"Socialism, like the ancient ideas from which it springs, confuses the distinction between government and society. As a result of this, every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all. We disapprove of state education. Then the socialists say that we are opposed to any education. We object to a state religion. Then the socialists say that we want no religion at all. We object to a state-enforced equality. Then they say that we are against equality. And so on, and so on. It is as if the socialists were to accuse us of not wanting persons to eat because we do not want the state to raise grain." ~ Frederic Bastiat
I Want Liberty and I Want It NOW' - A Futile Goal?
I've been a libertarian since 2002, and became a market anarchist within the past six months. Naturally I value the full and complete exercising of one's self-ownership and the elimination of the initiation of force against life, liberty and property.
As market anarchists, we would all rejoice at the eradication of the state. However, how close is such an occurrence? Could market anarchists across the world possess the opportunity to witness (or perhaps live in) a wholly voluntary society in our lifetimes?
We have lost (for the time being)
Market anarchists everywhere, in all honesty, must admit that we have lost in our cause to advance liberty, voluntarism and the stateless society. Why have we lost? Well, the presence of big, intrusive and coercive government is all around us. I live in the United Kingdom , so I shall use this country as an example. As in all Western liberal democracies, the size of government has grown radically over the past decades.
During the first decade of the century, the British government was relatively small despite the cost of maintaining a large colonial empire. Expenditure rose rapidly to finance the WWI effort, and in the 1920's/Great Depression era was higher on average than the first decade, since the Liberal Party during the First World War had implemented the beginnings of a welfare state. State expenditure rose to fund the WWII effort, and from the end of the war to the end of the century, governmental spending met a mean level of 30 ' 50%. Since 1945, British governments have also created the National Health Service, been subject to EU regulations and other instances that have increased the size and scope of government. Naturally, similar patterns have occurred in most first world nations during the same period. In recent times, the Labour government in Britain has sought to curb civil liberties in the name of 'counter-terrorism.'
If we use the USA as an example, then one can trace a gradual growth of the size and scope of government over the past several decades. President Bush's administration has also sought to lessen civil liberties, in order to counter the threat of Islamist terrorism. Clearly the global political climate is not one conducive to liberty or the creation of market anarchy.
The mentality of people around the world is overwhelmingly and predominantly statist. So then, can schemes that attempt to deliver 'liberty in our lifetime' actually be viable? The 'Free State Project' in New Hampshire is a leading model of such a programme. 20,000 liberty-minded individuals will seek residence in New Hampshire, in order to create a libertarian-oriented society within that state. This approach may seem promising to some, nonetheless I can conceive of a few stumbling blocks that may hinder its progress:
1 ' If New Hampshire does become the most 'libertarian' of the 50 states, then initially it may attract new businesses and other opportunities. However, the naysayers of libertarianism might capitalise on the opportunity to rebuke the state and to discredit libertarianism. 'Oh look, those people in New Hampshire let their people take all sorts of drugs' or 'Those people in New Hampshire don't force their children to attend school' may be common retorts from those seeking to undermine and annihilate libertarianism. The public image of New Hampshire could be tarnished if such people were successful in their actions.
2 ' Some members of the Free State Project are advocating secession, so New Hampshire can eventually become a sovereign libertarian state. Would the federal government even permit a state to secede? It is possible that a future US president could use military force in order to quash and extinguish any secessionist feeling within New Hampshire . Would members of the Free State Project really be prepared to die in order to protect New Hampshire 's sovereignty? If the federal government does employ force to quell rebellion, then this situation becomes a real possibility.
In short, attempts to attain liberty 'now' will be hindered by the status quo of anti-libertarianism that exists in the world today. A long-term strategy is evidently needed if we as market anarchists are going to implement our values.
Winning the 'battle of ideas'
Since the world is against us, it may be more prudent to alter hearts and minds over extended periods of time. Organisations such as the Advocates for Smaller Government must be commended in this context, since they are dedicated to the gradual education of people into accepting libertarian values, rather than seeking a 'quick fix' to execute liberty.
The British-based Libertarian Alliance has formulated a strategy that seeks to gradually persuade the political class into putting into practice libertarian values. They disapprove of party politics, refrain from arguing over petty differences in belief and look towards winning over minds by making periodic media appearances.
Certainly party politics hasn't aided in spreading libertarian thought to the masses. Costa Rica is the only country with a successful libertarian party. Granted, it may be hypocritical for a market anarchist to run for office. Nevertheless, political outreach may be a fruitful means of spreading market anarchist values. For one, there may be a number of people in society who already possess a healthy distrust of government or are irate in regards to the continual growth of the state. We could succeed in promoting market anarchist ideals if we can reach out to such people, and to demonstrate that they aren't alone in their thoughts. We would also be securing the next generation of market anarchists, who shall continue to disseminate market anarchist principles long after the current generation is dead.
Freedom in your OWN life
It's probably a natural trait amongst libertarians to be excited by instituting a libertarian society. However, personal freedom (i.e., freedom within your own daily life) is as of much consequence as political freedom. Given that we have lost in the near future, is it entirely rational to continually seek the widespread implementation of liberty?
Stefan Molyneux, a market anarchist writer and podcaster based in Canada, has spoken extensively on this issue. Within his podcasts, he mentions that libertarian values can be applied to your personal life, as well as to society in general. In addition, he states that living a happy and content life through the practice of philosophy is paramount over seeking 'liberty in our lifetime.' Mr. Molyneux also stresses that personal liberty can arise from breaking from abusive families and being completely free in your daily actions, whilst recognising the rational consequences of such actions.
The late Harry Browne spoke of similar issues in his classic book How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World. In this book, he outlined several 'traps,' which he felt inhibited the freedom to live one's life as they chose. Ultimately, our time on this Earth is only finite. We, as market anarchists, perhaps should place greater emphasis on securing freedom within ourselves, before we attempt or seek to change the world around us. Is it worth being unhappy and unfulfilled in our own lives, given that the current world is not a fertile ground for liberty?
Achieving an instant and swift implementation of market anarchist ideas seems na've and myopic, at present. It is perhaps better to seek liberty in your own life, rather than attempting to alter the world around you. The eventual creation of market anarchy may be a long haul. We will all be better off if we realise this sooner, rather than later.