L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 185, August 5, 2002
EVEN IF THE JUDGE HAS A FIT, YOU MUST ACQUIT
For a change, I would like to point TLE readers to positive things:
Martin van Buren: What Greatness Really Means by Jeffrey Rogers Hummel (Golden Gate University): www.mises.org/mp3/Pres/Pres11a.mp3
www.mises.org/audio.asp for the page that lists it, with details for the interested listener.
Can you imagine a Fed.Gov that operated on 2% of GDP? A president that realized cutting taxes and spending, even from that microscopic level, would end a recession?
Libertarians tend to lack real-world examples of successful "libertarian" policies in action, solving problems and doing good. Here it is, delivered on a hard-disk platter. It's from 1998, I'm sorry if I'm late with it.
This more recent article by Jeremy Lott is also up-beat, hopefully Reason will lose this man to Rational Review: reason.com/links/links073002.shtml
Curt Howland [Howland@Priss.com]
To the Editor:
Mr. Wallace [ "The Menace of the Libertarian Materialist"] mixes half- truths, biased opinions, and nonsense in his essay on materialism. Of course, that is easy to do, since materialism has had a variety of definitions, most of them nebulous. As Bertrand Russell states about Karl Marx (in "A History of Western Philosophy"):
"Or take the question of materialism. This is a word which is capable of many meanings; we have seen that Marx radically altered its significance.... When the term is defined, it will be found that, according to some definitions, materialism is demonstrably false, according to certain others, it may be true,... while according to yet other definitions there are some reasons in its favor..."
But, let's take Mr. Wallace's ungrammatical definition ("the belief that matter is all there that exists. Everything else-- life, consciousness, self-consciousness--is just epiphenomena.") at face value. First, I do not know of anyone who believes that life and consciousness are just side effects of a material universe. Second, I know of no political or economic systems based on this narrow definition of materialism. Even the pseudo-communism of the Soviet Union acknowledged that life was relevant, that there were important differences in how one could live one's life, and that the consciousness of man was important (else why would Soviet leaders spend so much time influencing the conscious thoughts of its citizens and of people everywhere?). Third, Mr. Wallace makes an irrelevant comment about materialism being the basis of all science. As a medical scientist, I find his assertion laughably absurd. The sciences have recognized and studied life and consciousness for centuries. Mr. Wallace's problem here is that he equates self-consciousness with spirituality or religiosity, areas in which science has no role. However, I can attest that neither attribute is necessary for self- consciousness.
Mr. Wallace then states:
"There are libertarians who are materialists. Usually, they're atheists who believe in evolution. Personally, I believe they are, in that particular way, leftists, but don't know it."
First, how does Mr. Wallace know that there are libertarians who meet his narrow definition of materialism? Second, how did he conclude that libertarian materialists are also science-oriented atheists? I am a libertarian, atheist, scientist who accepts the theory of evolution. I am certainly not a leftist, and cannot imagine that any libertarian atheists would be.
Mr. Wallace's next statements defy belief:
"... it [materialism] essentially reduces Man to an animal. From there, it's but a short step to a cockroach. From there, it's even a shorter step to squishing him. That's why 177 million people died in 20th century wars."
First, man is an animal in the biological sense. Man happens to be a thinking, reasoning, creative, social animal (at least some of the time), which is why we accord ourselves special status. But, agreeing that man is an animal certainly doesn't justify equating man to a cockroach. Mr. Wallace seems to believe in a slippery slope theory of man's specialness: if people do not believe that man is a special creation of God, then people will have no compunction about killing others. Many people who believe that man is a special creation of God have no compunction about killing, and many atheists strongly oppose killing, I fail to see why Mr. Wallace worries about a slippery slope. Second, this is the first exposure I have had to the theory that materialism caused all the wars in the 20th century. I don't think there is an intelligent historian or philosopher who would espouse a single common cause of the many wars in the 20th century. World Wars I and II were about power: economic, military, territorial, and political. Was materialism the underlying philosophy of the leaders and people of the nations involved? Certainly not. Greed, spite, and the desire to control others do not require materialism. Religious nations have made war as readily as secular ones.
Sprinkled through the remainder of his essay are other absurdities: Hitler, Ayn Rand, and Richard Dawkins are leftist materialists; Skinner's behaviorism is equivalent to materialism; and that libertarian materialists (whoever they are) have no rationale for opposing murder or genocide.
Why do you publish crap such as this? Why would you give this idiot a forum in your magazine? Do you let everyone who claims to be a libertarian spout nonsense in your publication? Mr. Wallace's article stands out from the others in the July 22nd issue for its absurdity and asininity. As a new reader of your e-zine, I hope this is a rare anomaly.
A Response to JJ Thompson
J J Thompson's entirely predictable "response" to Bob Wallace's recent article on materialism versus libertarianism is proof positive that most people now calling themselves "libertarians" are simply statists who don't want to pay taxes. In this, they are no different from the basic, run-of-the-mill Randoid. I shall elabourate:
The State's schools and media have been promoting the lie that "Hitler was a Catholic" which Mr Thompson here repeats in spite of the historical fact that Hitler's Nazis interned the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic (and Lutheran) churches in his death camps even before he went after the Poles, Jews and Gypsies. [William L. Shirer was there at the time and personally encountered some of the first of the clerics who were being shipped off to those camps.] Those who swallow the state's lie that Hitler was an anti-Semite because he was allegedly "Catholic all his life" seem to either be blissfully unaware, or willfully ignorant, of the fact that Hitler's Nazis killed five million Roman Catholic Poles. Of course, Mr Hitler made public claims to the contrary, for propaganda purposes and to lull fools to sleep the better to take them by surprise. Any actual statements made in favour of religion by the Nazis must be taken as seriously as their repeated vows that "we have no further territorial aims" and "we will never invade the Netherlands; the Dutch are our dear cousins." I'm not surprised, however, that Mr Thompson is so eager to believe in Mr Hitler's alleged religious fervour...
This is the result of taking Mr Thompson's all-knowing "...look at history" as taught by the State's schools and media. It hardly qualifies him as a libertarian, a historian or even a well-informed person. Hitler, by the way, was convinced that Christianity had to be eliminated, and he had planned this for the aftermath of the successful conclusion of his wars. Those who are truly conversant with the history of the NSDAP know that they already had begun setting up pagan "youth camps" as part of the creation of a spearhead of militant anti-Christian youth who would worship a pagan State as their religion.
The Crusades were hardly the nastiness that the State misrepresents them as, also, and were more often fought for political reasons than the supposedly religious one of regaining the Holy Lands for Christianity. [Those lands, by the way, had been invaded and occupied by Islamic conquerors -- you know, the forerunners of those saintly types who flew airplanes into the World Trade Center.] And the Spanish Inquisition was responsible for fewer deaths than the State of Texas takes in the average year. Perhaps that Monty Python episode ("Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!") neglected to mention that.
As well, the statist lie that "religions caused most of the wars and deaths in history" gets mindlessly repeated here. Does Mr Thompson never attempt to inform himself of anything before he writes? The atheistic states, not even counting Hitler's Reich, in the Twentieth Century alone, accounted for more deaths than all other forces in history combined. This was not due to a belief in God, and those who maintain this are either willfully ignorant or intentional liars. That is a historical fact.
Next, Mr Thompson goes on to chatter about "...facts, logic and reason..." That he would dare mention those words in the wake of his preceding statements is almost incredible. Like all militant atheists, in his omniscience he knows that there is no "spook in the sky", just as Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot "knew" this, with the same certainty, and based on the same "reason" and "facts". Given that everything else that he and they "know" is a lie, I can think of far better arguments against the existence of God, (and I'm a Christian).
Continuing on in this ignorant vein, he informs us that those who believe in God think that we can create a "Utopia" (which we do not) and that we become "slaves" to God in order to accomplish this task! Christianity advocates the exact opposite, and the doctrine of Free Will is a cornerstone of our belief system. Mr Thompson could easily have learnt this too, if he had been the "rational, logical and reasonable" type which he affects to be.
Making up false assertions about "religionists" and what they (conveniently unnamed as they are here) supposedly say and do, is not a proof of "...the fact that we're smarter," at all; it's proof positive that repetition of standard statist lies can be augmented by the setting up and knocking down of straw men. But perhaps Mr Thompson "...believe[s] that's called empiricism," too.
Further arrogant lecturing leads Mr Thompson to overlook the historical reality that the USA was founded by religious people, and that the US Constitution deliberately avoided a state religion in order to a) prevent the establishment of a State religion, precisely because the overwhelming majority of the residents of the Thirteen States were of a religion other than that of the Church of England. The Puritans of Massachusetts, the Society of Friends of Pennsylvania, and the Roman Catholics of MaryLand (the state named after Our Lady), all existed, all believed deeply in God, and all insisted on a Declaration of Independence and Constitution founded on Christian principles. The individual constitutions of the original states also make numerous references to God, our Creator, Divine Providence, et cetera.
Where exactly do our "unalienable rights" originate? According to those men who wrote and signed the Declaration of Independence, "All men are endowed by their Creator..." with them. I am sure that I speak for Mr Wallace and many other Libertarians when I say that, "We hold these truths to be self-evident." I'll stick to these truths, and laugh at the "facts, reason and logic" which hold materialist fools in thrall to the false and disproven atheist god of evolution theory.
If he should ever do a serious investigation of Christianity, Mr Thompson would find that this religion exalts the value of the individual, while militant atheism makes a tin god of the individual ego. These are not the same thing, and the latter makes its adherents ready to become accomplices and/or victims of the State and its agitprop, as Mr Thompson's irrational letter establishes.
He really ought to read up on history and biology, too. In the meantime, he should try to strike a bit more humble pose. Clinging to the disproven frauds of Piltdown Man, the peppered moth and churchgoing atheist feuhrers will only embarrass him in the presence of intelligent people. Sneering at men of the calibre of Mr Wallace only highlights the contrast in both morals and intellect.
Manuel Miles [email@example.com]
I value liberty in the non-anarchic limited government sense. And the recent debate over Bob Wallace's piece reminds me why I love liberty. But first, to me. ...
I lean to a non-materialist view of Ultimate Things. I am a Deist which means that while I do have an imaginary friend, he doesn't talk too much, what with the watch-winding and all. I don't "get" Nietzsche, a fact I attribute to my not having read him, being put off to that even by the quotes I do know (including that hateful moronic pseudo-macho "what doesn't kill me..."), Nietzsche-worshiping academia's post-modernist anti-rationality blither, and the ease of Mr. Zarathustra's appropriation by the Hitler crowd and the makers of Superman magazine.
For me libertarianism is rooted not in the certainty of materialism or rationality, but in the UNcertainty of existence; a conviction -- more like an empirical, rational "hunch" -- that life is a never-ending never-fully-certain quest for meaning and/or happiness. In that regard, liberty is vital as only if all of us can do our own thing (thus property and liberty being needed) can each of us report to each other (thus freedom of expression and belief) our findings and act on it. ("Hey all, I figured it out, Jesus is the Man"; "No, it's Mohammed"; "No it's that Sri Sri Ravi Shankar"; "No there's no one, it's all reason and independent thought as the unquestionable Ayn Rand hath revealed"; "I see dead people").
Thus the very debate over material vs. revelationist libertarianism reveals the vitality and vitalness of liberty, perhaps more than each approach can by itself. Life's uncertain, let us each go our way and be free to spread the word, whether the word is "Life's a joke, keep 'em laughing as you go" or "For God so loved the world that I'm holding up this sign at football games."
Having been involved with the libertarian effort for 22 years, I still have no magic words to raise fans of political power to the higher level of coherent moral functioning which underpins libertarian philosophical construction. But I keep trying.
It's exasperating to observe critics of the libertarian thing as they wallow in the pretense that their beneficent theories of government bear some correspondence to reality. Indeed, I often think that revelations of political malfeasance, incompetence, and every sort of evil which springs from the collective maw are shed from their data input like water off a duck. Or, they modify it so that interning Japanese citizens or killing innocent humans becomes 'a mistake' or 'collateral damage).In other words, if the data does not fit the theory, modify or delete it.
My analysis always concludes that the libertarian critique is the most accurate to be found.
Libertarians accept the reality of human nature which is that autonomous beings operate from self interest and the libertarian model, in my view, is most likely to harmonize the variety of interests to be found among humans. All other socio-political models either promote conflict (albeit unintentionally) or strive to suppress the variety of human interests.
All other social-political models require some form of concentrated political power with its attendant corruption. The first corruption is the acceptance of political power as a means. The essence of political power is extortion; threatening a higher value to obtain a lesser value. Hence the exercise of political power is immoral. Always has been and always will be.
While a minarchy may be an acceptable interim goal, it still contains the inevitable flaw of concentrated political power, that is, unless it is able to obtain consensus (ha ha). In fact, one might claim the the U.S. government began as a minarchy. The problem with laying out the honey of political power, even a small amount, is it will always attract those who accept the first corruption and then they will use that power to feed themselves. A great part of the problem lies with the 'well intentioned' aspirants to power who project their good intentions into their actions and thus are unwilling to see their own corruption or the ill effects of their political actions. The 'War on Drugs' provides many examples of this type of personality.
Libertarians are not utopian. I don't even know what utopia is supposed to look like. If someone can describe it to be, I bet I can tell you what's wrong with it. The best environment for humans requires some kind of struggle lest they vegetate. The significant thing about freedom is that it allows variety in human endeavor but does not impose arbitrary and frustrating restrictions such as those experienced in state dominated societies. Humans will always find some conflict of interests, but in a libertarian environment, humans will desire to resolve those conflicts in a most efficient manner (with minimal loss) rather than through political means which are immoral, inefficient, and all too often, inequitable.
see: "wasp" by E.F. Russel and some of his other works
Dr Peter Wilhelm [firstname.lastname@example.org]
In response to Mr. Martin's article "ASSASSINATION AND SABOTAGE: ARE THEY THE LIBERTARIAN ART OF WAR?":
First, let me say that Mr. Martin hit the mail on the head in regards to governments' reasoning on assassinations. However, I take a dim view of (some) sabotage. Here's why:
Mr Martin opined: "It causes the civil population to cope with greater shortages, more discomfort, stricter rationing, ... after all it's hard to believe your side is winning the war when the lights keep going out ..."
I don't like this at all. I believe the Non-Aggression Principle would be violated by destroying water and food supplies (for example) of innocent people. What if "the lights keep going out" in an operating room? Uninvolved people would die, and not be any less dead than if they caught a laser-guided bomb through their living room window. Sabotage against ballistic missile fields? Sure. Against the nation's oil supply in winter? Maybe not.
Mr Martin concluded: "Would it work? Yes, and it would do so while minimizing civilian casualties ..."
We wouldn't want to just "minimize" civilian casualties, as a libertarian society we would want to eliminate causing them. Even one instance of "collateral damage" is murder.
"Additionally it would avoid... planting the seeds of another war by targeting the minds and the means behind the war, rather than the civil population."
I believe that the strategic goal of a libertarian society would be to not only avoid a new war, but to permanently change the culture of an 'enemy' country, such that there never will be another war with them. In other words, convert them into libertarians!
Here's my idea to target the minds and means:
Multiple, large-scale distributions (air-drop over enemy country, float in from the ocean, etc.) of small packages made up of the following: a chocolate bar, a small, battery-operated radio, and a WW2 "Liberator"-style pistol. Why these items? The candy gets the targeted populace to open the package immediately. Most wartime populations deal with strict rationing, scarcity, and hardship. It makes a good statement that the libertarians can freely give away something the 'enemy' government can't provide its own citizens. We could even print a friendly cartoon on the wrapper. The radio is to spread libertarian ideas to the locals (as well as music, news, etc.). As for the pistol, as a character in one of L. Neil Smith's books said, "There isn't a political situation anywhen that couldn't be improved with a couple million saturday night specials."
The candy wrapper propaganda and tin pistols would be just the start, however. They would be replaced by better weapons and bigger ideas, and passed along. A revolution would begin.
I don't think that any government could maintain a state of aggressive war when faced with an armed and informed people at home. In fact, I don't think an armed and informed people would maintain a State.
John Lopez [email@example.com]
I've read lately some remarkably naive articles in TLE lately, regarding Libertarian ideas, including the non-aggression principle, and their application to warfare. One article lately has advocated assassination as a preferred method, and another states that Libertarian thought cannot countenance so-called "collateral damage," the unintentional killing of non-combatants as a result of military action.
We all would love for everybody to be individually responsible for their own actions, but as a practical matter, war is a collective endeavor. The Founding Fathers recognized this fact in the Constitution, and gave the Union one of its few legitimate documented powers, that of collectively making war (Article 1, Section 8).
At least since the commencement of recorded history, groups of individuals defending themselves individually have been regularly slaughtered by armies acting as groups, and the trend continues to this day.
So we are left with the paradox of occasionally having to think and act collectively in order to preserve our precious individual liberty, under the peculiar circumstances of war.
Under those circumstances, perhaps we could apply the non-aggression principle as a nation. No nation can initiate war with another nation for any reason, but must defend itself if attacked with whatever vigor it can muster.
This application is not especially satisfying, and there are likely better ones. I would welcome suggestions.
Dave Tharp [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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