Of Ants and Men

by L. Neil Smith

Special to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise

The war we’re fighting is a war between ants and Men.

Ants scurry about their world at random in great numbers, leaving behind long sticky trails of pheromone, chemically commanding anyone and everyone, “DO THIS! DO THAT! GO HERE! GO THERE! EAT! SLEEP! WORK! FIGHT! DIE!”

The pheremone trails build up, one upon another, lapping, overlapping, tracing, back-tracing, up, down, sideways, overlay on grimy overlay, imperative after foul imperative, until the whole ant-world lies cloyed and covered in tarry, reeking, imperious filth.

Men speak, and as the words die cleanly in the air between them, they think about the words and speak anew. The surrounding environment of will, of choice, and of motivation is unpolluted. Their decisions, agreements, judgments, options, alternatives, preferences remain inside them, inside their individual minds. They do not clutter and befoul the physical space in which they all must live.

Ants cannot live like Men and more importantly, men cannot live like ants. Yet that’s precisely what we’ve been trying to do. For two centuries, ten generations, we’ve endured ant-like accumulations of obsolete, discredited commands, ordinances, statutes, and decrees building up beneath our feet, slowing us, binding us, gluing us down like so much gum lying gooey on a sidewalk at high noon.

Keeping us from being what we might have been.

Keeping us impoverished, hungry, and stultified.

Keeping us from the one true destiny of Men, the stars.

As we’ve been told so often — by those who wish to live like ants — it’s time to clean up the environment. To decide that we are Men, not ants.

Twenty years ago, when I first began pondering this subject, there were FIVE MILLION FEDERAL LAWS (and ignorance, I’d remind you, of the law is no excuse). Who knows how many now? Who knows how many state, county, and city laws? Who knows what they cost us — besides our future.

The Founding Fathers never meant the nation’s legislatures to become full-time pheromone-factories. There’s evidence that they envisioned Congress and the state assemblies as places Men would meet — occasionally — to deal with some emergency. And even then they may have been wrong. They must have been wrong, or we wouldn’t be suffering all this clutter, this legislative pollution today.

I propose a Moratorium, a final Law, an Amendment to the Constitution creating a 100-year prohibition on legislative activity of any kind within the borders of the United States of America, during which the only thing a legislature could do would be to REPEAL old laws, mop up all the pheromones, clean up the environment.

Those who wish to live like ants, and they are many, will fight it, shrieking that they won’t know what to do without their little sticky overlapping trails (desperately afraid, too, that they won’t be able to tell others what to do any more) and won’t know how to live.

Those who want to live like Men will champion it.

And in that Century of Sanity, they will reach the stars.


Reprinted from The Libertarian Enterprise for Number 50, July 4, 1999

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