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Campaign 2000


Senate candidate Lewis Napper is "Bill of No Rights" cyberhero
Campaign 2000 Profile

Senate candidate Lewis Napper is

Lewis Napper
 

Lewis Napper was steamed.

In the first days of the Clinton presidency, as taxes increased and the administration plotted a takeover of the nation's health care system, Napper grew sick of watching as "our true rights were eroded, always in the name of giving everyone some new imaginary 'right.' "

One day in 1993, after hearing a Hillary Clinton speech on the radio, Napper had had enough.

He skipped his lunch break at a computer consulting job, and sat down at his keyboard to bang out a response.

In less than an hour, he had written the "Bill of No Rights," which became "the e-mail heard 'round the world."

Napper, 41, now the Libertarian Party candidate for U.S. Senate in Mississippi, didn't expect his essay -- a tart 10-point list of "rights" Americans don't have -- to become an Internet legend.

In fact, he said, he first sent the essay, which has now been "read by millions," to just a few friends.

"I'll have to admit that it was really just a way for me to blow off steam and try to make a few friends laugh," said the Jackson-area computer programmer.

But the manifesto did more than make people laugh. It struck a chord.

Says Napper's preamble: "A whole lot of people were confused by the Bill of Rights and are so dim that they require a Bill of No Rights."

Those "No Rights" include such common-sense truths as "you do not have the right to a new car, big-screen color TV, or any other form of wealth," "you do not have the right to never be offended," and "you do not have the right to free food and housing."

"It seemed to me that every time the government attempted to 'give' everyone some new right, we all actually wound up losing rights," said Napper about his essay. "When the government gave everyone the 'right to never be offended,' we lost our rights to free speech. When the government gave everyone the 'right to wealth,' we lost the rights to our labor and property."

When those first recipients got Napper's Bill of No Rights, they forwarded it to a few friends. And they, in turn, forwarded it to their friends. And so on. And so on.

Now, seven years later, it has made Internet history.

"I am completely overwhelmed by the tremendous response to the Bill of No Rights," Napper said. "From my home, at very little cost, I published something that has been read by millions of people from all over the world.

"It's been read on every continent," he noted. "I even received e-mail from someone who read it while stationed in Antarctica."

Wrote one fan, "Your Bill of No Rights is a great piece of work! Now if we could just get two-thirds of both houses of Congress to pass it, and 38 state legislatures to ratify it . . ."

And Napper's personal favorite message: "I just read your stuff. Then I joined the Libertarian Party."

Napper himself joined the LP in 1995 -- and, five years later, has launched his first run for public office.

And in his bid for the U.S. Senate, he has a secret weapon: A 30,000-name e-mail list built from respondents to the Bill of No Rights.

"I'm sending mail back to all of them now and asking for their support," he said. "And I'm asking them to tell everyone they know.

"I'm just getting started, but I hope to demonstrate that the Internet has changed the rules: I can get my message to millions of people without raising millions of dollars for my campaign."

Napper, who is not a professional writer, remains humble about his essay -- and joked that he thinks his "sociopolitical analysis" of Gilligan's Island is his best Web-published piece.

As for the Bill of No Rights, Napper said he believes the strength of the libertarian message, and not his own words, made it a success.

"I think it makes everyone feel like they're not alone -- it lets them know that lots of other people understand the pure nonsense of our politics," he said. "The major parties always talk about rights, but never responsibilities. I think that's why it struck a nerve.

"I [still] get hundreds of positive notes from libertarian-minded people," he said. "The American people haven't forgotten the importance of freedom; we just needed a forum to express it."

For information on Lewis Napper's U.S. Senate campaign, or to be added to his e-mail list, visit: www.lewisnapper.org.

The complete Bill of No Rights essay -- and Napper's Gilligan's Island essay -- can also be found at www.bServer.com.


 
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