"It [government] covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting: such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to be nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd." ~ Alexis de Tocqueville
Should We Be Optimistic?
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It doesn't seem impossible that libertarian ideas might someday become popular, in the sense of having a significant influence on people as a whole. Just how likely that prospect is, well, still seems low to me. As much as I'd like to believe folks are rational enough to appreciate the benefits of liberty, I have no reason to believe it will happen anytime soon.
Certainly, our numbers are growing in absolute terms but probably not increasing in proportion. Our intellectual adversaries have all the advantages for propagating a zeitgeist favorable to them, not the least of which is a thoroughly deluded population. It's not just that they're maleducated and uninformed, it's that their very minds, some might well say their souls, have been successfully corrupted. One sufficiently cynical could say that their essential nature makes them susceptible and that's a topic in itself, and I greatly fear that investigating that proposition would lead us to a depressing conclusion indeed.
Regardless of whether our fellow subjects are hapless victims or natural slaves, there's no question of the despicable evil of our supervisors. That they would take advantage of the innocent credulity of our fellows is morally abhorrent. Sadly, it is a measure of the extent of the corruption of otherwise good people that they participate so easily and eagerly in their own exploitation and degradation.
It has been well said elsewhere that the state no longer requires a force of jackboots to impose its authority, for the people will do it themselves in an almost Stepford manner, and that moral corruption is a labor saving device for the state. The more one thinks about it, the more obvious it appears.
It's been my experience that libertarians are always wondering why folks just don't get it. The advantages, indeed the morality, of liberty are obvious to us, so oughtn't it be obvious to everyone else? Ought that it be so, it just isn't. People are strange, says the poet.
So here's a tough problem to ponder. Just how complicit are our countrymen in their own subjugation? Should we simply feel sorry for the way they've been duped by a perfidious gang, or is a more stern attitude appropriate? Should it be pity, or tough love? It seems to me that the fact that their acceptance of tyranny drags the rest of us down with them gives me standing to complain in no uncertain terms. But whether or not I should cash that check is conditioned by requirements of tactics as well as good manners. Clearly they could, and they ought, to at least see things as they are if only to show some respect for the truth. No one could fault them for declining to take action if they at least learned to recognize truth and call a spade a spade even though they had not the stomach for substantial resistance.
Now clearly if sufficient numbers of us rightly conclude that the system we endure is unacceptable, then the risks of resistance vanish. We don't need to storm the Bastille to get our freedom back. All we need to do is withdraw our consent to be pushed around and used as a means to others' ends. In this sense, our enemy is not ultimately the state itself, but our fellow slaves who empower our masters by granting them the assumption of good faith.
This is the libertarian's curse. Having eaten of the tree of knowledge, he must now endure the belly ache that comes from living outside the garden of blissful ignorance. All around him are those who simply will not acknowledge the evidence of their eyes. Then they effectively compel him to share with them the hell of their own making, of which he wants no part.
Can we ever rouse our fellows to appreciate and sincerely want the freedom that is our common birthright? Lack of courage can't prevent others from adopting libertarian principles, for no physical courage is required. But when folks have become so utterly morally corrupt that they can't even universally apply the Golden Rule, casually exempting our supervisors from its simple and elegant requirements, how can we have hope?
It is intellectual courage that is required. I very much doubt that that quality can be taught to others, especially when those others have no interest. As long as we all remain enslaved by the will of the majority, we will be at the mercy of the worst characteristics of mankind.