"Today’s political leaders demonstrate their low opinion of the public with every social law they pass. They believe that, if given the right to chose, the citizenry will probably make the wrong choice. Legislators do not think any more in terms of persuading people; they feel the need to force their agenda on the public at the point of a bayonet and the barrel of a gun." ~ Mark Skousen
A Vermont Counter-Revolution?
Column by Alex R. Knight III.
Exclusive to STR
It’s something of an axiomatic view of history here in the Green Mountains that beginning in the early 1960s, the socio-political landscape of Vermont began to change, specifically because of an influx of young Baby Boomers seeking to create a haven based on leftist ideology. There is no question, at least, that quasi-Marxist Great Society ideals and ideas predominated the nouveau-garde of the era – or that the trappings of “progressivism” at gunpoint entered the Vermont scene at the end of the 1960s and moving into the '70s with such things as sales tax, income tax, government-mandated “green” initiatives, building regulations, etc., ad nauseum.
Over half a century later, this “government is the solution” mentality still persists – even in the face of runaway taxes, an economy devoid of many high-paying job opportunities (tourism . . . and government . . . are the only real growth “industries” in Vermont these days), and a constant push from statist demagogues in Montpelier for ever more laws and regulations – even though the most recent onslaught of them failed. Even especially because they failed.
Yet, is it just possible that a new dawn is arising in Vermont? Is it possible that Vermont might soon experience a 21st Century libertarian counter-revolution?
At the time of this writing, self-avowed socialist Senator Bernie Sanders is making a bid for the Democratic presidential primary, and is proving wildly popular with leftists all over Amerika – not just Vermont. Whether that translates into popularity in a general election is highly questionable indeed – assuming the DNC gatekeepers even allow him to finish first in their primary . . . which is a very big assumption, given the privilege capital Hillary has to spend.
But I’m talking strictly Vermont here, a socio-political microcosm that rarely projects much of an impact across American society as a whole. Are there any signs that Marxian ideologues are losing their grip over the Green Mountains?
We need not belabor the famous fact that Vermonters enjoy – at least, at the time of this writing – greater gun freedoms than any other Americans. And arguably, more than any other people on Earth. That this continues in the face of such a long-standing political push towards collectivism may at first seem counterintuitive – until we factor in the ultra-rural character of Vermont, and the almost unique attitude among the left-leaning of Vermont that guns are a human right. Of course many of them – quite inconsistently from any libertarian paradigm – believe that public (government) schooling, health care, and even food fall into the same category. Vermonters can be strange birds, sometimes.
East of here, across the Connecticut River in New Hampshire, there exists the Free State Project (a name which I never fail to point out the oxymoronic nature of; I’m assuming it exists merely to appease the minarchists), the epicenter of which seems to still be Keene. While the Freestaters/FreeKeeners certainly have a long way to go in terms of transmogrifying allegedly “Live Free or Die” New Hampshire into a stateless (or at least even dramatically government-reduced) bastion of individual liberty, there is no question that the influence of such efforts, in the years to come, will resonate to some degree here west of the river. Such waves, in fact, are already being felt.
For my own part, in 2011 I launched this Facebook page to raise awareness about Voluntaryist philosophy from both a general and Vermont-specific perspective. It has realized modest but steady growth over the past four years.
There is, looming on the near political horizon, the prospect of full marijuana re-legalization (after all, government made no move to stop the green plant prior to Harry Anslinger’s 1937 propaganda campaign filled with racist hysteria and clinically preposterous claims that grass use produces insanity) -- however, in true statist fashion, you can bet that the bureaucrats will regulate and tax it to the gills, in order to continue their insatiable vampire thirst for yet more constantly inflating capital in the name of ever expanding the slimy tentacles of the collectivist State. And we are talking about freedom here -- not some isolated instance of self-serving quasi-benevolence bestowed upon us by ruling masters.
But what else? The aforementioned developments are not entirely insignificant, though they are at present still small issue to the task of reversing the tide and eliminating the constant threat emanating from Montpelier, a NON force majeure based on a thoroughly failed and discredited statist philosophy.
The conservative Vermont Watchdog ran an article on August 19th, regarding retirees – particularly those on fixed incomes – leaving Vermont. Here’s an excerpt:
“We’re a small rural state and we’re acting as though we’re California,” he said. “We have people who have come here that believe we should have every social program you can think of. School teachers are making more money and have better health insurance and benefits, and yet the population of the schools has gone down.”
Lapworth said he would downsize and retire in Vermont if he believed the political climate would change. He’s less than optimistic.
“We see it getting worse, and we have underfunded pension funds for teacher and state workers that are going to be addressed some day, and there’s only one place it’s going to come from: that’s taxpayers.”
He even worries that Bernie Sanders’ presidential bid is generating bad publicity for the state.
“Bernie Sanders is going to hurt Vermont. A lot of people will realize it’s a progressive socialist state and they won’t want to buy here. That puts my house for sale in jeopardy because . . . it has to be a professional that could buy a house in my price bracket, and professionals aren’t going to want to come to Vermont.”
LeBlanc also said change must occur in Montpelier if the state hopes to attract retirees.
“It’s no secret that Vermont is not a business-friendly state. There seems to be a mentality in Montpelier and across the state that business is evil, that business brings phosphorus runoff,” he said. “But the reality is business pays the bills.”
And, he might’ve added, government does not. It simply creates more of them with taxes. This paints a bleak picture indeed. But perhaps also, opportunity.
Wasn’t it Vladimir Lenin, that arch-communist of the Bolshevik Revolution who cryptically stated, “The worse it gets, the better it gets”? I submit that the ground is fertile in Vermont for counter-revolution that contains the social liberalism that Vermonters have grown used to and cherish, coupled with the free-market economic
mechanisms that they need.
Government has backed Vermonters into a corner with reckless taxation used to finance Marxist boondoggle after socialist failure galore. The evidence is simply too great and multitudinous to ignore: The entirely impracticable left-wing cause celebre of single-payer healthcare. The facts-ignoring feel-good push towards mandatory “clean energy” development. “Climate change” carbon-footprint fuel tax hike proposals. Increased sales taxes on scores of “sugar sweetened” beverages. A proposed tax on plastic grocery bags. Even cloud-computing by businesses is taxed.
All of this and more in the name of an ideology which holds that “business is evil” for no other reason than to blindly and arrogantly defend leftist 1960s-era dogma like an old and senile farm dog will defend a barnyard against an innocent courier delivering a package. The time for this foolishness to end is well-nigh.
More: It must end if Vermonters are to survive. It’s that simple. People need jobs, and they need to be able to keep the money from those jobs in order to eat. The Marie Antoinette attitude of the Soviet ideologues in Montpelier has run its course. And Republicans are no more a credible means of accomplishing this than are their Democrat/“Progressive” counterparts. All have been statist parties to the plunder.
Can libertarianism – especially its puritanical voluntarist/market anarchist derivation, in other words, true libertarianism – promise a modern counter-revolution in Vermont like the one that swept the region in the 1960s and 1970s, as the state-marshalled economy crumbles, and the free-wheeling Marxist paradise promised by the flower children shows itself up more and more for the intolerant and destructive authoritarian monstrosity that it is? Are we finally approaching that tipping point, where Vermont’s current generation are ready, willing, and able to trashcan the State in favor of real freedom? Has an era of that kind of mobility arisen once again, to change the ingrained (now leftist) paradigm for the better?
I’m certainly hoping so – though I’m also old and experienced enough to realize the allure handouts hold for the unprincipled, and for the rationalizers. I realize the envy and anger that many direct towards those who have more than they do, and how this manages to somehow transmogrify itself into a strange sense of “justice” when state force is seen to pry some of that abundance from their possession. Many people would rather attain comfort by any means at all, rather than live by principle. As voluntaryist Kyle Bennett has put it, "If you want government, it is because you want to be able to impose your values on other people, and to render those values immune from being tested against reality.” In other words, I want part of what you have, and I don’t ever want there to be an absence of force which guarantees that I’ll get it.
Obviously, this attitude, so smug in its self-righteousness, must stop if there is ever to be freedom. But will it?
The answer will seal Vermont’s fate quite shortly, I’m afraid – and for an interminable time to come.
As well as that of the world.