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Copyright © 1995 by J. Neil Schulman. Rights to make copies and print-outs from these files are limited by the license agreement. All other rights reserved.

The Politics of Self Control

The Last Mile

Innocence will not save her.
The prisoner is marched away
Screaming, of course
that she doesn't want to go.

One final kiss
that's all either of us gets
then the heavy hands
of the authorities
take her from me.

Even now
at the last minute
I could stop this
if only I said the word.
I am the governor
of her fate.

But I may not stop this.
I must not stop this.

She looks at me
accusations of betrayal
in her eyes
as I abandon her
to her fate.

I can't stand this.
Her screams echoing
behind me
I turn away from her.

Her screams tell me
she will never see me again.
and I have no one to blame
but myself.

I have brought her to this.
I have abandoned her.
I have turned away from her
in her moment of greatest need.
I close the door on her
as her final screams fade
into the early morning.

Damn all the fates that
led me to this moment
of ignominy!

I hate leaving my little girl
at preschool.

You're laughing now.
I got you.
A nice Reader's Digest moment.
This is my experience
and it might be yours.

But what if
instead of for a day
the parting was
because of some judge?

June 9, 1995

Natural Rights And Social Utility

Leaving out various plans that have been proposed to implement one or the other--everything from Plato's Aristocracy of Philosophers to the Constitution of the United States--there are essentially two main schools of thought in non-royalist political philosophy.

The first, and older, view, is that the interests of the group--whether it is called the People, or the Tribe, or the Folk, or Society--are of primary importance: the welfare of the group must take precedence over the welfare of any one, particular individual. One may rightfully tag this viewpoint as the utilitarian position, since in one form or another it argues that the social usefulness (utility) of a thing is the measure of its desirability.

The alternative primary view, and the more recent one, is the doctrine of individual "natural" rights. This view states that an individual human being has certain immunities from invasion by others which are absolute, no matter what the basis of the claim by others, and without respect to how many others are making the claim or how serious their need is. The basis of this claim of immunity varies even among its proponents. Some, like Jefferson writing in the Declaration of Independence, say the individual or individuals "are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights." Jefferson's position is simply the other side of the "Divine Right of Kings" coin: the divine right is held by all individuals, who are to be considered "sovereign" in the way kings have made claim to be.

Others, John Locke among them, argue that individual rights derive from their social utility: that without individual rights, society as a whole suffers.

The most modern view is that of the nineteenth-and twentieth-century libertarian (nomenclature may vary): the idea that human beings have these absolute, individual rights (immunities from invasion by others) by virtue of their identity as sentient beings: the very nature (identity) of a human being as an entity that seeks its survival and well-being by the exercise of its rational faculties is an existential (or ontological) truth that requires a set of "oughts" (a code of moral values) to implement this.

The choice of one view or the other--social utility versus individual rights--is the defining feature of a society, since this choice is so fundamental that all social institutions will reflect this philosophical base. One may say without any hyperbole that a society is what it is because of how closely the people in that society adhere to one viewpoint or the other.

Most people seem to accept utilitarian outcome as the sole basis on which to judge whether or not a "social" policy is good or not.

I used a reductio ad absurdum of the utilitarian premise as the basis of my novel, The Rainbow Cadenza. I merely posited a set of circumstances in which the maximum social utility would be achieved by society drafting young women for three years to provide sexual gratification for the men. Those readers who were able to "buy" the premise were horrified by the book--largely, I believe, because they found nothing in the philosophical premises of the society we are now living in that could provide an effective barrier to the implementation of such a social policy should the particular (and farfetched, granted) circumstances ever arise.

Once the "social utility" of a policy is accepted as the final reason for accepting or rejecting it, everything is now thrown into the public arena for debate.

No holds barred. No sign which clearly states, "Beyond this line 'society' may not cross."

And without such barriers, the nightmares of Stalin's Russia and Hitler's Germany are only a slippery slope away.

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The Social Contract

The doctrine of universal individual rights distinguishes American civilization from all previous ones.

A quote from the Declaration of Independence should be sufficient to illustrate this:

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,--That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

The question of how best to effect our safety and happiness is, of course, the constant of American political debates; and American political theories of government usually proceed from the assumption that we have entered into a "social contract" in order to do so.

I do not accept John Locke's particular interpretation of the origin of the social contract, nor do I accept Hobbes's or Rousseau's views on the state of nature versus "civilization."

My own view on the moral foundations for a social contract is expressed in my own two novels: in the General Submission of Arbitration Agreement used by the Revolutionary Agorist Cadre in my novel, Alongside Night, and the General Lease used by the Ad Astran colonists in my novel The Rainbow Cadenza.

In my commentary on the Lease from the Glossary to The Rainbow Cadenza, I describe the Lease as the explicit social contract--which all inhabitants or visitors must sign, have a guardian sign for them, or leave--by which one agrees to answer for all liabilities which impose costs or damages on the life, liberty, and property rights of all others. This avoids Hobbes' "war of everyone against everyone" that Rousseau argued the social contract of government was supposed to prevent, without the necessity of imposing government on any individual without that individual's consent.

This eliminates the entire argument between those who argue for no government and those who argue for minimal government.

Statist thesis: without a social contract, there would be chaos.

Anarchist antithesis: imposing a contract on a person without that person's consent is self-contradictory, since the concept of "contract" requires free, individual consent.

Synthesis: the Lease: contractual consent is unanimously achieved, individually, from all persons before they are allowed to make further contractual arrangements to live in a place, whether that contract is to buy, lease, or rent property, or to purchase food, or to buy air.

You don't want to sign? "Your right, sir or madam: but we are not willing to take the risk of allowing you on our property unless you sign the Lease or find a guardian to sign for you."

The idea of the Lease is derived from "proprietary community" theories that say if it works in a condominium or shopping center, it would work everywhere else.

An explicit social contract eliminates the question of whether rights are natural or artificial by spelling out the terms of the social contract in a document which is executed as are all other contracts: by individual ratification. But I imagine that the only people who would be willing to ratify such a social contract by signing it are those who believe in maximizing individual freedom in the first place. In other words, it would have to start in the land of people who believe in freedom, and invited only those others who also believed in freedom.

There is precedent for this: that's what the Constitution of the United States attempted--though not as successfully as its framers would have hoped.

The Declaration of Independence tells us that when government fails to secure our rights, we are entitled to try out something new that might work better.


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The Libertarian Insight

What distinguishes libertarian thought from other philosophies is the doctrine of individual sovereignty. This doctrine is expressed in a number of different ways, ranging from doctrines of individual rights and individual powers, to purely pragmatic or utilitarian arguments, to a plethora of cautions based on historical experience, to principles which can be applied as value-free sciences of human behavior.

There is nothing in libertarianism that tends to the view that human nature is good or even perfectible. The libertarian insight is often stated extremely as, "If Man is good he needs no government; if he is not, you dare not let him have one." The political moderate might go along with this to the extent of recognizing, as did Lord Acton, that "power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely."

Whatever danger evil human beings represent as individuals is nothing as compared to the dangers of evil human beings in charge of governments. Charles Manson and Ted Bundy are nothing as compared to Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot.

This insight is the basis for all libertarian suspicion and caution regarding government taking on any task.

George Washington said it as, "Government is not reason; it is not eloquence; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master." Government must be restricted as much as possible to do as little as possible because unlike all other institutions, every task given to it is the occasion for the use of force. It is enough if government attempts to limit the evil actions that individuals commit against each other. If it does more, either in attempting to restrict the evils that individuals do to themselves, or if government attempts to use its force to engineer positive good, it increases occasions for the creation of power centers which can be captured by amoral or immoral persons who will corrupt such power to their own ends.

Libertarians believe that every right has a corresponding obligation. You can't have a right to life without the responsibility for taking those actions which further life. You can't have a right to liberty if you don't have the obligation to prevent others from restricting liberty. You can't have a right to property without the obligations of stewardship of that property.

What libertarians believe is that there are no rightful obligations that are not individually chosen due to moral sentiment. An obligation imposed on someone else is tyrannical because it substitutes the moral sentiments of one person for another. Behind every person advocating forced moral obligations is a theocratic premise.

Libertarians are often called advocates of selfishness because we believe that there are very few objectively definable positive moral obligations; that moral obligations are largely subjective. But this isn't selfishness; it's mere common sense.

Let's test the doctrine of unchosen moral obligations by using blood donations as a paradigm.

The doctrine of moral obligation would suggest a moral necessity of giving blood. But how much? A pint every six months or so might not hurt--but where does the obligation begin and end? How much satisfies the obligation, and how much is too much? Must I give blood to the point that I am short on blood myself?

What about contributing money? How much money must I give on the basis of other people's perceptions of my moral obligations? Spare change? Or enough that it starts to interfere with my ability to give my children the education I think they deserve, or my ability to save for a house? Again, why does someone other than me get to make moral claims on the fruits of my labor? Why isn't this entirely my decision?

Finally, let me briefly deal with foreign policy. The doctrine of moral obligations when applied to States necessarily leads to colonial imperialism if it is not to lead to the moral atrocity of later abandonment.

You can't have it any other way because a country which takes on obligations to other countries has taken on an obligation for that country's final well-being. The U.S. took on the burden of defending Vietnam. Because it did not take on Vietnam as a colony, it pulled out its forces when it believed it was prudent to do so, leaving Vietnam to its fate.

We know what that fate was: a reign of terror which even Joan Baez, who had protested American involvement in the war, had to decry.

I heard a caller on a radio talk show, an American of Serbian extraction, protesting American support of the Bosnians. If America uses its military forces to bomb Serbia, tax money extracted from him by force will be used against people he considers kinsmen. Where's the justice in this--to make a man support a cause he finds morally reprehensible?

One may disagree with him about the necessity of the action, but why should our moral perceptions rule how his money is spent?

That's the central problem with all money put into the commons by the government power to tax. It's now winner take all--and those with the most power will use their perceptions to dedicate money extracted from those with different moral perceptions.

Much of the rest of the world is more institutionally savage than we are. The Wounded Knees, Kent States, and Wacos in the United States are not policy, but aberrations. If we take on the whole world's troubles, it can't be done without bleeding ourselves dry.

Merely trying to deal with Mexico's poverty-stricken masses seems to be more than the American people can stand right now. Many Americans are rebelling against Mexican immigrants coming here for jobs on the one hand, but beefing about exporting jobs to Mexico that would raise the Mexican standard of living and keep them at home on the other hand.

These are our next-door neighbors. How can we expect this country to take on the burdens of European and African nations locked in centuries old savagery by applying the concept of moral obligation to the politics of nations?

Where must this doctrine take us? How many pints of American blood must be donated to foreign soil this time? How many American families must place the interests of strangers' children above their obligations to their own? How can "America First" be derided as "isolationism" when the doctrine of obligation makes Americans the blood donors to a hemophiliac world?

All a libertarian would add to this is to quote George Washington again: "You can't have an imperial power abroad and a constitutional republic at home."

As the history of the United States has amply demonstrated.

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Who Would Build the Roads in a
Libertarian Society?

From a December 22, 1992 discussion in the Science Fiction RoundTable on Genie. --JNS

Why does it always come down to the damn roads?

I swear to God, this is a question that anyone with a microgram of imagination could answer. Or anyone who's read a history book about roadbuilding, for that matter.

Yet, every libertarian is hammered about it, as if the question is profound.

It's not intrinsically troubling. It is, however, troubling that people are so used to thinking in socialistic terms that they can't think their own way out of it.


You asked if I should have to pay for roads I don't use, or infrequently use.

You want a moral answer, an economic answer, a political answer, or an historical answer?

You're in luck. I have one of each.

Moral answer: No one should be forced to pay for things they don't use. If other people have a vital need which they can't provide themselves, charitable people will help them out. But I believe in freedom of charity: you morally have the right to choose which causes the sweat of your brow should support. No one morally has any basis for taking that decision away from you and deciding it in your stead. The fact that they outnumber you and can muster the force of the state to do so does not change the moral equation.

An economic answer: Roads are capital goods with a fairly long utility. Some roads built by the ancient Romans are still in use today. The financing of highways in a modern industrial society is a trivial problem. The primary cost is acquisition of rights-of-way; once that cost is paid (and in a market system this would require land options which only cut in when a route is completely acquired; this reduces difficulties of hold-outs) you can provide multiple transportation services over the same routes. You could simultaneously license bullet trains, self-driven automobile highways, computer-control automobile lanes, no-speed-limit lanes, no-insurance lanes, drunk-driving lanes ("Abandon Hope, All Ye Who Enter Here!"), and so forth. Even routes such as this can have both horizontal competition (competitive rights of way) and vertical competition (alternative modes of transportation, such as air flight, suborbital rockets, or information transfer which doesn't require an actual physical good to be transported--the difference between mail delivery and faxes, for example). None of this requires government intervention to accomplish. Capital accumulation for such a project is a simple problem.

Political answer: Even with government-built roads, you have a choice between "freeways" (road bonds paid by taxes) or "tollways" (road bonds paid by direct use fees). Lots of times, a road starts as a tollway, and when revenue exceeds the pay-off of the bonds, either the tolls are eliminated or revenue is redirected into a general tax fund.

Historical answer: Most of the turnpikes in this country were originally built by private capital. If you look into it, you'll find that government intervention was usually due to some sort of overweening greed, whereby some business interest bought off politicians to condemn (read: steal at below market cost) someone else's land, so they could make money without honest effort. Some railroads were built without government aid; others with political land grants, the rights of way of which far exceeded the breadth necessary for laying rail--it was piracy, pure and simple.

Socialist critics of the free-market often use businessmen buying off politicians as an argument against the free market. It isn't: it's an argument against government having the power to violate private property rights. That power, once legitimized, destroys the free market and replaces it with a mercantilist or fascist economic system.

Finally, a practical answer. We have around 50,000 deaths per year in automobile accidents. This is a direct result of government monopolies of roads. By granting government road monopolies, we have subjected ourselves to constant invasion of our privacy by government road police, the replacement of market criteria for "piloting" expertise with unrealistically low government fiat standards, and the suppression of technological development in roadbuilding to accommodate increasing traffic loads, time-dependent traffic loads, and enhanced guidance systems.

A halfwit could design a better system from scratch.

Or you could hire a decent science fiction writer and move this problem into the next millennium.

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Positive Liberty

I wrote the following message to Joe Miranda, editor of California Liberty, on May 23, 1995, in reply to his computer message suggesting an ad-hoc coalition of groups with interests in specific liberties. --JNS

Joe, there's a fundamental principle in your proposed freedom alliance that you, and I believe the Libertarian Party, have missed.

That principle is that people will not fight for things they feel guilty about.

So long as homosexuals were ashamed, "gay pride" was impossible. And, homosexuality could not become a rallying point for political activism until homosexuals asserted that the homosexual lifestyle was as rightful as the heterosexual.

Now we come to several problems. The drug war is largely fought against recreational or social-anesthetic uses of drugs, the abuse of which is self-destructive. As libertarians, we have argued that people have the right to go to hell in their own way--commit slow suicide if they choose--but this is not a compelling argument to those who see government as a teaching tool for moral behavior. We do, after all, live in a country where the two major parties are the Mommy Party (Eat your spinach!) and the Daddy Party (Sit Up Straight and Respect Your Mother!).

The reason there are gun rights activists more than drug rights activists is that gun owners know that guns produce a social good: individual and social defense. The arguments are largely factual: do guns create more good than harm?

But, it's hard to argue the social good of crack cocaine, heroin, or marijuana. The best one can argue is that prohibition produces unintended consequences which are as destructive as the drugs--but that pointy-headed argument has no emotional appeal to those who can focus only on lost lives and potential in drug self-abusers.

This is a general problem with libertarian defenses of vice. Smokers don't demonstrate for their rights because they believe that smoking is generally bad for them and they agree with the Mommy Party which tells them they should stop.

Americans are far too fastidious about both sex and commerce to see prostitution as a social good--and certainly one which produces different goods for each sex--money for the women and vicarious masturbation for the men.

Which means that libertarians, if our philosophy is to make inroads on the concrete-bound mainstream mentality, must focus on those areas of repression where that which is being repressed has a provable social good: gun rights (self-defense), Internet (education and communication), alternative medicines (cures not yet recognized by establishment), home-schooling (family and religious values sustained), etc.

This is the sort of freedom alliance that has a chance in this country.

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Compulsory National Service

Compulsory national service, whether done in the name of patriotism, progressivism, or any other noble goal--whether it's being used to fight wars or pick up roadside trash--is statism at its naked worst.

Conscription is premised on the idea that merely by being born, you are in debt to the collective. This is not the premise of a free society, whose goal is the nurturing of the individual spark within each of us. A free country shouldn't want and doesn't need a draft. The land of the free and the home of the brave will find freemen to "stand Between their loved homes and the war's desolation" should the need arise. The draft is and always will be the tool of tyrants who need cannon fodder for a war the people won't freely support, usually because it isn't a war defending their own country but instead contesting someone else's.

It's bad enough that the combined state and federal tax burden in this country is around fifty percent of the gross national product--that alone would qualify this country as fascist by any of the classical definitions.

But any call for compulsory national service "to teach kids the value of serving society" is the last straw, showing that its advocate either has no proper understanding of the principles of a free society, or is completely opposed to freedom.

Libertarians have a history of using slippery-slope warnings that go unheeded, because our arguments sound theoretical, abstract, and long-term, while the problems that political "solutions" aim at are immediate and apparent.

So we must acknowledge that the problem which compulsory national service addresses is real. There is certainly a problem with a younger generation that is largely illiterate, unintellectual, vulnerable to the demagoguery of the moment, morally uncentered, and prone to meaningless violence. Of course that may well be a description of most younger generations, as seen by their elders. But young people are always the targets of dirty old men, whether their goal is seduction of young girls or turning young boys into cannon fodder.

I could probably argue the benefits of drafting teenagers into community service as well as anyone. It keeps them off the streets and out of trouble. It instills "civic" virtues--which is whatever "virtues" those in power wish to cram down their young throats. It creates a cheap labor pool for maintaining "infrastructure"--a code-word for that fifty percent of our economy which is under the direct control of those in political power. In short, it teaches them "discipline"--another code-word for passive compliance.

No doubt some practical good would come of compulsory national service. Young people tend to the excesses of self-consciousness: service to the state cures that with bright, shiny, noble other-directedness. How selfish one must be to wish to keep one's life's blood to oneself, when a nation of vampires is so thirsty!

I have to admit that universal military training of the sort they have in Switzerland does in fact assist the "well-regulated militia" that our Founding Fathers said would save us from the standing armies that lead to imperialism abroad and the reliance on professional police which leads to a crime epidemic domestically.

But to whatever extent that consistency to the principles of individual liberty draws a firm line in defense of actual liberties, even so noble a goal as safe borders and safe cities must give way to the right to say "no" to one's polity.

So while I favor as widespread training in arms that a society may encourage with carrots, I oppose the stick.

The main lesson of compulsory national service is that slavery is permissible, just so long as you're young, physically strong, and politically impotent.

Libertarians call a spade a spade. We've said that taxation is theft, because you have no choice to refuse the debt, and collection is at the point of a gun. But though taxation is obviously an unavoidable part of our political reality, the maintenance of a relatively free society requires understanding that compulsion of any sort is evil--a violation of the human spirit--and the evil must be minimized whenever possible.

The statist premise is, by contrast, "In for a penny, in for a dollar." If we concede that it is permissible to rob people at the point of the armed tax collector, then what premise did we have to object to dragging young people off to the programming of the government schoolmaster, or--if the drafters have their way--the overseer?

Social utility is no excuse for evil, and even possible benefits to the slave are insufficient to justify slavery. When the government becomes overseer to our children, we are no longer arguing a slippery slope: we have already hit bottom.

Anyone who can't see that has lost the moral premises needed to distinguish between slavery and freedom.

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Ignoring The Framers

What? The Founding Fathers weren't all that intelligent you say? Their ideas are outdated? We know far more than they did?

I'm reminded of a very funny scene in the movie Bedazzled in which Peter Cooke plays the Devil and Dudley Moore plays a poor schnook who the Devil is tempting by giving him his fondest wishes -- and of course everything is going all wrong.

In the scene, Dudley Moore is hanging from a telephone pole, holding on for dear life, and Cooke's Devil says to Moore, "In the words of the great Zen master Li Quai Quat 'If you were hanging from a cliff by your fiingernails and above you was a raging tiger baring his fangs, and below you was the tiger's mate baring her fangs, what would you do?'"

And Moore replies, "What a stupid question! Cliffs and tigers, I wouldn't get myself into such a ridiculous situation, would I?"

"Of course not," the Devil replies. "You've got the secret. You're far better off. Here you are, halfway up a pole, in Berkshire, damned in the hereafter for eternity, half your wishes gone. You've nothing to learn from Li Quai Quat and his tigers, have you?"

We have ignored the framers' advice about avoiding foreign entanglements and standing armies, about relying upon the general citizenry rather than government police for public defense against crime, about relying on gold and silver as money and disallowing government intervention into banking.

As a consequence of ignoring their advice, our country has a four-trillion-dollar federal debt, unemployment, an increasingly impoverished middle class, homelessness, repeated stock-market crashes, and a recent banking scandal caused by government insurance of irresponsibility.

After a century of repeated intervention in European and Asian wars, we have had a military-based economy, the dismantling of which after a century of continuous war threatens to destroy the economy of California.

Our failure to heal the legacy of chattel slavery in this country in the century-and-a-quarter since it was abolished has made our inner cities war zones.

Our education system produces high-school and even college graduates who can't read or do arithmetic that sixth-grade graduates routinely mastered a century ago, and a lack of moral education that makes illiteracy seem like a minor problem in comparison.

No, we couldn't possibly learn anything from the dumb Founding Fathers.

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Virtual States

From a May 29, 1989 "cafe" discussion on the Connected Education "virtual" campus. --JNS

Let's say that a "Virtual" State is the informal sector of a State in the same way that a black-market is considered the "informal" sector of the economy. It is the sector of a State which is nominally private, but in fact is where much of the State's decision-making power actually is.

Both left-wing and right-wing observers have identified sectors of the Virtual States: the International Monetary Fund, the Trilateral Commission, the Council on Foreign Relations, other "Old Boys" clubs such as Bohemian Grove and the yearly Bilderburgers meeting. Much of the Virtual State isn't that formal; it's found in thousands of small conferences, seminars and week-long overseas junkets to Singapore & Bombay. Henry Kissinger and Jimmy Carter may never hold public office again; they are important players in the American Virtual State nonetheless. David Rockefeller has never held public office, yet he has long been accorded honors due a Head of State when he visits Moscow. Dr. Rockefeller is a premier Virtual Statist, and the Soviets publicly recognize it.

The interests of the Virtual Statists cut across their national borders; instead they tend to align along philosophical, economic, and class lines, as well as other mutual interests.

Regardless of their faction, there are some things upon which almost all of the Virtual Statists agree:

They oppose wars that would cause damage to their own power base; they support wars that extend their power base. In the Nuclear Age, this means that they prefer "limited" wars fought safely in economic backwaters such as Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iran-Iraq, Lebanon, or Nicaragua. (Be a shame to turn the golf course into one big sand-trap, wouldn't it?)

The Virtual States are not the stuff of paranoia: they operate almost completely in the open; they are far too powerful to need secrecy. The Virtual States are where the CEO's and CIO's and Board Chairmen, and Corporate Directors of Exxon, Chase Manhattan Bank, GM, IBM, Mitsubishi, Hyundai, etc., exchange views and formulate long-term policy.

For a long time, the Cold War served the interests of the Virtual States; it was a good excuse for increasing the size of the Formal States by 10,000% in half a century. (Check out the growth curve of the U.S. Federal Budget and gross military expenditures from World War II to the present, if you don't believe me.) The Communist Menace was necessary to tax and regulate the West; the Imperialist Menace was necessary to keep the proles in line. Without the Cold War, economic anarchy (i.e., an unregulatable, untaxable free-market) would have broken out, and the Virtual States would have been run out of business by the capital accumulation of "New Money." In fact, we can easily define the Virtual States as "Established Money"; their common enemy is any New Money or Power Base which insists on remaining unaligned with at least one of the Virtual States. Thus their public enemies: Khomeini, Khadaffi, and Noriega.

You can't fool all of the people all of the time; it became obvious that "National" States such as the USSR and the People's Republic of China, which couldn't even feed their own people properly, weren't going to cut it as a credible threat to the rich, superpowerful National States of the West. Fifty years without a Nuclear War have created a population who don't worry about it much anymore, except for a few days following TV extravaganzas like The Day After.

So there's been a change in strategy. National Competition is being replaced by International Cooperation. In essence, the Virtual States are surfacing, and are replacing the National States.

The Better to Rule Us All, My Dear.

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American Culture

The following defense of American culture and values was written as part of a "cafe" discussion on the Connected Education "virtual" campus, in late summer, 1989. --JNS

July 25, 1989

Americans have been conned into accepting plenty of statist crap but, unlike the rest of the world, Americans had to be conned; our values tend to enhance personal evolution and resist any tribal claims that would get in the way. We value individual merit above all, and racism has been on a steady decline here for the last two centuries because our veneration of the individual leaves no room for it. We mythologize individualism, of course, but we try to live the myth, which puts us way ahead of the rest of the world, which is so trapped by collectivism and its constant tribal wars that only the strongest individuals can keep their sanity long enough to develop the autonomy to be creative.

I keep on hearing yammering about American "cultural imperialism." The phrase is a damned lie, part of a statist con job on the rest of the world. The truth is, American culture is sweeping around the world because when people are given a choice for even a few weeks or months, they grab onto the American way of doing things for the same reason that a drowning swimmer grabs for a life preserver.

America leads the world not because we're stronger than the rest of the world (nobody is that strong), but because we're freer.

July 26, 1989

If America has no culture, then why does the rest of the world have to pass laws to force their own people to buy their homegrown TV shows and popular music instead of the American TV shows and popular music they'll turn to at every opportunity? When I was in Paris, French TV was playing Star Trek and a few months later, I am told by a friend who was in Paris, the episode of Twilight Zone which I wrote was shown there. As we drove through Belgium, France, Italy, Switzerland, and Germany, every radio station we found was playing either American-style rock or American rock. Soviet rock bands sound like American rock bands from two decades ago. In other words, the rest of the world is living off of America's hand-me-downs.

American culture? C'est moi!

August 16, 1989

Do I expect the world to take Dallas and Star Trek seriously as culture? Did the Elizabethans take Shakespeare seriously? Did the English of the last century take Dickens seriously? Did the Americans of the forties take Orson Welles seriously?

Popular culture is the grapes from which the wine of classical culture is made. And I predict that at least some of what today's intelligentsia sneers at will be regarded as great art by their grandchildren.

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Censorship and Hate Speech

From a discussion in the Science Fiction RoundTable on Genie. --JNS

November 29, 1989

I guess I have the same feeling as Lenny Bruce on racial slurs: let it all out into the open and remove the "charge" that suppression gives to "forbidden" words. I also think that a closet racist or sexist is a lot more dangerous than one who's been exposed.

November 30, 1989

The question about swastikas and garages depends, of course, on whether the swastika is being painted on someone else's garage or on one's own. I strongly recommend S.I. Hayakawa's Language in Thought and Action--the classic popularization of general semantics. Robert Heinlein first recommended it to me in 1973 and this recent trouble about flag burning makes it evident that Sam Hayakawa is more needed than ever. There must be a clear distinction between human action that "causes evident damage to another" and human action which is merely "symbolic." This applies to many hotly debated current issues such as the cutting of National Endowment for the Arts subsidies to "obscene" art, flag burning and--it would seem from the comments in this topic--to the necessity for tolerating offensive opinions and symbols, since tolerance is the hallmark of a free society.

February 6, 1990

If an "adult content" labeling law is past, the manufacturers should comply with the law literally by putting the "adult content" label on everything; cheaper than having to go through the lyrics and deciding what might be "offensive" to some assholes.

And, I think there would be salutary educational benefits by having the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto and the Brahms Quartets labeled "adult contents."

February 24, 1990

I'd like to point out that censorship of textbooks arises because people are taxed for public schools; kids are forced to attend these schools by law unless their parents have the dough to pay twice and put their kids in private schools; and public schools therefore become subject to a "winner take all" political process where parents have to fight to have the views they want their own kids taught imposed on everyone else's kids, too.

Thus censorship of one stripe or another is an inevitable consequence of government schooling.

February 27, 1990

State licensing means that if you don't fulfill the politician's idea of what "education" is, you don't get credentials.

I agree that most Americans don't take seriously the idea of abolishing public schools. That's because most Americans have already been brainwashed by public schools. Catch-22. (Another Book to Ban, if ever there was one!)

I have a request to teachers in Rainbow Cadenza not to make it required reading. I figure people will find enough reasons to dislike it without any help.

February 27, 1990

I encourage anyone who wants to do so to buy up copies of my books and burn them. Full price, please, not remainders--and remember that hardcovers will burn longer and brighter.

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The Semantics of Hate Speech

From a February, 1993 discussion on the Writers Guild of America computer bulletin-board. --JNS

Clarence Thomas

Being a libertarian, I'm somewhat out of touch with what's politically correct these days and what isn't. Is it now okay to make jokes about the size of nigger's cocks, just so long as the euphemism "Clarence Thomas" is used in place of "nigger"?

Thomas and Racism

I have no problem with people having contempt for Supreme Court justices. I rather have contempt for them on a number of recent issues. I think affirming the constitutionality that the capture and trial, on American drug charges, of Noriega--a man who not only was on foreign soil when the alleged actions took place, but was the de facto head of state of another country--was a travesty of the principle that a country's laws end at its borders. The Supreme Court legalized American imperialism with that decision.

I think the Supreme Court's refusing to enforce the Second Amendment is a destruction of the principle that the Bill of Rights is whole and meaningful.

I think the Supreme Court's upholding police roadblocks and bus searches, looking for drugs or illegal aliens, is a destruction of the fourth and fifth amendments.

I think the Supreme Court's ruling that commercial speech isn't protected by the First Amendment is a destruction of the Bill of Rights.

I think the Supreme Court's ruling that the FCC can fine a station for the content of its programming, under the theory that the airwaves are a scarce resource and therefore must be "public property," is particularly destructive of the First Amendment, considering that the first principle of economics itself is that if something isn't scarce to begin with, there's no need for trade or a marketplace at all.

So, yes, I think there are plenty of good reasons to be contemptuous of Supreme Court justices.

But the size of their black cocks isn't one of them.

Jokes Personifying a Racial Slur

I might agree with Lenny Bruce that we should make the word nigger common enough to remove its emotional charge, its ability to insult or hurt. I might also say that I think making racial humor taboo deprives the comedy field of a wealth of material, and that it should be socially acceptable to make jokes about the size of niggers' big cocks, kikes' skill with a shekel, micks' drunkenness, wops' association with the Mafia, and spics' sensitivity about their manhood. Let's add to this jokes about bums, cripples, and faggots, and make sure there's enough to go around that nobody ends up with a clean face at the end of the pie fight.

I just think we should be forthright about it, and not try to maintain our purity while engaging in that which we deplore.

Clarence Thomas's "Long Dong"

As a matter of fact, I don't believe you intended the Clarence Thomas reference as a racial slur. But it is one anyway.

Clarence Thomas, in the hearings, never referred to Long Dong Silver--unless it was to deny that he made the reference. Anita Hill did. Thomas, himself, referred to the hearings as a high tech lynching of an uppity black--obviously he represented that the purpose of Anita Hill's charge was to keep a black conservative off the Supreme Court.

Anita Hill is believed and Clarence Thomas isn't not for any factual reason--there were as many character witnesses at the hearing for Thomas's virtue as there were for Anita Hill's--but because Thomas was a conservative expected to provide the Supreme Court the vote necessary to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Meanwhile, Anita Hill has gone on to become the poster child for sexual harassment--a well-paying gig on the college lecture circuit.

Neither you nor I can give a definitive answer as to what went on between Clarence Thomas and Anita Hill, if anything, nor can we say with certainty which if either one of them is a liar. We only have our inclinations of who we believe based on their public sayings and writings--and how telegenic each is.

But I am revolted by posters in the street showing a picture of Clarence Thomas with the legend "Long Dong Condom." I don't find racism pretty when it originates on the right, and I don't find it any prettier when the left does it.

I think the effect of posters and jokes like this are racist, regardless of the intent of the perpetrator. After a couple of centuries of racial stereotypes about black men's penis size, how can it be anything else?

It wasn't a cheap debating trick. It was identifying an underlying truth of an ugliness concealed by the American liberal's agenda to protect abortion rights by Borking conservatives.

And as good as the cause of freedom of reproductive choice is, I don't find that it justifies the presumption that the only black justice on the Supreme Court should be assumed to have a stereotypical fetish about the size of his cock based on the questionable testimony of a woman who has gained fame and fortune for playing Delilah on national TV.

What Good Are Assertions When Not Backed Up with Facts?

You say "Clarence Thomas" is not now nor has ever been a euphemism for "nigger." First of all, I'd like to see you try to prove a negative proposition--that something has never happened or doesn't exist. You can't. On the other hand, I think it is pretty evident that people are opportunistic in their behavior, and if the only way a closet racist could get away with making a stereotypical joke about black men supposedly having big cocks is to substitute the words "Clarence Thomas" for "nigger, then I see that as behavior which is being shielded by the liberal contempt for Thomas's conservatism.

Words and Meanings

Richard Pryor is a brilliant comedian, but for questions of semantics, I'd rather use S.I. Hayakawa. Words do not have innate meanings. They are sound symbols that have both denotations and connotations. The strict denotation of "nigger"--if we were to separate it from centuries of connotations--would be "person whose skin is black." That we allow this word to carry centuries of connoted insult is entirely based on how we use it, and how it affects those who hear it.

Lenny Bruce's point is valid: if a word changes its connotations, it loses its ability to insult.

Let me give you another example. The word "gay" started out meaning "happy" or "glad." Earlier in this century, the phrase "among the gay" was used as a euphemism for homosexual. In the late 1960's and early 1970's, activists for the rights of homosexuals determined to adopt the word "gay" as a non-pejorative self-description, and what began as a minor connotation of the original meaning became the sole meaning that can now be attributed to that word, unless one is a scholar of old books.

As a writer, it's my business to choose words carefully, according to an original meaning that may be buried in current usage, or to derive a meaning that may have otherwise been lost on a particular reader or listener. Since different people have different contexts, it's always chancy to use any particular word with powerful connotations.

But that's the risk that goes with the possibility of saying something significant, and to make arbitrary rules about it diminishes our ability to think clearly and project our thoughts.

An Experiment in Semantics

I've selected neutrally descriptive and complimentary sentences out of a current encyclopedia article. I'll reproduce them, first, as they were written, then, afterwards, substituting the word "nigger" for "black." Let's see whether the sentences become pejorative merely by the substitution.


Blacks in the United States today are mainly an urban people. Their shift from the rural South to cities of the North and West during the 20th century constitutes one of the major migrations of people in U.S. history.


Niggers in the United States today are mainly an urban people. Their shift from the rural South to cities of the North and West during the 20th century constitutes one of the major migrations of people in U.S. history.


Religion has traditionally been important to black American life. The first major denomination among blacks, the African Methodist Episcopal Church, grew from the church established by Richard Allen in Philadelphia in 1787.


Religion has traditionally been important to nigger American life. The first major denomination among niggers, the African Methodist Episcopal Church, grew from the church established by Richard Allen in Philadelphia in 1787.


Black ministers who have figured prominently in politics during the post-World War II period include Jesse Jackson, Martin Luther King, Jr., Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., Leon Sullivan, and Andrew Young.


Nigger ministers who have figured prominently in politics during the post-World War II period include Jesse Jackson, Martin Luther King, Jr., Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., Leon Sullivan, and Andrew Young.


In the 1970s the percentage of blacks attending college increased markedly, but in the 1980s blacks lost ground.


In the 1970s the percentage of niggers attending college increased markedly, but in the 1980s niggers lost ground.


Black Americans have also made significant contributions in many other fields, despite the patterns of prejudice and inequality that historically have restricted their opportunities. Charles Drew's work in hematology leading to the establishment of the American Red Cross blood bank and Ralph Bunche's appointment as undersecretary of the United Nations in 1950 are examples. The first black American in space was Air Force Lt. Col. Guion S. Bluford, who took part in a 1983 space shuttle flight.


Nigger Americans have also made significant contributions in many other fields, despite the patterns of prejudice and inequality that historically have restricted their opportunities. Charles Drew's work in hematology leading to the establishment of the American Red Cross blood bank and Ralph Bunche's appointment as undersecretary of the United Nations in 1950 are examples. The first nigger American in space was Air Force Lt. Col. Guion S. Bluford, who took part in a 1983 space shuttle flight.

Does this tell us anything useful about denotation and connotation? Lenny Bruce theorized--perhaps idealistically--that descriptive words are insulting only because they are used that way, and when they are not, they lose the ability to hurt.

How Do I Feel About Being Called a Kike?

To me, all language is context dependent. I can conceive of it being used as a compliment or an insult, and I would look to the user's intent. Anyone who'd call me that, intending it as an insult, however, has already eliminated whatever else they have to say from serious consideration.

My Childhood

I was one of two Jewish kids that I knew about at my elementary school and junior high school in Natick, Massachusetts. Most of the kids were either working class Protestant or Irish Catholic. Yes, I heard the word kike, and it was not meant as a compliment.

But I've grown up and learned about context.


You keep on avoiding--or misunderstanding--my point. Of course the words "kike" and "nigger" have high charges--no subtlety, as you put it. Fine, we have a fact we can agree on. Now why do those words do that? Is it the central meaning of the words, or they way they have been used? The former is "denotation"; the latter is "connotation."

Words are symbols, either sound symbols, or alphabetic graphic mnemonics for those sound symbols. Go up to the next person you see and say, "Hey, you're a gricksorp, aren't you?" The word "gricksorp," being without any denotation, does not tell the listener anything. To respond, they will look to your tone of voice, expression--anything they can latch onto--to find a connotation to your comment, so they know how to respond.

My experiment in semantics posted above was to highlight the difference between a word's denotation and its connotation. Somebody who calls me a kike has a set of connotations associated with that sound symbol. If it's a person I don't know, I would assume, all other things being equal, that the person is being intentionally provocative. If it's a person I knew, I would look deeper before responding.

My ex-wife wasn't Jewish. At Christmas time, she'd call me a Christ-killer and I'd call her a tree-worshipper. The symbols were affectionate; our marriage ended for unrelated reasons.

Context is everything.

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Symbolic Speech versus Speech-as-Action

One of the enduring debates between libertarians and those who believe in greater state authority is over the proper limits on freedom of speech.

Libertarians--who bring economic insight to such questions which other believers in civil liberties often lack--tend to solve a lot of these problems by invoking property rights: you have absolute freedom of speech only insofar as you have a right to the physical medium in which that speech is disseminated: the printing press, radio station, computer network, etc.

Those who would limit freedom of speech often invoke the image of crying fire in a crowded theater--not remembering that the legal case that this question was used to illustrate had nothing to do with either fires or theaters, but was a metaphor used by a U.S. Supreme Court justice in a case involving a law prohibiting "alien sedition." Clearly, the metaphor is politically suspect from its first use.

But the question is not so easily dismissed by such paralogia: bypassing the question of whose theater it is and what contract you have implicitly agreed to by buying a ticket for a performance, does anyone have the right to cry fire in a crowded theater?

One can answer flippantly, perhaps reducing the question to absurdity. Firstly, is there a fire in the theater? Or, may an actor in a play be prohibited from crying fire if the script calls for it? And what if the play is being performed in a fire station? Clearly, there is a better way to phrase the question: is there a difference between purely symbolic speech, and speech which is intended by the speaker to alter the human action of the listener to produce harmful effects?

I think, consequently, that there needs to be made a clear distinction between "symbolic speech" and "speech as action." I think the following scenario can define the latter case.

I'm driving along a strange road at night, in pouring rain that has gone on for days. I'm lost on my way to town. I see a Stranger walking on the side of the road, pull over and ask for directions to town. "Take the next left--it'll take you to where you want to go." I thank the Stranger, roll up my window, and take the next left. And, a half mile further, I plunge 200 feet down to my death on the rocks below because the bridge on the road was washed out.

I'm assuming that the Stranger knew that the bridge was out, and that his words, should they be followed, were likely to lead to my death.

Now, I know some (including libertarians) who would argue that the Stranger had no obligation to tell me about the missing bridge, because we had no contract requiring him to give me truthful information. Caveat emptor, or the equivalent.

Is the Stranger responsible for murdering me? One can argue he was speaking symbolically when he told me the road would take me "where you want to go" inasmuch as he may have assumed that what I really wanted was to die.

Gee, not a bad idea for a story. All we have to assume is that I was looking for a hotel to commit suicide in and the Stranger was psychic. A classic Alfred Hitchcock Presents idea.

Leaving out my intents, or the Stranger's psychic abilities, what we clearly have is a case of an information provider deliberately passing on toxic information. I do not classify this as "symbolic speech."

On the other hand, what about a grave insult? One Jewish writer I know has referred to seeing a swastika as emotionally equivalent to being spit on.

Spitting is a physical action, which can cause evident damage, if nowhere else than to one's clothes. In the Age of AIDS, however, it might even be truly toxic were HIV-positive saliva to end up on exposed human tissue.

The swastika, however, is a symbol…and the reaction to the symbol will be dependent on the viewer--Nazi, Jew, Native American Indian, or Hindu--and even whether the swastika is dexter or sinister…and the viewer understands the difference. To the Hindu or the Native American Indian, the swastika is not a symbol of the Nazi Party, but of good luck.…and the dexter swastika is a "good luck" symbol: Hitler intentionally used the sinister. Do we have the right to deprive the Hindu or the American Indian of one of their religious symbols, because it will be badly reacted to by another religious group?

Clearly, a Native American displaying a swastika for religious purposes is not necessarily intending a Jew to feel spit upon by it--and sensible semantic interpretation of such an event requires a full context.

A lot of the problems surrounding "symbolic speech" are side issues that need to be resolved along with the "free speech" issue. What constitutes "evident damage" or "proof of evident damage?" Are human beings "volitional" in their responses, or automatons who will react to symbols as invariantly as a computer "reacts" to programming? Is there a bias in granting exemptions for "evident falsehood." People have spent years in jail on bunco raps for promising a lot less than the average parish priest.

Anybody who wishes to restrict other people's right to be insulting should tread softly, lest the Wiccans start a class-action suit to ban the King James Bible.

After all is there any speech more intended to cause direct harm to others than its command: "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live"?

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Taxing Slashers Doesn't Go with Slashing Taxes

June 5, 1995

As a novelist and screenwriter, I've had only positive regard for Michael Medved's critical faculties: he endorsed my science fiction novel, The Rainbow Cadenza.

But I find his Op-Ed suggestion to Bob Dole of a movie "slasher tax" in the June 5, 1995 Los Angeles Times to be chilling. It was Chief Justice John Marshall who told us "the power to tax involves the power to destroy."

One of the films Mr. Medved calls "vile, hyperviolent, altogether irresponsible," and worthy of a slasher tax, is Johnny Mnemonic--a fine science-fiction film with less inventive violence than The Rainbow Cadenza would be if, like Johnny Mnemonic, it were moved to the big screen. Johnny Mnemonic merely has people shot, dismembered, and exploded. The Rainbow Cadenza, which Medved called "thoughtful, unusually well-written," has a leather-clad man in a flying belt aerially raping a woman then dropping her to splatter in view of a five-year-old girl.

Medved suggests that the tax be applied by "a panel of media and psychological experts." Novelist and Christian apologist C.S. Lewis, in a 1958 essay, warns us, "In every age the men who want us under their thumb, if they have any sense, will put forward the particular pretension which the hopes and fears of that age render most potent.…All that can really happen is that some men will take charge of the destiny of the others. They will be simply men; none perfect; some greedy, cruel, and dishonest.…Have we discovered some new reason why, this time, power should not corrupt as it has done before?"

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The Citizen's Line Item Veto Proposition

Introduction, 1995

When in 1990 I wrote this essay, proposing a California initiative, I was not a registered voter. In fact, I had not voted for two decades, not out of apathy, but out of the belief that the use of political power always harmed innocent victims, and therefore any participation in the electoral process was immoral.

What changed my mind and got me to register to vote, in August, 1991, was buying my first gun.

It did not come to me in any sort of blinding flash of insight. It just dawned on me that since I was willing "in the gravest extreme" to use the lethal power of a firearm to defend myself from physical attacks, why shouldn't I likewise be willing to wield political power to defend myself from political attacks? The "purist" libertarian position that all use of political power was invasive finally seemed to me wrong.

Depending on how I used my ballot, couldn't I vote defensively also?

It may strike someone who takes voting for granted as a silly argument I was having with myself. I disagree. There's no question that the existence of government, even in its mildest form, creates innocent victims. The question, then, of whether voting is a moral or immoral act is entirely dependent on the choices being offered. If Adolf Hitler--murderer of twelve million--were in an election against Joseph Stalin--murderer of over twenty million--would it be moral for me to vote for Hitler because he was less efficient at murder? Eight million fewer victims would be the "lesser of evils," no?

When I registered to vote in 1991, I knew that if I couldn't find candidates I wanted to vote for, I could at least vote on ballot propositions, whereby my vote would directly decide political questions which affected my rights and those of others. So it was, in fact, the logic of the following essay that finally convinced me to become a registered voter.

Presented herewith, then, is a proposal to make voting by the citizen even more powerful.

For historical purposes, I am including my original introduction. --JNS

Introduction, 1990

"If voting could change anything, it would be illegal." --Karl Hess

"If a law is disliked by as many as one-third is it not likely that you would be better off without it?"
--The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Robert A. Heinlein

Here's a proposition that, if passed, would convince me to abandon two decades of abstinence from the political process, register to vote, and vote early and often-too often, I think, for this proposition to stand any chance of being enacted, for it would actually place real power in the hands of the average voter in a way that the established Powers That Be would not permit.

You are free to try proving me wrong by attempting to get it passed: I assure you it will not be enacted into law without being watered down so much as to be meaningless. But I offer it as an exercise for the politically active, to demonstrate to them the contempt in which the electorate is held by elected and appointed officials, and how any real attempt to enfranchise power in the hands of the people will be resisted tooth and nail.

California has in place a method of amending the state constitution through voters' initiatives called propositions. Very well--California is as good a place as any to test any wacky new idea. If successful here, it will be imitated in other states, and perhaps even federally. Therefore, herewith proposed to be placed before the voters of the State of California is

The Citizen's Line Item Veto Proposition

Summary: The State of California shall establish a statewide voicemail telephone system whereby voters may exercise a line-item veto over all legislation signed by the governor. A one-third vote in favor of vetoing a line item shall prevent it from becoming law, with no override available.

The proposition:

Within one year of the passage of this proposition:

I. A. The State of California shall register any California voter who wishes to enroll for Citizen's Line Item Veto participation. Such enrollment shall identify these voters in a manner not invasive to their personal privacy, but with a level of security equivalent to that used by the commercial banking industry for telephone banking transactions.

B. The State of California shall establish a state-wide voice-mail telephone system, operated by touch-tone telephones using an (800) area code telephone number or other free-to-caller area code. All California voters enrolled for Citizen's Line Item Veto participation shall be entitled to vote on this system.

C. Each line item in all legislation signed by the governor the previous week shall be placed before the enrolled voters on this voice mail system. Each voter on the system shall be given one vote per line item of legislation signed by the governor, YES or NO.

D. A count shall be made each week of all votes on each line item. If a line item gains one-third or more NO votes, it shall fail to have been passed into law, and no appeal to any legislative, executive, or judicial authority may override this veto.

II. The State of California shall provide a weekly line-item summary of all legislation which has been signed into law by the governor the previous week. Such summary shall be in a form understandable to any resident of the State of California with a high school diploma issued by a California public school, and shall be made publicly available.

III. To compensate voters in the Line Item Veto for the time and effort of reading the legislation and registering their vote, all voters enrolled in the Line Item Veto who vote on the system at least eight times per year shall be exempt at point of sale on all purchases from the California Sales Tax for the next year.

IV. No line item vetoed by the voters of the Line Item Veto may be reintroduced into legislation for a period of three years.

V. No tax or other method of public funding, including all usage fees, shall pass into effect without being subject to the Citizen's Line Item Veto, nor shall any tax or other method of funding, including all usage fees, remain in effect two years from the passage of this proposition unless it is placed before the enrolled voters of the Citizen's Line Item Veto.

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A More Bulletproof Bill of Rights

I've heard two good objections to tampering with the Bill of Rights, even to make it stronger.

The first is that we don't have the likes of James Madison and George Mason around any more, so any attempt to do any wholesale revisions on the Constitution of the United States will be done by people whose basic philosophy isn't thoroughly grounded in the principles of liberty.

The second good objection I've heard is that the Constitution of the United States is a minimalist document that states broad principles--and if you don't have good enough people to apply those principles in the first place, rewriting the constitutional protections to make them less abstract and more explicit won't do any good anyway.

So I'll agree that perhaps the following exercise in strengthening the Bill of Rights shouldn't be taken literally.

But I do think that using this as a commentary on the original purposes of the Bill of Rights, might be useful to bring to it a couple of centuries practical experience in how judges and politicians can twist things away from their original intent. --JNS

Proposed New Preamble

Derived from the Declaration of Independence and the Virginia Declaration of Rights.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Individuals are by nature free and independent, and have certain inalienable rights, among which are those of enjoying and defending life and liberty; acquiring, possessing, and protecting property; and pursuing and obtaining safety, happiness, and privacy. That to secure these rights, governments are instituted, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly, all experience has shown that humankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.

To avoid another bloody revolution or civil war, these revised amendments for the Constitution of the United States are proposed to strengthen the Bill of Rights adopted in 1792 so that the people will not have to once again take up arms to fight to regain liberties lost in the last two centuries.

Accordingly, upon adoption of these articles of amendment, all Individuals within the United States and its territories and possessions, and those of its citizens abroad, are hereby declared to hold the following Rights, and all laws within the jurisdiction of the United States or the several states which are repugnant to these Rights are immediately null and void.

Amendment 1

The amendment currently reads:

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Article 1 of the Amendments to the Constitution of the United States would be replaced by the following article:

All Individuals have the right to be free from laws respecting an establishment of religion or taxing or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or taxing or abridging freedom of speech, or of the press, or of communication public or private; or peaceably to assemble in the commons, or to petition the Government for a redress of grievances; or to travel freely domestically or abroad; yet none of these freedoms shall be taken as an immunity to invade the private life, liberty, or property of any individual not holding government office. These being among the most fundamental human rights which enable the existence of a free and just society, any public official who violates these rights shall be guilty of a felony with a mandatory minimum sentence of one year and a day in prison with no possibility of probation or parole.

Amendment 2

The amendment currently reads:

A well-regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.

Article 2 of the Amendments to the Constitution of the United States would be replaced by the following article:

Section 1

The Right of all Individuals to keep, own, and carry, openly or concealed, any arms conceivably suitable for defense of themselves, their kin, their loved ones and friends, their neighbors, the public peace, or their state, shall not be called into question in any place in the United States, except for those persons being held to answer for an infamous crime or those who, having been convicted of an infamous crime have had restrictions placed on their liberty as a consequence of their representing a continued danger to the public, or in places where such persons may be imprisoned. Nor, other than requirements that may be enacted for training of the Militia, shall the government place any burdens on the acquisition, possession, or ownership of arms. Nor shall privately owned arms be enumerated or registered with any authority by force of law. Nor shall any taxes, tariffs, fees, or regulations be placed on the manufacture of or trade in personal or militia arms. Nor shall any Individual be held criminally or civilly liable for any reasonable act in defense of life, liberty, property, or the public peace. Nor shall any sworn police or peace officer have any greater Rights or powers than those enjoyed by any other law-abiding Individual. These being among the most fundamental human rights which enable the existence of a free and just society, any public official who violates these rights shall be guilty of a felony with a mandatory minimum sentence of one year and a day in prison with no possibility of probation or parole.

Section 2

A large standing Army being repugnant to the people's Liberty and creating a likelihood of foreign military adventures, and public liberty and security being predicated on the ability of Individuals to act on behalf of their liberties and personal safety, a popular Militia is the natural defense of a Free Society, and posse comitatus drawn from such Militia is the best protector of public order and safety; however, sense of duty naturally arising from an Individual's free exercise of his moral conscience, no Individual who conscientiously objects to service in the military or organized Militia shall be required to bear arms.

Amendment 3

Article 3 of the Amendments would remain unchanged and continue to read:

No soldier shall, in time of peace, be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner; nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Amendment 4

The amendment currently reads:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Article 4 of the Amendments to the Constitution of the United States would be replaced by the following article:

Section 1

The right of all Individuals to be secure in their persons, houses, documents, files, private communications, and effects shall not be violated, nor any warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, by a Grand Jury elected yearly by the People, and particularly describing the place to be searched and the Individuals or things to be seized, and if such Warrant shall have come about by perjury, malice, manufacture of false evidence, or malfeasance by any Individual, such Individual shall be held to answer, criminally and civilly, for such malfeasance, and Individuals not charged shall be compensated in full from public funds for any costs or damages resulting from such a search, seizure, charges, or trial resulting therefrom. These being among the most fundamental human rights which enable the existence of a free and just society, any public official who violates these rights shall be guilty of a felony with a mandatory minimum sentence of one year and a day in prison with no possibility of probation or parole.

Section 2

No Individual in the United States may be denied or have abridged by law, public, or official act, any Right, privilege, or immunity held by the people as a whole; and any official, elected, appointed, or otherwise receiving remuneration from public funds, who violates the least of these Rights, even to proposing or supporting a law that would violate the Rights set forth in this Constitution, shall be held personally liable, criminally or civilly, for any damage or dishonor against any or all citizens of the United States or of any state; and upon conviction of criminal violation of a citizen's rights may as part of punishment be further barred from holding any office or position of public trust within the United States thereafter.

Section 3

Any citizen of the United States or of any state may petition a Grand Jury to bring criminal charges against any public official he believes has violated his Rights; and if the person who might be charged sits upon that Grand Jury, that Grand Juror shall be recused and the charges considered by the remaining Grand Jurors.

Section 4

Charges against any government official which, if conducted by a foreign government at war with the United States, would be regarded as atrocities or war crimes shall be tried under the dictum of the Nuremberg War Crimes trials that following orders in the commission of such a crime is no defense.

Section 5

In any case where the life of any individual shall be lost as a direct consequence of an operation conducted by officials of the United States government, or of the several states or any subdivision thereof, a Grand Jury shall automatically convene a criminal investigation of the officials responsible, and no additional tax-derived funds may be used for the defense of any individual indicted as a result of such investigation than would be available to any private individual under criminal indictment.

Section 6

No law shall exist whose purpose is to prevent an adult Individual from causing harm solely to himself or his own property, nor conversely from seeking to enhance his own health or well-being by chemical, medical, herbal, physical, or other means; nor shall the possession of medicinal substances, herbs, or materials used in growing or preparation of them be prohibited or burdened; nor shall the practice of medicine, or of the law, or of any other Profession or livelihood be licensed or regulated by the United States or any state or subdivisions thereof; nor shall any private and discreet religious, economic, or sexual practice solely between or among consenting adults be a subject of law.

Section 7

No law shall exist in the United States that shall prohibit the termination of a pregnancy except that the fetus be healthy and viable apart from its mother's womb and there exists an Individual capable of and committed to the adoption of the fetus when born and to assume all costs of support for the mother through the birth of the child, any costs relating to the birth, any costs of care for the mother and any of her other dependent children resulting from the continuation of the pregnancy to term, and burdens of parenthood for the fetus when born, in which case an abortion of such a fetus shall be tried as homicide; but in the event that no qualified person has committed to all these costs and responsibilities, then no criminal or civil charges for the abortion of even a viable and healthy fetus shall be permitted.

Section 8

No tax shall be levied by the United States or by any governmental entity within them for the purpose of penalizing or limiting any legal act or the use of any legal product or for the purpose of haranguing the people with respect to their personal habits and private pursuits; nor shall taxation be used to finance any activity which is pursuable by private individuals or private institutions; nor shall any Individual be taxed to pay for his own future wants or those of his fellow citizens when private savings, pensions or insurance exist to serve those ends; nor shall any tax exist on wages, interest, incomes, profits, or capital gains; nor shall any tax be levied without the majority of the people voting in a direct referendum; and furthermore no tax may be levied except that it is to be used for a specific public purpose and no revenue raised for one purpose may be used for another without the majority of the people voting in a direct referendum; and no tax may be enacted such that it requires burdensome accounting or is ambiguous in its requirements or requires professional assistance to understand or comply with it; and if any Individual may show that they paid more than one-fifth of their yearly income in taxes they shall be forgiven all other tax demands in that year and any excess payments shall be returned; nor shall any Individual suffer any criminal penalty for failure to pay a tax or evasion thereof.

Section 9

In all tax cases or other civil cases in which the government shall be a plaintiff against a private individual or private property, all protections accorded to a defendant in a criminal proceeding shall be afforded to the defendant or property owner; neither shall there be any civil forfeiture of private property to the government except after judgment in a jury trial.

Section 10

The government may neither operate any enterprise in competition with a private enterprise; nor by grant of monopoly, subsidy, or other advantage to a private enterprise discourage free competition in any service or product offered to the public; nor prohibit or burden any private enterprise which would provide a service or product previously offered by a unit of government or enjoying an advantage due to government privilege.

Section 11

No law shall prohibit any Individual from using as a medium of exchange any legal commodity, nor require any Individual to accept any note as legal tender, nor shall the United States or any state issue any currency not backed by a commodity in its treasury, nor shall the United States, any state or any of its subdivisions contract a bond or debt mortgaged upon the government's ability to collect future revenues except in time of war or public disaster.

Amendment 5

The amendment currently reads:

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous, crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service, in Time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offence, to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case, to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Article 5 of the Amendments to the Constitution of the United States would be replaced by the following article:

Section 1

No Individual shall be held to answer for a capital or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury elected yearly by the People, except in cases arising in the military or the Militia when in actual service in time of war or public danger. Nor shall any act be a crime in which it can not be proved that one or more actual Individuals was caused harm or could likely have been caused harm. Nor shall any Individual be held to answer as an adult for a capital or otherwise infamous crime who has not enjoyed the full rights, privileges, and immunities of an adult. Nor shall any Individual be subject to charges arising from the same act or set of facts to be twice put in jeopardy of life, limb, or loss of property after an acquittal or failure of a Jury in a criminal trial to reach a conviction, and a different name to the charges, or a different court, shall not be used to circumvent this prohibition. Nor shall anyone be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself or supply evidence against himself to the prosecution, but this prohibition shall not apply, following criminal conviction, from a civil case arising from the same set of facts. Nor shall any Individual be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law. Nor shall any witness compelled to testify in a criminal case be forced to suffer dangers, loss of privacy, or public indignities as a consequence of their compelled appearance in open court.

Section 2

No private property shall be taken for public use without full and just compensation, upon a vote of two-thirds of those voting in a popular referendum and for no other purpose than a clear and present danger to the people of the United States or equally grave public purpose. Neither the United States nor any state or its subdivisions may have title to real property, nor may the government demand public use of private property, with the exception of rights of way necessary to the public's right to travel and engage in free commerce and recreation, national cemeteries, embassies and consular offices. The devolution of public property into private ownership shall balance the public interest with the conservative advantages of private stewardship.

Amendment 6

The amendment currently reads:

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law; and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining Witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defence.

Article 6 of the Amendments to the Constitution of the United States would be replaced by the following article:

Section 1

In all criminal prosecutions the accused shall enjoy the Right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury of the district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law; and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of competent and energetic Counsel for his defense.

Section 2

The standard for conviction in all criminal trials shall be proof beyond a reasonable doubt. If a jury shall conclude after its deliberations that the prosecution has failed this burden, they may enter a verdict of "Not proven" and the Defendant shall go free. But if a jury is further convinced that the innocence of a Defendant has been proved, they may return a verdict of "Innocent." A Defendant judged innocent shall, in addition to freedom, be entitled to have the costs of his legal defense paid for by public funds; shall be entitled to damages due to loss of liberty and livelihood; damages from any person presenting or conspiring to present perjured testimony or maliciously presenting or conspiring to contrive false evidence; and a Defendant judged innocent may further seek damages for libel or slander against any public official, journalist, broadcaster, or media outlet who damaged or continues to damage his good name with unproved accusations, whether malice was present or not.

Section 3

In all criminal prosecutions and civil matters each jury shall be selected from a pool of rational citizens, excluding anyone who has been within the last seven years a public official or government employee or who has within seven years practiced law as a profession, who have demonstrated in their lives common sense, courage, a knowledge of the law in general and of the issues of the specific crimes being charged or issues being litigated, and shall be of a sufficient moral stature to overcome any preconceptions or prejudices that may have arisen in their minds from public discussion of the case prior to the commencement of trial. Each jury shall have the power to rule both upon the facts of the case and to nullify any charge or law for that case they consider to be unjust, and shall not be bound to the precedents established in any prior case. The judge for each trial shall be elected by the jury and no fact or issue of law shall be considered except in open court with the full jury present. No jury shall be sequestered except by a majority vote of its members. A jury shall adopt its own rules for deliberations and jurors may inquire directly of attorneys and witnesses, call their own witnesses, and consult scholars, in order to inform themselves of the true facts and apply the law equitably. Jurors shall be compensated from public funds in a sufficient amount to compensate them for the loss of time from their regular livelihoods. The judge in the trial may declare a mistrial upon discovery of misconduct by any juror, and any juror engaging in misconduct may be held both civilly and criminally liable.

Section 4

No magistrate may impose a punishment upon any Individual for Contempt of Court except by presentment or indictment by a Grand Jury and conviction on the charge in a criminal trial by Jury.

Amendment 7

The amendment currently reads:

In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common Law.

Article 7 of the Amendments to the Constitution of the United States would be replaced by the following article:

Section 1

In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed five troy ounces of .999 fine gold, the Right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury shall be otherwise reexamined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Section 2

A prevailing Plaintiff in any civil suit shall be entitled, in addition to any damages received, to require the Defendant to pay court costs, attorney's fees, and other costs associated with pursuing equity. A prevailing Defendant in any civil suit shall be entitled to require the Defendant to pay court costs, attorney's fees, and other costs associated with defending the suit, and if prosecution was malicious, equitable punitive damages.

Section 3

No person or company selling a consumer product shall be held criminally or civilly liable for damages caused by use of that product where either it was criminal misuse or an unwise or unintended use of the product which was responsible for the damages; and vicarious liability of a producer or seller of a consumer product shall be allowed only in those cases where a producer or seller was aware of a possible danger from the intended use of that product and failed to make a reasonable attempt to warn consumers of that danger.

Section 4

No law, treaty or contract shall exist in the United States unless written in plain language understandable to an Individual of average intelligence and literacy; and all laws and treaties under consideration in any deliberative governmental body shall be made available free for examination to all citizens of the United States; nor shall any law or treaty be enacted that is of such excessive length, or which has been so recently drafted, that the public has not had time to contemplate its effects.

Amendment 8

The amendment currently reads:

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Article 8 of the Amendments to the Constitution of the United States would be replaced by the following article:

Section 1

Excessive bail shall not be required, but if an individual charged with a crime shall be judged from evidence and testimony presented to obtain indictment to represent a pretrial threat to the safety of any other person such that complete liberty would be imprudently granted, then bail may be denied. If a non-convicted defendant shall be denied bail or is not able to raise bail, then only those specific restrictions on the comfort, privacy, and liberty of such a non-convicted defendant which are necessary to public safety shall be permitted. If any lesser form of restricted liberty other than pretrial jailing may bind a defendant for trial without endangering the safety of others, it shall be used instead.

Section 2

Neither excessive fines shall be imposed nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted, nor shall retaliation be the primary purpose of criminal law except that it seeks redress on behalf of victims for harms caused by a criminal act and acts to bar dangerous individuals from inflicting further harms on the innocent.

Section 3

Execution as a penalty shall be imposed in the United States only for the crime of Capital Murder with the circumstances of gratuitous cruelty or multiple victims, where an Individual so convicted was capable of and is proved to have had the specific and premeditated intent to cause the death of some innocent victim, and where in the jury's deliberations none of the jurors expressed any belief in the Defendant's actual innocence. Upon petition to the sentencing authority, a kin or designated heir of the victim may be granted the right to perform the execution in place of a public official; but in the absence of such a petition, a convicted murderer awaiting execution shall be afforded the right, upon a personal appearance before the sentencing authority to make such a request, to have the execution performed immediately or, alternatively, to be afforded the means to commit painless suicide. Any convicted murderer sentenced to life imprisonment with no possibility of parole shall likewise be afforded the right, upon a personal appearance before the sentencing authority to make such a request, to be executed in lieu of life imprisonment or, alternatively, to be afforded the means to commit painless suicide.

Section 4

All Capital Murder convictions resulting in a sentence of execution shall be automatically, immediately, and directly appealed to the Supreme Court of the United States, which must confirm the conviction, the sentence, and the date set for execution. Thereafter, the only basis for a stay of any death sentence, or a request for a new trial, shall be the revelation of a previously unavailable witness or exculpatory evidence or sworn testimony unavailable or concealed at the time of the trial, which speaks to the actual innocence of the Individual under sentence of death.

Amendment 9

The amendment currently reads:

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Article 9 of the Amendments to the Constitution of the United States would be replaced by the following article:

Section 1

The enumeration in this Constitution of certain Rights shall never be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the People; notwithstanding, nothing here shall be constructed to prevent additional limitations on public power to enhance the protection of the people from tyrannical abuse for private purposes under the cloak of public office.

Section 2

All rights, enumerated or not, held by free white male Protestant property owners in any of the 13 original states at the time of the adoption of the Ninth Article of Amendment to the Constitution of the United States are hereby recognized to be fundamental rights retained by all the people of the United States to this day, and all laws and regulations of the United States or of the several states which infringe the least of these rights are declared repugnant to the intent of the Ninth Amendment and hereafter void.

Section 3

All precedents established by a decision of the Supreme Court of the United States, or of any lesser federal court, or of any court in the several states, which either violate or fail to protect any of the rights in the original ten articles of amendment to the Constitution of the United States from violations by either the federal government or the several states, are hereby nullified to that extent.

Section 4

In all questions relating to the Construction of these Rights, decisions must be ruled according to the intent that Individual private powers be nurtured and the private Individual be protected from the natural tendency of those in government to expand the sphere of public power. The protection of these Rights shall be the first and last duty of all persons holding any office of public trust, and the interpretation of these Rights shall firstly and lastly be decided by the Sovereign Individuals of the United States and the several states, as expressed in their acts as members of juries and Grand Juries.

Amendment 10

Article 10 of the Amendments would remain unchanged, and continue to read:

The Powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

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Forcing The Spring

A reply to President Clinton's January 1993 Inaugural Address. --JNS

Sometimes a well-chosen metaphor says more than the speaker intends.

President Clinton's metaphor in his inaugural address, in which he speaks of forcing the spring to come on, is one such. It is a perfect paradigm of the theoretical flaw in liberal, or socialist, or progressive, or otherwise statist politics--the politics of utilitarianism.

Nature gives us seasons and cycles. In a deeper sense, nature is a regularity of action and result which we observe as natural laws. In physics--even the new physics of subatomic probabilities which many call indeterminate or uncertain--there are observable principles.

In political economics, there are observable principles, too. Some of them are as follows:

You can't distribute or redistribute that which doesn't exist, because it was never produced. You can't tax from the private sector to the public sector, for purposes of later spending, that which won't be produced because the capital structure necessary for production is impoverished by the tax burden.

In the absence of a market price determined by the supply and demand of free trade, there can be no efficiency of economy, and therefore products and services supplied by the public sector, or by government-controlled monopolies, are inherently less efficient and more expensive than similar products and services produced by private businesses.

And, finally, you can't, by edict, command nature to bend to your will. "Nature, to be commanded, must be obeyed." Just because there is a need for a cure for a disease, and a strong political desire to cure it, does not mean that the discoveries necessary to do so will appear on demand, even if you throw billions of dollars at it.

President Clinton thinks that economics does not follow natural laws, and therefore he can use the force of the state to command results. This is the fatal flaw that will defeat his every move.

You can't force the spring, Mr. President. Spring comes when it will. And trying to do so is the hubris that bankrupts our country.

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Evolution versus Revolution

The following was written as part of a May, 1989 "cafe" discussion on the Connected Education "virtual" campus. --JNS

The difference between "evolution" and "revolution" is merely the rate at which a particular "mutation" catches on. In the age of instant communications, the mutations can be very fast indeed. If it makes you happy to think of me as a mutational strain infecting the body politic, I don't mind; the process is the same whether we call it "revolution" or "evolution."

I advocate "in place" secession; violent resistance to a government is only strategically sound when they open fire against us first. Of course, as we see in China, they do tend to have few inhibitions about opening fire; don't blame peaceful secessionists when they find it necessary to return fire. Governments aren't "brought down"; they fall all by themselves when the orders they give can't be enforced. A revolutionary is merely a person who disobeys and convinces others not to obey anymore either.

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The following article appeared in Out of Step Vol. 4, No. 4, April 28, 1995.

The Tenth Amendment War

If we're to believe Attorney General Janet Reno and the FBI, on April 19, 1995--the second anniversary of the FBI's incinerating 80 or so men, women, and children in Waco, Texas--Tim McVeigh, an individual who identified with the patriot movement, bombed the Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, killing possibly two hundred men, women, and children.

We are to assume from what we know of McVeigh that his choice of April 19th indicates a motive of revenge against the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, which had offices in that building, for its February 28, 1993 raid which began the 51-day federal siege against the Branch Davidians in Waco. April 19, 1995 was also the 220th anniversary of the "shot heard round the world" at Concord Bridge, Massachusetts, in which armed Americans routed British troops on a gun-confiscation detail. This lends to us the additional supposition that the bombing of the Murrah building was intended as an act of revolution.

The deliberate mass murder of innocent people, especially children, cannot be deplored in strong enough language to convey the depravity of the crime. When President Clinton, even before we knew who the accused Oklahoma City bombers were, condemned them as murderous cowards, no sane American could disagree. American society prizes the individual in a way no previous civilization ever has. Consequently, terrorism--the victimization of innocent individuals for political purposes--is disgusting to the American heart more so than to any other people in human history.

We are a country which prizes justice. Even as we mourn the children murdered in the Murrah building's day care center, it is necessary to ask: where was the national grief for the children killed in Waco, two years earlier--and why have the federal officials whose deliberate choices led to their deaths never been placed on trial?

The 1992 Los Angeles riots gave us the expression, "No justice, no peace." For the two years since the Waco fire, American patriots have been demanding an independent prosecution of the Justice Department, FBI, and ATF officials responsible for the invasion of a peaceful church group, their torture for 51 days, and their gassing and cremation. For two years, nothing has happened…until now.

For two years, the American mass media have considered Waco a non-story; or if they covered it at all, it was as parrots for the federal officials involved. The American television networks, major newspapers, and largest news magazines have placed all blame on the Branch Davidians for being "cultists," following a man "who said he was God," for practicing their belief that they had a right to keep military-style small arms, and for engaging in unconventional marital practices. Considering that these same charges were made by Roman officials against the original Christians, and by the Nineteenth-century United States government against the Mormons, it's no wonder that some Christian groups feel that the siege on Waco was an attack on the Davidians' religious practices as much as it was on their armory.

Perhaps most ironic of all, on the same day that the American federal government was gassing, and ultimately creating a holocaust for, the Branch Davidians, President Clinton was commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of the Nazi SS siege on the Jews of the Warsaw ghetto.

Violence is the bastard child of frustration. It was the German people's frustration at the sanctions imposed on them for losing the first world war that led to their embrace of the National Socialist movement and, consequently, a second world war. From the French Revolution to the Russian Revolution, aristocratic indifference to the lives of ordinary people has led to revolutions which measure bloodshed by the tankful.

American history is no different. We have had wars with Native tribes as our settlers migrated west; a war fought by the federal government against states which sought to leave the union; factory Pinkertons against trade unionists; the Weather Underground against the United States government as it prosecuted the Vietnam War.

Now, it appears, we have what military experts call "post-trinitarian" warfare: warfare no longer defined by nation-states aligned with their people and armies, but warfare among independent groups defined by beliefs and affinities.

And the bombing of the Murrah federal building on the anniversaries of Concord Bridge and Waco seems to be an escalation of a war between those in this country who wish power centralized under the control of the federal government, and those who wish power dispersed as widely as possible in the hands of the people and the states.

We will hear--we are already hearing--the American media and other partisans of centralized government control using the Murrah bombing as a blanket condemnation of the American patriot and militia movements. Americans who believe in self-rule, self-reliance, and self-defense must, in their view, be condemned as white supremacist, homophobic, sexist, religious cultists and gun nuts--for the media pundits interpret the world through filters which can't see individuals pursuing their own lives but only class interests. This blindness is caused by a mental tar accumulated on their brains during their college years when the cultism rampant on campuses was invariably socialist.

"No justice, no peace"--whether or not it applied to the Los Angeles riots--certainly applies here. There must be a trial for those who murdered innocent children in Oklahoma City; there must be a trial for those officials who murdered children two years earlier in Waco. The war over the Tenth Amendment--the reservation of powers to the people and the states--will only escalate so long as the centralists define who is a victim to be mourned and who is trash to be burned.

Those in the media and government who engage in hate speech against those Americans who believe in the traditional values of self-rule, self-reliance, and self-defense must finally realize that they are sowing the seeds of a culture war.

And, like all wars, the worst hurt will be the children.

Even after Representative Bill McCollum, one of the Republican co-chairmen of the House subcommittee investigating Waco, declared that the final holocaust at the Branch Davidian complex could only have been started by David Koresh's followers themselves, I still believe the chain of command from President Clinton, through Attorney General Janet Reno, to the FBI, is responsible for the deaths of women and children there.

The testimony from fire experts during that hearing, despite their sworn claims, was not exhaustive of other possible sources for the fire. --JNS

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The following article appeared in Out of Step Vol. 4, No. 5, May 19, 1995.

How About Some Domestic Tranquility?

"WE THE PEOPLE of the United States, in Order to…insure domestic Tranquility…do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America." --Preamble to the Constitution

If the terrorist bombing of the Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City has proved anything, it's that extremists love company.

The Oklahoma City bombing was an act of extreme madness, and only extremists could profit from it. If the bombers had any method to their madness, it was their intent to turn the rest of us into extremists, too. Of course, they didn't have to work very hard.

Haven't we heard President Clinton take off after talk radio, trying to tar Rush Limbaugh and Gordon Liddy with the extremist label? Haven't we seen Congressman Charles Schumer of New York call the NRA fanatics, gun nuts, and liars who foster an atmosphere of paranoia? Haven't we heard California Democratic Party Chairman and talk show host, Bill Press, call for regarding militia as enemies of the government to be infiltrated and arrested?

President Clinton, Charles Schumer, and Bill Press have this in common with the Oklahoma bombers: they see political profit in fostering paranoia. But most of those whom they direct their paranoia against are themselves innocent victims of the Oklahoma City bombing.

Certainly NRA activists who favor repeal of the anti-gun provisions of the 1994 Crime Bill have seen no profit in it: the bombing has delayed hearings on repeal legislation that would likely have passed both houses of Congress by the end of next month.

Those who have been demanding Congressional investigations of BATF and FBI agents for the deaths of innocent victims at Ruby Ridge, Idaho and Waco, Texas could not have imagined that bombing a day care center would further their cause.

Members of the reserve militia who don camouflage gear and play war games could not have thought that bombing a federal building would win the American people to the idea that a well-armed citizenry is a bulwark of the Bill of Rights.

No. The only people who benefit from acts of terrorism are people in the terrorism business: terrorists and counter-terrorists. Terrorists who seek civil disorder thrive in an atmosphere of paranoia. Counter-terrorists who feed public paranoia to gain larger budgets and greater latitude for widespread spy operations give terrorists exactly what they want: an atmosphere of paranoia to feed on.

It's time to put those who feed on our fear on a diet.

If we see the sort of men who might otherwise spend their weekends bowling instead training to defend their homes against federal agents wearing black Ninja suits, that's a good indication that federal agents are creating a climate of terror with the way they serve warrants. Bringing civility back to the way we conduct searches and arrests in this country would go a long way to restoring public trust.

We need to stop thinking of armed Americans, regardless of whether they wear camouflage, as enemies. Militia members say they're bound to defend the Constitution of the United States. Let's take them at their word. If we want to know who they are, the governor of any state has the right to muster the reserve militia for inspection. To insure militia members that this isn't a subterfuge for gun registration, the governor mustn't require militia members to bring more than one rifle for inspection.

And it wouldn't hurt the Michigan Militia Corps, right now, to promise everyone that if they have any leads on the Oklahoma bombing or future terrorist plots, they'll notify the proper authorities immediately.1

If a second trial of the police officers who beat up Rodney King was necessary to ensure the African American community that police brutality wouldn't be tolerated, then a first trial of the federal officers whose imprudent raids resulted in the deaths of the Weavers and the Branch Davidians is necessary to ensure all Americans that when official conduct leads to the deaths of innocents, those officers will likewise be held criminally culpable.

And if any federal agency must be given greater powers to deal with domestic terrorism, it should be any other agency than the BATF or FBI, whose official actions fanned these flames of paranoia. The Treasury and Justice Departments are overloaded with drug and counterfeiting cases; put investigation of domestic terrorism under the Secretary of the Interior--just to start things off fresh with a new cast of players--and let the Interior Department investigators look into misconduct by Treasury and Justice officials while they're at it.

Finally, it's time to realize that the attempt to pretend that the Second Amendment doesn't apply to the ordinary civilian population--the attempts by those who loathe guns to infringe on "the right of the people to keep and bear arms"--won't reduce violence in this society, but merely create greater opportunities for it. The deaths in Oklahoma City weren't caused by "assault weapons," but by plant food and truck fuel. The "trial of the century" in Judge Ito's courtroom is about the terror a knife can create. The government that doesn't trust the people with their individual powers will find itself looked upon with paranoid suspicion.

And all of us have had quite enough of that.

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A Reply to (Sir Henry?) Clinton

In a speech delivered May 5, 1995 at Michigan State University, President Clinton attacked the Internet, Militias, and Patriots--all with guilt by association for a terrorist act none had anything to do with.

Here is the center of Clinton's speech: "But there is no right to resort to violence when you don't get your way."

Oh, really?

From the Declaration of Independence by President Clinton's supposed hero, Thomas Jefferson:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,--That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

On April 19, 1775, Massachusetts Governor Gage sent troops out to confiscate the arms of a privately organized militia. The British troops ran into this privately organized militia on the North Bridge in Concord. A gun battle ensued, and several of the government officers were killed by the private militia.

Clinton: "[T]here is nothing patriotic about hating your country, or pretending that you can love your country but despise your government. There is nothing heroic about turning your back on America, or ignoring your own responsibilities. If you want to preserve your own freedom, you must stand up for the freedom of others with whom you disagree. But you also must stand up for the rule of law. You cannot have one without the other."

This sounds like what the British Prime Minister, Lord North, would have said about the American militia in 1775.

Let's be clear about this. The issues over which the American Revolution were fought were government abuses of power, too much government power, and lack of a means of correcting the problem peacefully within the limits of the existing system. When those conditions are reproduced, there is a moral precedent in the American Revolution for the use of revolutionary violence in order to regain our right to self-rule.

The evil of Oklahoma City was that it was not an act of revolution but an act of terrorism: not a reactive defense against an attack by soldiers, like the American militia defended against at Concord Bridge, but an unfocused act of rage which--in targeting civilian workers, a day care center, and random other innocent individuals--not only did nothing to further the cause of freedom, but did that cause great harm by providing a excuse to the advocates of greater centralization of power.

Abuse of power does not justify terrorism. Impatience does not justify violence. Violence against a government is justified only when a government has reached that level of criminal corruption that its institutions are incapable of restraining abuse of power under color of authority, and when judicial and political redress of grievances for such abuses is regularly thwarted by those in power. When that occurs, the best, brightest, least political, and most solid men and women in that society--professionals, clergy, industrialists, and artists--after the deepest of intellectual and moral soul-searching, will publicly declare to the world the causes and goals which justify the use of force to remove the criminal elements from government--and such revolution which follows must observe civilized rules of engagement as strict as for any other moral war.

And now a word to the President of the United States:

President Clinton, the house you sleep in was built by revolutionaries who used violence to fight against an oppressive government. You believe that there is no comparison between the United States government of 1995 and the British government of 1775.

I suggest the comparisons are many, including burdensome taxation, usurpation of the people's rights and proper powers, fiscal and monetary dishonesty, overbearing regulations, capricious judges, arrogant officials, and abusive law enforcers.

I have urged those with grievances to work peacefully within the system, so long as means exist to do so, to right grievances. I urge this out of an understanding that respect for law and order is a prerequisite for civilization.

But make no mistake: there are trip wires beyond which the use of force to resist the government is not only morally justified but a moral necessity. These justifications, the same as for the American Revolution of the 1770's, are:

Simple self defense, when government agents illegally use lethal force under cover of authority to destroy innocent lives and seize private property;

Any attempt to destroy the people's free communication with each other, public or private;

Serious and prolonged attempts by elected or appointed government officials to destroy or circumvent the protections of the people's natural and political rights--particularly those enshrined in the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution; and

A continuous pattern of such egregious lying by government officials to cover up official abuses of power that redress within electoral or judicial channels is subverted.

It should be noted that the Commander in Chief in America during the American Revolution--for the oppressive government of the period--was also named Clinton--Sir Henry Clinton.

Mr. Clinton, if you want the American people to sound less like the American revolutionaries of 1775, perhaps you should consider sounding less like a Tory.

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The Dignity of Power

When I was in junior high, I was occasionally called to the principal's office--or worse, the vice principal. You remember, the guys who couldn't "do," so they thought they would teach--and when it came down to herding a class full of noisy, gum-chewing, spitball-throwing thirteen-year-olds, suddenly sitting alone in an office with a lockable door started looking a whole lot better?

At home the dog could bark at them with impunity and their spouses could make them take out the garbage and tell embarrassing little stories about them in front of their friends, but at school, in their little ponds, when the principal said "frog" the kids knew to jump.

When you were called into the principal's office, you were expected to respect the office, if not the individual. Stand up straight. Speak only when you're spoken to. Don't give me any lip. Don't get smart with me, young man!

This was authority.

Before my time, one challenged that authority at the risk of getting strapped or caned; when I was at school, the most that happened--to boys, at least--was that you got lifted off your feet and pushed against the wall, while the vice principal stuck his face near yours and shouted. Then your parents got a call or a note, and further punishment, measured according to their temperaments, would follow. I learned this when in response to the vice principal telling me, "Don't get smart with me, young man!" I asked, "Do I come to school to get stupid?"

The authority of the school official to administer discipline derived from the schoolmasters being in loco parentis to the children in their charge. By nature and tradition, parents have power over their children--the standing to force their kids to do things which are supposed to be good for them and the standing to use force to keep them from harm. The ancient power of a father over his children used to be that of a king, and included dispensing both high and low justice--including the death penalty. In modern times, high justice--the punishment for crimes and civil violations--is monopolized by the state; but a parent's power to dispense lesser punishments is still assumed to exist--and authority deriving from that parental power can be delegated for schoolmasters to dispense punishment in the parent's stead.

Today, as I understand it, schoolmasters are wary of imposing many punishments on thirteen-year-olds, because some thirteen-year-olds might take offense and if they don't shoot you themselves, their older brothers might do a drive-by later. I am led to believe that this uncertainty schoolmasters have regarding the retaliatory power of their charges is destructive of their ability to teach. If one does not respect someone, why would someone pay them the attention needed to learn from them. It only stands to reason.

Now let's deal with grown-ups.

Throughout human history, the common condition of mankind is for there to be those who are rulers and those who are ruled. The behavior expected by an emperor or judge from one subject to his power is like that expected by the secure schoolmaster from good children--only more so. Stand up when you're told to, bend the knee when you're told to. Speak only when you're spoken to. And if you get smart with me, the hooded guy with the axe is waiting to show you our true appreciation of your witticism.

America was supposed to be different. Here, the people were declared by our founding document, dated July 4, 1776, to be endowed with "unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed."

In other words, for the first time in history, the kings were the ones who were supposed to bend the knee and speak only when they were spoken to.

Power is defined by whose smart mouth gets punished. If teachers actually know more than the kids in their charge--a dubious proposition with the teachers' unions blocking competency testing for teachers--then they can't teach kids who they're afraid will shoot them. There was a movie years back titled Class of 1984--largely forgettable, except for a scene where an exasperated teacher pulls out a gun in class and points it at students when he asks a question. This beautifully funny scene shows a bunch of lazy high--school brats suddenly being motivated to give the right answer.

Neil--you might ask--are you seriously suggesting that teachers carry guns to keep their classes in line?

I'll take the Fifth Amendment on that question. But I will seriously suggest that where there is no power, there is no ground for threatening punishment for disobedience--and that, ultimately, teachers better have access to more power than their students.

The same rule applies in reverse if America is really supposed to be different from the rest of the world regarding who has power.

When an elected congressman, Charles Schumer, is allowed to get away with calling the National Rifle Association--the largest organization of gun owners--"liars" and "flat-earthers" for asserting that gun ownership is an individual right protected by the Second Amendment--then we have a direct challenge to the dignity of the people's power.

You can't have it both ways. Is Charles Schumer a member of an aristocratic class that defines who has a right to a gun and who doesn't? Or do the people have that "unalienable" right, delegating only limited authority to elected officials who remain subservient to the people's power?

This is a power struggle. The question of who has the better right to keep, bear, and muster arms--the people or government servants--is just one aspect to this power struggle. The other one is who gets called into the principal's office…and a smart-mouth named Chuck Schumer is long overdue.

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Nixon's Advice to a 1996 Presidential Candidate

Richard Nixon, in letters shortly before his death to long-time friend, Bob Dole, advised him, "You have to run as far as you can to the right because that's where 40% of the people who decide the nomination are. And to get elected you have to run as fast as you can back to the middle, because only about 4% of the nation's voters are on the extreme right wing."

Gee whiz. That must mean one of the following:

If 40% of the Republican Party translates to 4% of the nation's voters, then the Republican Party is a minor party representing only 10% of the voting population. We can assume, therefore, that American historians are mistaken when they claim that Nixon, Reagan, and Bush were Republican Presidents, and that newspapers are mistaken when they report that the Republican Party now holds the majority of seats in both houses of Congress. Or:

Ninety percent of the Republicans who vote conservative in the Republican primary disappear into a black hole before the general election. Or:

For 4% of a primary vote to determine a majority in a primary election, less than 8% of the electorate who vote in the presidential election must vote in the presidential primaries. Or:

Ninety percent of the Republicans who vote conservative in the Republican primary transubstantiate into "moderates" between the primaries and the general election. Or:

Richard Nixon, having sold out most tenets of American conservatism in his lifetime-supporting gun control, sucking up to the mass-murdering communist dictator, Mao Ze Dong, imposing peacetime wage-price controls and saddling us with the 55 m.p.h. federal speed limit, and by "Vietnamization" engineering the eventual defeat of South Vietnam by the communists--is, from the grave, still polluting the Republican Party with his Machiavellian schemes for foiling the will of the American people.

Bob Dole would do well to steer clear.

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No Right to "Just Say No"

From a March 1, 1990 discussion in the Science Fiction RoundTable on GEnie. --JNS

Anyone who discounts the libertarian insight that the sole purpose of the Drug War is the totalitarian control of the individual by the United States government should consider that the same U.S. government that imprisons people for possession and use of "destructive" drugs may also drug them against their will once they are imprisoned--and with drugs that are at least as destructive as the drugs they were imprisoned for using or selling.

On Tuesday February 27, 1990, the United States Supreme Court gave prison officials wide authority to force prisoners to be "treated" with mind altering "antipsychotic" drugs which can result in tardive dyskinesia: permanent uncontrollable and disfiguring muscle twinges in the face, arms, trunk, and legs.

In a 6-3 decision written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the Court ruled that the state of Washington did not have to go to a court before prison officials could poison an inmate with these drugs.

In dissent, Justice John Paul Stevens, Justice William Brennan and Justice Thurgood Marshall, said the "liberty interests of citizens to resist the administration of mind altering drugs arises from our nation's most basic values."

The case involved Walter Harper, serving time on robbery charges, who sued the State to halt the use of antipsychotic drugs on him against his will.

The drug Harper was given can induce catatonic-like states, alter electro-encephalographic tracings and cause swelling of the brain. It can also include drowsiness, excitement, restlessness, bizarre dreams, hypertension, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, salivation, dry mouth, headache, blurred vision and muscle spasms. Harper said he would rather die than take the drug again.

The Bush administration--which is spearheading the so-called "Drug War"--and the American Psychiatric Association--which proved itself once again exactly the sort of technocratic monsters Anthony Burgess warned us against in A Clockwork Orange--sided with prison officials, arguing that the prison shrinks should make the decision, rather than the poor slobs getting this junk shoved in their veins.

Welcome to 1990--1984 was only a warning.

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The Drug Prohibition Epidemic

From a July 26, 1989 "cafe" discussion on the Connected Education "virtual" campus. --JNS

There is no "drug epidemic" in America; that is a propaganda myth.

It's a fundamental human right for an adult to ingest any substance he chooses--including deadly poison--and consequently also a fundamental human right for an adult to buy from or sell to other adults any substance for such purpose. In other words, grown-ups have the right to buy, sell, and take any drug they wish, and the current campaign of terror, propaganda, robbery, and outright murder being directed at counter-economic traders in pharmaceutical products is the most morally outrageous statist campaign since Hitler sent the Jews to Auschwitz.

The only drug epidemic in this country is drug prohibition. And the sooner it is repealed, the sooner we can turn resources to important matters like eliminating poverty and conquering space.

People's lives are indeed destroyed by drug self-abuse and there are indeed drug addicts living on the street. Setting aside the right of people to destroy their own lives, why are there drug addicts on the street? Because they're bankrupted by the black-market prices of drugs, that's why.

Drug prohibition is, in effect, government price supports for the illegal drug manufacturers and traders. Remove the price supports, the market will collapse.

How about drugs in the schoolyards? Do you see anyone hanging around schoolyards selling Tylenol to school kids? No profit in it. Remove the price supports (drug prohibition) presto chango! no more drug dealers in the school yards.

My position is absurd? So it was absurd in Salem to say that hanging witches was pointless, or in Germany to say that Jews weren't the enemy of the German people. It's always absurd to uphold logic and reason in the face of human madness.

The thing that gets me about the drug warriors is that they're so stupid. They've never learned the difference between wishes and fishes. Prohibitive legislation can't--and never has--been able to make people do anything; all it can do is raise the costs for people who decide to continue doing it. And the adverse effects of this rise in price is the corruption of an entire planet--the "drug prohibition" epidemic.

You don't believe me? Read Ceremonial Chemistry by Thomas Szasz, M.D., and you'll find out that almost all the adverse medical effects of narcotics are due to corruptions of the substances due to black-market manufacturing conditions.

Of course that book was written before the AIDS epidemic. Szasz's case can be made ever stronger now. If drugs can't be ingested safely and cheaply, the street druggies spread their plague to every segment of society. And everyone who has supported drug prohibition will be accomplices before the fact to the murder of every AIDS victim.

Of course we don't want a doctor to perform surgery impaired by drugs. But the illegality of the drugs the surgeon might be impaired by is beside the point. What if the surgeon is merely impaired by having been up for 36 hours, rather than strung out on drugs? Surgeons--as well as drivers, heavy machinery operators, pilots, etc.--have a responsibility to perform their jobs unimpaired by anything. The crime of a surgeon who performs surgery impaired by perfectly legal anti-allergy drugs, or merely fatigued, is exactly the same as a surgeon who is impaired by an illegal narcotic. The legality of the agent of impairment--heroin or insomnia--is a false issue and completely irrelevant.

The surgeon impaired by drugs is committing fraud: he has been contracted to perform surgery unimpaired; if he is impaired by anything he is liable for the consequences of his impaired behavior.

One does not judge "permissible behavior" by its desirable or undesirable social consequences; one judges "socially permissible behavior" solely by whether it forcibly or fraudulently invades other people's lives. If behavior is an invasion or is deceptive, it is right to defend against it; if it does not invade or deceive, it is a strictly personal matter to be decided on an individual basis, and beyond that it's nobody else's damn business.

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During the L.A. Riots

From computer messages on the Writers Guild BBS from May 1-3, 1992, while Los Angeles was still under curfew during the Los Angeles riots. --JNS

I've tried not to post during this crisis. For one thing, I've been busy buying up the sort of supplies that used to be on lists for stocking a fallout shelter--canned goods, batteries, candles, etc. For another thing, I manage an apartment building, and have been doing armed patrols at night. So far it's been quiet here in Venice, but with the cops and National Guard pretty much leaving this area alone, I'm not counting on the arsonists and looters ignoring us much longer. 2

Even in the absence of arsonists, there are a number of things that have been burning me up.

I watched the entire trial [in Simi Valley, of the four police officers accused of criminally beating Rodney King]. The jury's verdict was entirely reasonable given the facts that were allowed to be presented to them. The defense made a good case that reasonable doubt should be accorded to the cops needing that amount of force to subdue King. The prosecution failed to introduce strong evidence to counter this reasonable doubt. There was no evidence introduced about the beating of the other two passengers as claimed by King's attorney, nor was any evidence introduced about racial epithets being used by the four cops, also claimed by King's attorney.

If such evidence had been introduced, I think even the Simi Valley jury would have voted guilty. Given the absence of such evidence, there was in fact a reasonable doubt about the motives of the four cops, and a reasonable doubt about whether they were using reasonable force to subdue King for purposes of arrest; and given the complete lack of evidence of a racially-motivated beating, they acquitted properly.

The jury system in this country is in mortal danger. The jurors feel their lives are in danger and they are in hiding. Who can blame them? And who will be willing to serve on a jury in the future?

The Fifth Amendment protection against double jeopardy is also in mortal danger. These four were tried and acquitted on the beating charges. To switch to federal court and try them for the same acts is a weasely way of getting by the Fifth Amendment protection. Is the lynch mob mentality so bad in this country that the President, the Governor, and the Mayor are willing to throw out a basic constitutional protection just to appease the bloodlust of the mob for these four cops?

Then the President of the United States goes on TV and calls for a federal grand jury to investigate these four officers whom a jury has acquitted--using federal civil rights laws that were intended to be used against KKK members.

This was not a jury of KKK members. You can criticize them for showing too much sympathy to the blue uniform--but given the events of the last few days that seems a little insane.

Then for the President of the United States to go on network TV while race riots are going on and declare that their verdict was racially motivated? This is the death of the Constitution of the United States and its guarantee of trial by jury, the death of constitutional protections. It is pandering to the lynch mob. How can these four persons ever get a fair trial in this country when the President of the United States goes on TV and declares them guilty?

Arson and looting is not racially motivated. They are motivated by spiteful envy and a hatred of civilization. Those who burn are nihilists. Those who loot are subhuman. They deserve no place in a society of decent people. I don't care what their color is--black, brown, white, or green. They do not deserve to live in a society with indoor plumbing, electricity, and Walkmans.

This whole damn mess is caused by the people of this country cowardly handing over responsibility for defending their lives, homes, neighbors, and businesses to the State. A generally armed and ready citizenry could have stopped the arson and looting on the first night. Instead, people bitch about the overworked and overextended police and fire department's inability to be eight places at the same time, and those responsible citizens who tried to buy guns were told that it was illegal. The first thing Mayor Bradley did was ban gun and ammunition sales. People going to gun stores learned about the 15-day waiting period for the first time. Sarah Brady and her ilk are conspirators before the fact to the arson of 3500† buildings and the looting of thousands more…to the fact that unarmed people were murdered.

All the pious platitudes about how the poor need to be helped are missing the point. These monsters have accused the Koreans who have sold groceries of "taking their money and giving them nothing in return." Well, you can see why they think that: they think the Koreans owe it to them for free, and charging money for milk and eggs is theft. What the hell are we supposed to do with people who think that grocers who work 16-hour days owe them free food? What can you do when all the political leaders seem to agree with this?

What can you do? Here's what I said on ABC TV news last night:

"Buy a gun…learn to use it safely and appropriately…carry it with you at all times…be prepared to defend yourself, your loved ones, and your neighborhoods."

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Is This a Case for Perry Mason?

By the time you read this, you will know what the outcome of the O.J. Simpson murder trial is: guilty, not guilty, or a mistrial. I write these words in August, 1995 in the middle of the defense's case, and while I have a ten-dollar bet on the outcome, I'm not foolish enough to put it in print.

Aside from my obstinate belief in O.J. Simpson's innocence in spite of what I agree is some compelling circumstantial evidence, I have one additional conclusion I am willing to state in print.

We need to stop letting judges decide what a jury can and can't hear. If the jury system is conceptually worthwhile in the first place as a protection of the private person from the powers of the government, then the jury should must have the power to hear everything argued in court before the judge.

To paraphrase Rick Blaine in Casablanca: If you can stand it, they can stand it. Play it, play it. --JNS


We've all seen the classic 60's show so much that we know the plot structure by heart. First, a dramatic murder of an ex-wife occurs where the suspect is obvious: a prominent ex-husband with a history of losing his temper violently. Second, damning circumstantial evidence provides the basis for the suspect being charged. Third, the suspect runs, and clinches his guilt in everyone's mind.

"You've just made your case twice as hard," says Perry Mason to his new client.

We all know that the actual murderer, someone we've given no attention until then, will confess under Perry's relentless cross examination at the end of Act Four, just before the final commercial.

The events surrounding the O.J. Simpson case have followed the Perry Mason scenario so closely to this point that it is irresistible for a scenarist such as myself to speculate on what everyone else seems to be avoiding: what if O.J. really didn't do it?

The dramatist is concerned with how long-term character will direct a person in his ultimate crisis. That's why it's hard to accept O.J. Simpson, a middle-aged family man regarded by most as a person seriously concerned with moral behavior, as laying in wait for his ex-wife just a few hours after attending their daughter's dance recital, then coldbloodedly committing a brutal double murder more characteristic of a Ted Bundy or a Jeffrey Dahmer. The fiction writer couldn't get away with this: if someone can commit this savage a crime at the middle of his life, then where's the trail of bodies leading up to it?

There's also the problem of what our suspect actually did while he was AWOL from the police with his best friend. If there was "consciousness of guilt," why weren't they stealing a car and heading for Tijuana, instead of cruising aimlessly nearby with every cop for a hundred miles looking for them?

But the fiction writer would have a greater problem here. The suspect writes a despair-filled suicide note, proclaiming his innocence to the world, then heads for the grave of the victim whom he says he's always loved. He had a gun and planned to kill himself on his ex-wife's grave.

Here's the motivational problem: if our suspect actually committed the murder and is going to kill himself next then he must confess his guilt to his best friend, and the friend will show him the kindness of assisting his suicide to save him from the impending humiliations of arrest, public exposure, and possible execution.

But if the best friend instead does everything he can to keep our suspect from killing himself, then the suspect's soul-baring must never have happened and his continued protests of innocent despair are what motivated the friend to risk felony charges of abetting a fugitive in order to save him.

Perry Mason has his work cut out for him: an ambitious DA who sees this prosecution not only as the ticket to national fame, book deals, and higher political office, but a media circus that, like the tribal corn kings, proclaims a man a hero then sacrifices him on the public altar.

Everyone has something to gain from the harvesting of the Corn King. Pundits use him as an object lesson of what happens when social workers don't get to intervene early enough in domestic violence. Arbiters of culture declare that society has no use for heroes. Snobs condemn the unwashed masses who cheered their hero as he rode his chariot past them on the way to his sacrificial altar. And everywhere--everywhere--a people fighting off the boredom of their own colorless despair find a moment's brilliance when real life imitates drama.

O.J. Simpson may, in fact, be guilty. The detectives of the LAPD are not dummies, and neither are prosecutors who are resting their careers on a man who until now has been an exemplar of successful achievement.

Yet, prosecutor Hamilton Burger was back every week with an ironclad case, and if it had not been for Perry Mason's pursuit of the truth above all other agendas, justice would have gone awry week after week.

That was, after all, just make-believe. But when it comes to analyzing character, maybe fiction has more to teach us than history. Aristotle thought so.

We say that a man is innocent until proved guilty, so let's at least ask the question: If O.J. Simpson even conceivably might not have done these murders, who among us will search for who did?

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I do not believe Orenthal James Simpson is guilty of the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ronald Goldman.

In this opinion, I am joined by a majority of African Americans and a minority of my fellow Anglo Americans. I also seem to be alone in this view among every opinion-maker I know, from one end of the political spectrum to the other.

Everyone has an agenda they want served by the trial of O.J. Simpson.

The news, gossip, and talk media have a field day: a case such as this is their bread and butter for years. As Jimmy Durante used to say, "Everybody wants to get inta the act!"

The Los Angeles Police Department and the Los Angeles District Attorney's office both have a motivation to have tried O.J. Simpson for these murders because trying a celebrity brings vast publicity to them, both as individuals and as government entities. Personal publicity leads to career advancement for detectives and prosecutors; departmental publicity leads to increased funding opportunities.

Once having charged O.J. Simpson with this crime, convicting O.J. Simpson of the charges is a high-stakes game, in which the careers of detectives and prosecutors--and of the Los Angeles District Attorney, himself--will rise or fall according to whether or not O.J. Simpson is convicted. [Note: All three key detectives in the Simpson case -- Vannatter, Lange, and Fuhrman -- have "retired" within months of the not- guilty verdict. I sure called that one right! -- JNS, August 8, 1996] The trial of a more-ordinary defendant does not create incentives to falsify incriminatory evidence or suppress exculpatory evidence: both incentives exist in this case--and these extraordinary incentives have nothing to do with racism and everything to do with celebrity.

For the families of the victims, it is desirable to believe that O.J. Simpson committed these murders, because if their loved ones were murdered by some faceless, ordinary criminal, then these crimes lend no special grace to their loved one's memories.

If O.J. Simpson, a spousal abuser, did not murder Nicole Brown Simpson, then there is no grand cause to which her death can be dedicated as an example, and her death may seem unexplainable.

And even for the family of Ronald Goldman, having him murdered by a celebrity lends an explanation for his death in a way that having him murdered in an ordinary crime would not. According to Viktor Frankl in his book Man's Search For Meaning, the need to find an explanation or meaning in the death of a loved one is a necessary part of the healing of grief.

Without O.J. Simpson as murderer, such explanations are unknown, meaning is much harder to find, and solace is elusive.

Political conservatives, bent on seeing a restoration of tough treatment of criminals in this country, want O.J. Simpson convicted as proof that the criminal justice system can work.

Political liberals, who hate self-made millionaires, secretly want O.J. Simpson convicted as proof of their class-envy-derived feelings that anyone who fulfills the American Dream must be corrupt.

Radical feminists, bent on proving that men are beasts who first beat women then kill them, want O.J. Simpson convicted as proof that women need more legal protection against men.

The African American community is divided between those who feel O.J. Simpson should be punished because he married a white woman and lived the lifestyle of a rich white man, and those who want him exonerated because a white racist power structure is incapable of bringing true facts to light in a case involving an African American defendant who was married to a white woman.

Now let me reveal my agenda. I once personally encountered O.J. Simpson for all of ten seconds, and what I saw of him in that short a time left an indelible impression of him on my mind.

It was at a studio publicity screening of The Empire Strikes Back in 1980. O.J. Simpson and his then-young son, Jason, sat in the row in front of me. After the movie, as O.J. walked out of the screening room with his son, O.J.. told him to pay close attention to Yoda's advice, "Do, or do not--but there is no try." I was left with the strong impression of a caring father who was concerned about seeing his son raised with strong values.

I was not left with the impression of a man who could coldbloodedly murder his wife with their children asleep a few feet away.

I think O.J. Simpson, in spite of his having gotten drunk on occasion and maltreated his wife, is a man who when sober was extremely unlikely to have committed the brutal double murder with which he is charged, because the crimes do not logically follow from well-known facts about O.J. Simpson's character.

I am a writer by profession. I've written novels, screenplays, short stories, and journalism. Part of my craft is the study of character and motivation. The elements of character which are used to plot a story are based on our general knowledge of how people act in real life. A story in which individuals are shown doing things that don't follow from the established facts of their background fails to establish a "willing suspension of disbelief" in the reader, and fails the test of good writing.

My belief in O.J. Simpson's innocence is based on the known facts having failed to "suspend my disbelief." There are three main elements that give me reason to believe he is unlikely to be the murderer in this case.

First, I do not believe O.J. Simpson had sufficient motivation to want to kill his wife. He was not a loser without a life, was not sexually or romantically needy, and was not financially desperate. He was not destroying his life with drugs or alcohol. O.J. Simpson is a wealthy, attractive celebrity with charm and sex appeal who could have almost any woman he wanted. He was spending much of his life traveling, and his current girlfriend, Paula Barbieri is one of the most beautiful women alive. He had a prenuptial agreement with Nicole Brown Simpson that protected him from being financially drained by her.

No rational motive for premeditated murder can be derived from these facts.

Second, I believe that the circumstance of O.J. Simpson's activities on the day of the murders do not provide an adequate explanation for the formation of an intent for him to commit murder on that day. He had an obligation to attend his daughter's dance recital. He may have been in physical discomfort during the performance because of a flare-up of rheumatoid arthritis; this--aside from having to be present in a room with his ex-wife in stressful circumstances--would account for his seeming in a sullen mood during the performance. Yet, he seemed in a better mood by the end of the performance. Maybe he was just bored by the recital.

After the recital, he went home. We are told that he went out for some McDonald's fast food with Kato Kaelin and ate indifferently. Then there is some time--possibly as long as an hour--in which he seems to have been alone, without an alibi; except that we know that he called Paula Barbieri from his cellular phone during this period. This provides an indication that his focus during that unaccounted--for time was on his current girlfriend, not his ex-wife.

If he had been at home the previous week, stalking his ex-wife, his murdering her the night of June 12, 1994 would be easier to believe. If he had been drinking or doing cocaine during that afternoon or evening, uncharacteristic behavior would be easier to explain. There is no evidence to suggest that O.J. Simpson was engaging in obsessive or destructive behavior on the afternoon or early evening of June 12, 1994. Instead, even with a period of missing time, his known activities are consistent with a father who finds time to honor his daughter in the middle of a busy travel schedule. To my mind, this does not create a likelihood of the formation of an intent to commit murder.

Third, I do not believe that the method of the murder is one O.J. Simpson would have chosen, even if he had been inclined to kill Nicole Brown Simpson or Ronald Goldman. O.J. Simpson owned guns. A gun is a weapon which can be used from a distance, making it less likely that one will be splattered with the victim's blood. O.J. Simpson has been repeatedly described as a man obsessed with cleanliness and neatness. He wouldn't allow smoking in his house. He has been described as folding his clothes neatly rather than just tossing them over furniture. He has been described as not even wanting to park his car under a tree because sap or leaves might dirty it. A bloody knifing is not the likely murder method for a man as compulsive about neatness as O.J. Simpson is described as being.

We have a murder with no witnesses, no murder weapon, and no fingerprints.

There is some blood, hair and fiber evidence linking O.J. Simpson to the murder scene; and a bloody glove on O.J.'s estate which matches one found at the murder scene.

There is knowledge that O.J. Simpson, when drunk, beat up Nicole Brown Simpson several times, the last known time several years ago; and more recently frightened her by busting into her house and shouting at her--an occasion on which he was not drinking and did not employ physical violence against her.

On what, then, are we to convict O.J. Simpson of these murders?

The negative proof that he can't provide an alibi for those exact minutes the murders were committed?

The fact that he was a spousal abuser, which provides less than a one-percent likelihood that this would lead to murder?

O.J. Simpson's despair about being charged with a double murder he may know he is innocent of, and a confused and panicked attempt to escape, knowing that a lifetime's worth of achievement and reputation had just been flushed down the drain?

Forensic evidence from police and prosecutors who have every incentive to convict O.J. Simpson for these murders and no incentive whatsoever to investigate the possibility that someone else may have committed them?

The physical evidence is not enough for me to convict him, given the exculpatory issues of character, motive, and formation of intent.

I think that there are so many people with agendas in this case, that the search for truth has been a casualty. If O.J. Simpson has been framed, it was not necessarily because of racist motives. It may well be that implicating O.J. Simpson was merely a convenient diversion by the actual murderer or murderers with their own unknown agendas.

We may never know, because by now, the actual murderers have had so long to cover their trail, no evidence will ever link them to their crimes.

It may be that even the "Dream Team" of lawyers defending O.J. Simpson believe their client guilty, and that in the absence of a solid alibi or evidence pointing to another culprit are simply doing the best they can to undermine the prosecution's case by the remaining means available.

Which leaves us with O.J. Simpson, a man already convicted in the media; a largely black jury which, if they acquit O.J. Simpson, will not be believed if they say it was because of lack of sufficient evidence; and a celebrity who--if innocent as seems at least possible--will never again regain his good name.

It's enough to make you wish Perry Mason was real.

Addendum: October 3, 1995

This part is being written after SELF CONTROL Not Gun Control is already printed, and the first copies sold at the 1995 Gun Rights Policy Conference in Dallas.

My family and friends will confirm that I had been saying for the last week that I believed that the jury would deliberate for less than a day, and come in with a verdict of Not Guilty. My friend, novelist Dafydd ab Hugh, will verify that we made a bet months ago that the verdict would be Not Guilty. (At least Dafydd better back me up -- he owes me a dinner now.)

Having now established my credentials as a pundit and a prophet, my speaking fee is $1500 plus expenses, I'm available at the same daily rate as a consultant (unless the demand bids my price up), and I'm eagerly awaiting the offers for my next book.

Right. And monkeys may fly out of my -- oh, never mind. -- JNS

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An Argument on the Death Penalty

In Stopping Power I included an article originally published in Liberty magazine titled, "If Execution is Just, What Is Justice?" Judging from the letters-to-the-editor in Liberty, not a lot of people agreed with what I had to say.

Some of those who read my article in Stopping Power disagreed with me enough to write me personally. This is a condensed version of two of my replies, in the hope that this time I will at least have written clearly, if not persuasively. --JNS

Look. I don't think killing a murderer after the fact is any more immoral than killing a potential murderer in self-defense.

Nor did I state that it is immoral to kill a murderer. I merely said that it's wrong in the context of a legal system because it's underivable from principles of reparative justice, which is what the point of all civil law is in a secular society. I find the basis of all criminal law to be vengeance--a concept that is based not on natural equity but on religious or social utility arguments, or tradition, or merely on gut feelings.

The problem with gut feelings--esthetic judgments, if you want to be technical about it--is that people do fail to reach the sort of universal consensus about it that can qualify such judgments as "within the Tao" or otherwise universal. You'll have to search far to find someone in his right mind who disagrees with the idea that someone who does evil harm to another should do something to try to make it good to them. But when it comes to gut feelings on eating meat, or whether it's better to rule oneself or take orders, or be open handed rather than close handed, you'll get plenty of disagreements. It's precisely this difference in gut response that distinguishes the anti-death-penalty demonstrator on execution eve from the pro-death-penalty demonstrator. One is revolted by the idea of the cold-blooded killing of a tied-up prisoner. The other is revolted by the bastard living another day.

The argument that the State isn't infallible and will execute innocent people by mistake is, on utilitarian premises, weak, since far more lives are likely lost by repeat murderers who weren't executed for their first murder than innocent people executed wrongly. But that's the sort of problem you run into when you start counting up dead bodies and judging public policy thereby.

The strongest argument I've heard in favor of the death penalty is my friend Dennis Prager's: that a murderer, having evilly taken a life, doesn't deserve to keep his. Dennis states it as "death is the only just response."

That argument, the strongest I've heard, is still too weak. If like Dennis you believe in God who distinguishes the good from the evil and rewards or punishes accordingly, then human punishment is superfluous: God won't fail to punish the murderer in the afterlife, if nowhere else. Therefore, if the murderer gets to enjoy a few extra years in this life, I'm sure God would be capable of making the afterlife that much worse in perfect vengeance.

Also, it shows a lack of imagination to me to say that anything is the only just response. How about using murderers to clean up nuclear waste dumps, or for testing new and risky drugs, or for saving "innocent" animals from vivisection? What's wrong with a life at hard labor in a hostile and dangerous place where every waking moment is uncertain and miserable? If punishment is your goal, surely execution ends the bastard's suffering way too soon?

In Stopping Power I preceded my article on capital punishment with an article questioning whether punishment was a reasonable concept at all. I believe the punishment of a thing is the same as its reward: a consequence of the nature of a thing itself. To me, Heaven and Hell would be the same place. If you are good, you will enjoy it. If you are evil, it will be anathema to you.

That is the sort of efficiency and elegance that I would expect from the creator of the universe.

Those who use lethal force to deprive others of their lives, liberty, and property have given up their right to life.

There is a context for that statement: while the lethal force is threatened. Without that context, then any use of lethal force, even if I point a knife at you to get you to give up your wallet, would justify hunting you down and executing you.

No, I do not think that any use of lethal force by an individual constitutes a permanent forfeiture of that individual's right to life.

But I do also believe that when one person (sapient being) uses lethal force to deprive another person of his life, the right to one's own life is forfeited to the victim--that is, the victim's heirs. One becomes the property (slave) of the victim's heirs. They are within their moral rights to kill you, or sell your labor. I do not believe there is corruption of blood--the murderer's children remain free or are born free--guilt is individual.

I do not believe there is a non-religious moral basis for punishment within the context of a secular legal system.

Punishment is something that a superior being may do to correct an inferior being. A parent may punish a child to correct it; a pet owner may punish a pet to correct it; a slave owner may punish a slave to correct it; a god (or God) may punish a mortal to correct it: all of these are premised on the relationship of a superior to an inferior.

The British legal system that we inherited was premised on a superior (the Crown) punishing its subjects. The Crown claims to be superior to its subjects.

But in the American system, the government claims to have only those rights and powers that are delegated by the people. Therefore, its only just powers are those of agency or contract. The moral basis of American constitutional government is identical to the libertarian's desire for a completely private system: neither believes in the moral superiority of the State as does the British system, whose Crown claims to be Defender of the Faith.

How, then, can the American government claim superiority, and punish? It might punish slaves. Who are the slaves it may rightfully punish? It may rightfully punish only those slaves handed over to its custody by the heirs of murder victims.

I do not define execution in the context of a secular system as punishment at all. Punishment has as its object the correction of an offender to teach him something. Someone who has just been executed has learned nothing: he has no life left to have learned it. This is untrue only if there exists an afterlife--in which case we are again arguing theology as the basis for morality. Therefore, the only punishments a secular legal system may inflict on convicted murderers are ones in which the murderers survive the punishment.

At the point when it invokes the slave-owner's right to kill his slave, it is not punishment but consumption of property.

Free men can not punish free men. All they can do is balance claims. That is the purpose of civil justice. A system which is set up on the basis of secular civil justice can do no more than balance claims between equals.

Where does this leave me?

I assert that killing a person threatening lethal force is morally justifiable.

I assert that an heir of a murder victim has the right to kill or enslave the convicted murderer, and to delegate that right.

I assert that a secular state may only morally punish or kill those murderers which the victims' heirs say they may. Others, who are free men, it may only balance claims between.

Given the tendency of human beings to muck things up, I think having a society which kills slaves is likely to end up killing non-slaves as well. As a utilitarian, not a moral, proposition, I think its a poor idea which is bound to increase the powers of the state and reintroduce a system where those who work for the government see themselves as superior to the rest of the people.

I therefore think that the killing of murderers must not be delegated at all. One must "shoot one's own dog."

If you can't do that, then you don't have the moral courage necessary to claim ultimate justice.

The following article was originally published in the March, 1975 issue of Murray Rothbard's The Libertarian Forum.

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The following article was originally published in the March, 1975 issue of Murray Rothbard's The Libertarian Forum.

The Aliens Are Among Us

They are here: invisible, silent, and fearsome. They drain away the lifeblood of hardworking Americans. They infiltrate our borders by several millions per year. They take jobs away from honest American workers. They are a curse, a plague, an invasion. They are the bane of our failing economy: to be hunted down, to be stopped at all costs.

And they don't even pay income tax.

Clearly, aliens are a national pestilence and have been so for a number of years. Americans, however, are not insensitive to this grave national menace; in 1938 an Orson Welles radio drama about an alien invasion was enough to send thousands of patriotic Americans into the streets ready to do battle. (Curiously, that radio drama was broadcast also during one of this nation's periodic, economic downturns.) Three years later fiction became fact as the United States went to war against aliens, and actually found a large number of them masquerading as native born American citizens. Naturally, the alien impostors were immediately locked into prison camps for the duration of the war.

(Few Americans were thinking about the economy at that point. The aliens were a much more serious problem.)

It is most important to realize that oftentimes there is little or no difference in physical appearance between an alien and an American--"Star Trek" propaganda to the contrary. (Indeed, that television has been dominated by alien interests from its inception is virtually axiomatic: have you ever encountered a television receiver not linked to the telltale antenna?) Aliens do not necessarily have green skin--though other shades are quite fashionable--or antennae, or even pointed ears, for that matter. As an example, one alien, Clark Kent, was smuggled into the United States as a child, maintaining his cover throughout World War Two by serving with distinction. He was later deported because the immigration quota for Krypton was filled the year he entered.

Nevertheless, inasmuch as aliens precipitate panics, depressions, and wars, Americans have had good cause to feel alienated. We find ourselves again in another of our periodic, economic downturns, and there is sufficient evidence to once more place the blame where it belongs: squarely on the shoulders of the aliens.

It can be clearly demonstrated that aliens have infiltrated our economy, taking welfare and jobs away from deserving American citizens. It is now more important than ever that we understand how these aliens have wormed their way into decent American society, and take drastic measures to dig them out.

To begin with, aliens are naturally lazy, untrained, unfamiliar with our business practices, sickly, and able to speak English only with great difficulty. These qualifications are used by aliens to obtain free medical and welfare benefits. As a stopgap measure, it is strongly advisable that patriotic Americans stage a slowdown, "call in sick," and muddle their English. These are surefire tactics to win back our hard-earned benefits for ourselves.

Next, the aliens seduce jobs from greedy American employers by agreeing to work "off the books." Inasmuch as the employer no longer must withhold income or social security taxes from that employee's paycheck, the alien is able to walk away with the same pay as a citizen, while saving his employer a good deal of money. (These traitorous employers can be easily identified by their uncanny ability to undersell their competitors at a profit.) Here, particularly, is where immediate action is called for: until these aliens can be dealt with directly, it is the patriotic duty of every American to cease paying these taxes, to restore the competitive edge to those loyal employers who have stuck with American labor. It is unusual, of course, but it's a matter of saving American jobs for American workers.

Most importantly, the aliens must not allowed to reproduce. They must be stopped now before it's too late. Several hundred years ago a relatively small group of aliens landed on this continent and systematically multiplied. For the results, ask any Indian, if you can find one.

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Willie Brown, Terrorist

California Assembly Speaker Willie Brown is a terrorist.

It has nothing to do with the shenanigans by which he retained the speakership of the California Assembly by grabbing the gavel under dubious rules of procedure and expelling Republican Assemblyman Richard Mountjoy, gaining a majority vote for him to win the speakership. That's not terrorism in California--just politics as usual.

What is the essence of the terrorist philosophy? It's that if you feel you have been wronged, whatever you do to settle the score is right--even if you hurt third parties.

It doesn't matter to the terrorist if the third parties, as individuals, never did anyone any wrong because terrorists are collectivists. They don't believe in individual innocence or individual guilt. This belief is an apology for all terrorism.

You want to get something? Take hostages and make demands. Blow up a building or a bus and say you'll do worse if your demands aren't met. How can hostages, or bystanders, be innocent if everyone is responsible for everyone else's bad luck? How can you be guilty of a crime if individuals aren't responsible for their own fate?

Willie Brown is a terrorist because he believes he isn't responsible for his own success or failure, and because he believes it is acceptable to punish innocent third parties to settle perceived grievances.

In a press conference on February 14, 1995, Willie Brown told a room full of mostly white reporters that "everybody in here has been the beneficiary of preferential treatment at my expense--at every level in your life." This was Brown's justification for affirmative action, by which government contracts and jobs, and university admissions, are awarded not on the basis of merit but given to persons who are in a group that has suffered in the past.

Willie Brown is an American of black African ancestry. Starting about four centuries ago, black Africans were sold into slavery, often by other blacks, and these slaves were put on ships and sold as slaves to whites who lived in America. At the time of the American Revolution, in the 1770's, slavery was legal in some American states and illegal in others.

Many white Americans disapproved of slavery and helped slaves escape to Canada. They were called abolitionists. Other white Americans, who lived mostly in states in which slavery was illegal, fought in a war against a Confederacy in which slavery was legal. This war cost more white Americans their lives than any other war in American history. At the end of this war, as a result of it, slavery was made illegal in all of the states by constitutional amendment. Another constitutional amendment was passed guaranteeing to freed slaves all rights of citizenship previously held by whites. In fact, blacks were granted the right to vote in elections under the Constitution of the United States decades before women were.

Because of their having been slaves, blacks in America were treated badly by some whites for several additional generations; but legal discrimination against blacks was ended in several court decisions and enabling legislation, largely pushed by whites of Jewish descent, so that by the 1960's, any form of discrimination against Americans of African ancestry was punishable by law.

Now. If one is strict about it, there is no one alive today who was either a slave or a slave-owner. All these people are dead. But even if one argues that one should be punished for the misdeeds of one's ancestors, it's difficult to assign blame.

Many Americans today come from families who immigrated to America long after slavery was abolished. Many are from Europe and Asia, and during the period of African-American slavery, their ancestors were being mistreated as badly as the slaves were being mistreated in America. Some of these others were serfs in Russia or China, or Jews living in ghettos throughout eastern Europe, or Irish people living in abject poverty.

In America during the period of slavery and discrimination against blacks, there was also discrimination against the aboriginal "Indians," as well as immigrant Chinese, Japanese, Irish, Italians, and Jews. Indians and Chinese suffered the same sorts of lynchings as did blacks. Sects such as the Mormons were driven off their property as severely as were some Indian tribes. In the 1940's, Japanese Americans were dispossessed by the government and were herded into relocation camps; when restitution was made half a century later to those families who were dispossessed, it was for pennies on the dollar.

So, if one is from a family of abolitionists who helped slaves escape, or of a family that fought against slavers in the American Civil War, or of a family that fought for the civil rights of American blacks, then one has already paid one's share. And, if one comes from a family that was discriminated against before coming to America, or in America, then their descendants are due the same sort of reparations claimed on behalf of black Americans.

All of this is, however, vile accounting. Children should not be saddled with the debts of their ancestors. The very idea of America is that everyone is born with an equal shot at "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Therefore, imposing the debts of one's ancestors on newborn children is at its essence unjust and un-American.

But Willie Brown wants to punish persons born in innocent freedom for the sins of persons who may not even be their ancestors. He wants to discriminate against innocent persons--costing them jobs and educational opportunities--because his ancestors were mistreated.

To Willie Brown, no one is innocent, except his people, who are due reparations from people who never did them any harm and may, in fact, have done them great good at high cost. This is the philosophy of the common terrorist.

Willie Brown is not only a terrorist, but an ingrate, demanding reparations from people who gave their lives and fortunes to help his ancestors. He is not only an ingrate, but a racist with a collectivist philosophy identical to those who believed the humanity of blacks could be denied because of their race.

In America, we don't honor racism and terrorism, even if the ancestors of the racist and terrorist got a raw deal, because all of our ancestors got a raw deal at one time or another. That's why many of our ancestors came to America in the first place.

Willie Brown's terrorist demands are outrageous, and should be given the answer all terrorist demands are given:

Not on your life, buster. And most definitely, not on mine.

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The General Welfare

Orphanages? Is that the best our politicians can imagine for solving the problem of how to discourage single women from gaining welfare benefits by having children they can't support?

Everybody finally seems to have gotten the idea--for which right-wingers have been called heartless--that welfare was a terrible socialist idea because it created an incentive for indolence. Herbert Spencer told us a century ago that "survival of the fittest" would adapt itself so that if the criteria of fitness is the ability of a woman to have children she can't support, women who have children they can't support would be best fitted for survival. Nobel-laureate Milton Friedman tells us, similarly, that if you create a demand for people not to work, the market will satisfy that demand.

Many have compared welfare to drug addiction, with the welfare bureaucracy as an enabler. This metaphor is particularly useful in that depriving welfare "addicts" of their fix doesn't refit them for survival in the competitive marketplace any more than merely cutting addicts off makes them capable of dealing with the reasons they started drugs. The American working class, after three decades of having their pockets picked to support those who don't work, seem now to be cynical enough to ignore continued liberal cries for their indulgence.

But just what are the American people supposed to do with women and children who, because of a half-century of dumb public policy, are not fitted to support themselves? Putting young moms out in the snow with babes in arms just doesn't fit the American character; on the other hand, neither does being played again as a sucker.

How about a return to a public policy of encouraging family values for welfare mothers?

Back in the "good old days" before Betty Friedan convinced women that they could consider work, and unpaid bills convinced them that they'd better, men brought home the bacon and women cooked it. When, in 1955, Arthur Godfrey asked my mother on TV what she did, my mother proudly answered that she was a housewife. This might seem like second-class citizenship for a 1990's woman who's image of a career is Sally Ride or Gloria Allred, but for a young mother unable to feed her child, a man to support them might be heaven.

If we're going to be serious about ending the dole for single mothers with dependent children, we have to ask where they're going to end up. If we do nothing more than cut them off--even after some grace period--we just push women unable, simultaneously, to handle work and child care onto the street to beg for quarters. I doubt anyone, no matter how tough their talk, thinks homeless shelters are a wholesome place for children.

We could alternatively place unsupported children in foster homes or orphanages. Yet yanking children from their natural mothers for mere poverty seems contrary to the family values we all proclaim.

Or we could create separate shelters run by social workers, where welfare families can continue to be supported. But wouldn't this just be admitting that we have no way out of this socialist nightmare other than having taxpayers continue to act as surrogate parents?

The position of the modern welfare state isn't too different from that of a father, in the old days, with a wayward daughter. Where was he going to find a man willing to marry a daughter who'd already had another man's child?

Wherever there's an excess of men, that's where. On the Internet. At science fiction conventions. Gun clubs. Libertarian meetings. Wherever there are productive but socially underdeveloped men whose best hope for a sexual encounter is Joycelyn Elders' recent advice.

You want to solve the welfare crisis? Get the single welfare mothers together with the guys who didn't get dates in high school because they were in the math club rather than out on the gridiron.

The technology to find husbands for welfare mothers is off-the-shelf stuff: everything from ballroom dancing to video dating. Uncle Sam must give way to Dolly Levi. Socialism will be put away by the Ice Cream Social.

Okay, maybe I'm going off the deep end here. But maybe not. Is having the government play matchmaker for our wayward daughters any crazier than public policy continuing to enable unwed motherhood?


1. Which is precisely what they did in testimony before a Senate committee, a few weeks later. --JNS

2. I didn't know it then, but the fires were a lot closer than I knew. With over 1000 commercial buildings burning, the news hadn't bothered reporting that some of the few residential buildings which were torched were in the Oakwood section of Venice, around a mile from the building I managed on Abbot Kinney Boulevard.

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