THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 103, December 18, 2000
"A libertarian is a person who believes that no one has the right, under any circumstances, to initiate force against another human being, or to advocate or delegate its initiation. Those who act consistently with this principle are libertarians, whether they realize it or not. Those who fail to act consistently with it are not libertarians, regardless of what they may claim."
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Table of Contents
Editor's Notes (below)
Why Not Attack the Real Enemies? (below)
by John Taylor
An administrative note: The Libertarian Enterprise will be taking a brief holiday for two weeks. Your next issue (#104) will appear in mailboxes and on web pages everywhere on January 8, 2001.
From all of us at TLE to all of you, our faithful readers, writers, re-posters, and critics ... our sincere thanks, and best wishes for the new year and, as always, for
This is a special issue of The Libertarian Enterprise, featuring a single article by Harry Browne. Mr. Browne wrote TLE a note (see below) regarding Issue #95 of TLE, and submitted a response to Neil's article, "WHY I'M DOING IT". Mr. Browne's article, "WHY NOT ATTACK THE REAL ENEMIES?" appears here, unedited.
From: Harry Browne
Dear Mr. Taylor:
In your issue #95 of TLE, L. Neil Smith made a number of statements about me that don't happen to be true. I've written a response, which is below as text and also attached as a Word file.
It is a little over 3,000 words, which I realize is much longer than your usual articles. However, as the saying goes, it takes less time to call my sister a prostitute than it does for me to prove that I don't have a sister.
With best wishes,
Why Not Attack the Real Enemies?
by Harry Browne
Exclusive to TLE
In The Libertarian Enterprise #95, October 23, 2000, L. Neil Smith explains why he gladly accepted the Arizona LP's nomination to be its presidential candidate, joining in that party's desire to keep me from being on the ballot in all 50 states. ("Why I'm Doing It"). The article is almost entirely a series of allegations against me and against the staff of the Libertarian Party's national headquarters.
Since I first decided to run for President in 1994, many amazing things have been alleged about me. People who didn't want me to be the party's candidate have circulated many rumors—none of which were accompanied by any real evidence.
I haven't responded to these accusations because I didn't want to encourage public fights that would serve to divide Libertarians and weaken our campaign efforts. But now that I'm no longer a candidate, I would like to lay to rest many of the most egregious allegations. And Mr. Smith's article is a good place to start.
He begins with a long diatribe that ostensibly recounts a battle between the national LP and the Arizona LP. His remarks are very short on dates, places, and names; so it's difficult to judge how much of it is true and how much consists of rumors Mr. Smith has heard. And since he uses colorful words like "minions," "gullible morons," "Watergate surrogate," "thuggery," and "local winos," I don't know what part of it is mean to be taken literally and what is just embellishment.
The important thing is that none of this has anything to do with me. I have never taken either side in the Arizona battles, and I don't do so now. I barely know any of the people on either side in Arizona.
Coming to the Arizona LP's decision to keep me off the ballot, Mr. Smith says, "Even so, the amazing thing is that, this year, the ALP would have given Harry the same hearing any candidate would have received, had he offered them equivalent courtesy. Instead, he stayed home and demanded their nomination as if by Divine Right, . . ."
I'm afraid this isn't true. I never demanded anyone's nomination—not that of the Arizona LP nor of the national party. At the national convention in July I discussed with Arizona representatives the possibility of my going to Phoenix to negotiate the nomination. But they had trouble arriving at a firm date. When they finally settled on August 5th, I was already committed to spend most of that day at a rally for Tennessee candidates. It didn't make sense for me to renege on my commitment in order to satisfy the Arizona party—especially when the Arizonans had made it pretty clear they weren't going to choose me.
And if the ALP was so open-minded, why did they nominate Vin Suprynowicz for Vice-President without even inviting Art Olivier to attend their candidate meeting?
Mr. Smith says, "Harry's 50-state ballot status was going to save everything, they tell me, although he had it in 1996 and got (my fault again, and that of The Libertarian Enterprise, according to a message from Harry to somebody else I desperately wish I'd kept) a measly 400,000 votes.
"Again, for those with their eyes squeezed shut and their fingers jammed in their ears: Harry's 50-state ballot status was going to save us all in 2000, even though he had it in 1996 and did nothing with it."
I have never blamed anyone for my "measly 400,000 votes." Not Mr. Smith, not the Libertarian Enterprise, not the Arizona LP, not anyone. And I have never said anything remotely implying that "50-state ballot status was going to save us all in 2000." It will take a lot more than 50-state ballot status for the LP to make a breakthrough.
He goes on, ". . . The first is a matter of corruption: the well-documented misuse of political contributions by Harry and his Watergate cronies. I won't reiterate them here, except to say that less than 2% was spent on campaigning [in 1996], while two thirds went into the pockets of the usual suspects as 'consulting fees'."
I'm not familiar with any "well-documented misuse of political contributions by Harry and his Watergate cronies." I know only of some rumors that have circulated by people who have offered no real evidence to support them.
I don't know where Mr. Smith came up with the idea that "less than 2% was spent on campaigning" in 1996. The campaign raised just under $1.5 million total, of which $252,248 went directly into advertising. That alone is about 17%. Then there were enormous travel expenses to keep me, Jo Jorgensen, and others on the road almost continually. Plus a staff of people to book media appearances, campaign events, communicate with volunteers, fulfill inquiries, and so on.
Mr. Smith's words imply that we raised $1.5 million, devoted about $30,000 to the campaign, and simply pocketed the rest. Is there some evidence that leads him to believe this—evidence a little stronger than some rumor-monger's imagination?
The term "consulting fees" comes from the fact that people on the 1996 campaign staff were listed in the pre-nomination FEC reports as "consultants," because we treated them as independent contractors—in order to avoid payroll taxes and reports. Those people were overworked, underpaid, and greatly maligned by people like Neil Smith. All of them gave up existing jobs, some of them moved their residences to Washington for six months, and all of them were out of jobs at the end of the campaign. Are these the "usual suspects" to whom Mr. Smith refers?
No one has ever documented (well- or otherwise) any misuse of political contributions by me. And I don't have any Watergate cronies. I barely know any of the people who work at the LP's Watergate headquarters. I do believe they do a very good job, but that doesn't make them my "cronies." So, while Mr. Smith may detest me, he shouldn't make anyone at LP headquarters guilty by association, because there is no association.
(From here on, all items in quotes are from Mr. Smith's article.)
"See back issues of The Libertarian Enterprise or read the later reports of Jacob Hornberger (where were you in '96, Bumper?)."
I'll tell you where Bumper was in 1996. He was praising my campaign. It was only in 1997, after he discovered I was thinking of running again in 2000 and jeopardizing his own plans, that he began to circulate stories about my alleged flaws.
Referring to me, Mr. Smith says, "Here is a so-called libertarian who has snottily dismissed the Non-Aggression Principle—the very heart and soul of political libertarianism, and an idea I've fought for all of my adult life—as 'an undesirable litmus test'."
Since "an undesirable litmus test" is in quotes, perhaps he could tell us where I'm supposed to have said this. The truth is that I have always been a fervent supporter of the party pledge not to advocate the initiation of force. I have defended the pledge frequently to Libertarians and non-Libertarians alike. It is the only thing that keeps us from being taken over the way Pat Buchanan took over the Reform Party. As I've told others, anyone can join the party as a contributing member without signing the pledge, but only those who sign the pledge are entitled to choose the party's officers and candidates.
"Here is a man who refused to my face to endorse the concept of Bill of Rights Enforcement. Yet if he's not for enforcing the Bill of Rights, the highest law of the land, then what the hell is he for?"
To the best of my recollection, Mr. Smith and I have had only one face-to-face conversation. If my calendar is correct, it was at the Colorado LP convention in April 1995. Far from being offended by my statements, he agreed to be on my campaign committee (he withdrew later when Rick Tompkins entered the race).
The phrase "Bill of Rights Enforcement" never came up in that conversation. When he later complained that I was opposed to "Bill of Rights Enforcement" I had no idea what he was talking about.
The Bill of Rights is the heart of the Constitution (most everything else except Article I, section 8 is pretty much just procedure). I believe the Bill of Rights is a literal statement, made in plain English. When it says, "Congress shall make no law . . .," that means Congress shall make no law—period. I have written and spoken on this subject over and over—prior to deciding to run for President in 1994, and of course far more since then.
So why does he believe I'm opposed to "the concept of Bill of Rights Enforcement"? I have finally figured it out (I think). Buried in the middle of an article on Mr. Smith's Bill of Rights Enforcement web page (www.lneilsmith.org//bor_enforcement.html) is the sentence: "Any official, appointed or elected at any level of government and guilty of any violation of an individual's rights under the first ten Amendments, must be arrested, tried, and punished."
Although Mr. Smith rarely explains that this is what he means by "Bill of Rights Enforcement," it apparently is his bone of contention. At our one meeting in 1995, he did say he wanted me to campaign on a promise to prosecute Bill Clinton and Janet Reno for violating the Bill of Rights, although he didn't use the term "Bill of Rights Enforcement."
I told him I didn't believe retroactive prosecution was a good idea. And I still don't. After all, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, Ronald Reagan, George Bush, Sr., all their Attorneys General, all their Drug Czars, most of their law-enforcement officials and U.S. Attorneys, and tens of thousands of other federal officials have violated the Bill of Rights as well. Should they all be "arrested, tried, and punished" now? Should we set up a Committee of Public Safety to root out and put on trial everyone in the federal government who has ever violated anyone's rights? How about anyone in the federal government who failed to prosecute someone else for acts we consider violations?
It's not hard to see how this could lead to a Reign of Terror of the kind that destroyed the French Revolution and caused the French people to embrace the Napoleonic Empire.
But the future is a different matter. From the beginning of my campaigning in 1994, I emphasized the importance of the President's enforcing the Bill of Rights. On page 205 of my 1995 book Why Government Doesn't Work, I listed a number of things I would do on my first day as President. Among them is to "Establish a policy to penalize, dismiss, or even prosecute any federal officer who violates the Bill of Rights in dealing with citizens."
My 2000 book The Great Libertarian Offer explains it more detail on page 237: "I will announce a policy to penalize, dismiss, or even prosecute any federal employee who violates the Bill of Rights by treating you as guilty until proven innocent, by searching or seizing your property without due process of law, by treating you as a servant, or in any other way violating your rights as a sovereign American citizen."
Unlike Mr. Smith, I can understand if someone disagrees with me—and thinks it's a good idea to prosecute people for actions that weren't widely considered to be crimes when they were committed. But if he's going to hold a different view from mine, he should at least describe his view and my view clearly—so that you can decide for yourself how critical the difference is. Instead, he simply asserts that I'm "not for enforcing the Bill of Rights."
Going on, he says: "Here is a man, according to a conversation I had with a flunky of his, who 'won't have a gun in his house'."
Since he didn't name the flunky, how are we supposed to verify this statement? To the best of my recollection, I have never discussed my personal ownership of guns with anyone on my staff—or in fact anyone else—in the six years I've been a candidate. So until he names the flunky, there's no way to know how this idea got into Neil Smith's head.
The truth is that I've acquired a number of guns over my adult life. Owning a gun is an obvious necessity.
"The flunky's claim that not owning a gun makes Harry a better spokesman for our side is garbage. Try arguing that being white makes one a better spokesman for blacks."
This has nothing to do with the truth of the basic accusation, but I can't help but wonder if I need to start using drugs and viewing child pornography in order to be an effective spokesman against the Drug War and for the First Amendment. However, since I've never said that "not owning a gun makes [me] a better spokesman for our side," the point is irrelevant.
What is relevant is that Mr. Smith is dealing in rumors and hearsay, and has never made any attempt to find out whether any of the rumors are true. Since the rumors appear to make me look bad, he apparently accepts them enthusiastically at face value.
"Finally, after a lot of battering at my hands as well as those of people like Rick Tompkins and Vin Suprynowicz, Harry gave the issue [Waco] some lip service, just as he was compelled to mention the Second Amendment, and (was it ever painful!) to renounce matching campaign funds, . . ."
From the day I decided to run for President I never once considered for a moment the possibility of taking matching funds. I would no sooner do so than I would accept an SBA loan or a government pension. I am 67 and I collect no Social Security and I'm not enrolled in Medicare. Numerous people have argued that I should accept matching funds, and I have pointed out that it would be hypocritical for me to claim to be for smaller government while I have my hand in the taxpayers' pockets.
The quoted paragraph gives the impression that Rick Tompkins, Vin Suprynowicz, and Neil Smith somehow influenced my positions on Waco, the Second Amendment, and matching funds. I'm afraid Mr. Smith is grossly mistaken. Every position I have taken has been my own. Whether my positions are right or wrong, Mr. Smith and his friends deserve no credit or blame for them. Implying that they have influenced me seems to be a method of explaining away anything good I do that's too obvious to deny.
"His positions on abortion, Social Security, and national land reform are better left unmentioned."
Why not mention them if they're of any significance? What's wrong with my proposals to keep the federal government completely out of abortion, to end Social Security immediately and completely, and to sell off assets the federal government has no constitutional authority to own? Do these positions offend Mr. Smith?
"Which brings me to my third reason. I'm tired of apologizing for, and being embarrassed by, the Watergate's (and their predecessors') weak and stupid campaigns. I'm fed up with the LP's nominee never getting more than 900,000 votes, and their conclusion always being that we must make the next campaign even more flaccid and cowardly. I've had enough—30 years of enough—of the Watergate's (and their predecessors') inability and unwillingness to mount a tough, effective, principled, uniquely libertarian campaign."
My experience indicates that at least 80% of Libertarians believe my campaign stands are too radical. I want to reduce the federal government to just its constitutional functions, with a budget of only about $100 billion, and do it in a hurry. I want to do away with the income tax immediately, not gradually. I want to end the Drug War completely, not just legalize medical marijuana. I want to free you completely and immediately from the Social Security tax. I want to repeal all the gun laws, not enforce them. I want to bring all the troops home and stop foreign interventions by our government. I want to treat the Bill of Rights as a literal document and end all the discussions of whether the government has a "compelling interest" in overruling the Bill of Rights in some instance.
These positions may "embarrass" Mr. Smith, but I can't help but wonder in what way they are "flaccid and cowardly." I wonder to whom he has to "apologize" for them.
A detailed and accurate presentation of my views is available at www.HarryBrowne.org or in my book The Great Libertarian Offer.
Mr. Smith confuses rhetoric with principle. According to him and his friends, if I don't state the Libertarian case using their exact words, I'm not a pure Libertarian. Well, Mr. Smith had the opportunity to run for the presidential nomination but declined to do so—pretending instead that he should be drafted by friends who would get a million signatures for him. He could have shown us how to run a "tough, effective, principled, uniquely libertarian campaign," but he chose not to do so.
Instead of wasting his time painting others as evil incarnate, why doesn't he get specific and show us what should be done—by running for the LP presidential nomination, or by running for national LP chairman? If he doesn't think he could win either post, then what he's really saying is that 30,000 Libertarians don't measure up to his standards. In that case, he should quit blaming "the Watergate crowd" and Harry Browne—and instead accuse Libertarians in general of being "flaccid and cowardly," and decide that the Libertarian Party isn't for him.
If he does decide to seek a leadership position in the LP, he should note that no one in the last few years has managed to achieve that by attacking others. While attacks can diminish support for those who are attacked, they don't enhance support for the attacker.
Whatever he decides, let's at least acknowledge that colorful language is no substitute for the truth. And rumors aren't facts. The statements Mr. Smith has made about me have no basis in reality.
If what lies beneath all the vituperation is a dislike for my personality, why not just say so? Everyone is entitled to have personal prejudices. Why not just say, "There's something about Harry Browne that rubs me the wrong way, and so I decided not to support him"? Why try to pretend that one's dislike is based on actions, positions, and statements of mine that aren't actually the case?
If the problem is my stand on a particular issue, why not name the issue, identify the supposed weakness, and propose a superior approach? Such things as repeating rumors and using colorful language to label me evil don't comprise serious discussion; they are simply diatribe.
I plan to continue to try to build a Libertarian Party big enough to challenge the Republicans and Democrats someday. I hope readers of The Libertarian Enterprise will want to help in that endeavor. If so, we get nowhere by cutting each other up.
Why not save that for the real enemies?
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