Big Head Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 431, August 19, 2007

"None of the bureaucrats could understand why I was upset."


"Progressives" or "Regressives"?
by L. Neil Smith

Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise

Pursuing a fairly intriguing anti-war link the other morning, I unexpectedly found myself looking at a website owned and operated by "progressives".

A "progressive", you'll recall, is a liberal who understands that he and his ilk have brought just about all the shame and disrepute that's possible to that once fine, respectable old term. Abysmally chagrined at what it once represented—a preference for individual liberty in all things—they are embarrassed to be associated with its myriad of gross and humiliating shortcomings in public. These are the people who don't seem to have noticed a damn thing that's happened the past 30 years,—including the massive discreditation and collapse of socialism—and have actually convinced themselves (I saw this on another "progressive" site)—that capitalism has been a failure.

In any case, rather than fight—as we must go on doing to maintain the integrity of the expression "libertarian" against a menagerie of cretins, crooks, and crazies desperate to alter its meaning—in the words of the old cigarette commercial, they've switched.

For the most part these retreaded lefties are in the anguished middle, just now, of pondering their slight and vanishing Presidential options for 2008, given the unfortunate fact that Hillary Clinton is a barefaced chicken-hawk (like her old man Willy the Mad Bomber), and Barack Obama, once the Great Black Hope, has turned out to be every bit as deranged as George Bush and wants to drop the Big One now—on Pakistan.

Or was it Australia?

I forget.

But one of the major things that the soft-shelled collectivists on this site were whimpering about didn't have anything to do with the Bush-Clinton-Bush War on Everything. It was about certain consequences in the market they apparently don't know they brought upon themselves. It seems, among their many other complaints, that all the "mainstream" media in this country (or possibly it was the world, it was unclear) are owned by a tiny handful (five, I believe they said) of gigantic corporations.

Now I concede that this may very well be true, and I agree that it is probably not a good thing. When the satellite and cable explosion began occurring in the early 1980s, and there were more independent stations with national uplinks than you could shake a stick at, it started to look like we might have a free country again someday. But the corporate leviathans, who are no friends of freedom, tightened their grasp, and there is less and less to watch or listen to than there was before. We have to ask ourselves who's to blame for this situation.

To begin with, you must understand clearly that all taxation is regressive. It's all about proportion. Just as, say, a nickel sales tax on hamburger bites deeper into the economic flesh of the poor than into the relative adipose of the rich, so smaller companies are always hit harder by taxes than big companies with a better-padded bottom line.

Moreover (and this is a very important key to understanding what happened and why) big companies can afford bigger, slicker legal and accounting departments to save the corporation tax money or get them out of tax trouble if necessary. If government decides to go after a big corporation, its officers are far likelier to get their backsides forcibly removed and handed to them in court. (Or said officers may just be offered lucrative salaries to leave government and join the corporation.) Simply from an institutional standpoint, then, it's easier and safer to go after Mom and Pop, who are likely to be stuck with their brother-in-law accountant and the lawyer who drew up their wills.

Possibly even more important, all regulation is regressive, too. It costs a small company a much greater fraction of its assets to comply with government's dictates—most of them unconstitutional—than it does a big corporation with its teeming hordes of office drones.

I saw a dramatic display once of a quarter's worth of paperwork that the government required of the 3M corporation. The cardboard boxes it filled formed a sort of meandering garden wall about hip high and fifty or sixty feet long. It was truly horrific, and fundamentally wrong.

But my point here is that 3M could afford the resources (about a third of their overhead, they estimated) to deal with this kind and degree of asininity, whereas similar requirements, loaded onto the already breaking backs of small or even middle-sized companies could easily crush or kill them. At about the same time (the late 1960s), it was noted that four out of five new businesses go belly-up within a year.

And who, we may now ask rhetorically, do we thank for that? The same "progressives" today who shake their little Marxoid fistlets at Wal-Mart and bemoan the passing of the neighborhood grocery store. The same wasters who polluted the economic environment with regulatory toxins until the smaller denizens of the market were unable to survive and the only organisms left were the dinosauroid giants they love to hate.

Big corporations can hire specialists to stall, bribe, or partly satisfy OSHA, EEOC, EPA, and the rest of the alphabet agencies that have the power—without Constitutional sanction—to make or break a business enterprise. The process can be stretched out for years. But the same agencies, without breaking sweat, can jail a farmer who lacks the resources to defend himself adequately, and even steal his tractor because he had the audacity to fill in a rain puddle in his own back yard.

Remember what I said, because the universe always provides a test afterwards: regulation is every bit as regressive as taxation. The big corporation moves on, while farmer, who now makes license plates for a living, is stripped of his rights, his property, and his life, and is soon forgotten.

Add to that certain local impediments like zoning, licensure of several different kinds, and the apalling travesty of eminent domain—recently enhanced by one of the most transparently corrupt supreme court rulings in American history—and you have a formula for making a hundred percent certain that big corporations will dominate the culture, mostly with the compliments of your friendly neighborhood "progressives".

There are many things that corporations are perfectly good for. Ruling the world is not one of them. As evidence, I submit for your approval, George W. Bush and Richard "Dick" Cheney: "corporation" is their middle name. As even more evidence, I submit Bill and Hillary Clinton, whose corporate ties are, if anything, even more dense and tangled.

I have my own fond memories of buying candy at a neighborhood Mom and Pop grocery store, walking home from school. (There was no busing back then, and, apparently, many fewer child molestors.) This is one of the few things that England does right: there's an "off-license" store that sells things like candy, cigarettes, and milk on nearly every residential street corner in London. There are "news agents" that sell newspapers and paperback books. There's a warm, friendly pub or two in every neighborhood that you can take visitors and friends to.

Throw in a neighborhood gun and ammo shop, I'd like to see that all come back to America. So what can be done about it? The answer is only three words long, but implementing it could take many years and require something like a civil war: abolish limited liability, which is the legal means by which people who own and operate corporations evade moral and monetary responsibility for what they do. Get rid of it, and corporations will shrivel in size and power as if blasted by a nova.

Another thing: return control of corporations to the stockholders from whom it was rudely seized, mostly by parliamentary chicanery, starting in the 1950s. If thousands of owners know they will pay the cost when corporations screw up, they will watch their employees very closely.

Finally, corporate taxes—in fact, all business taxes—must be totally and permanently rescinded. What they represent, in fact, are a second tax on their incomes that the Productive Class are compelled to pay whenever they puchase something or employ somebody. This—along with repealing every bit of economic regulation—would finally give small enterprises an even break, and only those giant corporations that actually provide quality goods and services at reasonable prices would be able to withstand the resulting Cambrian-style explosion of competition.

Don't forget ditching eminent domain—and sovereign immunity, too.

So how about it, "progressives"?

Just how progressive are you, really?

My guess is "not very". Just as most "progressives" would rather see a woman raped in an alley and strangled with her own pantyhose than see her with a gun in her hand, they would rather punish the rich than help the poor. They would rather whip the master than free his slaves.

Too bad for Mom and Pop.

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.

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, or


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