L. Neil Smith’s THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE: Drawing the Line

EditorialBy L.Neil Smith

As another election season starts to heat up (I don’t know why; nothing political in my lifetime has ever changed except by getting worse) it’s time again to discuss what it’s really all about this time, what the principal issue really is, a topic usually found buried in stinking darkness under tons (and centuries) of farm animal excrement.

It doesn’t take a Ph.D. in Political Science, or a Gypsy fortune teller (two credentials of approximately the same value. That buried topic — it’s all that elections are ever all about — is _human rights_: what they are, where they come from, who’s got ’em, and who ain’t.

Among those who think about such things, one popular theory has it that rights are miraculously conferred upon human beings by the same supernatural entity Who created us to begin with, that they mostly consist of His permission to do whatever He approves of our doing, and come with a long list attached of things He doesn’t approve of, called sins. It’s easy to discern which list the sins are on: they’re more fun.

Another, more recent theory holds that rights are granted to us by our fellow human beings (mutually, as we grant their rights to them) and may, over time, be added to, or even taken away by popular vote, or even strong social encouragement or disapproval. These rights and non-rights include the way we groom ourselves and dress, what we eat and the way that we eat it, details of our work and pay, how we amuse ourselves afterward, how and when we sleep, with whom and in what ways. The whole community, it appears, has something relevant to say about all of these things, enforced by gibbet, guillotine, and firing squad.

There is a third way to approach this topic, one that is less well appreciated, one that is neither mystical, like the first, nor socio- political, like the second, but biological. To survive, a lion has claws and teeth, a bird depends on wings, a giraffe is graced with a long neck to nibble the tenderest leaves; _rights_ are a sapient being’s most important survival tools. Simply being born human means a person is free — has a right — to think, say, do, make, or have anything (as long as it doesn’t interfere with another person’s equal rights in that regard, which can be a complex question of ethics and morals).

Belonging ardently to that third persuasion, and being graced with a big mouth, I have been hounded, battered, brow-beaten, and harassed all my life by advocates of the other two. They pretty much define our politics. Most leftists, with whom I tend to agree on theological matters, assume, without any intermediate stages of thought, or any reason to believe it, that the non-existence of deities implies that something is required to fill the “vacuum”, that something being a government. To paraphrase Stevie Wonder, when you believe in things there’s no reason to believe then you suffer … Religion ain’t the way.

On the other hand, religious people, at least in America, and the eleven of them left in England, are unashamed to broadcast their beliefs to the universe, far and wide, and will not hesitate to tell me exactly what’s wrong with me, in their view, for not believing in their deity. By contrast, I always try to be as polite as I can to friends and acquaintances who are religious (admittedly in much the same way you don’t discuss running with somebody who chopped off his own leg). I grew up in the deep South: Christians are eternally eager to tell you how persecuted they are while they’re busy persecuting others.

I tend to agree with Christian conservatives on most political matters, but it embarrasses me (as it should embarrass them) whenever they unfurl that dusty, tattered, threadbare banner of anti-Darwinism or proclaim ignorantly that the universe was created only six thousand years ago. I feel older than that, sometimes. I attended high school in Northern Florida, where both of my biology teachers were lay-deacons in the Baptist Church and didn’t “believe” in evolution (science is like mathematics; it isn’t anything you can chose to believe in or not.) But I imagine there’s somebody out there who still hates Sir Isaac Newton for discovering gravity, or still insists, despite that crackpot Galileo, that the Sun circles the Earth thanks to sympathetic magic.

Their religion also puts Christians on the wrong sides of other issues. To a degree that surprises even me, the legalization of marijuana is already rendering Colorado a safer, more pleasant place, even while reactionary legislators and idiot talk hosts strive to repeal it. Gay marriage doesn’t threaten anything or anybody but it enhances gay life. Religious culture deprives everyone and their developing children of sexual freedom — and a chance to make up for their mistakes. Just the idea that some jerk-off in a tired suit and wrinkled necktie has arrogated to himself the power to inform my wife or daughter what they’re allowed to do with their own bodies fills my ladies and me with a fury that, at the very least, will cost them votes.

It’s American Sharia — and they never seem to get it.

American liberty is probably doomed because its current foremost spokesmen for “individual rights” can’t keep their religion in their pants.

Any reasonable alien observer might have guessed that the violent disorders caused directly by alcohol Prohibition, or today, by drug laws, would have taught people the futility — and basic stupidity — of trying to tell others what to do. You’d think. But then you’d have to account — with Russia and Britain in the background — of the war in Afghanistan.

Senator Ted Cruz is nobody’s savior; he’s just another Fruit Loop (right wing division) with a Texas accent and a Harvard brain who will not get my support, not because liberals hate him — that’s one good feature he shares with Sarah Palin. Like most Americans, he simply doesn’t know what rights are or where they come from. I won’t trust him with my guns or gold or daughter. Given his failure to reason, who would?



L. Neil Smith

L. Neil Smith

Celebrated and award-winning author of over 30 books and countless shorter pieces, L. Neil Smith is available, at professional rates, to write articles and speeches for you or your organization, providing that our principles are compatible. Contact him at [email protected]


“Any official, appointed or elected, at any level of government, who attempts, through legislative act or other means, to nullify, evade, or avoid the provisions of the first ten amendments to this Constitution, or of the Thirteenth Amendment, shall be summarily removed from office, and, upon conviction, deprived of all pay and benefits including pension, and sentenced to imprisonment for life.”


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