Big Head Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 509, March 8, 2009

"A bust has become a panic and is
well on its way to becoming a rout."

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Just Who is the Useful Idiot, Here?
by L. Neil Smith

Distribute widely and attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise

There's always a critic lurking in the wainscotting.

For quite some time, I have debated with myself the advisability of what I am about to do here. Those who know me well know I'm not afraid of a fight online—a flamewar—in fact I relish it all too well.

The question here is whether it's worth the distraction from my real work, worth the time and effort involved, worth throwing a spotlight on someone, in Heinlein's terms, I should be merciful with, because he doesn't seem to be very bright, someone I suspect would be—should be—more comfortable hiding in the moist darkness under a rock.

Or squatting in a cave, greasing his flintlock and muttering to himself.

Then the other day I suddenly realized that answering this poor cretin's accusations is my work. He's laboring under a number of entirely false—and yet exasperatingly common—assumptions about the nature of libertarianism and badly needs correcting. And of course in the process of providing that correction (even though it may prove necessary to teach him to read, as well)—as publicly as possible—perhaps I can save a great many others from making the same false assumptions.

And then there is this: in the process of making his argument, the pathetic goofball went out of his way, entirely unnecessarily, to insult me (which I can survive—people have been standing in block-long lines for two or three decades, simply to insult me) and my daughter.

Mind you, Rylla can take care of herself in this regard. She grew up with a keyboard under her fingertips, and has undoubtedly survived more flame wars than I have. She has a talent for invective I like to think she got from her old man (her mother is far too sweet for that) and has been trained, whenever she is angry or afraid, to take a step forward.

Here's the silly situation in a nutshell. On a blogsite labelled "Useful Idiot Watch", and attractively subtitled "Keeping an eye on the stupid", an individual who goes by the nom de guerre "Lee Enfield" has responded to an article Rylla and I recently wrote and published in The Libertarian Enterprise entitled "What Libertarians Believe".

A Lee-Enfield, you should know, is an obsolete but very handy and capable British military rifle of the bolt action persuasion that saw duty before, during, and after both world wars and is still in wide use in some Third World nations. Millions were made and distributed in Commonwealth countries. It is usually made for .303 British, which is rather similar ballistically to .30-06, but with a rim like a revolver cartridge.

If all you've ever shot are toys chambered in .223 or 7.62x39, you owe it to yourself, at least one time, to try out a real battle rifle cartridge: .30-40 Krag, 6.5 Swedish, 7.5 Swiss, .30-06, .308, or .303 British.

Most Lee-Enfields will hold ten cartridges in their magazines—highly unusual in a bolt-action. A few, refitted to use 7.65 NATO (.308), will hold twelve. These rifles are rugged, famously accurate weapons, although, truthfully, nothing I'd swap my 1903 Springfield for.

But, as usual, I have digressed.

I am highly distrustful of anyone who uses a pseudonym, especially to write radical political discourse. Yes, I know some of the Founding Fathers, in fear of the King for their lives, did this. Others, whom I respect more, did not. On the other hand, I have my Webley Page, and I can understand identifying with a particularly wonderful article of hardware. On the third hand (being a science fiction writer, I can do this) I have always believed in standing up like a man and being counted. We will never be free while we crouch down in the begging position.

Which is what pseudonyms mean to me.

Be that as it may, Mr. Pseudonymous Rifleguy begins his attack on our essay, "What Libertarians Believe" with the highly original title, "What Libertarians Believe—NOT!" Spelling and other errors are his entirely.

"L. Neil Smith and Rylla Cathryn Smith have a piece up entitled: What Libertarians Believe. The problem is that they are ... Idiots." I have no idea what he meant by that ellipsis. Possibly, neither does he.

"Some of what they write is correct..." And here he quotes a sentence on the centrality to libertarianism of the concept of self-ownership.

"Some is mostly correct..." Where we have written that, "Most libertarians agree that all rights are, in effect, property rights," he offers "The correct version of the above [which] should read: 'All libertarians agree that all rights are, in effect, property rights...'"

So here we have another telepath. (I run into a lot of those, folks who can tell me what the public's thinking, for example.) Rylla and I aren't claiming to know what libertarians think. Our approach is prescriptive: here's what you have to believe in order to be a libertarian. Maybe we should have consulted Mr. Pseudonymous Rifleguy before we started a book, so we'd know how much work we have ahead of us.

Then he gets grim. "Some [of what we've written] is just plain dangerously wrong..." And what is he referring to but the one thing that makes libertarians different from everybody else on this poor, miserable, beaten-up, war-battered planet, the Zero Aggression Principle.

"A libertarian," Rylla and I said, "is a person who believes that no one has the right, under any circumstances, to initiate force against another human being for any reason whatever; nor will a libertarian advocate the initiation of force, or delegate it to anyone else."

Our correspondent goes what we refer to in polite society as "apeshit".

"The original American Libertarians (the Founding Fathers)," the moron gibbers incontinently, "had no qualms about initiating force against whomever they deemed necessary be it the British, Hessians, indians or anyone else. This 'Zero Aggression Principle' is Surrender- Monkey fantasy bull-crap thought up by the 'hide behind mom's skirt' crowd."

Clearly this guy does not know me, has never read my books or gun articles, and has never taken a peek at the essays and photos on my website.

Nor, apparently, did he notice or understand the meaning of that all-important word "initiate". It was, of course, the British and their hirelings the Hessians who initiated force against the American colonists (who, incidentally, were not really libertarians). With the Indians, it's a little bit harder to sort out, ethically, but if he means the ones the British hired to supplement the Hessians, then they, too, had initiated force and deserved what they got from our side.

While we're here, I might as well clear up another very common misunderstanding about the Zero Aggression Principle. You are not ethically obliged to wait until the other guy has drawn his weapon, aimed it at you, and shot you in the chest. If you believe an assault is imminent, if he's "slapped leather" or otherwise clearly indicated his intentions, you are free to do what you must in self-defense. The law may not always see it that way, but that's what real justice mandates.

Of course you'd damned well better be right or you may learn more about private adjudication and restitution than you ever cared to know.

But our mystery guest isn't through. "Of course, these [meaning us surrender monkeys in the hide behind mom's skirt crowd] are generally the people who scream that we should completely open our borders and 'let everyone be free' completely ignoring the cold hard economic facts of flooding the country with poor people with 3rd world mentalities.

"F-ing idiots."

So the guy's a bigot. That's hardly surprising. And he can't spell "fuck". Better a "3rd world mentality", in my view, than no mentality at all.

But what does it have to do with the Zero Aggression Principle?

And when do I get to see a real surrender-monkey?

I like monkeys.

Mr. Pseudonymous Rifleguy's blogpost is at:

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 at


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