L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 78, June 26, 2000
Letters To The Editor
by Our Readers
From TLE #73 I conclude that Mr. Bates (aka "Minority Mike") has no clue about the concept of rights. His statement "Listen up, Elian Gonzalez is an illegal alien, he HAS no rights in the United States!" clearly reveals so. Let me draw an analogy: "Listen up, David Koresh was an illegal gun owner, he HAD no rights in the United States!" Better yet, if some government passes a law that all Jews must wear yellow stars and be confined to ghettos... "Listen up, he is an illegal Jew, he HAS no rights!" Hmmm, where I've heard that before?
I have a simple question for Mr. Bates: can you name a specific person Elian harmed (or, to be more precise, initiated force against)? No? Case closed. Violating the "make-believe" (as Vin Suprynovicz aptly described them) immigration laws can not be a crime in Libertarian view... unless you somehow believe that rights are additive - that is (for Mr. Bates, in case his wife is not immediately available), a bunch of folks somehow has more rights than an individual. But then again, subscribing to that latter doctrine disqualifies you from being a Libertarian (see The Covenant of Unanimous Consent by L. Neil Smith).
I hope Mr. Bates appreciates all the help his wife offers him with those big words. Now, if she could only help him to understand the concept of rights, it would be a giant leap forward.
PS I do not approve of preferential treatment of Elian, but neither I approve of the current immigration policy.
To the editor [re:TLE #74]:
As a recent emigrant from Arizona, I have some familiarity with the uncompromising positions taken by the "pistis" faction of Arizona libertarians.
Arizona's ballot recently included a second referendum on medical legalization of marijuana and other non-traditional drugs of DEA interest. A successful ballot issue two years before had passed but had been crippled by the legislature, necessitating a second appeal to the voters to restore what they'd originally approved.
The state distributed booklets to voters explaining the ballot issues. The booklet also included the positions of various groups on the issues (if the groups paid a fee). The affiliated Arizona Libertarian Party included a statement opposing the medical legalization ballot issue on the grounds that the state had no authority to criminalize the drugs in the first place. From a principled standpoint, I think they were correct -- but the rightness of their principle did nothing to restore the lost right.
Many states have passed "shall-issue" laws requiring issue permits for concealed carry of weapons to any person not otherwise disqualified. Absolutists oppose such laws as infringing the right to bear arms (guaranteed in, not granted by, the Second Amendment).
Pragmatists support shall-issue permit laws as advancing safety and public acceptance. The work of John Lott and other statisticians have shown that crime declines where permits are legal. The "million moms" and others who would ban privately-held guns must now contend against cold statistical proof that those privately-held guns are saving lives. Without permit laws, the studies would not and could not exist.
Some libertarians are such principled advocates of freedom that their beliefs deny them the ability to win freedom. In refusing to consider any incremental approach to regaining freedom, they ensure that, while practicing freedom personally and covertly, they will never restore it as a public practice to the nation as a whole. They are similar to the libertarians who refuse to vote on the grounds that winning an election would impose their will and initiate force on others. Both groups are principled, and both advance liberty within small groups of like-minded thinkers, but neither group will change the state. Change requires a willingness to accept incremental victories. Our freedoms did not erode overnight, and they will not be restored in an instant. The pragmatic libertarians may be impure, but their methods hold the best chances of success.
Mark B. Wilson firstname.lastname@example.org
Hi. For a limited time, I'm offering lifetime email addresses at Liberty4me.com, to be forwarded to the email account of your choice. Should you decide to change internet providers, your email will follow you. I'm requesting a (completely optional) $1 per year donation to help cover domain name charges. If you're interested, please send email to email@example.com
Michael Haggard asked (lamented?) where are the hordes of libertarians who practice freedom? Partly, they are not here. Being self responsible has never been popular - if it had been, we wouldn't need to be fighting so hard.
There are people who have unregistered guns, do their own work without getting permits, who work jobs off the books, who live free. Of necessity and personality, they do not advertise. If you start talking about your guns, BATF shows up. If you brag of rewiring your hourse, the local inspectors show up with a sheriff's deputy. Grey market work? State and Federal IRS agents - with or without calculators and guns.
Part of the big problem that the libertarians have is that we are not groupies. We are inclined to not join, to not organize. We survive and win - for a while - when everything falls apart because the center cannot hold, but as long as we are left alone, we are content to leave others alone. By the time they come to the door, we are isolated.
The Internet has helped - and it helps that on specific issues, non-libertarians who do organize help defeat evil ideas. The long range problem is to teach others to think and live as we do.
So, the free people are out here. Always have been, always will be. Hopefully, this time, we will do more than fight a holding war. But don't expect organized public displays of civil disobedience. Not yet, anyway.
Daniel Safford firstname.lastname@example.org
Mike Haggard responds:
Thanks for reading my article and responding. You are absolutely right. Right on the button. However, the LP is a group... and it seems that it is a group that disavows any individual activism. Disobey the government and watch LP support from the Watergate dry up rather quickly. There are a great many of individual Libertarians that do act and live free. I feel that the party, as a whole, does not... in fact... I contend that the party (the LNC) actively distances itself from individual activists that portray a purist (how I hate the new moniker) position on the Libertarian Philosophy.
At some point though, the group, the asociated libertarians MUST oppose, even at great personal cost, the government of oppression. The official group, the LP and LNC, should be the ones leading the way. Such in not the case. Sadly, the LP has lost both the big and the little "L"... it's sad as 'L.
The Haggard email@example.com
Most articles for this magazine provide very clear articles concerning a libertarian viewpoint and arguments for it on significant issues. This newsletter has provided a consistent recourse to me from today's media that walks hand in hand with the government. Noam Chomsky makes more sense to me every day.
Neil, in his first book, THE PROBABILITY BROACH, pointed out that the Constitution was "forced down the throat" of North America's colonial governments. I think that it's kind of strange that, in this magazine published by him, the legitimacy of the Constitution seems to be endorsed.
My main argument against it, however, does not concern its origins. It concerns this indisputable fact: (almost certainly) no one who is currently alive signed the document.
Why should something our ancestors or someone else's signed govern our lives? I don't see how this differs from a government that does not even have the pretense of being a sort of kind of almost elected representative republic.
In NO TREASON, Lysander Spooner argues this point quite eloquently. I suggest that anyone who believes that the Constitution is a "legitimate" decider of what government forces itself on America read it.
I realize that, in a society with any form of government, a Bill of Rights is needed to protect any measure of the people's safety from the government. But I don't see any reason why anyone alive today should accept the Constitution. If there is a bill of rights, it had better be stronger, this time.
Take out "well - regulated militia" and add "ever" to the right to free speech, press, religion, and assembly for those Oliver Wendell Holmes types.
The history of the Constitution is very interesting: if you don't know about it, or public school has fed you it's version, I recommend that you check up on it.
But even if it was signed UNANIMOUSLY in the states of '89, it would have no claim on us.
Joshua Freeman firstname.lastname@example.org
Although I don't have the citations at hand, the US Supreme Court has repeatedly ruled that an individual right, or the exercise of individual rights, cannot be licensed, taxed, or otherwise pre-empted. Usually, this was in the context of localities trying to disuade or at least make some money off of pamphleteers and evangelists such as Mormons or Jahovas Whitnesses.
The decisions, however, did not limit themselves to the first amendment, or any particular amendment or even make the distinction between enumerated or unenumerated rights.
I propose the following: Before the Emerson decision in Texas, in which a Federal judge elaborated on the individual nature of the right to keep and bear arms, is overturned in the SC (or more likely overturned in the appelate and ignored by the SC), a suit by a(some) Texan(s) to overturn all firearms licensing and other preemption of this "right", just as licensing and taxing religion has been overturned.
While not a Texan, nor enough of a lawyer to know if one can pick and choose what jurisdiction to file such a suit in, I would gladly contribute to such an effort.
Is there a lawyer (gag spit) who reads TLE, or someone with the requisite knowledge to find an attorney for such an endevour?
While I'm not happy with the notion that the owners and managers of MindSpring have decided that the unlawful statutory enactments of the U.S. Congress give Internet service providers an excuse to shut down Web sites based on their servers when the owners and managers of an ISP decide that they don't like such materials, I think that you've thoroughly pressed my "fuck you" button by commencing your TLE article with the complaint that this means "...the Internet will become the private communication medium of those committed to overthrowing the knowledge of God on earth."
Internet service providers are, almost one and all, private enterprises. As such, they *routinely* censor the content of the Web pages they host simply because their hosting computers are private property, and they can do with those computers whatever they like (or whatever the liability and regulatory environment conditions impose upon them). They deny subscribers access to select newsgroups, and some of them even "Net Nanny" their subscribers' abilities to connect with some Web sites. The only reason why ISP managers don't do even *more* to censor subscribers' access and content providers' Web sites is the "firehose" phenomenon -- in other words, there's a legitimate claim that the flow of information across the 'Net is so horrendous that it's impossible for the officers of an ISP to sift through it all.
Mostly, therefore, they act upon specific complaints directing their attention to particular newsgroups or Web sites -- though I'll admit that they will frequently find occasion to exercise their own prejudices. That's the nature, however, of people in business. If a store owner finds the contents of *Penthouse* and *Playboy* more objectionable than the sales he makes by peddling soft-core pornography, he's free to tell his distributor *not* to send any more copies of those magazines. If the operators of MindSpring find the contents of www.christiangalley.com to be objectionable -- for *whatever* reason -- they're under no real obligation to carry those contents on their servers. Most ISP contracts have thoroughly lucid "out" clauses that give the managers of an ISP plenty of wriggle room wherein they may unilaterally terminate the provision of their services to any subscriber.
While I don't think that the Communications Decency Act in any way empowers the MindSpring people to do what they've done in denying houseroom to www.christiangalley.com , I *do* believe that the owners and operators of this ISP were within their rights to have dumped this Web site from their computers.
Religious freedom isn't the question here. This is a matter of private property rights. If you don't vociferously object to what's constantly being done to *real* pariah groups in this country -- like NAMBLA, whose ISP summarily dumped their Web site at the threat of a bullshit civil lawsuit last month -- then I can't offer you any more sympathy than the hope that www.christiangalley.com can find another Internet service provider whose operators are willing to carry the content thereof.
The real test of a free speech advocate, y'see, is found in his willingness to defend freedom of speech for those he most thoroughly despises. If you're willing to stand publicly against NAMBLA having suffered the same treatment at the hands of *their* ISP as www.christiangalley.com sustained in its dealings with MindSpring, then you're worth some respect. If not, then please peddle your complaints someplace else.
Richard Bartucci email@example.com
From Neal Horsley:
Internet Service Providers are, at the top of the service chain, the telecos that control every person's access to Internet and other telephone services. MindSpring was only one of four ISP's and telecos who breached contract with me, each one closer to the Internet backbone, until finally it became clear that, even setting up my own server and contracting bandwidth from an Internet backbone provider, I would not be allowed to publish on the Internet. The fact that you do not understand the tyranny such teleco control can exercise proves you are fundamentally defective in the fact function.
Neal Horsley firstname.lastname@example.org
From Richard Bartucci:
Your experience with the telecommunications companies is of a piece with what I've learned about such matters, but it means little enough as regards "telco control." These are private companies (though they've been allowed to get away with using government regulatory measures to restrict market access and thereby stifle competition), and it simply isn't ethical to try and force them to carry upon their hardware material which they find objectionable.
As a purely practical aside, consider the possibility that www.christiangalley.com might find a secure "home" outside the United States. There are places in the world where the regulatory and tort law insanities we suffer in this country are the subjects of shocked disbelief, and where the contents of your Web site will be welcomed for the dollars that their carriage will bring in. It's much more difficult for Internet service providers to deny their subscribers access to a Web site (wherever in the world it might originate) than it is for them to dump a Web site from their servers.
"Tyranny" has a specific meaning, and I cannot see that you've adequately supported any contention that what MindSpring (or any other ISP) has undertaken in its dealings with you can be properly described as tyrannous. Moreover, I note that you've nothing at all to say about the broader defense of free speech on the Internet -- the issue of NAMBLA, f'rinstance.
Shall we then be able to say that you yourself are "defective in...function" as regards semantics, logic, ethics, and moral consistency?
Richard Bartucci email@example.com
From Richard Bartucci:
Nothwithstanding the fact that the religiously believing mind is a defective tool from the git-go ("Will of God," indeed!), there are a couple of considerations that even a person acting upon the schizophrenic impetus of personal converse with the ineffable should be able to appreciate:
(1) You don't have to leave the United States in order to find yourself Web hosting on a server that's beyond the reach of federal regulators or rapacious members of the American Bar Association. Whether you desire to "appear melodramatic" or not, finding such a Web venue for your screeds can be accomplished without stepping outside your house.
(2) Your contention that ISP officers owe you some consideration because "the technology they use to conduct business was provided by American taxpayers" is bloody ludicrous. On the basis of such an argument, you should be able with equal right to claim whatever you like of the entire Louisiana Purchase because "American taxpayers" funded the acquisition of that land back during the Jefferson Administration. Are you really trying to contend that *no* private individual is able to act with any security or certainty if his strivings in any way involve land, technology, or information originally obtained through the expenditure of government funds? The Santa Fe Trail was defended by U.S. Army posts during its operation in the 19th Century. Do you therefore contend that all freight transported along the Santa Fe Trail -- and all enterprises undertaken in California as the result of capital goods brought west by way of the Santa Fe Trail -- were not (and their present fruits *are* not) private property untrammelled by the calls of "American taxpayers" like you? Officers of the U.S. government turned funds to the development and purchase of *lots* of technologies. They paid for the MIT "Rad Lab" and the advancement of radar imaging. Should you -- one of the millions of "American taxpayers" -- therefore be empowered to go to the Amana Corporation and demand of them proprietary information on the design of their microwave ovens simply because their engineering is robustly derived from the development work done on the federal government's dime fifty years ago?
(3) I do not call NAMBLA -- or its publications -- meritorious or particularly virtuous. Their recent suppression, however, has much in common with the difficulties you've had in finding Web hosting for your www.christiangalley.com content, and I find that it's proper to keep as broad a perspective as possible in the consideration of issues such as this one. Do you have any objection to the fact that the officers of NAMBLA have also been having problems finding an ISP? Do you feel an equal sense of indignation regarding the denial of service to these people? If not, why not?
One of the things that I find mildly repugnant about participating in the libertarian political movement is that it puts me in the position of making common cause with people -- like you -- who act not primarily on the basis of a logically supported defense of individual rights and human dignity but rather out of religious impulse.
I submit that anyone who claims to act on the basis of his personal understanding of the "Will of God" is to be presumed a dangerous nutcase pending further review. There are no objective standards to which such an individual can repair, and therefore the difference between the true believer and the certifiable psychotic is so thin that there's no practical reason for considering anything other than whether or not there's sufficient compensation to allow such a person to cope with reality.
Richard Bartucci firstname.lastname@example.org
From Jay P. Hailey:
"The consequences of such a sweeping claim are not hard to see. Such
I have quoted the relevant portion of the message above. It was a letter to the Editor in TLE #57.
Mr. Horsely's claim above misses one crucial point. And that point is the difference between public and private property. The First Amendment states that your right to free speech isn't going to be infringed. The first amendment doesn't say anything about you being allowed to spray paint your message on my house.
This is reasoning by analogy but I think the analogy holds up. Mindspring, Earthlink, AOL and all the rest of the commercial ISPs out there are just that, commercial businesses renting space on their computers to us for a fee.
A computer owned by Mindspring is Mindspring's private property. I have no problem with Mindspring deciding what it will and won't allow to be displayed on ther computers, the same way I claim editorial privileges on flags and bumper stickers displayed from my house and car.
The First Amendment is intended to safeguard the individual's right to free speech. It doesn't say anywhere that any owner of media or private property has to display Mr. Horsely's pet ideas.
That is why Mr. Horsely has the right to buy his own server and set up his own ISP to display his message if he feels strongly enough and is willing enough to spend his own money on it. Hey, who knows. Perhaps enough people with similar pet ideas will contribute to help Mr. Horsely buy his own Server or would be willing to purchase special Pro-idea service from him to make it a paying proposition.
In any case, complaining about one's free speech being squelched, going to court to file injunctions and screeching about how there "ought to be a LAW!", when commercial and monetary solutions to the problem exist is just the sort of mentality that I read TLE to get perspective on.
Mr. Horsely's complaint that his rights are being violated because Mindspring excercises their property rights is fairly typical of the collectivist, statist mentality that I see growing in our culture and society.
Instead of beating Mindspring at their own game, by providing internet service on his own or with the support of other like minded people Mr. Horsely petitions the Government to *force* Mindspring to play his way.
Instead of changing the rules of the conflict, by operating his own server insuring that his message is available to anyone who wants it, thereby invalidating Mindspring's decision, Mr. Horsely wants the courts and their minions to make things go his way for him.
At, may I add, the expense of all taxpayers, no matter if they agree with Mr. Horsely's pet idea or not.
Perhaps Mr. Horsely thinks that because the media labels Libertarianism as hyper conservative that we readers of TLE will support his pet idea. It is, after all, the conservative position, isn't it?
Never mind the cost to liberty or the fact that his pet idea amounts to telling a little over 50% of our population just what they can and can't do with their very own selves. Never mind that he is pleading for us to Help appeal to the courts to jam this pet idea down every one's throat.
It's inconsistent with my interpreation of Liberty both coming and going and so yes I do mind it.
I do not object to TLE printing this statist, whiny plea. As a former editor of a fanzine myself I know that alternative points of view are treasured for the way they spark conversation, dialog and input from readers.
Besides, Shoooting at paper targets is still good practice.
But IMHO, Mr. Horsely be very, very happy and content that it was merely my own amatuer self who elected to respond to this, and very gently point out the errors in his logic.
Vin Suprynowicz would have roasted Mr. Horsely over a slow fire, taking all after noon and making sure enough salt got into each wound. It would be lovely to read.
And I suspect that L Neil Smith might just be thinking of his daughter and shoot Horsely on the spot. This would make Bill Owens call another press conference and no one wants that.
So head for the hills Mr. Horsely and hope that you only encounter frightened teenage girls with too little sense to bully and not a real Libertarian. They might not initiate violence, but pointing out how stupid you sound is fair game, I think.
Is it initiating violence to call for a lawsuit to restrict the free excercise of property rights? Hmmmm...
Jay P. Hailey email@example.com
From Neal Horsley:
The respondent missed the point: MindSpring contracted to carry my Web site on "their" computer. In other words, I paid them money and they agreed to publish my work on the Internet. Because their "private" property was leased by me for my business it therefore ceased to be private and became subject to its contract with me. When they decided they would not honor their contract with me, I sued them because contracts are enforceable under law--or are supposed to be. This case will go a long way toward seeing whether the Courts will enforce contracts on the Internet.
As for my ability to become my own Internet Service Provider, I tried that and was censored when Internet backbone providers refused to allow my server to access the backbone telephone system that is, essentially, the Internet. So much for your proposed "remedy."
Fact is, the Internet Service Providers use technology whose creation was funded by the taxpayers of this nation. An interesting book published by the National Science Foundation entitled "Funding the Revolution" documents how tax dollars created the infrastructure that we now call the Internet. Public Service Commissions exist in the various States because some services were paid for by the American people; i.e., the Rural Electrification Agency, etc. Those services have no rightful claim to being called purely "private" and have not historically been treated as such by the Courts of this nation.
Neal Horsley firstname.lastname@example.org