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L. Neil Smith's
Number 570, May 16, 2010

"Prepare for the future by getting to it"

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Only Nixon
by L. Neil Smith

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Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise

Unless you've spent the past couple of weeks hermetically sealed in a mayonnaise jar under Funk & Wagnalls' porch, you know the state of Arizona has been doing some interesting and possibly historical things.

First—and, to my way of thinking, foremost—is the passage of a new law mandating what I started calling "Vermont Carry" a quarter century ago, and which others have subsequently called "Alaska Carry" and even "Constitutional Carry". What it means—whatever you choose to call it—is that, in Arizona, you don't need anybody's knowledge or consent to carry a weapon in your daily activities any way you want.

With Governor Jan Brewer's signature, Arizona becomes the third state to—at this point finding a suitable verb becomes difficult—to observe and obey the highest law of the land, commonly known as the Bill of Rights, with respect to the Second Amendment. Technically, it shouldn't have been necessary to pass a new law at all, but simply to be consistent with the law as it already exists and has existed since 1791.

Keep this in mind as we consider some less salubrious current events in Arizona, because the contrast is illustrative of an enormous problem libertarians, and by extension, all those genuinely committed to individual liberty, have always had, but which is about to become crucial to the survival of freedom from now into the foreseeable future.

I refer, of course, to another law passed and signed in Arizona that makes it a crime to be an illegal alien (which conservatives would point out is sort of a silly redundancy typical of the general mess this country is in). I listen to several radio talk shows a day, all of them conservative to one degree or another, and I can't help but absorb a certain amount of "news" from the Old Media, as well. In addition, one of my publishers maintains a blog for me, always filled with open and spirited discussion of the issues of the day (or some other day in the past, the future, or on some separate but parallel timeline).

Join the fun at:

In an entry called "Letter to a Talk Host" I predicted the failure of present attempts to stem the tide—or offset the negatives—of illegal immigration, not just in Arizona, but in other border states, and prescribe the only measures that can have any possible positive effect.

This, of course, unleashed a storm of "commentary" from my readers that is still going on. Having started it, I have pretty much stayed out of it, partly because I've been very busy finishing up two new books, partly because no amount of debate, no matter how noisy or emotional, is going to solve the problem, and partly because, to my mind at least, there are still a great many moral and political points to be resolved before any real libertarian can feel satisfied with the result.

And before you mention it, I understand perfectly that every day we dither, innocent lives are ruined or destroyed, fascists and gangsters gain power, and our civilization frays a little more around the edges. Action for its own sake, however, without forethought, can only amplify the everyday tragedies and deepen the overall, historic disaster.

The first, most fundamental phenomenon to understand is that only individuals have rights. Groups have no rights beyond those possessed by the individuals that comprise them. Two people have no more rights than one, nor do two hundred nor two million. Individual rights, in all moral calculations, represent the highest, and possibly the only, priority. If you don't agree with that, you have no business calling yourself a libertarian—and you're not a very good conservative, either.

If there is such a thing as a "good conservative".

Likewise, there is nothing in the moral universe that can confer more rights on any individual than any other. When Americans told a king to go to hell in 1776, they were also saying good riddance to royal bloodlines and titles of nobility, and embracing a new moral and social philosophy declaring that all individuals are equal, under the law.

It's clear from our very first legal document, the Declaration of Independence, that the Founding Fathers never meant to imply that the rights they defended were reserved to Americans alone. "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal" hardly supports the obscene position taken by recent administrations that individuals can be imprisoned indefinitely, without due process, and even tortured, as long as it happens outside our borders, to those who are not American citizens, or whose citizenship is said to have been removed by oath-breaking officials who deserve lifelong incarceration themselves.

A border is a completely imaginary line on a paper or cybernetic map that has no genuine counterpart in the real world. Do not mistake it for a property line. It is possible, in some instances, for a border to be congruent with a property line, but they are not the same thing at all. One represents the geographical limit of a military and political claim to authority over a given territory. The other is part of the description of something—in this case, land—lawfully owned by an individual or a voluntary and contractual association of individuals.

The two are not in any way equivalent, since groups—military and political authorities, for example—have no rights. That, of course, includes the right to property. If you believe that being a subject of a nation-state conveys any ownership interest in it to you, just try selling "your" square yard in the city park and see what happens.

In any case, illegal immigration cannot be condemned as trespass. Even Aleister Crowley believed (and asserted) that "Man has the right ... to dwell where he will [and] to move as he will on the face of the earth."

You may believe me or not, but I am not unsympathetic with those who are forced to suffer what are generally perceived to be the negative consequences of unguarded borders, or with their desire to see their lives and property protected and their rights enforced. Even many libertarians see those as the proper functions of government, and those in charge for the last dozen years or so—for reasons so contemptible as to defy adequate description—have neglected their duty.

That's why it's completely understandable that the legislature of the state of Arizona, with the approval of 70% of the people, has taken a part of federal law that obliges federal cops to apprehend, detain, and deport illegal immigrants, and duplicated it in state statutes (despite the shrilling of socialist demagogues around the world, that's all the "new" law amounts to), where it's likelier to be enforced.

There are problems, however. To begin with, as I have explained, the federal law itself is morally wrong. On previous occasions, I have said the only excuse for national borders is to act like bulkheads in a ship, to close off portions of the hull that have succumbed to the cold, dark waters of tyranny from those still warmed by the light of liberty. The authoritarian excesses of the past four administrations have turned that one-time function of the border into a sick, ugly joke.

Part of the reason that the new law passed is that the problems associated with illegal immigration have been deliberately conflated with problems caused by the insanity of drug prohibition. Repeal the drug laws, and the shooting war on the border will stop like turning a faucet.

Nicely, the new gun law will help, too.

Furthermore, if there weren't any "social services" for illegal immigration to put pressure on—that is, if the blatant socialism of the public schools, the public hospitals, and the public everything else were abolished—that set of handy excuses for violating the individual rights of newcomers would dry up and blow away. To hold the contrary is exactly like insisting—at gunpoint—that cyclists must wear helmets because it increases the cost to taxpayers if they don't. It is not the cyclists' fault that idiot collectivist decisions about healthcare have been made by stupid, corrupt, and irrational politicians.

Moreover, whenever we attempt to champion the rights of one group (in this case, the people of Arizona) at the expense of another (those who have crossed the border looking for a better life for themselves and their families), we unavoidably generate endless opportunities for a special breed of terrorists we call politicians, bureaucrats, and policemen.

I travel to Arizona as often as I can. Next time, I will finally be free (as I am not in my home state) to exercise my right, under the Second Amendment, to carry a personal weapon under my shirt or in my pocket without begging for permission of some officious piece of slime who's never read the Constitution he has falsely sworn to uphold and defend.

But prudence will also compel me to do something I've never done before: carry with me some article of state-approved identification so that when a jackbooted thug accosts me and accuses me of being out of my proper place in this increasingly feudal world, I can prove him wrong.

For now.

Ultimately, especially if other states imitate Arizona in this regard, advocates of a compulsory system of national identification will triumph. And—just as only Nixon could go to China—it will be you conservatives, presently congratulating Arizona, who made it happen. The same conservatives who, out of the other side of your smarmy mouths, claim to put such a high value on individual liberty, and wonder, with all the overacted drama of a bad Bette Davis impersonator, why libertarians don't throw in with you against the liberals.

It's because you conservatives are just as bad as the liberals, that's why. Back during the Lincoln Administration, you conservatives gave us the midnight knock on the door. You conservatives gave us Homeland Security, the USA PATRIOT Act, and its vile successors. You conservatives gave us illegal arrests, false imprisonment, and torture. And now you conservatives are going to demand to see our papers.

Is there no hypocrisy, no lie, that you conservatives are ashamed of?

I didn't think so.

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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