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L. Neil Smith's
Number 659, February 26, 2012

"The recent financial collapse, generated by
the fascist economic policies under Bush and Obama"

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Separating Sheep From Goats
by L. Neil Smith

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Attribute to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise

This essay is dedicated to Charles Curley
for reasons he will appreciate.

Each day, I get dozens of e-mails, warning me of deadly calamities about to destroy everything we know and love unless I send them ten bucks.

Or a hundred.

Or a thousand.

In essence, these grifters are operating a protection racket—or they're trying to hold Western Civilization for ransom—when they're in no actual position to do it any measurable harm or good at all. They're no better, in fact, than the Nigerian con-men who offer you a share of their $47,000,000,000 stash if you'll just help them out a little.

PayPal will do nicely, thank you.

Ordinarily, I just shrug these solicitations off. But we are, in fact, living in "interesting" times, and there are a myriad of genuine and worthwhile causes in which an individual might enlist himself to one degree or another in order to restore the Rule of Law (by this, I mean laws limiting the powers and activities of government), and to protect and extend the unalienable individual, civil, Constitutional, and human rights of every man, woman, and child not only in America, but in a few other places—Australia, Britain, Canada, and New Zealand come to mind; your mileage may vary—where the work needs doing.

Since the resources—our resources—to accomplish this work are limited, the phonies boring through the woodwork of civilization need to be starved out of business, even though (of course) they make it as difficult as possible to distinguish them from the real thing. And, quite naturally, different individuals have different opinions regarding different efforts and organizations. I have no use for the National Rifle Association; there are individuals who have no use for me.

So a few days ago, when I was lying in bed, hacking and blubbering my way through the worst head-cold I've experienced in years, and was having an exceptionally tough time staying focused on my real work, I found these begging e-mails particularly annoying, and decided to put a couple solicitors to the test. They always write as if they know me, share my political principles and concerns, and are on my side. They brag of accomplishments I know are the doing of many others besides them.

But here was the test: would they respond to a personal message, as if they—and I—were actual human beings, engaged in a common cause?

There's a phrase, spoiled forever, by the very vermin I'm writing about.

But I digress.

One of these people/groups/robots/things is all upset about the court ruling that allows corporations to contribute money to causes and candidates as if they were themselves living human beings. In general, I don't think this is a good thing, either, although there might be ethical problems enforcing any law—especially written by pinheaded sledgehammer artists like McCain or Leahy—meant to stop it.

We will never be rid of this kind of legislation until we send the legislators who've written, introduced, sponsored, and voted for it to prison.

But I've digressed once again.

In his most recent electronic solicitation, however, the "guy" I'm talking about used, for the first time I'm aware of, a "magic" phrase. It says here he wants to eliminate "corporate personhood". Well, that certainly got my attention, as it's exactly what I've been advocating for several decades. So, just as a test, I wrote "him" the following letter:

Dear Abernathy (I've changed his name):

I have received and read a great many of your mailings, and even acted upon them occasionally. Now, because of the next-to-last message I received from you, I believe we might do each other some mutual good.

Not only do you wish to get corporate money out of electoral politics, a goal I happen to share with you, now you say you want to eliminate the concept of corporate personhood—and, I trust, limited liability—from the law. This, too has long been an objective of mine.

Ab, you owe it to yourself to get my new book, DOWN WITH POWER: Libertarian Policy In A Time Of Crisis and share it with your friends and allies. You'll like the positions I take on the issues above, and will no doubt find my other policies intriguing and highly useful, as well.

Find it at, B& and other places, in both dead-tree and e-book form. I have been in the movement for 50 years and written 33 freedom-oriented books. Believe me, you won't regret reading this one.

L. Neil Smith
Author, The Probability Broach, et al.
Publisher and Senior Columnist, L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise
Now in its 17th year online.


Okay, so it turned into a commercial for my new book—just as all his correspondence ends up asking for money. At least he gets something material in exchange, and I doubt that anybody who's read the book will disagree that it could help his cause materially, as well.

The second person I wrote to is actually a real individual I have met a couple of times at events in Denver, back in the days before he was trying to pump a local gun rights organization up into a national one.

Back then, we disagreed with one another on two or three issues, and he will forgive me if I do not remember all of the particulars correctly. One of them was the reliability of the Republican Party where the rights of gun owners were concerned. I got into a screaming match with one of his minions about that, right in the middle of a gun show.

If we'd been liberals, somebody would have gotten shot.

These days, following the unconstitutional—therefore criminal—anti-gun behavior of Robert Dole, Newt Gingrich, Mitt Romney, and other GOP stalwarts of their ilk, I expect there'd be a little less argument.

A similar point of contention, as I recall, was the usefulness of the National Rifle Association, which the late Aaron Zelman named the world's oldest and largest gun control organization. Another was the issue of licensed concealed carry, over which, given the clear wording of the Second Amendment, I had recently called license-holders "collared dogs".

At a public gun policy conference.

I gather the fellow's outlook has changed a bit over the decade and a half that's transpired, and is now more congruent with mine. So the last time he sent me a mailing, I replied with the following letter:

Dear Smedley (changed his name, too):

As a veteran of the general freedom movement with more time in grade than you have (half a century this coming June, during which I've authored 33 pro-freedom books and countless columns, articles, and essays—in addition to having worked with Aaron Zelman of Jews for the Preservation of Firearms Ownership for ten years, producing short publications and two books for him) I have written to you on several occasions on various topics I believe are important. So far, you have never granted me the professional or comradely courtesy of a reply.

I remember a time, years ago, when you and your friends believed I was too radical, both in my assessments of government threats to our rights and my notions of what ought to be done about them. But I can see from your mailings that you've clearly changed your mind about that. I can help you advance our cause if you're interested. To start, I have a new book on pro-liberty policy that was published early this year. It includes a plan for beginning to fix our badly-broken country.

It's called Down With Power and is available at There's also a "beta" version at that you can read from "cover-to-cover" for free, but it isn't nearly as nice.

Or maybe you could just begin by reading my award-winning 1980 novel, still in print after three decades, The Probability Broach, which is considered to be the definitive work in its field, and is still decades ahead of its time. It has brought thousands of people to our cause—and persuaded countless individuals to buy their first gun.

Over the past half century, and at some personal cost, I have created these and many other tools to be used by you and others on our side.

If, on the other hand, all you're really interested in is raising funds and enhancing your prestige in a small pond—like Gottlieb's bunch or the shambling morons at the NRA—you're perfectly free to ignore this letter too, and take me off your mailing list. In either event, I'll be writing an article about it. Gun people—freedom people—need to know whose motivations they can trust and whose they can't.

L. Neil Smith

Look me up on Google, Wikipedia, or
Or try The Libertarian Enterprise now in its 17th year online:


No answers yet.

I'll keep you posted.

L. Neil Smith is the Publisher and Senior Columnist of L. Neil Smith's THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE, as well as the author of 33 freedom-oriented books, the most recent of which is DOWN WITH POWER: Libertarian Policy in a Time of Crisis: [ dead tree] or [ Kindle] or [ dead tree and Nook]

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