L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 285, August 22, 2004
Maybe we should have simply started speaking Mandarin?
Exclusive to TLE
In a series of unique and wonderful stories including Wheels Within Wheels and An Enemy of the State, F. Paul Wilson created a character, Peter LaNague, who is the philosophical forefather of a great interstellar federation, the equivalent of Tom Paine or Thomas Jefferson.
LaNague writes a charterlike the Constitutionfor this federation, that centers on and enshrines the rights of the individual to life, liberty, and property above all else. But at the last moment, the delegates ratifying this charter insert a clause that allows the government to override these rights in case of an "emergency". LaNague washes his hands of the whole mess, vanishes, and is never heard from again.
Why does LaNague walk away? Because he understands history and human nature. He knows that, with this clause in place, government will soon be in the businessalmost exclusivelyof turning everything into an emergency to justify its predations against the rights of individuals. His creation, a voluntary federation of free individuals will become a monster state, no different from any other rapacious government in history. His life's work will have been for nothing.
In Colorado, the state where I live, the constitution provides that no new law may be passed unless it is immediately necessary to protect the health and safety of the people of the state. The ideawhich went along with discouraging professional politicos (especially lawyers) in the legislature and strictly limiting the number of days that it could be in sessionwas to keep state laws to an absolute minimum.
The result? The infamous "safety clause" rubber-stamped at the top of every item of new legislation, a standard "boilerplate" assertingwhether a proposed law subsidizes unicorn ranchers or designates an official state intestinal parasitethat the law is immediately necessary (natch) to protect the health and safety of the people of Colorado.
As Pete and Rog once put it, "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss."
Understanding the insidious way that powerseekers have of twisting measures originally meant to preserve and extend freedom, I made a policy speech about this time last year at the New Mexico Libertarian Party conclave in Albuquerque, in which I suggested that under future libertarian administrations, there should be "no more secrets, no more lies".
No more secrets, no more lies. Can anyone write a better campaign slogan?
Specifically, I said that government secrets must be forbidden by law, and that any government employee who is convicted of lying to any member of the public for any reason must be hanged by the neckin public and on prime time network televisionuntil he or she is dead.
I had a number of reasons for making these recommendations, but there isn't room to reiterate them all here. Two should be more than sufficient.
The first is that, invariably, government lies and secrets kill. Because the Roosevelt Administration lied and withheld information about its policies with regard to the Japanese, two thousand five hundred Americans died at Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941, and we wound up involved in a world war that ended at least sixty million lives.
Government lies and secrets kill.
A second reason I suggested this policy is that I have always understood that third party politics are completely different from those of the two "major" parties, calling for completely different strategy and completely different tactics. I cannot emphasize this enough.
The other two parties are there simply to get their hogs to the trough.
We are not.
Right from the beginning, however, way back in 1971, far too many self-proclaimed libertarians already believed that that was why we participated in elections, too. They called themselves "pragmatists" (as opposed to us starry-eyed idealists) but they became the "LINOs" libertarians in name onlywho were willing to do anything to get another vote: lie, cheat, steal, compromise, violate any principle the movement had been founded to uphold. More than anything else, they were willingeager, in factto conceal genuine libertarian views and ideas from a public they had grandly decided couldn't handle the truth.
The trouble, of course, is that this kind of "pragmatism" simply doesn't workpeople know when they're being patronizedand for thirty-odd years, under the iron control of self-styled "pragmatists", Libertarian Party candidates failed pathetically to make the sort of mark, the basic changes in American politics, they should have been capable of making easily, almost in their sleep. Unassisted, and with no money at all, I got vastly better results by breaking all of their "rules".
The simple truth is that third parties can't run the same kind of campaigndevoid of content and meaningthe other two parties do. They always get shut out by the institutionslike the TV networks and the League of Women Votersthat the other two parties own or control. They have to make their mark by communicating directly with the public in a manner that no other party dares to. They have to be flamboyant, controversial, and confrontational. And they can't afford to employ managers, or field candidates for whom that sort of thing is uncomfortable.
You see, above and beyond every other consideration, we have a need, as political libertarians, to differentiate our "product" from the outdated, discredited, threadbare, grimy, lackluster offerings of the Democrats and Republicans. Sometimes it will be a matter of principle, sometimes it will be a matter of style, but it's always vitally importantno, make that utterly indispensableto provide contrast. We are not just the party of the future, we are the future itself.
In the future, we must tell the public (and ourselves) we will do things differently. That's why I offered the concept of outlawing all government secrets and hanging all government liars. It has all of the qualities required to get past Democratic and Republican gatekeepers. It's flamboyant, controversial, and confrontational. It's perfectly serious, of course, but at the same time it has elements of humor. My take is that, promoted properly, enough voters will understand and appreciate it to make an unprecedented difference in Libertarian vote totals.
The first person to object was a valued friend of mine with a military background and experience in intelligence-gathering. This person said that a country needs spies to survive, and the policy I suggested would endanger the lives of intelligence operatives in the field. Perhaps it would be possible to eliminate 99% of government secrecy.
There is a lot I meant to say to that, but I was too busy writing a book, and reluctant to damage our friendship. The fact, however, is that I have known an awful lot of spooks in my life, beginning with a merit badge counselor who was in the O.S.I. My first book editor had an Air Force Intelligence background and was currently active with the Navy.
I know these people. They uniformly enjoy the Great Game for its own sake (read Kipling's Kim) and nobody puts a gun to their heads to make them play. Even the feeblest understanding of history makes it plain that a 1% exception would blossom into 110& and we'd be back where we wereor even worse offin a very short time. Unlike the person I hope is still my friend, I'm unconvinced of the necessity for spies. I'm not about to sell my freedom so they can play their damned game.
Another individual I respect and admire objected that giving the government that much powerto execute officials convicted of lying to the publicwas a bad idea. Fundamentally, I concur; that (and the fact it's impossible to correct a mistake in this context) is the very reason that I've always opposed capital punishment, and I said so.
But government already has that power.
I also said that government lies kill by the thousands and by the millions, that it was worth it to me to make this exception, and that doing so might even stimulate the other side to put an end to capital punishment, just as I suggested in the novel Hope that the lavish use of Presidential decrees by a libertarian chief executive in order to enforce the Bill of Rights might dispose of the whole idea of such decrees.
Both are win-win strategies.
Somehow, my friend never seemed to notice any of that. I had made the error of complaining about my past experiences with idiots who called themselves libertarians, but who lacked the courage to express their convictions in public, and tried to block those who suffered no such impediment. I was considerably less polite describing them than that.
My friend decided to take those remarks personally, but I never intended that to be the case. I'm pretty sure my friend knew it. I was accused of saying that anyone who disagrees with me is cowardly and stupid.
But if that were true, the many individuals on my discussion lists wouldn't feel free to argue with me, which they do on a delightfully regular basis. We often do nothing else. They are free to be absolute pains in the ass. I do my best to exercise exactly the same freedom, myself.
I said that I had had to deal with many idiots and cowards over the years, and I implied that I hoped my friend wouldn't prove to be another one. If I had wanted to insult my friend, I'd have done it directly. Somebody else in the argument made an extremely childish (and unsupported) remark, ALL IN UPPER CASE, about how my policy would go over in public. I dismissed him, as he deserved, simply by using a diminutive of his name. He didn't care to have his infantile lack of manners tossed back in his face that way, and flounced his way off the list.
As Dirty Harry Callahan once said, "It's a good man who knows his limitations".
Have I digressed? I'm not sure.
Remember, we are not talking about winning elections here, we are talking about achieving a free society. Those are extremely different undertakings. What we have to do is take away enough voteswe must concentrate on learning to do it to both partiesthat the other side will be forced to adopt at least some of our policies to get them back.
At which point we become more radical, so that the process can continue.
The success of this movement cannot be measured by the number of Libertarian Party members we put into public office. It can only be measured by the degree to which our life, liberty, propertyand pursuit of happinessremains unimpeded by the state or by anybody else. Electoral activity is only a part of achieving that goal, and if it threatens to get in the way, if must be stringently modified or terminated.
Almost immediately, of course, upon publication of this article, the weenies and wussies with which this movement has been plagued for decadesyou all know who you arewill begin to whine and whimper again.
The last thing in the world I want to do is alienate good friends who are not weenies and wussies, but might think I'm calling them that. Every decade or so it seems that I have to go through this process and take that risk. Obviously the weenies and wussies don't really want to be free, or they'd take the radical positions, in public, that are necessary to achieve it.
Resistance, however, is futile. I'll continue to write about genuine libertarian principles and policies, and so will my brave and trusty colleagues on the intellectual front lines. Nerf libertariansthe LINOswill find themselves trailing behind the populace they're condescendingly attempting to coddle and protect from the truth.
They can suck it up and go with the flow, or be left in the backwash.
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