L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 246, November 9, 2003
Wrong Way, Right Way
The Kaptain's Log:
Exclusive to TLE
When I was a kid, I noticed that my parents' generation had a phrase which they used when they took a wrong turn or made many another little mistake; it was, "Wrong way, Corrigan!" I adopted this myself, and can be overheard to mumble this phrase upon occasion, such as when I turned the wrong way into a one-way street a couple of years ago.
By my teens, I had begun to realise that everything comes from somewhere, and I inquired about the origin of this folk saying. Allow me to share the fruits of this research with you...
On July 17, 1938, Douglas Corrigan filed a flight plan from a Brooklyn, New York, airfield for a return trip to California. Some twenty-eight hours later, he landed in Ireland, having "mistakenly followed the wrong end of the compass needle." So why would Libertarians care? Read on...
Ever since Charles Lindbergh became the first man to (successfully) fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, the US government (and others) had passed laws stating who could and could not fly where and when and under what conditions. This was for everyone's "safety", of course, as it was still a very dangerous act to attempt to fly solo across the Big Pond even into the 1940s. The aircraft were primitive, the weather was nasty, and more than a few men lost their lives in the attempt to repeat Lucky Lindy's feat. By the mid ‘30s, FDR and the New Dealers were in the heyday of ordering and reordering the lives of the nanny state's subjects, and pilots needed federal permission for everything but going to the toilet. [That, too, may have been regulated then, but my research is incomplete.]
Corrigan had applied for the State's permission to fly non-stop across the Atlantic Ocean for several years. Each time he got tangled in the latest, newest mass of red tape. Finally, he had enough of it; he "accidentally" flew the "wrong way" on his historic voyage of proto-libertarian audacity.
What most people do not know today is that Douglas Corrigan learned to fly at the age of 18, was so good at it that he became an accomplished pilot and aircraft mechanic shortly thereafter, and that he built much of Charles Lindbergh's famous custom-designed Spirit of St Louis airplane when he worked in Mahoney & Ryan's aircraft plant. Corrigan was not a man who needed to be told how to fly by any gang of stupid bureaucrats. So, off flew the stubborn Texan to Ireland, land of his ancestors.
Not surprisingly, government "officials" refused to believe Corrigan's explanation of his "mistake". In response to their grilling, he uttered another phrase (since made famous by Hollywood and others but generally unaccredited to him), "That's my story." And he stuck to it, even unto death.
For his heroic defiance of both the elements and the State, Douglas Corrigan had his pilot's license "suspended" for the length of time it took him to return to the US on a steamship. He was feted, upon his return, by a headline in the New York Post ("!nagirroC yaW gnorW emoH emocleW") and a ticker tape parade on Broadway which was attended by over a million people -- a greater throng than that which had greeted Lindbergh! One can presume that the American people were not too upset with the man...
Douglas Corrigan died in 1995 at the age of 88. To the end, he stuck to his defiant story, even though nobody had ever dared to charge him with his outdated "crime" against the State. Persistent defiance is its own reward, and a lifetime of thumbing one's nose at the State is truly "time well spent." And you were asking why we Libertarians would care? Now, don't you feel silly?!
I suggest that we emulate Wrong Way Corrigan in all that we do and, yes, I'm going to say it... Ignore the State!
Is that illegal? Honestly, I had no idea! Anyway, that's my story, and I'm sticking to it.
Peace and Liberty.