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L. Neil Smith's
Number 564, April 4, 2010

"This is the lie of democracies and republics.
Your opinion doesn't matter."

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What I Have To Deal With
by L. Neil Smith

Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise

Elsewhere in this issue is a letter I received from an individual named Ken Stern. It was the first of several, and I promised him that I would reply to his points as soon as I had the time and energy. In the first, he seems to be responding to my essay "Why Did It Have To Be Guns?"

Stern asserts that he is "a full fledged Libertarian" and promptly disproves it, in the next breath, by adding that he "believes the job of the government is to stand up for those who can not stand for themselves".

Precisely what he means by that is open to question, since his use of language in the remainder of his letter is, charitably, sloppy and imprecise. No real libertarian, even the most maxi- of ministatists, believes anything even remotely like that. Government, in their view, is there to protect life, liberty, and property, through institutions that Ayn Rand once boiled down to the police, the army, and the courts.

As I told him privately, there is no gentler way to put it: Stern is not a libertarian, but a statist. His claim is either mistaken or fraudulent.

He goes on, "I, of course fully believe in the non-avocation of force." I confess, I have absolutely no idea what he means by this. One's avocation is one's calling in life; it's what makes a priest a priest, a detective a detective, a novelist a novelist. If we assume that he means "advocacy", that's only a part of the principle of zero aggression.

"This is where guns come in," Stern then informs us grandly, "and where I disagree with most of the Libertarians out there. Your right to own a gun and bring it out in public ends when my freedom of fear begins."

I hesitate to put words into anybody's mouth, but sometimes, somebody has to. I think he means "where my freedom from fear begins." What Stern's showing us, bit by bit, is that he isn't a libertarian at all, but a liberal. "Freedom from Fear" (provided I have interpreted his malaprop-cluttered letter correctly) is a phrase first uttered by Franklin Delano Roosevelt as a part of his World War II "Four Freedoms" propaganda campaign. Appearing on the short list, just above this item, is "Freedom from Want", making this a socialist platform.

Unlike the Second Amendment, it has no legal standing whatever, and its ethical origins and proven consequences are dangerous and repulsive.

However the most important element in this paragraph, filled to the scuppers with idiot ideas, and the principle reason I'm bothering with it, is this: "Your right ... ends [where] my freedom [from] fear begins."

Wrong, Ken, dead, wrong-headedly wrong. Your fear does not in any way constitute a valid claim against my rights. Your fear is your problem. It has nothing to do with me. Think for a moment. If you had another childish and irrational fear—say, of doorknobs—would I be morally obliged to remove all the doorknobs from the outside of my house?

What if you could imagine the doorknobs on the inside of my house, and they made you afraid, too. Would I have to remove them, as well?

You're free to be afraid of anything you like, Ken. Although that's probably not what you meant by "freedom of fear". But you have an absolute obligation to leave me out of it. Better yet, man-up, as they say, grow a pair, find a spine and some guts, and a friend who'll take you shooting. Spend three or four afternoons with a .22, a .38, and ultimately with a .357 or a .45, and you may discover that you're not afraid any more, and don't have the inclination to make up cheesy pseudo-philosophical excuses in order to deprive others of their rights.

Well, it was a nice thought, anyway.

Quite suddenly, and in the middle of a paragraph about something else altogether, Stern takes a completely different tack, saying, for no conceivable reason I can fathom, "The Bill of Rights stipulated a reason for the right to bear arms. 'A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State,' is NOT a complete sentence."

How very true. It is a subordinate clause. And how completely unimportant. Stern babbles on about how we don't need a militia since we now have the National Guard (a very common misconception; in fact, the unorganized militia, which is what this subordinate clause is all about, is there to protect us from the National Guard, among other things.)

Rather than go into it further here, when it has been dealt with better in several other places, I suggest that Stern take a look at the item linked to below, paying special attention to the story of author J. Neil Schulman's adventure in grammarland, related by David Kopel:

Next, Stern launches into one of the most bizarre moral and legal arguments I've ever been exposed to (pausing only to scream once again in uppercase letters that the initial phrase in the Second Amendment is not a full sentence, and talking a lot about commas) proclaiming that, since the government violated the wishes of the Founding Fathers by creating a standing army, the Second Amendment has thereby been "annulled".

Can this guy even think? That's exactly like saying if somebody violates your rights by raping you, you can't complain if he does it a second time, because your right not to be raped was annulled by the first rape. What the hell ever happened to "Two wrongs don't make a right"?

He adds, "You will also say that is has not been brought to the states for ratification ... I agree, but we have done worse things." As good an excuse as I've ever heard for concentration camps and gas chambers.

"You will say you need a gun to defend yourself." This specimen has a very bad habit of telling me what I will say, when he doesn't actually have the faintest ghostly glimmer of a clue. "I will tell you we have THE HIGHEST death rate per capita by guns of any nation in the world ... You will of course show me statistics that show we do not have the highest death rate per capita by guns of any nation in the world. I will stand by the fact [sic] that those statistics are WRONG."

Will you now? And how do you know that? Did God come down on a flaming pie and tell you? Did you hear it from an oracle, or the fairies at the bottom of your garden? Or is it something you just feel? And exactly how do other people's crimes affect my right to guns?

Wanna hear a couple facts—that can be confirmed in five minutes by poking around the Internet? The country with the highest violent crime rate in the world is Australia, immediately after the wave of gun confiscation that followed the so-called Port Arthur Massacre in Tasmania, an event almost certainly engineered to have the desired result.

Wanna know who's next? Great Britain, again following what was probably a politically contrived attack by some handy cold-storage lunatic.

Here's the kicker: if you remove from statistical consideration the inner cores of American cities that have been under the control of the socialists who call themselves liberals, and liberal policies like gun control, for countless decades, you'll find that this is the most peaceful, prosperous, and progressive nation human history has ever seen.

Those are the facts, and while I understand why you might want to shut your eyes, cover your ears, and holler, "I'm not listening to Neil! I'm not listening to Neil!" you can damn well do it on your own time.

"You state that you hold most dear in your heart [the] 'Zero Aggression Principle'. Well the bottom line is guns are a symbol of aggression ... "

Now I know Stern is a liberal. In the first place, I don't hold anything dear in my heart, but in my mind. In the second, I don't give a fermented damn what guns are a symbol of, to him. He's already demonstrated that his cognitive faculties are suspect. Airplanes are a symbol of gifts from the gods to certain loonies on Pacific Islands. Guns represent self-defense and physical security for me and my family; their qualities in that respect are well proven in the real world.

The babble continues: "Sure people hunt with [them]—I would venture to say they don't use a machine gun. [A gross non sequitur] What happens when those people turn their guns on others or even themselves?"

This state fields something like a quarter million deer hunters every year. Events like that are astronomically rare. If they happen—not because of guns or hunting, but something wrong with the killer—somebody else with a gun ends them, hopefully before anyone is hurt. If not, they limit the carnage, whereupon psychovultures descend and molest the minds of everyone who isn't fast enough to avoid their claws.

And, by the way, suicide is a right.

But there are dark hints, here, of a vastly greater problem that Stern seems to suffer from, as we'll see later on. Meanwhile he informs us, "It is NOT a right in my book to carry a gun. It is a right of all individuals to feel safe and I do not feel safe around guns."

To quote the late, great Rod Steiger, Ken, I don't give a rusty fuck what's in your book, and neither does anybody else. Once again, you have absolutely nothing to say about my rights. No does anybody have a right to "feel safe". There is no safe. A meteor could fall on your head at any moment. You could be struck by lightning, or hit by a car. You could get robbed at knife-point and be stabbed and die because you didn't have a gun, Safety is an illusion—an extremely dangerous one—and you must labor for your own good, as well as a courtesy to your neighbors you're threatening politically, to get over it.

"I do not feel safe around guns," he said previously, and now, "I do not trust my fellow man with a gun ... personally I would like to see the army abolished as well as the militia and the 'right' to bear arms."

And so we come at long last to the psychological phenomenon known as "projection". I've known a thousand of these guys, and so have you. First and foremost, it's usually themselves they don't trust. They realize somehow that they lack the persistence, self-discipline, and physical dexterity to become proficient with firearms. What's more, they can't guess from instant to instant—usually because they've been brought up on a diet of "When You Wish Upon A Star" and "Use the Force, Luke"—what they'll do if some wild whim happens to catch them. And naturally, they assume everybody around them is like that, too.

They even believe that machinery acts the same way.

"Going back to your statement about [what] a politician's attitude '... toward your ownership and use of weapons ... conveys is his real attitude towards you.' I am with that politician." So I am not to be trusted unless I am rendered naked and harmless? What a psychological confession.

The rest of Stern's letter is a compost of irrelevant gabble about capital punishment, abortion, his misunderstanding of the Zero Aggression Principle, his son's Down Syndrome and "Sci Fi authors who advocate genetic manipulation". I'm not sure if he means me. It appears (I could be wrong, now, I'm just going by what I have to work with) that he opposes not only abortion to avoid retardation (yes, I used the dreaded "R-word" and I will again, if necessary) but any kind of gene therapy for it, as well. You're free to read his letter for yourself.

I'm having a lively correspondence with him, and there will be more.

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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 more than 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

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Neil is presently at work on Ares, the middle volume of the epic Ngu Family Cycle, and on Where We Stand: Libertarian Policy in a Time of Crisis with his daughter, Rylla.

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