"If the major opportunities for future growth of government lie in the area of conventional taxation, are there any defenses available to the citizenry? ... Perhaps the most fruitful advice comes in two parts. The first piece of advice is to avoid war and the rumor of war: this is history's greatest boon to the tax man. ... The second piece of advice is to seek ways of inhibiting government's ability conveniently to increase its collections. Possibly the very increase in that ability that is in prospect can be turned to account by a constitutional provision which forbade the income tax, and perhaps even the storage of information regarding individual incomes by third parties, including government." ~ Benjamin Ward
Striking at Roots, One at a Time
Exclusive to STR
Happy fifth birthday, Strike The Root.
The editors and readers of Strike The Root have had an awful lot to talk about over the past five years: 9-11 and the subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq; the latest cycle of acceleration in the growth of the Federal national security state with new departments and agencies like Homeland Security and the TSA; the enactment of such onerous laws as the PATRIOT Act and the No Child Left Behind Act ('No Child Left Alone' would be a more accurate name); the continuing war on private gun ownership; the enactment of a very costly new Medicare prescription drug subsidy; the ongoing war on drugs; the Federal Reserve's Magical Mystical Money-Making Machine; the Kelo case; the current war in the Middle East courtesy of the U.S. taxpayer-funded armaments industry; Uncle Sam's saber-rattling at Iran and Syria'the list is long. And all under a Republican administration! Remember when Republicans used to say that they were all for small and limited government? Bush is much more of a disciple of FDR and LBJ than he is of such noteworthy old-school small government conservatives like Robert Taft, though the philosophy of Bush and his neocon cronies isn't just 'guns 'n' butter,' it's 'missiles 'n' bombs 'n' inflation 'n' pharmaceuticals.' Those who spend the better part of their time tracking the growth of the U.S. Federal Megastate are quick to point out that these developments should come as no surprise, especially considering the historical fact that it was actually the Republicans, not the Democrats, who were the first major party of big government in the United States.
So here we are, five years later. The more things change, the more they stay the same'only more so.
So after five years, is Strike The Root having an impact? I think so. Is it 'changing the world?' Hardly, though I don't know what is really meant by 'changing the world,' and those 'progressive' left-liberals and neoconservatives who claim such a goal scare the livin' bejesus out of me, considering their blithe rationalizations for initiating force to achieve whatever fantastical, ideal global society they dream of in their reality-challenged imaginations. So then, just how is Strike The Root having an impact?
STR is making inroads one conscience at a time.
Once upon a time, I vaguely thought of myself as some sort of 'centrist Democrat.' An actor involved in the theater scene, I just assumed that naturally I must be 'liberal,' in the contemporary statist sense, which is the political disposition of most people in the arts. I reached such a conclusion without giving too much thought to any philosophical or moral principles'in other words, I chose to be ignorant. But after eight years of the Clinton administration and its many injustices, I gradually began to reassess. Then came 9-11 early on in the Bush administration and the subsequent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq , followed by the sweeping police state measures of the PATRIOT Act, all of which was favored by the vast majority of congressional Democrats. However ignorant I may have been at the time about the specifics of American politics, I had always been of the conviction that offensive war and authoritarianism is morally wrong, and the Democrats' refusal to act as a conscientious opposition to these things, particularly following the Clinton regime's many and varied crimes, alienated me from them once and for all. And so I searched for something else.
I had stumbled upon libertarian literature quite by accident at the Chicago public library while researching a stage role (ironically, the character was a deluded post-Soviet era Russian who was still stubbornly clinging to communist ideology). Out of curiosity, I picked up David Boaz's Libertarianism: A Primer in the political science section (though in hindsight I wish I had come across Murray Rothbard's more thorough and comprehensive For A New Liberty first). I then started searching the web for libertarian sites and it was through a Yahoo! discussion group for the Libertarian Party of Illinois that I first came across Strike-The-Root.com.
It was because of a wide array of books, articles and websites that I was eventually convinced of the philosophy of freedom. It made sense because it was philosophically and morally consistent'it did not contradict itself 'especially as presented by consistently principled individuals. The foundation of the philosophy is simply this: No one, but no one, has any right whatsoever to initiate any form of force, fraud or coercion against anyone else, and that naturally includes those individuals who gather together and comprise the institution called government and thereby carry out its legalized theft and bullying allegedly permitted them by virtue of the consent of a voting majority. Such a philosophy respected me and my rights as an individual, unlike the philosophies of neoliberalism and neoconservatism, both of which see me as a means to their proponents' ends'no thank you, I would prefer not to live in a social meat-grinder, if you don't mind. I became convinced that there's no more satisfying arrangement of social cooperation than freedom limited only by one's own legitimate responsibilities, rather than by the arbitrary whims of self-serving oligarchs and their sycophantic ass-kissers.
But it was specifically Strike The Root that cemented my conversion from mere minarchy to free market anarchy. Again, it's all about consistent application of principle, and I don't see how anyone who recognizes that government is an instrument for initiating force against some in order to benefit others can advocate the nebulous notion of merely downsizing the institution and still call themselves 'libertarian' or 'pro-freedom.' Expecting a government to roll back its self-granted power and privileges to some vaguely determined level of 'small' or 'limited' is as unrealistic as expecting a great white shark to simply swim away when it smells blood. Even if government managers could agree on a definition of 'small and limited' that does not make a mockery of those terms'and I don't think they can'they would never achieve it because it's just not in the nature of the beast. The writers of Strike The Root and the many and varied resources linked on its home page and blog, as well as the more than 3,000 people who participate in its discussion forum, helped me to understand that.
It's gratifying to frequently see more and more new columnists contributing to STR. I think we can take this as an indication that the ideas of peaceful, voluntary anarchy are gaining ground and that STR has been an important factor in bringing that about. We have tyranny in our midst largely because of the unfortunate fact that most people consent to it or condone it in one form or another, and that's why websites like Strike The Root are important. It's very difficult for many who value freedom to understand, but most of our fellow human beings simply do not desire true freedom, due to their delusion that government provides at least some physical and economic security, and so they are willing to give up many aspects of their liberty in exchange for those fleeting illusions. People all over the world need to be exposed to the philosophy of freedom so that they may understand that state tyranny is not a necessary or inevitable evil, nor would the disappearance of states mean a thousand years of darkness and plague upon the Earth, and that they can live in a world in which the legitimate rights of every individual human being are truly respected, but they have to consciously choose freedom in order to achieve that world. Freedom is a very scary leap of faith for most people as it entails a massive amount of personal responsibility and presupposes that there would no longer be anyone to go cry to for a hand-out forced out of someone else's pocket when things don't go their way, but the present path of statism is leading inexorably to an even scarier state of affairs: endless war, grinding poverty, mass imprisonment, slavery . . . and eventually, the end of civilization.
So keep telling your friends and family, keep e-mailing those links to STR articles to everyone in your address book. I don't think anyone who writes for this site is convinced that they're ending tyranny and despotism in our time, but what we are doing is making this appeal to the conscience of every person who visits the site: Choose truly voluntary arrangements, responsibility and mutual respect for individual rights and private property over the initiation of force, coercion, theft and violence. Choose freedom, not slavery. You're not anyone's property, and no one else is your property, either.
Keep striking at the roots of evil, one person at a time.
'Can there not be a government in which majorities do not virtually decide right and wrong, but conscience?'in which majorities decide only those questions to which the rule of expediency is applicable? Must the citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislator? Why has every man a conscience, then? I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward. It is not desirable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think right.' ~ Henry David Thoreau