From L. Neil Smith
Sat, 2 Nov 1996 06:24:23 -0700
I can't find your e-mail address anywhere, and for some reason it doesn't show up on your messages. So I'm posting this to three lists (LSAC, LIBEDIT, and RICK96) in the hope you'll get it that way or that someone will pass it on to you.
You may have noticed that I didn't answer your question regarding the "Western Libertarian Alliance". That's for a number of reasons, not the least of which is that, I'm still limited to using ELM for communication. Also, although I know broadly what I want WLA to encompass and accomplish, and although I've spoken about it from time to time with Vin and Rick, I was never prepared to discuss it in detail before now.
Your question, however, sparked something in me. That and the knowledge that, whoever gets elected next week, those who value individual liberty are in for a nasty four years. There are things we can do to ameliorate, and eventually reverse that, and we'd better start right away.
I'm going to try and recreate the thinking I've done on this subject for the past couple years, distill it into 800-1000 word essays, post it on the lists I use most, subscribed to by those I rely on most, and ask them to reply in complete essays of the same length. This will serve a number of purposes which I'll explain later.
Elsewhere, I've observed that America and our movement are in similar straits. No matter how heinous Clinton's crimes, people ignore them and continue to support him. On the slim chance that Dole wins next Tuesday, let me say that the same is true of GOP crimes against its stalwart supporters: like a battered wife, they forgive, forget, and slink home to be beaten again. The past two years have demonstrated that Libertarians, as a group, are no less gullible or masochistic. Otherwise, Harry could never have been nominated the way he was, and his prime henchman would be in Venezuela or jail by now.
Naturally, I've given much thought to this situation, and our continued abysmal failure to effect significant changes to this culture. (We may take heart and feel some pride in ourselves: from the onset, we've fought a two-front war, always slower and more difficult; also, most of the public now know what Libertarianism is, and, despite the efforts of Harry-types to water it down to insignificance, their impression remains that we're no-compromise radicals for liberty.)
We can't solve America's problems until we've begun to solve our own. I don't oppose political action as many of my comrades do. (Been there, done that, and am more than content to let them find the truth the hard way, or even not at all.) My experience is that, without politics, we're a great engine without transmission or wheels. We have all the power in the world, intellectually speaking, but we're not going anywhere. And we need to go somewhere, fast.
However (and it's a big "however") one reason our engine, transmission, and wheels continue to spin without result (aside from the fact that some of us have been busy stealing the tires) is that, intellectually, we've run out of gas. We're a movement that started many places at once, most of us 30 years ago as "new intellectuals", sitting around somebody's living room, listening to heavily-accented lectures on phonograph records. In the scramble for the Almighty Vote (and a concomitant process of diluting our ranks by recruiting untutored novices for membership money, then suicidally failing to educate them), we've lost touch with our roots (to switch metaphors), with the informed and passionate conviction that made us the formidable intellectual force we once were -- and are no longer.
Many LP-types sneer openly at those record parties and those who attended them. Now we're just slightly hipper Republicans who want dope legalized -- but won't insist too stridently for fear of losing the butt-stupid Fundamentalist vote. Or we're liberals who pay lip service to the Second Amendment, but would never dirty our fingertips with Hoppe's #9 ourselves, because, what would the wine-and-cheese Volvo drivers think of us then?
So the first step -- and the trick is to make sure it isn't our only step, this time -- is to reestablish connection with our roots. They're in bad shape, so is the rest of the plant, so it'll be tough going for a while.
I've done three things in aid of this, myself. First, I've written 19 novels which attempt to empassion people in their pursuit of liberty, while amusing and entertaining them. Opinions vary as to how well I've succeeded. During the dozen years The Probability Broach was out of print, I got cards, calls, and e-mail every week from people who continued finding it in used bookstores and felt it changed their lives. Pallas is beginning to get the same response.
The second thing began as what I regarded as a sort of vice: neglecting my work, often for months, to write political essays which I Xeroxed and distributed by hand at gunshows and other places, then began to upload, first to FIDO, then to the internet. You've no idea of the guilty feelings -- and the joy -- with which I wrote them and sent them off. Now there are enough for three books (which I'm working on getting into respectable print), and, to my astonishment, I find I have a many readers out there who know nothing about my fiction, but like my non-fiction. Highly gratifying.
Third, I started The Libertarian Enterprise, providing a soap-box, at first monthly, now twice a month, and soon weekly, for the most principled and motivated writers -- most of them pros -- in the movement. When we double our schedule, I'll have established what I always believed was the one thing the movement needed most, a weekly newspaper unabashedly and radically Libertarian, while embracing, within principle, a variety of views.
What roots and plant now need are lots of small doses of education -- which is why we limit essays to 800-1000 words. There's more to come, but Libertarian SF, essays, and a weekly publication form the first three of a dozen legs WLA will stand on. An important third is the Libertarian Second Amendment Caucus, which I'll discuss later.
Thanks for asking,
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