Neville Kennard died yesterday, aged 74, after being hounded and hobbled by governments he never consented to, abandoned by the Australian think tanks he funded and ignored by the journalists he gave massive scoops to. He was surrounded by his loving family, and an ever-growing web of legislative controls. But if anyone can keep his legacy in safe hands, then it’s his wife Gaby, sons Sam, Walt and Jim, brother Andy (who Nev reckoned is a closet libertarian) and friend Hans Tholstrup.
Nev was the oldest resident-Australian anarchocapitalist by about 50 years, and our most successful proudly preaching and practising capitalist by a far more significant margin.
For example, a non-gimmicky GPS Navigator could be created that worked by only using Kennards Hire and Kennards Self Storage locations as landmarks. It is easy to imagine such instructions as, “Turn left after the next Kennards” and “Continue on this road for three Kennards Self Storage locations.” I’m unsure about other Australian cities, but in Sydney the brand with the most street frontage is Kennards Self Storage. On Parramatta Road, the busiest Sydney thoroughfare, there are more Kennards sites than there are any one brand of petrol station or fast food outlet. The GPS Navigator could also give philosophical directions, including:
- Nev’s mottos, Barry Goldwater’s “Extremism in the defence of liberty is no vice” and Henry David Thoreau’s “I am as desirous of being a good neighbor as I am of being a bad subject.”
- Nev’s political platform, “Self-ownership, the idea that one owns one’s life and is free to live it as one chooses (providing he does not violate the same rights of others), is the most ethical and moral of philosophies.”
- And Nev’s traffic report, “Where there is a queue, there is a business opportunity.”
When I first met Nev, two years ago, we were sitting at a table with a politician — it is not important which politician it was, because they all would have behaved the same. The small-talk consisted of an exchange of names and titles. Then Nev asked the politician, “What does it feel like to be a tax consumer and not do anything productive?” Nev cut short the politician’s reply with, “So you’re a collectivist and you don’t believe in self-ownership!?” And that was the end of the conversation.
Since then I have met with Nev regularly to plot the overthrow of government. We never talked social or business issues, only politics; and as a result, I’m single, broke and editor of a major new international political magazine.
At our first meeting I asked Nev why I could not find anything he had written. I expected him to say how important it is to “be respectable” and protect his personal and corporate reputation, and that it was his deliberate decision not to speak out. But, surprisingly, he said it was because he was so radical that no one would publish him.
There are now 65 columns written by Neville Kennard. Also, while I was reading Bert Kelly columns from 1983 on microfiche at the library, I found two columns where Kelly praised someone by the name of Neville Kennard more enthusiastically than Bert Kelly has ever praised anyone else. Nev had forgotten all about that essay until I showed him, so maybe there is more by him waiting to be discovered. Maybe he had forgotten it because it is consistent and seamless with his participation in the Workers Party before and his Economics.org.au column after, although I do believe there is plenty that is memorable. It is lucky he was so uncompromising, because when those who compromise die, their corpus of work will look absurd and so will those trying to continue their legacy. In sharp contrast, Nev’s columns will be relevant forever; it will be easy to apply Nev’s arguments to future occurrences. (Everything mentioned in this paragraph is easily accessible at www.NevilleKennard.info.)
Nev never asked for any payment for any of his articles published in Economics.org.au, nor did he ask for payment for his celebrity endorsement. He could have paid for full-page advertisements in the newspapers to place his articles, but instead he donated them to Economics.org.au. What an odd choice. But if it wasn’t for the brilliant job I’ve done publicising his columns, Australia would still be stuck with an income tax, a central bank and a Gillard government. But his success never got to his head, and with Economics.org.au it was never expected. From the beginning we did not expect people would listen to us, but we just wanted to do some funny biting reputable intellectual shit-stirring.
We did think that it was a good idea to focus on what we thought was the low-hanging fruit: those in the self-proclaimed radical free-market so-called think tanks. But it didn’t take long for us to realise that there was no fruit, low or high, ripe or rotten, to be found there. Why did we consider those think tanks to be the low-hanging fruit? Mainly because Nev was the first donor, the first Chairman, the first Distinguished Fellow and an Emeritus Trustee of the Centre for Independent Studies (CIS), so given that and their lip-service to the principles of self-ownership and free-markets, we figured maybe they would care to explain what their position was vis-à-vis opposing all government monopolies with coercive barriers to entry, including defence, courts, money, education and healthcare, and whether they supported government control of them for pragmatic or philosophical reasons. It would be hard to argue that Nev was not a think tank insider, and so it is amazing how they have the gall to ignore his many challenges to them, including:
I wish the think tanks with their classical liberal [or social democracy] positions would reply and respond to my views as to the benefits to them of such classical liberal vs anarchocapitalist debates. Are they too scared? They have the talent, the scholars, the finance … Perhaps they don’t have the guts.
They don’t need to organise any special event for this purpose; he was happy to have the showdown in private. More on Nev’s relationship with the CIS is available in his speech, “My Journey to Anarchy.”
Journalists who are meant to understand free-market economics and appreciate free-market advocates will have their careers forever scarred by their inability to write about Nev’s heroics. Never has such a scoop been so nonchalantly ignored.
Kennard never consented to be subject to any government; he never signed any contract agreeing to it, nor did he even vote for it. He made his objection to government publicly, explicitly and unashamedly known. Yes, he did use government services like roads, but that no more proves consent than “enjoying” Mafia-supplied protection makes the Mafia a consensual organisation. Yes, he did pay tax, but that no more proves consent than paying a ransom transforms kidnapping into mere babysitting. And with the popularity of the consequentialist idea of consent — which is that it is excusable to coerce someone to fund a project they do not consent to, because they will eventually use it and this “therefore” cancels out the earlier clearly non-consensual act — his death provides an additional proof that he did not consent, because he did not have even the opportunity to use the many still in-progress infrastructure projects that his taxes went towards.
Here are some ways we could use Neville Kennard in a typical political conversation that show his immortal significance:
- “What! You’re an anarchist! You’re young and inexperienced and don’t understand the world yet!” Maybe, but what about Neville Kennard?
- “Your ideas might be good in theory, but there’s no way you’re going to sell your ideas to practical business leaders!” Maybe, but what about Neville Kennard?
- “No one in my position, with all the responsibility I have, should speak out on matters of principle!” Maybe, but what about Neville Kennard?
- “You only feel comfortable advocating these radical ideas because you have nothing to lose!” Maybe, but what about Neville Kennard?
- “You don’t realise what it takes to start a think tank and run a successful business!” Maybe, but what about Neville Kennard?
- “Who are you to tell me how to run a think tank?” Who are you to ignore Neville Kennard?
- “You don’t have enough respect for our history!” Do you mean people like Neville Kennard, Bert Kelly and the Workers Party, who you don’t have enough respect for?
No retrospective, capital gains or inheritance tax can take away any of the power of those retorts.
Another legacy Kennard leaves, that could make him the catalyst for a libertarian movement more significant than Ron Paul, is that Kennard makes Gina Rinehart, whom he greatly admired, look like a diplomatic genius, finding a middle-ground between Kennard and the Labor-Liberal Party. Rinehart should consider positioning herself in this way, since it is truthful and useful for her. It would be useful to her because it would mean she could continue advocating the same policies and ideas she has been, and could no longer be criticised (rightly or wrongly) as a stubborn extremist who is unwilling to compromise, because she could continually point out that Neville Kennard advocated a more radical proposal that her critics have evaded acknowledging. I am ignorant of Rinehart’s position on ultimate political issues like, say, the income tax. Does she think it should be abolished like Kennard does? Maybe she has good reasons not to speak out against it as Kennard did. Anyway, Kennard was not envious of Rinehart’s wealth; but he was envious of her notoriety, believing that she didn’t deserve it and that Kennard himself did. Not that Kennard thought he deserved notoriety for his principled ideas, but that he would have been happy for people to have a go at him; he liked fierce debate, but no one was willing. Kennard had plenty of friends; what he wanted was more enemies.
I was present during many of Nev’s face-to-face and emailed political discussions. He would often introduce me to senior so-called free-market advocates he had known for decades. He would immediately tell them how soft and unprincipled they are and that he hopes they’ll dislike Economics.org.au. When one of his long-time acquaintances asked after his health, he said he is more concerned about their lack of free-market advocacy. When asked by the organiser of an event he had been to previously whether he was going this year, he said he wasn’t because it’s not radical enough for him — he did not mention his health, which ruled him out of going and would have made for a diplomatic response.
With some people Nev would try to be ridiculously patient and with others he would be as brusque as can be. It is interesting to note that the results of both strategies were always the same; it ultimately ended up in it being clear that his correspondent refused to seriously debate his arguments, even when he had spent large amounts of time and money with them establishing goodwill. They would still make the stupidest of assumptions about his arguments, like: that because he does not want a monopolist defence provider funded through non-consensual confiscations (tax), therefore he must be against all other defence service arrangements. Again, sometimes he would respond patiently to that and other times he would respond brusquely, but whatever route he took the result was always the same.
One of the remarkable things about the Australian libertarian movement is the absence of any lasting division of labour. The major donors to the libertarian cause have been the most deserving of their own funding, like John Singleton with the Workers Party, Ron Manners with Mannkal and Lang Hancock with all his activities. As the most eloquent and impassioned exponents of the cause they advocate, they could not be “mere” donors; their best bet has been to speak out themselves. Viv Forbes, the name of just one man, is another proof of this. And Mark Tier was the only one to make any money from the Workers Party, and he did so by selling books and magazines that he himself created. Neville Kennard tried to be a donor, so that others could specialise in their own specialities (like journalism, education, policy papers, public speaking), but it took him many decades to work out that he could do a better job of doing what he gave money for others to do.
I do not know much about his philanthropic activities. He was a big fan of Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s Property and Freedom Society, and sponsored Hoppe’s trip to Australia last November. (He has also sponsored another top-ranking speaker for this year, which will be announced shortly.) I know he gave money to Hong Kong’s Lion Rock Institute and to the Mises Institute for their Mises University programs. I asked Nev why he gave money in secret and did not publicise it as, say, the prize for think tank of the year or of the month or whatever, and use that as an opportunity to get some positive attention for the Mises Institute and criticise those he thought deserved criticism. But he never decided to publicise any of that. Why? I think modesty was part of it, but also word appeared to get out anyway. For example, I once showed him a news item of an Australian who was fined for mooning the Queen, and suggested that maybe he could pay his fine and give him a little extra to celebrate his civil disobedience. Nev responded by forwarding me two emails he had received, that same day, asking for larger amounts of money for other political things — and it was still only lunch-time.
If Nev had lived longer, he would have continued with his brilliant unpredictable libertarian writings. Perhaps he would have also done some of the following things he talked to me about:
- Emblazoned libertarian messages like “Tax = Theft” on Kennards Self Storage billboards when not leased to others.
- Returned his Centenary Medal if he thought he could get some media attention out of it for the libertarian cause.
- Established an Enemy of the State award of many kilograms of gold and given the first one to someone like Julian Assange, not because he is perfect, but to encourage him to investigate anarchocapitalism and to get some media attention for anarchocapitalism.
- Died in a way that would upset the government, like being illegally euthanased at a future Australian Mises Seminar with everyone in the audience pressing a button.
- Written articles that singled out and named individuals, rather than just the institutions they work for.
- Written and spoken about “Getting Rich Slowly”. (But he never got around to that.)
- Listed the many words he invented (neologisms), of which only bosselneck comes to mind at the moment, which refers to an organisation where the boss strangles his organisation.
- Continued to ask: What is a body blow I could land on the so-called think tanks and the government?
Kennard’s eloquent and passionate advocacy of free-markets will not be forgotten by Australian political commentators, because we will be justifiably brutal in reminding them.
But as much as we like to think we can mitigate Kennard’s death, Australia’s political commentariat will be sleeping much easier from now on. Kennard joins the Constitution and Democracy as forces that intended to prevent the abuse of power and government growth, but failed. However, Kennard would not want to keep company with them, because he did not endorse any special government powers at all. Kennard was so radical he thought government should be subject to all the same rules that government applies elsewhere, because he was not a romantic utopian like those who defend government are, who by definition think that it is a good idea to give some men power to confiscate the property of minority groups of voters, and on top of that, these crazy unreasonable defenders of government (which is every defender of government) expect the robed recipients of the loot to hold other looters in check.
Here are ten Kennard quotes to end on:
[J]ust as you can choose your brand of toothpaste and supplier of groceries, so might you choose your security and legal services supplier instead of having a government monopolist forced on you. ["My Journey to Anarchy," Economics.org.au, December 4, 2011.]
Now there are some Constitutional constraints on what a government in power can do, but these seem to be pretty ineffective when it comes to the government taking what it wants to take, without the permission of the person whose property is thus stolen. If the Constitution clearly stated that “The Parliament shall enact no law that violates the property of a person or group of people”, then it would seem pretty clear that taxation is theft.
So we are left with a Constitution that allows theft, and other violations of person and property, simply by the passing of a piece of legislation that “legalises” it. Acts that would be illegal and immoral under any concept of natural law are made “legal” by the stroke of a parliamentary pen. ["Is Taxation Theft and Government a Tax Cheat?," Economics.org.au, November 12, 2011.]
The term “self-ownership” implies the idea that each of us owns ourselves, our life, and no one else has a claim over us. Such an assertion and concept is embraced in the American Declaration of Independence, that revolutionary document, which declares people be free for “Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness”.
No King, no State, no Government no group or Church may have a claim on us without our consent. Our life and what we do with our life is ours to choose. No one else can live our life for us; we are each responsible for our lives, and this implies the product of our lives. What we earn, what we save, what we trade, is ours to keep or to spend as we choose.
The above may sound rather innocuous, but there are deep implications. For example, with self-ownership if what we earn or find or trade or invent is ours and ours only, then no other party has a right to claim it or part of it. This includes a state or king or government. Hence, no tax. If a group or body or government coerces us to pay a levy, a fee, a tax to which we do not voluntarily consent, then it is theft, the same as if a gang of robbers threatened to take our property. ["Self-Ownership — the very idea!," Economics.org.au, September 28, 2011.]
So, IPA people, you have missed the point. You need to publish and offer more work on radical Libertarian ideas, on Anarcho-Capitalist ideas, on the idea of Self-Ownership; more work challenging the very legitimacy of The State and the right of Ministers for Supporting Families (and their Shadows) to even exist.
More work please IPA on Self-Ownership — a profound moral and ethical subject. ["Kennard Writes to IPA Review Editor," Economics.org.au, November 21, 2010.]
The freedom to co-operate, collaborate and collude is a fundamental freedom, and provided there is no force, fraud or coercion, is a freedom we must protect. ["Collusion is Our Right," Economics.org.au, October 7, 2010.]
Business in Australia, including many large companies who should know better and who don’t need to be on the dole, accept government money. How pathetic! Why don’t they say to government “No thanks, we don’t need it or want it. Leave us alone, get off our backs and out of our pockets.” ["Corporate Welfare," Economics.org.au, August 5, 2010.]
If there was as much public acclaim for Capital Preservation as there is for Capital Dissipation we would all be better off. Capital, preserved and re-invested, brings benefits at least as much as capital dispersed in philanthropy. ["Dick Smith, Celebrity Philanthropist," Economics.org.au, December 23, 2010.]
TT’s [Think Tanks] are timid. Either that or they themselves are unaware of the essence of the problem — The State and its very nature.
TT’s do “Research” that analyses the adverse effects of this or that policy and they advocate change. Seldom if ever do they analyse the fundamental issue of the very nature of The State. Instead the TT’s tend to actually legitimise The State by pointing out its failings here and its misdirection there. The TT’s thus become part of the problem. ["Think Tanks Don't Work," Economics.org.au, July 14, 2010.]
Tax consumers should be seen as second class citizens, not worthy of voting, and not worthy of being shown more than the absolute minimum safe level of respect by tax producers. Wouldn’t that be a change! ["Tax Consumers vs Tax Producers," Economics.org.au, April 29, 2011.]
No matter what your crime or misdemeanour, if you don’t do what The State requires of you, and if you defend yourself, and your property, the Government’s hit-men — the police — will, if necessary, kill you.
This may sound extreme and absurd, but if you are caught committing a victimless crime like smoking a joint, exceeding the speed limit, riding your motor-cycle or even your bicycle without a helmet, then you will be charged and required to pay a fine. If you ignore or refuse to pay, they will remind and threaten. If you persist with your civil disobedience, they will come after you to arrest you and take you off. Or they may require your attendance at a (government–run) court. Failure to show up will result in a further penalty. They may even have the gall to declare your failure to show up at their court as “contempt”. (You may in fact feel contempt for the court, and hold them in as great contempt as they hold you! They take themselves very seriously, these government-run courts, so displaying the contempt you feel is not very strategic.)
Should you feel strongly about this and continue to disobey and resist they may try to take some of your property. Defend your property, or your person, from such invasion and coercion and force, and they will come armed with a serious intent to gain your compliance and submission. Continued resistance and they will use whatever force is necessary to gain compliance — even killing you if they have to.["Government will murder Neville Kennard if he doesn't back away," Economics.org.au, October 15, 2011.]
- Welcome from Neville Kennard
- Think Tanks Don't Work
- "Market Failure": Just what the government ordered!
- The Tragedy of the Tax Pool Commons
- Corporate Welfare
- Citizenship for Sale?
- I Don't Vote
- Voting: Right or Privilege?
- Stockholm Syndrome and our Love-Hate Relationship with Government
- Civil Disobedience: The Rules of Engagement
- Should Respect for Law Extend to Bad Laws?
- Jaywalking as a Demonstration of Individuality
- Government Likes War
- Collusion is Our Right
- Why Not the Drug Olympics?
- Unconventional Wisdom
- Tiger Farming: An Alternative to Extinction
- Looking Backwards: Mont Pelerin Society Conference, Sydney, 2010
- Tax Avoidance is a Patriotic Duty
- Kennard Writes to IPA Review Editor
- Genocide by Welfare: A Tragedy from the Aboriginal Welfare Industry
- Separating Sport and State
- Your Home is Not an Investment
- Dick Smith, Celebrity Philanthropist
- A Libertarian's New Year's Resolution
- Extend Politicians' Holidays to Create Prosperity
- Entrepreneurs are Disruptive, and Bureaucrats Hate It
- What is a good Australian?
- Governments Like Employment But Hate Employers
- The Market Failure Industry
- Neville Kennard: The Tax Avoidance Imperative
- Wot if ...?
- The Tribal Chief and the Witch Doctor
- The Tannehills
- Democracy versus Property Rights and Prosperity
- Government Doesn't Work, and That's the Way They Like It
- Minarchy vs Anarchy
- Euthanasia and Self-Ownership
- The Right Policies to Fix a Depression
- Is Howard Our Best PM?
- Tax Producers vs Tax Consumers
- Where There's a Queue, There's a Business Opportunity
- Authoritarian Freedom
- Why Classical Liberals Should Debate Anarchocapitalists
- The Tyranny of the Majority
- If you could choose to whom you paid your tax
- Business Should Exploit Boat People
- The Immorality of Trade Unions
- "America" vs "The United States"
- Sweet Anarchy
- The Illusion of "Job Creation"
- Gold Is Money
- Guilty Capitalists
- Prosperity vs Growth
- Capitalism vs Democracy
- More people = More fun
- Self-Ownership - the very idea!
- Government will murder Neville Kennard if he doesn't back away
- The Australian Dollar Has Been Cowardly and Criminally Devalued, Harming the Poor Particularly
- Is Taxation Theft and Government a Tax Cheat?
- My Journey to Anarchy:
From political and economic agnostic to anarchocapitalist
- Government Needs Bad Guys –
that's why they like wars
- What Is Obscene?
- Traffic Economics
- Wayne Swan stands on the shoulders of other intellectual pygmies
- Neville Kennard Obituary
- Why Sports Fans Should Be Libertarians
- Ron Manners’ Heroic Misadventures
- Government Schools Teach Fascism Perfectly
- Deport Government to Solve Immigration Problem
- The Drugs Problem Problem
- Capitalism Harmonises Population
- Self-Defeating Campaigning
- Gittinomics: Economics for Gits
- Exclusive Ross Gittins Interview on The Happy Economist
- Population Puzzle Solved
- An Open Letter to the CIS
- Principled Foreign Policy Options: Reinvade or Shut Up and Get Out
- WORLD EXCLUSIVE: Political Corruption Exposed!
- Feedback please: Is this worth doing?
- CIS and IPA Defend State Schooling
- A Thorough Review Without Spoilers of Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps
- Dead Reckoning and Government: A Proposal for Electoral Reform
- Quadrant Defends State Schooling
- The MPS 2010 Consensus
- Slogans for Property Rights Funeral
- Government is Impossible: Introduction
- Government is Criminal: Part 1
- Exclusive John Howard Interview on Lazarus Rising
- Response to Senator Cory Bernardi and the IPA
- Earn $$$$$ by Justifying Government Against Anarchocapitalism: Survey
- Statism is Secrecy: WikiLeaks vs Economics.org.au
- One question the Labor Party, the Liberal Party, the Greens, the CIS, the IPA, Ross Gittins, Ross Garnaut, Ken Henry, Gerard Henderson, John Quiggin, Clive Hamilton, Tim Flannery, Catallaxy Files, Club Troppo, Larvatus Prodeo, Phillip Adams, Robert Manne, Michael Stutchbury, Miranda Devine, Andrew Bolt and Dick Smith are scared to answer
- Libertarian Philanthropists Should Exploit Tax Evasion Convictions
- Ronald Kitching Obituary
- The Minarchist Case for Anarchism
- Libertarianism in a 300-word rant
- Economics.org.au in the news again
- Libertarianism In An Executive Summary
- The Banking Bubble Blow-by-Blow
- WARNING: Libertarianism Is NOT ...
- Would Anything Possibly Convince You that You Are Living Under a Protection Racket?
- An Open Letter to Dick Smith
- Economics.org.au at 42
- "My boyfriend calls himself a Marxist and votes Labor, what should I do?"
- "He says if I leave him due to politics, I should leave the country too."
- No Booboisie at Gülçin’s Galt’s Gulch
- "Hey, Mr Anarchocapitalist, show me a society without government"
- The Three Epoch-Making Events of the Modern Libertarian Movement
- Government is Criminal: Part 2 - Methodological Individualism
- Government is Criminal: Part 3 - Subjective Utility
- Government is Criminal: Part 4 - Praxeological Synonyms
- Government is in a State of Anarchy
- Limited Government is Absolute Government
- Why the 2012 double Nobel laureate is coming to Sydney
- Exclusive Oliver Marc Hartwich Interview on Hans-Hermann Hoppe
- A Critique of the Opening Two Sentences of the "About CIS" Page on The Centre for Independent Studies' Website, www.cis.org.au
- An invitation for ANDEV members to the Mises Seminar
- Sell the ABC to Rupert Murdoch: Lid Blown on ABC Funding Disgrace!
- www.inCISe.org.au, The Centre for Independent Studies new blog
- The Unconstitutionality of Government in Australia (demonstrated in under 300 words)
- The Best Libertarian Film Is ...
- Launch Southeast Asian Military Operations to Free Australian Drug Dealers and Consumers
- Workers Party Reunion Intro
- Hoppe's Inarticulate Australian Critics: The Hon Dr Peter Phelps, Dr Steven Kates and James Paterson
- Vice Magazine Westralian Secession Interview
- Sideshow to Dr Steven Kates' criticism of the Mises Seminar: Davidson vs Hoppe on Adam Smith
- The Best Australian Think Tank Is ...
- Announcing a new magazine to rival Time and The Economist
- The exciting new Australian Taxpayers' Alliance
- Neville Kennard Obituary
- Contrarian Conformism
- An invitation for Dick Smith, the IPA and other Walter Block fans to the 2nd Australian Mises Seminar
- Westralian mining legend Ron Manners of Mannkal belongs in The Property and Freedom Society
- What would Bert Kelly think of the Mises Seminar and Walter Block?