixty-three years, has anybody ever described me as thin-skinned. The people who know me well are rolling on the floor laughing their cliches off. Nevertheless, my response was brief: "That's the third time you've failed to specify what was wrong with my article."

And it opened a floodgate of bigotry and emotionalism.

"Neil, your failure to appreciate the threat of radical Islam is simply amazing, perhaps I should say "blindness" so that you finally get my point. You apparently would willingly lead us all to the slaughter (ask the wife of Daniel Pearl for details if you need them) than to face facts that Islam has within it tenants [sic] that pose a genuine threat to Western culture and Christianity and Judaism in particular. The irony is that the Dutch politician you ridicule would save your life (against your will, of course).

"Throughout history there have always been people (like you) who think they are very noble, but history always shows that they are merely just naive. Do I need to cite examples for you on this score too?

"Enough said."

I answered, "Well finally, we know what your problem is. You can't read.

"This is going to be fun."

Lawrence's response: "I think Woody Allen has it about right so I'll not be continuing this conversation. Have a nice day!

"'Never argue with a fool, they will lower you to their level and then beat you with experience.'—Woody Allen"

Good advice for us all.

Now I hate to give myself the last word, here, but my "opponent" has flounced off the playing field, and there is something important that remains unsaid. Maybe a couple of somethings. The first is that my original article didn't hesitate to point out the badguys on the other side, but it insisted, as I still do, that they are a vicious minority—whom our side has empowered far beyond their real significance—amidst an overwhelming majority of decent, likable folks.

The other item is something I've sort of hinted at—with all of the subtlety of a twelve-pound sledgehammer—for many years. Our so-called leaders are a random bag of murderous thieves and blithering incompetents. They may actually believe that they have destroyed the Constitution in order to save it. But even if there were some kind of justification for the wars they're prosecuting in Afghanistan and Iraq—which there is not—they are exactly the wrong people to put in charge.

And, as Edith Ann said on Laugh-In, "That's the truth".

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


Help Support TLE by patronizing our advertisers and affiliates.
We cheerfully accept donations!

Big Head Press