To Ronn Neff's Unsilent Truth.


Ronn Neff is managing editor of The Last Ditch, identifier and pioneer analyst of “Polite Totalitarianism,” and author of many of TLD’s formative essays. He winces when I call him the libertarian Machiavelli, but it's true.

Mr. Neff’s own site, which is the overarching site of which TLD is a part and which I urge you to visit, is Thornwalker. 

— Nicholas Strakon

The Theory and Practice of Polite Totalitarianism

Polite Totalitarianism is one of the two foundational series for The Last Ditch, along with my own ”Dark Suits and Red Guards,” and it’s about time I got them posted. “Polite Totalitarianism” appeared in four parts, in the first four issues of TLD, from September through December 1994.

I am posting “PT” serially:

Part one (posted November 3, 2007)

Part two (posted November 15)

Part three (posted December 19)

Part four (posted January 16, 2008)

Sidebar to Part two: “Keeping up appearances” (posted November 15)

Sidebar to Part three: “Polite propaganda: doing your part” (posted December 19)

This, dear reader, is where it all began.

The mops we push ourselves. 

Mr. Neff's series in our print edition, “Polite totalitarianism,” was one of the foundational writings for TLD. As a supplementary article, I offer this 1995 essay by Mr. Neff, never posted to the site until today.

Mr. Neff writes of “the fact that Americans routinely pay for oppression completely freely, with no threat hanging over them.” If you want examples, hes got examples. Along with plenty of his incisive and informed analysis. (August 14, 2020)

“Only an ’opeless fancy ...” — The 1984 Palimpsest and salvation via technology.  

The lead article for the April-May 1995 issue of TLD, our “Orwell issue,” was Mr. Neff’s essay-review, “Only an ’opeless fancy ...”. It includes a sidebar by Mr. Neff and Strakon. (September 27, 2002)
Pettifoggery and polite gun control.  
This essay, from our October 1995 issue, is now on line in full text, and not a moment too soon.

Guardians against thoughtcrime: Dictionary dictators.

In TLD 18, Mr. Neff shed bright light on one obscure but effective technique the folks in charge of the culture use to shape our minds. You think you’re unshockable? Get a load of this. (June 4)

Polite Totalitarianism: the nub of a theory 
A libertarian connection in 1973.

Mr. Neff became a market anarchist in late 1969. But that conversion was hardly the end of his intellectual exploration. In 1973, in a makeshift publication that libertarians of a certain (advanced) age may fondly remember, Mr. Neff asked a question that eventually developed into a foundational idea. TLD is pleased to post his original “letter to the editor” in full, preceded by his introduction. (January 30, 2021)

• In a recent “Columbus Coin” entry in the Unsilent Truth series, a question was asked: Why do our limited-government friends seem not to be making much headway in promoting their ideal, despite its noble pedigree reaching back 400 years and the names of its past champions practically household words? Is it a myth that has failed?

Myth and Legitimacy

(April 16, 2021)

• We set aside some time to remember Carl Watner, who died this past December, and consider what it means to be a Great Man of the movement:

To hold an unending youth:
Carl Watner (June 27, 1948 – December 8, 2020)

(March 1, 2021)

• In the wake of the conservative dégringolade, Mr. Neff has been listening to some talk shows where anti-leftists are still permitted to comment on events and propose action. Evaluating some of those proposals, he describes in his latest essay how things actually work — and some of what will be required if opponents of tyranny are to have any hope of making them not work any longer:

"'What is to be done?'"

(February 15, 2021)

• The Left have secured their control over the commanding heights of our society. Their totalitarian mentality dominates among those of influence inside and outside the formal state apparatus.

During their Great March, our adversaries have displayed vanishingly little concern for morality. In the face of that, Mr. Neff asks whether we may now abandon our own attachment to the moral:

"Morality and practicality."
I earnestly urge TLD readers to make this essay known among non-TLDers who are willing and able to grapple with ideas.

(January 14, 2021)

• For those of you inclined to celebrate Thanksgiving despite possible persecution by demonic tyrants, TLD offers a gift for the holiday! It's a rare venture into fiction for the Ditch, in the form of a short story by Mr. Neff. He wrote it in 1988, but it's never before been published:

"Night Court."
I hope Mr. Neff will keep 'em coming.

(November 25, 2020)

• Mr. Neff unmasks the face of contemporary America. It's not pretty:

"Living in fear."

(May 29, 2020)

• If you've been waiting — maybe a little impatiently — for a clear free-market answer to the question of plague, your wait is over. In this essay, Mr. Neff shows us why the free market will work and why collectivism will not:

"Breaking down the problem: Liberty and plague."
In my opinion, this is important work. See whether you agree.

(April 30, 2020)

• In this essay, Mr. Neff takes a look back at what we at TLD sometimes call the American Minitrue and finds that nothing has changed — for the good, that is. You're no doubt aware that the established media are left-wing now, but aided by the past work of another dissident writer, Mr. Neff explores just what their leanings (and tactics) were like fifty years ago:

"The art of twisting the news: Ventriloquists and their dummies."

(September 3, 2018)

• I've told Mr. Neff that one of his special strengths as a thinker is his ability to come up with new and ingenious angles from which to analyze the implications of statism. If you don't already know what I mean, you'll find out when you read his latest essay.

Prepare to find out about tricky museums, stubborn triangles, breaking spells, and:

"Eating the serpent."

(July 18, 2018)

• Writing the promos for TLD articles has always been my toughest job as editor. I always worry about how to do them justice without lapsing into blurbish Cliché World. The task becomes much harder when there falls into my hands a red-hot masterpiece that should become a classic, if only we can make enough intelligent readers aware of its existence and persuade them to read it.

I now introduce such an essay, Mr. Neff's "Libertarians are inherently anti-Semitic and racist / And there's nothing they can do about it."

It is the culmination of long observation and much thought about libertarians, their movement, their mutagenic environment, and their fate.

As such, it is also a chronicle of corruption.

I urge you to read it, think about it, comment on it, and — please! — let your libertarian friends know about it.

P.S. If you're an editor or publisher on the Net, feel free to repost Mr. Neff's piece, giving him and The Last Ditch appropriate credit, and providing a link to our original post. Please write me for further information.

(October 17, 2017)

• I told Mr. Neff that he had found an ingenious approach for this essay. I might also have told him that it reflects an incisive historical perspective:

"A parable: Arithmetic and the end of the state"

(August 23, 2017)

Fiat justitia ruat cælum! Libertarians of a certain (advanced) age may remember rollicking debates over land reform in which the question came down to, Do the Indians rightfully own American cities, including the buildings, which they have a right to demolish; or could they be justly satisfied merely with collecting ground rent? Oh, very well, that's something of a caricature — but only slightly so. And the whole thing did bother me. How in the world could it ever be sorted out? Didn't we have to sort it out?

Seeing his latest incisive essay, I told Mr. Neff that he had scratched an itch of long standing.

"Doin' right ain't got no end / Natural rights and past wrongs"

(May 25, 2017)

• It's rare to see a serious question of ethics and logic handled in such a lively manner, but Mr. Neff pulls it off with seeming ease. This essay is destined to be a favorite of mine in our TLD collection of good writings.

"Why don't I have a right to coerce you? / The path to nothingness"

(May 11, 2017)

• We modern market anarchists have some bones that must be picked with the old-time anarchists and modern left-anarchists. And the latter pick away at us, too, on those occasions when they deign to recognize our existence. But reviewing Keith Preston's Tyranny of the Politically Correct: Totalitarianism in the Postmodern Age, Mr. Neff finds something quite different from the usual denunciations:

"Among left-anarchists, a startling exception."

(February 28, 2017)

• We posted Part I of Mr. Neff's book A Penrose Stairway: Why the Free Market and Limited Government Are Incompatible serially from December 3, 2016 through January 21, 2017.

Table of Contents
The complete work (consisting of two parts) will be published as an e-book by Croatoan Books, a division of WTM Enterprises — its first title. Mr. Neff's powerful critique of minarchism, from a free-market anarchist point of view, will be an impressive debut for our e-publishing effort.

• In the fall of 2016, Fran Griffin of the Fitzgerald Griffin Foundation published a new edition of Joe Sobran's Hustler: The Clinton Legacy, which I had edited (using my real name, Tom McPherren) in preparation for its initial appearance in 2000. I was unable to attend the roll-out of the new edition at the National Press Club in Washington on October 19, but TLD's senior editor kindly agreed to read some remarks I'd written for the event. This video offers a rare peek at Ronn and me working as the team that we are. I'm grateful to the distinguished co-founder of The Ditch for making my words come alive.

(November 4, 2016)

• As I trust everyone knows, we are a helpful and generous bunch here at TLD. And one of us, at least, is mighty ingenious as well. I refer to our esteemed senior editor, Ronn Neff — a stalwart anarchist for four and a half decades — who now offers our minarchist cousins a new and better architecture for their ideal state: "A more limited government."

I hope our friends will read Mr. Neff's essay and ponder it. We'd like to hear what limited-government folks think, and what others think, too. (March 3, 2016)

• We here at TLD are devoutly committed to Nonviolent Change — and Hope! — well, kind of — so I trust it is in the right spirit that you and all the secret police monitoring the site will read this essay by our senior editor on, uh, violent revolution: "Gunplay."

Now, remember, friends, he's just sayin'. (March 28, 2013)

• In June 2004, Mr. Neff wrote an engrossing installment for our "Stop and think" section about the signficance of what we saw — or should have recognized, at least — at the Ronald Reagan funeral. It deserves to be rescued from obscurity and accorded a permanent place as an article: "No special features; no alternate ending." (April 14, 2011)

• Readers of the print version of TLD will remember our "Recon from Roanoke" section, consisting of short takes mostly having to do with current events. One of the best entries, written by Mr. Neff, appeared in TLD 19 (December 19, 1997), and I regret to say that, on Veterans Day 2007, it still deals with current events:

"Serving up our freedom" (November 11)

• In July 2007, a reader of Mr. Neff's 1998 article "Realism does not equal defeatism" posed a question to Mr. Neff in a letter to the editor. I am grateful to that reader for prompting our senior editor to produce one of his most penetrating and magnificent essays, which I am proud to publish today.

I have placed the letter and the essay on separate pages, but I have of course interlinked them.

The letter

Mr. Neff's reply: "Think globally, act individually"

As editor and publisher of TLD, I'm going to have to go out and buy a larger cap. I keep collecting these big feathers for it. (October 10)

• A certain congressional vote inspired Mr. Neff to prepare an addendum to a 2002 exchange with Mr. Jacob Hornberger, head of The Future of Freedom Foundation, concerning libertarian activism. (October 10)

To the top of that page.

• This piece led the final edition of our print version, in October 1998, but unfortunately for the prospects of Liberty, it does not show its age, despite its '90s references: "Realism does not equal defeatism." It still offers a fresh and invigorating perspective, not only for those who describe themselves as libertarians but also for paleocons and those who seek to defend the white West. (July 10, 2007)

• Mr. Neff responds to the recent cries of some on the antiwar Left that the regime is "Privatizing war." (April 12, 2004)

• In a sidebar to a column by Andy Nowicki on the 2004 American Renaissance Conference, Mr. Neff has some things to say about "A strange moment at the AR," occurring after Joe Sobran's talk. (March 5, 2004)

• Economist Randall G. Holcombe has argued recently that government is unnecessary but inevitable, in an article that has garnered considerable attention in libertarian circles. It has now garnered some from our senior editor. Here is part one of Mr. Neff's latest major contribution to libertarian analysis: "Gangsterism in the defense of liberty: A reply to Randall Holcombe." (February 17, 2004)

• In response to an article by Henry Gallagher Fields on "P.C. libertarianism," Mr. Neff wrote an important letter to the editor reporting some of what libertarians used to be brave enough to write and talk about, back in the days before the Era of Rabbits. (August 29, 2003)

• As a preface for our historic posting of Roy Childs's "Epistemological Basis of Anarchism," Mr. Neff penned this magnificent appreciation of Childs's work and career: "Roy Childs on anarchism." (July 3)

• Sharing a page with Steve Sniegoski (who has comments of his own), Mr. Neff has something to say about Patrick Buchanan's column of May 7 on the war lie and the honor of George W. Bush. (May 14, 2003)

• The exchange of views between Mr. Neff and Dr. Stephen J. Sniegoski on Objectivists' support for Israel and for the United State, inspired by Mr. Neff's "The Peace of Objectivism." (August 16-30)

• In 1996, Mr. Neff wrote the lead essay for our "Walter Karp issue" (TLD 13), "'Any day is a good day to fight for liberty'," as well as a bibliographical guide to Karp's political books.

• And that's not all. In what our little band of oddballs may be forgiven for thinking was a bit of a coup, we were also able to publish an exchange of correspondence between Mr. Neff and Karp.

   All posted June 17.

• Responding to Mr. Neff's article "'I'm Spartacus,'" about receiving government loot, a reader takes our senior editor to task on unaccustomed grounds of pusillanimity and moderation in this letter to the editor, and Mr. Neff replies. (April 10)

• In "The two churches: Power and sanctity in forging the West," from 1995, Mr. Neff makes a distinction that friends of Christendom might want to keep in mind. (April 3)

• Mr. Neff comments on Nicholas Strakon's "An apology's not enough, Rev. Graham!" (SLU #116). (March 15)

• Mr. Neff has criticized libertarian electoral activism in many of his writings. Now Libertarian editor/publisher and Senate candidate Jacob G. Hornberger nails five questions onto Mr. Neff's door; and Mr. Neff answers. (February 3, 2002)

Addendum by Mr. Neff posted October 10, 2007.

• In his 1997 article "Repatriating the West," Mr. Neff met two of TLD's prime questions head on: Confronted with the alien deluge, what must we do to resurrect the West? And what mustn't we do?

• Mr. Neff's "relentless and devastating analysis of Libertarian electoral activism" (Nicholas Strakon) was posted December 28, 2001: "Fifty Ron Pauls and the government with Only One Law."

• Mr. Neff has a few more things to say about audio-visual matters in "'Madness ... madness!'" and also in a letter to the editor about Nicholas Strakon's column of December 19. Posted December 22.

• Mr. Neff comments on "smoking guns" and disintegrating brains in "The real tape scandal," posted December 19.

• "What is to be done?" In a guest article for The Voluntaryist, reprinted by permission here, Mr. Neff offered one strategy: Get up on your hind legs and declare, "I'm Spartacus."

Voluntaryist editor Carl Watner's introduction.

• In the wake of Congress's war-powers vote, Mr. Neff explores the implications of "Ron Paul's gift." (September 20)

• The revelations involving Bob Kerrey have reminded Americans of the barbaric atrocities entailed by U.S. military adventurism. In the spring of 1998, as our rulers threatened to escalate their Permanent War against the Iraqi people, Mr. Neff wrote this front-page essay for TLD 20 on the moral responsibility of warriors: "How soldiers make peace." (May 8, 2001)

• Mr. Neff the libertarian explains why he's not a Libertarian. (November 28, 2000)

• Don't buy the happy-face democraziac claptrap you're hearing in the wake of November 7's presidential election, Mr. Neff advises in "Oh, sure ... your vote matters!" (November 8)

• Mr. Neff is a census resister, and here is his diary of resistance. Last entry posted June 2.

• Mr. Neff's reflections on the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, "Remember the victims' victims," led the Recon section in the April-May 1995 issue of TLD. (April 20)

• Mr. Neff's always-timely cautionary article, "Cognitive vanity — or, You cannot know a politician's heart," was updated April 19, 2000, with Mr. Neff's reply to a reader's objections.

During the 2000 campaign, some political reporters told us that voters cared more about candidates' character than they did about their stand on the issues. Character ... principles ... but what can voters really know about either? That's what Mr. Neff asks in his essay, posted in full text from the January 1995 TLD.

"Only states have borders." This essay, from TLD 14 (October 1996), is now on the site in full text. The article upset some of our "paleo" friends when it first appeared, and in fact some of them became less friendly. Mr. Neff's commentary on the immigration issue is a prime example of TLD's uniqueness. "Liberty is the mother, not the daughter, of order."

• Mr. 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.

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

"The seizure of dissent: How the neocons' mock revolt fortifies leviathan"

The two articles are linked to each other.

"A stone left unturned." In TLD 22, a printing problem (p. 5) rendered this sidebar to Mr. Neff's main article on impeachment somewhat hard to read. The short piece was one of the best things in the issue, so I have posted the full text.

Endgame: prolegomena to the Matter of the West from TLD 17. Some intellectual tools for investigating the fate of our civilization.

A response to Strakon's piece on the "greatest generation" propaganda.