Big Head Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 582, August 8, 2010

"You knew I would"

Previous Previous Table of Contents Contents Next Next

A Matter of Definition
by L. Neil Smith

Bookmark and Share

Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise

[AUTHOR'S NOTE: an earlier version of this essay appeared on my blog, "L. Neil Smith At Random", at, on June 16, 2006.]

I couldn't really tell you why I've made a habit for the past several years of reading every morning, right after I read Matt Drudge, when Lew Rockwell himself is a self-described born-again Roman Catholic, and therefore a mystic, which renders the quality of his reasoning processes highly suspect (equally true of anyone who sees fairies at the bottom of his garden), as far as I'm concerned.

Rockwell also seems hell-bent on the Orwellian task of erasing Ayn Rand from the history of libertarianism—one of the silliest, most ungrateful undertakings I could possibly imagine—and elevating that nasty little troll Murray Rothbard to libertarian sainthood in her place. As a person, Rand may not have been any kind of paragon (I'm sure I wouldn't have liked her, and she would have hated me), but historically, we're stuck with her and the products of her undeniable and towering genius, much as we are with the creations of Charles Steinmetz.

I knew Murray; he was no saint, libertarian or otherwise. He always reminded me of Burgess Meredith on Batman, playing The Penguin.

Rockwell is one of a small handful of my contemporaries in the movement who appear positively embarrassed to be seen in my presence. I had always wondered why, until it developed the he and the Ludwig von Mises Institute harbor pirates—pun intended—by which I mean those who hold that my intellectual property rights don't exist and everything I labor to produce is up for grabs by any thief who happens along.

For my part, I privately find it a little embarrassing to hang around anyone who childishly continues to resent the fact of evolution by natural selection (as appears to be the case with Rockwell and a dismaying number of other "leading lights" of liberty—if I were to list them all here, it would depress you for a week), but I'm more libertarian—or at least better at polite dissimulation—than he is.

He's also made it very clear on more than one occasion that he has no interest whatever in anything I write. That is, of course, his loss.

Be that as it may, one morning when my Chock Full O' Nuts finally kicked in, I discovered that I was reading an article on his site by one of several writers who make the effort worthwhile, in this case, my old friend Vin Suprynowicz (who apparently does not mind being seen in my otherwise highly embarrassing company) entitled "Why I Am Not A 'Conservative'".

It was a thoroughly enjoyable article, in which Vin demonstrated why the miserable specimens who call themselves 'liberals' are really conservatives: they're desperately—even hysterically—defending a welfare-warfare kleptocracy that is now at least four generations old, against growing numbers of us (unlike Republicans, who seem to become more ignorant with every passing year) who have actually managed to learn something from history and are struggling to dismantle said kleptocracy.

The one trouble with this analysis, as Vin himself acknowledges, is: what does that make of the miserable specimens who call themselves 'conservatives'. For rhetorical purposes, Vin woudn't even venture a guess.

But I would.

You knew I would.

A long, long time ago, in a Wichita, Kansas far, far away, I met the famed Robert LeFevre—otherwise known as Professor Bernardo de la Paz—for the first time, at a week-long seminar sponsored by the local Seven-Up bottlers and the Love Box Company, in the Ramada Inn basement you'll see in a different context when Sweeter Than Wine is published.

Write what you know.

I learned a lot from Bob in that week, and over the years that followed. For example, as Americans, each of us has the right to vote as our individual conscience may dictate—for the socialist of our choice. LeFevre referred, as I have myself ever since, to so-called liberals as "left wing socialists" and to so-called conservatives as "right wing socialists", pointing out that there isn't any other option on the conventional political spectrum, or on the ballot at the polls.

Vote for the socialist of your choice, but vote.

Now if you're not a libertarian, have spent the last twenty years hermetically sealed in a mayonnaise jar on Funk & Wagnall's porch, and still believe that conservatives or Republicans are the champions of minimal government, minimal regulation, and minimal taxation (all of which seem a lot to me like minimal torture and minimal execution), it may strike you as odd that somebody would refer to these worthies as socialists.

But attend:

After I saw Vin's article, I immediately went to Wikipedia for a usable definition of "socialist". Unfortunately, Wikipedia is, in essence, a socialist site, and the article was a highly technical one, immediately diving into an unnecessarily detailed catalog of all the minute differences and meaningless distinctions between various thugs who basically want to kill me and cook me and eat me (and you, too). It reminded me of the silly arguments between the People's Palestinian Liberation Front and the Palestinian People's Liberation Front and the Front for the Liberation of the Palestinian People in The Life of Brian.

So I sought enlightenment, instead, in yet another of Wikipedia's handy-dandy definitions: "Collectivism is a term used to describe any doctrine that stresses the importance of a collective, rather than the importance of the individual. Collectivists believe the individual should be subordinate to the collective, which may be a group of individuals, a whole society, a state, a nation, a race, or a social class.

"Thus, collectivism contrasts with individualism."

Yeah, I'd say it does. The simple fact, of course, is that there's really no such thing as a collective. There's really no such thing as a group. Whatever its members may try to call themselves, they're only a rabble of individuals temporarily clumped together, mostly pooling their incompetence. Socialism itself is nothing more than the concrete political manifestation—several rival competing brands of them, actually—of the cannibalistic "philosophy" of collectivism. When all else fails—and it always does—they throw some poor schmuck scapegoat off the back of the troika and attempt to start over again.

At this point, then, it becomes appropriate to ask what all of the following phrases have in common: national security; war on terrorism; nation-building; democratization; common decency; and the seat of all virtues.

Simple: they are all excuses for sacrificing the lives, property, and rights of the individual to some collective or another. Only in this case, it's a collective approved by specimens who call themselves conservatives. Or as Bob put it, right wing socialists, the kind who steal your home or business and hand it to cronies who can pay higher taxes, a corrupt practice, I believe, that Vin was the first to write about.

For at least 50 years—and in truth, for a great deal longer than that—there has existed a sort of history of sympathy, a sense of fellow travellership, between conservatives and libertarians. It has to do mostly with origins, I guess. Most of the libertians I know blossomed from the manure pile of conservatism. Now, three and a half generations—and a million Iraqi corpses—later, it's time to scrub that vile affiliation from our souls and march on, alone, but cleaner.

The sad truth is that libertarians can do nothing to control the course that events are currently taking. The most we can hope for is that the conservative ascendency will break the power of the left wing socialists who have all but destroyed America. It will be up to us to make sure that the right wing socialists aren't allowed to finish the job.

It will not be easy.

For those poor, confused entities who claim to value individual liberty above all things, but still cling to the political company of Lincoln the Megalomaniac Mass-Murderer and his retarded protege Bush the Butcher of Baghdad, it's time to comb the contradictions out of your conscience. All your lives you have condemned Germans who looked the other way when Hitler came to power. Now you are repeating their sins.

The difference is, thanks to history, you know better.

Like this? Why not pay the author!
Select amount then click "Donate Now"

Pay to L. Neil Smith

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