The Liberty Blog Part II: Strategies for Victory
The nice response I received from my previous blog sparked my interest in sharing some more thoughts on the future of libertarian politics. Since this stuff is always rooting around in my head, fighting for space with thoughts about hot chicks, it's pretty easy to throw it on paper.
There are 3 aspects that I can identify to bringing about a libertarian revolution: personal victory, community victory, global victory. You can play a part in all three areas, but you can not aspect to achieve total victory in any area. Since personal victory is the most important, I will spend the most time on it. You can't change the world by yourself, but you can impact various aspects of your life and other's lives by following this recipe:
Personal victory arises from recognition, understanding, planning, and action. First you must recognize the areas of your life where the government (The State) excercises the most control. Are you collecting unemployment, using veterans benefits, welfare, etc? Do you work directly for the State? Is your business directly influenced by State decisions? Perhaps your interaction with the State is limited to taxation. If so, consider yourself lucky. Are you in debt? In debt to whom? Fractional reserve banks and the State have a symbiotic relationship designed to extract money from the taxpayer. If you are holding a mortgage, you are the victim of this relationship. What about federally funded student loans? Did you receive public education? On and on. The list is endless. In many ways, Americans, through little conscious decision of their own, have become dependent and enslaved by the State.
Once you've identified the numerous ways in which your life is intracately linked to the State, you enter the phase of understanding. You need to investigate how this relationship came about. Let's use my life as an example. I joined the Marines in part because my father was a Marine, and I thought he was a pretty cool guy. I was also inundated with pro-war, pro-welfare, pro-State propaganda throughout my formal education years. My views on American exceptionalism, wealth inequality, and "military might makes right" were shaped by school teachers, television, and magazines. Never was I presented with an alternate opinion (a non-Socialist perspective.) One day you'll understand that you never had a chance.
At this point you can give up or you can fight. This is the planning phase. Fighting begins with a plan, unless you're a drunken sailor. You can't fight the State directly. Not only is it foolish, it leads to violence, and violence brings destruction. It brings the death of more than just yourself. Each violent act makes liberty less attainable. If you contribute to liberty's destruction, how are you libertarian? Don't fight the State directly and never aggress. The solution is withdrawal. The withdrawal can never really be total (you can't win total victory by yourself, remember) so don't get caught up on measuring your success. Just start planning. Here are some ideas that you could put into your plan:
1. Pay down your debts.
Debt freedom is an amazing thing. I haven't had a single penny of debt in many years. I don't use credit cards. I closed all my credit card accounts years ago and I don't plan on ever getting one again. I don't need to build my credit score. I have assets, income, and lots of cash. But I didn't get here overnight. It took years of sacrifice, paying debts down to zero. There is nothing, absolutely nothing, that I'd ever want to buy that I need to borrow money for.
As a corollary to this, limit your expenses as well. Remember, most things you purchase come with a sales tax - more money for the State. Cut down purchases that have sales tax. Shop online more. Support libertarian businesses like Whole Foods. If you have to spend, spend it on those busineses that share at least some of your beliefs. Don't support the State or their friends. Sure, you may not always know who's who, but this isn't a religious exercise. Just cut down your expenses and keep an eye out. You'll spot your friends if you look hard enough.
2. Learn. Learn. Learn
Pick up a book on a worthwhile subject, a service that people need, and start reading. You can go one of two ways here. Some people may prefer to become essential experts in their profession. Others, like myself, prefer the versatility that comes from having experience and expertise across a broad number of platforms. If you really want to withdraw, start working on your CCIE (about a 4 year process), and then you can telecom to work. Then you won't have to endanger your life on those unsafe government-owned roads every day. But I digress. The point is that no matter what you do, do it well - very well. The information in your head can be used in trade at some point in the future. I can not stress enough the importance of being a technician. If you can fix problems, you can work. That will always hold true. Can you troubleshoot? Do you enjoy it? Then get a technical skill. At the entry level of any field, competition is plenty and jobs are scarce, but the higher you go with your technical skill, the number of doors open to you increase exponentially. Don't waste your time learning about how to "manage" others. Leadership in the corporate/State world isn't real leadership. It's asset management and it requires only the skill of being able to spit B.S. to whomever will listen. This is why they get laid off in droves when a company downsizes. This is why State bureaucrats can never find a job on the outside.
3. Get off the dole
I faced poverty - stared it right in the face. I didn't like it. In fact, I hated it. I hated it so much that it drove me to bust my tail for two years to escape it. I haven't stopped busting my tail since because I never wanna face it again. I don't know what keeps people poor, but opportunity isn't one of them. I suspect they don't hate it enough.
But in order to get off the State handout system, you may need to face poverty. If you currently work for the State, finding a job in the private sector is impossible at your current pay level. Why? Because you are ridiculously overpaid. If you are accepting other benefits that you would like to cut off, finding replacements may bankrupt you. Getting off the dole means poverty.
But as someone once told me, "being poor is a temporary condition. Poverty is a state of mind." Consider your situation to be temporary, stare it right in the face, and you have a chance. Heck, I did it and believe me, I'm no freaking rocket scientist. Do you want to know how stupid I am? I once thought it was a good idea to volunteer for mine finding duty.
So now you have put together your plan and you are taking action to free yourself from the State. You are that much closer to personal victory. What's next?
In nearly every community in America, there is someone that holds liberty as the highest ideal. Find that person. Let them know you are there. That is all you have to do. Sometimes, the only thing that lonely humans need in this world is the knowledge that they are not completely alone. Just knowing that there is another person in your neighborhood, town, or county can be the encouragement a fellow libertarian needs to take action. Let them know you're there. Say thanks. The rest will take care of itself. (This advice may seem vague to you but I guarantee that many libertarians know exactly what I'm talking about. You'll get it one day.)
Global victory involves activism - actively seeking out people in power and attempting to influence them or actively seeking to influence the structure of power itself. The level to which you will engage in these activities will depend on your personal philosophy and your means. If you are apolitical like myself, you may seek only to block power by supporting liberty minded candidates. If you are a minarchist, contesting the power structure directly is perhaps more suitable.
The key to activism is education and dialogue, and education starts with you. If you don't know what you're talking about, you're not much help. Expect to learn something, talk about it, get stumped, research, learn more, get stumped again, and on and on until you have a solid foundation of core beliefs. The rhetorical tricks of the State are no match for a person with a solid grasp of the fundamental truths of the situation and the philosphical beliefs of the antagonists. Pick a subject that is very important to you (obviously mine are monetary policy and war), and visit the Mises bookstore, search Amazon, and hit the library. No matter what matters most to you, there is another libertarian out there that has shared your concerns and written about it. Perhaps you'll be the next Stephan Kinsella, revolutionizing libertarian thought, like he did with his analysis of copyright law. The point is that engaging in educational discourse requires a fair amount of knowledge. Only NYC and DC public school teachers can get away with a half arsed effort.
Expect ignorance. Remember my story above regarding my decision to join the Marines. The only thing I "knew" about libertarians was that they smoked pot. Honestly. So you're going to run into that a lot. Most people have no clue what we believe. They've never heard of the Non-Aggression Principle. They don't know the difference between rights and privileges. You have to teach the simple stuff before you start talking about how egalitarianism is a revolt against nature.
Embrace decentralization in libertarian efforts. We don't form committees to replace the trial and error method. We use the trial and error method. Ron Paul's blimp might have sucked, but the decentralized campaign hit a lot of home runs too. The entreprenuerial method of trial and error is the key to beating the State in the political arena. Just look at the results. In 2004, the LP presidential candidate received 397,000 votes in the general election. Ron Paul received over a million in the primary. Nobody votes in the primary, and many libertarians couldn't even vote for Ron Paul in closed state elections if they wanted to. Those primary results were a significant leap forward. Support decentralization and the libertarian political movement will continue to grow by leaps and bounds. Embrace central planning and you'll end up with Statist hacks masquerading as libertarians.
Finally, have patience. You need lots of patience. For many, the tipping will come only when they are faced with tyranny right smack in the mouth. When that day comes you will be more prepared. Continue to seek personal, community, and global victory a little at a time. Focus on yourself and your family first. Then start reaching out. You can't change the world, but you can have an impact.
In the comments below, I welcome any criticisms and ideas from the experience of fellow libertarians.
David in Qatar