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L. Neil Smith's
Number 568, May 2, 2010

"Conservatives—Republicans—are socialists."

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To Reduce Them Under Absolute Despotism
by L. Neil Smith

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The smirky caller asked, "You really believe Barack Obama is a socialist?" He went on to assert that the President is pro-business, a capitalist.

The show's host—amazingly, one of talk radio's Big Three—stuttered and stammered inarticulately, never really answering the caller's question, until he was finally rescued by the next commercial break. The fact is, even if he'd known exactly what socialism is, and how to spot it in the people all around you, he wouldn't have dared to say so, because Republicans, conservatives, have a dirty little secret.

Just like Barack Obama, they are socialists, too.

I don't know whether anybody tries, these days, to teach school kids about such things. I was in grade school at the beginning of the Cold War, and I was the son of an officer in Strategic Air Command. Herbert Philbrick (look him up) was very big back then, as was a little book called What We Must Know About Communism, by Harry A. Overstreet and Bonaro Wilkins Overstreet. You can still find it at

Despite several years spent reading extensively about communism, for school and on my own, and studying the lives and works of self- described socialists like H.G. Wells and George Bernard Shaw, I remained as ignorant as that radio talk show host, and for a very good reason: not one of the "experts" I was reading had any clearer an idea what socialism is than I had. Most of them still don't, to this very day.

Once you get past all the mystical gobbledegook of the Hegelian Dialectic—inserted as a smokescreen, to elevate common thievery, rape, and murder to a level of nobility—what you saw then, what you still see even now, is a boring and inaccurate economic definition, of socialism, all about who gets to own and control "the means of production".

Economics is, at best, a secondary or tertiary concern to folks who think about such matters. It is necessarily a product, in the proper order of things, of a whole lot of thinking that has to come before it. You must begin with metaphysics—which tries to answer the question, "What is the nature of reality?"—or better yet, you can start with epistemology, which asks us, "How do I know what I know?"

Between epistemology and economics, there's ethics, which asks the question, "What is the good?" or, more pertinently, "What should I do?" The order in which you approach this is critical. If you try to base your ethics on your economics, you'll end up organizing Death Panels.

It is the ethical definition of socialism that's critical here—and dangerous to conservatives. Socialists believe that the needs and wants of society are more important than the rights of the individual. (Individualists will argue that there is no such thing as "society" in an ethical sense, since it consists of nothing more than individuals.)

"Society" can also be defined as "the group" or "the collective", manifesting itself in various different ways, as your community, your race, your school, your fraternity, your military unit or the military in general, your corporation, your union, your party, your government, your nation, your family, your lodge, or your church, each claiming to be, in some sense, larger than the individual and for that reason more important.

To socialists, who are inclined to perceive other people as bees or ants, eternally and unquestioningly loyal to hive or hill, size matters. And yet when you examine all of these august entities closely, and observe that they are comprised of nothing more than the individuals who make them up, such a point of view becomes absurd and pathetic.

A word about family. Of all the groups that sometimes claim to own your life, family is the hardest to defend your individual sovereignty from. For the most part, we love our families. Although there are occasional exceptions, not everyone experienced a terrible childhood or suffered nightmarish parents, the way it's often portrayed on television.

Our first job in life is to grow up, achieve autonomy, make our own decisions without regard to whether our parents may approve or not. If we have the right parents, they'll want us to do exactly that. At the other end, as parents, we owe it to our kids to help them along the same path to independence, even if it's sometimes difficult or painful.

As a husband and father, what I do with my life remains my choice. While I would willingly give my life to protect my wife and daughter, this doesn't mean that they own me or that they have more rights—as a group—than I do. It simply reflects their inexpressibly high value to me. Among billions of husbands and fathers, I am obviously far from alone in this outlook. And in the natural world, where the operating system is evolution by natural selection, it makes good sense.

Individual family members share with one another freely, without regard to the ability of any one of them to pull his own weight. (For a surprisingly long period after she was born, my daughter was unable to deliver newspapers.) That's just the way it is, and the way it has to be. I believe it was Ludwig von Mises who pointed out that socialism is a misguided attempt to apply what happens in the family to society at large, an attempt that usually ends in privation and violence.

But I have digressed.

Go back and look over that list of things that you're expected to give your loyalty to and even sacrifice your life for. Over the centuries, they've learned to make it all sound wonderful and noble. However when you begin to see these institutions as nothing more than bunches of individuals, each with no more rights in the natural world than you have (and no extra, or bonus rights miraculously obtained by claiming to be something other than what they are, nothing more than a bunch of individuals), they start to look like tribes of cannibals or vampires, eagerly anticipating the tasty sacrifice of another deluded victim.

And when you suddenly notice that, of all these institutions—community, race, school, fraternity, military, corporation, union, party, government, nation, family, lodge, church—more than half are treasured by conservatives, their dirty little secret is exposed by the hot, bright light of the truth: your rights, provided they exist at all, come in a distant second to the needs and wants of these aggregations.

Conservatives—Republicans—are socialists.

True, they may desire to hold you down atop the stone altar and cut your still-beating heart out with an obsidian knife for a set of entirely different reasons—national security, Judaeo-Christian traditions, "common" decency—than the liberals or "progressives" or Democrats do, but to you, the important part is cutting your heart out with an obsidian knife, not whatever excuse they may offer for doing it.

This is why, no matter which political party happens to be in power, ordinary people—whose thinking and hard work maintain this civilization each and every day—never seem to get an even break with regard to their individual liberty or holding onto the fruits of their labor. It's why the late philosopher Robert LeFevre referred to Democrats and Republicans as "Socialist Party A" and "Socialist Party B".

Never forget that it was a Republican, Abraham Lincoln, who freed not a single, solitary slave, but merely nationalized slavery in the form of income taxation and conscription, who presided over the violent deaths of 620,000 Americans to preserve a political abstract, to retain his political and military power, to enrich his mercantilist friends, and to suppress the basic human right of an entire region of the country to associate—or disassociate—with whomever they wished.

Never forget that it was a Republican, Richard Nixon, who imposed wage/price controls on what had been a relatively free economy, kept an enemies list, and quit when his minions were caught in a criminal act.

Never forget that it was a Republican, George W. Bush, who created the massively unconstitutional Department of Homeland Security, the no-fly lists, pushed through and signed the Constitution-shredding USA Patriot Act, plunged the country into two unnecessary wars, and created trillion-dollar deficits surpassed only by those of Barack H. Obama.

When we are forced to obtain and carry national identification, it will be Republicans who did it, in the name of eliminating illegal immigration.

Vote for the socialist of your choice.

As with any other socialist culture, "some animals are more equal than others" in Sovietized America. Its elected nomenklatura in the House and Senate are paid between $165,200 and $212,100 every year, can look forward to pensions considerably larger than most of their constituents' salaries, and enjoy endless additional privileges and benefits.

Socialists, every one of them.

Let's talk about fascism. When it became obvious as early as the 1920s that socialism doesn't work—the instant it's adopted, the economy heads for the toilet, people begin starving, and leaders, self-convinced that their failures are caused by stiff-necked, selfish bastards who refuse to become New Soviet Man, start putting people up against a wall and shooting them—a modified system was devised under which, instead of owning the means of production, government allows the productive class to believe they own them, while it controls them through regulations and siphons off the profits as taxes.

Other common names for fascism are "crony capitalism", "state capitalism", "corporate socialism" and "mercantilism". Sometimes members of the mercantile class become partners with the state and, in certain circumstances, even end up controlling it. The whole thing looks like a different system than ordinary socialism until you apply the ethical definition. What's more important in a fascist society, the needs and wants of the group, or the rights of the individual? As Mr. Spock once famously observed (in the original James Blish novel Spock Must Die), "a difference that makes no difference is no difference."

Or was it the other way around?

Fascism, then, is a variety of socialism, nothing more, nothing less. The genuine opposite of fascism is a completely voluntary society.



That means no coercion of any kind is tolerable. No censorship. No zoning. No conscription. No taxation. Government deserves no more money than it can raise with bake sales. Anything else involves setting the value of the individual's rights at something less than the needs or wants of the group. Or as Robert LeFevre put it, "To any extent that you have a 'public sector', to that extent, you have socialism."

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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

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