Guest Column

Guest Editorial by Brad Linaweaver: Without Kryptonite

Brad Linaweaver

By Brad Linaweaver

J. Neil Schulman and I have had similar careers as libertarian science fiction writers. We won some of the same awards. We wrote for the first Agorist publication, New Libertarian. We spent a lot of time in Hollywood.

We’re comrades.

So it was no surprise back in the nineties that both of us would attend a media event in Santa Monica, The Coalition Against PBS Censorship.

Neil and I have been remembering that event because of a firestorm started by Dr. Ben Carson in the wake of murders committed by a madman named Mercer in Oregon. Before Carson inadvertently lit today’s media fire, I witnessed Neil do much the same thing at the PBS event.

So, let’s set the controls in the nearest TARDIS and take a trip down the timeline. The most memorable aspect of the PBS event was the host.

Christopher Reeve was yet to have his terrible accident. He was every bit the actor we all believed was Superman. But not even super powers helped with the unenviable task of keeping everyone polite and good natured in a gathering certain to provoke controversy.

My contribution to civil discourse was avoiding contact with David Horowitz, someone I’ve always disliked for bringing SDS tactics to the American right. He was the only celebrity I went out of my way to avoid.

The stars were in alignment for me that day. I had the honor of meeting Reeve, instead. I was introduced to him as a libertarian. I’ll never forget what he said:

“You want to combine the NRA with the ACLU.”

It was a brilliant insight from an intelligent liberal. It was an insight beyond many of today’s liberals and conservatives. I was impressed.

My good luck continued. Naturally, I wanted to discuss movies with Chris Reeve, however briefly. Naturally, the last thing he wanted was another chat about Superman.

But I had recently seen a comedy with Reeve, Noises Off. That was the film I mentioned. Turned out it was one of his favorite films in which he had participated. We talked about it for several minutes. What actor can resist a good movie about the perils of live theater? Things went so well that I joked about not taking out the kryptonite I was keeping in a lead lined pocket.

A wonderful encounter.

Neither of us could know that by the anniversary of the PBS event, the following year, Chris Reeve would have been completely disabled for the rest of his life after being thrown by a horse. If I had known, I wouldn’t have made the joke about kryptonite. But in the context of the meeting, where there would soon be a controversy about speeding bullets, Superman might be objective about a weapon that could not harm him.

Neil made a difference at the event.

As libertarians, Neil and I are for the Bill of Rights, not just the First Amendment which was the cause for the meeting. Neil and I have always noticed that the Founding Fathers put a lot of thought into which rights they stressed right at the start.

So, it was not surprising that the Second Amendment would come up. I was the least surprised person at the event after Reeve made his insightful remark to me.

As Carson found out recently, Neil discovered that it was weirdly unpopular to make a common sense observation about how an unpopular minority with guns can stand off a dangerous majority. As a writer of alternate history stories, I did not find anything controversial about Neil’s suggestion then, or Carson’s suggestion now, that if the Jews inside the Third Reich had been well armed and fought the Nazis inside Germany then history might have taken a different direction.

At the very least, internal resistance at that level would have thrown off Hitler’s timetable for the war. Imagine if instead of using howitzers against a civilian population in Poland, Hitler had done that inside his own country. The world would have noticed.

After all, the world noticed the Warsaw Ghetto uprising in the history that actually happened.

Alas, most people don’t want to think about such things. Many people booed Neil at the PBS event. Chris Reeve defended Neil. After all, the event was about free speech!!!

After the dust settled, Ron Silver shook Neil’s hand and thanked him for his courage. Neil thanked Reeve for what he did. Not everyone booed, just far too many.

Why is it controversial to recognize that it’s better to die on your feet with a gun in your hand than being rounded up like sheep?

J. Neil Schulman and Ben Carson are vilified for what should not be controversial.

Except it is controversial.

That’s the problem.

Inside my fevered brain, libertarian thoughts were clawing at my feeble hold on sanity during Neil’s travails at the Coalition Against PBS Censorship.

I thought about the usefulness of guns in private hands during the Hungarian uprising in the fifties. The Soviets had to bring in tanks. The world noticed.

Then I thought about guns in private hands during the Prague Spring in the sixties. The Soviets brought the tanks Into Czechoslovakia. Again, the world noticed.

But then a particularly libertarian thought clawed and clawed until it got my attention. It was a “what if,” as Neil had asked a “what if”!

What if Japanese Americans had been better armed than they were, and put up resistance in Roosevelt’s America as the Jews might have put up resistance in Hitler’s Germany? After all, the Nisei had as little to do with Pearl Harbor as the German Jews had to do with calumnies Hitler was trying to put on them.

It could be argued that the Nisei were not being sent to death camps, but they had no way of knowing that. As was the case with Jews in the Reich, the Japanese Americans were having property and money stolen at the point of a gun, and were being marched off to relocation camps.

Years after the PBS event, but before 9-11, a magazine published by Jessie Lilley ran the first installment of a series I was doing about movie censorship. The magazine was Worldly Remains. (Amusingly enough, Jessie later became the editor of Mondo Cult, on which I’m the publisher.)

The series was “Unconditional Surrender,” and the first installment was about how American movies were censored in World War Two. A lot of it had to do with how Japs (and I’m using the word deliberately) were portrayed in American films as the enemy race, the way Jews were portrayed as the enemy race in German films.

When writing the article for WR, perhaps I was flashing back to that PBS event where Neil argued for human rights.

Would most of the Nisei have been killed if they tried to defend themselves against FDR? Or would they have caught the conscience of a country still reeling from Pearl Harbor? Now that we live in an America after 9-11, these questions are probably Thought Crimes.

I don’t pretend to know.

But individuals have a Natural Law right to self defense, regardless of victory or defeat.

There is one thing I know for certain.

Sometimes America needs Superman.

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Guest Commentary by Renard Blanc: Revisions for U.S. History Course Curriculum in Jeffco School District

Renard Blanc is a Colorado resident who has worked in college libraries and the computer industry.

Dear Jeffco Board of Education Members,

With regard to the current controversy concerning emphasizing patriotism and minimizing civil disobedience in the teaching of History classes in the Jeffco School District, may I first state that I totally support you in your understanding that patriotism is an integral and very important part of teaching United States History.

However, you are very incorrect attempting to down-play the importance of civil disobedience by either minimizing or not teaching it at all as a part of the curriculum of classes on American History.

Denver school board refuses to drop curriculum review that promotes patriotism
Denver school board refuses to drop curriculum review that promotes patriotism

Why does the curriculum of American History classes have to include either patriotism or civil disobedience, exclusive of one another? Both patriotism and civil disobedience are critical aspects of the history of the United States, and both are inherent in our freedoms as documented in the Constitution.

May I remind you, since you seem to have forgotten, if it wasn’t for civil disobedience, which led to the Declaration of Independence and ultimately the American Revolution, the quintessential acts of civil disobedience to this day, we wouldn’t be the United States of America but still subjects of the monarch of Great Britain. You cannot teach the tenets of the Declaration of Independence, the American Revolution, and the Constitution of the United States, without fully addressing the importance of these acts of civil disobedience as being ultimate acts of patriotism, up to and including giving our lives for the right to live free.

Being a patriot must include the right of protest and civil disobedience. You cannot have one without the other. To minimize teaching the historical and present acts of civil disobedience in the United States is to be profoundly unpatriotic. To imply that civil disobedience is un-American and unpatriotic is not only plainly and simply wrong, it is a complete misunderstanding of what the founding fathers intended for the newly formed United States and its continued health as a free nation, ensuring the rights of individual freedoms of its citizens going into the future in perpetuity.

Attached is a copy of the Declaration of Independence which I suggest you re-read (assuming you have read it since you claim to be patriots) as a reminder of what a patriot really is and how civil disobedience was the very first patriotic act in the formation of the United States of America.

An additional “reminder” for you with regard to civil disobedience is the 1st Amendment of the Bill of Rights (emphasis mine):

Amendment 1 (Freedom of Religion, Press, Expression. Ratified 12/15/1791.)

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.

The Bill of Rights

Just a little bit of research will turn up mountains of evidence on the importance of civil disobedience that led to our independence from Great Britain, and our continued struggle as a nation to retain and maintain our rights to freedom and to protest, here and now, today, in the United States of America. Without civil disobedience, would we have had the landmark decisions to have equal educational opportunities available to all races, creeds, and religions, for both men and women?

You obviously see the protest of the students and teachers against changing the history curriculum as a consequence of the current curriculum of promoting liberal ideology, brainwashing and indoctrination in the classroom. And, I would have to agree with you that these influences are definitely present here and that the protestors are seeing only the part that supports their agenda of what they want to be taught in history classes. But, even though I agree that teaching a liberal agenda which emphasizes civil disobedience and minimizes patriotism, or doesn’t teach patriotism at all in history classes, is wrong, the opposite is equally egregious. You must teach both in their proper context, emphasizing neither, or you are simply promoting an alternative political agenda and not teaching the truth of our freedoms and what it means to be a patriot in our country.

Your current curriculum change to minimize (replace?) teaching about civil disobedience and emphasize (replace it) instead with teaching about patriotism due to your claiming to be patriots belies your true intent. You do not intend nor desire to teach the truth in your history classes on the United States, nor of current events. You intend to propagandize a political agenda. Politics should only be taught in history classes to bring to light all the differing aspects, philosophies and attitudes of the different parties throughout our history and present day, most importantly, without presenting a bias towards one or another or propagandizing for or against one or another. To do otherwise is a political agenda which has no place in the classroom.

Our founding fathers are turning in their graves over your decision. I accuse you of being just what you claim to be against. You are the ones who are unpatriotic!

Thank you for your attention and hopefully, consideration, of these thoughts.

To True Patriotism…

Renard Blanc

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Guest Commentary by Brad Linaweaver: Things That Make No Sense

Few libertarians have as many noteworthy accomplishments as my friend Brad Linaweaver, or as many other admirers who have granted him iconic praise. His first novel, Moon of Ice, carries endorsements from Robert A. Heinlein, Ray Bradbury, Isaac Asimov, and William F. Buckley, Jr.

Ronald Reagan once devoted an entire radio show praising one of Brad’s articles written when Brad was a college student.

Brad’s published credits as a short-story writer, film commentator, novelist, journalist, essayist, interviewer, and screenwriter would take up pages. That doesn’t even list his work as a magazine editor and publisher (Mondo Cult), public speaker, and film professional. And I can’t tell you how many times Brad’s informal analysis of politics and world affairs is far more penetrating than any talking heads you’ll find on cable-news or talk radio.

Brad Linaweaver is the man behind The Silicon Assassin.


With Silicon Assassin writer/producer Brad Linaweaver from photo left: Vicki Marie Taylor as Lady Twilight, Victoria Plumb as Deadly Tween, and Paula Labaredas as Bubble Blonde Girl

Earlier today Brad called to say how impressed he is with Kurdistan’s offer to do the boots on the ground solution to ISIS if we give them the military equipment.

Quoting Linaweaver: “Neil, you and I want the United States to offer diplomatic recognition to Kurdistan. The time has come. The Kurds will not abandon what America gives them on the battlefield. But if the lawyers won’t allow a deal with the Kurds, my little article suggests other solutions than sending American troops back into the same old mess.”

–J. Neil Schulman

I always like to celebrate surviving another birthday (9-1) by thinking about something that makes no sense.

So, I’m a year older. The year is 2014, and the current example of nonsense has to do with ISIS (or ISIL, or the Islamic State).

Not only frantic Republicans, but a fair smattering of Democrats and nervous Brits insist that this latest tentacle of Radical Islam is the whole octopus.

It’s here at last, an existential threat.

Maybe even a metaphysical threat.

It is the beginning of the dread Caliphate!!!!

The Prime Minister of the UK talks about it as a greater threat than Hitler’s Nazis, Stalinist Commies, Imperial Japanese, eternal China, pedophile priests and Injuns on the warpath.

He also gives the impression that ISIS may be worse than cancer, yellow fever, tuberculosis, Ebola, and the Black Plague, combined.

Meanwhile, in the exception that is America, our pathetic President Obama (curses be upon his golf clubs) is lazy, crazy (as in psychological problems), and doing nothing about ISIS, despite the explosives he seems to be exploding in the desert areas where ISIS seems to be festering.

Most Americans would not know that the USA is killing ISIS members if not for the censored terrorist videos where the killer complains about American policy right before he decapitates captured American correspondents.

You’d think from Fox News and talk radio that Obama is an agent of ISIS. Since the President refuses to use the powers he has from the two Patriot Acts to silence his lying critics (which he could do even without a declaration of war) many Americans believe the President is doing nothing.

Obama sucks at being a dictator. FDR would be ashamed of him.

But it’s not just the Tea Party lunatics boiling in America who are ill informed.

Many right wing Israelis also believe any old nonsense spewed out about Obama.

Which brings me to an obvious point.

If ISIS is truly an existential threat, then it does more than threaten, say, Londoners and New Yorkers. It is a more immediate threat to Israel. Look at a map.

Israel must have a few weapons left over after its incursion (i.e., lopsided war) into/with Gaza. Israeli casualties were low, especially considering the civilians protected by Iron Dome, provided by the always popular Obama administration.

If ISIS is only 17,000 killers (give or take a few thou) then why doesn’t Israel act in concert with the USA? It’s just not that many people to kill in a military situation.

ISIS, the greatest threat of all time, couldn’t hold onto that one dam in Mosul which would have actually constituted a lasting threat. I believe the Turks helped rescue the dam.

What I’m trying to say is that the usual arguments ring hollow about the need for Israeli non-engagement in this peculiar situation.

The tiredest argument is that Israel will make Arabs, Turks, Persians, genies out of magic lamps, and other members of the unchosen unite against the Jews.

Not this time.

Not when ISIS is hated by Al Qaeda, Iran, Saudi Arabia, the lovable leader of Syria, the generals in Egypt, and maybe Allah Himself.

Not all Sunnis love ISIS. Shocking, but true.

Then there’s the idea that Israel cannot act without permission of the United States. Been hearing that cliché for years.

Israel just acted in Gaza without American permission. They act without American permission a lot. Remember Lebanon?

There is only one pertinent question:

Is Israel a real country, or a pretend country?

If right wing assholes are telling the truth about ISIS, then it is potentially a greater threat to Israel than Hamas.

Why does Israel seem more reticent than Obama to take on ISIS?

(Another mystery is why any member of Likud cares if Americans hate Hamas as much as ISIS. Seems like a waste of everyone’s time.)

Israel just made a bad impression on the world stage. But many critics would downplay Gaza if Israel publicly took on ISIS in a big way.

Spy stuff (always valuable) to one side, it did not take a lot of courage to pull off what Israel did in Gaza. American soldiers took greater risks to limit civilian casualties, fighting block to block in Iraq, then Israeli soldiers did with their blockbusting tactics in Gaza.

Israel looked bad.

Normal humans might start thinking, “Have we been exaggerating the martial courage of Israel in recent times? Perhaps their brave days are behind them?”

There is a simple way to defend the honor of Israel, of course. It is simply to agree with Obama that ISIS is not an existential threat. ISIS can be destroyed without a war.

But how can that be true? That would mean we’re being lied to by the King of Saudi Arabia, as well as retired military blowhards on every American cable news channel.

There you have my radical thought for 2014.

Either we’re being fed a bucket of camel shit, or Israel has lost its nerve. The latter seems unlikely.

Prediction:

Next year, around this time, the new threat will be OSIRIS.

— Brad Linaweaver

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Tom Woods: “Books Are Good, But People Watch Movies”

Blogged by Tom Woods on November 20th, 2010
Tom Woods
Tom Woods

The libertarian world has been doing a good job writing and publishing in economics, history, and philosophy. But to reach a wider audience, we need to go where the people are. For one thing, people read much more fiction than nonfiction. J. Neil Schulman’s Alongside Night is an excellent example of the possibilities for libertarian fiction. And now there’s a move to get his book adapted into a motion picture. Fiction writing and the movies are two areas where we are getting killed. We’re not even putting up a fight. A project like this can change that.

Alongside Night, with major endorsements from Ron Paul and Milton Friedman, its libertarian awards and rave reviews, and the intention of Free to Choose media to use the film in its teaching modules distributed to high schools, is an extremely rare opportunity to make inroads into the mass entertainment media. It would be great to see people of means get behind this important project.

About Tom Woods
Thomas E. Woods, Jr., is the New York Times bestselling author of ten books. A senior fellow of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, Woods holds a bachelor’s degree in history from Harvard and his master’s, M.Phil., and Ph.D. from Columbia University. Read More.



Alongside Night -- The Movie
Go to the Alongside Night Official Movie Website


My comic thriller Lady Magdalene’s — a movie I wrote, produced, directed, and acted in it — is now available for sale or rental on Amazon.com Video On Demand. If you like the way I think, I think you’ll like this movie. Check it out!

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Guest Editorial by L. Neil Smith: Little Criminals — The Context of Consent

L. Neil Smith

L. Neil Smith is the First Initial Middle-Name-“Neil” Last-Name-Begins-With-“S” Prometheus-Award-Winning Libertarian-Science-Fiction-Author Gun-Writer Singer/Songwriter” who is not me. Now here’s something else we agree about.

Little Criminals — The Context of Consent

By L. Neil Smith
The Libertarian Enterprise

Have you ever noticed — in movies, books, or real life — that when a mugger attacks someone, he never says “Give me your money!” but usually says “Give me the money!” or even “Give me my money!” instead?

There seems to be a basic human drive to justify one’s actions, no matter how heinous they might actually be. Sometimes it’s a matter of self-deception — “I’m doing this for your own good!” — sometimes it’s a matter of propaganda: “We had to destroy the village to save it.” It’s the basis on which millions of Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, and others were stripped of their perceived humanity in the 1940s and
massacred.

I was probably only eight years old when I realized that socialism is nothing more than a fancied-up excuse for stealing other people’s property and killing them if they resist, that collectivism is just a shabby attempt to make theft and murder appear respectable. Later on, I came to understand that this is true of all “philosophies” of government.

We all live in a kleptocracy.

Lately, we have witnessed the rise of a movement — a thuggish crusade wrapped in the tattered robes of academic “respectability” against “Intellectual Property Rights” — dedicated to stripping creative individuals of whatever they create, to expropriate it for some imagined “greater good,” and to attack the creators viciously and defame them if they should be so gauche as to object to being stolen from.

Their principal “argument” seems to be, now that almost everything is digitized and can be duplicated, manipulated, and transported by means of electronics, that this somehow removes the moral obligation of civilized beings to respect the rights of others and honor their propriety. It’s fundamentally the same argument that victim disarmament advocates make when they claim — ignoring the principle involved — that the authors of the Second Amendment couldn’t possibly anticipate machine guns.

Even more, it’s like a rapist saying afterward, “Hey, if you were a virgin, at least that’s taken care of now. And if you weren’t, then you haven’t really lost anything, have you? True, I have benefited from your sexuality, but you still have it, don’t you? And if you didn’t want to get raped, you had no business going out in public and spraying pheromones all over. In fact, I think I’m the real victim, here.”

I am currently thinking these thoughts, and many more besides, because, when they thought I wasn’t looking, a small handful of literary muggers and rapists have taken something that I am fairly famous for having written — my “Covenant of Unanimous Consent” — inflicted alterations on it which they falsely claim makes it a different document, and then fraudulently passed it off as their own work.

Which means any signatures it gathered were obtained fraudulently, too. They would want me to mention who they are and give you their URL.

I’ve seen plagiarism before. In ninth grade, I won a short story contest because the guy who “beat” me had typed up something by Robert Sheckley or Richard Matheson and passed it off as his own. I’m not the one who turned him in, although I had immediately recognized the story. The idiot had to get on the PA system and confess to his crime. Whether it ruined his life forever or was the making of him, I have no way of knowing. I had no sympathy for him because what he did is a crime, in the legal sense but more importantly, in the moral sense, as well.

Back to the present.

In time, several individuals warned me about what had happened, and I contacted the plagiarists directly, myself. Imagine my surprise when, instead of apologizing humbly and abjectly, as they ought to have done, and sought to make restitution, they became obnoxious and aggressive, so that, in the end, I was considered the villain of the piece, and called names, simply for having defended my own work from theft.

You will be interested to learn — and falling-down amused, if you know me or my work at all well — that I am, officially, a “statist asshole.” In part, this is because I politely informed them I was sharing our correspondence with my attorney, to whom I had started blind-copying everything. My attorney is also among my very closest friends, and I had decided to blind-copy him to keep his Inbox clear of the heady liquid excrement (ever see the uncut final sequence of The Magic Christian?) I was having to wade through to protect my rights.

Never forget that I am a statist asshole.

Please note: I had never said that I was planning to sue this gang of little criminals, only that I was blind-copying my correspondence with them to my attorney. It was they who jumped to the conclusion that I wanted to sue them. Even when I told them that I wasn’t planning to sue them, and instead mentioned private adjudication — a process, I assume, that can legitimately involve attorneys — they childishly went on calling me a statist, not because it was true, but because it was such a swell smelly ball of excrement to smear on the wall.

This is not unlike the way, whenever they sensed dimly that they were losing the argument at hand, my grandmother Mabel and my wife’s grandmother Bertha (no, I am not kidding), both of whom were Roosevelt Democrats with minds so narrow they could look through a keyhole with both eyes, would resort to calling anyone who disagreed with them a communist.

Thus I am a statist asshole.

I have a small bet with myself that if I had informed these opponents of common, civilized behavior that I consider that what they have done amounts to an act of initiated force against me — with all of the consequences that entails — intervention on their behalf by the State, most likely in the form of badged and uniformed policemen who could prevent me from dealing with them directly, myself, would suddenly, miraculously appear a whole lot more attractive and morally acceptable.

But, statist asshole that I am, I have digressed.

At some point, I realized that the topic of intellectual property rights (about which I have never before been particularly interested) would have to be dealt with in Where We Stand, the volume I’m currently writing on libertarian policy, and that if I were to write an article about this little flapette for my editorial journal The Libertarian Enterprise, it might be suitable for the book. I conveyed that idea to the plagiarists as politely as I could, and put off any further argument with them until the article could be written and published.

The very next thing I knew, I was being defamed, by the leader of these scavengers and parasites, to all sixteen of the listeners to his Internet radio show, and all over the Internet. But, of course, had I decided to sue the guy for libel, slander, and defamation, in addition to his plagiarism, that would have made me a statist asshole all over again.

A double statist asshole.

Ever hear a mugger or rapist complain bitterly when it turns out his victim is armed and can defend him- or herself? I have. He sounds exactly like a left wing anti-gun politician. He also sounds exactly like the second-handers whole stole my work and offered it as their own.

Like many another pack of thieves, the Hole-In-The-Head Gang (to borrow a phrase) had an ideology with which to alibi themselves. The first tenet is that there is a distinction between physical property and what some — especially its creators — claim to be “intellectual property.”

They informed me, loftily, that just because I think of an idea, that doesn’t mean it belongs to me. That if I don’t want something I created stolen, then I shouldn’t communicate it to the world. Fine — and if everybody followed this “advice,” these creeps wouldn’t have any opposition to their thievery, and no stories or books would ever be published, no songs would ever be written, no music would ever be composed.

What a swell world that would be.

Believe it or not, one of these scavengers defended his crime by asserting that the Covenant of Unanimous Consent did not appear on one of the more prominent pages of my website. That’s exactly like ordering me to turn in my Yves Saint Laurent suit (believe it or not, I own one, and a nice Calvin Klein, too) because I don’t wear it very often. True, I had backed off pressing the Covenant as it became more and more obvious to me the movement had deteriorated so badly that the Zero Aggression Principle was now considered controversial, and even oppressive.

“You are a dinosaur and your assertion [presumably of my personal property rights] is invalid,” another of them informed me grandly. He, too, would want me to mention his name. “Innovation is impossible under your worldview.”

As an individualist, I’m not generally interested in Utilitarian arguments. However, it is worth noting that the past 300 years have seen the greatest progress in human history, and it’s exactly the same era in which copyright has been respected and stringently enforced. In this connection it’s worth asking, since there is no actual difference between intellectual property and physical property, when some self-appointed committee of sticky-fingered little rodents will “discover” that fact, and decide that you don’t really need your wallet, your car, your house, or especially your guns. It’s been done everywhere else, during the last couple of centuries, all over the world. Why not here?

Only we’ll call it libertarianism.

As I say, I had pretty much ignored the issue of intellectual property rights, even though arguments about it had been raging all over my blog at BigHeadPress.com, and in the virtual pages of my opinion journal, The Libertarian Enterprise. For the most part, I had been too busy creating more intellectual property, notably my vampire novel, Sweeter Than Wine and the policy guide, Where We Stand. Now I was going to have to think about it and say something coherent.

Damn.

My first observation is that, in a moral context, there is no discernible difference between physical property and intellectual property. As I first learned at the age of thirteen from the pages of Jack Finney’s 1959 novel Assault on a Queen, virtually everything we have, we have purchased at the price of little bits of our lives which we dedicate to fulfilling some employer’s interests rather than our own. We trade the seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, and eventually the years of our lives for our homes, cars, and everything else.

Traditionally in civilized property theory, “mingling your labor with the land,” the concepts of “sweat equity,” and of “selling little bits of your life” in order to acquire whatever you need or want, abolishes any meaningful difference between physical and intellectual property. The farmer begins with a tree-covered lot that he must clear and plow and plant, and the writer with a damnedly blank page or screen.

Property is property and theft is theft. Or as my wife Cathy, who can be refreshingly straightforward, puts it, unless you can go out in a field somewhere and pee me a bicycle without reflecting on it, all property is intellectual property. Somebody had to think of it. Somebody had to build it. And somebody had to use his mind to earn the money “or other valuable consideration” that was exchanged for the bicycle.

When I first went to college as a freshly-fledged “admirer of Ayn Rand,” I was informed — by leftists deeply involved in what was billed as the “Civil Rights Movement” — that there are human rights and then there are property rights; only the former existed in reality and are legitimate. Some of them asserted mockingly that property couldn’t have rights, others that defending property rights is somehow reprehensible and evil. Doomed never to be popular at school, I disagreed. It had been my experience that those who disparage property rights most vociferously usually do it because they want your property themselves.

Almost to a man (if that’s not giving these poor creatures too much credit; I have noticed that none of these would-be looters seem to be female, perhaps because women are the ultimate creators and the fiercest guardians of that which evolution has put in their charge) these illiterati seem to be very poorly educated where history in general — and the history of the libertarian movement in particular — are concerned. One of them actually quotes one of the original ideological expropriationists for the common good, collectivist anarchist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon, in his messages: “Property is theft.”

That’s like a Jew leaning on Adolf Eichmann for support.

They seem a little unendowed in the imagination department, too. I have spent my entire adult life writing novels about how the mechanics of civilization can be re-engineered to exclude the very concept of government.

I hereby sentence them to read The Probability Broach, Pallas, and especially Forge of the Elders. Just because the state has protected intellectual property rights in the past, that doesn’t mean intellectual property rights don’t have to be protected. Just because it’s difficult to imagine how, that doesn’t relieve us of the moral burden.

Copyright © 2010 L. Neil Smith. All rights reserved. Used by permission. For reprint rights email L. Neil Smith.

My own writings on “IP” are in previous columns here on J. Neil Schulman @ Rational Review:

Informational Property — Logorights

Copying Is Not Theft? How About Identity Theft?

Copying Is Not Theft? How About Forgery? Counterfeiting? Plagiarism?

–J. Neil Schulman

The Two Neils

J. Neil Schulman (Photo Left)
with L. Neil Smith (Photo Right),
July, 1998

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