Speech Before the Arizona Libertarian Party Convention

April 19, 1997
by Claire Wolfe

In November, 1995, I sat down and wrote the words, "America is at that awkward stage; it's too late to work within the system, but too early to shoot the bastards." That's a line a lot of you have become familiar with, and to the extent that other people have also become familiar with it, it has a lot to do with Arizona libertarians pushing that message.

Well, I wrote that a year and a half ago, the book was published about six months ago, and now here we are, April 19, 1997. Is it time to "shoot the bastards" yet? This is a question a lot of us have been pondering.

We signed our oath, most of us, we signed our pledge not to initiate violence. We're the good guys. We know that. But I have heard so many people -- good, responsible, ordinary people -- talking about whether we might be reaching the time that we should "shoot the bastards".

I think one of the best comments on this came from Vin Suprynowicz, who interviewed me when the book was published. Actually, of all the things said in the interview Vin made the best comment; he said that we have reached the time when it is _morally_ right to "shoot the bastards", but it is not yet _practical_ to do so.

I do believe that a fight is inevitable, whether that's a fight in the streets or the trenches, or whether that is some sort of confrontation that may not involve arms but may nevertheless involve violence and head-to-head action. I think that's inevitable, and I think more and more people are coming to the conclusion that it is.

April 19th, as you all know, is a day in history when many people _have_ taken up arms, when they have been _forced_ to take up arms. Peaceable people in Lexington and Concord, desperate people in the Warsaw ghetto. Even when they had no hope, or little hope, they took up arms. But here we stand, and although a lot of us have arms with us, or not far from us, we're not ready to "take up arms" yet.

But I hope we're preparing ourselves. I hope we're at least thinking about it.

In the last year and a half, since I originally wrote those frustrated, angry words, things have gotten a hell of a lot worse. And it's almost scary how little the disaster that we're in the middle of has been acknowledged.

For instance, just four -- I don't want to call them laws or acts of legislation -- four abominations that Congress has come up with in the time since I originally wrote those words. We've got a federal database of all employed people, or, that is, all people who get conventional jobs. That's been done in the name of "tracking deadbeat dads". However, you might be a single mother with five kids you're taking good care of; you might be a single guy who never intends to get married. You're going in that database. Why? What does that have to do with "deadbeat dads"? I don't know. I can't figure it out.

Along those same lines, we now have pilot projects being started, under which you cannot get a job unless your employer first gets permission from the Social Security Administration by scanning your card through a reader connected to a database in Washington, DC. Isn't that cute? Some Social Security bureaucrat decides whether or not you can ever get a job in this country.

We've also got a medical health care database that will be on line in about a year. This was part of the "moderate" Kennedy-Kassebaum health care act -- you'll be pleased to know that this is "moderate". Everything about your medical history will go into this database, including speculation on the part of your doctor, who may observe that you're an "armed and dangerous wacko". He's not going to tell you that, but it goes in your records and goes in the database. (NOTE: Please see comment at the end of this transcript.)

The fourth one that is really for me the "line in the sand" issue is the national ID card that we have just begun to hear about in the last couple of months. Has everybody heard something about that? Well, for the few who haven't I'll just review quickly.

At the end of the 104th Congress there were about two paragraphs added into several hundred pages of legislation that requires that by October, 2000, all states will be issuing driver's licenses that you must have your Social Security card to get one, and they will have certain "security features". These are not defined in the law, but they may include: retinal scans; fingerprint scans; other data on your driving history, health history, criminal history, so on. (NOTE: The U.S. Secretary of Transportation is currently in the process of writing the regulation on this.)

And by October 2006, you will not be able to get _any_ government service at _any_ level without having one of these driver's licenses. You will not be able to get a passport. If your local utility company is the government you will not be able to get water to your house, or electricity to your house, and so on. My Christian friends, of course, are calling this the "Mark of the Beast", and I don't think they're wrong. I think they're right.

So those four things, among many, many others, have all been snuck in on us lately. But the reason I pick these four is something that a friend pointed out to me. This friend says, "These four are slave laws." Many other laws that have been imposed upon us recently are bad laws, but _these_are_slave_laws_. They all enable the federal government to track its property -- you, and you, and you, and me -- its property.

They can monitor our health just the way that farmers monitor the health of their cattle. If they don't think we're being properly productive they can deny us the jobs, or they can make sure that we're in a job that they like.

It's here, now, that we have to stop this. I hope we can stop it without violence, but we do HAVE to stop it.

What I'd like to focus on today are some things that I think we as individuals can do, and some of the things that I think that libertarian party organizations can, or perhaps should, do to prepare for the hard times that are going to come when the day arises that we say, "No! It stops here! It stops now!"

I wish for just this little moment that we were all a bunch of Marxists, or Democrats, or something, because then I could say, "Comrades! You _must_ do this! Comrades! You _shall_ do that!" But we're libertarians, and it's only, "Hey! You'll do what you want to do; I'll do what I want to do. You'll do what fits your personality; I'll do what fits my personality." And that is the way it has to be. That's our strength and our weakness.

But there are a couple of things that I would say that I think everybody here, and everybody who professes to be a libertarian _should_do_. One is to get the income tax out of your own life, however you have to do it. Get it out!

In every other presentation I've ever given before I've said, "Oh I understand that if you have a regular job, or if you have children, or if you have a lot of nice possessions it's riskier for you to do it. But I'm coming to the point where, I'm sorry, we can't feed the beast. We've got to stop feeding it. That's all there is to it. All of our great professions of principle in the world are nothing if we don't stop paying the ATF, paying the FBI, paying the IRS.

The other thing that I hope everyone will do is resist this national ID in some way or another. Refuse to get the driver's license, drive without it, whatever you have to do. Refuse to give the information, protest, scream, rescind your social security number, whatever.

Rescinding your social security number is another thing that I would have said a year ago, "OK, it's an option, but it's a grandstanding option. It's waving and saying, 'Hey, hey, I'm a troublemaker. Put me on a list.'" But I am going to be rescinding my social security number formally, writing to the Social Security Administration and saying, "Nope. Not my number, folks." It may be a grandstanding gesture, but that number is a slave's number, and I'm getting rid of it, pure and simple.

Now a lot of people -- a lot of people _here_ -- are doing these things already. I know people right here in this group who haven't paid taxes in years. I know people in this group who don't have a driver's license, who _have_ rescinded their social security numbers, or whatever, and I think that's great.

In fact Rick White came up with a really good term the other day when we were talking. He talked about "individual secession" as a means of combating the government. We were talking about ways of avoiding violence, and he suggested "individual secession" as a means of accomplishing that. I think it's great, and I think we all need to do it.

But I also think that the result of quiet secession -- of just quietly withdrawing your consent, your support, your participation in the system -- the result of that is something like what happened in the Soviet Union. Eventually the system collapses, but what's left? You have black markets. We like black markets, because they're free markets. But they are corrupt markets that are run by gangsters, eventually. We need free, open markets. We need to declare freedom and live it publicly, instead of by hiding.

I think individual secession is good, but we need to make noise doing it. And not polite noise. We libertarians are very polite people, very well-mannered. We sign our little pledge, and we do the right thing, because that's the kind of people we are. But we need to make noise. We need to say, "I'm withdrawing. I'm withdrawing, and here's why, and come get me."

And that goes against everything I personally believe. One reason you never heard of Claire Wolfe until six months ago was that although I've been an activist, I have tried to keep a low profile and tried to be really quiet, because I didn't want the IRS knocking on my door, or kicking it down as the case may be. I didn't want the ATF coming in to say hello at four in the morning. But I don't care any more. I _do_not_ care any more, and I think we're coming to a confrontation point anyway, and if that's what happens, so be it.

I think there are a lot of other things that you can all do and probably all _are_ doing; probably a lot of you are ahead of me. That's why I like coming down to Arizona; I learn from what people in Arizona are doing. But certainly, withdraw to the extent that you can from the banking system.

Set your political priorities -- don't waste your time on things that aren't working. Like for me, I was always always sitting down writing stupid letters to my congressperson, as if my congressperson cared. I felt like I was doing something. But one of the things I've learned since those days is to do is prioritize. And that means don't even bother any more. Don't even talk to them any more.

I think everybody should be studying warfare, in one way or another. Whether that's the personal warfare of going up to Gunsite and learning how to shoot in combat situations or whether that's studying _The Art of War_, reading books by Mao, or Che Guevara, or Sun-Tzu. I think we all need to be doing that, even if we don't want the confrontation. None of us _want_ the confrontation, but I think we'd better be prepared for it in those ways.

I think we should all be getting out of government jobs -- with one exception. With one exception, and this is something I've just been thinking about. I've decided that over the last thirty years some _wonderful_ libertarian has been running the IRS' computer system. And I say, "Thank you out there, whoever you are, and keep it up! Good job!" So anybody who's in a position to do unto the ATF or unto the EPA what has been done to the IRS, definitely go for it.

One of the things that we can do, whether we're looking for confrontation or not, is to establish some virtual communities. And here's where Michael Voth comes in. Michael of the Coconino libertarians, and Kevin Burt of the Laramie County libertarians of Cheyenne Wyoming, cooked up this notion of "cousin counties".

You know how we have "sister cities" all around the world? Well, we now have a "cousin countyship" between Laramie and Coconino libertarians. We don't exactly know what we're going to do with it yet, but we have our own "virtual community", and it is somewhat of an act of...well I don't think we care enough to _defy_ the national hierarchy, but we're going to make connections despite the hierarchy.

Some day we may need a "safe house" in Coconino; some day they may need a "safe house" in Laramie County. Some day we may need to be stations on an underground railroad for getting patriots to safety. We may need to be stations on a supply line, and we have that connection established. We have a relationship with each other already, and we'll do what seems appropriate with it.

That, unfortunately, brings us to the national party, or higher-up-the-line parties. I think -- and this is just a personal viewpoint -- that the best thing that the state party could be, or the best thing that the national party could be for individual libertarians is a support group to help us establish networks with each other; to help us keep connections with each other; to help us learn from each other; what works and what doesn't work; what did they try over in Alabama that might work in Nevada, or that was a disaster and might not work anywhere?

Your state organization is great for that, I think, to the extent that I know it. Unfortunately you're one of the few that is. And unfortunately, of course, we have National. The national party. The commissariat of Washington, D.C.

What is the national party? It is a top-down fund-raising organization that is into telling us what we should do, not learning from us and helping to spread it around.

And certainly some of the things that we should _not_ do, according to National...we should not have people like L. Neil Smith at our gatherings. He has been declared "unfit" by the national party. And I hope you all recognize that. [Applause for Smith, who was sitting in the audience.]

Also, a year or so ago, those of us who got the "Libertarian Volunteer" got an issue that listed the "twelve most terrible things" that have ever been done at local party meetings. One of them was to discuss "Should There Be A Libertarian Party?" I mean, that's shocking. How _dare_ we talk about such a thing?

So here we are at a time when we need individualism, autonomy, quick action and networking, being saddled with this sort of dinosaur with the little pea-brain up here in Washington, DC, trying to communicate down to us, thinking we're its tail or something. Yhey are so busy trying to be like the other folks in Washington, D.C. that they are very quickly forgetting that they _are_ libertarians.

But I'm sure they're quite good at fund-raising; I've hear wonderful tales about their fund-raising. In fact, something quite interesting that I heard the other day indirectly from Neil: Harry Browne is criticizing _me_ as one of the people who was damning him for his fund-raising and odd campaign spending practices. Well, I never did. I would have. I would have been happy to, because of what I have heard from Vin Suprynowicz and Neil Smith and other people. But it didn't happen.

So, National is giving us enemies lists and fund-raising corruption, among other pleasures of politics. Heck, they're headquartered in the Watergate, after all! What are we going to do with these people? They think that success is raising a lot of money whether it goes to any good cause or not. They think that success is being invited to the cocktail parties with the Democrats and the Republicans. They think that success is having libertarianism favorably mentioned in the Washington Post.

OK, if I were favorably mentioned in the Washington Post, I would do everything I could to change my ways! Wouldn't you? Who wants to be favorably mentioned by people who think that every bit of dissent is _hate_speech_? Who think that anyone who is not a Republican or a Democrat or in the mainstream is some sort of crazy? No. No thank you. Hunh-unh. No thanks.

We try very hard to be acceptable. The national party is trying to be acceptable and there's nothing wrong with that. It's human. I mean we want to be accepted from the moment we're born. But the question is, to whom do we want to be acceptable?

I don't want to be acceptable to the same people that the national party wants to be acceptable to. I want to be acceptable to you guys. And I want you to be acceptable to me, because we are going to need each other some day. I want to be with you when we prepare.

I don't care whether you're preparing even for the same eventuality that I'm preparing for. I don't care if you're a pacifist. There is room for many differences. But we've got a role to play, and it's we, not national, who are going to play that role.

Something is going to happen. I wish I could tell you what it was. I've been talking to people and everybody's going through the same thing -- "Well, I think it might be this", "I think it might be that", "I think it might be the other" -- we don't know. But it's coming. Whether it breaks with the suddenness of an earthquake, or whether it comes like a storm that you can see rolling toward you for hours, it _is_ coming.

And the big question for all of us, when this hits, is, "Do I want to be polite and acceptable or do I want to be FREE?"

Free, of course! I mean, it's easy, right? It's easy! So let's do it! I have absolute confidence you guys are going to be _able_ to do it. And when it all comes down, I want to be here, if not physically in Arizona, I want to be in your virtual community.

So thank you for your guts. And thank you for having me here. And thank you for being brave enough to talk about things that National doesn't want you to talk about, and to do things that National doesn't want you to do. My congratulations and gratitude to all of you.

***** NOTE on the health care database: I have since been fiercely corrected on this point. I may have been overstating the present danger of such a database, though I believe the danger remains grave for the near future.

The health care bill (available from the Library of Congress' Thomas web site as HR 3101 or Public Law 104-191) establishes a federal database for reporting medical fraud and abuse. I don't believe this is the problem, however it was part of the confusion. Later, in Sections 1171-1175, the bill outlines a plan for the Secretary of Health and Human Services to set standards for the electronic transmission of all health care data. These "standards" do not constitute a database, and I thank the critic who corrected me on that issue. However, the secretary is directed to set one standard _by which all medical data will be electronically communicated_. The standard must include a "unique identifier" for every individual whose medical information is ever transmitted (Sec. 1173). In doing that, Congress is clearly allowing the Clinton administration to create a de facto single, nationwide system to which federal (and other) bureaucrats will have easy access, almost certainly via our social security numbers. If this does not rapidly become the feared federal database, it will nevertheless allow the government, researchers and others to run rampant through the various private or state databases that will use the federally defined standard. I regret any confusion. But I urge you to keep your eyes open and your heads up...not that it will do you much good when bureaucrats are secretly slurping your medical data -- law or no law -- into their computers.

(c)Claire Wolfe 1997 America is at that awkward stage. It's too late to work within the system, but too early to shoot the bastards.
-- Claire Wolfe, "101 Things To Do 'Til the Revolution"


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