Big Head Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 439, October 14, 2007

"Yet another good reason to avoid world government."

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The End
by L. Neil Smith

Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise

In my fourth novel, The Nagasaki Vector (Random House/Del Rey Books, 1983), I predicted that the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics wouldn't be around to celebrate its centennial in 2017. I was wrong only with regard to how little time it took their house of cards to collapse.

I had made this forecast, not through the use of a crystal ball or psychic powers, but on the basis of several things I had known about the Marxian Empire for years, and one in particular that I had just learned.

As a libertarian, for example, I knew a collectivized "command and control" economy can't work, in particular, because it can't discover or establish price. (See my "Thoughts About Money and Other Things".) Price is the single most important item of information that's necessary for individuals to act effectively within that part of our civilization we call the market. Price tells every market participant what to offer, how much of it to offer, and at what level of quality. Yet orthodox Marxism forbids the very activities that generate that all-important information.

The idea, of course, is that the benevolent State should establish "fair" prices, so the lovely Proletariate won't get screwed by evil capitalist pigs. But no single individual or institution can establish price (although that never keeps them from trying), it is established by facts of objective reality, playing against an aggregate of all the economic decisions each of us makes every day, practically every hour, in the process of living and working, buying and selling, bidding in the market for what we need or want, accepting bids on what we make or do.

This doesn't require any sort of formal auction process. If, for instance, something about the idea of high-quality gourmet earthworms in marinara sauce is unappealing, people simply won't buy them—no matter how little you charge—the message conveyed by price is that you should stop making the stuff and leave the poor little earthworms alone.

Don't they have rights, too?

No, not really.

If, on the other hand, bureaucrats or politicians decide for some reason that high-quality gourmet earthworms in marinara sauce are good for you—maybe they have "good" cholesterol—or that the sadly neglected earthworm farmers in a given congressman's district can't be permitted to go out of business, then a way will be "found" to save them at the taxpayers' involuntary expense, wasting economic resources that should have been applied, through the market system, to something people are actually willing to pay for without a gun pointed at their heads.

We know what happens in any economy that can't determine price. Without price, even offering or obtaining simple things like shoes or bread becomes difficult or impossible. Even when we obtain them—usually after standing in line all day—the shoes (possibly all of them left-footed this particular quarter) will prove to be about as durable as bread, while the bread is highly likely to taste like shoes. This, in a nutshell, and applied across the entire range of economic decision-making, is why the Soviet Union was doomed to fall apart.

At one point in their history, according to the late libertarian author and lecturer Robert LeFevre, the Soviets tried to remedy their unenviable situation without giving up the irrepairable philosophical system that had created it. Each time the new Sears & Roebuck catalog was published, the Russian embassy and every one of their consulates ordered hundreds of copies, which they would then ship back home for economic planners to base their decisions on. The trouble was that the information in those catalogs was based on economic conditions here in America, and was therefore irrelevant to the conditions in the Soviet Union.

Another set of facts that told me as early as the 1960s that the communists were going out of business (at least in Russia and eastern Europe) involved the supposedly formidable Soviet military. When they tallied up the number of soldiers they had, unlike the American army, they weren't counting individuals who had been through basic training, they were counting the number of recruits to whom army coats had been issued.

Similarly, when they were counting tanks, it wasn't the number of war-machines with treads on the road, it was the number they actually had, plus those that could theoretically be built given current parts inventories.

Of course the American "intelligence" community went along with the joke, because a strong Red military represented a plausible threat they and the rest of the government could use to keep us taxpayers in line.

My father was a maintenance crew chief at Lowry Air Force base back during the famous Berlin Airlift of the 1950s. Returning aircrews told him about the impressive way that the road through East Germany, linking West Germany with otherwise isolated Berlin, was completely lined with Soviet tanks. Impressive, that is, if, as the aircraft flew over them, they hadn't been bobbing at their anchors in the propellor backwash.

But what put the final nail in the coffin of Evil Empire I, at least as far as I was concerned, was the fact that, in the Soviet Union, thanks to government secrecy rules, scientists were forbidden to communicate freely with one another about their work. In fact, about the only way for them to find out what was going on in their own country, scientifically, was to attend scientific gatherings in the west.

Yet another good reason to avoid world government.

Science, of course, is all about communication between scientists. Without it, either nothing happens, or extremely bad things happen. According to Liberty magazine a few years back, the whole myth of acid rain was born in a communications gap—between scientists who specialize in air chemistry and those who specialize in soil chemistry—that the Environmental Protection Agency ruthlessly exploited. Without real science going on, the Soviet Empire was doomed to collapse.

There's a counter-example that proves the case. Unlike the west—dominated by gigantic corporations—Russian geologists were allowed to explore the unconventional theories of thinkers like Alfred Wegener and Thomas Gold (dismissed here at home as crackpots by interests more concerned with maintaining their latterday hydraulic despotism than in securing peace, prosperity, and progress) and turn their country from a net importer of oil to the world's largest exporter, in only a few decades.

Now, thanks to the ruthless exploitation of whatever it was that really happened on September 11, 2001 (as with the Kennedy and King assassinations, we may never know), what has sadly become an American Empire is following the same muddy and treacherous pathway to cultural extinction.

Bad enough that this government, exactly like Lenin's and Stalin's before it, kidnaps individuals, and illegally imprisons and tortures them; bad enough that it starved half a million Iraqi children to death by denying their country access to world trade; bad enough that it's erecting all sorts of internal barriers in this country and plans to demand that Americans obtain passports to travel from Colorado to Utah.

The Bush regime is also issuing all sorts of directives to the researchers in colleges and universities about who can work on what, and with whom they can discuss it. These directives, little known by the general public, have made the conduct of science appreciably harder over the past several years and may even threaten to make it impossible.

Add to that the more general rape of the Bill of Rights—the one thing that ever made America different from the rest of the world—the collapse of the economy in general and the dollar in particular, and you have the sort of picture that let me predict the fall of the Soviets.

I've made a lot of accurate predictions in my novels. The one real failing I have as a prognosticator is that I'm always too conservative about the dates. I predicted big changes in Russia sometime, vaguely, before 2017, and it happened in 1989, only six years after I made the prediction.

I don't predict the same kind of disaster in America with any relish, believe me. As a Type II diabetic with a history of heart disease, I need civilization to manufacture the medicines and devices that keep me alive. Hell, for that matter, I need little amenities like toilet paper, plastic wrap, paper towels, and zip-lock sandwich bags.

And so do you.

There is a way out of this mess—in fact, there are several. I write about them almost every week. Unless you can think of something better, pick one of my suggestions (such as writing to the sponsors of anti-freedom TV shows) and start doing it. Unless you really want to find yourself, a decade from now, squatting cold and exhausted in the ruins with a brick in your hand, trying to decide if it's ethical to bash in the brains of a six-year-old to get the last can of pork and beans.

That's where we're headed, unless you stop it now.

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, at, or at


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