Voting With Our Feet

Column by Paul Bonneau.

Exclusive to STR

I was listening to Stewart Rhodes' stirring speech in Connecticut and finding myself in (reluctant) disagreement.

He was talking about all the sacrifices made by men in WWII and other wars, and yet how their efforts were betrayed by the destruction of liberty back home.

Now setting aside for the moment the question of what those men were actually fighting for (as opposed to what they imagined they were fighting for), the speech struck me as incongruous. I mean, come on, Stewart, you are trying to save Connecticut? By some measures, the most statist hellhole in the country?

We need to ask the question: Does every person in this country want to be free?

Evidently not. Or, some want to be free in some respects, but not in others. Why try to free people who don’t want it? Does that make sense at all?

Of course such people might well learn to value freedom once it is gone, but that does not mean we ought to interfere with their learning the only way they are capable of learning. As Will Rogers put it, "There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves."

Let’s imagine you live in a town, and the state border runs down the street in front of you. On your side of the street, it is gun owner Hell. The state continually enacts more and more draconian legislation, and you are faced with giving up all your guns or being sent to jail. On the other side of the street, it is gun owner Heaven, and people carry guns openly, there are several gun shops and clubs, and there is a well-used rifle range just outside of town.

Now, does it make sense to stay in your state and create “gun rights” organizations and write legiscritters and letters to the editor and all the other sorts of things we try doing to ineffectually steer policy? Or would it make sense to just move to a house across the street, into the neighboring state?

I am trying to contrast the varying ways we try to get to liberty. Some ways, like fighting in foreign lands, are not only insanely dangerous but also just wrong (since you are thereby an invader and really deserve what invaders get). This way is also counterproductive since war is almost by definition very harmful to liberty, even if you happen to be on the “winning” side. Yet many of the same people who have done these sorts of insanely dangerous things, imagining they are protecting liberty, can’t seem to get off their duff and move to a place where liberty has a chance. For some reason, this is considered too difficult. Do you see the incongruity?

Of course, there are limits. Somewhere between moving across the street, and moving to Somalia (or wherever), one can draw a line beyond which we can say it’s not reasonable to be forced to move there. But to me, if you live in Connecticut and things are going sour, just get the hell out!

Keep in mind I am talking about state and local laws. Of course, impositions from the federal level are a different thing altogether. They should be opposed using every reasonable means, and by means that some would consider unreasonable too, as long as they work. Why? Because to avoid them is to be forced to move outside the country--and where, exactly?

Stewart, let Connecticut rot. Let people who want slavery be slaves.

Individual action is almost always preferable to group action. Just as homeschoolers save their own kids via individual action, rather than trying to “fix” the schools, gun owners should save their own families via individual action--in this case, moving to a better state.

Gun prohibitionists have to live somewhere, after all. You can’t persuade them of the error of their ways, and you can’t kill them. And you shouldn’t be comfortable with using government to impose on them, any more than you should be comfortable with their use of government to impose on you. Either way, it is tyranny. It is sticking a gun in their face and saying, “You will be free whether you want it or not!” The whole idea is silly.

If people who write on gun issues are correct in saying that guns deter crime, then people in Connecticut will eventually tire of having a lot more crime than Wyoming, and come to their senses in their own way. If not, that’s OK too. They make their bed, they can sleep in it.

I guess what I am saying is that while liberty is always worth fighting for, not every fight helps liberty, and a fight is not always the best way to get liberty. I know voting is not considered sensible around here, but it’s the expression we are stuck with: vote with your feet!

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Paul Bonneau's picture
Columns on STR: 79
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Comments

Glock27's picture

You cannot please all the people all the time, but you can please some of the people some of the time.
We are just too F***ing diverse to come to any common ground of agreement. You even see that here where even just two people cannot agree.

helio's picture

Mostly a good article. I moved from FL to NH for this reason. It was scary, but it was the best thing I ever did. Better job, better pay, better friend, better quality of life.
I'm freer now because I live around free-minded people. Every particular strategy I've heard of depends on people, and step one is to get together with others who agree with you. If you are not doing this, then you are failing to achieve liberty. There is nothing entirely special about the geography or culture of NH, other than there are more liberty lovers here than anywhere else. I wasn't crazy about NH, but I'm here because that's where others went.

Anyone who thinks they can't do it aren't trying. I sold everything I had, car, clothes, furniture. You can make it happen if you are willing to cut your material possessions to the bone for a short time. Sell your house, default on your credit cards, give the bank back the new car, liquidate your 401k, sell your guns, your silver, your gold, your grandma's antique china. Work at macdonald's on weekends if you have to. Nothing else matters but getting to where people love liberty. Forget voting, or civil disobedience, and economic theories; MOVE YOUR A$$.

Whew, now that I have that out of the way, I take exception to this paragraph:

"And you shouldn’t be comfortable with using government to impose on them, any more than you should be comfortable with their use of government to impose on you. Either way, it is tyranny. It is sticking a gun in their face and saying, “You will be free whether you want it or not!” The whole idea is silly."

Liberty is an absence of force. It is a logical contradiction to 'force' someone to be 'free'. An example: I run for 'insert political office here' and win. I refuse to vote for any rules that prohibit people from exercising their natural liberty in owning a firearm. In no way, have I forced anyone to do anything. I have in fact, defended the liberty of individuals by prohibiting aggression-provoking rule-making.

Not that I think political processes are the way to go about securing liberty, but it is an example to point out the fallacy.

Paul's picture

"Liberty is an absence of force. It is a logical contradiction to 'force' someone to be 'free'. An example: I run for 'insert political office here' and win. I refuse to vote for any rules that prohibit people from exercising their natural liberty in owning a firearm. In no way, have I forced anyone to do anything. I have in fact, defended the liberty of individuals by prohibiting aggression-provoking rule-making."

I will mostly concede the point, while picking nits about the practicality of your example, or your ability to remain uncorrupted over time, or the fact that bills often have a mix of liberty-enhancing and liberty-degrading features which makes the job a lot more difficult for a liberty-loving legislator (now there's an oxymoron! ;-)

Also there is the notion in your example of using government at all. Somehow this makes me uneasy...

But I still have the practical argument. If it is your intention to increase your liberty, first go where you have some support from others. Don't stay and fight a losing battle.

Also, say some gun prohibitionists start a community. They want to live where no one near them is armed. Is there anything wrong with that? No. They are exercising their right of association. Would it be right for a "pro gun" person to try to get elected there to remove the laws they have established about guns - ignoring for the moment the difficulty is getting that accomplished? Perhaps the pro gun person lies about his background, thinking it is OK to lie to increase liberty.

I keep coming back to the notion that people ought to get the kind of government they want, even if in my eyes it is wrong to have a government at all. If I leave those other people alone, then chances are a lot better they will leave me alone. I don't care if others don't value liberty; I only care that I can get it myself.

Alex R. Knight III's picture

This essay explains a big part of the reason why I got OUT of NH in favor of VT.  As I said at the time and still say, I'm either way ahead of the curve, or creating my own.  :-)

Scott Lazarowitz's picture

Alex, why is NH better than VT?

helio's picture

I also would like to know why VT is 'better'. My point is that people should move to where the greatest concentration of like minded individuals reside. Unless there is a secret and large voluntarist population in VT, NH is where people should move.

KenK's picture

@Helio
A very thoughtful reply and I especially like the fact that it is personal action based. However, the unanswered question I have is this: If "retreat and regroup" is the tactic, what happens when there aren't any more places to run to?
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

Paul's picture

You are applying military terminology to the right of association. It's not a retreat, it is a disassociation. But anyway, if there is no place else, then you fight. But I would rather live in a place that has more liberty than less (particularly where RKBA is concerned). If a fight is unavoidable, it's better to be in a place where more people think like you. That is just good tactics.

DP_Thinker's picture

Descent article, and although I could get into the ways that state governments and their regulations can grow like the parasitical entities that they are I won’t. (Just look at seatbelt laws, speed cameras, motor vehicle emissions testing, etc…) One takes the queue off another. What I find more important is the following:

“Now, does it make sense to stay in your state and create “gun rights” organizations and write legiscritters and letters to the editor and all the other sorts of things we try doing to ineffectually steer policy? Or would it make sense to just move to a house across the street, into the neighboring state?” – This is very similar to the argument that if we don’t like the way things are, why don’t we just leave. Why should the peaceful person have to leave (the aggressor is the state against the one who wants his freedoms)? This also implies that I am owned by the collective, another falsehood. So should I lay my principles aside to be more free? Would I let someone who is attacking and trying to rob me just take my stuff and beat me? No! You fight for what is right. However, you set up a false dichotomy in that the only way to deal with this overreaching statist problem is via organizations or just leaving.. There are other ways.

Now I know you talked about state vs. federal locals but frankly, you can divide it any way you want, property is property, and borders are just a fictional geographic line. One who wants his freedom in the fictional area of Connecticut should be just as legitimate as someone who wants their freedom in the fictional US of A..

Paul's picture

I was not implying one is owned by the collective, and don't see how you got that from it. I was actually making a pragmatic argument. There are better and worse ways to get more liberty. Risking your life in a foreign war is a very poor way. Moving to another state is one of the best ways.

I agree with you in a theoretical sense, for the most part. But you ask the question, " This is very similar to the argument that if we don’t like the way things are, why don’t we just leave," as if it were unreasonable. No, it's not unreasonable. Are you suggesting you would not even move across the street to have more liberty? To me, that sounds unreasonable.

This is the essence of the right of association (to use the language of rights for the moment). You refrain from association with one group of people (those in one state) and prefer others (people in another state). I sure don't see any problem with that!

"Property is property" is a fairly content-free statement. Unless you are living completely in the underground economy (for which I would congratulate you), you ARE in fact submitting to robbery every time you pay a tax directly or buy anything whose cost includes a tax or who was made by someone who paid a tax. What are you going to do, ambush the tax collector?

"One who wants his freedom in the fictional area of Connecticut should be just as legitimate as someone who wants their freedom in the fictional US of A." If wishes were horses then beggars would ride. Life is full of "should be's" but we have to deal with it as it is.