L. Neil Smith: The Fabian Choo-Choo

xcgnKjeMiFrom L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise:

I was having a conversation with somebody on Facebook the other day, when I became aware that he didn’t know about, or understand, how political progress really gets made. Yet another failure, owing to the libertarian movement’s utter lack of an internal education system. He seemed to believe he was imparting “mature wisdom” when he criticized my advocacy of lofty, long-range, radical goals, in particular, my insistence that all taxation is morally unacceptable, a danger to world peace, and must therefore be abolished. He seemed to think this progress would somehow happen by itself, or in slow, microscopic increments, as long as people like me didn’t spoil it.

It reminded me of the 1990s, when the Republican congressional “revolution” began to fail and fall apart, due mostly to that party’s typical stupidity and cowardice, House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who had led the “revolution” tried to deflect the criticism by genuine conservatives and libertarians by quoting that sad old bag Voltaire: “The perfect is the enemy of the good”. I, who had a much shorter soap-box to stand on in those days, nevertheless responded, “If it weren’t for those of us who insist upon the perfect, there would never be any good.”

Later, the magnificent and courageous Libertarian Party National Platform, of the late 1970s, originally put together by David Nolan, Murray Rothbard, Williamson Evers, Reichard White, Michael Grossberg, myself, and many illustrious others, got assaulted and demolished by the same kind of cowards and fools, totally ignorant of how political progress is historically made, that still plague the GOP and the LP today. A concerted effort has been made to drive out those in the LP with any ideas and principles, and it has largely been successful.

Do not be deceived: the current popularity of the LP has nothing to do with the feeble efforts of Gary Johnson or William Weld. It is due solely to the revulsion people feel when they contemplate voting for Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump. It will evaporate shortly after the election.

I have long been a close student of the way Great Britain was converted to socialism, and have always believed that the same strategy, first explained to me by the great freedom educator Robert LeFevre, will work for making America libertarian. To understand it, you have to know a little history.

In the 19th century (the 1800s), socialists like George Bernard Shaw, H.G Wells, and others formed the Fabian Society, based on a misunderstanding of the tactics and strategy of the classical Roman General Fabius Maximus “the Delayer”, who stopped Hannibal from conquering Rome. They adopted secret long-range goals and made sure they were seen as the “good guys” in the social revolution that was going on in England at the time. Whenever someone like the communists frightened conservatives by demanding, for example, that the workers be handed control of the means of production (or something equally unthinkable), the Fabians rushed to the rattled traditional pillars of the community, saying, “There, there, all we on the left really want is a minimum wage.” Or workman’s compensation. Or an eight hour day. Or a five day week. With each “reform”, the hard left felt emboldened to increase its demands, and the Fabians did their thing again and again. In addition they took certain members of Parliament under their tutelage, issued “White Papers”, and so on. Bit by bit, Old Blighty got dragged left, because their opponents didn’t really understand what was going on, and had no counter-strategies.

Now note the two-part nature of the dynamic: the Fabians would have gotten nowhere without the communists, and others, to provide the energy that frightened the Establishment. The commies would have gotten nowhere without the Fabians to let the right wing surrender to them a bit at a time. It’s important to understand that the Fabians and the communists didn’t have to conspire together, to like each other (they didn’t) or even to communicate. The Fabians just used what they found, and turned Britain into the collectivist pesthole it is today. The communists were the engine and the Fabians were the train.

The whole thing worked because the Fabians had the brains to pretend to be aghast at the communists’ radicalism (when in fact they shared the same goals), but not to interfere with it. No such brains exist within the libertarian movement. The “Establishment” sincerely, if stupidly, denounces radicals, sneers at them as “purists” (as if there were something wrong with that) and, like jihadist vandals blowing up historic Buddhist monuments, actually sabotages and destroys what radicals achieved in the past.

And so fear and ignorance—and statism—win the day.

What can be done? In the 1980s, there was some sort of intellectual property dispute over the concept of The Ghostbusters. One side produced a cartoon series they called The Real Ghostbusters with the middle word written in red cursive and inserted over a carat. Maybe it’s time for The Real Libertarian Party. It could threaten to divide the LP’s minuscule vote by nominating its own candidates, pursue Fabian tactics, and take more time and effort to explain fundamental libertarian ideas like the Zero Aggression Principle to the voting public. I can hear the shrieking from National Headquarters now, can’t you?

So get on board the neoFabian train to freedom. Otherwise, we can all just passively sit on our thumbs and watch the commies in the DNC fight it out with conservatives and populists. Thomas Jefferson would have been so pleased.

Not.

Publisher and Senior Columnist L. Neil Smith is the author of over thirty books, mostly science fiction novels, L. Neil Smith has been a libertarian activist since 1962. His many books and those of other pro-gun libertarians may be found (and ordered) at L. Neil Smith’s THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE “Free Radical Book Store” The preceding essays were originally prepared for and appeared in L. Neil Smith’s THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE. Use them to fight the continuing war against tyranny.

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About Caryn Ann Harlos

Caryn Ann Harlos is a paralegal residing in Castle Rock, Colorado and presently serving as the Region 1 Representative on the Libertarian National Committee and is a candidate for LNC Secretary at the 2018 Libertarian Party Convention. Articles posted should NOT be considered the opinions of the LNC nor always those of Caryn Ann Harlos personally. Caryn Ann's goal is to provide information on items of interest and (sometimes) controversy about the Libertarian Party and minor parties in general not to necessarily endorse the contents.

27 thoughts on “L. Neil Smith: The Fabian Choo-Choo

  1. Pete Blome

    From the little snippet of your ideas that I see here, I would say you are a Fabian anarchist wrapped up as a libertarian. The idea that all taxation must be abolished advocates an anarchistic world that simply will not work. Libertarians believe in certain functions of government that cannot be done by the private sector, most notably defense, a judicial system and running some utilities such as nuclear power. Indeed, the libertarian question about taxation has always been how to keep government to the necessary minimum, and not how to starve it to death. The idea that voluntary contributions would pay for soldiers, judges, cops, technicians, pensions for services rendered, and the material necessary to make it all work has repeatedly been proven false throughout the ages. In addition, the nuclear baby is already here, and without its constant care and feeding for centuries into the future (something irregular, spotty, and insufficient voluntary contributions would not satisfy) vast tracts of the planet are threatened with pollution. If you had a situation where voluntary contributions did pay for necessary services, will those that pay more get more? If not, why not? That brings on the point that voluntarily paid for government becomes the creature of those who pay for it maybe more so than one based on uniform taxation. Advocating the elimination of all taxation hurts libertarian credibility to govern, and leads our party down the cul-de-sac that is anarchism. Guaranteeing individual and property rights are not possible in an anarchistic environment. Advocating it either makes us look like hypocrites whenever we do vote to tax for any government function, even the process of making them smaller, or removes us from meaningful participation in government because all we can say is “taxation is theft.” With whom are you really being the Fabian?

  2. Thomas Knapp

    Smith has been a libertarian since the early 60s, was one of the early members of the Libertarian Party and its platform committee, and is likely, among other things, the libertarian movement’s most prolific living novelist. One of those “among other things” items is publisher of The Libertarian Enterprise (the publication the essay at hand appears in), which has been a weekly fixture of the movement for 20 years now. He was one of two people who recruited me into the Libertarian Party more than two decades ago, and he was the Libertarian Party’s presidential candidate in Arizona in 2000.

    I don’t always agree with Smith, but the idea that he’s something other than a libertarian, disguised as one, doesn’t pass the laugh test.

  3. Pete Blome

    Your answer doesn’t address his ideas as put forth in this article, specifically taxation. Is this what he thinks? Is he an anarchist? Gee, I’m just a nobody libertarian, but I’d say he is doing us no favors.

  4. Andy

    Pete, there are ways to address all of the things you mentioned above WITHOUT coercive taxation. Yes, taxation IS theft.

    I agree that there are logistical problems involved in getting from where we are now to a society with no coercive government, but this does not mean that it is not possible or a worthy goal.

  5. Thomas Knapp

    Andy,

    The other guy who recruited me into the Libertarian Party was the then executive director of the Missouri LP and its former US Senate candidate, a guy named Bill Johnson. He later moved back to Alabama, went back to the Republican Party, was elected to city council in (IIRC) Birmingham, then became a state-level cabinet official in charge of government handouts to religious groups, and finally ran in the GOP primary for governor and lost a few years ago.

    I’d have to award Aaron Russo and Karen Scarborough the RBI/assist. I joined Aaron’s Constitution Party project (Karen was its national coordinator) in 1995 and quickly became the local organizer in Springfield, Missouri and the Missouri state coordinator (because I was the only one in Missouri doing anything active with the organization).

    My involvement in the Constitution Party led me into contact with Neil and with Bill.

    I produced a newsletter that I mailed out to the 40 or so Constitution Party members in Missouri; I emailed Smith to ask permission to include one of his essays (“Bill Clinton’s Reichstag Fire”) in it. He wrote me back to say sure, but that I should consider giving up my toy party (his exact words) and joining the LP, and we struck up a correspondence.

    Bill showed up at my first local Constitution Party meeting and invited me to an LP meeting. We kept running into each other at political events and became friends.

    Then Aaron Russo decided to step back from active involvement in the Constitution Party and the party’s national committee chose a nutjob named Bill Cooper — think Alex Jones before there was Alex Jones — to replace him as national chair. Cooper interpreted the position of chair as an invitation to dictatorship, and of a very non-benevolent type. I think it was about a week before Karen quit as national coordinator and I quit the week after that and joined the LP shortly thereafter.

  6. Andy

    I never heard of Bill Cooper having been involved in the Constitution Party.

    When exactly did Aaron Russo abandon the Constitution Party? I recall hearing that Aaron Russo turned the party over to Howard Philips and it got taken over by religious coservations. Philips had already started the US Tax Payers Party for the 1992 election, but the official name of the party switched to the Constitution Party by 1996 (although due to ballot access laws, the party continued under the name US Tax Payers Party in at least one or two states).

  7. Thomas Knapp

    Andy,

    My recollection is that Russo started the Constitution Party in late 1994 and that I joined it after seeing an ad for it in the January 1995 issue of Liberty magazine. He announced (I think it may have been for health reasons) some time fairly early in 1996 that he was pulling back from an active role in it. That’s when Cooper took over and things went downhill pretty quick after that.

    I don’t think that the party Russo started existed in any meaningful form at all by 1997, or that it ever had ballot access or ran formally affiliated candidates for office. It wasn’t until 1999 that the US Taxpayers Party started calling itself the Constitution Party, and so far as I know or can tell there is no connection between the two organizations.

  8. Andy

    I heard that Howard Philips got the name Constitution Party by Aaron Russo, either by Russo giving it to him, or Philips just taking the name and Russo just letting him have it.

  9. Thomas Knapp

    Well, it’s not like Aaron owned the name. I suppose Phillips might have asked his blessing or something. If I go to hell when I die, I’ll look old Howie up and ask him about that.

  10. George Dance

    Smith’s explanation of the Fabian success is unobjectionable; but his applying it to today’s situation leaves something to be desired. As he says, it needs 2 groups – the “commies” (holding to the ultimate goals, but making no progress) and the “Fabians” (pushing an agenda of gradualist, piecemeal reform). So what are the two groups he sees as their analogues in the modern Libertarian movement? Well, he doesn’t want 2, just 1, corresponding to the “commies” – either a radical Libertarian Party, or a radical “Real Libertarian Party”. The group that should correspond with the Fabians – the gradualist Libertarians – he simply sneers at as “the Establishment”, and seems to consider them as not only not necessary, but counterproductive.

  11. langa

    GD, you misunderstand the article. Go back and carefully reread the paragraph near the end that starts with, “The whole thing…”

    Smith is criticizing the “Fabian Libertarians” not for existing, but for offering real (rather than just token) opposition to the radical agenda. In other words, they’ve taken their eyes off the prize.

  12. dL

    “The idea that that voluntary contributions[sic] that would pay for technicians for services rendered…has repeatedly been proven false throughout the ages. ”

    I assume this is a bad attempt at open mike stand-up?

    “Libertarians believe in certain functions of government that cannot be done by the private sector”

    That would be everyone sans the libertarians….

    “Indeed, the libertarian question about taxation has always been how to keep government to the necessary minimum”

    And the second great libertarian question revolves around fraud…as in: how do you get your money back from the con artist who taught you that fallacious nonsense above.

    “Advocating the elimination of all taxation hurts libertarian credibility to govern, and leads our party down the cul-de-sac that is anarchism.”

    Memo: Credibility? The next time your govern will be the first time you governed. You have no credibility,
    notwithstanding the deluded fantasies rollocking around in that little head of yours.

    Historically, libertarianism is anarchism. Only in the United States has that term becomes associated with being an adjunct cousin of conservatism or a popular conflation for the myth of “objectivist minarchy.” The fruits of that unnatural desecration has been the very likes of you, arms raised, lips chirping: “credibility to govern!!!!”

  13. dL

    “In the 19th century (the 1800s), socialists like George Bernard Shaw, H.G Wells, and others formed the Fabian Society, based on a misunderstanding of the tactics and strategy of the classical Roman General Fabius Maximus “the Delayer”, who stopped Hannibal from conquering Rome. They adopted secret long-range goals and made sure they were seen as the “good guys” in the social revolution that was going on in England at the time. ”

    Actually, the libertarian press was the first to publish Shaw in the United States. Benjamin Tucker considered Shaw an honest interlocutor. Tucker’s famous essay(well it should be famous to libertarians. I’m not sure about this crowd, however), “State Socialism and Anarchism:How Far They Agree & Wherein They Differ” was more or less an attack on Shaw’s position. L. Neil Smith is veering toward a rewrite of the history of Fabian socialism as some sort of secret conspiracy. It is not. Nonetheless, secret conspiracy or not, it failed. Fabian Socialism today is little more than a historical anachronism.

  14. Caryn Ann Harlos Post author

    This was just posted on the National LP page:

    ==The Party also strongly opposes new taxes and seeks to reduce overall taxation with the long-term goal of eliminating all coercive taxation.==

    And coupled with Chair Sarwark here;

    https://www.google.com/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=web&cd=1&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwjVpf7QwbLOAhUWHGMKHSiBBr8QtwIIHjAA&url=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.youtube.com%2Fwatch%3Fv%3Dy25jApar1vA&usg=AFQjCNEhtQPxd3MPo2jmbVF0xvOD92qpxg&bvm=bv.129391328,d.cGc

    And the PASSED RESOLUTION this Convention formally stating that the Party resolves that taxation is theft fully resolves the question of whether this is a Libertarian position.

    When the official minutes come out, I will post that excerpt so that it is not forgotten and revisionists come trotting along.

  15. robert capozzi

    LNS: I, who had a much shorter soap-box to stand on in those days, nevertheless responded, “If it weren’t for those of us who insist upon the perfect, there would never be any good.”

    me: His story about communists and Fabians proves nothing, now does it? We don’t even know how things would’ve turned out in the UK if there were no communists.

    One example, furthermore, hardly constitutes proof, right?

  16. Andy

    Tom mentioned Bill Cooper. Here’s a recording of his radio show from June 28th, 2001.

    Bill Cooper ended up being killed in a shoot out with the police at his home on November 6th of 2001.

    9/11 PREDICTED 2001 by Bill Cooper – Full Prediction in HQ

  17. Thomas Knapp

    Pretty typical Cooper. Within the first five minutes he’s already ranting that nobody else in the world knows a damn thing and that if by God BILL COOPER was in charge he’d fix it, by golly, because he’s BILL COOPER, by gum.

    Then he predicts that on some future non-specific date, maybe July 4th, but “if not within two or three weeks, some day” …

    OMG OMG OMG — he predicts a terrorist attack! Someday (not sure when)! Somewhere (Not sure where)! So big that (not sure how big)! Using (not sure what the weapons are)! Followed by (well, let’s not talk about that part, since he predicts that it will be used as the pretext to drag us all off to the camps and institute one world government and they seem to have forgotten to execute on that part).

    Real goddamn Sherlock Holmes, ole Cooper.

  18. Andy

    I never followed Bill Cooper. I never heard of him until after he was dead. Going by what I’ve heard from him (and I haven’t spent a tremendous amount of time looking into him), he said some things that I were dead on right, and he said some other things with which I did not agree.

    Regardless of any demerits he may have had, he made an excellent point in the video link I posted above, and that is that if Osama bin Laden had really been one of the most wanted men in the world, and the US government’s intelligence apparatus was really trying to capture him, how is it that some jerk reporter was able to find him an interview him? Rather suspicious, and was just more evidence that this whole thing with bin Laden was a scam.

  19. George Dance

    “==The Party also strongly opposes new taxes and seeks to reduce overall taxation with the long-term goal of eliminating all coercive taxation.==”

    Notice the logical equivalence between ‘taxation’ and ‘coercive taxation’.

    A “tax” can mean either (a) a charge levied by governments on income, expenditures, or property, to fund the government’s activities; or (b) a compulsory levy, backed by coercion, levied by governments …”

    In most discussion, including most definitions, taxation is defined as (b), and the minarchist ideal – non-coercive taxation – is simply ruled out by definition.

  20. George Dance

    langa: “Smith is criticizing the ‘Fabian Libertarians’ not for existing, but for offering real (rather than just token) opposition to the radical agenda. In other words, they’ve taken their eyes off the prize.”

    No, I got that. The “Fabians” oppose the radical agenda within the LP, just as (what Smith didn’t mention) the radicals oppose the “Fabian” agenda within the LP.

    The problem here is that the “Fabian” strategy requires 2 groups – a “Fabian” one and a “commie” one; while there’s only one political party; so, rather than an external battle, we have an internal one over whether the LP is going to be the “commie” group or the “Fabian” group.

    Since the Reform Caucus started in 2006, the presidential campaigns have taken on the “Fabian” role, and the platform the “commie” one; but this de facto solution has not been accepted by either side. Nor, do I think, it ever will be.

    What’s needed, to implement the strategy, is two political groups. In that light, I had high hopes for the Boston Tea Party, as I saw it as the beginning of a second Libertarian Party; but, alas, that didn’t happen.

  21. Thomas L. Knapp

    George,

    Interesting thoughts.

    When I started the Boston Tea Party, it was intended as a temporary pressure relief valve for libertarians disappointed in the Portland Massacre (in which 3/4 of the party’s platform was deleted). I expressly intended (and said so, and introduced a measure to the effect at the first convention) for the BTP to very quickly reframe itself as a caucus. I started it because I had the domain name lying around and some ideas I wanted to test; the Portland Massacre just made it seem urgent because I strongly suspected that someone was going to do something like it and I wanted it to be a place from which people would likely return to the party instead of a permanent departure.

    The Boston Tea Party was a kludge. I never expected it to run a presidential ticket — my expectation was that it would endorse the LP’s candidate. What I hadn’t counted on was Bob Barr being that candidate.

    I learned some lessons from the BTP experience.

    Perhaps at some point I will put those lessons to use.

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