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L. Neil Smith's
Number 762, March 16, 2014

Socialism kills—not just individuals but whole civilizations.

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The New Inquisition
by L. Neil Smith

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Attribute to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise

It's more than likely that old villains can't learn new tricks. But they can learn old tricks from one another, and from previous generations of villains. And now an old trick has come to what used to be the freest country in the world, imported straight from Josef Stalin's Soviet Russia—especially for the benefit of American gun owners.

Back in 1983, when the movie Gorky Park was in theaters, we had our first look, close up, at everyday life inside the Soviet Union. Unfortunately, in real life, there are some things you can't unlook at.

Americans became aware that, despite its Olympic prowess, its military budget, and its achievements in space—representing, as it turned out, hideously misplaced priorities and obscene malinvestments of resources—this was not a first rate civilization we had been in mortal contention with since the close of World War II, but a Third World national culture strained to the breaking-point in its deadly competition with us, and doomed to collapse eventually under its own weight. The real Russia was a starving goat dressed up in a cocktail dress.

At about the same time I recall hearing some celebrity refugee (I can't remember who it was) saying that the worst part of living under the communist thumb was that, when a life could be ruined and disposed of with just a phone call, there was nobody you could trust, nobody you could confide in, not even your wife or husband, and especially your kids.

The Soviet state had carried the ancient concept "Divide and Rule" as far as it could be taken, right down to the single, naked, lonely individual. Russian society had been "atomized", the individuals that comprised it separated from, and made fearful of, one another. The only company in which a person might relax consisted of a bottle of vodka and a pack of the cheapest, worst-tasting cigarettes in the world.

Ask a man who tried them.

But I digress.

Of course there is no situation so miserable that government can't make it worse. One good reason not to confide in your wife or husband, or complain about conditions in the Workers' Paradise, was that, after a fight or disagreement of some kind, she or he might just make that phone call, and you could find yourself, not stood up against a wall and shot, not carted off to Siberia (which I gather was getting fairly crowded by then), not even thrown into jail, but committed, without trial or appeal, to a "hospital" for what amounted to the politically insane.

It only made sense. After all, to disagree with any aspect of Marxist-Leninist thought, a person would have to be crazy, wouldn't he? And to confess his anti-social, counter-revolutionary opinions to anybody else, even crazier. To look around at the bleak, gray, cold hopelessness, at the grit, the grime, the squalor, and the decay that collectivism brings to any culture, and not see the bright lights and sparkling colors of New Soviet Disneyland, instead, you'd have to be delusional.

And so off to the Glorious People's Booby-hatch you and all your ungrateful little unMarxist, antiLeninist fancies would go, to benefit from the scientifically advanced Soviet therapies of confinement, physical restraint, psychoactive drugs, and brain surgery—including lobotomy.

It would be a public relations triumph, the evil trolls in the Kremlin must have calculated. Rather than the shiny black eye that the Workers' Paradise had always gotten world-wide by jailing, torturing, executing, or exiling its dissenters to Siberia, Mother Russia—at least until the world caught on—would gain humanitarian Brownie points for gently trying to assist its errant sociopaths to heal themselves.

Which brings us at long last to the point of this diatribe, to the twenty-first century, to Barack Obama, Dianne Feinstein, Chuck Schumer and a cast of thousands, the troglodytic denizens of Mordor-on-the-Potomac.

Back when I was running my gun-shop, there was a box on the yellow Form 4473 I was required to fill out for each gun buyer, that asked, "Have you ever been adjudicated mentally defective?" I don't know if it's still there, but the idea behind it—so simple and sensible on the surface—is now being used to strip hundreds of thousands of innocent individuals of their fundamental, unalienable, individual, civil, Constitutional, and human right to obtain, own, and carry firearms.

They don' need no stinkin' adjudication. Any time you turn around, this administration has given more officials—and semi-officials—the power to turn you in to the New Inquisition. Most recently, it's dental assistants. Yes, that's exactly what I said, dental assistants. You can no longer trust anyone on whom you used to rely—doctors, nurses, especially public school teachers, and next week, more than likely, barbers and bartenders—to take care of you in a personal crisis.

The atomization of American society is off to a roaring start.

The current administration has been uniquely ungrateful to the men and women willing to fight their wars for them. An uncommon number of veterans (and active personnel) are on food-stamps, and those injured in the line of duty are now expected to pay for their own medical treatment.

Having grown up in the just post World War II military, I can't believe that I just wrote those words, or that they are true and necessary.

Feinstein has said that, if a person has served in the military, at all, he or she is mentally unfit, owing to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. The implication is that veterans must be denied the right to obtain, own, or carry a gun, and disarmed. It now appears that this is exactly what has happened to a quarter of a million of them so far, who made the mistake of seeking mental assistance from the Veterans' Administration.

There is method in Feinstein's own madness. American Marxists are desperately afraid that the military, having taken an oath "to uphold and defend the Constitution from all enemies, foreign and domestic", might attempt a little political course-correction aboard the Ship of State. Which is probably why hundreds of high-ranking officers have recently been cashiered on one flimsy excuse or another, and why the rest of the military is being kept overseas for as long as possible. Those who have managed to return must be stripped of their weapons. They can then wander unfettered, since all of America is already a prison.

"Adjudicated mentally defective" and "Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder." It's extremely important in this connection to remember that psychology is not a science, not even remotely. It is not the product of careful hypothesis-formation and controlled, repeatable, peer-reviewed experiment. It is nothing more than a collection of folklore and the armchair opinions of committees, less credible and valid than global warming. The authority it speaks from is purely political.

I know all of this because in college, I was a psychology major, myself, until I saw how empty the field is of anything resembling science or a decent, genuine regard for the well-being of other people. I read Dr. Thomas Szasz, beginning with his The Manufacture of Madness—in which he defines schizophrenia as a particular relationship between a therapist and his patient—and changed my major.

Five hundred years ago, if you were discovered to be in possession of a volume of the Book of Common Prayer that had a misplaced comma on Page 151, you might ultimately be burned at the stake for heresy. This had absolutely nothing to do with religion, it was simply an easy way for the political elite to justify disposing of its perceived enemies.

Psychology, as a body of "knowledge", is more than just a little fallible. It will commonly declare some violent criminal "cured" and fit to interact peacefully and productively with society, following which the monster will immediately go out and axe-murder an entire family.

Psychology can be fooled into incarcerating individuals who are perfectly sane, as it once did with Nellie Bly, a courageous reporter investigating conditions in a New York mental asylum late in the 19th century. Nor have its powers of diagnosis much improved since then. On the other hand, if, like Ezra Pound or Frances Farmer (look them up), you hold opinions contrary to those the government wants you to hold—especially today on global warming, gun ownership, race relations, or the meaning and significance of the U.S. Constitution—it will more than question your sanity, it will lock you up and tear it to bits.

And today, when it does that, uniformed and armored thugs will show up at your home to shoot your dogs, stomp your kittens to death, terrify your family, empty out your gun safe, and murder you if you resist. Soon it may be enough to say that if you own guns you must be insane.

That's what's coming, unless we do something massive to prevent it.

There are solutions to the problem, all of them hard work, and some of them, thanks to the IRS and other corrupted agencies, risky. The real question is, do we have the courage and integrity of our forefathers, or have we decayed as a civilization, until we are as weak and timid as fat white worms under a rock, helpless to resist tyranny?

The human mind has the power—potentially—to render us all biologically immortal. The human mind has the power—potentially—to take us outward into the endless frontier of interstellar space. The human mind has the power—potentially—to strike the shackles of Authority from our ankles, wrists, and most important of all, our thoughts.

Our species is on a branching path between all that and something else. Socialism kills—not just individuals but whole civilizations. Will humanity choose oppression, the guttering candle of an eventual, and inevitable extinction, or will it choose eternal life, for itself and for the individuals who comprise it, amidst the glory of the stars?

Time, I suppose, will tell.

L. Neil Smith is Publisher and Senior Columnist for this online magazine.

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