In Search Of The Governed’s Consent
That government is, or ought to be, instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security of the people, nation or community; of all the various modes and forms of government that is best, which is capable of producing the greatest degree of happiness and safety and is most effectually secured against the danger of maladministration; and that, whenever any government shall be found inadequate or contrary to these purposes, a majority of the community hath an indubitable, unalienable, and indefeasible right to reform, alter or abolish it, in such manner as shall be judged most conducive to the public weal.
That the people have a right to uniform government; and therefore, that no government separate from, or independent of, the government of Virginia, ought to be erected or established within the limits thereof.
George Mason Virginia Declaration of Rights
Article 3 above probably reminds you of Jefferson’s words in the Declaration of Independence. Indeed, Thomas saw no need to reinvent the political wheel in these matters. Both his and Mason’s idea was to emphasize that government should be designed to serve the interests of the people, rather than the people existing to serve the interests of government. Clearly, it didn’t take long for this idea to become reversed. Each man was well aware of this possibility, which explains why they were quick to mention that if government turns into some kind of monster, the people have an indubitable, unalienable, and indefeasible right to reform, alter or abolish it, according to the welfare of the community.
Now, we’ve seen how the idea of monopolistic government leads directly to lack of choices and coercive control of the citizenry. In Article 14 above, Mason falsely assumed that a legalized monopoly of government is the way for law to be uniform and equitable. Maybe he believed that such a coercive monopoly would be easier to control and more servile than independent or separate “governments.”
Yet, to authorize an organization to have sole power over the affairs of a group of people immediately ignores those who would rather be left alone or organize their own methods of governance. Centralized, collectivistic governance in fact lacks legal authority, because it defies the nature of agency and voluntary contracts. Remember, government isn’t the end; people’s security is. Individuals and their decision-making capacities precede any notions of government.
Only an ideology based on collectivism views people as a herd and disregards individuals. Collectivism seeks to corral people into a system of governance not of their choosing. This, of course, exposes the basic misunderstanding of how government actually works. Notions such as “common benefit” and “public weal” create a sense of universality or mutual bond, but in reality they belie the nature of how persons in communities (be they towns, cities, states, or nations) interact.
Individuals, by the hundreds, thousands, and millions make countless choices in the marketplace of products, services, values, ideas, and relationships. To speak of their general welfare really means to speak of the total sum of each person’s needs and context—something that no coercive, monopolistic government can ever hope to ascertain. Only when unanimity exists, based on sound principles, can one speak in broad, community-wide terms. The idea that safety and security for people can or should be provided by a single organization called government, even if funded voluntarily, is analogous to mandating a single provider of food, water, and shelter for everyone. Imagine the chaos and chronic shortages resulting from that scenario. The grim history of Communism saves us the trouble of imagining it.
Obviously, every sane person wants safety and security for themselves and their loved ones. That’s incontrovertible. So, the main question is this: How do we enable the satisfaction of each person’s safety and security? This is the question that the Framers faltered on (and, obviously, most people today continue to falter on). Essentially, they assumed the conclusion—that government exists; therefore, we must have government—and they constructed a political system around that faulty conclusion, paying no attention to its negation of individual rights.
We certainly know that individuals exist, so it’s most wise to begin a political system with that assumption. Embracing this simple fact leads us directly to the conclusion that individuals must be free to construct any political system of their choosing—so long as it doesn’t violate individual rights. As we discovered, the onlysystem capable of respecting individual rights is a market-based one. This conclusion follows from the nature of voluntary contracts. Again, each of us is free to contract with whomever we like and trust. Just as importantly, each of us is free not to contract with whomever we don’t like and don’t trust.
Rather than leading to criminality, chaos, confusion, and shortages—rather than leading to a disintegration of community standards and a proliferation of vices—enterprising individuals in the marketplace work to ensure that people get what they want and remain satisfied, so they become repeat customers. When given the choice, people tend to gravitate to those goods and services that they most value. They pay for only what they want, and they get only what they pay for—a la carte ordering writ large. Most people take these economic rights to trade for granted, at least where the State hasn’t coerced them to do otherwise. All we have to do is apply this same principle to politics.
Instead of a one-size-fits-all approach to government that maintains itself by initiatory force and prevention of choices, the marketplace can provide myriad ways to ensure your safety and security—all without any extra costs or unwanted aspects, which are always unavoidable with the State.
Changes In Many Points Of View
Given the current nature of politics in America (not to mention the rest of the world), how likely is it that most people will become more aware and work to change things dramatically for the better? How likely is it that the people will discard entrenched power structures and stagnant institutions and replace them with rights-respecting, marketplace providers of formerly governmental services?
Well, the answers to these questions depend primarily on how many people are exposed to these new political ideas and new ways of thinking about themselves and their rights (that is, new to them; the ideas have been around for quite awhile). Yet, being exposed to these ideas is one thing. Acting on them is another, which again raises the issue of integrity.
Most people still abide by a political morality that allows for, or rather mandates, the initiation of force, instead of retaliatory force. Of course, morality is intimately tied to psychological processes, to feelings and subconscious thoughts. Any change in point of view, then, requires moving the rest of the psychological mountain. Most people feel that they have only a shovel with which to work, rather than heavy earth-moving equipment. Such a feeling can trick them into thinking that the status quo is easier and preferable to revolutionary change.
A change in point of view can indeed seem daunting. It may require that we restructure not just our belief system, but also our friendships, family relationships, jobs, work relations, voting habits (specifically the habit of voting itself), and so on. But it’s basically a problem of psychological and moral inertia—which must be acted upon by something sufficiently provocative, such as better ideas and self-generated behaviors, as well as inspiring actions of others. If left unchallenged, our present political opinions shaped by the State might continue for many more centuries, just like humanity has plodded along politically since time immemorial.
We must come to realize that government is a detrimental burden, not the benefactor of the community, state, and nation. It doesn’t create law and order; it creates a seemingly permanent, insidious form of societal chaos. All of us are slowly dying from government, failing to actualize our full potential as members of an advanced civilization on a marvelous biosphere. Government continues to make a mockery of our self-actualization abilities, as individuals, as adults, and as a society.
This takes us back to remedies. Each of us can disseminate our knowledge as widely as possible, in any particular style deemed most effective, that free trade applies to all forms of peaceable human interaction. Governmental services should be no exception to the rule of voluntarism. To make such an exception is to create a colossally inconsistent form of morality, which is only possible by abandoning rationality when it’s most needed—when it pertains to how we treat each other politically.
In addition to spreading the good words of freedom and rationality, we can also direct our efforts at strategic projects. Persons who really value liberty can’t accept the status quo; the possible future civilization(and their lives in it) is much too glorious. No matter how many stand against them, or how many sit on the sidelines, individuals will continue to attempt to subdue or restrain the elements of statism they believe are most harmful to our lives and well-being.
In America today there are numerous libertarian organizations and “think tanks” that focus on specific political and economic issues, which exist on both the state and federal levels. They address such things as ending drug prohibition, separating education from the State (privatizing it), rectifying property rights-violations by the State, repealing taxes and regulations, and holding Congress more accountable for the bills they pass but seldom read. DownsizeDC.org makes the last their signature issue with their proposed “Read the Bills Act.” Each voting season, many groups pressure politicians, get petitions signed for candidates, propose bills and ballot measures or propositions, and request referendums. Some research is usually required to determine the viability and effectiveness of each cause. In the end, however, most of these activities still entail playing the game of politics.
Democracy abides by the unfair and convoluted rules of statism, not the simple principles of liberty. This partially explains why so many millions of Americans aren’t interested and motivated to support such campaigns. Public choice theory demonstrates why it’s so difficult to change a Democracy into a system of liberty by playing politics. The individual cost of fighting a particular special interest issue is often much higher than the potential individual rewards concerning a favorable outcome on that issue. The modus operandi of special interests (and governmental services in general) is to disperse the costs and concentrate the benefits. That way, few persons who incur part of the dispersed costs will make much fuss, and the people who directly benefit will get their way. Additionally, entrenched, influential, and vocal countervailing groups are adept at running campaigns of dishonesty, misinformation, disinformation, and other types of unseemly propaganda, which can frustrate even the best of libertarian causes. Public choice theory also notes that politicians are motivated by self-interest as much as the average person. Therefore, we should harbor no collectivistic delusions about the nature of the political game.
Needless to say, those with vested interests in the use of coercion fool themselves and others about the effects of their victories. They destroy widespread opportunities for everyone, while establishing narrow benefits for few. And, eventually, even those benefits will disappear.
Instead of playing the game of politics and trying to do damage control, we must stop giving the State our sanction. There’s no substitute for a populace informed about the true nature of government and the vital alternatives of self-ownership, reason, and choice. Without such political wisdom, at best we’ll continue to take one step forward and then be pushed two or three steps backward.
Statism will continue to be the dominant theme in America until more people begin to realize the immense importance of their individual lives. Pundits will continually rehash typical topics regarding the next president and dominant party in Congress, the nature of Supreme Court members and their past and future rulings, the policies of the new Federal Reserve Board Chairman, Ben Bernanke, and so on. On this last issue, it’s a safe bet that he’ll continue Alan Greenspan’s dangerous monetary policies and drive our governmentally constructed Titanic toward even worse icebergs in the years ahead. But my goodness, what nice deck chair arrangements! On the federal level, we face sizable problems indeed. However, each state has its own particular set of serious snafus.
How much does all this matter in the grand scheme of things, in regard to the ideas of liberty? Not a whole lot. Better ideas, because they’re grounded in reason and reality, will ultimately win. Thanks to the Internet, there’s just too much access to good information at this stage for bad ideas and actions to overwhelm us. With any luck, the complete liberty memes will spread quickly enough to soften the various blows that the State is known to deliver to economies, both national and local. Liberty-oriented radio shows and podcasts such as Free Talk Live can definitely help matters (www.freetalklive.com). Introducing people to truthful alternatives to politics-as-usual will certainly speed up our social evolution.
First, Free A State
But is there a way to greatly accelerate the spread and implementation of liberty memes? There definitely is: by concentrating them in a specific geographical region. Fortunately, a project to do this is already underway—The New Hampshire Free State Project.
Indeed I’ve saved the best for last. Just when you think that you’ll have to wait an interminable amount of time before we can ever begin to uproot the tree of governmental coercion and step into the life-giving sunlight of a new age, along comes a quicker way:
I hereby state my solemn intent to move to the state of New Hampshire. Once there, I will exert the fullest practical effort toward the creation of a society in which the maximum role of civil government is the protection of life, liberty, and property.
Statement of Intent Free State Project
Granted, after reading this far, the idea of “civil government” protecting us probably rings a bit hollow. Nonetheless, this idea follows from the Founding Fathers’ classical liberal notions, which are arguably better than the notions of most of their descendants. Whether or not a so-called civil government is a significant step towards a liberty-oriented society, any government that taxes, regulates, and enforces monopolies truly demonstrates its highly uncivil nature. Such a criminal organization is unfit for a free people.
And, you might ask, “Isn’t a ‘free state’ an oxymoron?” Indeed, it is. Any State, by definition, is antithetical to the principle of individual sovereignty and human choice. Nonetheless, just as groups of people historically have seceded from overarching nation-States, secession of the individual from aggressive federal, state, and local governments is part of the process of attaining complete liberty. Given the vast expanse of the United States, the seeds of freedom must be planted somewhere. New Hampshire’s ground is arguably more fertile than most, for it remains one of the least oppressive states in America, if not the least (and, for what it’s worth, it’s one of the original thirteen colonies). Most importantly, the region within its borders, like anywhere else in the union, can become privately owned, thereby dissolving its borders into simply the jurisdiction of property owners, both commercial and private. Additionally, its many state “services” can be replaced with voluntary ones.
Because Free State Project members (and potential members) represent a whole ideological range of liberty lovers, full agreement at the outset about the real nature of government would prove difficult. For example, some members who advocate “limited” government seem to be comforted by the thought of having a smaller form of tyranny, a reduced malignant tumor, if you will—even though the State’s assumed control of roads and general infrastructure always reveals its metastasized nature. In turn, many believe that playing politics can yield good results. Such beliefs and behaviors may be the central reason why the Libertarian Party (on both national and state levels) hasn’t gained much cultural ground over the last thirty-plus years, since the party’s inception.
Principles are powerful things, especially when individuals stick to them. Thus, it behooves every libertarian to fully understand the principles of liberty and apply them consistently. There’s no need to compromise in these matters. Compromise only begets more of the same.
We can’t get rid of the insuperable problems of politics by playing more politics, that is, by obeying unjust laws and following inane rules. No liberty-minded person can satisfy the demands of governmental workers who systematically commit unjust acts and promote immoral ideas. Moreover, it’s impossible to vote for rulers who aren’t authorized to rule over us. Simply put, we can’t live freely as rights-respecting, autonomous adults by respecting the traditions and policies of disrespectful organizations.
By and large, voters see the control of other people’s lives and property asworthwhile. They believe in taxation, regulation, welfare, and war in their various forms, based on a whole host of misguided premises, as well as fears. Voters and candidates alike accept the nature of the political process—coercion—and think (or feel) that it can bestow good things upon them. To expect them to begin voting with a libertarian mindset contradicts the very reason for voting in the first place. “Swing voters” are often the focus of campaigns, which follows from the notion that you can appeal to people’s better judgment through sound bites and big names on street corner signs. I’m pretty sure it doesn’t get much more nonsensical than this.
Is it possible to liberate ourselves from the pernicious effects of voting by engaging in the same process? Is it wise to follow inane political rules in the hope of getting rid of them?
Furthermore, can we expect non-voters to begin voting for principled libertarians who are set on abolishing the very institution in which they’re seeking office? People who don’t vote either want nothing to do with politics or they’re too busy trying to live their lives to pay attention to how politics is oppressing them. Either way, they rightly see voting as pointless. They always lose, and politics always wins; statist wolves will never turn down fine meals of individual sheep.
Lastly, since limited-government (or small-government) libertarians apparently don’t want to dispense with fantasies of benevolent or benign statism, their compromised arguments will always succumb to the more consistent arguments of their statist competitors. Simply put, liberty and the State don’t mix.
What we need is not watered-down statism, but rather, fully-drowned statism. Let it sink to the bottom of the corrupt pond of politics and be covered with the darker notes of history. When people realize the State’s true nature, voting is no longer “necessary.” Politicians and voting are then seen for what they are: ways to infringe on individual rights and personal sovereignty.
Nevertheless, whether they desire to dive right into the clear and refreshing pool of freedom, or to ease in from the shallow end, most Free State Project members agree that no one has the right to forestall the progression toward a society of liberty. The faster it can be implemented, the faster people can begin living according to reason rather than force.
Americans need not be fearful of major political changes for the better. As our semi-Fascist, semi-Communist State continues to confront us, as well as our loved ones, our friends, our acquaintances, our coworkers, our associates, and our fellow traders, we ought not continue to comply. Terrible police State history need not repeat itself. Remember, we far outnumber those who seek to oppress us; and so, they need our sanction in order to continue perpetrating their acts of coercion.
Granted, nearly all of us have been inculcated by State-run schools in a culture of self-sacrifice and blind obedience to authority, so we tend to easily accept a very diluted formulation of liberty. It’s definitely way past time to reassess our education and behavior in these matters.
Eventually, everyone will reflect on the nature of their political and moral education, because we still have residual elements of the Enlightenment in America, perhaps more so than any other place on the planet. These elements will enable everybody to embrace complete liberty ideas at some point in their future.
The Free State Project simply aims to gather and unite persons who already understand libertarianism and, hence, want some semblance of liberty as soon as possible. It thus becomes a potent catalyst for change. The greater the concentration of highly motivated freedom-oriented activists in a single state, especially a state as small as New Hampshire, the faster the principles of liberty can be promoted and adopted. Remember, liberty, like smiling, is contagious.
Now, certainly there are various people in New Hampshire who harbor unwarranted fears about the principles of liberty and those who seek to enact them, just like the rest of America. Some journalists and politicians and even residents have expressed at most luke-warm acceptance, and at worst outright disapproval, of New Hampshire being chosen as the Free State in 2003. Evidently they don’t take the state’s motto, “Live Free or Die,” as seriously as the man who penned it in 1809, General John Stark.
Upon moving here in the spring of 2006, I spent some time at the state capital, in Concord, to observe the “sausage” being made there. All my suspicions were confirmed. Essentially, much like other states, representatives and officials (city and town governments too) create reams of legislation and legal minutia that they translate into decisions about what to do with other people’s property as well as about management of state and local governments. As usual, individuals are sacrificed to the collective, for the “good of the people.” Such an experience definitely exposes the inconsistency between New Hampshire’s bold motto and its mind-numbing bureaucratic system. (In case you’re wondering, the state senate passed and amended a whole host of new bills. One of them created a commission to “study” whether state representatives should be lackeys to D.C.’s mandate to implement a national ID card, or “Real ID,” essentially an internal passport system, which remains a favorite of police States everywhere—to keep us all safe from terrorists, of course. Visit www.freestateblogs.net and www.nhliberty.org for assorted sausage-making updates.)
Naturally, some who are concerned about how libertarian ideas will alter the current state of affairs might ask, “Why us? Who do these people think they are, seeking to change the state of New Hampshire?” Greek mythology may provide a poetic answer for them. The Free State Project is symbolic of Hercules releasing Prometheus from his bondage by Zeus. Once freed, Prometheus can again bring great talents and achievements to humankind. This time, he brings us ideas that will put all of Pandora’s evils back in their box. In so doing, a totally free market will be a godsend for every person fortunate enough to experience it.
Aside from various New Hampshire residents who may be reticent to welcome complete liberty, there are countless others who are, and will be, greatly inspired. All those who are disenchanted with politics can join the campaign to institute personal freedom and total respect for property—as a lifestyle. Interestingly, even the architects of the New Hampshire State Constitution proposed a way out of an unacceptable predicament:
Article 10. [Right of Revolution.]
Government being instituted for the common benefit, protection, and security, of the whole community, and not for the private interest or emolument of any one man, family, or class of men; therefore, whenever the ends of government are perverted, and public liberty manifestly endangered, and all other means of redress are ineffectual, the people may, and of right ought to reform the old, or establish a new government. The doctrine of nonresistance against arbitrary power, and oppression, is absurd, slavish, and destructive of the good and happiness of mankind.
June 2, 1784 New Hampshire State Constitution
The last sentence clearly summarizes the idea that government is created to serve the people, and when the people are instead forced to serve government (via special interest legislation, regulation, and taxation), it’s incumbent upon the oppressed to do something about it. But taking political action, whether through redress, reform, or reconstruction, must be grounded in sound principles that respect individual rights. By that standard, then, various words and phrases in Article 10 provoke some rigorous analysis.
Who exactly instituted the government, and what are its specified ends? What are the means and methods by which “common benefit, protection, and security,” are bestowed on the “whole community”? What does “public liberty” really mean, and when exactly is it endangered? Furthermore, what are the people’s values and virtues, and what is the nature of their consent?
Such questions focus on the inherent contradiction in government trying to be all things to all persons. Few, if any, persons who accept the State can ever agree on just where to draw the line concerning the public good and the desired ends of government. Nevertheless, they normally agree on how government operates and acquires its resources:
Article 12. [Protection and Taxation Reciprocal.]
Every member of the community has a right to be protected by it, in the enjoyment of his life, liberty, and property; he is therefore bound to contribute his share in the expense of such protection, and to yield his personal service when necessary. But no part of a man’s property shall be taken from him, or applied to public uses, without his own consent, or that of the representative body of the people. Nor are the inhabitants of this state controllable by any other laws than those to which they, or their representative body, have given their consent.
June 2, 1784 New Hampshire State Constitution
Certainly, each person living in a community has the right to be left alone by others—others who may even desire to infringe on the enjoyment of one’s life, liberty, and property. This follows from your right to self-defense, which reflects self-ownership and hence your freedom to stop others from initiating force against you. Naturally, it follows that each person must bear the expense in preventing and dealing with such rights-violations, though the aggressor must pay in the end. No one possesses a right to governmental services at taxpayers’ expense. As mentioned earlier, purchasing insurance policies through a reputable agent will be a good way to deal with these kinds of potential expenses.
It definitely doesn’t follow that the process of rights-protection should be monopolized, and that persons in the community should be forced (“bound”) to contribute money and even labor (“personal service when necessary”). That would be in violation of their right to contract. Each person retains the right to contract, or not, with any particular form of protection from rights-violators. Apparently, that’s why the framers of the New Hampshire Constitution inserted the invaluable statement, “no part of a man’s property shall be taken from him, or applied to public uses, without his own consent.” An individual’s property can be taken and “applied to public uses”only when that person consents.
Unfortunately, these framers didn’t stop there. They allowed for consent also to be given, supposedly on behalf of the individual, by “the representative body of the people.” As is the case in any constitutional Republic, such representatives are definitely not chosen legal agents, acting in a voluntary fashion. The individual hasn’t authorized them to act on his or her behalf. Rather, representatives usurp individual rights and property from people in the name of the public good, which often means satisfying a variety of agendas of the powerful, influential, and vocal. It’s back to special interests once again.
No collectivistic project on Earth is so important that it requires stealing the property of individuals in order to further itself. Without consent, there can be no willing trade. Without voluntary exchange, there can be no rational interaction. These are the basic facts that politically minded people throughout history have tried to ignore, and even ridicule—at the cost of their self-respect and humanity.
We know that democratic votes or townhall meetings don’t equal consent, for there will usually be at least one individual who disagrees. (Curiously, only under dictatorships is “unanimity” achieved.) When it comes to acquiring and utilizing another’s property, there’s no logical or moral substitute for consent and voluntary trade. This is the case regardless of the size of the geographical area or the population. Towns aren’t exempt from these observations merely because government may be more accessible or “closer to the people.”
Collectivistic (political) theft of someone’s property is no different in principle than individual theft. Typically, as Lysander Spooner noted for us, the only distinction is that the individual thief doesn’t attempt to deny that his action is theft—and he doesn’t try to justify his theft through references to the common good, general welfare, public interest, community, and the well-being of children.
If you’ve ever witnessed the goings-on of local politics, you’re no doubt familiar with the amount of deception (of self and others) and context-dropping that’s exercised. Mayoral elections, city council and school board meetings, zoning and planning commissions, legislative proceedings, etc., all demonstrate what happens when people have access to a community chest of tax dollars and regulatory powers. They zealously rule over others to deal with the “needs of the people.” Of course, the very last need on the list (in truth, it’s not even on the list) is to respect the rights of the individual, the smallest, most persecuted minority in the world.
The only way to reverse this perverse situation is for enough people to consider it worth reversing, band together, and get to work on changing politics-as-usual. That’s why the Free State Project holds such promise, why “Liberty in our lifetime” will become more than its marketing slogan; it will be made real. Focused effort by liberty-minded activists in New Hampshire is much better than scattered effort across a whole nation.
How many people are necessary? Judging by what I’ve seen, heard, and discussed with others, as well as the progress of the few hundred already in the state, a thousand more will probably make a sizable impact—hence, the Free State Project’s “First 1000 pledge” (http://freestateproject.org/first1000), whose signers have pledged to move to New Hampshire before 2009. A group that’s devoted strictly to liberty agendas and laissez-faire policies can be a major motivator and inspiration for everybody. Unlike special interests, this resonates with the “silent majority” who are disgusted with politics and politicians. If the over 7,500 current FSP members (as of 1/07) were to move to New Hampshire as soon as possible, rather than wait for the membership to hit 20,000, that would be something to behold. It could seriously weaken the walls of the statist house of cards.
We must keep in mind that reason and reality are on the side of freedom. And so is morality. The state government is winning, more or less, by default. Similar to other states in America and in D.C., anti-liberty lobbyists influence politicians and governmental officials on a daily basis. It’s “business” as usual, following from public choice theory. Similar to other states, too, most of the nonvoting as well as many of the voting public aren’t very informed about what’s actually happening on the floors of the legislature. Given its mind-numbing quality, it’s hard to blame them.
Some people vote for their slate of Democrats or Republicans as if they were opposing sports teams, but ones that aggress against innocent bystanders. The “lesser of two evils” mentality also runs rampant. Most base their choices on age-old notions of what constitutes “good government,” which reflects the “necessary evil” premise of the State (the same one Thomas Paine unfortunately extolled). The press, as usual, is composed predominantly of statist intellectuals. So, what little information the public gets is definitely not the whole story. The Keene Free Press (www.keenefreepress.com), however, is a new and very refreshing exception.
In New Hampshire each town has relative autonomy in many governmental aspects. Counties are not as politically significant as in other states, which has its libertarian benefits. Some free staters will work on freeing various towns and cities first and then the entire state. A multi-pronged approach will probably prove most effective. Whether it’s the work of the first 1,000 members or the first 20,000 members, to say that the project will change the political and economic landscape for the better would be an understatement. There are no losers in the creation of liberty, because it’s the only way to an environment in which everyone’s person and property—and rationality—are fully respected.
Free staters and their supporters can tackle any number of essential issues. Privatizing education and other public service monopolies will restore quality service and help end state ownership and control of one’s property via the taxes imposed on it. Dispensing with health care regulations and licensure, as in any other industry, will dramatically reduce both entrepreneurial costs and consumer prices, as well as significantly increase quality and quantity of services. Ending federal and state agencies’ violations of personal freedoms like drug use will foster self-responsibility and greatly reduce crime, police violence and corruption, and health hazards. Implementing a plan, for instance based on homesteading, to privatize state-owned and managed land, water, and airspace will ensure legal accountability, efficient use of resources, admirable stewardship, and enforcement of a cleaner environment—as well as generate vast economic opportunities, noticeably benefiting everyone. Instituting a money-backed currency, for instance of gold or silver, will expose federal reserve notes as the humongous sham they are; a sound, free market medium of exchange will bestow mighty financial blessings on the populace.
Clearly, this just covers some of the high points. Free Staters, with the help of an invigorated grass roots’ movement of like-minded people, can address many other pertinent issues. Of course as mentioned, some people will resist these agendas. The mindless collective turns out to be the same no matter where one lives. It ignores individuals and sees only the needs and behavior of groups (and the misbehavior of individuals who defy it). It only sees others who can be molded into its image and likeness—a dependent, faceless mass of humanity that conforms to the “public will,” that is, those in control of State power.
People involved in politics at the state, county, city, or town levels are typically not friendly to independent thought and actions. They don’t like things that challenge their ideas and authority. They’re fearful of change, and so they don’t like people rocking their boat (the boat of the mindless collective) and asserting all their natural rights. Instead, they mainly seek to control governmental resources and maintain governmental influence regarding the lives and property of everyone else.
Many in politics are busybodies or so-called do-gooders, people who relish involving themselves in any issue that hints of “community standards” or “public health” or “the needs of our children,” and so on. Obviously, people in the private sector who are involved in these issues demonstrate much better ways to achieve similar goals, to the extent that they do in today’s statist environment. Most political officials are champions of a particular pet cause that further diminishes individual rights. Nearly all are wholeheartedly opposed to changing the way politics works, let alone getting rid of it entirely. They simply don’t envision better alternatives. They see paychecks and short-term goals, which means dropping the context in which they’re working—a coercive, unjust monopoly funded with stolen wealth. People who champion the cause of freedom and voluntarism continually remind them of this context.
As noted, given the vested interests that maintain the status quo, to play the political and legal game by its absurd rules can’t result in respect for individuals and a free market. After all, running for elected office as a saboteur, or trying to get a bill passed to repeal State power and restore various rights, or making a solid case in court to a judge about why the State has no jurisdiction, not to mention can’t provide a fair trial and isn’t a complaining party (assuming he’ll let you present such a case), or informing a jury of their right (even obligation) to nullify bad laws—all have been frustrating, if not futile, activities for most libertarians in states throughout America. Even though the last activity (jury nullification) seems most promising, especially for the Free State Project, each of these activities is a bit like trying to explain a global positioning system to those who resolutely want to believe that the Earth is flat. We not only speak a different language; we also don’t share the same premises.
So, we must discover ways to build bridges across this premise gap. The challenge is to motivate people, via the court of public opinion, to accept the idea of complete liberty and its implications for politics. This is why strength in numbers is key, why concentration of individual efforts is the best hope. The quest for complete liberty essentially begins and ends in the minds of enlightened individuals. The majority of people in a particular region must be informed of, and shown, a better way to live. We must teach the language of liberty to young, inquisitive, and resilient minds, regardless of their actual ages. We must introduce sound premises and principles to persons who are suspicious of, and have chosen not to involve themselves in, “politics-as-usual.” This is the primary way to alter the political theater.
Nonetheless, the sky’s the limit as to how to effectively discontinue federal, state, and local interference in the marketplace. Each FSP member is left to his or her own ingenuity and innovativeness to effect changes. Being decentralized and non-hierarchical, the Free State Project represents the best in the American entrepreneurial spirit of independence and resourcefulness. The virtues of self-initiative, self-responsibility, self-reliance, honesty, and self-trust, all reflect a fundamental trust in others to live similarly (as well as a distrust in the mindless collective).
Dissolution of the state’s government will happen when it’s no longer granted legitimacy by most people—and when viable free market alternatives are offered. To this end, like-minded free staters and others will develop specific strategies to facilitate market solutions as well as expose the illegitimacy of the State. They’ll basically inform their communities about the merits of voluntarism and the demerits of coercion.
Aggression typically only begets more aggression in politics. Especially in today’s cultural climate, any retaliation against the force initiated by State officials tends to legitimize and increase their violent actions (even though self-defense against a potentially lethal attack remains a fundamental right). For better or worse, long gone are the days of tarring and feathering tax collectors and their assorted comrades. Therefore, strictly non-violent activism will directly promote the goal of complete liberty. Reasonable people best recognize unjust laws and their immoral enforcement when officials harass and arrest those who’ve harmed no one and violated no one’s property rights. Peaceful protests and demonstrations, civil disobedience, non-conformity and non-compliance in relation to taxes, unjust laws, and regulations are all powerful forms of activism. In addition, by combining activism with explanations of free market alternatives and voluntary solutions, we can open new avenues for understanding and change in communities.
Currently, the particular free staters who are most inclined to agree with these ideas, that is, who see no valid reason to play politics, live in the Keene area, which is in southwestern New Hampshire. Keene is a city of over twenty thousand people and is the home of Keene State College, the state’s largest liberal arts university, which serves approximately five thousand students. Being a city instead of a town, it’s more legally tied to state government; therein lies one of its challenges. Visit the forum on www.nhfree.com for further information and details about all the liberty lovers there and their admirable activism.
Another approach to activism, though certainly down the road a few years, is to build a complete liberty town from scratch. Imagine what a tourist attraction that would be: the first-ever town in the United States with an advanced community of trade and commerce that respects the freedoms of its residents! Instead of being located in some distant part of the third world, with the accompanying economic and geopolitical drawbacks, such a town would be in a main birthplace of liberty. For those who’ve read Ayn Rand’s magnum opus, Atlas Shrugged, envision a Galt’s Gulch for all to see and visit, and emulate. After all, what’s achieved in New Hampshire will be a great example for the rest of America, and the world.
In order to have complete liberty in our lifetime, we must commit ourselves to the idea that nothing else is proper for us—beings who own ourselves and flourish by means of reason.
Let’s now end with the eloquent words of a man who died long ago but who knew how powerful an idea can be, especially one whose time has come:
THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. Heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated.
December 23, 1776 Thomas Paine The Crisis