Attention, Libertarian!

The sage Lew Rockwell wrote this piece in 1996, during another one of those tribal conflicts we call federal presidential elections.

It is important reading for those of us who quickly call ourselves ‘libertarians’, accepting the pessimism and hopelessness that hangs on that label. It reminds us that we are part of a proud tradition that has proven its success and popularity worldwide since the Age of Enlightenment, and even back to antiquity: liberalism. Continue reading

Religion: Friend or Foe?

Is religion a friend or a foe?

Watching the movie Traitor this afternoon, I gained new insight into the value of religion, in this case Islam. While in a Yemeni prison, the protagonist gives a fellow inmate his rations after a bully had thrown the other man’s rations onto the ground. The bully then confronts the protagonist, telling him “I decide who eats and who starves.” The protagonist fights the bully and his gang alone and, though adept at combat, is overwhelmed. However, other inmates notice his good deed and his daily prayers. The next time the gang confronts the protagonist, the other Muslim inmates come to his aid, and he is left alone.
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Herding Cats: The Libertarian Movement

Don’t accuse me of idol worship, though I’ve been caught wearing a Ron Paul t-shirt from time to time. With the passing of Kent Snyder, the many people who recognize his tremendous contribution to freedom and justice have been filling blogosphere comment boxes with emphatic statements of adoration. This is good. I find the figures in history that have chosen to practice ethics and respect for their fellow man are often the least celebrated, while figures like FDR, Napoleon, and Che Guevara are obsessed over.

Still, one comment gave me pause. This commentator remarked that the best way to honor Kent is to do what he did: work tirelessly for legal respect of individual rights. As a movement, worldwide, the classical liberals have always been vulnerable to weakness of good rhetoric and bad performance. The Girondins lost to the Jacobins because they debated well and organized poorly. The same holds for the UK Liberals losing to Labour. When I attend libertarian functions, I’m often at the receiving end of a long rant about ideas with which I’m quite familiar – but many people are not. You’re preaching to the choir, buddy! How many libertarians wait until their meetup group to let loose the fire burning within? How many have been turned against themselves by the ridicule of statists? Worst, when we are consistently ineffective against the public-school-brainwashed masses, some start to doubt their own beliefs. I think that’s where all the chatter comes from. We are forced to de-program years of slave morality, questioning each and every assumption to see if it stands to reason.

Well, guess what? If you’re still reading this, you’re probably a good enough person. You’re probably more considerate, more righteous, and more intelligent than 9 out of 10 of your peers. So, drop the negative attitude (possibly inherited from the stalled Libertarian Party in the States, which does often lose, but is fighting an uphill battle against a rigged electoral system). Freedom is right. When I read about sociopathy, the disorder characterized by an inability to empathize with others causing sufferers to commit anti-social acts, the characteristics sound eerily similar to those demonstrated by statist politicians. Libertarians are the exact opposite. Our disorder is being too civil, too concerned with the plight of our fellow man. But, you see, that isn’t a disorder at all; it’s a blessing.

Kent Snyder was a great man. Ron Paul is a great man. Mary Ruwart is a great woman. The Koch family are great people. But, as the commentator pointed out, we cannot get caught up in hero-worship. Wear a Ron Paul shirt, donate to worthwhile campaigns, but also, get active: organize a regular get-together among your local compatriots, run for office, write to your newspaper, write a book, learn to use and then carry a gun, organize a march on your state capitol or Washington, apply pressure to everyone and everything that stands in the way of our freedom, and never compromise your ideals. After all, isn’t that what we adore about the aforementioned – they took action, they were relentless, and they succeeded.

A Vision Academic: Relearn Your Humanity

As I sit here pondering possible future endeavors, one of which being a libertarian school in New Hampshire, I find the internet equivalent at NH Free Press. TOLFA, or The On Line Freedom Academy, is one man’s plan to bring about the revolutionary restoration of human liberty – a principle that is dying in its traditional home turf. The plan is simple enough: educate our friends and family, on by one, about their own humanity; ask them to, in turn, quit their government or government-contracted jobs; then, have each of them ‘mentor’ one other student through the process. If every person who takes the course refuses to work for the government and puts one other person through the course, then in a matter of years the government will be desperate for labor and hopelessly fighting a rising tide of defiance.

All plans, at the outset, may seem far-fetched, but I believe that what is important is not whether they could work, but whether they should work. This is part of a new generation of pragmatic strategies for advancing the cause of human liberty against political tyranny, with the Free State Project being the other pillar that comes to mind.

We are losing, folks! There is now a Matrix-esque mass of people who couldn’t give two shits if their loved ones are scanned with mm wave scanners – exposing their naked bodies to the prying eyes of TSA rapists.

We are lost, folks! The more intellectual of my friends were depressed by the recent comedy ‘Idiocracy‘ because it hit too close to home. There is no excuse for being a centrist in 2008 North America: we are fast approaching a point-of-no-return on our way to a totalitarian state. It is like being a centrist in Nazi Germany or Soviet Russia – you might feel comfortable, but to anyone with some distance from the sickness of your immediate state, you are complicit in indefensible activities. Our 50 free and sovereign states behave like administrative sub-units of an empire. Some citizens are speaking out, but most are left-wingers begging the central government for their freedom back – and expressing full support for all of the practices that allow empires to exist.

Not since the 1990s have I seen any concrete actions taken against the US Imperial Government. The TOLFA is something, a step. I have begun the course myself, even though I have already spent the last 8 years re-educating myself. If any readers decide to undertake the same, please email me and I would be happy to serve as mentor. Good luck!

The Seige

The Canadian confederal government and the American federal government have agreed to use each other’s armed forces in the case of civil emergencies. What we are talking about here is domestic deployment of heavily-armed, militarized units in response to the thinnest of emergencies: flooding in Toronto, a tornado in Kansas, a bombing of oil pipeline in Saskatchewan. These are crises, no doubt, but do they warrant military intervention? No, do they warrant military intervention from a foreign force not under the command of your civilian political apparatus?

People of North America, there are big changes being made to the foundation of your civil governance. The books and movies are true; totalitarianism can happen on our shores, and the building blocks are in place. The American federal government is increasingly detached from the control of the states, and the citizenry. When over 70% of the American electorate opposes a war, votes the opposition party into power to end the war, and the opposition party won’t even defund the war, it merely illustrates the utter lack of oversight you – joe citizen – will have over the supra-sovereign military planned under this agreement.

Get upset. This is the time to get upset and revolt. Your governments have gotten away from you. Hamilton is winning. For those not versed in American political history, Alexander Hamilton endeavored to create of our newly freed confederation a unified military-industrial empire. He conspired to replace our Articles of Confederation with the burdensome Constitution that has permitted, or even encouraged, the growth of today’s leviathan. The Canadian provinces have no rich tradition of independence, nor of principled liberty, but they have the inheritance of British culture: the Magna Carta, the English Civil Wars, the Second Treatise on Government, etc. All of this tradition is very tenuous. It requires the study and defense of individual rights in each generation. As we walk further from the American Revolution, the states forget their sovereignty, and the people no longer value the blood shed for their freedom.

As many libertarian writers have said, you do not need to feel debt or guilt; you do not need to put your life on the line (yet); you still have that inheritance, you free men of New Hampshire, California, Wyoming, Ontario, Florida, the Carolinas, Alberta, et al. Stand up in your state. Take back your militia (now nationalized as the National Guard), provide a check on the excesses of your so-called ‘leaders’ because they’re walking all over you with agreements like this.

Soylent Greens

We are now starving ourselves to feed our cars.

The United States Federal Government’s new policy of subsidizing domestically-grown, corn-based ethanol fuels is now beginning to seriously impact world food supplies, and has consequently lead to the first sustained rise in food prices since the 1960s. The Economist says to expect your food budget to jump from one-seventh of your income to one-quarter for the foreseeable future!

What other options are there? Well, I agree with the environmental movement that pollution is an evil, and that fossil fuels are not a sustainable bedrock of our global economy. Plug-in electric cars, higher-density living, nuclear energy, all of these are grand ideas. They represent a clear-minded movement to end chemical aggression. However, too many ‘green’ politicians in the Western World are taken hostage by farmer’s interests – because they vote, they fund, and they’re stubborn. The problem with so many special interests is that the party gaining advantage is concentrated while the disadvantaged are widespread. But this issue will hit you, yes you, right where it hurts: your ability to put bread on the table.

The solution is clear, but it will require some adjustment. Farmers in the Western World have to start playing fair. No more subsidies! If you can’t cut it without help, then maybe your energies are better directed in another sector of the economy. America is a fertile country; farming will not cease altogether, so rest assured you proponents of agricultural self-sufficiency. What will happen is that farming will continue to centralize, mostly because having a family farm sounds about as fun to most 21st century denizens as having a family mine or factory. What will happen is that resources, human and otherwise, will be freed to grow the world economy in myriad, unpredictable ways. What will happen is that we will be healthier and more fruitful: no more corn subsidies means the end of high-fructose corn syrup (instead of cheaper and healthier cane sugar), ethanol (except maybe the cheaper Brazilian variety), and those taxes used to pay farmers to not grow food.

When milk crosses $5/gallon, remember who your friends are. Your friends want you to eat well, sleep in peace, and live happily. Your friends are probably libertarians, so make an effort to meet them. And your enemies? They are the corrupt officeholders, and their supporters, who would fill up their SUV with enough grain to feed a human being for a year – all the while using that human’s tax dollars to distort the market mechanisms that would normally protect him from this madness.

Peers & Heirs

There is no doubt now that Ron Paul has sparked a Second American Revolution. Through the man and the message, his campaign has awakened a whole new generation, as Ronald Reagan, Barry Goldwater, Calvin Coolidge, Lysander Spooner, Thomas Jefferson, Samuel Adams and Thomas Paine had before him.

While most libertarians are rightfully fixated on the drama of the primaries as they unfold (and, underreported, Dr. Paul takes his place among the top contenders), another critical question after, “will Paul win?” is “who will carry the torch forward?” Dr. Paul is in a class by himself, distinguished by his ability to unravel years of deceit and public education through oratory, and all in a way that is not threatening or even angry. He is a guru, a saint, a Ghandi, a Jesus, a humble steward of honest ideals in a cynical and waning empire. He is not perfect nor superhuman, but neither were Ghandi nor Jesus. He, like them, is good and effective – and that is worthy of high praise. But he has no heirs, and no peers that have breached the wall of mainstream recognition. And that is a problem.

There are potential peers. John Stossel is a great communicator and seems more committed to the cause with each passing day. Michael Badnarik may be nerdy, but having met him I can attest to his interpersonal charisma and intellect. The former Governor of New Mexico, Gary Johnson, just endorsed Dr. Paul, but he is himself a successful libertarian politician.

These examples do not change the fact that other political movements have tons of brand-name politicians pressing their causes, and that those innately attracted to freedom philosophies tend to also be socially-awkward young caucasian males. I can’t explain it, and I’m not going to try. I don’t think it’s a rule, as history’s greatest liberators are a demographically diverse group (Frederick Douglass, Mohandas Ghandi, Margaret Thatcher, et al). Until recently, libertarians had eggs but no basket. Ron Paul is our first basket. But, as the saying goes, you shouldn’t keep all your eggs in one basket. A variety of freedom-oriented candidates, such as those that Dr. Paul tried to nurture through the Republican Liberty Caucus, would give this new revolution staying power.

Heirs are a different issue. Is Dr. Paul training some young minds to carry his life’s work forward? If you chance to read this, Doc, I hope you will consider the notion. I would jump at the chance to learn how to run a professional, principled campaign and win. If this campaign meets its end without a nomination, many young and free souls would want Dr. Paul to start a school to pass on a career worth of knowledge – and up the number of congressional libertarians from one to a majority. If the man himself is not making such preparations, is anyone else taking notes?

This campaign proves something to generations of self-doubting libertarians: it can be done. We are often our own worst enemy, whether it’s because we don’t have the courage of our convictions (Jason Sorens, the genius behind the Free State Project, is now teaching at a public university) or we have succumbed to a culture of victimhood (“the slow growth of the federal state is inevitable”) or we expend our energies vigorously debating minor philosophical discrepancies rather than promoting our shared visions to others (this is the story behind most libertarian functions I have attended). Every movement takes generations to gain recognition, and most aren’t even worth recognizing. Ron Paul reminds us that we are not lunatics on the fringe. Our message is pure and true; the evidence is there to see every day. Our message is the same as it was in 1776; Jefferson told us that it would require periodic revolution to maintain liberty in the face of the more destructive impulses of human nature. Our message is relatable, communicatable, and as the Paulites love to say: Freedom is popular. It’s important that we never forget, and that the irrepressible Dr. No has plenty of peers and heirs to remind us.

The Probability Broach

I’m a slow reader. That’s why I buy interesting-looking books much faster than I read them, and why I must then lug boxes of them when I move. That explains my fascination with a new project from L. Neil Smith and Big Head Press: The Probability Broach graphic novel. I know that graphic novel is a fancy term for comic book, but don’t let that deter you. It’s a great feeling when you “can’t put it down,” and I get hooked on reading this novel. It’s an accessible and fun adaptation of an inspired premise.

In an alternate present, North America is living in liberacy. Wealth abounds, money is real, and everyone carries a firearm. Our protagonist, Detective Win Bear, is thrust into this alternate reality from his own, a version of our world with a few extra dashes of fascism. Winnie, as his new friends affectionately call him, is receptive to this libertopia – thinking that it’s a more prosperous future. He learns about the North American Confederacy, the main political body of the libertarian present, and comes to realize that he has not travelled to the future but to an alternate timeline. His rescuer is revealed to be his alternate self.

Besides being extremely easy to read, with stunning artwork, the book depicts the practice of much of libertarian/confederal theory. The political order borders on anarcho-capitalism, but with a minarchist defense league in the Confederacy. It shows how free banking, with backed currency, leads to cash of ever-increasing value. Thus, everyday items and services become extraordinarily inexpensive. The concept of underground cities is broached (excuse the pun) by the denizens of the North American Confederacy going underground at every intersection. The novel even shows how crimes are adjudicated in the absence of a sovereign state.

Some of the book may seem fantastical to many, even many minarchist libertarians. The point is, though, that it presents an ideal and a direction. L. Neil Smith has presented here a model of a particular libertarian vision – one that mirrors the goals of the Confederation Society. Even if a lot of libertarians are policy-oriented and have no opinions about political theory, this novel shows that the form of government and the resulting policy are interrelated. It shows that the negativity exhibited by many libertarians is a byproduct of living in the shadow of repeated tyrannies. Each victory for liberty will make life that much better and easier for our descendants. That truth, well-known by the better of America’s Founding Fathers, is why the American Revolution was the quintessential turning point in the history of human freedom, and why Hamilton’s subsequent coup, by way of the Constitution, was so damaging.

I could go on forever, but I recommend reading it first-hand. Without further adieu: The Probability Broach.

Thank you, Mr. Smith, for your contribution to culture and liberty.