Big Head Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 592, October 17, 2010

"Taxation is theft.
Taxation is slavery.
And taxation is the fuel of war."

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On The Occasion of Libertopia 2010
by L. Neil Smith

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Special to The Libertarian Enterprise

[NOTE: The following speech was recorded last week for delivery at a Hollywood convention this weekend. I am grateful to my friend Scott Bieser and my daughter Rylla for their help with the project.]

Ladies and gentlemen, fellow children of the American Revolution, I regret not being with you on this occasion, but there is important business—historically important business—that needs to be discussed.

Once again we find ourselves standing at the brink. In just a few more days, our neighbors will choose—for themselves, and, to an unfortunate degree, for us—whether they want to live brave and free or would rather cower with the boot-heel of collectivism on their necks.

As individuals, we can vote, too, which may or may not be a futile effort—it's been a subject of debate within our movement for three decades. However that may be, we libertarians, as a movement, have little or no power to change the course of events—a virtual river of blood—flowing violently all around us. The best we can do is to plan for what will come afterward, no matter what that may turn out to be.

Based on my experience and understanding of history and human nature, and thanks to the increasing number of humiliations being handed every day now to established authority, I choose—it is my choice—to remain optimistic and constructive. Rivalled perhaps only by the spectacular 18th century, ours is an era of unprecedented opportunity to advance the great cause, sacred to me, of individual liberty.

I confess that I owe my renewed optimism to some individuals and groups that others in our movement like to pretend they despise. But when you're drowning, and somebody pulls you out and saves your life, do you ask them why, or demand to see their credentials? A scant two years ago, I was so depressed by the political events of the day that it almost didn't seem worth the effort of getting up in the morning. I had labored for forty-eight years, run for office twice, and written more than thirty books, only to see things get worse and worse around me.

I was worse than a failure, I was a fool, a fool who had wasted his life. Worse than that, I was a fool who had brought a daughter into a world that would now belong to creatures like Barack Obama, Harry Reid, and Nancy Pelosi, and after I was gone, she would be their slave.

And then, as I said, something happened, something that many of you may sneer at, but something, I believed (and still do) will prove to have been of unprecedented historical importance. Even more than that, it made politics exciting and fun all over again—I found myself laughing at the political situation for the first time in months.

John McCain had accepted Sarah Palin as his personal savior.

It didn't work, of course, not for McCain. He was beyond saving. But Sarah spiced up the American political scene again, rendered it refreshingly unpredictable, and managed to make an ass of Barack Obama and all his works. Sure, she's a Republican—although plenty of Republicans despise her, and she despises plenty of them. She's even put a few of them in jail. In that respect, she's Barry Goldwater's revenge.

She's a church-lady, war-supporter, anti-abortionist, and I, atheist and anarchist that I am, count myself as none of those things. But she's solidly, provenly, for limited government and unafraid to be photographed with a sport-utility rifle in her hands, and empty cases in the air overhead. She hunts animals bigger than she is, and she's cute.

Get over it.

Not far behind Sarah came the Tea Parties, with many of the same virtues and failings, but they proved to me that the America I loved wasn't really dead, it was just busy trying to pay the mortgage. Now the Tea Parties have changed everything, and I'd like to think --judging by the number of places I'm finding myself quoted all over the Internet these days—that I've had at least a little bit to do with it.

Maybe I'm not such a failure, after all.

Maybe I'm not such a fool.

Maybe somebody has been listening.

How many times every day do we hear—from conservatives, from conservative-leaning libertarians, even from an occasional, unusually perceptive leftist—that government has broken out of the confines of the Constitution and must be returned to those confines if we're ever to have a nation of peace, freedom, progress, and prosperity again?

That may be true as far as it goes, but more than two centuries of bitter experience should have taught us all by now that it doesn't go nearly far enough. I submit to you that if your dog repeatedly jumps the fence, you don't just put him back inside so he can jump right over again. You have to build a higher fence. And if your cattle break out and take off across the countryside, you have to build a stronger fence.

What would that higher, stronger fence be like? To begin with, it would be wise to correct the Founding Fathers' most obvious and tragic mistake. We must attach a stringent—no, let's make that Draconian—penalty clause to the Bill of Rights, so that when a politician, bureaucrat, or policeman "gets above himself" or above the law, and violates any one of its precepts, he may, under due process, be tried, and if convicted, be hanged by the neck until his toes stop wiggling.

And because lies—lies like the sinking of the RMS Lusitania, lies like Roosevelt's carefully-contrived Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, lies like the mass murders that resulted from Operation Keelhaul, lies like the Gulf of Tonkin so-called Incident, lies like Saddam's weapons of mass destruction—cost millions of lives and obliterate the futures of whole peoples and entire nations, exactly the same fate must await anyone in government who tells a lie or keeps secrets.

We the People must permit no more government secrets.

We the People must permit no more government lies.

No more secrets, no more lies.

More profoundly, in the span of two centuries, American democracy has acquired something analogous to an immune system that protects it from even the merest threat of wisdom, intelligence, honor, decency, individuality, or courage. Anyone entering the system who exhibits any of those politically undesirable attributes will, sooner or later, find himself broken and cast aside—if he is truly fortunate—or assimilated.

We've all see that happen with people we knew, and with people we thought we knew. We all live within a social, political, and economic (which is to say mercantilist, rather than capitalist) matrix that systematically rejects the best, brightest, and most virtuous among us, and selects, instead, the most vile, most dull-witted, and most lacking in anything even remotely resembling virtue. With only the rarest of exceptions, the higher you choose to look, the more likely is an office holder, a corporate executive, or a worldwide celebrity to be evil, stupid, or insane—or some deadly combination of all three.

As Lord Acton famously put it, "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely". He also said, somewhat less famously, "Most great men are bad men". In some far off future, when insectoid paleontologists, archaeologists, and historians ponder the fall of American—of human—civilization, that will be identified as the cause.

And yet the Libertarian Party selects its leaders by exactly the same process, and wonders why it hasn't made any progress in forty years.

But I have allowed myself to digress.

For historical and economic reasons that most libertarians are familiar with, democracies are doomed to become welfare states. Romans unfailingly voted for the politician who promised to give them free bread and entertainment. Americans, increasingly, have voted for the political party that promises to give them free cheese and medical care. Hardly anybody ever votes for key values—individual liberty, absolute property rights—that guarantee the continued existence of civilization.

Aside from purely moral considerations—which should always be given the highest priority—there is the practical, historical, inarguable fact that socialism never works. Public healthcare is a socialist institution that we are forced to pay for against our will, which is why it never works. Public transportation is a socialist institution that we are forced to pay for against our will, which is why it never works. Public education is a socialist institution that we are forced to pay for against our will, which is why it never works.

Socialism never works.

Thanks to government, public schools, and the left wing socialist media, how many Americans today realize that the holiday that most of us will be celebrating next month, Thanksgiving, marks the Pilgrims' rejection of socialism—which came close to killing everyone in their struggling colony—and the adoption, instead, of individual enterprise, with the overflowing abundance economic freedom brought to them?

By contrast, the worldwide historical track record of socialism, its legacy, its very signature, is starvation and mass murder. Those who advocate socialism today are advocating those very things—and they know it, perfectly well—starvation and mass murder, for you and for me, for our children and our grandchildren and our great grandchildren.

We must therefore choose a different course before one is chosen for us, enforced at bayonet-point. Treat socialists the way we now treat child molesters, let them experience, within principle, the ridicule and wrath of everyone around them. Understand that I advocate no violence—let them take their socialism to other places in the world where people have been too weak or stupid or lazy to throw it off.

And let them freeze in the dark.

Let them freeze in the dark.

We must choose a different course. No one who claims to be a libertarian can deny that taxation—having begun as nothing more than simple banditry—represents an institution nearly as ancient as Humankind itself. Nor that taxation is still theft. Nor that taxation is slavery. Nor that taxation is the fuel of war. I will reiterate: taxation is theft. Taxation is slavery. And taxation is the fuel of war.

No one truly worthy of the name libertarian will fail to inform his community—and the voters—that, as a movement, it is our immutable objective to eliminate taxation, root and branch, from our civilization, just as it was the immutable objective of our political and philosophical ancestors to eliminate all slavery as they knew it then.

The task before our ancestors could have looked no less daunting, no less pragmatic, no less impossible than the task that stands before us now. And yet, bravely, fiercely, they took the first of a thousand, or a million, or a billion steps (they didn't care how many steps it took) that brought their civilization—our civilization—this far.

It would be a slap in their faces—those of Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Paine, William Wilberforce, William Lloyd Garrison, John Greenleaf Whittier, Lysander Spooner, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Charles Henry Langston, Frederick Douglass, and John Mercer Langston, among hundreds or thousands of others, including Queen Isabella of Spain, who, appalled that Columbus had kidnapped and enslaved the people he found in the Americas, became the world's first abolitionist—it would be a slap in their faces if we were less brave or less fierce than they were. Their fight has become our fight. The State keeps the plantation now, and we are all of us slaves, "yearning to breathe free".

In our ancestors' day, slavery was sometimes called "our peculiar institution". Today we call it socialism. As libertarians, we must make it our job, indeed, our first priority, to eradicate every last, lingering trace of socialism in America, just as we would encourage our comrades to do in Australia, Britain, Canada, New Zealand, and everywhere else around the world. Not just the left wing socialism of Democrats and "progressives", not just the right wing socialism of Republicans and conservatives, but the insidious, slithering socialism as well, of those who falsely call themselves libertarians and yet believe—or would have us believe—that they have discovered a legitimate excuse to expropriate the products of another person's mind.

We will never abolish slavery—the fact is, we will never get out of the mess America's in right now—until, as a culture, we restore the absolute individual right to property. And we will never do that until we restore the individual's absolute right to ownership and control of his or her own life and all of the products of that life.

Next month, I will vote to get rid of as much of the current gang of socialists as possible: those who have allied themselves with the United Nations in its plan to disarm the people of this country, round them all up, and force them into vertical concentration camps, an evil scheme they call "Agenda 21"; those who proclaim openly that what the Earth really needs is "another good plague"; those who freely admit that they'd like to eliminate 90% of the population of the planet; and those who identify anyone who disagrees, and stands against them, as "terrorists'.

The friends of Barack H. Obama.

Two years from now, I will vote to get rid of the rest of them.

And then I will continue to work, as I have for very close to half a century, against the right wing socialists, the friends of George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush (and even Sarah Palin), who constitute an equal—if less well-organized—threat to my life, liberty, and property.

And to yours.

Thank you.

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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