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America in
Chains

A MATTER OF DEFINITION June 16, 2006

By L. Neil Smith <lneil@lneilsmith.org>

For “L. Neil Smith At Random” on www.BigHeadPress.com

I couldn’t really tell you why I read LewRockwell.com — when Lew himself is a self-described born-again Roman Catholic, and therefore a mystic, which renders the quality of his reasoning processes highly suspect.

Lew also seems hell-bent on erasing Ayn Rand from the history of libertarianism — one of the silliest, most ungrateful undertakings I could possibly imagine — and elevating that nasty little troll Murray Rothbard to sainthood in her place. Rand may not have been any kind of paragon (I’m sure I wouldn’t have liked her), but historically, we’re stuck with her. I knew Murray, and he was no saint, libertarian or otherwise.

He always reminded me of Burgess Meredith on Batman, playing The Penguin.

Lew is one of a small handful of my contemporaries in the movement who appear positively embarrassed to be seen in my presence. I don’t know why. For my part, I find it embarrassing to hang around anyone who childishly continues to resent the fact of evolution by natural selection, but I’m more libertarian — or at least better at polite dissimulation — than he is. He’s also made it absolutely clear on more than one occasion that he has no interest whatever in anything I write.

Be that as it may, this morning when my Chock full o’ Nuts finally kicked in, I discovered that I was reading an article on Lew’s site by one of several writers who make the effort worthwhile, in this case, my old friend Vin Suprynowicz (who apparently does not mind being seen in my otherwise highly embarrassing company) entitled “Why I Am Not A ‘Conservative’”.

It was a thoroughly enjoyable article, in which Vin demonstrated why the miserable specimens who call themselves “liberals” are really conservatives: they’re desperately — even hysterically — defending a welfare-warfare kleptocracy that is now at least four generations old, against growing numbers of us (unlike Republicans, who seem to become more ignorant with every passing year) who have actually managed to learn something from history and are struggling to dismantle said kleptocracy.

The one trouble with this analysis, as Vin himself acknowledges, is: what does that make of the miserable specimens who call themselves “conservatives”. For rhetorical purposes, Vin didn’t even venture a guess.

But I will.

A long time ago, in a Wichita far away, I met Robert LeFevre for the first time at a week-long seminar in the basement of the Ramada Inn. I learned a lot from him in that week, and over the years that followed. For example, as Americans, each of us has the right to vote as our individual conscience may dictate — for the socialist of our choice. LeFevre referred, as I have myself ever since, to so-called liberals as “left wing socialists” and to so-called conservatives as “right wing socialists”, pointing out that there isn’t any other option on the conventional political spectrum, or on the ballot at the polls.

Vote for the socialist of your choice, but vote.

Now if you’re not a libertarian, have spent the last twenty years hermetically sealed in a mayonnaise jar on Funk & Wagnall’s porch, and still believe that conservatives or Republicans are the champions of minimal government, minimal regulation, and minimal taxation (all of which seem a lot to me like minimal torture and minimal execution), it may strike you as odd that somebody would refer to these worthies as socialists.

But attend:

After I read Vin’s article, I immediately went to Wikipedia for a usable definition of “socialist”. Unfortunately, the article was a highly technical one and immediately dived into a detailed catalog of the minute differences and meaningless distinctions between thugs who all basically want to kill me and eat me (and you, too) that reminded me of the arguments between the People’s Palestinian Liberation Front and the Front for the Liberation of Palestinian People in The Life of Brian.

So I sought enlightenment, instead, in yet another of Wikipedia’s handy-dandy definitions: “COLLECTIVISM is a term used to describe any doctrine that stresses the importance of a collective, rather than the importance of the individual. Collectivists believe the individual should be subordinate to the collective, which may be a group of individuals, a whole society, a state, a nation, a race, or a social class.

“Thus, collectivism contrasts with individualism.”

The simple fact, of course, is that there’s no such thing as a collective. There’s no such thing as a group. It’s only a bunch of individuals temporarily clumped together, pooling their incompetence. Socialism is nothing more than the political manifestation — several rival competing brands, actually — of the cannibalistic philosophy of collectivism.

At this point, then, it becomes appropriate to ask what all of the following phrases have in common: national security; war on terrorism; nation-building; democratization; common decency; and the seat of all virtues.

Simple: they are all excuses for sacrificing the lives, property, and rights of the individual to some collective or another. Only in this case, it’s a collective approved by specimens who call themselves conservatives.

Or as Bob put it, right wing socialists — the kind who steal your home or business only to hand it over to cronies who can pay higher taxes, a corrupt practice, I believe, that Vin was the first to write about.

For at least 35 years — and in truth, for a great deal longer than that — there has existed a sort of history of sympathy, a sense of fellow travellership, between conservatives and libertarians. It has to do mostly with origins, I guess. Most of the libertians I know blossomed from the manure pile of conservatism. Now, three and a half generations — and a million Iraqi corpses — later, it’s time to scrub that vile affiliation from our souls and march on, alone, but cleaner.

For those poor, confused entities who claim to value individual liberty above all things, but still cling to the political company of Lincoln the Megalomaniac Mass-murderer and his retarded protege Bush the Butcher of Baghdad, it’s time to comb the contradictions out of your conscience. All your lives you have condemned Germans who looked the other way when Hitler came to power. Now you are repeating their sins.

The difference is, thanks to history, you know better.

Comments

1. Jim Davidson - June 16, 2006

Dear Neil,

Brilliant essay.

For my own part, I understand Lew’s preference for Murray over Ayn. Murray was an actual economist who could actually illustrate how a laissez faire free market economy would be better. Murray’s writings show a consistently jaundiced view of government. Ayn was merely cynical about it.

Your comments about Lincoln reminded me of the “Lincolnish” headline that flashes behind Stephen Colbert in the introduction to his television show. Colbert is very obviously satirizing a conservative Republican anti-intellectual, but he does so with a fairly evident agenda of collectivism, communalism, or perhaps even communism.

Given how utterly devoid most elections are of anything remotely like a valid choice, I am much taken with my friend Susan “Mama Liberty” Callaway’s idea. Vote in elections only to vote on referenda such as bond issues and tax increases (vote against these). Voting for candidates is initiatory force, so cut it out.

Until someone actually implements your idea, Neil, and begins to run spoiler Libertarian Party candidates in key races where Democrats and Republicans face close races (incumbents might lose!) there is no reason to be voting. It’s madness.

Regards,

Jim
http://vertoro.com/

2. David Anderson - June 16, 2006

Spot on as always, Neil.

Here in Canada we’re lumbered with a Conservative government that would actually like [at least some members I'm personally acquainted with] to be less socialistic. Unfortunately they are also committed to giving The People what they seem to want. The problem lies in convincing the electorate that everyone would not instantly die without the socialized medical system and the thousand other kleptocratic measures they are convinced exist for their own good…

3. Andrew Fischer - June 16, 2006

Interesting. I recently had the thought the the U.S. has become “fasocialist,” since it features both fascistic entanglements between government and business and the obvious socialistic activities. This seems to dovetail, somehow, with your left-wing socialist / right-wing socialist concept.

4. Tom Creasing - June 16, 2006

I wouldn’t go quite so far as to say “there’s no such thing as a group” without adding the qualifier “that has any sort of existence independent of the individuals that make it up.”  It sort of like sociology and the definition of “society.”  One class of sociologists argue that it’s a “group,” with all that implies, while another class says only that “it’s the interactions between individuals and has no independent existence of its own.”

And as far as what the “conservatives” of today are, rather than socialism have you had a look at fascism?  I pulled this off Wikipedia (“Encyclopedia By Committee”) in the discussion section and kind of like it as a good working model*:

“Why is Robert Paxton’s working definition of fascism (“A form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation or victimhood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion) not cited in either this or the Fascism and Ideology articles?”

*though I might substitute small-r “republican” for small-d “democratic” as an adjective in front of “liberties,” or maybe even go for “classical liberal” instead.

5. Eric Oppen - June 18, 2006

Lew Rockwell’s site is mostly of interest for who he publishes. People like Jeremy Sapienza (although I haven’t seen anything by him recently; does anybody know if he’s all right) Walter Block, Vin Suprynowicz, and people like that.

I can’t understand why so many religious types shriek like chimpanzees passing shards of broken glass over evolution. Ann Coulter’s a fine lawyer, and I loved her evisceration of Bill Clinton, not to mention some other _betes noires_ of mine (the “fanatics of innocence” who proclaim that various murderers are actually innocent, among others) but her latest silly book reads like her cheese has slipped off her cracker. One reason I don’t hang with Republicans much any more is that it’s too much like going to a prayer-meeting, and as a non-believer, I don’t like it.

6. Administrator - June 18, 2006

….You’re quite right, Eric, about the quality of writers that Lew attracts. (In this, he’s a great deal like Sam Konkin was.) I hesitate to name some of them for fear of leaving other writers, just as worthy, out. But I’ll just mention Anthony Gregory, who is a favorite of mine, Humberto Fontova, and Mike Rogers, whose viewpoint is always refreshingly different.
….I met and became acquainted with Tom DiLorenzo through Lew’s site. I can hardly say enough that’s good about Tom. He’s smart, a great scholar, and he’s also very tough (he eats badguys for breakfast) while remaining exceptionally kindly toward those who deserve it.
….No, if I have any beef, it’s with Lew himself — as a part of the whole “I nevvah read _fiction_” phenomenon that ignores the real roots of this movement — and to be perfectly honest, that’s more than offset by the great service he does for us all, every single damn day .

7. James_C - June 18, 2006

Yeah, the whole Creationism thing affects his credibility to a large extent, although as has been said, he does a service in his own way.

8. Eric Oppen - June 19, 2006

How could I have not mentioned Humberto Fontova? *glyph of me smacking my forehead in a “Wow, I coulda had a V-8″ gesture*

I loved his book about Fidel Castro. He wants to kill Castro—me, I’d be nice to the old guy. I’d just add a syllable to his last name. *big sweet innocent smile*

And the man likes hunting! I don’t hunt myself (I’d do more of it if A: I owned a shotgun, instead of being more of a “rifle guy,” and B: I did more finding.) but anybody that hunts generally has his viewpoint more firmly based in reality than someone who thinks meat just appears out of nowhere at the grocery store, all wrapped and ready to go.

9. Administrator - June 19, 2006

….What Ilike best about Fontova is his rage at the way historically ignorant individuals idolize Ernest “Che” Guevara, who was both a murderous brute and an idiot.

10. Monique - June 19, 2006

My LRC faves are the aforementioned Fontova, Rogers, Karen DeCoster,
Linda Schrock Taylor, Sabine Barnhart, Karen Kwiatkowski and the ever-beloved Vin Suprynowicz. An eclectic assortment of writers and subject matter is the site’s main strength IMO.

11. Jim K - June 21, 2006

LewRockwell is on my daily list of sites that I check out, and I’ve found considerable material there to make me think. As to the Rothbard v. Rand question, I’ll admit that I’ve never read either of them. My path toward libertarianism came from Heinlein and you. I’ve read heated arguments over both Rand and Rothbard (and his patron saint, Lysander Spooner) which left me with no burning desire to read the source material.

12. David M. Schmidt - June 22, 2006

If you define reasoning as correctly identifying the consequences of a given set of premises based on the rules of logic, then some mystics are quite capable of reasoning. It is well to treat their conclusions with some skepticism, however, since a) the premises they are reasoning from may be based on mysticism, not reality, and b) they may at any point, and without warning, stop reasoning and begin appealing to faith.

My graduate thesis advisor, in mechanical engineering no less, was a thoroughgoing Christian fundamentalist, but also capable of brilliantly argued expositions on almost any subject in mathematics or the hard sciences.

I’ve run across people like this several times; brilliant in their field, but with an inexplicable attachment to a non-rational religion.

13. Eric Oppen - June 22, 2006

Oh, yes! I have a theory that one of the reasons that Gaius Billigula sucked up to Castro so hard was because when he’d been at college, the big “in” thing was to be very pro-Castro, for reasons I find opaque.

Che got his rep mostly by _looking_ the part, and by being a lieutenant of Castro at a time when Castro was in style.

Personally, I’d love to give the Cuban-American community in Florida letters of marque-and-reprisal against Cuba, and let them go to town on Fidel. I hate the son-of-nobody, not least because he wanted to have Antonio (Spy vs. Spy) Prohias killed for lampooning him in cartoons.

14. Administrator - June 22, 2006

….I remember the Cuban revolution in 1956. What I remember most vividly is a headline on a tabloid paper I saw during a brief trip to New York City (on my way to Newfoundland) that said, “Castro Raped My Daughter!” At the time, Fidel was a big hero everybody pegged as anti-authoritarian. I was about to enter 5th grade, and was surprised at the headline.
….Within two years, of course, Castro had revealed his big joke to the world, that, like many another overeducated wealthy dilittante fuck, he was a Commie, and that he’d suckered half the planet into supporting him and giving him money. I remember that Errol Flynn (yeah, the famous action-adventure actor) suffered some slight head and eye injuries in Havana during the taking of that city, in which he participated. Naturally, one of the first things Castro did after the revolution was to take everybody’s guns away.
….The best thing would have been to forget the CIA and just put a substantial bounty on Castro’s head around 1960 and let the market do its thing. I often wonder if he stays in power simply by bribing American politicians — he has plenty of booze, drugs, and women, not to mention cigars.
….After half a century of isolation and indoctrination, I don’t know how many Cubans would support Fidel’s overthrow. I know that his brother Raul was bragging the other day that after Fidel is gone, Cuba will still stay Communist.
….I don’t know about that, but if he did rape that woman’s daughter, I wonder what other excesses will be uncovered when the Castro regime is finally over. A man who wears silk fatigues is capable of anything.

15. Darian Worden - June 22, 2006

I loved the article and I’m definitely going to share it with lots of people. It’s time more people learned what a right-wing socialist is. Of course, I like to use the term “national socialist” to describe our fearful leaders whether they are left or right.

However, shouldn’t the last sentance be “The difference is, thanks to history, you SHOULD know better”? The authoritarian cheerleaders who are with Bush don’t seem to know better at all.

16. Monique - June 23, 2006

Not to mention that Fidel is one of the world’s biggest labor pimps.

He basically rents out his population to whoever for rates that are considerably more than the pittance that these workers actually receive. This essentially makes him a purveyor of slave labor.

Don’t even get me started on the sex trafficing of children.

Living in Canada, I pass by travel agencies pushing Cuban holidays and wonder if people would be so eager to go if they could see the other side of the coin. Most of that cash goes into Papa Fidel’s pocket.

17. Roberta J. Barmore - June 26, 2006

The thing about Lew Rockwell is that he offers a home to a wide array of curmudgeons; that excuses much. Our culture has got very thin on those who rail usefully against al manner of idiocy! But I have looked with puzzlement at his (and that of many of the writers he publishes) antipathy to Rand ever since my first visit.

Give it up, Lew: she’s *dead!* Yah, yah, Objectism claims to be The Universal Answer, just like your faith does — and so do a zillion others. So? They’re not initiating force to get you to go along with it! Catholicism hasn’t always been able to make the same claim.

…It’s hard to stay irked at a fellow who appreciates Mencknen. Even if Lew has some ideas I think are plan nuts, and publishes a few folks who are even farther out: isn’t that what freedom’s all about? The right to believe utter bilge if you choose to (and to bear the consequences), while refraining from making your neighbor share your belief or bail you out when it bites you on the fundament.

,,,As for Castro, I’ve always been amazed he wasn’t dead yet. Shows just how much people will put up with.

18. Eric Oppen - June 27, 2006

A lot of people are still hurting from the way the Objectivist movement imploded in 1968. For a while, _Liberty_ magazine was publishing endless accounts of who said what to whom and whose feelings were hurt back then—I wrote one of several LOCs begging them to pretty _please_ get over that.

And I would say that Rand herself was largely at fault, but I wouldn’t excuse the Brandens, either. Frankly, in Barbara’s boots, I’d have turned to Ayn and said “Very well, if you’re going to sleep with my husband, I will return the favor. Come along, Frank! Sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander!”

I do think that the Brandens and the others who gathered around Rand weren’t good for her. She needed someone who’d tell her “Ayn, with all respect, you’re talking through your hat!” sometimes. I was reading an interview with a London villain who’d known the Krays in their glory days, and he said that one of the things that tripped them up was that they surrounded themselves with yes-men, instead of people who’d tell them when they were Going Too Far.

19. Evan Pierce - July 13, 2006

I regularly visit both bigheadpress.com, (though this is my first post on a blog here), and mises.org, (a website containing many of the same articles as lewrockwell.com). I thoroughly enjoy both and I am not aware of any major political inconsistencies between the two sites. They certainly have different views religiously, philisophically, and ideologically, but they are both of great help to me in my quest for liberty. I can show a Big Head Press comic to some people and it helps me to persuade them to abandon their socialist politics and see the truth. To others, it helps to understand the economic implications and deeper moral implications of liberty, which The Mises Institute does very well. I can read both Rand and Rothbard, and fundamentally at least, agree with them both. I sit on the fence between the anarcho-capitalism of Rothbard and the minarchist libertarian capitalism championed by Rand. I’d be a hell of a lot happier in either of those societies than I am in the current one, thats for sure.

20. Warren - July 15, 2006

Eric,

Jeremy Sapienza is alive and well. He decided that he was done writing columns.

He owns and operates http://anti-state.com if you want to read some of his current rantings.

21. Curt Howland - August 2, 2006

I usually stick to Mises.org, because while religion may come up as one of the motivations for acting, it’s never _the_ issue.

The Austrian economic process leads inexorably to advocating anarchy. I really like that! I enjoy people discussing 100% voluntary interaction, and its repercussions, without being shamed by ignorance.

It’s foundation, however you arrive at it, comes down to the NAP: it is simply more economically efficient to not do _anything_ coercively.

22. Chris Glick - September 1, 2006

I was so surprised by the (to my ears) novel claim of Errol Flynn helping to take Havana that I punched “errol flynn cuba” into the search engine of my choice and got the following CBC archives link to a QuickTime video segment in which Flynn says he only wielded a pen while hanging with [i]el lider maximo[/i]:

http://archives.cbc.ca/IDC-1-111-1288-7370/1950s/1959/

Not that I had any well-considered opinion of Flynn before, but it’s been lowered by his having abetted Castro’s revolution, having downplayed Castro’s executions.

23. Administrator - September 1, 2006

….I don’t know how old you are, Chris, but I was fairly politically aware during the Cuban revolution, which happened when I was in 6th grade. (I even made a silly travel poster for my classroom: “Visit Exciting Havana!”) I can assure you that Batista was a monster of the first water, and many otherwise decent and rational people back then thought Castro was okay.
….Until he announced, “Surprise! I’m a Marxist!”
….Flynn was slightly wounded during the dustup, but probably too modest to make anything of it. A bullet struck an exterior wall near his face and he suffered a minor eye injury.
….So much for only wielding a pen.

24. Eli Senter - September 15, 2006

Just a late note, Hayek dedicated his anti-authoritarian book, “The Road to Serfdom” to the socialists of all parties. He argued that socialism always leads to totalitarianism no matter which groups’ goals the collectivism is aimed at attaining. Simple in retrospect but a paradigm shift at the time.

Neil, I loved this article. I recently bought and read Lever Action, and thought that you had give the socialists of the right to easy a time. Glad to see you’re firing with both barrels.

25. Farutnik - December 15, 2006

“Lew Rockwell’s site is mostly of interest for who he publishes. People like Jeremy Sapienza (although I haven’t seen anything by him recently; does anybody know if he’s all right)”

Dude, did you pop out of a timewarp or something? Sapienza’s last article was like 6 years ago. Jeez.