Addendum: Important IAQ (infrequently asked questions)
Is it necessary to move to New Hampshire in order to achieve complete liberty? What if I can’t move, or simply don’t want to, for a variety of personal reasons?
This pertains to the issue of “herding libertarian cats,” does it not? Some say that most libertarians are too independent to pick up and move across the country in order to join a movement that involves taking a stand against oppressive government. Given that the Free State Project only has just over a third of the signers needed to initiate their relocation to New Hampshire, this may well be true. So, if you really enjoy living where you are, then by all means don’t sacrifice that enjoyment. Instead, start a movement where you reside presently! Ideally, each of us should pick a place in America where we would most like to experience complete liberty, and then get to work on achieving it there.
This book has been about the demise of the State (on all levels) and the rise of voluntary America, not just voluntary New Hampshire. All will not be lost if you don’t move; you won’t be enveloped in unstoppable tyranny outside the statist borders of New Hampshire. As mentioned in Chapter 10, although this state is relatively freer in some aspects, it’s currently fraught with the same governmental ills as the rest of the Union. We can’t escape the culture, after all, with its assorted themes of authoritarianism, sacrifice, and collectivism. Of course, we could all just move to a deserted island in the South Pacific and have “complete liberty” there, but honing our survival skills isn’t what we’re trying to achieve.
When I wrote that “Focused effort by liberty-minded activists in New Hampshire is much better than scattered effort across a whole nation,” I did so from the standpoint of what’s been happening—or rather, not been happening—in the various states, instead of from the standpoint of future possibilities. Things tend to change over time. For example, the Free State Wyoming Project is now underway (www.freestatewyoming.org). Just as each state has its own advantages and disadvantages, each project will too. There are no large cities in New Hampshire (or in Wyoming), which might make it easier to change things for the better. On the other hand, a free town in a rural area will offer fewer noticeable economic benefits than a free large city in a cosmopolitan area. Ultimately, it’s probably best to choose a place that reflects your preferences for lifestyle, job opportunities, cultural activities, and so on.
How many libertarians throughout America actually believe in complete liberty?
I’ve seen no good surveys about this. In my own experience, I would guess somewhere between 10 and 30 percent, though it could be higher. Throughout my time in New Hampshire over the past year, it appears that free staters are similarly constituted. Given that complete liberty is based on correct premises about human nature and economics, as well as about the nature of government, the percentages can indeed change. In addition to gaining knowledge about complete liberty, it’s crucial that individuals address their particular fears about dispensing with statism. The negative psychological dynamics operating in our culture, and on our emotions, can hinder full clarity in these matters. This leads to the next, all-important question.
Will most free staters in New Hampshire eventually direct their focus to achieving complete liberty instead of minimal government?
The answer to this depends on how many free staters determine that playing politics isn’t a viable strategy for upholding our rights. This question certainly touches on the FSP’s “Statement of Intent,” which says nothing about getting rid of government entirely, but rather that civil government’s maximum role is to protect life, liberty, and property. As previously noted in Chapter 10, “civil government” is as contradictory as a “free state.” The classical liberal idea that “small government is beautiful,” tends to contribute to our predicament—for it concedes the premise of statism to the enemies of freedom. As a direct consequence, the vital and essential message of self-ownership becomes deemphasized or ignored altogether.
The actions of some free staters who believe in complete liberty have been criticized mostly by those who believe in representative, albeit Constitutionally limited, government and/or by those who simply believe that everyone should abide by the State’s rules for changing itself. Some believe that “the law” must be obeyed, regardless of its infringement on individual rights, typically because they feel that the personal or societal consequences for disobeying it are too dire. We are back to our fears, once again.
Unlike the heroic characters in Atlas Shrugged, we have no magnificent place designed especially for us by a man named John Galt. Who is John Galt? In essence, he’s a man who couldn’t tolerate living in a defective and disrespectful society, so he went on strike; he withdrew his productive mind from that society, convinced others to do likewise, and created a place that would function respectfully in accordance with the rights of individuals. Galt’s Gulch was a place of honor that showed reverence for the human spirit, the American spirit.
You too may be somewhat “on strike,” like I have been most of my adult life, searching for a particular lever with which to move the world in a more enlightened direction—or at least trying to avoid the worst forms of our highly regulated and taxed, mixed economy. Of course, the longer we remain on strike, the more pressing the need for cultural change becomes; our precious lives may start to feel like they’re slipping by. On the other hand, many of you may not see the point in going on strike, and I understand that. But I also understand that neither you nor I can fully escape the web of statist intervention and status quo institutions that restrict our capacities and impede our achievements on a daily basis. None of us truly desires to live a life of quiet desperation, like Dagny Taggart and Hank Rearden would’ve done, had it not been for the persuasive influence of Galt as well as Francisco d’Anconia.
The key thing to remember, and to remind others, is that we all could be living so much better lives—more fulfilling, enriching, and opportunity-filled lives—if we had compete liberty. Therefore, there’s no substitute for explicitly promoting it to everyone. Our fellow Americans can handle the truth in these matters, especially when it’s presented appropriately to their specific contexts. After all, if our neighbors don’t recognize their own freedoms to be autonomous decision-makers, they’ll continue to play politics and/or apathetically watch the State’s law-enforcers inflict pain and suffering on innocent people. In many respects, it’s more than the institutions of the State that we’re up against; it’s the viewpoints of everyone around us. Thus, the next question.
Isn’t wanting to change the present system and people’s ideas about government putting the political trailer in front of the philosophical truck? In other words, aren’t people unprepared for such major social, political, and economic changes, given their present philosophical ideas and accompanying fears?
There are many factors involved in this question, to be sure. Typically, big “O” Objectivists immediately answer “yes” to it, which is in line with their general disdain for promoting political ideas outside their proper ethical, epistemological, and metaphysical context. Yet, such principles as self-ownership and property rights don’t necessarily require a course in objective philosophy. Most intellectuals don’t have to become Objectivists in order for radical political change to occur. In fact Objectivism’s political branch essentially favors the structure of the State over complete liberty, thus opposing radical change.
So long as government runs the educational system, ideas counterproductive to liberty will continue to be mainstream, and better ideas will be lost to all but a minority of curious minds. However, paradigm shifts don’t happen because people wait around for them to happen—that is, wait around for other people to change their minds and behaviors. Motivated people seek ways to make things happen.
John Galt’s job was easier than ours, by the way. He just had to convince other productive individuals to withdraw their sanction by moving to a place free of any tyranny. We, however, can’t just leave our troubled world behind, to fend for itself, while we live in total freedom. We must find ways to change this unfree world. I invite you to join the forum at www.completeliberty.com, which will be dedicated strictly to brainstorming ways to do this—to achieve complete liberty as quickly as humanly possible.
And drum roll, please...Do you think that the process of achieving complete liberty entails preparing oneself to do jail time?
Most libertarians, for a variety of good reasons, believe this to be the scariest proposition. Consequently, throughout America, millions of libertarians continue to live reasonably good, law abiding lives—just like those who agree (more or less) with the political status quo, as well as those who actively promote it. But must a reasonably good life come at the cost of submitting to governmental employees’ demands that you sacrifice your choices, actions, and property? Is living among people who will unleash egregious rights violations upon you if you don’t follow their irrational orders any way to live? Is there any reasonable aspect to this living environment? For that matter, is it a proper place in which rear children?
Obedience to unjust authority should never be the price that any rights-respecting person has to pay in order to live outside a jail cell. This bears on Ayn Rand’s discussion of “sanction of the victim.” Essentially, we allow governmental officials to threaten us and coerce us, while we try to peacefully live among them and pursue our own goals. As I’ve outlined, such conformity only begets more of the same, more of the game wherein governmental officials pretend to be our protectors, and we pretend not to be their dupes and slaves. Spooner’s words are indeed accurate. No rational person in a free market who assumed the responsibility of being your protector would even so much as think about gunning you down without mercy if you tried to defend yourself and your property.
Of course, the more we engage in pleasurable activities, the more we can evade this issue. In many ways, the American way of life tends to ignore the eternal problems of politics and the pervasive obedience to authority arising from it—or giving rise to it; the causation is indeed reciprocal. Oftentimes, there are just too many cool places to go, great people to see, and fun things to do to really motivate us to focus on the nature of our political plight. But huge problems remain, irrespective of how carefully we follow the State’s rules: “Tax time”; victimless “crimes”; police harassment; regulatory nightmares in business and personal life; horrendous effects of fiat currency; death and suffering in semi-socialized health care; and so on. These are not things to be overlooked by people who genuinely believe in the pursuit of happiness.
I’ve had many discussions about this issue with my friend Russell Kanning of the Keene Free Press, who once again is in a small jail cell as I type these words, basically on account of choosing not to obtain the state-required official documents in order to drive his car on the monopolized roads of government. Once again, he’s harmed no one and violated no one’s property rights. Thus, there’s no tort, no complaining party, and the government has no standing, in addition to no legitimacy. Exposing the government’s violent racket by not conforming to it’s edicts is Russell’s way of leading people to see the essential truth in these matters. Russell is a libertarian doer; he walks the talk. To the extent that we continue to conform to the government’s irrational, immoral, and unjust demands, we are only “libertarian talkers,” as Russell has good-naturedly remarked on various occasions. Yet millionsof libertarian talkers could dramatically alter the course of human history by becoming libertarian doers as well, especially at the same time and in an orchestrated fashion.
We have two choices, as I see it: Either comply and enable further oppressive acts, or start demanding that our rights be respected. The State’s coercive behavior will come to an abrupt end when more and more people decide not to tolerate a shred of subjugation. This is how an undignified civilization can transform itself into a dignified one.
Ultimately, each of us must decide when it’s necessary and feasible to stop enabling our oppressors. Most of us have lifestyles in which being put in a cage for an extended length of time would result in a lot of personal turmoil and financial losses. This partially explains how our oppressors get away with their despicable actions—through creating fear of losing the rest of our freedoms. So, each of us must pick our particular issues and protest and disobey in the way that minimizes as much as possible the negative impact on our own lives and families.
Many libertarians are in cages throughout America for no valid reason, alongside hundreds of thousands who are also victims of unjust laws and their contemptible enforcement. It’s time to start encouraging our fellow Americans to help us put a stop to these abominations. In doing so, we should look to and depend on each other (the free market), rather than the corrupt tools of government, to bring about wholesome changes. Whether this will eventually entail flooding the statist jail cells, one can only speculate. In this day and age, there’s no greater deed than exposing the violent nature of the organization known as government, which means showing people “the gun in the room,” as Stefan Molyneux has put it (www.freedomainradio.com). Of course, the gun remains in its holster when we comply. In contrast, the tax case of the brave Plainfield, New Hampshire couple Ed and Elaine Brown has amply exposed the guns of the IRS, Federal District Court, and U.S. Marshals. Staunch resistance to their demands directly threatens their perverse way of life.
Ultimately, the most important thing is to introduce people to the principles of complete liberty in a fashion that you believe is best in your context. And the sooner we can create a voluntary America, the sooner we can pursue our happiness, unfettered by the ills of the State.