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L. Neil Smith: I Dreamed I was a Libertarian in My Maidenform Bra (1987)


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Presented at the Future of Freedom Conference Culver City, California, November, 1987

by L. Neil Smith

The continued relative invisibility of Libertarianism in America, after forty years of back-breaking, heart-breaking labor, has nothing to do with any lack of money, ideas, personnel, or anything else we Libertarians continually whine about. It isn't the fault of any evil Northeastern conspiracy. Nor, as the timorous, timid, and trembling among us often recommend, is it any reason to tone down our rhetoric, to soften our principles or their expression, or to make it more "conservative" or "practical" in approach. All of that has been tried, over and over again in the history of the movement, and by now its miserable, abject failure is self-evident to everyone but a blind, deaf, and, particularly dumb handful of seminar schlockmeisters and Libertarian Party "pragmatists".

Continued: http://keithlynch.net/lns/ucatuv

What we Libertarians sometimes lack in our own hearts and minds, what we often fail to communicate to others, is a vision of the new civilization we intend to create. It may be sufficient -- for Libertarians -- that America today is politically, economically, and socially repulsive. It may be sufficient -- for Libertarians -- that what we propose represents a moral imperative. _It is not enough for others._ Most people require a concrete realization of the future, a picture which will motivate them to learn what Libertarians mean by "right" and "wrong", and inspire them to work toward its fulfillment.

It may appear contradictory that the achievement of practical ends must rely on what seems to be a fantasy -- but nothing could be further from the truth. What we Libertarians need is a foot in the door. There's no conflict between flights of imagination and political realism, any more than there is between "radical abolitionism" and "moderate gradualism". Each has a role in the creation of progress. Neither can afford to try operating without the other. Division-of-labor is more than an abstract economic principle, it's a matter of life or death for the cause of individual liberty. Utopianism, far from being a hindrance or embarrassment, is a vital, effective means toward that goal.

We Libertarians take our philosophy too much for granted. Our concepts of what it can accomplish are too abstract. We wrongly assume that others can see its potential as clearly as we do. We often fail to see it ourselves. As a remedy, we must begin to ask ourselves, now, and each day for the rest of our lives, certain fundamental questions. Why are we Libertarians? What do we wish to accomplish? What constitutes success? By what signs will we know that we've won? What's in it for us? What's in it for me? What do I really want?

Continued: http://keithlynch.net/lns/ucatuv