"There are 10^11 stars in the galaxy. That used to be a huge number. But it's only a hundred billion. It's less than the national deficit! We used to call them astronomical numbers. Now we should call them economical numbers." ~ Richard Feynman
Exclusive to STR
June 15, 2007
It's just a year since I wrote to suggest how we can get there from here, so I thought you'd like to know that the project is proceeding nicely. In response to that announcement, about as many as I had hoped joined the Academy it introduced, and that one-time boost will bring forward by several years the day that government evaporates; it's still too early to estimate the annual replication rate, but site-usage statistics suggest that the anticipated 2:1 is not far wrong.
The idea is simple: students join for free, work diligently and without hurry through its 18 segments and learn why market anarchism is not just a good option, but logically the only option consistent with reason, intellectual integrity, human nature and the survival of the race. After graduation, they are asked to do two things:
* Find at least one of their friends per year to join the Academy and guide them through it, and otherwise
* Enjoy a normal life, preparing for the coming free society but taking no unusual action except to quit any government job they may hold
Nothing else is needed, yet this will fulfill the three indispensable prerequisites for a free society:
1. The entire literate population must gain a good understanding of freedom and therefore desire to experience it
2. They must all gain it within about one generation, so that momentum doesn't dissipate, and
3. The whole institution of government must cease to exist
No other strategic plan I have heard of, past or present, even addresses all those requirements--and so while most of them help, no other pro-freedom activity can possibly bring about a free society, and at present, TOLFA is the only show in town. (Indeed, one danger is that the FedGov is making such an appalling mess that it may collapse in chaos before a universal re-education has taken place, and the result of that would be something very different from freedom.)
So far, to my knowledge the Academy has suffered only a very few failures, and they were of people who declined to apply themselves by engaging the brain, doing the work it prescribes and following the logic. Instead they retained whatever mythology with which they entered the process, and rushed through the curriculum like bats out of hell.
Those few apart, growth is proceeding well, so let's fast-forward 15 years to about 2022. Instead of there being just a few thousand well-informed market anarchists in America as today, the quiet, systematic, unspectacular one-on-one introduction to The On Line Freedom Academy by each of its graduates each year will have grown that number to six or seven million. Still not nearly enough, of course, to replace government with a free market--and probably not even enough to be noticed by government as a potential threat to its continued existence; and that's just fine--not hearing the wheel squeak, they will pay it no heed and do it no damage (not that its CD replication system would allow much damage to be done). Meanwhile, our wheel will go on quietly turning, doubling our numbers each year until, as de la Boëtie so brilliantly foresaw, government collapses for want of support.
2022, though, may be the year in which significant numbers of people do start to leave government employ. Six or seven million is still less than 3% of the adult population, and since we may expect most of them previously to have been making a living outside government service, their effect on government attrition rates will have been negligible; after then, however, the rate will go up steeply. Government's ability to function will suffer. It will begin to become unglued. Let's guess how it may go down.
Imagine yourself in that year, working as some mid-level exec in a State government office. A few months ago, your friend in the local recreation club suggested you might be interested to check out some ideas about freedom, and you joined the Academy and found your outlook on life completely altered; you now understand in some detail and depth that every human being is (and logically must be) by right his own self-owner, and therefore that the entire institution of government is antithetical to human nature and a violator of that right. You know you must quit what you're doing, every day between weekends, for you cannot live with your new self in good conscience, nor enhance your primary asset, until you do. So you start planning how.
It's not quite as simple as writing a resignation letter, for you have a wife and two children to support and a pension to anticipate. It's a long while since you had to sell your skills, but you do remember not to let go of one branch without having taken firm hold of the next. So, for whom will you work?
You'll have learned that everyone actually works for himself, and that it's important to understand one's own skills inventory and to offer them to the best bidder. Still, it's scary to leave the cocoon of a warm bureaucracy, reliably funded by money stolen by force or fraud at which your boss is an unparalleled expert, and enter the real-world job market in which payments depend on fulfillment of voluntarily-drawn contracts.
Your job is to help administer the State's laws about vehicle insurance, to make sure insurers pay claims properly so that they can retain their licenses to do business. You now know, of course, that such third-party licensure is repugnant to a proper understanding of free exchange, but you figure that in the coming free-market society, there will still be a demand for insurance, so that an accident does not wipe out the finances of an unlucky car owner. So you figure there might be an opportunity for you somewhere in the insurance business.
You put out some feelers on the Old Boy Network, and land a couple of interviews with companies you know. One of them has an outstanding record of meeting claims, but charges high premiums so has been losing business, and your interviewer likes your understanding of his trade and offers you a job as a claims assessor; that is, making sure that a claim is genuine and then arranging for repairs to be made--well, but at low cost to the Company. Sounds good--until the pay rate is named. You're looking at a 15% cut, and you mention your concern.
He explains that that's all the job is worth, in the market, but likes you and empathizes. What makes you consider leaving the DMV, he asks, and you explain that there are two factors. One is your sense of self-esteem; you no longer wish to work for an organization that uses force in every aspect of its operations; you now understand the ethical dimension. The second, however, is your judgment that within a very few years, the DMV will go out of business--because you have understood the power of exponential growth and know that the Colossus must shortly topple. You want to be well established elsewhere when the inevitable crash takes place.
The interviewer is astonished at this, and asks for more information. You take the chance to describe TOLFA and suggest he takes its entrance questionnaire and joins it himself. At your follow-up interview a week later, you find he has done so, and so there develops a strong mutual respect. He can't raise his offer price, but you sense he has his eyes on you as a good candidate for promotion, especially when the company finds itself in the coming period of turbulent change, and so reckon this is the job for you. You take the leap, and in the coming months are able to save your new boss useful sums of money by negotiating repairs that fix the actual damage suffered, but no more; the savings permit lower premiums, and market share is regained. Naturally, you earn some raises.
Five years later, all government evaporates for want of employees, the world radically changes and new opportunities for company growth arise, across lines drawn by the former States, and across risk categories--unrestricted by laws and regulations. You are promoted to Regional Development Director and never look back.
That story will be typical of millions, in and after 2022. The jobs vacated (as above, in a fictional DMV) will be progressively harder and eventually impossible to fill; therefore, they will not get done and every government office will face a meltdown. It won't affect the eventual outcome, but I will not be surprised if the more senior of the employees leave first--not the topmost brass (the government junkies who, like McCain for the Iraq war, will be the "last ones standing"), but those two or three levels down, without whose management the offices will be as rudderless as the torpedoed Bismarck. Those are the people most likely to see the handwriting on the wall first. If I'm right about that, the collapse will happen all the sooner.
It's fun to speculate what that top brass will try to do, to stop the egress of indispensable employees. At first they'll just promote to the vacated management spots people less than qualified for the responsibilities and so give an extra twist to the spiral of public disgust with government "service"; then they might try raising the pay offered. Since in the same period taxpaying compliance will be falling off a cliff and few will be fool enough to lend them money, they'll have to print it--so the pay "raises" will just give successive extra twists to a spiral of inflation. Their problem will then be that a re-educated real world outside will increasingly be trading in gold or gold certificates (hard-copy or electronic) and so they will fast become trapped in hyper-inflation and their remaining employees will be wondering how many barrow loads of paper will buy a week's groceries when the food store is flouting the now unenforceable legal-tender laws. Might they then prohibit resignations from government jobs--rather like the "stop loss" policy thrust upon uniformed employees today in Iraq ? Perhaps, but then guess how eagerly their duties will be performed, by those forced to sit at a desk they wish to leave! In any case, the Brass can write as many laws as they like, but all will be toothless without someone to administer their enforcement, and by that time, the government's acute staff shortage will be very well known to the public at large--so they will be deservedly scoffed.
Etienne de la Boëtie, in his grave, will be rubbing his hands with glee.