The Crisis of Liberty

It's been a few months since I last posted here; so I should probably explain what I've been doing; and hopefully these aren't subjects already covered. You might say I've dropped out, at least temporarily, from political activism to take a step back and examine where I think things stand as of now.

  Honestly, I think the picture is not very good. I joined the libertarian movement in the middle 1980s, while still in high school. I volunteered for Ron Paul in 1988; and Harry Browne in 1996 and 2000. I supported Ron Paul in 2008. Here, though, are some conclusions I've drawn, and please feel free to opine on them:

  1. The libertarian movement is effectually dead. The LP has been completely hijacked by apparatchiks of Newt Gingrich's; men like Grover Norquist, Wayne Root, and others. I have participated on 'libertarian' discussion forums (elsewhere) where Corporate Statism is openly preached; 'libertarians' who see no problem with national IDs; the Patriot Act; torture; or many other precepts openly inimical to liberty. In 2008, the LP officially renounced its position on the non-initiation of force. This is no longer (generally) the same party of men like Harry Browne or Karl Hess.

  2. At the risk of sounding elitist; I have come to have serious doubts about the American people's willingness or ability to embrace genuinely libertarian principles. The elections of the last 30 years illustrate that people are participating in political events no differently than they do in interactive 'reality' TV series; celebrity appeal carries the arguments. Study after study show that Americans are functionally illiterate and have no scientific, economic, or geopolitical knowledge whatsoever.

  It seems to me that, in light of these things, we may need to begin considering moving away from political activism and begin preparing for a post-libertarian America. The social trends seem inevitable, but I would really like some feedback on these thoughts.

Dear Eric,

Thank you for your post. I read it with interest. However, I feel that you have stated the problem, which I personally feel we at LPSF struggle with at every meeting, but you have stopped short at a solution. Or did I miss the meaning of a "post-libertarian America?" It would seem to me that we have been living in an "un-libertarian America" since the 1930's, already. As an aside, I do not recall at the moment who Karl Hess is, or when the LP literally repudiated the non-aggression principle.

Glad you returned to our Discussion Group. We can use new perspectives.

Regards,

Marcy

Hi Marcy;

   At this point, I haven't really come up with a solution, though I'm open to discussing possibilities. I think where I'm leaning right now is for libertarians to abandon the fight and concentrate on survival.

   While it's true that America has been trending away from liberty since the 30s, the real anti-liberty momentum has come within the last couple of decades. The enormous combination of corporate cash and overwhelming government power has really made any type of resistance to the Oligarchy futile.

Hi Eric,

If I understand you correctly, you might be suggesting that libertarians abandon the *public* fight and concentrate on the *personal* fight. Hopefully, your suggestion might include legal tax avoidance, moving your residence to less restrictive areas, and finding other ways of living out of the grid.

Some folks have made that choice, folks I know personally. I have not, and will not, make that choice. Just my nature.

But, as I believe you have intimated, given the dwindling ranks of Libertarians (big L), this elephant in the room might be going ignored at Libertarian's peril.

Regards,

Marcy

Eric,

  The problems you mention are real, but I think you overstate them somewhat. I believe the fight to keep the Libertarian Party libertarian is totally winnable, simply because the number of people involved is not that great. A few dozen extra delegates to the next national convention who were committed to strong, principled libertarianism and a party with integrity would make all the difference. The LP's platform was gutted in 2006 and is a shadow of what it once was, however the Preamble, the Statement of Principles, and the Pledge remain unchanged, and thus the party has *not* officially renounced or abandoned its position on the non-initiation of force, even though I'm sure some like Wayne Root would be happy for it to do so. Grover Norquist has zero involvement with the LP that I am aware of -- if you have info to the contrary, I encourage you to post it.

  As for the United States, it's certainly true that political ignorance is widespread, but I nevertheless think libertarian sentiment is growing, not decreasing. The high level of grassroots support for the 2008 Ron Paul campaign is perhaps the most visible sign that more people than ever in this country believe in freedom, even if we are a minority. The United States is also not the entire world -- we should not assume that the libertarian revolution will happen here first, or that the cause will succeed or fail based on what happens in the U.S. And remember how quickly the Soviet Union fell apart, and how generally unexpected this occurrence was. The United States could also change quite rapidly.

  Regardless of what the big picture looks like, it's always possible to make a difference as an individual by speaking out in favor of freedom when and where you have the opportunity to do so, and helping people better understand what's going on one at a time who show a capacity and willingness to learn.

Love & Liberty,
        ((( starchild )))

P.S. - Karl Hess was a former leading Libertarian activist and editor of LP News prior to his death (1995?). He is best known as the speechwriter for Barry Goldwater who penned the words, "Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice, and moderation in pursuit of justice is no virtue." He also gave the LP its first (and only) electoral vote in the 1972 presidential election when he switched his support from Nixon.

Starchild & Marcy;

   I think that what you are saying was true a couple of years ago; but today Corporate America has become even more powerful than the government itself. Remember how Ron Paul was blacked out by the Corporate Media in 2008? Or how his Tea Party movement was absorbed by the Gingrichites? With the Citizens United decision, it is even worse today. I've spoken to some Democratic Party operatives who've told me that they are being so heavily outspent by corporate dollars that they have a genuine concern about the future of representative government. Even in the Republican primaries so far, moderate/ establishment candidates have been buried by right-wing fanatics with fat chequebooks.

   Among the media, it is no different. Corporate America sinks billions into these propaganda outlets, even subsidising them when they lose money. They can simply outspend any opposing network into bankruptcy. They also subsidise phony 'think-tanks' and hire bloggers and trolls to spread their lies across the Internet.

   How is it possible to compete against this kind of power?

   The point that I think I'm driving towards is that I've come to believe that the Republic is on the verge of complete collapse. I think it is entirely probable that we will be under a dictatorship well before 2020. I'm not certain that activism, at this point, is accomplishing much more than painting targets on our backs for what will be little more than a mopping-up operation on the few opponents who remain in the future corporate state. I'm not really sure HOW to go about it; but I'm thinking that the focus should shift from activism to dissent in light of these new paradigms.

  What are your thoughts on this?

Hi Eric,

Again, thank you for pointing to all kinds of elephants in the room. I don't feel Libertarians have done this enough! You asked for our thoughts, so here are my personal two cents:

1. Your suggestion to move from activism to dissent is not at all clear to me. As a political organization, we are stuck with supporting/opposing candidates, issues, and the like.

2. In my view the challenge is not Corporate America, Big Government, or any of the other "enemies of liberty." The problem is a population of voters who are oblivious to the downside of their apathy and/or greed. We have become a nation of takers -- give me health care, give me a good retirement -- who do not wish to pay for their benefits (as Europeans do).

3. Nothing has changed for the last 30 or so years, only the trends have become unsustainable.

4. What to do? Me, I will keep up the current type of activism we engage in the LPSF targeted to the folks described above, and support folks like Ron Paul. Until I see a better plan.

Marcy

Eric,

  Ron Paul may not have gotten as much coverage in the mainstream media as he deserved in 2008, but there was hardly a blackout. I challenge you to find me a major news outlet in this country which did not mention his campaign. And "Corporate America" might be more powerful than the U.S. government in the sense that Catholics are collectively "more powerful" than the Vatican, but comparing these forms of power is comparing apples and oranges. One has a centralized command structure and the other does not. Individual companies are subject to the laws of government, not the other way around. "Corporate dollars" are not spent in an organized, unified fashion, and "Corporate America" is not united behind a particular agenda the way an administration is.

  I agree the Tea Party movement has in a sense been hijacked from its more libertarian roots, but those responsible were generally grassroots conservatives, not the Republican establishment. The movement is proving to be a major headache for that establishment a much as a boon. Certainly corporate money continues to flow much more heavily to incumbent establishment politicians of both parties than to Tea Party candidates.

  The "republic" may indeed be in serious trouble, but I'm not sure how a cessation of libertarian activism would be anything but counter-productive. Activism is not a thing apart from dissent, but is in fact a form of it. What type(s) of dissent do you think we should be engaging in rather than activism?

  As to fear, one of the few things I like that FDR said was his quote about the only thing we have to fear being fear itself. Ernest Hancock starts his radio show with a moving speech from "The Matrix Reloaded" about not being afraid. Paradoxically, visibility may be one of the best insurance policies for dissidents. Authoritarian regimes are often reluctant to go after high-profile opposition figures because of the negative publicity it will bring them. One of my favorite recently discovered slogans is "The more visible we are, the stronger we become."

  But activism need not necessarily mean visibility. If you are truly worried about "painting a target on your back", there are lots of ways you can contribute to the freedom movement without being open and public about it, such as giving behind-the-scenes support, making lots of small donations to different projects, or speaking out publicly but anonymously or under a pseudonym like libertarian writer Claire Wolfe.

Love & Liberty,
        ((( starchild )))

Just a thought on "painting a target on our backs" -- The Bay Area Patriots are extremely active under Sally's excellent leadership, even though they are cognizant of a possible future challenge that activists might face. Their best defense if a good offense. They are out there doing their best to mow down the opposition!

Marcy

Nicely said Starchild....

Michael Denny

Thanks Eric...succinctly said. And sadly, your predictions ring true. While you project to the point of "dictatorship", we should probably be thinking after that. We are the Remnant. Our role is to keep the faith through thick and thin. We must do this so we can be there to facilitate change when the tide of human consciousness swings our way, perhaps post-dictatorship. The Bible suggests this Remnant theme is consistent throughout history and the population of Remnants is much larger what any individual Remnant knows. The Remnant is also keenly aware of ideas not pure to our principle although they might not say anything. We are not all martyrs.

I heard a Libertarian sound bite today from a movie (V ? ) where the speaker said "We are disturbed about what you are doing, but we are not afraid."...or something like that. That seems a good message for all of us. We can't be afraid. Look at what Wikileaks has accomplished in just a few months....freakin Front Page news. We are making progress and winning battles. And even if we end up like Braveheart, in the end, his people were freed.

Be careful. Be concerned. But please don't compromise your values for power or worst of all, Give UP. This would cost you the title of Remnant.

Call me if you want to have lunch and discuss with others on this list. Sounds like fun.

Michael Denny

Hi Mike:

   Those were some good points, and probably said what I was trying to say better than I was doing. The only problem is that dictatorships tend to be completely unpredictable because the establishment of one is the vector of collapsed democracy; so planning post- dictatorship is a difficult process until we see what form the collapse will utltimately assume. I tend to think, based on sociological trends, that it will be right-wing in character.

   As for giving up, I doubt if I could. I may go on these long hiatuses occasionally; but eventually if I don't have political enemies actively plotting against me, I feel somehow unfulfilled! LOL

   Thanks for your lunch invite too; I think I'll take you up on it when I'm around SF next time.