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SPREADING THE WORD

SPREADING THE WORD

By: L. Neil Smith

 
It seems to me that all my life I've been asking myself how to persuade
others to help me make the world we live in a free world. No  doubt different
activists have had different experiences; the only experiences I have had,
and can reliably report on, are my own.

As early as my pre-teens, it was obvious to me that something was
seriously wrong with our culture, and that academia was not going to
be the answer. Time has borne my observation out. Schools and colleges
in America are operated almost exclusively by barbarians who fervently
believe in nonsense like global warming, peak oil, and all the usual
tribal orthodoxies -- including sending your kids off to kill or die in
some president's latest in an endless series of pointless wars, and
paying your "fair share" so his heavily-armed thugs can go partying in
Cartagena and San Salvador.

(This is nothing new. It is alleged that John F. Kennedy's Secret
Service detail in 1963 had been up all night in Dallas partying, and
were exhausted and hung over the morning of his assassination.)

As I grew and learned more, it became apparent that economics and
economic history -- subjects that might make all the difference in
choices people face throughout their lives between collectivism and
individualism -- the teaching of which ought to start as early as
Kindergarten, is purposely left unaddressed by government-controlled
schools until college. When it is finally introduced, students are
indoctrinated in the economic equivalents of phrenology and astrology.

Similarly, and for many of the same reasons, the teaching of
ethics in public schools and at the university level is a joke.

In a universe ruled by physics, anything worthwhile that people
undertake requires certain amounts of time, money, and effort.
Teaching libertarianism takes quite a lot, because it's difficult to
boil down into persuasive sound-bites or bumper sticker slogans. It's
too complicated (as my wife says, lies can be carefully tailored to
suit the customer; truth comes straight off the rack, one size fits
all), and you have so much _un-teaching_ to do, first.                                        

For example, exactly who or what is ultimately responsible for the
atrocities of September 11, 2001? A century of extremely incompetent
-- and downright malignant -- foreign policy decisions isn't a very
satisfying answer, although it's the truth. "Crazed terrorist Muslims
who hate our freedom" works much better, for all that it's a lie.

Movies, in this country, popular music, and TV are owned and
operated by the same tribe of barbarians who run the schools. Talk
radio, mostly, is the province of another tribe who call themselves
"conservatives" and demonstrably have no more genuine interest in
individual liberty than their competitors, the "progressives", do.



Newspapers once belonged to conservatives, but liberals took them
over during the FDR Administration and have run them into the ground.
Popular magazines and books were once enemy territory, although Ayn
Rand, Robert Heinlein, and Reason Magazine, among others, helped
change that. When the Internet, the first medium of egalitarian,
lateral, "peer to peer" communication came along, a venue in which
authority and prestige count for nothing, and people can talk back to
pundit and ruler alike, it belonged to libertarians from the start.



Fundamentally, there are only three ways to transmit the message
of freedom to a world literally starving for it, dying to hear it.

Given its peculiarities and dependence on the unadorned truth, the
one-on-one method has always seemed to work best, turning on humanity,
a single individual at a time, to the possibilities of liberty. But
the process is enormously expensive in terms of time and effort.

An obvious alternative to the tedious, time-consuming one-on-one
method is a mass movement. Libertarianism seems ill-suited to anything
like a religious approach -- although, informed by the works of
novelists like Heinlein (Sixth Column), Robert Silverberg (To Open
The Sky
), and anthropologist Anthony F.C. Wallace (Religion: An
Anthropological View
) I once seriously considered that option -- so
what that leaves is a political party or campaign of some kind.

But not just any political party or campaign.

I had considered myself a libertarian since 1962, when I read
Rand's Atlas Shrugged in high school. In 1971, the Libertarian Party
was founded in Denver and I've been a member of it, off and on, since
1972. But apparently I don't play well with others -- or they don't
play well with me. I can't remember a single decision made at the
national level that I ever agreed with.

People struggle over power. One of the strangest facts of human
existence is that the less power involved (think of a school board),
the more savage the struggle. It was obvious to me, from the earliest
moment, that the LP National Committee was a snakepit -- or would soon
turn into one -- a mud-wrestling arena for social maladroits with a
sick hunger for minuscule amounts of power. Few agreed with me then,
but years later, when they moved national headquarters to Washington,
and made the ludicrously stupid public relations mistake of renting
office space in the infamous Watergate complex, I felt vindicated.

By contrast, I always thought the LP's national headquarters
should be in the middle of the country and consist of a post office
box and a telephone answering machine in a broom closet in Omaha.
Instead of a national committee, I suggested a national congress of
state chairs, which would automatically keep the LP focused where it
needed to be, and not on the Beltway cocktail circuit.

Just now, with the ascendancy of mostly libertarian forces that
are not associated with the LP, you can be certain there are unhappy
people, once high-placed within the party or still in place, shaking
their heads, wringing their hands, tearing their hair, and gnashing
their teeth, demanding to know -- from what must seem like a cruel and
uncaring universe -- how the "Party of Principle" got so thoroughly
eclipsed by the Ron Paul campaign. I could tell them, but they
wouldn't listen the first time around, or the second, or the third.

I always said that America needs a libertarian party.

Just not _this_ Libertarian Party.

Much the same is true of institutions like the many "think tanks"
associated with the libertarian movement. In the fifty or sixty years
some of them have existed, the political and economic situation in
this country has only grown steadily worse. The socialist juggernaut
has not been stopped or slowed by even a single mile per hour.

Yet as far as I can see, the only ones who ever read any think
tank's white papers or other works of quasi-academic non-fiction, are
other tank-thinkers. Politicians and bureaucrats at their cocktail
parties always pretend to agree with the last person they talked to,
while pursuing various agendas all their own, usually centered on
self-perpetuation in office. The general public, whose minds must be
reached and changed, not only don't know about these groups or read
their output, but if they did, wouldn't give a rat's ass about them.

Regarding their highly-touted public seminars, the only people
I've ever seen them reach are young future tank-thinkers themselves,
who, barring an asteroid collision or the return of the glaciers, are
doomed to the same lives of non-productivity, the same careers of
failure to change the course of history, as their predecessors.
Eventually most institutions like this, with a constant desperate need
for money, drift in the direction of conservative Republicanism.

As I said earlier, I don't play well with others -- or they don't
play well with me. Having been a failure, myself, at convincing anyone
of the validity of my theories and opinions, having offered my efforts
and been rejected as anything but another envelope-licker, I became
increasingly frustrated by what now had become _gatekeepers_ at the
LP's national level, and personally embarrassed by the incompetent and
dishonest campaigns they ran.

There had to be some third pathway, between one-on-one and a mass
movement. I decided to start writing polemic novels. I knew what the
fictional works of H.G. Wells and Edward Bellamy had done for
socialism. I knew what Heinlein and Rand had done for me with regard
to the philosophy of individual liberty. Growing up, I had read little
except science fiction, so I knew the battlefield.

It also offered me a way to make an end-run around the annoying,
self-righteous prissiness of electoral pacifism that had become
endemic to the movement as the Libertarian Party began to falter.

More than any of that, writing novels was something I could do
that didn't depend on anyone else's approval or willingness to
cooperate. (There were, of course, the east coast publishers I had to
deal with early on, but that's another story.) It was an arena of
sorts in which I could establish my own value, without requiring a
"leg up" from anyone.

Even so, once my first book, The Probability Broach had been
published, some within in the party, unbelievably enough, criticized
me for having written it without consulting them or obtaining their
permission. What that told me was that my decision had been right.





In the final analysis, though, I have no idea how effective I have
been, working on my own, compared to others following different paths.
As I said at the beginning, I can only report my own experiences. It's
possible I've helped get some folks ready for Ron Paul, the way
Heinlein got me ready for Rand, but I don't know. After three decades
-- half my life -- and 33 books so far, the world is a worse place,
and both freedom and civilization are in greater peril, than before I
began writing, and that's a deeply depressing realization.



On the other hand, more Americans today know their rights, human
and Constitutional, detest anyone who threatens them, own weapons and
knows how to use them, than ever before in history. It's reasonable to
view the government's recent police state excesses as the thrashing of
a dying dinosaur. If I've had anything at all to do with that --
although I'm far from through -- I will consider myself satisfied.

Promethius Award winning science fiction author, L. Neil Smith, is the author of 33 freedom-oriented books, including The Probability Broach, Ceres, Sweeter Than WineDOWN WITH POWER: Libertarian Policy In A Time Of Crisis, Pallas,and Star Wars: The Lando Calrissian Adventures.



 

 
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