"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
Damage Control: The Panacea of Politics and How Voluntaryists Are Falling Prey to It
Column by Alex R. Knight III.
Exclusive to STR
There’s been a trend of late, among both more and less visible “voluntaryists” in social media, the blogosphere, and elsewhere, to simply backpedal: To retreat to the conclusion that, since a voluntary society isn’t happening any time soon, it’s best – in the name of what “progress” can “realistically” be made given “what we have to work with” – to reengage the political system and process. To resume voting – even for such as Donald Trump. To writing letters and sending e-mails to various politicians and bureaucrats in the hope of at least holding Statism in check, or slowing down its insatiable growth, rather than simply pontificating on libertarian anarchist ideology from the sidelines while maybe 0.00001% of the population takes notice in any meaningful way. In other words, to “do something” . . . even if in that doing, voluntaryism is effectively scuttled altogether.
It can get very lonely, to be sure, being a voluntaryist. We live in a world so absolutely submerged in the cult of governmentalism that it has nearly become infused into people’s DNA. To speak to the average Joe or Jane about the prospect of a world without political governance is to, for all practical purposes, propose that they solve trigonometry equations written out in Mandarin Chinese. They’re lost with such a concept. And pursuantly, most of them have no desire to learn anyway. Football, video games, and a few cold beers are all they really want or understand.
People are social creatures, and they crave acceptance, most of them. So much so that anything which isolates them – no matter even if it makes rational sense – they want no part of, generally speaking. They’d rather be liked than right. So they conform and adhere to the status quo. Any social rebellion they may engage in is almost invariably of a “safe” variety: A new clothing style, haircut, or type of music they listen to. But embracing the idea of and proselytizing for no government? No thanks. Too much social risk there. I’ll stick with my Sanders or Trump-loving friends, thanks.
Voluntaryists are not wholly immune to this. Leastways, Stefan Molyneux and Chris Cantwell are not – to name only two of the more prominent examples. They’ve both long since joined the Trump bandwagon, after years of cogent and penetrating libertarian thought, which, if not always “universally preferable” (apologies to Molyneux), certainly expanded the breadth and range of libertarianism to take into consideration. But no more: Their efforts are now expended on a futile brand of damage control at best – the endless and fruitless treadmill of sticking to the Republican Right to impede and slow the steadily rising tide of left-wing socialist collectivism. But hey, it earns you more friends, the girls start talking nicely to you again, and you get booked on the Alex Jones Show more often.
Let’s be serious for a minute or two: Yes, there is only the slimmest chance – if any whatsoever – that anyone now living will still be when and if a voluntary society becomes reality. We absolutely need to acknowledge that, in my view, before we can think about proceeding to any next step. Yet even given that, is there really – in truth – any advantage whatsoever to going back to trying things the way (I would assume) most voluntaryists did before first embracing the vision of an actually free society? Do you in all honesty think that reverting back to the false promise of statist incrementalism – if indeed such can even be said to produce any moderate reduction in state power – is a workable, worthwhile proposition?
Or, maybe, are you just getting lonely; tired of being on the outside looking in?
Beyond the social-isolation element, I understand the siren song current political events are singing: Gun control, higher taxes, the continuing socialist disaster of Obamacare, the prospect of an ultra-Left Supreme Court, the prospect of World War III. It would be nice (possibly you even consider it critical) to stop or reverse these things, and all too few people milling around out there are willing to set down the gauntlet of government anytime soon. So what continues to exist is another round of voting in a rigged system, and sending e-mails to bureaucrats who care about them roughly as much as they care about how much methane ice there is on Pluto. And so in turn many people who are actually knowledgeable enough to see this sham for what it is, and understand there is a better way, nevertheless repair back to such ineffectual inanities because . . . well . . . it’s there . . . and there’s nothing else coming along anytime before their own mortal end.
Perhaps if anyone could concretely demonstrate that engaging in statism presents a credible possibility of ending or even reducing statism, I might listen. But I’ve been watching pretty attentively for nearly a quarter-century now and haven’t seen it. And just as with the prospect of a full-on voluntary society in my time, I’m not holding my breath.
You can stand for reason and rationalism regardless of prevailing circumstances and at least have and retain your integrity – or you can lose even that by abandoning principle and the example it sets (perhaps even for posterity), by caving in to the futile and panacean promise of politics. Either way, unless you really believe in miracles, you won’t get freedom in your lifetime. True enough this.
But you don’t and can’t control damage by just creating more of it. In abandoning voluntaryism for politics, you only make yourself all the more willing prey for predators, and nothing besides.