Okay, I’ll admit it: many years ago, when I was young and ignorant, I was an avid listener to—and worse, heartily agreed with—Rush Limbaugh. Yes, that’s right—I was a proud “Ditto-head.” And, although I’ve wizened over the years, and in retrospect understand now the errors of my ways then, it’s somewhat frightening to think that yet today, millions of Americans still agree with him and his statist rhetoric—as well as other statist of his ilk, such as Hannity, O’Reilly, and Coulter, just to name a few.
And I’ll also admit: I was a proud participant in the Republican Revolution, wherein Newt Gingrich and company, via the Contract With America, swept both houses of Congress during the midterm elections of 1994.
After declaring a major victory, I brushed by hands together, a job well done; and, like the fool I was at the time, I sat back with a shit-eating grin on my face, and watched as…nothing changed.
This abject disappointment and subsequent frustration sent me on a quest for answers, for an alternative to the two-party system that, obviously, wasn’t working—at least not for the American people anyway. The Internet was relatively new at the time (still dialup) and with a little research online, I discovered the Libertarian Party.
About the same time, my brother A. J. introduced me to Ayn Rand, and, after reading her book Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, and then her novels The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged, I was sold on the idea of liberty; I became a die-hard libertarian.
I still remember how difficult the concepts presented in Capitalism were to grasp; I typically convey this to people by saying it was like reading a book that was telling me “the sky is green…the sky is green…the sky is actually green”…it went against everything I’d ever been taught since day one, and so was incredibly difficult to grasp—let alone believe. But eventually, as I worked my way through the book, I began thinking: you know, she may be right; the sky is beginning to look a little green…
Eventually, I realized that the sky was indeed green, and I’d been deceived my entire life into believing otherwise. At that point, my mind was freed, and I escaped the matrix of statist thinking.
To give you an idea of what Capitalism is all about, Amazon describes the book thusly:
“The foundations of capitalism are being battered by a flood of altruism, which is the cause of the modern world’s collapse. This is the view of Ayn Rand, a view so radically opposed to prevailing attitudes that it constitutes a major philosophic revolution. In this series of essays, she presents her stand on the persecution of big business, the causes of war, the default of conservatism, and the evils of altruism. Here is a challenging new look at modern society by one of the most provocative intellectuals on the American scene.”
With a flood of newfound enthusiasm, I jumped into libertarianism and the LP for a few years, which eventually culminated in my meeting the great Harry Browne in Houston during his 2000 Presidential bid as the LP candidate.
It was an experience I’ll never forget: I had heard on the radio that he was speaking that evening at a hotel in downtown Houston. In a moment of spontaneity, I decided at the last minute to go, see if I could catch the event. I raced into town, arrived at the hotel, trotted inside, and was scurrying about trying to find the event when I turned a corner, ducked through a door—and literally ran right into him.
He was funny, and kind—and tall—and graciously took a moment of his time to have a photo taken with me, and to autograph my copy of his book How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World.
Later, his speech was inspiring; however, one particular thing he said really stuck with me—I remember it to this day, as if it was just yesterday—-because he unwittingly predicted the liberty movement of today, when he pointed out the following problem with the liberty movement at the time (paraphrasing):
“Whenever people hear about liberty, and understand the benefits of liberty, they always want it; so, we don’t have a problem with our product; what we have is a marketing problem.”
Well, I’m glad to say that the “marketing problem” of old, which used to plague the liberty movement, has since been resolved; it’s called the Internet.
But back in 2000, the Internet had not yet exploded into what it is today, the current liberty movement was still in its infancy, and, enthusiastic as I was, futility began to once again set in. The reality was that LP candidates were getting vote percentages running in the single digits—if that high—and were not being elected. In most cases, they were not even being heard.
As usual, nothing was changing.
At the same point that I began accepting the futility that was so prevalent in the liberty community, I also entered into a very difficult period of my life; for the foreseeable future, my own survival would become the focus of my efforts, and so during that time, I abandoned the liberty movement altogether.
After suffering an eight-year death-spiral—hitting rock-bottom in 2008—with the help of family and friends, I picked myself up, brushed myself off, and re-emerged in 2009, started over, began rebuilding my life and my self. Within a couple years, as my life progressed, I jumped aboard the liberty movement once again, which was now alive and thriving on the Internet.
This time, the excitement seemed to climax during Ron Paul‘s 2012 Presidential campaign, as he sought the Republican Party nomination this time, knowing that the LP nomination would not gain him entry into the locked-up two-party system.
Unfortunately, the Republican Establishment was having none of this “liberty” nonsense, and did all they could—both unethically and, arguably, illegally—to negate Paul’s campaign and instead choose the GOP candidate themselves, as has become customary.
With the failure of Ron Paul to secure the Republican nomination, and therefore the subsequent failure of the GOP to win the presidential election (after all, what they offered to the American people was tantamount to an Obama clone—though, I admit, a little taller and with nicer hair), the liberty movement seemed once again squelched, and futility once again plagued my mind.
And I, as a person, had also changed: somewhere along the way, I discovered that I was no longer a libertarian, but an anarchist—or voluntaryist, or anarcho-capitalist, choose your term. As Jeffrey Tucker quips:
Well, it took a bit longer for me—but then I was out of the movement for quite awhile, so my evolution was a little slower than it would have been otherwise.
And, being an anarchist, I not only believe that the state is unnecessary for—even antithetical to—the peaceable and prosperous functioning of human societies, and that it therefore should be abolished—but I go even further: the state must be abolished, if mankind wishes to survive, at least under any condition other than world-wide slavery and global government. Another Dark Ages era lurks just around the corner, as governments around the world have incrementally enslaved their citizens and stifled liberty.
And, I no longer believe that the U.S. system of government is fixable; in fact, I no longer believe that any system of government is viable, workable. If anything, the “American Experiment” proved, once and for all, that governments can not—will not—be limited by law; the simple fact that governments write the laws, interpret the laws, and enforce the laws should be evidence enough that the system itself is rigged and the government will grow until it destroys the very society on which it depends.
Like any other tumor, government grows and grows until it kills its own host. That’s the nature of government. Always has been, always will be.
That being the case, dissolution or abolishment—total eradication of the tumor of government—is the only viable solution, the only way the patient—the people—can recover and thrive. No amount of voting, changing, reducing, or restricting will suffice; for leaving any amount of the governmental tumor in place—no matter how small—will eventually lead right back to where we are today.
Now, I would like to take a moment to point out that I don’t simply maintain an anti-authoritarian stance, I’m not just rebellious to authority and thus anti-government; I readily concede that before the relatively recent advances in science and technology, the state may very well have been the best way available for people to organize and run societies. But today, with the phenomenal advancements in communications technology, travel technology, security technology, Internet technology, and so forth, this is no longer the case.
Just as in the past, science and technology has solved many of the problems and eased many of the burdens for humanity throughout history—such as disease, feeding ourselves, heating and cooling our homes, efficient and effective travel, methods of communication, methods of calculation, the oppression of authoritarian religions, and countless other problems that have plagued mankind for millennia—more recent advances in science and technology have finally solved the problem of the state, and its implementation as the basis of organizing and running societies, as well. Now, for the first time in history, there is a better way.
Thanks to advances in science and technology, the state is no longer a “necessary evil,” but an unnecessary one; problem is, most people around the world have yet to realize this.
But when a better way comes along, people eventually adopt it, even if at the time it seems unlikely. I like how Stefan Molyneux of Freedomain Radio puts it:
We had Feudalism, until we didn’t anymore; we had slavery, until we didn’t anymore…
So, we’ll have the state, until we don’t anymore. Unfortunately, societal evolution is excruciatingly slow, and those in power always fight tooth-and-nail to stay in power—so I don’t expect to see the beauty, wonder, and phenomenal prosperity of a stateless society transpire anytime within the remaining decade or two of my life.
First, there will have to be a change in consciousness; and until that happens, the state will remain in place, and the people will not be free. In this respect, I particularly like the words of the brilliant Butler Shaffer:
“People will not become free once the state ends; the state will end once people become free.”
Well, in order for a change in consciousness to occur, each and every one of us must change—on the inside. Our ideals, our principles, our belief systems must change, we must each understand and embrace the philosophy of liberty—as well as the personal responsibility it demands—and live our lives accordingly.
Such a peaceful transition, on a national scale, would simply render the state impotent, irrelevant, and it will have no choice but to go the way of the horse and buggy.
And many believe this change in consciousness is, indeed, already happening; in a recent article entitled The Shift Is Happening: Anarchy Goes Mainstream, by Jeff Berwick, Editor-In-Cheif of The Dollar Vigiante and host of Anarchast: Your Home For Anarchy On The Internet, Berwick opened with this statement:
“I have alluded for years that a shift in consciousness is happening and will continue to happen. Many called me crazy and said that it would never happen. Well, it’s happening! “
He then references recent pro-anarchy remarks stated publicly by former Congressman Ron Paul, Fox News’ “The Five” co-host Eric Bolling, and commends “up-and-comer” Julia Tourianski of Brave The World for her recent work.
Berwick goes on to say:
“Day-by-day more people are becoming aware of the fact that forced and violent collectivism/statism is not a friend to mankind. As the past century’s experiment with every form of statism all resulted in hundreds of millions dead and/or impoverished no matter in which form it took people are beginning to awaken to the truth. Violent and thieving monopolies (governments) and the communist-style central banks that bankroll them are our enemies, not our friends. Slowly, humanity is awakening to see that the two polar opposites in life are love and fear. When acted out on an individual level they can result in beautiful music or a serial killer. When acted out collectively it results in anarchy (love) or the war, violence and theft of the state (fear). . .The statist/centralized world is about to end and after a tremendously dangerous upheaval a new wonderful era will soon be upon us for those who survive the Great Transition.”
And all of this is exactly where I recently found myself in my own thinking; I accepted the futility of change within the existing system, along with the highly unlikely advent of a stateless society anytime within my lifetime. Additionally, during my intensive studies, I slowly came to the realization that liberty begins within. So I shifted my focus inward.
This transition also dovetailed nicely with a concurrent evolution in my thinking: after spending years reading voraciously, educating myself daily, on a plethora of topics—I began to notice that the more I learned, the more I realized I didn’t know; and the more I realized I didn’t know, the more I realized I would never know.
This set up quite a humorous paradox: it began to seem as if the more I learned, the more ignorant I became! I came to realize: there are vast worlds of knowledge and information out there that I will never even be privy to, let alone learn.
This realization was incredibly humbling. What the hell did I know? Who the hell was I to tell anybody anything?
So, rather than doing so much talking, trying to persuade people, convince them to embrace the ideals of liberty, I decided to instead focus only on liberating myself, working from the inside out, and simply strive to live up to the lofty standards of liberty on a personal level, implement them into my life as best I could. The humility of ignorance (in the grand scheme of things) prompted me to withdraw myself from the such overt attempts to influence others, understanding that I certainly don’t know what’s best for anyone—hell, half the time I don’t know what’s best for me—and so I should probably shut up, focus on myself, and leave everyone else the hell alone.
And perhaps by doing so, my actions and behavior would actually be more persuasive to others than my words anyway, encouraging them by example to also embrace the ideals of liberty; or, at a minimum, perhaps I myself could simply achieve a greater degree of personal liberty, regardless of whether others, or society at large, adopted them.
It was a huge transition for me—and, I believe, a good one; and I think my friends and co-workers would readily agree… 🙂
This brings me to point of my article today, which was prompted by an article I read this morning over at The Daily Bell.
Reed’s response absolutely floored me, as it mirrored my own thoughts so perfectly:
“I’ll list some of the big ones here but this is by no means a complete roster: Respect for the lives, property, choices and contracts of your fellow citizens. A healthy recognition that as much as you think you know, there’s a world of knowledge out there that you don’t know. Self-improvement should be a life-long commitment. If you want to reform the world, you must reform yourself first and then be a good example that others will seek to emulate. Refrain from the initiation of force, which is something that should be used only in defense of individual rights. Central planning requires an arrogant, condescending, know-it-all attitude that a person of solid character should shun. Take responsibility for yourself and your loved ones; no one owes you a living just because you breathe. When you see someone who needs and deserves help, remember that the Good Samaritan wasn’t good because he told the man in the gutter to call his congressman; he pitched in and got the job done himself at probably half the cost and twice the effectiveness that any politician could. Don’t assume that liberty is automatic or guaranteed just because you or your grandparents had it; if good people who believe in it don’t work for it, teach it, insist on it and support it, it can be easily lost. Have patience, be courageous, stand on principle, sacrifice if necessary for what you know to be right. Live for the future, not merely for the here-and-now. Be optimistic because pessimism is a self-fulfilling prophecy; you can change yourself if necessary and you can change the world but not if you think either cause is lost before you even get started. Keep your character up because freedom requires it, and you’ll never regret it.”
Wile followed up with the question, “Your point is that it is more difficult to live up to liberty than down to socialism?”
To which Reed responded:
“That’s exactly right. Socialism requires little more than obedience to authority: pay your crushing taxes, keep quiet and let somebody else run your life for you, even when they order you to give it up for a stupid cause like dictating how another country should live. Living to socialism’s standards means living down to some pretty ugly things: dependency and disrespect for the rights and property of others being chief among them. Liberty is a lofty objective. It requires us to live up to very high standards. It’s tempting to take what’s not yours or hire a politician to do that for you, but doing so is incompatible with liberty and puts a permanent stain on your personal character. We should each be asking ourselves every day, “Am I good enough for liberty?” If the honest answer is NO, then the next logical step is to muster the courage and integrity to clean up your act.”
Even if I spent the entire weekend contemplating these questions, I don’t think I could come up with a better summary of my beliefs about liberty, and about developing myself personally, striving to live up to the lofty standards of liberty. Reading Reed’s words this morning greatly reinforced my own beliefs and strengthened my resolve to continue my quest for liberty, both within and without.
And for that, I thank both Lawrence Reed and Anthony Wile.