Volume 3, Number 2, Spring, 1985

Nodding toward liberty

When we wore our little "Smash the State" buttons, were we kidding?

True, those threatened by the notion (and necessities) of self-defense —as Neal Wilgus is—are horrified at the mission of Tom Paine Maru. If, however. you applaud New York’s subway vigilante, you don’t need TPM explained. It’s the state’s nature—like that of any mugger—to initiate force. The existence of government anywhere is a threat to intelligent beings everywhere. Their right to end it is undeniable. TPM’s "victims" are the Hitlers, Stalins, Churchills and Roosevelts of other worlds, those of our own having been polished off by North American Confederates some decades earlier.

If you don’t applaud the vigilante —or TPM—how can you call yourself Libertarian? "Limited government" like "limited mugging", is a bizarre conceit advocated not by Libertarians, but by "liberal conservatives" we picked up along the way, and need to scrape off the bottom of the soles of our metaphorical feet. Even a moderate like Jefferson could swear "eternal enmity against every form of tyranny over the mind of men". Talk is cheap. But as we learned with the Minerva fiasco, the mightiest oath, unsupported by gunpowder and steel—and an implacable will to use them—is empty blathering.

Over the years, I’ve offered many reasons why I left the LP. When you boil them down, its incessant timidity turned me off—and doomed it to failure. Owing to their movement's history, liberals view moral uncertainty as a token of intellectual sincerity. Our movement likewise suffers Brownowski’s Fallacy: certainty as sin. Thus, again, the world’s good become shackled by their own lousy substitute for an ethic which allows them to act against evil. It’s laughable: we alone possess such an ethic and fail to employ it as the revolutionary discriminator it constitutes.

Look at the result in your own newsletter. What’s a Libertarian? Who’s a libertarian writer? Poor Grossberg thinks he can identify minute redeeming traces in this or that socialist or fascist while the self-same villains howl him down. Every ideology, every now and then, talks freedom. A libertarian’s instantly identifiable because he lives the Non-Aggression Principle. Those who won’t must be taken at their word.

Face it, Libertarians are scarce, Libertarian authors even more so. That’s why I created the Prometheus Award, not so Michael would herniate himself straining to find some insignificant nod toward liberty in the meanderings of thugs unworthy of your attention, 1et alone your nomination.

L. Neil Smith
Fort Collins, Colorado

I’ll let all this pass except the "if you don’t applaud the vigilante...how can you call yourself Libertarian?" Since you wrote this better in late December, you may have changed your mind about the subway vigilante being a hero. because I can’t imagine anyone thinking a kid should be blown away with a dumdum just because he’s hassled you for five bucks. Maybe I’ve been [garbled. Ed.] but so far a "I haven't got five bucks, man." has worked for me on the streets and subways of Washington D.C. and San Francisco. (If that doesn’t work, and he then pulls out a knife or a gun, one certainly has the right to defend oneself, no matter what the local authorities say.) If Goetz had been attacked and had to defend himself, or if he had shot down an ax murderer with weapon poised above an old lady’s head, there would be few people (except maybe the cops) who would complain. As it is, many see Goetz as a scared little man who overreacted. What is important here is that the right to defend oneself be reaffirmed. The editor

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