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L. Neil Smith's
585, August 29, 2010

"I have a fundamental human right not to be
stolen from. Or enslaved. And so do you."

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Political Taxonomy
by L. Neil Smith

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Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise

Okay, class, let's review what we've learned so far.

To begin with, forget the old, conventional right-left political spectrum that has failed so pathetically to describe or predict actual behavior in the political universe. Yes, I know, it's what we were all taught in high school and college. It's what they still talk about on TV.

But it's TV, get it?

And when the model doesn't work, when it runs into an activity or object it can't explain, its practitioners—I've heard them admit this openly to a classroom full of students—simply throw out the inconvenient data. So if you're a Randite, say, or a Henry Georgist, or any one of a small number of other "unconventional" persuasions, your views and votes won't count, not in the Bizarro world of PoliSci 101.

Thanks, Justin Raimondo, for a concept that explains so much.

For the sake of this conversation, you can even forget about the lovely diamond-shape of the Nolan-Fritz diagram ("The World's Smallest Political Quiz") that's a quantum leap away from what got pounded into us in civics and political science classes. At the root, all politics breaks down into a choice between some variety of collectivism, and individualism.

Between those who believe that, at need, you or I can be killed, and cooked, and eaten for the greater good of something that they've defined as bigger or more important than we are—and those who don't.

Individualism is a pretty straightforward proposition, although it's a choice that hasn't been particularly popular over the last ten thousand years or so. It's the choice that's closest to the truth, as far as physics and biology go. Not to reiterate the idea's greatest advocate unduly, individualism holds that the individual is the only real component of any given group—that, in a moral sense, there is no such thing as a group, but only an aggregation of individuals—and that no individual is under any obligation to recognize the existence of any group or to inconvenience himself in any way for its sake.

Unless, of course, they make it worth his while—which is the bargain upon which all civilization rests. Break that bargain—cheat the individual of what he is due—and whatever is left that falsely calls itself civilization deserves nothing except ignominy and destruction. Hobbes had it exactly the wrong way around. Leviathan—the so-called Sovereign—desperately needs the individual for its survival.

There are, indeed, things that I would willingly give my life to defend, but I reserve the absolute right to choose them for myself, and I refuse to recognize anything as bigger or more important than I am, myself.

Those who don't feel secure enough to stand on their own two feet, physically or mentally or morally (or who have dedicated themselves professionally to exploiting the unfortunates with that problem), and, as a consequence, are inclined to identify more with the group than with the individual, naturally hate and fear individualism. They have done everything they could, over those ten thousand years, to destroy it.

That they have failed abjectly to do so, and feel compelled to keep up a constant and clamorous cultural litany against it—in myth and legend, poetry, literature, and drama, not to mention virtually every form of music—is a strong indication of its powerful natural validity.

Heinlein warned us that slavery—the use of one human being by another as property—is pernicious and persistent, that it always finds a way to sneak back into a society in an endless number of guises.

One of those guises is socialism, a criminal scam masquerading as an ideology that—at best—promises to enslave each of us all to one another, but which, in fact, enslaves us to an aristocracy—the nomenklatura—as arrogant and privileged as any royal bloodline ever was, but which lacks the faintest redeeming shred of noblesse oblige.

If you need an example, take a good, hard look at the ranks of cartoon characters who have comprised both the Obama and the Clinton Administrations.

I believe it was Ludwig von Mises who noted the central fallacy of socialism: that relationships which exist between members of a family can be extended to others—say, in a community, a region, a nation, or an entire planet. (He also observed, if I recall correctly, that the principal attraction of socialism is that each of its advocates secretly imagines himself ending up at the top of the sociopolitical heap when, in ironic fact, it is usually the earliest advocates of a revolution who are the first to be liquidated by the new regime, since, by succeeding, they have proven themselves to be dangerous subversives.)

Over the two centuries of its existence, socialism has broken itself into a thousand factions, usually due to quarreling over stolen goods like any gang of robbers. Communalism or communitarianism might be thought of as the gateway. Sharing what you have with neighbors doesn't seem like such a bad idea until the neighbors discover that they don't have to work as hard as you do to get what you get. The pilgrims nearly starved to death under this innocent-seeming kind of socialism. Too few people today know that what we celebrate and call Thanksgiving marks their throwing socialism off and returning to individualism.

That's why I fervently support the notion of borders that are open to individuals who wish to escape tyranny and improve their lives and those of their families. It's also why I support the equal right of a free association of individuals called Arizona to resist invaders—spawned, in essence, by drug prohibition—with murderous habits and intentions.

But I digress.

I won't comment here on Marxism, since it has been thoroughly discredited and is only practiced today in American universities, Congress, and the White House. Others, most notably Ayn Rand, have done more than I can to expose the fundamental evil behind the slogan, "From each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs". It's exactly how we all end up in the cannibal pot sooner or later.

Utilitarianism is another early form socialism, offering "the greatest good for the greatest number" while pursuing the same old collectivist agenda of sacrificing the individual for the sake of the group—or, more frequently, for the sake of the group's leaders. Like any con-game, all that any form of socialism needs to grow is a field rich with useful idiots and corruptible fools, each with just a bit of larceny in his heart and a sneaking yen for what his neighbor possesses.

One of the most important things to understand is that two major branches of socialism have been developed over the past couple of centuries. One of them, "left-wing socialism" in the terms employed by libertarian philosopher and lecturer Robert LeFevre, we are all too familiar with, prepared to recognize, and, increasingly, ready to defeat. It is the socialism of Barack Obama and his admirers and followers.

What's much more difficult, for Americans at least, to identify is the "right-wing socialism" of a George W. Bush. "Progressives" (like "liberal", simply another euphemism for socialist) won't acknowledge it because they find their fraternal-twin relationship with it embarrassing. Conservatives stick their fingers in their ears and chant "I can't hear you!" over and over again, hoping that you'll go away.

But look: no matter what it calls itself, any regime that takes what belongs to you—your rights, your property, your life—in order to achieve some goal that you didn't choose and may not approve of, is sacrificing you for whatever it represents to be something bigger and more important than you are. And that, by definition, is socialism.

And any regime that promises it will only do that sort of thing—violate you and use you as a resource—for the duration of some emergency that it has defined and declared, is only promising you that there will be one convenient emergency after another until the end of time.

Or the sun burns out, whichever comes first.

But let's forget about emergencies for a moment and look, instead, at everyday life. What is the proper term for a political regime that fines you annually for owning your home, and then uses this extorted money to forcibly indoctrinate your children, and those of its other victims, so they'll come to believe that such a practice is morally acceptable?

I call it socialism. The public school system—historically, an alien late-comer to the American way of life—is clearly a socialist institution, mindlessly copied from other countries where the lone individual was of no importance and the light of the Constitution was never known to shine, and doomed from the beginning to fail in exactly the same way, and for the same reasons as the late, unlamented Soviet Union.

As I said (or Mirelle Stein said for me) in Pallas, there is nothing about the public school system that can be fixed by tinkering with the public school system. The entire structure must be abolished, its buildings emptied of its denizens and then razed to the ground so that not one stone is left standing on another, and salt sown on the ruins.

Thank you, Cato the Elder.

No, I don't care how many fools voted for it—democracy is just another form of collectivism, under which the rights of the supposed minority are routinely sacrificed to the whims of what is represented as a majority—I have a fundamental human right not to be stolen from.

Or enslaved.

And so do you.

Now that the true nature of the public schools is clearer, it becomes easier to examine other examples of right-wing socialism. Why does a nation with a First Amendment in its Constitution have a Federal Communications Commission? Thank that stalwart defender of free enterprise (not) Herbert Hoover who, as a federal bureaucrat, used the first World War as an excuse to seize and nationalize the airwaves.

Why does a nation with a Second Amendment in its Constitution have a Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, or allow every other faction of government—recently the Environmental Protection Agency (established by Richard Nixon who called privately-held guns an "abomination")—to threaten the individual right to own and carry weapons?

Conservatives scream bloody murder (and rightly so) over Obama's evil "healthcare" scam. Yet they and their corporate symbiotes have benefited, far beyond our ability to measure or even estimate—and countless millions of ordinary Americans have been stripped of their hard-earned property, their human and Constitutional rights, their very lives—in the name of what is now called "National Security". Back in the 1940s, the catch-phrase was, "Don't you know there's a war on?"

There's always a war on, at least one, on the average, for every generation of Americans ever born. When it isn't a war against "huns" or "nips" or "gooks" it's a war against the right of the individual to medicate himself with anything he wishes in any way he wishes, or it's a war to impose "decency"—as determined by a collection of drunken, crooked, child-buggering old men—on everybody else. Because the important thing, you understand, for the health of the state and the subjugation of everybody else, is to have a war, no matter what it's about.

The clearest indication of what right-wing and left-wing socialism are really all about is the fact that, in the 20th century alone, over a hundred million people were murdered by their own governments, and another hundred million were killed in conflicts between differing brands of socialism. World War II need never have happened (and in any case, America needn't have participated) had the winners of the previous war—fought for no discernable reason—not bungled the peace.

In exactly the same way, the attacks on New York and Washington on September 11, 2001 would never have happened had they not been fueled by Western interference with the people of the Middle East. Make no mistake: I'm not saying America or its people are responsible for 9/11, I'm saying that their government is, going back at least a dozen administrations.

Decisions and actions supposedly taken for us—whether we wanted them to be or not—squandering our resources and the lives of our children.


And, as Heinlein warned, slavery—in the 20th century form we know as socialism—has begun snaking its way into even the best guarded bastion of individual freedom in the world, the libertarian movement.

Accusing your opponent of being what you, yourself, are is a left-wing tactic so ancient, so threadbare, and so shopworn that it probably predates Saul Alinski's Neanderthal great-grandfather. And yet left-wing socialists are so dense that they pursue that infantile tactic to this day. In college, four and a half decades ago, I was called a "communist" when I refused to subject myself to military slavery in a war I had not chosen against a people who had done me no harm.

More lately, I have been called a "statist" and a "socialist" myself, because I was, and remain, willing to defend my individual rights against collectivists who have assaulted them—and then attempted to make a "philosophy" out of their pattern of criminal behavior.

The issue, as you may already have anticipated, is "Intellectual Property Rights". The closet collectivists claim that they don't exist, that once whatever you have created is "out there"—in the form of a book, a recording, or a computer file—it's "up for grabs", becoming anybody's property and nobody's property. These parasites usually represent themselves as libertarians, and assert that my insistence on controlling my own creations somehow limits their freedom. Yet they quote Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, the founder of socialism, famous for declaring "Property is theft", and sneer like any common parlor-pink at anyone who expects to be paid for his efforts.

My view, and that of any working writer, is that what's mine is mine, without regard to how easy it may be to steal (which appears to be their principal "argument") or how difficult it may be to defend. If scavengers like these are free to expropriate the products of my intellect, then, employing different excuses, they can expropriate anything.

Even more pathetic are those, claiming to be on my side of this issue, who nevertheless urge me, with a surprising degree of passion, not to fight back, apparently because they believe that these thieves represent some kind of unstoppable wave of the future, or perhaps that fighting tyranny is somehow undignified, and I can only damage myself or what I laughingly call my career resisting them. In my time, I've seen unstoppable waves of the future before, and their advice sounds a lot like cowardice and appeasement to me, but I suppose I could be wrong.

That remains to be seen. What I know for sure is that, although I may get tired, sometimes, and I may get discouraged, and I may get disgusted when I turn over a rock marked "libertarian" and see what really squirms and crawls and slithers underneath it, as long as I draw breath, I will continue to fight against slavery—especially the form we know as socialism—whether it's being advocated by the political left, the political right, or those who falsely claim to be libertarians.

What you do is your choice—that's what it's supposed to be all about.

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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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