"Mankind are greater gainers by suffering each other to live as seems good to themselves, than by compelling each to live as seems good to the rest." ~ John Stuart Mill
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There was a little adverse reaction to my June article on Strike The Root, How We Can Get There From Here, by some skeptical of its success because its growth projections appeared too similar to those of the notorious "multi-level" marketing schemes (MLMs) that once filled our email inboxes. It was rightly observed that most of those are spectacular failures.
So I'd like to examine here what merit is contained in that view.
First, a quick reminder of what's proposed--and it originates in an earlier piece, The Power of One. It's quite simple: I suggested that every advocate of a free, zero-government society should set him- or herself the task of re-educating one of his friends per year, to the point that he can do the same. Easy though that task should be, given the rich resource of good literature available and given the rapidly increasing chaos and violence produced daily by government as a valuable though negative visual aid, in TOLFA I tried to make it much easier yet by providing, online, all the teaching materials one may need, arranged in a logical sequence and straightforward to learn in depth.
Given then the ease of the task, the math is simple; the population of thoroughly well-informed freedom-seekers would double every year, to 220 or one million after 20 years, for each person who starts this year. If 250 start, then the whole literate US population would desire a free society by 2026, and when everyone wants one, there will be nobody left to stop us getting it; the task will be over and we'll all start living free. There's more detailed math here for those who wish it.
Now, to what extent does this compare or contrast with MLMs?
Multi-Level Marketing plans are generally hothouse plants. Whereas in TOLFA, all members are asked to take the learning process steadily and thoroughly and then (only then!) to find one friend per year to do the same (okay, I actually hope it will be one every 6 months so that freedom will arrive in my lifetime as well as yours, but never mind). MLMs scream Get Rich Quick slogans from the rooftops and pressure every new recruit to find five more suckers in the first month and just let the mind boggle at the thought of your fortune when those five have found five more, and so on down seven "levels." Never mind what the product is, just enthuse about how much money can be made--and don't forget to sign your $1,000 membership check nor to send it Express. And so, with sufficiently skilled application of pressure, indeed the plant will bloom; then eventually the eager participants run out of market and can't recall what it is they are supposed to be selling and sadly write off another $1,000 and clear out the garage of the latest unsold widgets. The plan originators, meanwhile, have done very well indeed; each program does create millionaires; or one, at any rate. The similarity of this to the government's "Social Security" scheme is creepy.
True, there are a few real successes. Amway is well known; they market a range of perfectly reasonable, genuine products at competitive prices and a large number of participants make a respectable living and several, I hear, have done very well. Tupperware is another success story; so is Avon Cosmetics. So MLMs are not all failures. The key ingredients for success seem to me to be (a) a desirable product range, with merit in itself (you might buy one even if not interested in recruiting other salesmen) and (b) a realistic, somewhat low-key commission plan for finding new representatives and sharing in their profits.
Which of these two models does freedom fit?
I hardly need elaborate on the answer. The "product" is nothing less than liberty itself, the ability (and not just the right) to own and operate one's own life, one's own way. It is priceless; the most valuable thing in the world. Nobody ever values anything higher than himself, right? And the associated "product" is knowledge and understanding of that freedom. Most STR folk reading this want freedom to run our own lives, and resent government's interference in that basic right; but how many of us could prove from basic premises that such a society alone is consistent with human nature; that it's impossible to maintain intellectual integrity without such a belief in individual freedom? The School has no lesser aim than to equip every graduate with that understanding.
So that first criterion for a successful venture is fulfilled in spades. How about the second--a low-key expansion plan? I don't know about you, but would respectfully suggest that if every knowledgeable, passionate freedom-seeker reading these words cannot gently persuade one of his 200 or so friends every year to take a free, world-changing course online then really, we don't deserve to be free. What could be simpler, or more unhurried? To work carefully through TOLFA's 18 segments takes maybe a couple of months; add as much again to study a fair selection of the "further reading" material recommended and graduation well within half a year should be a no-brainer. So one cycle a year has at least 100% redundancy built in. Yes, I'd really like to live free, so if you're already on board, please set that target at two per year.
So with due respect to my critics--whose initial concern was perfectly fair--I reject this comparison outright: there is none. Not only has every other way of dismantling government been tried and failed; not only is there no other credible suggestion even on the table; this way has all the requirements for slow, steady, unstoppable success. So I'll end with a caution: the aim of the School is primarily to teach, then secondarily to provide this mechanism for growth. First and foremost, we freedom-seekers absolutely need to get the homework done. We need to know, in some depth, exactly why a zero-government society is the only way to save humanity from either nuclear extinction or abject slavery, to one of which governments are obviously leading it. That is why the School will provide its own motivation for introducing others; once you and I know that, deep inside, we'll be unable to keep silent.