Big Head Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 653, January 15, 2012

"What do you suppose it would it be like, how would it feel,
to spend the rest of the time we two have left in life
without having to struggle against a rogue, feral, criminal
government hell-bent on turning us all into its property
every day, every hour, every minute?"

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Maltese Falcon

I'm Only In It for the Freedom
by L. Neil Smith

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Attribute to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise

I was talking with my wife Cathy yesterday when I was suddenly struck with the profoundly historic nature of the moment we're living in.

Just now, the choice is clearer, and the contrast easier to make out, between individual liberty and universal slavery—and more of my fellow Americans seem to be aware of it—than at any other time I know of. Freedom has found a champion in Congressman Ron Paul, and, at the moment, thanks to him, the word "libertarian" is on everybody's lips.

The odds (and our nation's 20th century track record) may appear to be against us. Nearly everyone I know—especially those of us real Baby Boomers born during the presidency of Harry Truman—tries hard not to be too hopeful for fear of another disappointment. Yet from instant to instant, the prospects for liberty, as first promised to us by our parents, by our grandparents, and by the Founding Fathers themselves, shine forth undeniably, unconcealably, like a newly-born star.

As I recall, it was Nathaniel Branden who first asked the question publicly at the 1979 Libertarian Party convention at the Bonaventure Hotel: what do you suppose it would it be like, I asked my wife, how would it feel, to spend the rest of the time we two have left in life without having to struggle against a rogue, feral, criminal government hell-bent on turning us all into its property—into mere objects to be taken up, misused, and thrown away—every day, every hour, every minute? Might it actually be conceivable for us simply to enjoy our freedom without having to battle constantly to preserve it or regain it?

I think that's what the Founding Fathers—some of them, anyway—desired, when they told a King to go to hell, when they fought and killed and bled and died to make it stick, when they wrote and voted for a Bill of Rights. But today having fought the fight for 50 years, since 1962 when I was 15 years old, it's still a difficult thing to imagine.

Yet it's absolutely necessary if we're to have any hope at all of winning. If we don't keep uppermost in our minds what we want, and particularly who we are, we could succumb, not to any action taken by the enemies of liberty, but to inclinations within ourselves that for each and every one of those 50 years, since 1962 when I was 15 years old, have undermined the freedom movement and all but guaranteed its failure.

I know as well as any of the Founding Fathers that "The price of liberty is eternal vigilance". But I also know that if we have no plans to enjoy our freedom, then returning to the fight will seem more interesting and attractive, and we will find some way to make it necessary.

This is one of those frozen moments in history when every negative impulse festering inside us, particularly a self-destructive, suicidal fear of success, threatens the greatest danger of all to us, precisely when what be believe—when what we know—is in the ascendancy. That's what happened to the Republicans who, having finally elected their champion, Ronald Reagan—or later, after the "revolution" of 1994—didn't have the faintest glimmer of what to with what they had won.

My initial attempt at imagining freedom may seem lame to anybody else. With the Second Amendment fully enforced, and the Department of Homeland Security and Transportation Safety Administration swept away (we must demand no less) I will feel free to travel. My childhood was spent near one ocean or another, but I haven't laid eyes on the sea since 1987, and I haven't been wading or swimming in it since I was in high school. I will take my wife, born in the landlocked municipality of Cheyenne, to Galveston, Texas, or somewhere near there, where I first set foot in salt water and felt the sand streaming between my toes.

Then I want to see Ireland, where it turns out my people are from (not Poland, as I was brought up to believe). Especially Dublin, where I can hear every famous literary liar—and the blessed birthplace of Jameson's Whiskey—calling to me. (Cathy likes Guinness, which issues from the same Splendid Source.) Then Australia—the whole continent from coast to coast to coast to coast, from the Great Barrier Reef to that beach in the west where dolphins come to visit, and everything in between, kangaroos, the opal mines, Ayers Rock, the massive six-car truck-trains—which I have daydreamed about visiting since I was in Kindergarten.

Cathy isn't as ship-happy as I am, but I'd like to spend a couple of weeks aboard the super-yacht Maltese Falcon. Google it and you'll want to go with us. She wants to see Santorini and Crete, where Atlantis died.

Yes, I know that we could do these things right now—if we were willing, like so many others, to surrender our dignity and individual sovereignty, and thereby help to keep all of our fellow Americans in chains. But I mean to do them on my terms, without getting stripped naked, physically, electronically, politically, spiritually, or being otherwise molested by anything or anybody claiming a right to govern me.

Simple dreams these are, really. The simple dreams of essentially simple people who have won for themselves the freedom to make them come true. "YDMV"—your dreams may vary, which is only right and proper.

That's what we want. We'll doubtless think of more, later on.

As to who we are, we are libertarians, marked by an understanding that nobody—no matter who they may be—has any right to initiate physical force against another human being for any reason. Nor will a real libertarian advocate the use of initiated force or delegate it to anybody else. That's the Zero Aggression Principle. It's what defines us.

Some individuals in the movement, innocently or otherwise, will argue (especially since so many of us seem to be throwing our lot in with somebody who, let's face it, is still a Republican) that it's an unnecessary—and unnecessarily limiting—formality. I'd counter that supporting a Republican—especially one who's barreling down tracks we laid—makes it even more important to retain our unique identity.

And here's another point. There are individuals in government (and there always have been) who believe exactly the same thing about the Bill of Rights, that it's an unnecessary—and unnecessarily limiting—formality. That view has nearly destroyed America. If we fail (or refuse) to define ourselves, you may be assured that somebody else— somebody whom we don't like, and who doesn't like us—will do it for us. And libertarianism, as such, will be marginalized, co-opted, and obliterated.

Dodgers, slackers, and crooks, the unsavory likes of Jon Huntsman, Newt Gingrich, Rick Perry, Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum (just to name a few Republicans alphabetically but at random), who would like very much to see that happen, will be quick to tell you that such dreams of untrammeled freedom are impossible, that we live today in a dangerous world (only because creatures like them have been making it that way since the dawn of history) where we are compelled to accept the advice of Thomas Hobbes and give up some—or even all—of our liberty for security.

I always thought that Hobbes, who was born prematurely when his mother heard the Spanish Armada was coming, needed an enema. Or to get laid.

But as usual, I digress.

They will tell you not to ask too much or you may get nothing, that, in the words of Voltaire, "The perfect is the enemy of the good".

I'd hate to tell you what I've always thought about Voltaire.

But okay, let's make it freedom or nothing, in the understanding that if it weren't for those of us who demand the perfect, there'd never be any good. If the Republicans won't let us vote for Ron, maybe we should vote for Obama and get the whole mess over with that much quicker.

No? It was a thought, anyway. It still is.

But for the moment, remember what you want.

Remember who you are.

Never deviate a micron.

It's the only way to make your dreams come true.

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