I'll say it up front: I will no longer be available to anybody as a candidate for any political office. If you're interested in my reasons, by all means, read on -- I may hand you a surprise or two along the way. If not, you can stop here, and go do something you'd rather do.
I apologize to those who've waited so long to hear from me on this subject. It was a hard decision to make, and even harder to stick with, especially since I still believe this country in particular and Western Civilization in general is in a horrible mess, and that I'm better suited than anyone to get them out of it. I simply have no confidence that the American electorate or the Libertarian Party is capable of making an intelligent choice in the matter. After all, respectively, they elected Bill Clinton, and gave Harry Browne the nomination.
Unlike many of my friends and acquaintances, I have never believed that there is anything morally wrong with participating in electoral politics or in voting defensively. I have questioned its efficacy from time to time, but even that may be irrelevant. After all, when someone is about to kill you, you grab any weapon you can to fight back with, even a rusty old .25 automatic you find lying in the dust at your feet.
But I've seen too much over the decades to believe that, even if a libertarian received a majority of the votes, the Republicans and Democrats (collectively known as the "Boot On Your Neck Party") would ever let him or her take office. The War between the States, both of the Kennedy assassinations, Ruby Ridge, the Waco Massacre, and this administration's ruthless and illegal disregard for common decency, let alone the highest law of the land, all seem to point in another direction.
From at least the time of the mass-murdering Abraham Lincoln, and probably long before, America has never been anything to Democrats and Republicans -- not to mention their vile European partners -- but a bottomless reservoir of unearned wealth. The best among them have been educated to regard America's productive class as their property, their serfs. The worst are vampires, of a sort, who think of us as food, and there's nothing they won't destroy, no one they won't kill, to keep it coming.
What's more, the Libertarian Party, which I once regarded as our last, best hope for freedom, now seems irrevocably broken. At best, it wastes the time and energy of thousands of wonderful people. At worst, it's become a gruesome pit of vermin whose personal psychological and emotional problems drive them to attack anyone who actually does something, instead of arguing purposelessly and endlessly with them about it.
And there are the parallel problems of abysmal ignorance of the movement's history and principles, and a willful misinterpretation of policies based upon them. When an entire state party (New York, in this case) wailingly deplores the emphasis that western libertarians tend to put on the right to own and carry weapons, it's clear that it's "gone native" -- absorbed the socialism and social cowardice of the surrounding culture -- and it's time to disband and dissolve it and start over.
The same policy applies to anyone who calls himself a libertarian and supports any aspect of the so-called War on Terrorism. Go be a Republican.
Likewise, when an obvious philosophical and political neophyte complains that I have advocated initiated force in a speech proposing that sitting politicians (individuals who initiate force thousands of times a day) who lie to the public be hanged -- and she turns out to be an officer of another state LP (Ohio, this time) -- she embarrasses not only herself, but the party that failed to educate her properly, and proves once again that, despite the prejudices instilled in us by the democratic process and public education, an opinion rooted in ignorance is not the equal of an opinion rooted in even a moderate amount of experience.
A big reason I decided at long last not to run was a realization that, even if hell froze over and I won the LP nomination, instead of contending with Democrats and Republicans, Socialists and Greens, I'd spend most of my time and energy wrangling with airheaded tarbabies like this one who resent me chiefly because I have friends, fans, and readers she accuses of worshipping the ground I walk on. Clearly she's never seen the "respect" I get on the Smith2004 list. Those closest to me have no problem hollering "bullshit!" when they think I'm spreading it.
Nevertheless, I make this announcement essentially without rancor, nor do I believe the time I spent as a potential candidate was wasted. The whole thing began 10 years ago, after I made a breakfast speech to a large audience at the national Libertarian Party convention in Salt Lake City. The convention's principal speaker never showed up, and never explained why, so I called my presentation the "default keynote address".
This was the speech that began with a bagpipe solo by my friend David Anderson (just to wake folks up) and in which I suggested that libertarians could do worse than to make the Second Amendment their principal -- even their only -- election issue. It's also the speech in which I coined the term "Nerf libertarian", to designate those who are afraid to let the voting public know what libertarianism is really all about.
As if to make my point for me, when I arrived at that part of the speech, three or four angry individuals -- out of approximately three hundred, undoubtedly Nerf libertarians themselves -- got up and walked out. I was gratified, of course. Any speech that fails to offend at least one percent of your audience is a poor, pale thing, hardly worth making.
After the speech, I returned to my table and my wife and daughter, but found myself surrounded, several layers deep, by people who wanted to congratulate me on my speech, or take issue with it. Some of them asked when I planned to announce my candidacy for the LP presidential nomination, a damned, low-down, dirty thing to ask any man who lives by his ideas, and a temptation it's taken me ten long years to shake off.
But now I have a much greater obligation, one that I believe can bring us closer to having a free country than my running for president (or, for that matter, _anybody's_ running for president) ever would have.
In an arrangement that may be unprecedented in the history of publishing, a number of my friends, readers, and fans have given me a six-figure advance so that I can write my next two novels, Ceres, a sequel to Pallas, and Ares, a novel that will fit chronologically between them. One is about the terraformation of the largest of the bodies in the Asteroid Belt, and the measures civilization adopts to prevent a catastrophe like the one that exterminated the dinosaurs 65 million years ago. The other is about the terraformation and settling of Mars in the face of brutally violent opposition from governments on Earth.
It's past time that this Child of Heinlein wrote a book about Mars.
Like Pallas, both books will present a future worth living -- and striving -- for, a future in which (unlike most popular science fiction on television today) the vast majority of individuals do not wear uniforms, or rattle around in heavily-armed interstellar warships pretending to be explorers, or reside on heavily-armed space stations where they routinely steal visitors' personal weapons so they'll be safely harmless.
Perhaps I flatter myself, but I think this trilogy -- and a couple of books that will follow it -- could do more to advance the cause of liberty than anything I could ever do in politics. After Ed Clark ran for president, I discovered that more people had bought and read my books than had ever voted for Ed or any other libertarian candidate for president.
If you're curious to know what kind of president I might have been, I urge you to read Hope (available at http://www.jpfo.org), a romantic political "thriller" that I wrote a while back with my friend and partner Aaron Zelman. Alexander Hope's policies and practices are my policies and practices. Depending on the sort of libertarian you are, you can be inspired by that, or revolted by what Alex does in the White House.
Either one works for me.
Meanwhile, to those of you who've been such good friends and stuck with me all these years, I have one last request. Don't abandon the Smith2004 mailing lists. For one thing, I'm planning to throw a party for you next year, probably in Raton, New Mexico, and we need to do some planning.
For another, those lists will begin serving a brand new purpose as soon as I can get to it. Talking to people here and there, and reading the increasingly depressing letters columns in several popular science magazines, it appears to me that, thanks mainly to the likes of the George Bushes and Bill Clinton, a great many people, possibly even a majority, have simply given up on the future. Something has to be done about that. I believe I know what it is, and that it's my job to do it.
And that begins with finishing Ceres and Ares, to offer them a future to believe in once again. I'll also try to write more columns than I have recently, although for some reason it's hard to do that and write fiction at the same time. I certainly don't have any fewer opinions than I ever had, I've just lacked the time to express them in writing.
What will help the LP? Almost certainly nothing, but returning to the libertarian basics couldn't hurt. Begin with a proper internal education program, and the strictest possible adherence to what we shall now call the "Zero Aggression Principle". Let your public platform consist primarily of the Bill of Rights. Inside the party, never employ democratic procedures that have nothing to do with freedom and, in fact, tend to threaten it. Go with unanimous consent, instead.
That's "reconstitutive unanimous consent", and if you want to know how to make it work, I'm available as a consultant at reasonable rates.
Special thanks to those of my friends who have always wanted me to write instead of running for office. See, I do listen, I just listen slow. My wife and daughter are a good deal happier, and that helps me to feel a little less guilty for dodging what I have often felt was my duty.
Meanwhile, watch this space for a spectacular new undertaking that I hope will put us on the road at last to getting what we non-Nerf libertarians always really wanted: freedom, immortality, and the stars.
Three-time Prometheus Award-winner L. Neil Smith is the author of 23 books, including The American Zone, Forge of the Elders, Pallas, The Probability Broach, Hope (with Aaron Zelman), and his collection of articles and speeches, Lever Action, all of which may be purchased through his website "The Webley Page". Autographed copies may be had from the author at firstname.lastname@example.org.