THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 264, March 21, 2004

"Mind Your Own Damned Business"

Story of the Year
by L. Neil Smith
lneil@lneilsmith.org

Exclusive to TLE

In the March, 2004 issue of Discover magazine (the cover's mostly blue, with silvery methane bubbles, illustrating a fairly idiotic piece claiming that the sky is falling — again — only from the bottom up) there's a letter from one Robert Magill, of Sarasota, Florida, complaining that what may prove to be the most important science story of the past century was shoved out of the magazine's Top 100 2003 by articles about things like gigantic prehistoric guinea pigs.

Almost as if to prove the guy right, the magazine gave his cogent and well-written letter a sophomorically flippant and dismissive headline.

The story in question (not the one about gigantic prehistoric guinea pigs) appeared in the May, 2003 issue of Discover and was called "Anything into Oil". It was about an industrial process called thermal depolymerization, which has recently been applied to convert every kind of garbage imaginable into petroleum and many other useful things.

When I read the story last year, it struck me as important. This civilization supposedly has an unmanageable waste problem. Landfills are piling up to rival Mount Everest. Other mountains of stuff like old tires aren't just sitting around taking up space, some are on fire — like the smoldering sloth dung caves in Utah — and can't be put out. Environmentalists with brains the size of the little ball at the end of a ballpoint pen have successfully prevented the construction of powerful incinerators that could take care of the problem neatly and cleanly,

If a process came along that could convert all of that crap — and more; the list includes old computer and TV cabinets, and every part of a turkey we don't want to see at Thanksgiving — into the precious golden elixir that turns the wheels of the world, wouldn't that be swell?

Magill is concerned with what he calls "runaway consumption and the corresponding waste that threatens to bankrupt civilization" (more sky-is-falling nonsense.) Later on, as you somehow knew he would, he mentions global warming — kind of dumb, since that idea has now been thoroughly discredited. But you can't blame him. He reads Discover, after all, probably attended public school, and doesn't know any better.

The part I like, well, second best is that they were cranking out the goo for half the world oil price a year ago, and aiming for a third sometime around the end of this year — not counting recent price hikes generated by the marching morons in the White House. I don't know where that would put the price of the stuff today, relative to dinosaur juice, but we sure wouldn't be paying nearly two bucks a gallon.

We shouldn't be paying that much, no matter how you slice it. What percentage of the price of gas is taxes? A third? Half? As one of the basic necessities of living — food, clothing, shelter, self-defense, and transportation — in a humane society, gas shouldn't be taxed at all.

What do I like first best? Simply this: as everybody with more brains than a paramecium knows by now, once you strip away the lies about confronting terrorism and avenging the events of September 11, 2001 — and overlooking the fact that most of what's going on now is for no better reason than augmenting the personal wealth and political power of a coven of ancient and decaying frat boys you wouldn't leave your children alone with — everything the United States government is doing in the Middle East, according to straight-from-the-shoulder realpolitikers like Dick Cheney, is about securing America's oil supply.

As I recall, this noble doctrine is expressed, "Kick their ass and take the gas!" — a philosophy fit for rapists, murderers, thieves. Note that it's not "their" gas. A common street mugger never demands, "Give me your money." That would be confessing to himself what he is.

And, as it turns out, it is all for nothing. All of the deaths, all of the injuries, all of the horror, and all of the hate this government is engendering that our children and grandchildren will have to live with. All for nothing because the oil is here, and — ringing up the horror, injury, and death — at an inestimably lower price. We need never threaten or fight a war over oil supplies, ever again.

The trouble, of course, from the viewpoint of George Bush, Dick Cheney, and the petrogangsters in this administration, is that they don't own and can't control the revolution represented by the process of thermal depolymerization. So they'd rather go on getting oil the other way, no matter what it costs, because it isn't costing them anything.

Except, perhaps, for the next election. Hey, in a big, wide, wonderful world where you can make oil out of turkey guts, anything is possible.



Three-time Prometheus Award-winner L. Neil Smith is the author of 23 books, including The American Zone, Forge of the Elders, Pallas, The Probability Broach, Hope (with Aaron Zelman), and his collection of articles and speeches, Lever Action, all of which may be purchased through his website "The Webley Page" at lneilsmith.org. Autographed copies may be had from the author at lneil@lneilsmith.org.


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