"The first people totalitarians destroy or silence are men of ideas and free minds." ~ Isaiah Berlin
Column by Jim Davies.
Exclusive to STR
To protect the guilty, I'll falsify his name as “Naylor,” but last weekend I received a concise email from someone who had read my recent Murray's Missing Plan on STR; for doing which, of course, he is much to be commended. Among other things, he offered three key opinions:
- Universal re-education won't work, 99% of children are born statist and can't be changed.
- Libertarians need to get used to the idea that they are permanently a 1% minority.
- [That 1%] will need to keep the bulk of humanity off of them [sic] by force of arms.
I've long suspected that there lurks among STReaders a small group of nattering nabobs of negativism, but this is the first time I've seen the view expressed clearly and without shame. My reply expressed thanks for that, and I meant it. Now I'll show why he's dead wrong.
From what he wrote, it seems by “universal re-education,” he has in mind the upbringing that parents give children. He said correctly that America began as a much more libertarian society than it is now, two centuries on, and that decay followed a normal path. “If education worked,” Naylor wrote, “it would have worked in early America” to prevent that decay.
This is nonsense for several reasons. First, parent-child education is not RE-education at all, and has little to do with the strategy referenced at the end of Murray's Missing Plan. Naylor seems to have completely missed or misunderstood the point, possibly having failed to follow the links provided. To “re-educate” means to take someone with a certain understanding, and lead him to a different one. Second, all education was removed from parents anyway by the middle of the 1800s and handed to government; little wonder government didn't teach the little ones about freedom. Third, early Americans were certainly less trustful of government than today's Booboisie, but they were barely libertarian and certainly not anarchist; they actually set up a government! There was never a true American “Eden”--it's a myth. And fourth and most of all, very few libertarians are born that way, into a libertarian family. Every one of them I know began as something else and became a libertarian after learning (via some process of education) which way is up.
So much, then, for the claim that re-education doesn't work. It may not always work, and for sure a great deal more of it is needed, but re-education is the only thing that does work.
I've come across the objection that to re-educate over 300 million people in short order is not a feasible task, and that too is dead wrong, as shown here and here; but Naylor didn't say that. He said re-education would not work even if and when delivered. Nonsense, on stilts.
His second opinion is that Libertarians will stay at 1% of the population and must get used to it. The only good thing I can say about that is that it does follow from his first. If it's not possible to re-educate people, then of course we'll be at most a small minority forever, amen. But that premise is false, and so is the conclusion.
It means that as a tiny minority, we'd be permanently treated as freaks and misfits and see ourselves as some class of victim. The psychology of this is beyond me, but right off the bat I'll say that if it were true, I'd be right out of here. I see no merit or enjoyment whatsoever in being in such a queer backwater of humanity. Life is good; I want to enjoy it to the full. Yet some folk, it appears, actually like being victims. Up to a point, presumably. To me, it's very odd, and I'm not sure whether “martyr complex” quite covers it, so maybe a shrink is needed. Might one be provided, under Obamacare?
It is, in any case, diametrically wrong, the polar opposite of the truth. Human beings are born free and our nature demands freedom; we are self-owning, rational animals! To be free of rule by others, therefore, is our normal, natural and suitable condition. To adopt Naylor's second opinion would be to deny all that, to say that mankind can never live as he has evolved to live. If libertarianism is true, then it is a proper fit for everyone, and to say it is true but fits only 1% of the race is a fundamental contradiction, a classic example of confused, irrational thinking.
Then thirdly, this introspective 1% must protect itself with force of arms, says Naylor. If it were permanent, I concede it might be ill treated, for government likes bullying defenseless people, and on occasion, violent defense might be the only way to keep it off; and of course the self-ownership axiom certainly encompasses a right to self-defense.
Reality, on the simple assumption that each libertarian brings one of his friends per year to a re-education facility such as this one, and that each graduate resigns any government job he may hold: We take the initiative and peacefully turn the tables on our oppressors in little more than a single generation. Being a tiny minority is a temporary, not a permanent status at all.
A form of permanent war, though, is what results from Naylor's naysaying. Libertarians are stuck as a 1% minority forever, and forever must kill or be killed. It hangs together, this benighted perspective! It's quite true, that if a small minority of any sort is persecuted over a long period, it's like raising the temperature of a pressure cooker; eventually, there will be an explosion. The minority may well be exterminated as a result, but yes, violence is probable.
Hence the twisted version of the libertarian advocate: come one, come all, freedom is the answer! Join us if you can miraculously overcome the constraints of your ineducable mind, and huddle with us in a dark hideout knowing we shall never be more than one in a hundred of our fellow human beings. And be sure to bring your weapons, for eventually there will be a shootout and you will probably die. Yea, Freedom!
What a sick caricature.