L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 273, May 30, 2004
"You can fool some of the people all of the time, and those are the ones you want to concentrate on."
President George W. Bush, speaking at a Gridiron Club dinner, Washington, D.C., March 2001
Molon Labe: The World's Most Authoritarian Freedom Book
Exclusive to TLE
Molon Labe by Boston T. Party claims to be a novel about 40,000 libertarians moving to Wyoming and turning it into a free state. Don't believe that claim. "Molon Labe" isn't a novel and it isn't about 40,000 libertarians. It is actually about one surprising authoritarianthe author himself.
This book is 1/3 how-to manual, 1/3 lecture, 1/3 fiction and 100 percent self-congratulatory mess. As an experienced writer and self-publisher who has written some excellent non-fiction books in the past, Mr. Party should have had enough self discipline to entirely throw out the lectures. Then he should have either decided to write a story or write a non-fiction manual and should have stuck with that decision. Unfortunately the evidence is that Mr. Party was simply too in love with his own brilliance to apply the basics of an author's craft.
For example he uses his story to praise a certain large green book about guns and he gushes at length over the prophetic foresight of the writer of another book, Hologram of Liberty. (The author of both these books is one Boston T. Party, aka Kenneth W. Royce.) He also repeatedly interrupts the story with articles and speeches by a certain "Whisk E. Rebellion." (I leave it as an exercise for the reader to surmise who that might be intended to represent.) Finally, he salts the book with full-length "Playboy interviews" with his main character (a character so obviously based on Boston himself that both of them are salsa dancing firearms experts). In these "interviews" the character expounds endlessly on Mr. Party's own views on such subjects as the divinity of Jesus, the correctness of creationism, and the immorality of abortionnone of which topics otherwise play the slightest role in Molon Labe's plot.
Such self-stroking circular references are embarrassing. They are also the mark of an amateur writer who doesn't grasp that his job is to tell a story, not pound his opinions into our skulls. Such self admiration is strange in somebody so determined to promote his Christianity, a religion that emphasizes humility.
But Mr. Party's preening self-adoration isn't the worst element of this very mixed up book. The worst thing is that while spelling out an alleged plan for creating freedom Molon Labe is totally authoritarian in its premises and its action.
It is all about how central planners control silent, faceless, obedient masses. The only difference is that the "good" leader has a central plan for libertarianism and his faceless masses are libertarian masses.
Let us go back to those 40,000 migrating souls. This book is supposed to be about them, is it not? It is supposed to be about their migration to Wyoming, their hopes, their motivations, their actions, and in the end their achievements.
Then why don't we meet a single "relocator" until the last two pages of the story? That's right. Not one of the 40,000 is ever seen or even named. The 40,000 appear only as statistics. They are voters and resources only. They appear, that is, very much as they would appear to a sociologist or a government planner.
They are soldiers in an army moved around at will by one James Wayne Preston, the main character of the book, the salsa dancing firearms expert who eventually uses them to raise himself to the position of governor of Wyoming. Every single thing that happens in the liberation of Wyoming is initiated and executed or ordered top down by Preston.
That's right. Even after the state is supposedly filled with dedicated, hardcore, intelligent political activists who surrendered their settled lives because they craved liberty with total passion, not one relocated activist has an independent idea, makes an independent proposal, or initiates any action that advances the plot of the book or the plan to free Wyoming. Preston just decides what should be done and all the relocators obey.
How did this remarkable robot-like behavior suddenly strike thousands of famously unherdable libertarian cats? Mr. Party conveniently disregards that question as if it didn't exist.
Before the book opens, Preston has already recruited at least 9,000 libertarians and gotten them to agree to move to Wyoming. Mr. Party never tells us how the recruitment was done or the unanimity achieved. This omission alone requires an enormous suspension of disbelief, since we know that the real-life Free State Project is struggling mightily to raise its membership above 5,000 and that its members rarely ever calmly agree on anything. Once again, however, that omission isn't the most unbelievable aspect of the matter.
Not only that, but the Preston/Party relocators have agreed to move into the five remote rural counties Preston assigns them to, and they have agreed to move again to other counties as Preston's central plan and central command dictate.
Once again, the author gives us no information about how this miracle came to occur.
Mr. Party has argued that he doesn't have to show how the 40,000 are recruited or how 9,000 of them at least happen to be ready and willing to behave like ants in a nest. He says he doesn't have to explain this miracle because he never intended to write a blueprint for action. But in the same interview he stated that "Molon Labe is a pretty thorough guide on how 40,000 of us could 'liberate' Wyoming." (http://www.thepriceofliberty.org/04/03/30/ladylib.htm) Which is it, Mr. Party?
These aren't the only areas where Mr. Party leaves us in the dark and where he destroys his own credibility by doing so. Neither a manual nor a novel works without a believable foundation. In a manual one cannot write steps 50-100 with credibility if one pretends steps 1-49 do not exist. In a novel, the author must make us care about his characters as though they were real individuals. He must show us people and place them in situations we believe. He must show them in believable action.
Whether Mr. Party indended to write an action plan for his own free state project or whether he just intended to write believable fiction, he had to answer at least some questions such as the following:
Mr. Party writes as though no such merely mundane matters could affect, let alone interfere with, his grand plan. Generally, he assumes the questions don't even exist. When he addresses them at all, his attitude is dismissive. Or ludicrous.
On the question of earning a living, for example, we are merely assured in three isolated paragraphs that the newcomers eventually make the economy boom, which perhaps they would, if they survived the first years. Their survival in those first years is not the concern of Mr. Party. There is simply "a fund," you see. It is mentioned in an appendix. It is of unknown size, derivation, and allocation. It conveniently helps Mr. Party's centrally planned horde move along so they can get on with Mr. Preston's centrally planned business. Deus ex machina.
Understand that I am not implying the Mr. Party owed his readers a slice of life story. No, but without at least touching on how real people or realistic fictional characters fit into the grand Wyoming plan, he destroys the value of his work by making it unbelievable. Frankly, had he cut out all his endless lectures, he would have had ample time to create characters from his mass of relocators and put them into the action as believable humans and believable activists. At that moment, the book would have begun to show promise.
Aside from the rigid libertarian authority figure of James Preston and the statist authority figures he battles, only a few individual characters appear. Several of these are shown as victims of the state. One is shown as a murdering avenger (ala Henry Bowman in Unintended Consequences. One or two of them, especially the old vet Harold Krassny, are even likeable and touching. But these characters don't play any role in a coherent plot. They're used as examples, not as integral players in the overall action of freeing Wyoming from statism.
Now, do I have nothing good to say about this book? After all, I've admired many of Mr. Party's past works and surely there must be something of merit in the nearly 450 pages and six years of this latest collosal effort. Yes. There are some isolated scenes which do make the heart race or appeal to the mind. His descriptions of anonymous encrypted email are intriguing. Two scenes of revenge murder are eerily engaging in their level of detail and suspense. A few federal raids are drawn straight from the real world. The legislation Preston proposes and the strategies he uses to win are sound and often clever (despite the fact that it is always Preston proposing and disposing). The final confrontation with the federal government is dramatic and surprising, even if it's hard to believe that federal officials were so blind as to miss what was coming. And of course, Mr. Party does know his firarms very well, a fact that will no doubt earn this book high praise from gun owners desperate for the slightest hint of sympathy and understanding.
Unfortunately, there are also some amateur howlers I haven't mentioned yet, like the one you will find on page 250, where we suddenly learn that the leaders of the federal government are all some sort of New Age devil worshippers. Perhaps they are, in real life. Who knows? But Mr. Party slaps us with this vast revelation in mid-book, then never mentions or shows it again. My goodness, you'd think a little matter like that would be worth pursuing in your plot, if you are going to mention it at all. Molon Labe is full of such surprises. It is rife with earnest (unproven) forays into wild conspiracy theories, digressions into the irrelevant which are mentioned once and dropped.
In short, although there are isolated intriguing sequences in Molon Labe, as a book it reads as though Mr. Party simply got out of bed every morning for the last six years, had a cup of coffee, and wrote whatever happened to be on his mind that day, without reference to whether his latest entry enhanced or detracted from the whole effort. Although he does present us with a fairly coherent legislative plan, he fails to present us with a coherent world in which that plan could become a reality and believable activists who could excute that plan. He lets down both the reader seeking an exciting story and the reader seeking a blueprint for real world action.
Mr. Party says he plans to write another novel. If so, I would like to see him take his 20 or 30 promising pages, douse his shockingly overbearing ego with a splash of Christian humility, examine and excise his authoritarianism, and show (not tell) the story of how individuals create freedom. That is, if he can bring himself to believe that mere individuals are worthy of writing about. Then we might have a book worth purchasing.