Very Special People


Column by Jim Davies.

Exclusive to STR

I've tried, but have not been able to agree with Paul Bonneau's recent article Libertarians Are Nothing Special. Quite the contrary, I think libertarians are extraordinarily special.
Many of us begin by taking an interest in the political scene, and vote for a libertarian candidate in some election. That's a mistaken strategy, yes, but as a starting point, as a step up from the drab wilderness of Demopublican uniformity? Wow, that's special! Someone has noticed that there's a profound problem with politics as usual and has separated himself from the mindless sheep who can bleat only Rrrrr or Deeee. There are around half a million of them, sometimes more, and that makes each one voter in a hundred. That isn't one in a million, but surely it's special. It's a beginning!
Then, some of those join the Libertarian Party and take some part in the thankless task of collecting ballot signatures or helping arrange publicity. There might be 30,000 of them. These people are actually trying to do something about it! Again, we can critique their choice of activity and regret that they didn't pick one more likely to produce a free society, but each is one in ten thousand of the population, and if that doesn't make a person special, what does?
Libertarians, some of them, take the trouble to educate themselves by regularly visiting sites like STR and by reading some of the outstanding library of books, written mainly during the last half century, that clarify their understanding of liberty--while their neighbors are glued to the idiot box. This marks a perception that they have been mis-educated all their lives, and they're working to correct that. It makes them special.
Some, further, happen to enjoy speaking or writing and manage to get access to a public forum like a newspaper column or a regular “letter to the editor,” or contribute articles here like Paul and myself. This is really useful, because if it's done reasonably well, it can cause readers to think, who might otherwise not have thought, about liberty and government; and I'd call that special indeed. Some may post clumsily to online forums, as Paul complains, but one has to start somewhere, and even that is usually better than staying silent. Writing makes Paul special, for example, even though he and I disagree on quite a lot.
Lastly I'll name the libertarians who are systematically learning the underlying theory of liberty on sites like the Freedom Academy, and having learned, are drawing their friends to do the same, on a regular basis. They are particularly special because that process of individual replication is what will bring about a popular refusal to work for government, and thereby cause its demise. We're causing a Quiet Revolution. Those people number a few thousand today and so are very special people, though when the job is done, everyone else will have the same status and so, while society will have been radically transformed, it will no longer be numerically correct to call them “special.”
Libertarians are a curmudgeonly lot, and some are more likeable than others and some, more effective than others; but in my opinion it's a big mistake to say we're “nothing special.” Like it or not, we alone are trying to repair the damage done by ten millennia of government. 

I'd say that makes us very special people. 

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Jim Davies's picture
Columns on STR: 243

Jim Davies is a retired businessman in New Hampshire who led the development of an on-line school of liberty in 2006, and who wrote A Vision of Liberty" , "Transition to Liberty" and, in 2010, "Denial of Liberty" and "To FREEDOM from Fascism, America!" He started The Zero Government Blog in the same year.
In 2012 Jim launched , to help lead government workers to an honest life.
In 2013 he wrote his fifth book, a concise and rational introduction to the Christian religion called "Which Church (if any)?" and in 2016, an unraveling of the great paradox of "income tax law" with "How Government Silenced Irwin Schiff."


Samarami's picture

Good essay, Jim. I'm presuming your supposed disagreement with Paul Bonneau's essay is more couch humor than specific disparity.

If there were difference between the two of you, it would be word usage. You each present from a different side of the room, but end up together in spirit.

And you both have a knack of inspiring the troops.


calinb's picture

Would you be willing to ignore the title of Paul's essay and merely evaluate its content? Even if libertarians and anarchists are special, Paul's point is they would promote liberty more effectively if they didn't think of themselves as the enlightened elite. I don't see that you are disagreeing with the examples and implications of the behaviors that Paul cited. Your disagreement seems to stem from your interpretation of the title of Paul's essay.

From his very first paragraph, "Libertarians (and anarchists) like to think of themselves as enlightened beings" Paul is not actually discussing whether or not liberty-minded people ARE special. Rather, he is discussing their actions, which are often unproductive and consistent with FEELING special.

Jim Davies's picture

Sorry, calinb, but no. I will not ignore the title of Paul's essay, for he put it there on purpose and a title serves the purpose of characterizing what follows - in this case, quite accurately. Paul asserted that libertarians are fault-ridden. He did so in his title, and he did so in the text. My article offered a counterpoint to both.

Of course it's possible to find fault with libertarians, and in his article he finds quite a lot. But like it or not, the single hope for liberty does rest with us, and fallible though we are, my perspective is one of optimism and pride and excitement that we have such a priceless opportunity.

He's right about one thing: the need to accentuate the positive, not just to pour scorn on the follies of statism. I have done that more than most, I think, by writing _A Vision of Liberty_ (see ) and other glimpses of what the coming free society will be like, but I also think it necessary to demolish the mythology by which our statist neighbors imagine that the present world is as good as it can get. Falsehood needs to be identified and torn down, before a true and rational structure can be erected in its place.

A particularly disappointing phrase comes in "Nothing Special", on which I didn't comment above: Paul shares his view that "I don’t think there will ever be a libertarian paradise, or some kind of utopia. Humans don’t have it in them..." Possibly that was just a slip of Paul's keyboard, but if it means what it seems to say - that freedom is incompatible with human nature - it reveals a gross, breathtaking misunderstanding of Para One, Lesson One of what the freedom philosophy is all about. I hope you don't share it.

Suverans2's picture

Speaking of "government...demise"...

    "All governments must have citizens in order to exist.
    If one calls himself a citizen, then he is actively choosing to participate in the government organization. If one does not wish to participate, he can simply stop calling himself a citizen. There is no paperwork to fill out. One can just walk away, and fix the thought within his mind that he is no longer participating in the imaginary hierarchical organization that is called government, and just like that, he is out. It is, after all, his innate human right to rule over everything within the lower realm of imaginary creations.
    Isn't it amazing just how powerful we are as sovereign human beings?" ~ Excerpted from A Theory of Natural Hierarchy and Government by tzo [Emphasis added]


Que sentit commodum, sentire debet et onus. He who derives a benefit from a thing, ought to feel the disadvantages attending it. 2 Bouv. Inst. n. 1433.