L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 179, June 24, 2002
"Assume a Meditative Stance"
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I don't suppose that trying to convert gunnies to chemical freedom is any more arduous a task than converting hippies, druggies, and other lefties to, oh, economic freedom, lower taxes, and much, much smaller government? But did (or could) any of them actually read the LP platform? Are any of them actually interested in anything besides chemical freedom?
I seem recall, during the nearly 2-1/2 years I lived in Fort Collins (more than a year of which was spent in the company of Mr. Graves and his friends), that while many of the hippie wannabees, druggies, and other lefties looked down their noses at people in the "straight" culture (that is, those of us with regular jobs and cars who paid their own bills), these same people never had any hesitation in looking for a handout--whether from us despised mainstream, non- druggie types or from the government.
I recall that a great many of them never had any regular job, nor did they have any money for rent, money, food, soap and water, or transportation, but they always had money for one more tattoo, one more piercing, and/or more drugs.
How well I remember that, while I wasn't accepted by them, many of those same stinky hippie/druggie wannabees (and yes, many of them did stink) always had their hands out--especially those stinky hippie/druggie wannabees who were illiterate and without job skills, and who chose to breed children anyway. Not just one "oopsie," but many.
Hah--some of these little mommies also had the idea that living on the government's dole somehow gave them more "independence" than being supported by a husband--I guess it also gave them more money than their parents would give them for an allowance.
Frankly, I wouldn't care how many children they bred or how many drugs these people poured into their bodies, as long as they did it on their own dime and not mine. And while they're at it, they should learn to pay for their own rent, transportation, and soap and water (especially the soap and water).
I advocate the right of any adult person to ingest any damn drugs he wants at any time, in the privacy of his own home, if no one else is harmed by his acts--which is emphatically not the same as advocating the use and abuse of those drugs.
But embrace the drug culture? After what I've experienced--I don't fucking think so.
Pamela B. Maltzman [firstname.lastname@example.org]
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Mr. [Brian] Gross seems to know all about 'Druggies' (TLE 178). However, his perception is at varience with my experience.
Most 'Druggies' are working folk. When I was a 'Druggie", I worked full time at a swing shift job where I met other working 'Druggies". Even now, all of the druggies of my acquaintance are members of the working class.
This is not to suggest that there aren't 'Druggies" who don't work; after all, we are familiar with non-working alcoholics, but it just as absurd to suggest that most alcohol drinkers are welfare recipients as it is to suggest that most 'Druggies" are also on welfare.
Too many people rely on their misperceptions. This may explain many of the shortcomings of poitical policy making.
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In your article, "Now You Have A Choice," in the June 17th issue of The Libertarian Enterprise, you mentioned that the physical appearance of the person presenting the libertarian message to "gunnies" may affect their willingness to buy our arguments. Well, first of all, I'm not trying to be politically correct when I say that the first time I met Scott Graves I thought two things - "This is an intelligent guy... with a beard." Perhaps the sign of a potential libertarian lies in his ability to judge a person not by their appearance but by their words. With that in mind, consider the fact that I am a USAF retiree with hair nearly as short as it was prior to my retirement. I dress conservatively and am a "firearms enthusiast" as are many of my friends and acquaintances. I have actually swayed a few toward "The Force" of Libertarian Reason.
However, I have yet to convince any of my "gunny" friends to vote Libertarian. Even though they are intelligent people, they continue to believe that the republicrats are their best ally. They continue to subscribe to the "wasted vote" and "lesser of two evils" fallacies discussed here:
I attempted to illustrate to firearm enthusiasts how the War on Drugs was the primary impetus behind the War on Guns in my article previously published here:
My efforts appear to have fallen on deaf ears, at least with the "gunnies" I know. Neither my "conservative appearance" nor my attempts at reason have convinced them.
However, the "marijuana enthusiasts" or "druggies" (I don't like that term any more than I like the term "gunnies") know damned well that they currently have no sincere representation in government (neither do firearm owners, but they continue to vote under the illusion that they do). Despite hearing the libertarian philosophy in total, not just our stance on drugs, our Mary Jane and Alice B. Tokeless friends continue to register as Libertarians.
On to the subject of the so-called "Nerf Libertarian" city council member in Leadville, my arrival in Leadville the day prior to the LP convention allowed me some time to walk around this small town to take a few photographs of its beautiful surroundings and to talk to the "people on the street" about this controversy. It seems that the council member in question was, apparently, trying to make changes to weed control and garbage collection ordinances that ran counter to the wishes of the majority of his constituency. The claim that this libertarian was living in publicly subsidized housing didn't help his cause much either. Sorry, but in my humble opinion, it's not up to a council member to enforce the libertarian philosophy against the will of the majority of the people he represents. If he can't convince them with reason, it's certainly not up to him to dictate. God knows we have enough of that sort of thing from our current batch of demagogues in government. I may have an imperfect and incomplete understanding of what actually went on in Leadville, but I do believe that a government official using his position of power to force libertarianism down the throats of an unwilling public does, in fact, violate the tenets of libertarianism or, at the very least, representative government. Doesn't it?
William Blair [email@example.com]
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Dear John, Thank you for passing on William Blair's response to my article "Now You Have A Choice!" which appeared in TLE_#178. What he says in it almost makes me wish I were religious, so that I could wake up every morning and thank God that I don't have to rely on Mr. Blair to protect what's left of my freedom.
Like Scott Graves (who is a long time friend of mine, and whom I didn't mean to attack by replying to his silly column so much as to educate) this individual mistakes his self-confessed ineptitude at interesting gun owners in libertarianism for evidence that it can't be done. He will pardon me if, based on my 40 years in the movement, I not only disagree, but fail to suppress a snigger.
To educate Mr. Blair on another score, insisting that I be left unmolested by the vile, slime-dripping minions of municipal authority, whether the issue at hand is how much they steal from me at gunpoint or their ability, again at gunpoint, to tell me how to groom my lawn, is not -- I repeat for the benefit of the ideologically deaf -- NOT a matter of dictating to anyone, nor of forcing my ideas down anybody's throat, unwilling or otherwise. It is a matter of my inalienable right to be left the hell alone.
Moreover, demanding that elected officials behave consistently with the oath to uphold and defend the Constitution that the law requires them to take -- no matter what a majority of the electorate thinks -- is not unreasonable, either. The Bill of Rights was specifically devised by the Founders to protect us from the will of a majority.
Get it this time, William? If you don't, then please go back to the Republican Party where you belong, and where you'll do less damage to the cause of liberty.
As to Blair's opinion of Rick Stanley, John, he is entitled to it. But unless he wishes to force it down the unwilling throats of the majority (however slim) who chose Stanley as their candidate for the Senate, I think he's obligated to get behind the man and help him make the best run he can.
Isn't that the way democracy -- or party politics, at least -- is supposed to work?
L. Neil Smith [firstname.lastname@example.org]
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Scott, I just finished rereading your perspective on 'gunnies' in Ari Armstrong's Colorado Freedom Report. As a self professed 'gunny' and former Republican, and a man who has not only worked a few gun shows, but organized what will soon be 50, please allow me leave to give you my perspective.
Firstly Scott, please forgive me when I admit that I can't picture your face. I know that we've met because your name is so familiar to me, but I just can't place the name with a facial image in my small memory bank. So If I sound like a stranger, perhaps in that sense I am, so forgive me. That said, I must point out some errors that through no fault of your own, you could not know unless you have not only worked two to three shifts at 50 gun shows, but were once one of those damned right wing bastards to which you referred.
You see Scott, when I first joined the LP, I actually thought that the drug war was not such a bad idea. Before you begin boiling the tar, let me point out that we all have our past, and since joining the LP, I was forced to look behind the 'curtain' and see the truth. I was a gun owner who lived in New Jersey. Such is the equivalent to being a Jew in Warsaw, Poland in 1934. Keep your head down and tell no one. As such, you knew that the Republicans didn't really trust you, and were no real friends, but you knew that the dog keepers were the Democrats, and so you pulled the Republican party line. As a result you endured a LOT of brainwashing - a LOT! And being human, and having been exposed to it from day one, when your closest ally (or so you believed) told you that until we 'won' the 'war on drugs' your gun freedom would never be safe, you began to believe it. After all, what was the point of thinking about it logically to see any fallacy? The Democrats themselves were pointing out to you that you could not be trusted with guns because drug dealers all used guns. They wanted you to give up your guns to 'win' the 'war on drugs'. So the war was unanimous.
No one told us that there was another choice. That we could give druggies what they wanted and keep our guns too. Democrats wanted to take the guns to 'win' the 'war', and the Republicans wanted to 'win' the 'war' before they could give us our guns. Bleak choices, but you chose one. Remember, until last year, Libertarians appeared on the ballot in New Jersey as 'Independent'. Unless you were lucky to speak to a Libertarian in person to discover a third way, you chose one. And once in that group, they continued the brain washing until you were incapable of thinking on your own. Mandatory pledge of allegiance began to make sense. Mexicans were getting the 'free stuff' that we paid for, can't have that! etc.. etc..
But then it happened, I read an argument concerning guns by a Libertarian candidate, and the rebuttal by the Republican. The Libertarian seed had been planted. I remained a Republican for another 12 years, but when Bill Owens sold us out on 22, the seed that this guy had planted, which remained dormant under all of that frost, grew through the crust. When it did, the light got in, and a Libertarian activist was born. I know that I'm bragging here, but there is actually a point. I joined the LP in November '99. In that time I have organized and run close to 50 gun shows. Add to that about a dozen and a half booths at town fairs. I created a "Lady Liberty' costume which has appeared at last year's convention, Last year's fruit picking, She walked the Bolder Boulder, and the Lafayette 5k. I started out as the fund-raiser for the Elect Glazer campaign in '00, and when I realized that the Campaign Manager wasn't doing all that could be done, I stepped into that position. I was the recipient of the 2000 Ptak award, and this year as Chairman of the Boulder LP, I have managed to recruit a full slate of candidates in that county - A FULL SLATE! This has never been done in Colorado, and (I'm checking on this as I write this), perhaps never in the nation!! In short, this former Republican is doing his share and then some.
So hate me if you will, but there is a lesson to be learned from me, and L. Neal Smith hinted on it in his reply to your letter. Gun owners are stubborn bastards - as you have noticed yourself. We do not switch parties very easily, and you had better be a damned good salesman to 'show us the light', but as I have likened since '99 (despite the fact that James Vance has stolen my analogy), the LP is like the Red pill in the movie the Matrix. It takes a long time to win over a gunny, this much is true, but once you get him to swallow that red pill, he will be the most loyal fighter for the cause that the party has ever known.
It is for this reason that the LP is constantly wooing the members of the Republican party. Not because the leadership of the LP sees it this way, but because the only people who are actually in the trenches doing anything were once Republicans, and so they know the path for their lost brethren.
So why is it that you have had such a contrary experience at the gun shows that you attended. In referring to your pro-prohibition gunny example, you stated that:
"Now you may say he is just one guy and not indicative of the whole of gun owners. I would say he is indicative of 75% of gun owners. This based upon anecdotal evidence from sitting my tush at gun shows talking to these right wing wackos and being told we need to put barbed wire at the borders and shoot to kill any damned wet back who comes here to steal our jobs, go kill everyone who touches a drug that ain't licensed by the government, etcetera etcetera. "
My experience shows the exact opposite. The pro-prohibitionist gunnies are the exception, not the rule (this I must admit surprised even me). In 50 gun shows, when taking down the Nolan chart on Sunday afternoon, there has ALWAYS - ALWAYS been no less than 2/3 of the stickers in the 'Libertarian' quadrant. At several shows, the number is closer to 4/5ths! But I will confess that these numbers are of those willing to stop and talk to us. Anyway, how could you have received differing results.
The first possibility is that you were not polling (see administering the quizzes) to enough people. My shows never fail to hit at least 100 people, with more active shows reaching at most 300 people! If you just sit there and wait for the people to come to you, you will get skewed results. Which brings me to the second possibility:
You state: "This based upon anecdotal evidence from sitting my tush at gun shows..." Here in lies your problem. A 'clerk' for the LP will NEVER bring the truth and light to a gunny. You have to engage these people. These are thinking people, if you are sitting at the booth, you are not working the booth. You can't do both. I do not allow chairs at my booth. If you cannot stand for four hours, I have no need for your help. Salesmen stand when they are speaking to someone who is standing, and gunnies who attend these shows are not sitting around, they are walking, and if you are doing your job, they will soon be standing - at the LP booth.
The last possibility is that you are a poor spokesman for the LP. This is not a judgement call on my part, again, I'm not sure that I know you. It's more of a question that I would like you to ask yourself. If you can't make a gunny walk away saying to himself 'humm, I'm going to have to think about that one", you need work on your salesmanship skills. Clearly freedom makes the most sense. Give me a problem, and I'll show you how freedom is the answer. No, I'm not the best salesman that the LP has ever had, but I will make a socialist think, if he is capable of thinking. And one thing that I can assure you of, gunnies are capable of thinking. As L Neil stated, on average, there are more PHD's among the gun crowd than the anti-gun crowd. But it only makes sense. If you can think, you'll eventually figure it out. Or as my fiancee, and fellow activist puts it, "if we can get them thinking with their head, and not with their heart, it's only a matter of time before they join us." So ask yourself if you are a good enough salesman for the LP before you go on. After all, it's the poor salesman who blames his customers for his lack of sales.
Now you are no doubt jumping up and down with the thought that if as many is 4/5 of the gunnies who take the quiz agree with us, why don't they join us. The answer lies in the fact that they are smarter than most. It's the 'wasted vote' syndrome. Over the past 30 years, we the LP have demonstrated to them our uncanny ability to loose elections. One does not join the LP at this stage in the game because one wants to help achieve electoral success in the here and now. One joins because he becomes so disgusted with the whole system, that he realizes that there is no hope but with the LP. This reminds me of the bumber-sticker which reads; "a bad day of fishing is still better than a good day at work" Our mating cry is similar "Voting for Libertarian and loosing is still better than voting for a R or D and Winning". Gunnies know that we will not win this year, and that will be true for several years to come, and so they are hedging their bets by voting against 'that guy'. It's our job to show them that voting against 'that guy' will net them the same thing, and the only true way to vote against the graft and corruption, and yes, the loss of their gun rights, is to not only vote Libertarian, but join us. They do get it, but it has to be sold to them - one at a time.
The last point that I would like to make about your letter is this. If you could provide me with a gun forum with the same amount of attendees as that of the taste of marijuana rally, and have every speaker drive home the importance of going back to the LP booth and registering, I can assure you that I can match the 'amazing' results to which you referred. We have no such microphone at gun shows, so to imply that gunnies are less apt to join is unfounded.
Having worked the taste of Marijuana rally as well, I will confess that it is heartwarming to see those kind of results in one day, but again, to say it's because they are druggies and not gunnies not based on anything tangible.
That said, I have mixed emotions about the results of the taste of marijuana rally. Yes I am happy to see our registration numbers increase, one example will explain my discomfort of such under these circumstances however. One man who was moved to register after one of Ralph's heartfelt pleas, asked what the 'world's smallest political quiz' was (again, remember, he had already registered as a Libertarian). His position on the Nolan chart?
0 - 20!!!
Congratulations, we just got an authoritarian to register as a Libertarian. Guess what, he's now eligible to run for office as a Libertarian!!!!!!!!!!
The ONLY issue that he agreed with us on was the drug war. So he is not indicative of everyone there you say? I won't jump to the same conclusions that you did concerning gunnies, instead I say this, when a person registers at one of my gun shows, he is solidly in the 'libertarian' quadrant. I don't register a person until he IS a Libertarian.
So again, I am solidly 'on-board' with the importance of picking up as many new registrations as we can. I warn however, be careful how low you are willing to set the bar just to hit the goal. In our zeal for electoral success, we must be careful of who we ask to join with us. After all, when you dance with the Devil, it's not the Devil who changes, the Devil changes you.
As for me, I don't discriminate against anyone, if you are a libertarian, I want you as a Libertarian - that simple, but I agree with L. Neil, when I say that it has been my experience that gunnies make the best activists. I have friends in the LP from both sides, and when I need something done, I ask a gunny - they just get it done more often than my druggie friends.
Most sincerely yours,
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Let's cut to the chase. My goal as Vice Chairman of the Libertarian Party of El Paso County is to get Libertarian candidates elected to office. The goals of individual libertarians might be different such as influencing the Republicans or Democrats to vote pro-liberty, expanding the number of non-income tax filers, getting ready for the revolution or actively buggering up the system by filling bogus extra official paperwork. But as for the Party, we need to get people to vote for our candidates, roughly 35% in a three-way race. Now currently gun owners are almost all registered to vote, and registered Republican overwhelmingly. For every gun owner we get to come our way its simply one less for Republicans and unless we take the whole gun vote at once, all we do is drive them back into the arms of the Republicans after the election when the Democrat wins by the margin of the Libertarians votes.
When we get people who haven't voted before, or who have never even been registered to vote before to vote for our candidates, each one is a new voter and thus not removed from either party. So instead of shifting deck chairs on the Titanic we are increasing our numbers with less fighting. My goal has always been to find those who have seen the boot heel of the police state first hand, or first neck as the case may be. Gun owners simply do not feel that heel as much as the drug legalization crowd has. Face it, any weekend you can find a gun show within a few hours' drive, but can you find a bong show? Any weekend you can drive to the country and relax while you bust caps into the scenery, when can you sit in the park and smoke dope with the same relaxed ease?
In short the drug legalization people are a movement without a party, the gun rights people are a movement with a party. Certainly we can wait for the powers that be to finally piss off the gun owners enough to come our way, and when they do I am the first to welcome them with open arms. Of course it seems to me that most gun owners support gun control at "reasonable" levels so I wonder what the government will have to do to finally piss the gun owners off enough.
As for my logic in choosing the "Drug Voter" over the "Gun Voter" as a primary focus of our energy, let me explain. In Colorado we passed Amendment 22, to "close the gun show loophole" which requires a background check to be done whenever a gun is sold privately at a gun show. More "reasonable restrictions", I guess. After all, it passed with something like 30% voting against it. That says to me of the voting public only 30% are against gun control of any kind.
Take the issue of Medical Marijuana. We have passed a ballot initiative making it legal to use marijuana as a medicine with 54% voting in favor. Now if we are to win elections, who should we cater to, the 30% that voted against gun control or the 54% that voted for medical marijuana? Once again 30% or 54%, which wins in a three-way race? Hell which wins in a two way race?
I have been accused, not just by Neil but also by e-mailers and people on chat rooms, of stereotyping the gun owners as rednecks. I do not think them ignorant rednecks. They have their "principled" positions against drugs, immigration, eliminating taxes, abortion, privatization and whatever else they don't like about our platform. I would never try to argue someone away from where they stand; after all it wastes my energy. However I would ask what this statement by Neil is: "The trouble is, it's [going after druggies] a complete waste of time and energy. Although I'm sure there must be exceptions, if only because there are to every sociopolitical observation, in my experience, druggies can't think their way out of a wet paper bag." This is pretty common of the responses I got from other gun owners to my article. That seems a bit of stereotyping as well and perhaps why we have had a hard time getting them to take us seriously in the past.
Perhaps Neil is right with the following, "With all due respect -- and absolutely no insult intended -- the way Scott chooses to dress and groom himself, his manner of speaking, are much better suited to approaching druggies. Maybe he should limit himself to that and let others among us communicate with the gunnies." I couldn't agree more. However we can't get the gun rights activists in our party to show up at gun shows so I have to go to support the party.
But it's not just me; overwhelmingly our best activists come to us from the left side of the spectrum. Over 50% of our Executive Committee and Committee Directors are former Democrats. The average number of guns per activist down here is probably two at most and that's including my collection of antique replicas to beef up the totals. As such we have to reach out to the gunnies with people who are not gunnies. My Outreach Director would LOVE to have the gun rights people work the gun shows, but he just can't motivate them to come out and do the work.
So I tell you what, I have a proposition for you Colorado Libertarians who think gun voters are better than drug voters, put your money (or time in this case) where your mouth is. Here in El Paso County, our average voter registration at a three-day gun show is one new Libertarian voter. Yes that's right, one registered voter. Our record is three new Libertarian voter registrations. As the article said, at a drug legalization rally we got 121 new Libertarian voter registrations. Now if you have a better way of reaching these gun voters than we do, contact our Outreach Director, Mike Seebeck, at email@example.com and offer to take a six-hour stretch at a gun show. He will dance with joy over being able to get new people to run a gun show. If four of you all want the same time slot, wonderful, that way one or two of you can wander the gun show for free and the rest can talk to fellow gun owners and try to beat the 6 hour record from the drug legalization rally. If you do it, I will eat a printed copy of the issue of the Libertarian Enterprise that included my article.
I suppose this has to be answered as well. In regard to a disputed race for the nomination for US Senate candidate here in Colorado Neil said this: "I hadn't seen Scott for a couple of years -- he'd moved away from Fort Collins -- and was quite surprised and disappointed that he was frightened by a Stanley bid for the senate. How, he asked me, are we going to get other candidates to run alongside a loose cannon like Stanley? I was disappointed because Scott was once a loose cannon, himself. I like loose cannons."
As for the Rick Stanley business, yes I supported my good friend Steve D'Ippolito for that race. I prefer his style and agree with him that the right wing militia wacko vote is not something we should bother going after. But since Mr. Stanley has won the nomination by a narrow margin he will have my official support. I would hope he would temper his words with some restraint, but even then I will not split the party over his nomination. The goal of restoring liberty is more important than salving my ego with recriminations and bickering. Perhaps this cannon has found a carriage to better aim with instead of shooting our own masts accidentally.
Scott Graves [firstname.lastname@example.org]
"Still In Federal Custody"
I notice in the news this past week that this mafia guy died, in prison, and for some reason a lot of the news folks seem to think that this is a big deal. I guess it gives them something to talk about?
Me, I'm not that interested in all that stuff, really. Back in the days when I lived in Brooklyn there was this bar about a block or two from where I lived, red and velvet wallpaper, lots of italian-type people in there, and a very friendly bunch of folks, as long as you didn't try to force conversation about their "business". Which was fine by me, I didn't care and still don't care all that much, one way or the other.
The corker, though, came just in the past day or two, when I heard on the radio about how this guy's son, trying to claim the body of his father, had a confrontation with federal agents at a funeral home. The son didn't want them to embalm his father, saying that he had already made arrangements for that to be done at a funeral home in New York. The punch line was that the agents actually drew their guns to prevent this option from taking place, saying that this guy "was still in federal custody"!
I thought a life sentence was supposed to be over and done with once you were dead? I guess with these guys that's not necessarily the case... Roy J. Tellason [roy.j..email@example.com]
Here's the number to call if any of your readers want to contact the Governor of Pennsylvania regarding the tobacco tax: 1-888-564-6273
Stephanie Kalina-Metzger [firstname.lastname@example.org]
Is America becoming a police state? Friends of liberty need to know.
Some say the U.S. is already a police state. Others watch the news for signs that their country is about to cross an indefinable line. Since September 11, 2001, the question has become more urgent. When do roving wiretaps, random checkpoints, mysterious "detentions," and military tribunals cross over from being emergency measures to being the tools of a government permanently and irrevocably out of control?
The State vs. the People examines these crucial issues. But first, it answers this fundamental question: "What is a police state?"
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