Sunday, April 25, 2010

In a Libertarian Society . . .

Note: I delivered this speech to the Libertarian Party of New Mexico on Saturday, April 17, 2010.
I wrote it the night before, but I had been thinking about it for a while. My delivery was not great since I had very little practice time. Nevertheless, it was well received. However, they drafted me as Vice Chair anyway. That puts me on the Central Committee. Somebody must not have liked the speech.

In a Libertarian Society

Growing up in a Libertarian household was an EXPERIENCE. Between normal kid and teen activities, my baby sisters and I also regularly attended Libertarian candidate interviews, party county and regional conventions, and Libertarian social events. Those last were real hoots. I mean where else could you experience the combination of politics, smoke and beer that was carefully calculated to bring the situation to critical mass at a carefully indeterminate hour, resulting in table-pounding, chair slamming, and the inevitable walk-out by one or another of the county or regional central committee members. We kids thought it was hysterically funny, unless we were the ones that got dragged out with one of our disgruntled parents.

When we did not have ringside seat for the libertarian contact sport of DEBATE OF PRINCIPLES, we received our educations in Liberty at home or at the mall, where our parents would wax poetic about the wonders of Capitalism and the depredations of those evil twins of Wesley Mouch down in Springfield or over in Washington DC. And whether we were discussing Atlas Shrugged at Papa’s Kitchen Table University—“Where REAL EDUCATION Begins”--or helping our parents get unsuspecting citizens to sign the unlabeled Bill of Rights at the Eastland Mall—where we all got hauled off by the mall staff for distributing subversive materials—(I kid you NOT), we heard the same phrase over and over: “In a libertarian society . . .”

In a libertarian society . . . there will be no Federal Reserve Notes and people will mint their own gold and silver.
In a libertarian society . . . private charity will be responsible for making sure that the bums down on Center Street get a hot meal.
In a libertarian society . . . people will take responsibility themselves for negotiating intersections and a private police force will mediate the resulting standoffs at the corner of College and Fell Avenue.

We heard this so often that my sister Madge started up this joke:
“How many libertarians does it take to screw in a light bulb? (Pause)
“None. In a libertarian society . . . light bulbs will take responsibility for themselves.”

At very tender ages, my sisters and I swore a solemn oath never to inflict that phrase – “In a libertarian society . . .”—upon our own children.

I did pretty well at it for a while. That was before Ron Paul cured my apathy. In 1988. And the other day, I heard myself say it to my son—down at the DMV. There is nothing like the DMV to make you wish for Revolution. I mean the kind without the backwards “L” and “e” in it.

But I digress. My point is that libertarians have a great many ideas about what a libertarian society should look like. They argue about it a good deal. And sometimes—especially after a morning at the DMV—Libertopia (another Madge-ism) looks wonderful to me. I’ll even take the arms race at the intersection of San Mateo and Menaul. We all have our ideas about what Libertopia looks like, but other than the electoral process, it doesn’t seem like we have a clear idea of how to get there. And you’ve got to admit, all our hard work through the LP at getting people elected at the presidential level has netted us exactly 1 electoral vote. In 1972. And working on electing Libertarians to Congress has not yielded much better results. All of this costs a lot of money, turning our national party into a full-time fund-raising organization, and creating problems for the state organizations. Here in New Mexico, our recent Ballot Access lawsuit was brought in order to mitigate some of those problems.

The idea that local and state organizations should focus on local issues, and get people to volunteer for or be elected to low-level political posts certainly has some merit; these elections are often uncontested, and voter turn-out is low, making it easier to get out the Libertarian vote (large and small “L”), and put someone in office. The trade-off is that these positions also carry very little power to reach and educate the average voter about the advantages of Liberty. Libertarians in such positions become simply cogs in the big-government machine organized and managed for the benefit of the statists in charge.

If we are to ever get to Libertopia, we clearly need a new road map. From the very beginning in 1971, one of the main criticisms of forming the National LP has been that we were starting in the wrong place. (And I can tell you that those arguments were a wonderful source of Libertarian Contact Sport, leaving Central Illinois weekend warrior Libs bruised, battered and bleeding). Libertarians very quickly organized a political party, the objective of which is to get people elected, when it might have started as a social and educational organization, whose objective is to change how people think about philosophical and moral issues related to individualism. This was one of the criticisms that Ayn Rand leveled at the LP from the beginning, but she mixed it up with what L. Neal Smith calls her “Russian Grandmother” issues, and couched it in smears and vitriol, to the point where her important message to us went largely unheard.

The result is that our LP has been relatively ineffectual as a political party—and has been quickly shut out of the national and state scenes by the statists on the so-called right, and the statists on the so-called left. Both major parties used their power and clout to teach—with no evidence—that our political structure was founded upon the “two-party system”, removing Liberty entirely from the menu of political options. All this in a country founded on the very bedrock of Individual Rights! The fact that the statists have been able to pull this off speaks volumes about the sad state of American History as an academic field, and as a subject in public schools. (No. I’m not going there. In a libertarian society . . . there would be no public schools and parents would take responsibility for the education of their children.)

These past 40 years we have been wandering in the political wilderness, seeking our freedom at the feet of idols, none of which has the power to grant what we desire. Liberty does not come from the outside; it is a quality that is inherent in the very nature of the human individual. And yet living liberty requires a recognition and respect for natural rights from enough people to form a society.

Does this mean we ought to form our own libertarian societies? Even with all the talk about “going Galt”, the development of “Paulvilles”, and even ideas about floating cities outside the jurisdictional waters of any extant nation-state, this would be a long process, and I am concerned that we do not have much time left to reclaim our birthright of liberty. Not that I would obstruct the free efforts of others in that direction. Laissez-faire! Leave them alone, and see what comes of them. However, the statists have been working towards enslaving us to their purposes for a very long time, and they now have the systems in place to move in for the kill.

But all is not lost! Those years of wandering in the wilderness of elections, where have become ensnared in the pits of the false left-right dichotomy, and gotten lost in the badlands of party power politics, have not been entirely in vain. For during that time, rumors of Liberty have gotten out among the people, and the philosophy of liberty has been disseminated to a new generation. Actually--two new generations.

And help has come from an unexpected source. For as the statists have tightened the chains of our encroaching slavery, so that they become heavier upon us, and Americans have begun to notice. Everywhere, people are waking up, and the fires of liberty are beginning to ignite in their hearts. The sparks are beginning to take hold, and people are beginning to question and protest the loss of their freedom.

Some of you have seen it for yourself. As I have, traveling in New Mexico for the New Mexico Patriot Alliance, and to Illinois as a delegate to the Continental Congress. I have seen big changes among the awakening people from last year to this.

At the Tea Parties last year, the focus was on taxes and on the evil of the Democratic Party Progressives. The concept that salvation would be found by electing Republicans was everywhere. However, even there, the fires of Liberty were being stoked by Libertarians, by Objectivists, by Constitutionalists.

Since the Tea Party movement began last year, the statists have increased the velocity their drive towards fascism, towards socialism, towards whatever you want to call it, and their end game is a world collectivist state.

And in response, I have noticed that more Tea Party goers are carrying signs that, rather than just vilifying the current administration, and rather than just protest taxes, point to the founding principles of the United States, and the Constitution. Principles that Libertarians can agree—despite those among us who would rather go much further—are nevertheless principles worth restoring.

At Continental Congress 2009, we elected a Libertarian to preside over the proceedings: Michael Badnarik. And he is the real deal. Although there were small coalitions of theocrats and other conservatives, some of whom wish to use the power of the state to enforce their particular theologies and moralities, the majority of the body, and a group of dedicated libertarians (small “l” AND large “L”), worked long and hard to promote the cause of Liberty with good (though not perfect) results.

The work of the Continental Congress 2009 resulted in the Articles of Freedom, which documents fourteen major violations to the Constitution—including such violations of liberty as the income tax, the federal reserve, undeclared foreign adventures in “nation building”, and the violation of private property rights. The Articles of Freedom also include instructions to the federal government and the Sovereign States for the remediation of these violations through such actions as tenth-amendment assertions and restrictions on the activity of the feds to those stated in Article I Section 8 of the Constitution. In addition, the States are instructed to protect the people from Federal incursions on their rights through the empowering of the county sheriffs via the Supreme Court decision, Printz-Mack vs. the United States, and through the formation of Constitutional Militias.

Since we do not expect any more response from the present imperial presidency, and the present congressional elite, than the Olive Branch Petition got from King George III and the Parliament, the Articles of Freedom also contain suggestions for Civic Action on the part of Liberty-loving Americans. This civic action is planned to culminate in the withdrawal of support to the federal government by a “goodly number of millions” of patriots create a mass movement to restore their liberty by Constitutional means. A huge goal, to be sure, and fraught with problems in the details and the scope; but the journey to Liberty is not begun by those who nit-pick the problems. The pioneers who settled this country had a saying: “The cowards never started, and the weak died on the way.” If we are to be a force for freedom, we can neither be cowards nor weaklings. And we must begin with the first steps.

Go to, sign the pledge, and get your liberty-loving friends and neighbors to do the same.

Continental Congress, the Tea Parties, the Ron Paul R3volution, and state-based patriot coalitions like the NMPA—these are all part of a movement that has coalesced because our present federal government has stepped on the gas in its drive toward an all-powerful, collectivist state.

The LP stands at the edge of its current map—the map of the political process of electing candidates—and now must decide how to expand that map so that we can leave the wilderness, and lead on in the drive towards that “libertarian society” our parents envisioned. Although educational, the political process of electing candidates to offices to serve a statist government, has become (in and of itself) a dead end for libertarians. I submit that it is time to do some back-of-the envelope calculations, and take into account where we actually are, and who is here with us, in order to redraw our road-map to Libertopia; and to include other highways and byways than just partisan political action.

I believe that there are (at least) three ways to get to our goal—a libertarian society—and that we need scouting parties and shovel-ready construction teams working actively on all of them.

One road is the political action highway. This is currently the main LP route to Libertopia, but the road is too narrow to carry the traffic needed to restore the Constitution. It needs to be broadened to include more than elections. Political action entails lifting our voices for Liberty through protests and forums; it requires that we get the unadulterated message of Liberty to the people, one by one, through education and example. The people are waking up—but in their yawning and stretching—they have not yet understood that the coffee needs to be hot and caffeinated. It cannot be a tepid mix of statism with a dash of Liberty. One cannot expect to be free and control your neighbor’s marriage or his money. We know this, and through political action in the broadest sense, we can present an uncompromising philosophical case for liberty everywhere we go, thereby “lighting the fires of liberty in one heart at a time.” (I LIKE that Badnarik quote!).

Another route to Libertopia is the cultural bypass. Our vehicles in the culture are education and entertainment. Speaking for myself, this is the way that the idea of Liberty became real in my pointed little head as a child and young-adult. At Papa’s Kitchen Table University, I read and discussed the founding documents of the United States from a libertarian perspective. And I was given the books and papers that formed the ideas in the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson’s Virginia Resolution on Religious Liberty, and the Constitution itself. I read and discussed Locke and Smith, and Bastiat. This education was a powerfully firm foundation for making the cause of Liberty my home in this world—even if I explored other ideas along the way.

The educational aspect powerful as it is does not alone ignite people’s visions of Liberty. Libertopia has been envisioned through novels, stories and movies, and counterexamples in these media can also instruct, by making the horror of tyranny very real. Books like Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress; Smith’s Probability Broach, and classics like 1984, have all influenced the vision of Libertopia, and increased our desire to work toward it. Currently, Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, though out more than 50 years, has sold more than it ever has, as people strive to find a philosophical vision of what the world is now, and what it might become. We must get these books into the hands of newly awakened people, and recommend movies like The Matrix series, to get them thinking. We must introduce them to the very vocabulary of liberty, so that they may have a sustaining vision to get them through the hard and rocky way that lies between us and the land of living liberty. The vision thing is important—this is people change their hearts and minds, and commit to ideas.

The third road is that of preparation for Living Liberty. As the statists tighten their grip, their unworkable economic and social systems are beginning to show signs of stress and strain. The mixed economy cannot sustain the spending they need to do in order to achieve their goal. And as the current system falters, their response will accelerate the economic collapse.

This is their weakness and our opportunity. But it comes at a price. We ourselves, as well as our friends and neighbors, and those just beginning to awaken to this reality, are dependent on the workings of this economy. We can fiddle while Rome burns—sitting around and complaining about the evils of the state, and the state of the world—but that will do nothing to get us to Libertopia. The enemies of liberty mean to use this kind of crisis to create their slave-state, and we are meant to be so dependent on them that we willingly give up our freedom for the security of three squares a day.

We, too, can prepare for the inevitable crisis that has been built into our mixed economies. We must be the watchmen at the gate, calling out to the denizens of our current camp in the wilderness that it is time to prepare for the coming battle. And we must prepare ourselves by beginning to live Liberty. We can do this by making ourselves more self-sufficient, and less dependent on those who would be our masters. We can start living liberty by developing alternate, local economies and the means for personal self-defense. On this road, I believe that we will find that even as we are preparing for the worst, we are also developing the best within ourselves; and that when we arrive at Libertopia, we will be ready to live there.

At R3volution March, Adam Kokesh asked the question: Is it time?
In the past two years, as the march to statism has not only continued, but accelerated, I believe that the answer is: Yes, it is time. And I also believe that the years Libertarians have spent in the wilderness have been fruitful, perhaps even because of the pits and blind canyons we have fallen into. We know what roads we have tried, and we can preserve what worked. But the times demand that we come out of the wilderness, and in coalition with others who are fully awake to our peril, we must expand our maps, and prepare for the end game. The battle is on, and the crisis is imminent. The result will be either Liberty or slavery; individual rights or collectivism. This may be a long and arduous road—but our feet are already on the first marches.

One of the sages of my tradition put it this way: “The task is great; the taskmaster is exacting, and the day draws on towards evening. And yet-lo alecha hamlacha ligmor—it is not up to us to complete the task—lo aval ben chorim l’hivote minena—but neither are we free to desist from it.

And at the end of the task—way up yonder, is that shining place—Libertopia!-- where we can sit under our vines and fig trees and begin all our sentences this way:
“Here, in a libertarian society . . .”

1 comment:

Christian Prophet said...

Tea Party gatherings are a blessing for libertarians. For one thing, Republican candidates are no longer afraid to express their natural libertarian leanings, resulting in a new Republican Party. Incidentally, you might be interested in the article, "Libertarian Pledge of Nonviolence."