LEVER ACTION TABLE OF CONTENTS
AUTHOR'S NOTE: My Purloined Letters
INTRODUCTION: My Willingness to be Drafted to Run for President
1. The LP's First Priority
7. Lever Action -- Accept No Substitutes
21. Suppose You Were Fond of Books ...
44. Prometheus Bound -- and Gagged
57. An Ant for All Seasons (formerly "Of Ants and Men")
74. On a Clear Day You Can See Bulgaria -- But Who Wants to Look?
Appendix: The Novels of L. Neil Smith
MY PURLOINED LETTERS
By L. Neil Smith
It's with mixed feelings that I come to the keyboard for a final time in connection with this project. On the one hand, these writings should speak for themselves and require no introduction. On the other, I could regale my readers for hours with the triumphs and tragedies they represent, have caused me to endure, or have even gotten me out of.
(If you're curious, I've had more hate mail because of my analysis of Lincoln and my defense of smokers than from anything else I've ever written.)
On the third hand (I am a science fiction writer, after all), maybe it'll do to fill you in on the background or consequences of a few of these pieces, and save the rest of my war-stories for the lectern on occasions where I have to speak for an hour on a half-hour subject.
The volume you hold in your hands is the illegitimate offspring of 25 years of stealing time from my real work as a novelist to write articles, speeches, and letters to the editor. There's no adequate way to express what it's like to see them all in print together, between the covers of a real book. It's a dreamor a nightmarecome true.
I say that, not to annoy my esteemed editor, Deke Castleman, or my esteemed publisher, Mountain Media, to both of whom I owe a debt of gratitude, but because some these columns spring from moments of the blackest fear and/or the reddest anger I've experienced in my adult life. In the last 20 years, whenever I felt helpless, frustrated, or outraged by events around me I had no power to change, I wrote about them.
And it helped.
You see, I'm sort of a comic book American. I grew up in a white, middle-class Protestant Ozzie and Harriet family. My mom was a den mother; my dad was a scoutmaster. He was also a World War II veteran, a former prisoner of war, and a bombardier-navigator in Strategic Air Command. My younger brother and I were Cubs Scouts, Boy Scouts, and Explorer Scouts by turn. I won a translator's bar (German), the God and Country Award, was tapped for the Ordeal and Brotherhood levels of the Order of the Arrow, and became an Eagle Scout with 23 merit badges.
I can't recall exactly when I became aware that things weren't the way they were supposed to be in America. It may have been just after the flight of Sputnik, the first artificial satellitea Russian artificial satellitescared the American political and education satrapies spitless, shitless, and even more witless than they were already.
I was in seventh grade when they gave us the IQ tests. I must have done pretty well, because I was summoned to the principal's office (a fairly scary experience in those days), grilled about my college plans (I didn't have any; hell, I was in seventh grade!) and lectured on the Vital Importanceto the country, not to meof living up to my potential, the first of at least a hundred living-up-to-my-potential or not-living-up-to-my-potential lectures I would get during the next seven or eight years. But in 1957, it was clear I wasn't an individual in this pucker-assed chairwarmer's eyes, but a superweapon in the Cold War.
I didn't like it a bit, and it was all downhill from there. I had learned about bureaucracy when my father was punished for blowing the whistle on instructors in a SAC training school who were selling the answers to exams. Dad thought it might be good if the guys flying around with H-bombs in their hip pockets actually knew what they were doing. For his trouble, he got shipped off to an Arctic base (where many other such miscreants had been stashed already) and finally retired after 30 years' service as a major when he should have been a colonel.
Then came the Kennedy-King-Wallace-Kennedy killings, the murderous stupidity of Vietnam, the Kent State shootings, and Watergate. That I drew somewhat different lessons from these events than the media and most of my fellow beings does not mean they didn't affect me. My head had already been turned by the writings of Robert A. Heinlein and Ayn Rand.
I'd also had that extremely strange experience in fourth grade. One day, walking to school in an age and place (tiny Gifford, Illinois) when parents could feel safe letting their fourth graders walk to school, I had sort of an epiphany. Something about the quality of the golden morning light, something about the early September frost on the leaves and grass, something, I don't know what, told me that I was living in the last days of a great but rapidly declining civilizationI knew a lot about Rome even thenand that it was my job to stop it.
I know how that sounds. Make of it what you will.
Gradually, I learned the real history of America. I learned the Great Depression had been caused by the very system that was supposed to have prevented it. I learned that it was greatly exacerbated by a sick, twisted, vestigial fealty to England that caused the Roosevelt government to ship American gold overseas by the ton in an attempt to support the pound at five dollars when it was worth perhaps fifty cents.
I learned that World War II had been caused by Allied bungling at the end of World War I. I learned that the Roosevelt administration, desperate to escape an economic disaster that its policies had made vastly worse, not better, had just as much to do withand was equally guilty ofthe vicious sneak attack on Pearl Harbor as the Japanese.
And then, as if the terror, suffering, privation, and sacrifice of the Second World War weren't enough, just as the veterans returning from Europe and the Pacific were settling into civilian life, many of them were called again to fight an even more stupid, pointless war in Korea. Luckily, by the time my dad had finished training, the war was over.
I was determined now to do something about the sorry condition the country of Jefferson and Paine now found itself in. I didn't know what it would take. I didn't know how much I could do. But I would do ... something.
It was clear, from the outset, that the source of the problem was the 20th century superstate. Never in history had there been so much government; never in history had there been so much misery and death. So I picked the issues that energized me most and started writing articles and short stories and letters to the editor and eventually novels (of which, at this writing, there are twenty-one), each aimed at increasing individual liberty and decreasing the power of the state.
You hold part of that effort in your hands, and you may well ask, have I had any great success? I haven't the slightest idea. The state is bigger, stronger, and vastly more evil now than when I began. That often makes me feel like an abject failure; it isn't nice to feel that you've wasted your life since you were fourteen (that's when I first read Atlas Shrugged and became a real nuisance to my family and neighbors).
By contrast, there are vastly more people out there, now, who know their unalienable individual, civil, Constitutional, and human rights. And they're better armed as individuals right now than ever before in history. It's also harder today for government to pull off crimes like nationalizing health care, or confiscating privately owned military weapons. And I believe the fact that they keep trying so desperately indicates that they know their days of running our lives for us are numbered.
Hey, I predicted the collapse of the Soviet Union, the internet as we now know it, the laptop computer, the digital watch, and the fact that Y2K would come to zilch. Could it be that I'm right about this, too?
Whether I am or not, there are always small victories along the way. I was gratified to learn from a Paul Harvey broadcast, many years later, that the angry parents of a different school district had molasses-and-feathered my seventh grade principal and run him out of town.
It was a schoolboy's wish come miraculously true.
L. Neil Smith
In those 24 books, and in innumerable articles and speeches, I've made successful predictionsthe internet as we know it today, laptop computers, the collapse of the Soviet Empire, even digital watches, and the fact that the Y2K "crisis" would amount to nothingdemonstrating my understanding of history, human nature, and the way civilization works. In the process, I've brought thousands upon thousands of people into the libertarian culture.
I've also had my part in launching an historic movement to arm individuals whichdespite its authoritarian detractors (and as I also predicted)is rapidly bringing an end to a horrific era of runaway violent crime their policies spawned over the past 50 years
Last July, borrowing an idea from former President Aquino of the Philippines, I chose the 223rd anniversary of American freedom to announce that, if those who want me to do it could convince me I'm not wasting everybody's time and energy, I'd run for President in 2000. Naturally, I thought long and hard before making that announcement.
Long ago, when I was my 10-year-old daughter's age, I calculated that I'd be 53 years old when the year 2000 arrived. I envisioned a brilliant, colorful future, based on the science fiction I was reading and various possibilities I'd learned to imagine for myself. (I never considered the possibility that we'd be less free than we were in the 1950s.) I assumed we'd all be flying to work in personal helicopters or even on flying belts, visiting with each other by videophone, living in undersea domes, and vacationing on the Moon or Mars.
Aging and disease would be wiped out.
Instead, over the next 40-odd years, most possibilities like that, (and many more I failed to foresee), were eaten up by taxes to support the "Welfare-Warfare State" and by regulations that were both insane and unconstitutional. State terrorism began turning my daydreams into nightmares, having begun (although I didn't know it at the time) with Operation Keelhaul and the persecution of Wilhelm Reich (just to pick two examples), and climaxing (but certainly not ceasing) with Ruby Ridge and the butchery we witnessed at Mount Carmel near Waco in 1993.
Don't ask me when it's going to happen, America is a police state now. At this point, instead of a brilliant, colorful future, it's likelier to be a future resembling Beirut at the grimmest of the fighting there, or Dachau at the worst moment of the Holocaust. All of my adult life, since I was a politically precocious 14, I've struggled to prevent that kind of future, and a bitter, bloody civil wara civil war both Republicans and Democrats seem hell-bent on provokingthat many of my wisest friends are now convinced is inevitable.
But I still want my 21st century, not Gore's or Bush's or Bradley's or McCain's. I believe you want it, too, or I wouldn't be doing this. I want it for myself, my wife, and most of all for my little girl. Like me, she writes. I want her to write, while she's a child, about sunshine, butterflies, and flowers, not machineguns, razor wire, and Ferret missiles. I want her to live as an adult, and raise her own children, amdst the peace, freedom, progress, and prosperity I grew up believing were the birthright of every American.
Over the past decades I've personally tried many approachesand observed many moreto reclaiming our Revolutionary heritage and advancing, once again, the cause of liberty. Every one has failed and we are worse off at this moment than when we started so long ago. From that disappointing experience, I've come to believe the best "flag" to rally round is the one left to us by our 18th century ancestors.
Indeed, I've often said in print and at the lectern that any difference between a society created by the most radical LP platforms I was proud to help write in the 1970s, and the society that would arise from stringent enforcement of the first ten amendments to the Constitution would merely be a matter of "fine tuning".
The first ten amendments to the Constitution.
The Bill of Rights.
My platform is enforcement of the Bill of Rights.
This single policy would eradicate every last trace of socialism from America and eliminate at least 90 percent of government.
My first act as President would be to order the arrests of Bill Clinton, Janet Reno, and Webster Hubbell for their vile crimes at Waco, round up everybody who had a part in what happened there, and, within view of the whole world, put them on trial for their lives.
I'd invite Michael New, the young soldier who refused to obey United Nations commanders, to the White House, give him a medal, and appoint him to oversee our disentanglement from NATO and the UNwhich would be given 24 hours to pack up and get out of the country.
I'd empty America's prisons by turning the White House into an Executive Clemency factory with legal forms stacked to the ceiling, until the War on Drugs, 25,000 gun laws, and all other victimless crime laws were repealed, nullified, or otherwise disposed of.
Like the ancient Roman senator Cato the Elder, who demanded after every speech that "Carthage must be destroyed", I would end my every public utterance, no matter what else it had been about, by reminding potential jury members across the country of their 1000-year-old right and duty to judge the law itself, as well as the facts of the case.
I want to make it clearsome folks have seemed confused by my correct identification of objective realitythat I don't believe I'll be sleeping at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue any time soon. I won't be. Get over it. Nor am I willing to make myself or liar or sound like a lunatic by claiming the contraryI have to look my little girl in the eye every day, and she's a harsh judge. My goal, a realistically achievable one, is to prove publicly, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that there is a constituency for the Bill of Rights too large to ignoreor to abuse any further.
Rely on me to tell the truth and remain within the principles that have guided my life for nearly 40 years. There's no mythical "Great Unwashed" to be fooled or coddled here, no "gentle sensibilities" to be protected. It's too late for that. There's no need for "outreach" in any conventional sense. All we have to do in order to change the course of historyalthough it's a huge taskis to find and gather together everyone who already basically agrees with us.
Let me make it "perfectly clear" that I'm not a candidate quite yet. The conditions I set last July, that would convince me to run, haven't been met. I'm still just a potential candidate (although I appear to be on the ballot in at least two states). The deal's the same as it was: if you want to see the Bill of Rights enforced, if you want the 21st century to be the Century of the Bill of Rights, tell me, tell them, tell the world, by endorsing my candidacy.
Some folks are asking if they can give me money. Technically, as I say, I'm not a candidate. Accepting contributions is complicated, and I have no mechanism for it at the moment. Later, should the proper circumstances arise, arrangements will be made. For now, if you wish to help, buy my bookswhich do more to expound and flesh out my views than any message like this. I've attached a list of them and where they can be purchased.
For more information see my personal site, "The Webley Page", at lneilsmith.com. If you have genuine questions, write to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. To arrange personal appearances and speaking engagements, please contact my agent and attorney, Thomas Creasing, at email@example.com.
L. Neil Smith
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Front cover illustration © Copyright 2000 by Scott Bieser