Ronald N. Neff's two essays on the legitimacy of the Republic first appeared as the lead articles in TLD 15, December 19, 1996; and TLD 16, April 4, 1997.

Series table of contents.
Second installment of series.


This government is illegitimate
... and you don't have to be an anarchist to see it


© 1996, 1999 WTM Enterprises
All rights reserved.


This is not an essay on free-market anarchism; however, a brief discussion of its modern history is in order.

In 1969 the libertarian movement consisted of Objectivists and their imitators; FEE-type libertarians and conservatives; YAF conservatives; and the radical libertarians clustered around Murray Rothbard in New York City (when, as he said, the movement could still fit into his living room) as well as a remnant of the Alliance of Libertarian Activists in California. All these components of the movement lived in uneasy alliance with one another — and occasionally in uneasy ignorance of one another. Free-market anarchism was eschewed by all but the radical libertarians, and many of them rejected the term "free-market anarchism" in favor of the tamer "anarcho-capitalism."

Into this inherently weak coalition burst Roy Childs's "Open Letter to Ayn Rand," published by The Rational Individualist in its October 1969 issue. Its powerful arguments that government is inherently illegitimate caused a stir of letters to editors, articles, attempted refutations, and the conversion of hundreds — including Nicholas Strakon, later the editor of The Last Ditch, and me — from support of the limited, constitutional state to free-market anarchism. The interest and stir Childs's Letter created served as the economic base for the publication of Morris and Linda Tannehill's The Market for Liberty, an expansion of their booklet "Liberty Via the Market" showing how judicial, police, and defense services might be provided in a stateless society. Meanwhile, Morris Tannehill — a prodigious letter writer — was circulating Childs's essay, "The Epistemological Basis of Anarchism," which was far more important than the Letter to Rand but remained unpublished until The Last Ditch posted it in 2003.

Efforts to refute Childs's central Letter arguments appeared quickly, the most important of which (at the time) were privately circulated: Edmund A. Opitz's "Where We Differ" and a lengthy essay by Charles Jackson Wheeler that later appeared in The Personalist, a philosophical journal edited by John Hospers, director of the philosophy department at the University of Southern California. Hospers pronounced Wheeler's refutation absolute and final, but very few of us who had been won over by Childs's arguments agreed. [1]

Perhaps the most promising effort to refute Childs came at a libertarian convention in early 1971 in New York, when Childs debated Jeffrey St. John. St. John was known to libertarians outside New York City primarily as the author of an essay in The Objectivist; he was therefore thought to be a sort of unofficial spokesman for Objectivist polity.

The debate was a rout and St. John retreated to conservatism. [2]

Within a year, David Nolan — who had published a letter in Reason, vol. 2, no. 9 (circa December 1970) urging an end to the debate — published an article in the July-August 1971 Individualist calling for the creation of a libertarian party (an article which, I blush to report, I typeset). The following year a political party was in existence with Hospers as its first presidential candidate. Hospers gleaned the party's first and only presidential electoral vote, and his running mate, Toni Nathan, received history's first electoral vote for a woman.

For the next 10 years, new organizations and publications were popping up all over, and significant money flowed into the movement from the Koch brothers of Koch Industries. Most important of the new organizations was the Cato Institute. The personalities dominating the institute and the party sometimes overlapped and sometimes were at war. Denunciations of former associates were almost a regular feature of newsletters and monthlies. Important alliances were formed, and important friendships were shattered, among them — most tragically — the long-standing affection between Childs and Rothbard.

When the dust settled, still standing were Laissez Faire Books (alone among the competing book suppliers), the Libertarian Party, Reason magazine (under new ownership since the January 1971 issue), and the Cato Institute. All others were lost, doomed, or marginalized. (By far, the greatest among the marginalized was Rothbard's Libertarian Forum.) By this time the official Objectivist movement had completely anathematized the broader libertarian movement, refusing even to recognize itself as a part of it.

Both Cato and the party had made the same significant policy decision: neither would discuss anarchism. In Cato's case, the decision was based on its desire to become a major think tank that would be taken seriously by policymakers. In the party's case, the decision was a big-tent effort to maintain peace among the anarchists and limited statists for the sake of winning elections.

We see the results today: free-market anarchism itself, which triumphed in virtually every setting when it first appeared, is now completely marginalized in the movement. It is supported by no major publication (even within the relatively small arena of libertarian publications); it has no spokesman. The two publications lately associated with Rothbard (the Rothbard-Rockwell Report and The Free Market) are part of a tactical alliance with certain conservatives, and, like Cato and the party, their principals have buried the hatchet of anarchism for the sake of the alliance. And beginning in the early 1980s while he was still working at Cato, Childs himself began telling people that he was no longer an anarchist. [3]

But what other result was possible? The only strength free-market anarchism ever had against the limited-statists and constitutionalists was its arguments. They enjoyed the numbers, the money, and the key positions in the organizations and publications. Once anarchism stopped wielding its only weapon (its decisive weapon), it could expect no other outcome than the marginalization it now enjoys. As Rand warned: "When opposite basic principles are clearly and openly defined, it works to the advantage of the rational side; when they are not clearly defined, but are hidden or evaded, it works to the advantage of the irrational side." [4]

Anarchism, "hard" and "soft"

In general, the primary value of anarchism to political theory is that it serves as a constant reminder that the state does not exist in nature — it is a thing created by man, and its existence, like any of man's undertakings, demands justification: why should anyone engage in those activities that create or sustain it? What justifies the obedience that a man, born free, is required to give it? In any discussion of political theory, however casual, there is almost always offered a cursory (and usually not entirely respectful) acknowledgement that anarchism is, as it were, the "default setting" of reality, and some reason is offered, usually perfunctorily, that purports to show that of course "we" need the state. The reasons are not always coherent, but the point is that political theory is unable to escape the obligation it senses to anarchism — the obligation of rejecting it. (It is interesting that hardly any other of man's undertakings labors under such an obligation. There is no a-numerism that the mathematician must dispose of before presenting his theorems, no a-dipictionalism that the art scholar must confront before getting on with his work, no an-astronomy to be rebutted before the wonderstruck begin plotting the heavenly movements.)

But let us suppose that the nonanarchist philosopher has made his case against the "hard" anarchist, against the claim that government is inherently illegitimate. Let us suppose, that is, that government can be justified, that legitimate coercive rule is possible.

It does not follow that any particular government is legitimate. At any given time, there may be no legitimate government ruling a particular people. Indeed, at any given time, there may be no legitimate government on the face of the earth. It would even be possible for the nonanarchist to be right, but for there never to have actually been a single legitimate government in the history of the world. I recall the look of victory in the face of a man when I conceded his point that if God were so inclined, he could decree that a particular government was legitimate. He quickly learned the true worth of my concession, however, when I asked him whether he thought he could demonstrate that any government in the Christian era had ever been so favored.

Certainly in the arguments of Wheeler, Opitz, Hospers, Machan, and Stoddard mentioned above, and those of the ill-fated St. John, there was never any attempt to counter this "soft" anarchism and to show that the U.S. government, for example, was a legitimate government. Ayn Rand — though adamant that monopoly government was necessary — never argued for the legitimacy of the U.S. government. She accepted it as a defender of rights, but she never gave us any argument for supposing that the particular governing body performing that function or, a fortiori, that the particular governing body that prohibited everyone else from performing that function, did so by right. She never showed that it had come justly by its monopoly on the use of force. It was merely here, and was, therefore, apparently legitimate in its claims. Yet she heaped legendary scorn on similar arguments about the existence of wealth. [5]

Once the "No Treason" arguments of Lysander Spooner became well-known in the libertarian movement, it would have taken a hearty soul indeed to have undertaken to prove that the U.S. government had ever been legitimate. But let us suppose that even that obstacle could be overcome. Let us suppose that the U.S. government — whether under the Articles of Confederation or under the Constitution — was once legitimate.

It does not follow that it remains legitimate.

Legitimacy, after all, does not nourish itself; it is not some perpetual motion machine. If a government can be legitimate, it is so because it possesses certain qualities. If it casts aside the qualities that define its legitimacy, it redefines itself as newly illegitimate.

It is not enough, then, for someone who believes that the American state is legitimate to make his case — he must keep making it. With every new act, a government risks its legitimacy, and a government that acts as often and through as many agencies as the United State has would retain its legitimacy, if at all, against very long odds. [6]

A declaration of illegitimacy

In this great outpost of Western civilization, anarchism enjoys an even greater advantage: the rulers of other countries may attempt to circumvent the challenge of anarchism and claim that their mere existence, their mere holding of power conveys legitimacy to them. They may even claim that that power is self-justifying. They may, that is, claim that the very concept "illegitimate government" is invalid. That tack is not open to the rulers of this country or their apologists.

This country owes its existence to an act of political rebellion that logically demands the possibility of a government's being illegitimate. If existence is sufficient to make rule legitimate, then the heroes of the Revolutionary War overthrew legitimate rule; their own rule, then, is illegitimate. But if the U.S. government is legitimate, then British rule was not. In short, the U.S. government is legitimate if and only if the concept "illegitimate rule" is a valid concept.

To be sure, American history and traditions are not alone in embodying the validity of the concept "illegitimate government": what European power today does not have the blood of a previous governing body or ruling family on its hands? What makes America's relationship to the concept uniquely virile is that she did not come into being as a result of one group's overthrowing another; the legitimacy of her rulers — if they are legitimate — does not rest on their supposedly superior claims to rule or on the basis of conquest. Rather, America was born from a document — a document that I regard as coming about as close to being a sacred document as something of a non-divine origin is ever likely to come. In a document that spelled out the reasons for rebellion against existing rule, the founders of the U.S. government spelled out conditions under which they themselves might be overthrown.

It is true that, strictly speaking, the Declaration of Independence has no legal standing. No law and no judicial finding can ever be based on it. Even so, while it may be true that one who rejects its claim on our conscience, our polity, and our loyalty does not forfeit his claim to the legacy of the West, nevertheless, in some sense, he would be an alien in this outpost of it.

Let us review that document, being careful not to read too quickly over words that are so familiar to us: "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's far enough for now. Note that it does not purport to list all our rights; it lists three, and it does so in language that can mean no other than that there are more rights, and that they, too, are self-evident. It tells us the purpose of government. It is not to protect us from one another or from criminals. It is not to protect our shores or our boundaries. It is not to promote peace. It is not to regulate the economy or run schools or build highways. Yet whenever someone learns that I am an anarchist, the first objection I almost always hear is, "But how would you do X without a government?" And X is always some activity of modern government not even mentioned in this sacred document.

The only reason the Declaration gives for the existence of governments — and it has said that this reason is self-evident — is to secure our rights. Nothing else. Anyone who gives precedence to any other purpose is preparing to forfeit his noble heritage as a free man at the outset.

Let us continue. Keep in mind that the signers are still listing truths they hold to be self-evident: "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.... [W]hen 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."

There can be no doubt that the Permanent Regime of the United State has evinced its design to reduce us under absolute Despotism. Think of the worst tyranny prior to the 20th century you ever heard of. Insofar as the minutiae of your life are concerned, the U.S. government exercises a greater power over you than the one you thought of ever did over its subjects. And it seeks to acquire even greater power. If the 1996 campaign season taught us anything at all, it was that if we will just listen, we will hear the voices of men who wish to exercise tyranny over us. We will hear them telling us how much more power they want and how much more they intend to seek and, obtaining it, to exercise. We heard none of the top three contenders tell us how much power he would divest himself of.

One need not admire the Declaration of Independence to see that the Permanent Regime is despotic, that it is a tyranny, that it usurps its purported role to secure our rights at every turn, and in every branch.

Nor are we compelled to regard the reasons supplied by the Declaration to be the only ones that establish a regime's despotic character. What are we to make of the fact that this government, through its schools, may be the first in the history of man actually to attempt to debauch children? Children in kindergarten and first grade are taught things that can have no purpose but to rob them of their innocence. One state school district promotes homosexuality to kindergartners and first-graders. Another permitted coercive genital examinations of little girls without their parents' knowledge; and the administrators unabashedly insisted that they did nothing wrong in allowing it, indeed that the laws required the examinations. [7]

Others may detect despotism in the tax burden. It is not so high as that of the European democracies, but since when have they been our measure of liberty? And it is not just the amount, though that would be sufficient, but also that on which it is spent. Thomas Jefferson said, "To compel a man to furnish contributions of money for the propagation of opinions he disbelieves and abhors, is sinful and tyrannical." But what do the various agencies of government do other than use the money they extort from us to propagandize for further expansion of the government? Cabinet officials testify before Congress to support spending bills that put more extorted funds and more usurped power at their disposal. The Regime uses extorted tax funds to promote its agenda in other ways: for example, government agencies pay the Ad Council to design ads (some of which denounce that part of the population that smokes cigarettes, people who have paid taxes and have purchased a product whose production the government subsidized) and to buy time on television to run those ads.

Some detect despotism in the permitting of abortion — and the concomitant effort to harvest babies for medical research. Without entering into the debate concerning abortion and fetal-tissue research, how can anyone doubt that there is something hateful in the effort to force opponents to join in paying for what they regard as the slaughter of innocents?

Still others detect despotism in the crime rate — the rate, that is, of crimes committed by unlicensed criminals. There is no measuring the crimes committed by those authorized by the government to commit them — but not authorized by the people from whose consent its just powers are said to derive. When it appears that even unlicensed crime cannot be opposed successfully, the arguments that would establish the legitimacy of a government begin to lose the little strength they had.


Yes, the United State has behind it a long train of abuses and usurpations indeed. Not one of them has made us more secure in our liberty. Each of us may have his own starting place for reciting them: Lincoln, Wilson, the second Roosevelt. Whatever the starting place, the train of abuses and usurpations is long.

And there is only one inference the Declaration of Independence provides for men who are earnest about their liberty. Let us recite it together: "It is our Right, it is our Duty, to throw off such Government."

It is our right, of course, to attempt to reform such a government; it is our right, of course, to labor under that despotism, grumbling and hoping that despots will come to their senses. Or die. Or get religion. Or something. Indeed, the Declaration tells us that we can expect such responses: "[A]ll Experience hath shown, that Mankind are more disposed to suffer, while Evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the Forms to which they are accustomed."

But to endure an evil is not to endow it with any moral standing. Can a despotism, can tyranny be reformed? To suppose that it can be is the premise on which all partisan politics rests. It is a treasured belief, that if only the right people can be gotten into office then all will be well. It is the confidence in the righteousness of the American people, which some use as evidence that justice will prevail even within a government that no longer enjoys its citizens' trust or respect.

But those sentiments in fact overlook the vast truth that the American state is illegitimate. The very belief that it can be reformed is a belief that it is legitimate.

The fundamental, inescapable fact of tyranny is this: Tyranny is irreformable.

It can be opposed; it can be overthrown; it can simply decay; it can be defeated by an outside force. It cannot be reformed. It can only be replaced. Illegitimate government is irreformable; the reform it most needs is that to which it is not subject: it needs to become legitimate.

Once a state is illegitimate, it has lost all just claims to loyalty and to obedience. It cannot regain them through its own efforts. Sovereignty is in the hands of those whose actions (notionally) create a legitimate state in the first place. Once a state is illegitimate, it cannot make itself legitimate; it must be removed and those who create legitimate states must start over. If the concept "legitimate government" has any meaning, its meaning must come from outside itself, or else all governments could be legitimate just in virtue of existing. If a government has lost its legitimacy, it must go outside itself to the source of legitimacy.

Those who would attempt to, as it were, "carry legitimacy into the state" by reforming it are presupposing that their own elections or appointments are legitimate in virtue of being legal. But "legality" is imparted by the state, and, in this case, by an illegitimate state. Partisan politics is the home turf of the state, not of free men engaged in writing a social contract. Moreover, when one engages the state in that arena, he engages it where it enjoys all the advantages.

There are those who reply that one cannot affect a thing from the outside; one can guide the terms of the debate and the formulation of policy only from within. Let us suppose that that is true. I am not here arguing the prudence or the goodness of any actions. I am not arguing strategies or tactics. I am arguing that such-and-such is the case. To reply to any of my arguments that "You can't win that way" is to utterly miss the point. What I am saying is either true or false. Once that's settled, we can discuss tactics. But attempting to arrive at tactics without facing up to the truths of our plight is foolish, dishonest, and, ultimately, calamitous.

That aside, I agree that one can formulate the policy of a state only from within. But if a state is illegitimate, what kind of policy will it be, except an illegitimate one? In a tyranny, even if "the right people" are elected, and they enact the so-called needed reforms, the state remains illegitimate. It has lost its claim to rule justly, and it cannot regain it by its own efforts: a new "social contract" must be written. The only way that an illegitimate state can promote legitimate rule is to stay out of the way of those who, according to whatever theory of government they have concerning legitimacy, are rewriting the social contract that creates a legitimate state. (I, of course, contend that no such theory is coherent.)

One interesting variant of the argument about affecting social policy recalls the counsel of Michael Corleone: "Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer." [8] While one hesitates to contradict the wisdom of Don Michael, it must be noted that it is his advice, not the advice of one attempting to undermine him; it is not the advice, for instance, of the traitor Sal Tessio. Don Michael well understood that keeping one's enemies close was an advantage to the stronger of two opponents. It does not appear to have done the weaker of the two much good. From a position of strength, Don Michael saw with complete clarity just how effective his enemies could hope to be by staying close to him; he knew who was the beneficiary of such advice.

At root, then, one simply cannot infiltrate a criminal organization and trick it into becoming Goodwill Industries or the City on the Hill. The infiltrator, the double agent, the undercover agent can accomplish his work only by being of service to the organization he attempts to defeat. Such tactics may be useful against relatively weak opponents — such as the Five Families. Against the Permanent Regime they count for absurdly little.

Anyone with eyes and an honest heart can see that the Regime under which we suffer is tyrannical. Rulers are not tyrants because of how they are chosen or because of what their proclaimed purposes are. Rulers are tyrants because of the power they hold. [9] And the massive power that is held against Americans is held unjustly. It is a short step from that understanding to recognizing that the Regime under which we suffer is therefore illegitimate. Tyranny is illegitimate. What could be simpler?

Throwing off the state

It has been one of the purposes of The Last Ditch to argue and to show that this Regime is of such power that it cannot be profitably taken on. The day may come when it is weakened sufficiently that the case is otherwise. The day may come when it is weakened or overthrown by some outside power. But until that day, it is strong, and we are weak. Pretending to work for it, hoping thereby to plant the seeds of its destruction in its very heart, is useless: the one who attempts it must, by the logic of his position, end up actually performing services for it. The only heart that is in danger of destruction is the one that beats within the infiltrator. His wealth, his position, his security all come to depend, at the last, on the ability of the state to pay him, to employ him, to make use of him. How long can an honest heart endure that onslaught before fleeing — or sinking into the corruption he thought to redress?

I have agreed that it is our right to throw off illegitimate government. It is even our duty to do so. If we are foes of the Permanent Regime, how can we exercise that right, how satisfy that duty? Revolution, though justified, is simply not possible — for now. But can one believe that this government is illegitimate without waging — still less, calling for — revolution or insurrection against it?

There are respects in which we are free to throw off this government, respects which in no way expose us to the fury of the state or its minions. Thus, I am not talking about tax rebellion or paramilitary resistance. To agree that such actions are just and justified is not at all to counsel them; one does not counsel imprudent action, and risking one's house being surrounded by federal strike forces ("peace officers"!) is imprudent. No, it is not necessary to break unjust laws in order to throw off some little part of the slavery that has been imposed on us.

It is not the state's fury that will oppose us if we begin to throw off its hold on us; it is our own frailty, weakness, fear, and cowardice. I do not say these things to insult, and I say them to myself as well as to anyone else. I say them to draw attention to the enemies we will face if we dare to contemplate this self-liberation. If we cannot muster the courage to meet those foes, what hope can we possibly entertain that co-operation with the state will reform it or that opposition will bring it down?

Instead of taking the course I shall discuss in a moment, people are willing to take on less-demanding courses that tie them to the state, and this precisely because they do not dare to take on the more-demanding one. They are willing to take on those courses that appear to make it possible both to oppose the state and to earn a living. They may not be as opulently successful in this as they would like, but it must be agreed that the prospect of making a living by attempting to bring down the state is tempting.

The purpose I am discussing, however, is not to bring down the state; it is to liberate ourselves from it, insofar as we are able. It is to weaken its hold on us. The mere fact that it is difficult to take even one of the actions I have in mind is evidence that the state holds us by means of them and by them holds us tightly.

There can be no doubt that accepting anything from the Regime chains us to it. He who pays the piper calls the tune, and we have seen the Regime call the tune against everyone from state highway commissions to private universities that — refusing to accept federal money — nevertheless accepted students receiving federal money. And lately it has taken aim against even military academies. If most individuals have not yet been targeted, it is only because the time is not quite right.

But the Regime knows — regimes have always known — that its gifts are not free, and neither are their recipients. As long ago as the dawn of the fourth century B.C., Socrates is reputed to have accepted arguments that the state's gifts created obligations that outweighed even his right to flee an unjust sentence of death! [10]

It is true that it is difficult to avoid completely the state's generosity with the money it has extorted from its populace. But we can draw our lines, and surely one place to draw those lines is on its checks.

We are each of us free not to cash or deposit another government check. Ever. We know that the state has no money of its own; it has no property of its own from which it may pay the unfathomably enormous debts it has created by its wickedness. It has only what it can freshly extort from those it rules. The Social Security check, the paycheck, the pension check, the dividend on a Treasury security, the payment for a fulfilled contract ... even a judicially mandated settlement in a legal dispute with the state — none of them belongs in any sense to the person to whom they are made payable. That person's money or property is long gone — spent on who knows what war, what housing project, what NEA grant to urinary art, or what bar tab from one of Hazel O'Leary's junkets? [Ed. note (2004) — O'Leary was a Minister of Energy for the Clintonistas.]

The proof that I would offer that the money honest men receive from the state represents a form of slavery is that recipients so often find that they cannot give it up. Slaves in the Old Confederacy found it easier to get to Canada than modern Americans do to give up transfer payments.

Moreover, one seldom found the slave of the Old Confederacy who would argue against weakening his bonds:

"I earned this money," says this one. "You received it in exchange for being the willing assistant to the enslaver of your neighbors," I reply. "Do not violate the purity of the concept 'earning' by applying it to your service to a criminal gang."

"These are the returns on prudent investments," another says. "Your dividends were stolen from your neighbors," I reply.

"This money was stolen from me," protests another. "I have a right to get back what I can." "Then be a man, and take it back," I reply. "Don't rely on your extorter to give you some portion of what he has extorted from another."

"This is my job," still another says. "Get an honest one," I reply.

Yes, these are all harsh words, and they are no easier to say than they are to hear. I know that to give up this friendship with the Permanent Regime would mean financial ruin in some cases. I know that it would mean "mere" hardship in others. And I know that it means fear and uncertainty for all. But also, it means the beginning of throwing off the state.

Facts are facts, and no one is the better for blanking them out. The American state is illegitimate; its activities are in some cases the cause of its being illegitimate, in others the consequence of it. Those of its activities that do not actually destroy wealth extort it; it has no other means at its disposal to acquire wealth. Take its money, and you take the fruits of extortion — it is not too great an exaggeration to call it blood money.

So to one who wishes to free himself from the state, I say that I have shown him a place to start, one that risks no criminal penalties. He may not be able to keep the state from robbing him every payday. He may not be able to keep the state from conscripting his children or from kidnapping them to serve time in one of its so-called schools. He may not be able to keep the state from corrupting the health care system or from debauching his own daughter. But he doesn't have to take money for it.

If we cannot bring ourselves to throw off tyrannical government when it is safe to do so and if we cannot bring ourselves to show contempt for the Permanent Regime's attempt to weave us into its web of extortion, how can we ever hope to be true sons of Liberty?

© 1996, 1999 by WTM Enterprises. All rights reserved.
(Updated with new links, 2004.)

To Mr. Neff's second article,
"The seizure of dissent."

See the letter to the editor, with Mr. Neff's reply.

Return to the "Illegitimacy" table of contents.

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1. Charles Wheeler now goes by "Jack Wheeler," and is best known in libertarian circles as a writer for Strategic Investment. Hospers's book, Libertarianism, published in 1971 in hardback by Nash Publishing, met with an enthusiastic greeting from all factions. In his attempted refutation of anarchism, Hospers did not cite the Wheeler piece. An unfortunate consequence of the book's popularity was that it immediately displaced Jerome Tuccille's earlier Radical Libertarianism, which, unlike Hospers's book, had been published by a major publisher (Bobbs-Merrill in hardback, Harper and Row in paperback). [Back]

2. The essay was "News in Focus: The Death of a Daily Newspaper," The Objectivist, June and July 1967. It was fairly clear that many of those attending the conference were hoping that St. John would once and for all vindicate Objectivist polity and the so-called limited state. The disappointment of many of those attending the conference was almost palpable.

Some of the less-pivotal discussions from the same period were an essay by Jarret Wollstein defending free-market anarchism, which appeared in Reason in 1970, followed by an extensive set of objections from Jim Stoddard and others to which I replied in Reason's undated (vol. 2, no. 9) issue. Vol. 2, no. 10 (January 1971) contained Tibor Machan's "A Note on Neff's Anarchism." I countered (in "A Note on Machan's Anarchism," The Individualist, March 1971, pp. 11-12) that Machan's position rested entirely on arguments that implied anarchism, not limited statism. [Back]

3. No one seems to know precisely why he made this change. The editor of a collection of his essays tells us that he made it known in a 1987 book review, but I know that the change dated from much earlier than that, for he told me of it in 1982 or 1983. He would not give his reasons — he said he was planning a movement-shaking book that would explain everything, and he didn't want to give anything away — but they had something to do with events in Lebanon and something to do with Rothbard's own discussions of what defense markets would look like. [Back]

4. "Anatomy of Compromise," The Objectivist Newsletter, January 1964, p. 1. [Back]

5. Atlas Shrugged (New York: Signet Books, 1957), p. 968. [Back]

6. I am borrowing the apposite phrase "United State" from Nicholas Strakon. It is a commonplace that before the War of 1861-1865 (which still lacks an appropriate, generally accepted name) people said, "The United States are ... " and that afterward they said, "The United States is ... " Strakon has replied, Very well, let's take them and that singular verb at their word. And who can disagree? [Back]

7. The first case involves the San Francisco Unified School District. The second involves the East Stroudsburg (Pennsylvania) Area School District, where, this past March [1996], some 58 11-year-old girls were examined for genital warts. The children were not allowed to call their parents, and a nurse blocked the door to prevent their escaping.

In an earlier age, fathers with bullwhips and shotguns might have done a little educating themselves. In our age, the same agitated fathers file lawsuits seeking punitive damages — punitive damages which, of course, will be paid out of tax revenues taken from themselves and their neighbors. They seem not to notice the implications for themselves of someone's paying money for having examined their daughters' genitals. They further seem not to recognize that by suing at all they acknowledge, even presuppose, that they are willing to abide by the court's decision. But should any man accept even the remote possibility of another's deciding that such violations could be justified? Should any man accept even the remote possibility that he should have to abide by such a decision? [Back]

8. An acquaintance who until recently worked for a lobby is particularly fond of this counsel. [Back]

9. I take this formulation from a speech Dean Russell gave at the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE) in 1950. The speech, "Wards of the Government," is reprinted in the January 1997 issue of Freedom Daily, pp. 35-43. The formulation cited appears on page 41. [Back]

10. Plato, Crito 49B-51A. When the Laws of the City address Socrates in the imaginary dialogue, they also make clear that once having given consent to be ruled by them, a man's only avenue of defense against them is to attempt to convince them that their commands are unjust. That is, they insist that the proper avenue of reform is to participate in the policymaking functions of the City. We know how much good such an effort did Socrates. It is difficult not to suspect that "the Laws" know very well in advance what the outcome of such efforts will be, and that that is precisely why they promote that avenue of defense. [Back]