Again, the following article is an expanded version of a post I recently wrote on my new Facebook liberty page, Toward Autarchy. If you have a moment, after reading it here, please consider visiting & liking the page. Thanks!
For me, as well as all true proponents of liberty, the goal for liberty is self-determination for all individuals—ultimately, the world over—within the parameter of what many would refer to as the non-aggression principle, or NAP. However, since that term tends to be somewhat ambiguous, often prompting debate and disagreement within the liberty community (such as conflating it with pacifism (the rejection of the use of violence even in self-defense), I prefer to use a more defined statement, as is found on the Mises Wiki website: do not initiate force or violence against innocents or their property.
So essentially, the ultimate goal for liberty is self-determination for all individuals, short of initiating force or violence against innocents or their property.
And in order to shift society, or the collective conscience, toward Autarchy (or Autarchism), I believe that rather than those in the liberty community infighting, arguing amongst themselves, debating their petty ideological or methodological differences—while tyranny marches ever forward—we should instead evaluate any idea, proposal, solution, legislation, etc. in relation to the above stated goal and parameter: does it, or does it not, move society toward the stated goal? And does it, or does it not, fall within the stated parameter?
Or worse, does it actually move society further from the goal?
Just as with an individual’s striving for personal growth and development toward autarchy (self-mastery, self-rule)—wherein, being incremental in nature, I would support any progress an individual achieves toward that goal, regardless of the extent of each incremental step—I would also generally support any idea, proposal, solution, legislation, etc. that shifts society toward autarchy, or toward the goal of self-determination for all individuals, and falls within the parameter of non-aggression against innocents or their property, and would generally not support those that move society away from that goal, or which fall outside of that parameter.
This is generally speaking, of course; there are always outliers, exceptions to the rule. But that’s my overarching approach, which I’ve elected to term Toward Autarchy, in reference to both the incremental progress of the individual toward autarchy (self-mastery, self-rule) and the incremental progress of broader society toward autarchy (self-rule, liberty).
My reason for returning to the basic principles of liberty is this: we aren’t there yet. In fact, we’re far, far away from achieving anything even close to a free society. That being the case, arguing/debating amongst ourselves over the details at this juncture is moot, and in fact counter-productive. We can work out the details once we’re there, or at least much closer to achieving a truly free (stateless) society.
But for now, we need to focus on getting there. It is said that when you find yourself in a deep hole, the first thing you need to do is stop digging. Well, we’re in a deep, deep, hole, which is growing ever deeper—so the first thing we need to do is stop moving backward, stop digging ourselves in deeper. And the only way we can do that is to form a united front and begin pushing back together against the encroaching tyranny. That means finding common ground on which to stand, i.e., basic principles upon which we can all agree, at least for now.
And I believe that going back to the basic principles of liberty as stated above can help resolve much of the infighting in our community, and better enable us to present a united front against the ever-encroaching tyranny. Whenever we’re faced with an idea, issue, proposal, legislation, whatever, we could simply evaluate it as stated above: does it, or does it not, move us closer to the stated goal for liberty, and fall within the stated parameter of non-agression? In other words, does it move society Toward Autarchy? If so, we should tend to support it, and if not, not.
This way, we can all move incrementally forward, toward the goal of a free society, and stop moving incrementally backward away from that goal.
After publishing this article, I discovered that Ron Paul interviewed Edward Snowden on The Ron Paul Liberty Report, and when I watched the interview, I was pleased to hear Snowden iterate this exact idea of incrementalism.
When Ron Paul asked Snowden whether he was disappointed and wished he could’ve done more, or if he felt he’d reached a lot of people and made some progress with his revelations, as far as reigning in the federal government’s overreach and unconstitutional surveillance (and other activities), Snowden said this:
“Well, it’s really a question between solutionism, and incrementalism, right? It’s the question of can one person truly sort of change everything, sort of save the world through a particular mechanism, a particular act, a particular decision? And I think that may be asking too much of the individual. Instead, what we want to look for are people, many individuals—across time, space, distance, authority, capability, whatever, everybody in every walk of life—to pick up and lay down a single brick upon which others can build, right? We want to lay a foundation for progress that together accrue, right, we can accumulate the change that we need, until we eventually have built something that will allow us a home that will withstand, sort of, the pressures of a world that is ultimately a large contest of control, whether we’re talking about our government and other governments are adversaries or our friends, right, people are finding this great game of influence. And we have to be able to make sure that this world is serving our interests to the best that we’re able to do. Now, this raises the question, but okay, did anything change? And I think, actually, everything changed. The most important difference is not the laws on the books, right? It’s not what’s written in a policy document, or some regulation somewhere in some secret agency, right? We didn’t fight a revolution for the right to some obscure policy process; we fought a revolution for our basic rights, for our rights to know, and to sort of shape the future. And I think when we know what’s going on, we can at least make better decisions for ourselves. We may not be able to change the direction of government immediately; we may not even be able to do it in the medium term or possibly even the long term; but we can start asking questions about do we need government operating in these ways, and if they’re operating in ways that are contrary to our values, to our rights, and what America was supposed to represent, how can we start to build new structures, new communities, bonds of fraternity, technologies, sciences that go, all right, if the government cannot be trusted to be a good actor in this space, to act in good faith in the defense of the rights of people around the world, then maybe we should simply take that authority from them. And that may not be possible through laws, right? Because ultimately, law is just paper, it’s letters on a page. Laws cannot protect us, the Constitution cannot protect us—rather, it is incumbent upon people to protect the law, people to protect the Constitution. It is we that give it power, it is we that give it force, right? And we can get this same thing by revoking our mandate and creating more direct measures, more direct mechanisms, for going all right, if you guys are going to spy on our communications everywhere—no matter how many courts say this is a problem, no matter how many courts say this is inappropriate, no matter how many people say this is questionable, this is not what we asked you to do—then we’re simply going to make it impossible for you, by going to physical laws, right, math. Because no amount of violence, no amount of force, is ultimately going to solve a math problem. And these sort of universal laws—maybe step-by-step is not going to solve anything, right, let’s not be utopian here, let’s not be solutionists here, but step-by-step, working together, sharing our views, connecting our values, we can create spaces—more bricks—that when laid together, create a defense of rights that can be relied upon, even in historic moments when law cannot be.”
Watch the full video here (the aforementioned segment begins at the 20:28 mark):
So, in that same vein, my hope is that the incremental shifting of society Toward Autarchy can become a unifying vision for the entire liberty community, regardless of our myriad minor ideological and/or methodological differences.
Is it possible for us all to unite on the basic principles of liberty and non-aggression, and then work on arresting, or even pushing back the current and growing tyranny, and perhaps even work toward achieving a free society?
And once we’ve achieved it, then work on ironing out our myriad differences afterward?
I, for one, certainly hope so.