"Look not to the politicians; look to yourselves." ~ Richard Cobden
Here, Please Read My Pamphlet!
All around the world, people in the libertarian movement are working day and night to get people to notice the libertarian alternative to the war of politics. Columns are written, pamphlets and magazines distributed, campaigns organized, and parties are even formed to take part in elections. The energy and efforts of thousands are directed towards spreading the ideas of liberty, making people notice the rational and natural philosophy of self-ownership. If people only learn about our ideas, they undoubtedly will join our quest for freedom, they say.
I don't believe this is the case. Libertarians have worked for decades talking to people and making them 'learn' of our alternative to cut-throat politics. Still there is no change; freedom is going down the drain at an increasing speed. How is this possible? The libertarian idea is so powerful; it is so logical, and so promising.
Let us face what is obviously true. If the libertarian idea is as powerful as we think it to be, we would not have to work as hard. And we would not need to put so much energy into trying to reach people, since people would try to find us. All the people we have been talking to through the years should have joined us by now, but they haven't. The truth is perhaps that the libertarian idea is not a product with a market ' nobody wants what we wish to deliver. At least not in such a politicized world as the one we live in.
A friend of mine keeps repeating that 'people do what they have an incentive to do.' It is true, they do. It seems to be what is expressed in the libertarian principle of rationality, but most libertarians seem to overlook the implication of it. The incentives in the welfare-warfare state are set by the government. In a society dedicated to redistribution of wealth, the incentives are not to produce wealth ' the incentives are to receive it.
Our philosophy tells us man is rational and acts in his own self-interest, yet we fail to realize what this means. The incentives are generally to support and exploit the system, not to stand tall, pay the price of politics, and talk about principles. The 'common man' understands this, we do not. What we offer is a society which is free and just but in which the receivers of wealth cannot live off others.
Of course, the parasitic society is not what it seems: It is impossible for everybody to live off others. But the illusion of self being on the 'receiving' side is very convenient, and the mere possibility of sitting back letting others pay your bills is enough for most people to accept the downsides of government. Libertarians realize the illusion, but no one is willing to listen ' it is not in their interest to learn the complicated truth. So we keep on talking, writing, campaigning, and sticking pamphlets under people's noses.
Imagine if the libertarian movement, against the law of incentive, became successful. What if people actually joined the libertarian movement or at least became libertarians in spirit. What would we do then? Most libertarians seem to avoid this question. Do we want people to vote for lower taxes, for rolling back government? Of course not, some say; it would be immoral to take part in politics and thereby working through the system; it is contrary to our ideal of non-aggression. So the libertarian movement would probably end here: success in numbers, total failure in results.
This need not be. I believe the libertarian idea is as powerful as we think, but we need to live it, not just say it. There is no point in putting energy and effort into creating new libertarians if you cannot show them how to really be one. You cannot be a slave to the system while preaching to end such slavery; that is hypocrisy. Attracting people to the libertarian idea is useless if they do not become libertarians ' in everyday life as well as in spirit.
Libertarians working within the system are often corrupted, and eventually abandon the libertarian idea. Some come to the conclusion that a small government is 'necessary'; some who change can only come about through 'libertarian politics,' by using the existing system to accomplish our ends. Either way, the libertarian idea is tainted by the statist belief that force should be used to achieve one's goals.
I think the key to success for libertarians, individually and as a movement, is to keep the system at a distance. Do not let the state's coercive measures come too close to the life you wish to live. The incentive for libertarians is to not support a system which we know has only losers. By not taking part in the system, we do not risk being deceived by the illusory incentives in the state, and we can show non-libertarians how to really be libertarian. And it is the moral way to lead one's life.
The system of the modern state is far-reaching and almost impossible to escape completely, but it is very much possible to create a libertarian oasis within it. Put your money and property where the IRS cannot find it, enjoy the benefits of the black market when dealing with local entrepreneurs or on the Internet, break any victimless laws standing between you and the life you want.
Creating your libertarian life is not as hard as it seems. There are networks everywhere for private or 'black market' trade of products and services; there are libertarian organizations offering advice in off-shore investment and placement of funds, which is worth your while even if you do not have much; and it is easy, fast and cheap to redirect a convenient part of your professional effort (or hobby) to a 'tax-free' site on the Internet. Create your libertarian life the way you wish to live it, and take only the necessary risks.
As a matter of fact, the incentives are on our side, they just don't seem to be. The 'common man' is constantly cheating the state small-scale in order to ensure being on the 'winning' side in the redistributive system. It is rational to follow one's incentives, but sometimes we need guidance from others to find out the how's, when's, and where's. What we as libertarians need to do is show people it is not only possible, but even desirable to cheat the system large-scale. While you personally gain both financially and morally in leading your new libertarian life, you will be able to show others the incentives to break free ' and the true power in the libertarian idea.
Truly being libertarian is a necessity for change. Being libertarian is the only way of making the ideas of liberty reality, even if this in the near future means only you and the ones close to you will live in freedom. Speaking to the incentives of people means they too may learn how to identify the fruits of liberty which you have realized in your life.
But you have to take the first step yourself, and then others can and will follow your example. We need to drop the act of libertarian 'politics' and really become libertarians. Only when you are libertarian is it important to tell people about the libertarian alternative to the welfare-warfare state ' it will increase your market as a private entrepreneur.
Spreading the ideas of liberty only makes sense if you want to help people liberate themselves the way you have. As the number of people living free grows, the powers of the state are undermined, and eventually the state will implode. But that dream is really not important anymore, if you already lead a libertarian life. Sit back, leave the state to the statists, and live libertarianism.