28) Coercion free for 70 years

Liberty Unbound

by Don Crawford

"For seven decades A.A. has been a natural laboratory for how civil

society can operate effectively without government authority. I've

been surprised, therefore, to have seen A.A. mentioned only once in

libertarian publications. It was in a rant that appeared some years

ago in Liberty, complaining about the apparent collusion between A.A.

and the judicial system: courts have sentenced people to attend A.A.

meetings, thereby enriching the organization. Having seen the

phenomenon of court-ordered attendance at A.A. meetings from the

inside, I found the rant deliciously ironic. People in trouble for

drunk driving are commonly assigned to attend some number of meetings,

over a period of time. The judge gives them a 'court card' to get

signed at each meeting they attend, and they return the completed card

as proof that they were there. The courts have a variety of

inducements, such as avoiding jail, to make sure that these cards are

returned completed. So here's the irony. There is nobody in charge at

A.A. No one ever signed a contract (who would be authorized to sign

it?) and agreed to do this service for the courts. In fact, there are

some folks in A.A. who don't think they should sign the cards -- and

this made for some interesting exchanges, like the following." (08/09)


Another fascinating article, Mike! I had no idea that Alcoholics Anonymous worked like this. I am frankly amazed on at least three points:

(1) How do the meetings by themselves raise enough surplus money to fund not only "rent" (meeting room rental fees?), but coffee (ironic, that, given that caffeine is addictive too!), homeless people taking money out of the baskets, but a permanent national and local offices stocked with literature?
(2) How is it that the courts still after all this time send people to get meaningless signatures to show they've attended AA meetings?
(3) How on earth could the controversy about the bookstore have dragged on for years if consensus in the end was so easily reached? Was it really AA's traditions in general, or something about that particular meeting?

  Like author Don Crawford, I too now wonder why we as libertarians haven't heard more about it. I think what I've understood to be AA's requirement -- maybe "tradition" would be a better way of describing it, if what Crawford says is correct -- of the "12 Step" approach (see http://www.aa.org/en_pdfs/smf-121_en.pdf) has a lot to do with it. I think many libertarians, including myself, find the traditional idea of God inherently authoritarian. Why should humans worship some external authority? But as I've gradually come around to a more spiritual way of thinking, the idea of god, or "higher power" to me doesn't necessarily mean something to be worshipped, at least not in an authoritarian sense of a power commanding your obedience. I look at it more like just something to remind you to feel small and humble and grateful and part of a larger, purposeful whole when you think of it, kind of like "The Force" in the Star Wars movies. The Jedi had a temple, but there was nothing about them worshipping The Force. It would be like worshipping life itself -- rather beside the point. So I find that if I take the idea of an anthropogenic God entity out of the 12 Steps and replace "Him" with something more like "positive energy in the universe and our own highest potential as an expression of it," the program seems a lot less objectionable.

  Naturally, I also wonder how much of AA's system of no officers, no membership rolls, strictly voluntary contributions from those involved only, could work for the LP or another libertarian organization.
Love & Liberty,
        ((( starchild )))

On the final note of AA being a possible model for the LP or other libertarian mass participation organizations, I forgot to mention also the part about seeking consensus rather than voting. I think there's something to be said for a consensus-based model, but I also found the phrase "substantial unanimity" a glaring contradiction in terms.

  Hopefully the address for Don Crawford I copied on this message belongs to the same person who wrote the Liberty article, and it is a working email. I would love to see him weigh in on my comments and questions below.

Love & Liberty,
        ((( starchild )))

Evidently it wasn't a working email, as it just came back undeliverable.

      ((( starchild )))

On Aug 16, 2009, at 6:18 AM, Starchild wrote (in part):

Yes, all of the @... domains have been dead for years. I was with AT&T Broadband Internet (attbi) until AT&T sold their cable internet operation to Comcast. They continued to forward email from attbi.com to comcast.com for about 18 months and then killed the forwarding order. That was at least six years ago, so this article has to be from 2003 or earlier (perhaps even from the 20th century).


Boy, that phrase "the 20th century" is starting to sound like ancient history already! The email address didn't come from the article though -- I searched and found it online on a candidate profile for an election in Washington state. So it's possibly not even the same Don Crawford, as the author was identified as living in Baltimore. But the odds of their being two active libertarian Don Crawfords seem slight, so I'm guessing it is him and he simply moved.

Love & Liberty,
        ((( starchild )))