"And what is a good citizen? Simply one who never says, does or thinks anything that is unusual. Schools are maintained in order to bring this uniformity up to the highest possible point. A school is a hopper into which children are heaved while they are still young and tender; therein they are pressed into certain standard shapes and covered from head to heels with official rubber-stamps." ~ H.L. Mencken
What About Peak Liberty?
Column by Alex R. Knight III.
Exclusive to STR
In a prior column published some time ago, I outlined the sociologically necessary pre-requisite for the transition to a voluntary society: a full 10% minimum of the population dedicated to that ultra-libertarian goal, and nothing less. In short, at current estimated American population levels, roughly 33 million persons ready, willing, and able to do away with government altogether.
But what if we never get there?
What if, at day’s end, the vast majority of humanity would rather just live “comfortably” (with a host of impediments and inconveniences imposed upon them under threat and duress, but “protected” by a guaranteed violence-enforced handout social-safety net), instead of living free and responsibly based on high principle? What if power, money, and sex are really the only big human motivators, and most people could give a damn about anything that falls outside those parameters . . . at least in terms of gaining them by honorable means? What if, in short, the entire “real” libertarian movement runs aground at some steady single-digit percentile of the population, never to rise above it and ride the crest of that 10% to vindication and victory?
It’s a distinct contingency we ought to be thinking about. And I mean with serious purpose.
Granted, since I took my first very green baby steps into the sphere of libertarian thought back in 1994, there has been tremendous progress. Back then, most people didn’t even know what the word “libertarian” meant. Today, it’s a household word (though, admittedly, an often grossly misunderstood one . . . even in alleged libertarian circles). The growth of the Internet and its attendant alternative and social media realms have made possible an explosion in Voluntaryist outreach and inter-communication. The uninitiated, while often dismissive and even outright hostile towards our views, are at least finding it more and more difficult to avoid encountering them online, and hopefully, on the street. Bitcoin and other crypto-currencies have also joined alongside numismatic metals as viable alternatives to state-sanctioned pieces of worthless paper backed up by government guns.
Let’s keep our feet grounded, however: The vast majority of the population have never even considered our ideas. In fact, most of them live lives centered around sports, video games, celebrity gossip, hip-hop music, TV sitcoms . . . and not much of anything else. They’re not interested in studying foreign or even semi-advanced concepts. They’re not willing to do any work that doesn’t promise a fast and immediate return. They see little utility in long-term paradigm changes. They’re only interested in what already is, and what they can get out of it with the least amount of effort. All very sad, but also all very true.
Most people don’t want to make waves, they just want to go with the flow. This works to liberty’s advantage when liberty is the dominant value, of course. But as I’ve already illustrated, we find ourselves in almost the polar opposite situation. So how to proceed?
Well, we are proceeding, after a fashion – I’m doing so right now. So, perhaps, are you, in your own way and on your own terms. Yet we’re still, by all the evidence, very far away from our goal. A truly free society. Sure enough, it would still be one populated by, as fellow Root Striker Paul Bonneau has pointed out, “. . . the same cussed, emotional, confused, inconsistent, self-destructive beings we’ve always been,” but with a very different foundation in which naked aggression is seen for exactly what it is: a violation right across the board – rather than a virtue whenever a governmental “exception” is invoked.
So far, however, public support for overturning this state of affairs seems minimal, at best. Of course, we never know what future events might tilt opinion in our direction – a dollar collapse, world war, martial law, etc. – but these things are all wild cards; uncertain possibilities, which, even should they occur, may only serve to worsen a bad situation rather than rectify it.
Okay then: What if all of our best intellectual efforts, our outreach, our leading by example, is all for naught? What if, even 30 or 50 years from now, the ratio of voluntaryists to statists is roughly about the same as it is today – or perhaps a bit higher on our side, but nowhere close to that necessary 10%?
Do we give up and resign ourselves to the blind paradox of humanity’s self-imposed tyranny? Do we seek places to hide away underground, where we might exist unmolested and unnoticed by state agents? If at day’s end, better than 90% of the population want government, what’s our recourse?
I won’t pretend to find any answers here and now. Pessimism in any endeavor has seldom been shown to yield any positive results, and for what it’s worth, I think we’re still likely a fair distance from endgame in terms of enlightening people. But running into the kind of potential brick wall I’ve just illustrated bears thinking about now, and through the coming decades, unless we begin to see our numbers exponentially rise much before then. If we do, then wonderful – we’ll be on our way to freedom.
If not . . . well then, probably like you, I’d rather not have to think about that. But it’s time we do think about it, just the same.