Big Head Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 379, August 6, 2006

"Absolutely Shockingly Amazing"

Tactical Reflections Revisited
by L. Neil Smith

Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise

[Author's Note]: the following observations were published in various places over the span of 20 years. They were collected and published together in my book of essays, Lever Action. In the light of recent events, I've decided to refresh the movement's memory. There are some new ideas, here, and minor changes to others. Please feel free to quote them anywhere you wish, as often as you wish, as long as you give proper credit to the author.


Always attack in perpendicular fashion, from an unconventional and unexpected (but make it relevant!) direction. The enemy will be unprepared; you can strike him with your full strength while he finds nothing to attack effectively.

All religions are equally vile. What the Aztecs did with people's hearts, Judaeo-Christianity-Islam does with their minds.

America's historic misfortune is that her people, in aggregate, have never been quite equal to the ideals upon which she was established.

Any point of view that fails to assume—and to accept—that males and females will inevitably perceive one another as "sex objects" is simply deranged.

As much as the "sunshine soldier" or the "summer patriot", beware an ally—they are more common than you know—whose fear of the uncertainties of success moves him to surrender at the very moment of victory.

The average media personality rises to his level of incompetence simply by getting up every morning.

Believe what you like about "wasting your vote", nothing will ever alter a fundamental assumption on the part of Democrats, Republicans—and the vast, despotic bureaucracy they've created together—that even the slightest manifestation of individuality (let alone individualism) is a threat that must be dealt with harshly.

Better the "Me" generation than the "Duh" generation.

Beware of geeks bearing GIFs.

Beware those—in New York, Hollywood, and generally in life—who would make you a "star" because you're fresh and original, then spend the rest of your career trying to make you into a carbon copy of everybody else.

Choose your allies carefully: it's highly unlikely that you'll ever be held morally, legally, or historically accountable for the actions of your enemies.

Choose your enemies carefully: you'll probably be known much better and far longer for who they were, than for anything else you ever managed to accomplish.

Conservatives are accustomed to being called fascists and are well prepared to defend themselves on that ground. Liberals are used to being called socialists. Those labels can be switched, however, and remain valid and instructive. It also catches them completely unprepared.

"Credible deniability" is probably more highly esteemed for the degree of psychological relief it offers its users, than for any political immunity it affords them.

Do not be deceived by the mere appearance of purpose. A string with one free end will often tie itself in a knot in a high wind. That's no reason to go looking for a Great Knotmaker.

Don't be disheartened by opinion polls or the outcome of elections. History has never been made by the majority and it never will be.

Euro-American welfare statism's preoccupation with "the halt and the lame" isn't an iota healthier than the obsession of ancient Egypt's priest-kings with death.

Ever notice how those who believe in animal rights generally don't believe in human rights?

Ever notice that the "Golden Age" of television was when sponsors had the strongest control over program content?

The fact that nobody asks you to sing is not an indication that you should sing louder. This sounds obvious until it's applied to matters like mass transportation. There are virtually no private mass transit companies. This does not represent the failure of the market to provide a needed service, it represents the failure of an unneeded service to go away!

The function of government is to provide you with service; the function of the media is to supply the Vaseline.

Give the other guy an Angstrom unit, and it'll be reported that you gave him a parsec.

Go straight to the heart of the enemy's greatest strength. Break that and you break him. You can always mop up the flanks and stragglers later, and they may even surrender, saving you a lot of effort.

Great men don't "move to the center"—great men MOVE the center!

The great secret of life lies in choosing the right woman. It's a mother's job to tell you not to play with fire. Marry the girl who tells you, "Go ahead."

Hell hath no fury like the well-nursed resentments of a younger sibling.

Hey, Hollywood, what's this throwing the gun down in horror nonsense? When you see that you've driven a nail, do you throw away the hammer?

I was surprised to discover that children have to be taught to tell the truth. Lying, as a path of least resistance, is easier and comes more naturally. Children also have to be taught that life is more important than television. For that matter, so do most adults.

If the backside pockets of your jeans are your "hip" pockets, does that make the ones in front your "un-hip" pockets? Then why is it that it's the ones in back that are square?

If there were a generic one-word expression for one "whose fear of the uncertainties of success moves him to surrender at the very moment of victory", it would be "Republican". That's how they lost their "grand old party" to Trotskyites.

If you can avoid it, never play on the other guy's field, by the other guy's rules, or with the other guy's ball. He didn't design his system to give you the advantage. Remember that organisms defending their own territory are twice as effective as an intruding attacker.

If you lose, go down fighting. It costs nothing extra, and now and again ...

If you're not a little bit uncomfortable with your position, it isn't radical enough. How can you be too principled? Take the most extreme position you can—you're claiming territory you won't have to fight for later, mostly against your "allies".

In real life, a Smith & Wesson beats four aces, and Charles Darwin beats Bishop Berkeley.

In this world we live in, there are good ideas and there are bad ideas; those who can't tell the difference conduct opinion polls. And focus groups.

It has been my experience of life—my conservative former fellow travellers to one side—that a girl who says she doesn't believe in pre-marital sex usually doesn't believe in sex after the wedding, either.

It is moral weakness, rather than villainy, that accounts for most of the evil in the universe—and feeble-hearted allies, far rather than your most powerful enemies, who are likeliest to do you an injury you cannot recover from. (From Bretta Martyn)

It is not the purpose of education to produce good citizens, but to help children become successful human beings. The former is properly identified as "indoctrination" and, when undertaken at the taxpayers' expense, should be illegal.

It is unlikely that your opponent thinks of himself as the badguy. Of course he may be wrong ...

Just what "life" is being defended here? I seriously doubt whether 99.99% of the anti-abortionists who wave their gory photo-placards around at demonstrations could tell a human fetus from that of a rabbit or a rat.

Know, down to the last cell in your body, that the other guy started it. He's the one who put things in an ethical context where considerations like decency and mercy have no referent. The less pity moves you now, the sooner you can go back to being a nice guy.

Know, otherhandwise, that the easiest, most humiliating path to defeat is thinking that to beat the enemy you must be like him. Avoid the temptation to set your values aside "for the duration". What's the point of fighting if you give up what you're fighting for? If remaining consistent with your values leads to defeat, then you chose the wrong values to begin with.

Know when to give up a lost cause. Anyone who needs to be persuaded to be free, doesn't deserve to be.

The Left fawns obsessively over animals because an animal has no intellect, is incapable of challenging their discredited ideas, and can't say, "Leave me the hell alone and get a life, geek!" They like retards for exactly the same reason.

Let the other guy offer compromises. Think of them as rungs on the ladder you're climbing. Keep your own goals fixed firmly in your mind and make sure you never move any direction but upward. That's how the other side got where they are. It works.

Lies can be custom-tailored; truth comes straight off the rack—one size fits all. (This gem by my wife, Cathy L.Z. Smith.)

"Little" people, finding themselves in a position to say "No", will.

Manned spaceflight versus robotics? Let's see ... on your wedding night, would you be satisfied to send in a remote, and receive telemetered progress reports?

"Manx" is the noise a cat makes when you chop its tail off.

Many of life's tragedies—and comedies—arise from a misconception women suffer under that sex is optional.

Money, first and foremost, is a medium of communication, conveying the information we call "price". Government control of the money supply is censorship, a violation of the First Amendment. Inflation is a lie.

The more fundamental position is the highest ground, allowing the most "perpendicular" attack. If he argues politics, argue ethics—as with punches in a bar-fight, things seldom go beyond this one-two stage. If he argues ethics, argue epistemology (look it up). If he argues epistemology, argue metaphysics. If he argues metaphysics, you're up against Darth Vader and you're in trouble. Switch back to politics and accuse him of being out of touch with everyday reality. Or ask him if he's stopped beating his wife.

The most dangerous and successful conspiracies take place in public, in plain sight, under the clear, bright light of day—usually with TV cameras focused on them.

Mrs. Grundy is dead. Tell me what you think, not what you think other people think. If you voted in terms of what you're ready for, instead of what you've convinced yourself others are ready for, we'd have had Constitutional government, a Libertarian society, and eradicated socialism half a century ago.

Never aim at anything but total achievement of your goal: the utter capitulation of the enemy. Every effort involves inertia and mechanical losses, so adopting any lesser objective means partial defeat. Total victory means you don't have to fight the same fight again tomorrow.

Never look down your nose at the popular culture, or self-righteously shun contact with it. How can you hope to change something you know nothing about?

Never soft-pedal the truth. It's seldom self-evident and almost never sells itself, because there's less sales resistance to a glib and comforting lie.

No process, event, or situation has ever improved under media scrutiny.

Never say "sentient" when you actually mean "sapient". (Sentients are aware; sapients are aware that they're aware. Sentience thinks; sapience thinks about thinking). Knowing the difference—and insisting that it be observed—is enough to settle the hash of anti-abortionists, animal rights advocates, and similar flim-flammers everywhere.

One of the sadder facts of human existence is that power will get you through times of no brains better than brains will get you through times of no power.

Once you've taken a public stand you know is right, never back down; anything less than a rock-hard stance will allow your enemies to nibble you to death.

The only way to beat the government is to become the government.

Over two centuries, American democracy has acquired something analogous to an immune system to protect it from the merest threat of wisdom, intelligence, honor, decency, individuality, or courage. Anyone entering the system who exhibits any of those undesirable attributes will sooner or later find himself broken and cast aside—if he is fortunate—or assimilated.

People who fear confrontation and avoid it at any cost will be eaten alive by their own children.

The people who worry most about "controlling their appetites" are the very people who least need to. And the people who need to most—never do.

"The perfect is the enemy of the good", you say? I say that if nobody ever insisted on the perfect, there'd never be any good.

Politicians, bureaucrats, and cops all see the Constitution in about the same light in which your great-grandmother saw the Sears-Roebuck catalog: a fine useful thing to have around—although its principle application may be somewhat different than its authors intended.

"Question Authority"? To hell with that—hang it up by its thumbs, cut off its toes, and let it drip dry!

Remain the judge of your own actions. Never surrender that position by default. When the enemy screams "Foul!" the loudest, you know you're doing him the most damage. Those who help him scream are also the enemy.

Sarah Brady is no lady—and Diane Feinstein is no Einstein.

Second thoughts, failures of confidence, nervous last-minute course- changes are all detours and recipes for defeat. The time to think is before the battle—if possible, before the war—not in the heat of it.

She never said a word during labor, but four and a half years later, as we stood in my daughter's bedroom, hip-deep in toys and trying to clean the place up, my wife glared at me and said, "You did this to me, you sonofabitch!

The shortest path to victory is a straight line. He who remains most consistent wins.

The simple-minded credo of the dirt-worshipper goes, "Four legs good, two legs bad". Otherhandwise, "Two wheels good, four wheels bad". The abysmal self-hatred thus revealed sends the imagination reeling in shock, disgust, and pity.

Sometimes stereotypes are 180 degrees off-course and common sense isn't worth the paper it wasn't written on. For example, see who goes on enjoying a political discussion longer—and who, by contrast, is the first to get tight-lipped with indignant outrage—an individual secure and unbending in his principles, or a compromise-prone "moderate".

Stereotypes can be a would-be objective observer's undoing: in terms of surface area alone, for example, is it human males or females who shave?

There are two kinds of people in the world, those who say, "There are two kinds of people in the world," and those who do not.

There is no AWAY? Then where are Bush and Dick going to go?

Those who lead through authority have rivals on whom they must expend as much energy and attention as they do on their enemies. Those who lead by example have enemies, but no rivals.

Those who sell their liberty for security are understandable, if pitiable, creatures. Those who sell the liberty of others for wealth, power, or even a moment's respite, deserve only the end of a rope.

To be human is to live by means of the artifacts that humans devise. To build a home, and scorn a weapon, is hypocrisy. It's also a good way to lose the home.

Truth is a valuable commodity which you don't automatically owe to anyone. Remember, however, that lies are even more expensive—they're tiring and costly to maintain—and even a tiny one can utterly destroy you.

Try never to speak of your enemies by name. Any publicity is publicity nonetheless—and there are those for whom your disapproval constitutes a recommendation.

Understand from the minute the fight begins that you're going to take damage. Accept it. (You'll always suffer more from the idiots and cowards on your own side than from any enemy.) Keep your overall goal in mind above all. Those who swerve to avoid a few cuts and bruises defeat themselves.

There is indeed some justice in the universe. Simply say "I'm not a crook" enough times, and everybody will start believing that you are.

"Wake up America", you demand? America doesn't need to "wake up"—by which, of course, you mean pay attention to whatever you think is important. If America weren't already awake, paying attention to what each individual thinks is important, your milk wouldn't have gotten delivered this morning, and you wouldn't have any electricity this afternoon.

Want a clear indication of what the welfare state is really all about? Note that the barest necessities of life—food, clothing and shelter—are all taxed.

Washington, D.C is where they took a perfectly good swamp and turned it into a sewer.

Well-timed silence is an effective bargainer. Most people fear silence at a level below conscious analysis, and rush to fill the emptiness with accommodation. It's a difficult tactic to learn and use, but it works.

What about GATT and NAFTA? If an agreement is more than a paragraph long—and it's between two governments—then it ain't about free trade!

When you boil it down, all group behavior is about eating, and all individual behavior is about sex.

Why is it so hard to understand that the reason the first ten Amendments—commonly known as the Bill of Rights—are trampled underfoot by politicos and bureaucrats is that the Founding Fathers failed to provide a suitably harsh penalty for it?

Why is it virtuous that Indians used "every part of the buffalo" while meat companies that use every part of the cow or pig are "peddling garbage to children"?

The worst thing about Bill Clinton is that he gave oral sex a bad name! George Bush has done much the same for chimpanzees.

You cannot force me to agree with you. You can force me to act as though I agree with you—but then you'll have to watch your back. All the time.

You may never convince the other guy, but it's often worthwhile to keep arguing for the effect it has on bystanders, especially his allies.

Four-time Prometheus Award-winner L. Neil Smith has been called one of the world's foremost authorities on the ethics of self-defense. He is the author of 25 books, including The American Zone, Forge of the Elders, Pallas, The Probability Broach, Hope (with Aaron Zelman), and his collected articles and speeches, Lever Action, all of which may be purchased through his website "The Webley Page" at

Ceres, an exciting sequel to Neil's 1993 Ngu family novel Pallas was recently completed and is presently looking for a literary home.

A decensored, e-published version of Neil's 1984 novel, TOM PAINE MARU is available at: Neil is presently working on Ares, the middle volume of the epic Ngu Family Cycle, and on Roswell, Texas, with Rex F. "Baloo" May.

The stunning 185-page full-color graphic-novelized version of The Probability Broach, which features the art of Scott Bieser and was published by BigHead Press has recently won a Special Prometheus Award. It may be had through the publisher, at, or at


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