"[T]here are, at bottom, basically two ways to order social affairs, Coercively, through the mechanisms of the state -- what we can call political society. And voluntarily, through the private interaction of individuals and associations -- what we can call civil society. ... In a civil society, you make the decision. In a political society, someone else does. ... Civil society is based on reason, eloquence, and persuasion, which is to say voluntarism. Political society, on the other hand, is based on force." ~ Ed Crane
The Power of One
Exclusive to STR
Nobody is better qualified than my friend Per Bylund to propose, as he did in a recent STR article, that we who yearn for liberty "save the world through saving [our]selves." Per is not only a brilliant thinker and prolific author (in two languages!) he founded an anarchist website before many of us got our brains in gear and has engaged in debate there all comers from both Left and Right. More yet: he is the one who rallied 300 people to march for capitalism in a recent, freezing January in Stockholm , of all places! If you announced at any Stockholm cocktail party "I am a capitalist," a deathly hush would fall as everyone wondered if the cat had brought you in. Even the Conservatives in Sweden have to call themselves "Moderate" (moderately socialist, that is) in order not to be ignored. Sweden is where people write their newspaper editors to beg that taxes not be reduced!
So when Per says we need to stop trying to save the world, we should, like those hearing E.F. Hutton, take care to listen.
He's right, of course; it's impossible to save the world. Not all at once. Yes, anyone who tries will quickly exhaust himself. Much better for each to obtain and enjoy such freedom as he can, and then maybe a few will follow his example.
I'd like, though, to add a couple of thoughts.
The Shrinking Sandbar
For each freedom-lover to try to go where government ain't is a great idea, but it's as if he were standing on a sand bar in a rising tide. At first there's room to stretch, to run a mile before breakfast. Then the island shrinks. Then it affords standing room only. Finally it is swamped; and one is alone, with none to help form a chain to wade to dry land. Pastor Martin Niemöller put it well, in WWII: "First [his elected government] came for the Jews and I did not speak out, because I was not a Jew. Then they came for the Communists and I did not speak out, because I was not a Communist. Then they came for the trade unionists and I did not speak out, because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak out for me." The same applies to standing still as to "speaking out."
So if one were to argue that if you or I seek to live freely under its radar, government will leave us to do so in peace, I'd have to say that his premise has drifted a meter or two from its anchor. Rather, the nature of government is to creep into every nook and cranny of its pretended domain, to keep on growing until it controls 100% of everything and there is no place left to hide. If we preserve tax-free money offshore like Hillary Clinton and other low-life Pols, they will peek and poke and tweak the law so as to allow their friends to do it but not their enemies. And if they can't fashion laws to do the job, they will put on a show trial and convict an offshore practitioner pour encourager les autres with tricks in the courtroom as they did in the Schiff case; using the power of their judge to let the prosecutor speak but not the defendant, thereby imposing laws custom-made on the spot, for the purpose in view.
Living a bit more freely here and now without radical change to society is still just possible, but it's becoming less so every year. It's not a strategy we can recommend to our children or theirs.
The Compound Math
Here's my second thought: once we get our strategic vision clear and our mathematics straight, "saving the world" is not nearly as humongous a task as it may appear.
The vision thing is that everyone, being human, will be better off in a free society, and all we have to do is to understand his wants and needs and wishes well enough to show him how; in other words, to learn the art of salesmanship. We all need to be very clear on that, and some may have work yet to do: the self-ownership axiom necessarily means that all government is antithetical to human nature--to every human--and it's our job to show each that it's so.
And the math thing is the encouraging insight that we need do that only one at a time. Really? Yes, really! The idea is not new. Some call it compound arithmetic. Start with a small number of freedom lovers (such as members of the STR Forum, now over 2,000) and assume that each one reaches one new person per year and teaches him or her to reach and teach one person per year . . . using whatever resource each prefers. I have one ready, at The Anarchist Alternative--which should be something all here can embrace, with little controversial except perhaps its page on the hard question of children's rights. Such sites could serve as a textbooks, and be augmented by the large and superb existing library of pro-freedom literature.
The formula is F=2000 x 2*n (or 2000*2^n if you prefer), and the resulting progression is 4,000 after one year, 8,000 after two years, 16,000 after three years and so on. It would take just over 17 years to convert 300,000,000 Americans. That's converting just ONE per year, as above. That's the "power of one"; by 2022, we're all done. Notice again:
- nobody would need to reach and teach more than one person per year, for 17 years
- that modest workload would convert the entire society during that period
Notice too the other underlying assumption: that we get our strategy straight. By this I mean that we set out (with each one to whom we extend the helping hand) to sell him on the benefits to him that liberty would bring--and help him learn to do the same to one other, next and all subsequent years and in the meantime do nothing else in particular except to live as freely as he can in the circumstances, just as Per recommends.
To put it differently: I visualize an exponentially growing number of "sleepers." We'll rock no boats, we'll bust no guts. We'll go about doing ordinary jobs, keeping heads low and harming none. Some will actually work for government! We'll have to, for a large portion of the jobs open will be in the Parasite Sector, not the Productive Sector. But every one will have learned what freedom is like, and will be cultivating a powerful thirst for it, biding our moment.
Then that moment will come, when our numbers are overwhelming; and notice, we shall still do nothing violent, nothing outrageous. There will be no great "movement" which the cornered tyrant can decapitate with a single slash of his machete. We shall just spontaneously walk off the job, so leaving the old order armless, legless, gutless and brainless. Just like the Eastern Europeans walked off their plantation in 1989, only much more so; just like the heroes of Atlas Shrugged walked off their hopeless jobs, en route for Galt's Gulch--only in vastly greater numbers. Just like Etienne de la Boëtie proposed, over 400 years ago, we shall have withdrawn our support and the Colossus will, with an enormous thud, collapse.
And then we will trade with each other in peace. The long nightmare of the Age of Government will be over.