Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Letter to a libertarian

"Do you believe political solutions are capable of regaining our lost liberties in this lifetime?" A week or so ago, a libertarian net acquaintance asked me that question in an email exchange. The response I gave him is reproduced here with some slight revisions like replacing his name with an ellipsis (...) and in like manner removing some very personal references as well as some spelling corrections.

The trick here, ..., is that there aren't a lot of good tactical options. And, there is no "one thing" that will do the trick. There are multiple things that need to be done but the list you pull from depends on whether you are an optimist or pessimist, a pacifist or revolutionary.

One thing that seems to me to be essential for any strategy is education. Overcoming the statist bias of our Prussian model education system will expand the numbers of people who recognize the problems. Frontal assault on the schools is not too useful, although educating teachers may help. But encouraging alternative education structures - private schools, religious schools, homeschooling - would help. For this reason, tactical support for vouchers (if they are set up in the relatively hands-off manner of the GI-Bill education benefits) may be very helpful in the longer term, even though ending government education funding would be more pleasing philosophically (it certainly is not attainable at this time). Other educational efforts aimed at the younger generation include essay and scholarship contests on libertarian and constitutional themes, youth-oriented web sites dealing with suitable topics from lib or con perspectives, participating in forums and chat rooms, etc.

Adult education efforts would add to this increasing the reach of magazines, web sites, etc. with congenial philosophical orientations, getting some telegenic spokesmen on the rolodexes of the media, etc.

What one does besides education depends on how far gone the situation is. If they are coming to get you next month, emigrate. If they are coming to get you next week, head for the hills. If they are at your door, some more desperate - that is to say, suicidal - action might seem appropriate. By definition, these are all rather unappealing alternatives or else one would have implemented one of them already. That is why we try education first - to have more support in the struggle, to put off the crisis, or to turn it around.

There are two possibilities for turning things around. One involves conventional politics. It is tedious, boring, and messy, but not hopeless. After all that is how we got into this mess, so we might get out the same way. Political action requires a lot of hard work and compromises - incrementalism, to reverse the Fabian socialist method that has been used against our liberties for over a century.

The other way to turn things around is revolution. Frankly, I do not think things are anywhere near that far gone that one could possibly be justified in advocating something as drastic as blood in the streets. This is not to say that the proximate outrages of the British Crown in in the 1760s and 70s were not much less than we put up with today, but there was this huge difference - our forebearers had no participation in the British Parliament that authorized those outrages whereas we do have full participation in the US Congress.

Something you wrote a while back ... seems to indicate that you think the state will somehow whither away. While I don't think this will happen; I will say that, if it does, the next government will be formed by whichever group is best organized and most willing to shed innocent blood. I doubt that will be you and your friends, ..., nor will it be me and mine.

So, to answer the question you asked, are "political solutions ... capable of regaining our lost liberties in this lifetime?" I don't know. But politics is what I know and argument is what I still have to offer, so that is the path I must take. I know only a little of violence, but enough to know that I would prefer to avoid it and won't be much use at it any more. I honestly don't see any other option that doesn't involve giving up and moving away ....


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