Recently, I was lured into a tooth-gnashing comment thread appending a snarkily suicide-baiting post on "’The Don’t Have Children’ Movement." The post was written by one Sister Wolf, a bristly golden-hearted rant-artist whose blog, Godammit, I find entertaining.
Things got personal in hurry, and no one seemed much interested in discussing the possible merits of antinatalist ethics. This is par for the course, I’ve found. The subject brings out the worst in people, for obvious and telling reasons. After all, to argue, on moral grounds, that it is wrong to have children, is to tell parents and would-be parents that, in effect, they have visited harm upon their beloved offspring (or that they are contemplating such harm). I am sensitive to this point. It is, however, unavoidable. And while I am not above clarifying my motives in taking this unconscionably unpopular view, I don’t think my motives should matter in the least. If I am correct that forced life entails serious harm, then it rests upon those who persist in defending procreation to tell me why this harm is justified. If I am wrong in the first instance about forced life being harmful, someone should be able to show me just where and how I’ve gotten it wrong. But for the most part, people don’t even try. Instead of fashioning a cogent response, street level opponents of antinatalism more often implore me to kill myself. When I explain that this is a non-sequitur, the next step is to dismiss my stance as the product of cultivated miserablism, or depressive ideation, or some ostentatious, attention-seeking display of sexually signaled nihilism. Or something else, just as sad or arrogant.
It is true that some people profess to reject the asymmetry at the core of David Benatar’s antinatalist ethics, but of those who do, I have encountered only one — implicitly, RM Hare, in his famous argument against abortion — who is willing to defend the corollary implication that we have a moral obligation to the virtual infinity of potential people who are yet to be summoned into blessed and bedoomed existence. If the asymmetry is wrong for the reasons typically advanced, this obligation should follow as a simple matter of hedonic score-settling. As just compensation for vast quantities of pleasure withheld from those entitled pre-existent souls in the wings.
I don’t think the asymmetry is false, but I’m willing to be convinced that it is. I don’t think procreation is harmless, or that the harm it entails is trivial, or that such harm is typically justified by otherwise accepted modes of moral reasoning. Perhaps you can convince me that I am wrong about all of this. You will, however, need an argument.
There is an orthogonal anti-antinatalist argument that comes up from time to time that I do find interesting. It has a ticklish, Straussian flavor, and it hinges on the imputed despair-inducing consequences of the mere public expression of the case against people-making. In the Godammit thread, Alias Clio provides fair iteration of this delectable refuge, which sees antinatalist cogitation, regardless of its claim to soundness, as philosophical poison. Since the aims of antinatalist reasoning are presumed to be doomed by human nature, the story goes, all those who persist in it really do is make people feel bad. Out of some misguided or sinister claim to (or pretense of) philanthropy, we are merely — and ironically — adding to the overall share of human despair and suffering.
Of course, the same argument is often made against atheism. Without God, we’re told, people are left to flail in nihilistic ennui, or moral vertigo. Studies show that religious people are happier and more civic-minded. The same is probably true of pronatalists. Presented as an empirical question, there are too many chickens and eggs for my inferior brain to contemplate. I may mention that neither my disbelief in God nor my belief that procreation is wrong serves to embitter my experience of life, nor does either default detract from my enjoyment of life’s pleasures. But I can’t speak for others. Nor could I begin to weigh the hedonic scales that pit the foregone suffering of uncreated people against the possible misery of those who are unhappily persuaded against having children. I think the question is probably unanswerable. And in the end, I just don’t like noble lies, regardless of how they’re justified. It’s a matter of taste and sensibility. Shutting up for the greater good simply does not compute. I suppose I could be persuaded that I am wrong on this account as well, but you’ll have your work cut out for you.
Comments are open, if anyone cares. I won’t be checking in for a while.
the first time in a long while…an anarchist libertarian has
sounded out. …With his love of nature and disgust of bombs and
feds, Smith could become a kind of playwright laureate of an American
Greens Party. But, then, he’d probably rather go it alone.
— Robert Koehler, Los Angeles Times *
* Refers to the original play, from which the novel is adapted.
Meet A.K. Swift, a working-class war
veteran and family man who is haunted by visions of nuclear apocalypse.
When matters of conscience determine that he can no longer support the
State-sponsored institutions that create the machines that threaten the
living, A.K.decides to stop paying. Trouble is, he’s not a very good
tax resister. He forgets to attend the meetings and doesn’t bother to
fill out the proper forms. Now he worries there may be consequences.
From the dustbin of Cold War protest literature, Bradley Smith’s The Man Who Saw His Own Liver
emerges as a heartfelt meditation on the timeless problem of the
individual against authority. Rooted in libertarian theory and the
moribund tradition of American transcendentalism, it is the story of an
accidental rebel trembling in comic defiance under the yoke of God and
State, and before the faceless Leviathan of modern Bureaucracy.
Smith’s writing is animated by a crisp and laconic prose-poetic hum. His is a
uniquely personal canvass in which storytelling and gently wrought
polemics interweave, seamlessly, with turns of magical realism coming
to rest in that frail, strangely familiar liminal space, where ineffable exaltation and terror transcend the political.
Originally conceived and performed for the stage in 1983, The Man Who Saw His Own Liver
is presented by Nine-Banded books in novelized form. It is appended
with Smith’s short story, “Joseph Conrad and the Monster from the
Qualified Praise for The Man Who Saw His Own Liver
graceful (if a bit didactic in parts), strange, dream-worldish
meditation on the Sword of Damocles anxiety of the nuclear-armed cold
war and on personal responsibility.
— Dave Gross, The Picket Line
slim volume, a novelization of his own play The Man Who Stopped Paying,
has the feel of Ludwig von Mises passed through the filter of, say,
Errol Morris (or, in his artier stages, Roman Polanski); if you’re
seeing this in your head while you read, this is a book whose internal
pictures invite long, slow camera pans over the garage where the entire
narrative is set. There’s a guy, and he’s talking. Reminiscing, mostly,
though as I mentioned above he does stop every once in a while and go
off on a “and then I realized…” binge. They’re small, though, and
Smith’s narrator does spend most of the novel’s length simply relating
events from his past. This is often a tough sell where a book is
concerned; after all, it’s just a guy talking. But it can be done, and
— Robert P. Beveridge, Top 100 Amazon Reviewer
The writing style is at the same time sparse, and elegant. This is no
dry accounting, but a work of poetic prose, rich in metaphor and
emotional content. Each reminiscence stood alone for me; which might be
a drawback to the reader expecting a more linearly styled memoir.
Doubly so for those who don’t like their diatribes leavened with
subtlety, or self examination. Being the sort of fellow who likes to
bury his head in the cat box at the mere mention of politics, extremist
or otherwise, I was fairly taken aback upon delving into the author’s
‘infamous’ political predilections (addressed by Chip Smith in the
introduction). It made me glad that I read the book first; I still
haven’t ever read ‘On The Road’, and probably never will, because I
made the mistake of reading the bios first, and can’t get past the fact
of Kerouac being a total ass-wipe. Now, instead of picturing Bradley
Smith as some cartoonish Art Bell reject with a penchant for paranoid
conspiracy theories, I’ll always see him as a zen aspirant on his way
to cracking that last koan. And how can you be mad at a guy who writes
a line like this?…
I’ve always felt the urge to slip through desire, like an eel passing through nets cast out for bigger fish.
you like great prose, written by a man just an epiphany or two short of
emergence into a new, brilliant sphere, buy this book. There’s an
innocent clarity here, as well as a surprising sense of humanitarian
— Jim Crawford, The Lawnchair Philosopher
For various reasons, I’m trying to make contact with some certain particular individuals. If you know how to get in touch with said particular individuals, or if you are one of these particular individuals and you happen upon this page, please consider contacting me.
BILLY SPICER – Billy is/was a first-rate black & white illustrator whose dense and demented draftsmanship added value to the pages of a number of largely forgotten magazines hovering at the unstable fringes of the mid-90s independent publishing scene. I recall his work being a staple of Tom Crites’ Malefact, but I believe he also did some stuff for ANSWER Me!, and for a creepy one-shot comic called Disappointing Circus. He also wrote about books and music for Michel Berandi’s Panik magazine. Here’s the only sample of his work that I’ve been able to find online.
MIKE HOY – Mike Hoy, as you well know, was the founder and proprietor of the now defunct mail-order book publishing and distribution catalog known as Loompanics Unlimited. I have a mailing address on file somewhere, but I’d like to contact him through the tubes if possible.
HOLLISTER KOPP – I think his real name may be Dave Scott, but I remember him as the editor of Gun Fag Manifesto, my all time hands-down favorite zine. He was also the frontman for The Legendary Boilermakers.
L.A. Rollins is an aphorist, or rather, an againstist. He is of the
fraternity of those who deny both sides of every question, the
refusniks who are always untimely. . . . For him, there isn’t a
department of human experience that won’t sell you a bill of goods.
– Bob Black, Beneath the Underground
No, it won’t stop bullets. It won’t keep people from ripping off
your property. It won’t even stop the government from putting you in a
concentration camp, or executing you. About the only thing a “natural
right” will stop is enlightened thinking on the ethics of liberty. Once
you’ve read The Myth of Natural Rights and Other Essays, you’ll be able to put those imaginary protectors of freedom back in the museums where they belong.
scholars have had a difficult time being taken seriously in
intellectual circles. There’s a good reason for this. While they have
gained recognition and acclaim for their staunch defense of the free
market, compelling advocacy of civil liberties and devastating
condemnation of interventionism, their stubborn reliance on the ancient
myth of natural rights leaves them in philosophical disrepute. The
doctrine of natural rights has persisted among libertarians, because
there has never been a systematic and thorough critique of all it
implies. Until now.
In one compact work, L.A. Rollins
shatters the myth of natural rights, while exposing the “bleeding-heart
libertarians” that promote it. With careful research and ample
documentation, he shows that thinkers like Ayn Rand, Murray Rothbard,
Tibor Machan and Samuel Konkin not only violate reason and logic in
their defense of natural rights, but also violate the standards they
set for themselves.
Back in print for the first time in
years, this newly revised edition features an insightful introduction
by the Stirnerite-libertarian upstart,TGGP, along with a new afterword
by the author. Bonus material includes an updated selection of
splenetic jeu de mots from the underground classic, Lucifer’s Lexicon, as well as Rollins’ never-before-published writings on poetic insurrection, the Holy Qur’an and Holocaust revisionism.
Praise for The Myth of Natural Rights (Loompanics edition, 1983)
Rollins has made hash of the logical connections in Rothbard’s argument.
– Robert Anton Wilson, Natural Law
An important book, which every reader interested in libertarian theory should acquire.
– Jeff Riggenbach, author of In Praise of Decadence
Rollins does a fabulous job of making fools out of many a libertarian’s
– Justin Weinberg, Guillotine
An argument could be made that a book like this is potentially pretty damn
– Pat Hartman, Salon: A Journal of Aesthetics
Lou Rollins’ brief work is packed with enough analytical insight to send proponents of natural law theory into hiding.
– Jorge Amador, The Pragmatist
You can place an advance order through Amazon here. I’ll be taking PayPal orders as soon as the Nine-Banded Books site redesign is ready for prime time, which shouldn’t take much longer. To reserve an autographed copy, contact me.