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L. Neil Smith's
Number 769, May 4, 2014

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Thick As A Brick
by L. Neil Smith

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Attribute to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise

There are humorous and sad stories within the libertarian movement about Ayn Rand, who was apparently unable to distinguish between the essential elements of her philosophy, and her own personal, passing enthusiasms.

At one point, I've been told, Rand rather foolishly proclaimed that the only form of dancing truly consistent with Objectivism was tap dancing, and that the most rational dancer of them all was Fred Astaire. I always liked old Fred, myself, but not as a philosophical paragon.

Maybe it's easier to see from a distance that Objectivism is an ethical philosophy, while tap dancing is an artform, and that the two, within certain broad parameters, have nothing whatever to do with one another.

But that was then, this is now.

I have pretty much been "out of the loop" for the past month or so, while I struggle to complete two novels simultaneously. I have been relying on my wife and daughter, for the most part, to keep me in touch.

One item that has broken through my self-imposed "cone of silence" is the embarrassingly dumb pseudo-issue of "thick" versus "thin" libertarianism. It's an idea almost as stupid as "right" versus "left" libertarianism.

Read and understand this: a libertarian is a person who believes that no one has the right, under any circumstances, to initiate force against another human being for any reason whatever; nor will a proper libertarian advocate the initiation of force, or delegate it to anyone else.

Individuals who act consistently with this principle are genuine libertarians, whether they realize it or not. Those who fail to act consistently with it are not libertarians, regardless of what they may claim.

I call it the "Zero Aggression Principle". Tell me: where's the "right" and "left" to that? You're either libertarian or you're not. Period.

If I understand the pushers of this new conceptoid, they believe—and insist—there must be more to libertarianism than the Zero Aggression Principle, that we must incorporate into the movement and its underlying philosophy concerns that properly belong to creatures who have dirtied the word "liberal" so badly they now call themselves "progressives".

Since I first became a conscious libertarian, 52 years ago (when you get to be my age, time flies whether you're having fun or not), and certainly since the founding of the Libertarian Party, a decade later, there have always been individuals attempting to redefine libertarianism—usually downward—to suit their own prejudices and purposes.

I recall, for example, attendees at an early CLP convention, demanding from the floor that the party platform not be so negative about the public school system. This despite the harsh reality that permitting that institution—underwritten by extortion, staffed by greedy recipients of stolen goods, populated by slaves relentlessly brain-washed with socialist propaganda—to continue existing at all is a blatant violation of the Zero Aggression Principle. They were public school teachers themselves, you see, and they just knew that everybody in the system was striving as hard as they could to make it better.

They were far from the first. Murray Rothbard, among a good many others, desperately wanted to court the Left and form a coalition of some kind with them. The trouble is that the Left doesn't stay courted. In fact, they're rather like ants, which shouldn't be too surprising. Their rank and file tend to agree with the last person who spoke to them, and their leaders will use you to advance their agenda.

All that was forty years ago.

I have always thought, and I believe that history backs me up in this, that it was a serious mistake to try to establish an Objectivist aesthetic. Aesthetics are purely arbitrary, a matter of whatever we've become accustomed to. Look at the way the idealized feminine form has changed (driven, some say, by the economics of feast and famine) from the paintings of Peter Paul Rubens to the images of Lesley "Twiggy" Lawson. Or, over a much shorter span, from Jayne Mansfield to Mia Farrow.

The purveyors of "thick" libertarianism are making a mistake as obvious and pathetically foolish as Rand's. They want to take a 987 Porsche Boxter—the sleek, slim Zero Aggression Principle—glue cardboard shoeboxes, empty coffee cans, and dead cats on it at random, and herald it as something new and wonderful. But new and wonderful it ain't.

It's the same old crap.

A short term for "thick" libertarians is "liberals".

I gather that these wimps and losers can't take being members of a minority that just happens to be right about every social, economic, and political issue of the day. It makes them uncomfortable to stand alone. They want libertarians—as such—to have a more "positive" image, to become tree huggers, to wring our hands over the plight of the poor, to take Algore's side on globular warming, and to save the whales.

I don't want to save the whales, I want to eat them.

These specimens know so little of their own philosophy they don't realize (or have forgotten) that under libertarianism, you'll be free to hug your own damn tree; that, poverty being a product of taxation and regulation, under libertarianism there will be no poor; that environmentalism is a euphemism for fascism; and that animals are property.

Don't take the bait by saying "thin" and "thick" libertarianism. That simply hands them the argument. Say "clean" and "cluttered" libertarianism, instead. Remember the K.I.S.S. principle and keep it wholly.

Make it K.I.S.S.S.S.—keep it short, sweet, and simple, stupid. Remember Occam's Razor: don't multiply variables, or platform planks, unnecessarily.

Possibly worst of all, these weenies want us to be libertarians for the "correct" reasons, implying that only utilitarian or altruistic motives are morally acceptable. One of the reasons I became libertarian in the first place was thanks to Ayn Rand (whom most of these people hate, loathe, and despise) who said, "I do not recognize any man's claim to one minute of my life," and "Your need does not constitute a mortgage on my existence." Heady—and badly needed—stuff for a kid going to high school in the suffocatingly religious South.

All the more necessary now, under Obamunism.

Even kindly old Bob LeFevre horrified middle class housewives in his audience by saying that if a five-year-old came scratching at your door during a blizzard, you have no moral obligation to take it in. (Folks may not like you for it, but you would be within your rights.) For me, it was like feeling the weight of the world lifted from my shoulders.

Motives. Andrew Carnegie was a dirt poor Scottish immigrant to America who, over a lifetime of work, amassed what would amount to billions of dollars today. This is the guy every libertarian's hero, Scrooge McDuck, was based on. When he retired, he built a network of public libraries all over this country which have enabled millions of individuals to obtain an education they couldn't otherwise have afforded.

The left has spent many decades trying to tear Carnegie down by questioning his motives for building all those libraries. I don't give a rodent's derriere why he did it. Neither should you. If a tremendous gift you receive is spoiled by your estimate of the giver's reason for giving it, the solution you need to seek is neither economic nor political.

It's psychiatric.

If Zefram Cochrane invents the warp drive "only" because he wants a tropical island filled with naked dancing girls, I say give him the island.

And invite the girls.

On the other hand, motivations can be important in other contexts. What I'm looking at here, in this "thin" and "thick" nonsense—and I have long suspected it of "left" libertarians, as well—seems like nothing more than a sorry, sophomoric attempt by the libertarian movement's nerds, geeks, dorks, and goobers to get laid by progressive chicks.

Probably because libertarian women won't have them.

Lotsa luck, guys.

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