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.

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Alex R. Knight III's picture
Columns on STR: 135

Alex R. Knight III is the author of numerous horror, science-fiction, and fantasy tales.  He has also written and published poetry, non-fiction articles, reviews, and essays for a variety of venues.  He currently lives and writes in rural southern Vermont where he holds a B.A. in Literature & Writing from Union Institute & University.  Alex's Amazon page can be found here, and his work may also be found at both Smashwords and Barnes & Noble.  His Facebook page can be found here.  Receive Alex's occasional Tweets here.


Mark Davis's picture

I've been thinking along the same lines of late. It is hard to remain positive about even the most wonderful proposals when they remain hidden in plain sight due to seemingly willful ignorance. We continue to shine a light on sound principles for social organization, yet the majority of people pull  blankets over their own eyes trying to avoid the bright light. It is hard to get a critical mass, and I agree that 10% of the population is a good estimate, when people simply refuse to consider ideas that go against the status quo. The bias towards, and emotional attachment to, the status quo social organization results in many seeing it as "reality" or "the real world". Tradition is a double-edged sword that depends greatly on how ingrained a tradition is in a culture.
I used to think that the American Tradition/Culture was based on logic and reason elavating the natural desire for personal liberty. But I have come to realize that it is based on lies justifying authoritarian social constructs perpetuated by elite guidance (e.g. worshiping the Founding Lawyers). In short, I no longer expect that the intellectual curiosity and reasoning abilities of the average man is sufficient to overcome a lifetime of conditioning (to respond favorably to their masters). We can open the gates and remove the chains from today's clueless slaves providing guiding enlightenment as to liberty, but they will be afraid of liberty and will not trust their innate abilities to assume responsibility for their own lives. Slavery is, alas, a warm blanket that soothes their fear of the world.
Still, men of principle must support what's good and oppose what is evil in spite of whether others see/believe it or not. The libertarian ideal of non-agression, that men should not murder and/or steal, is worth keeping alive until future generations can, perhaps, overcome the superstitions that allow agents of social institutions like the state to get away with murder and theft. It will likely take take many, many generations before enough men will finally believe in themselves and their fellow men such that faith-based institutional violence simply fades away.

Samarami's picture
    "...It will likely take take many, many generations before enough men will finally believe in themselves and their fellow men such that faith-based institutional violence simply fades away...."

The problem, for me anyway, is that I'm octogenarian. I don't have time to wait for "generations" to quell institutional violence. The clock is ticking. If freedom's to be, it's up to me -- not thee.

So I've had to learn to be free now. Here. Today. Where I'm "at". I am a sovereign state.

I think I first began using the term "state" to stir up and watch the knee-jerk reaction "libertarians" manifest when they hear the word "state". Later it dawned upon me that I'd better get myself into a "state" of sovereignty before I set out to engage in the monumental task of attempting to persuade the other 99.9% that they would do well to take the first step: abstain from beans. Thus, my "sovereign state" -- with borders across which you must not step without my permission (or I wish you wouldn't, since I'm getting too old and feeble to put up much of a fight).

In fact, I couldn't (and haven't) even been successful in the task of cajoling my own former Ron Paul supporting kids or grand-kids to cease voting in political elections. I think this next year may show some improvement on that score -- I don't drill them about voting, so I probably won't even know unless they set up a braying for this or that "candidate" for grand wizard of the klan. I did ask one of my sons a couple days ago if he was still active in the local Republican Party (his participation of which gave rise to lots of "grandpa duty" on my part), and he said a vehement "no" -- and that Christa (his wife, my daughter-in-law) has given up her county chairmanship.

Alex (from the article):

    "...But what if we never get there?..."

I think you two fellows need to take credit for your own personal efforts -- and understand that you ARE "getting there". Mark, for instance, has been a cyber friend for several years. We've not met face to face, although I've trucked through and past his city many times. Easy to say when you're trucking, "I should stop and look up Mark". Much harder to arrange when you consider time, parking, etc etc. But Mark well knows the effect his old article, "Be Free" had on me shortly after I landed on STR -- and several others as well. I wouldn't try to estimate the number of times I've quoted in various "comments" on other forums the portion:

Same with you, Alex. All we can do is to do what we can.

And take credit for the effort.


Paul's picture

Why all the pessimism?

I see all sorts of changes in the direction of liberty. Hang out in any forum for a number of years and you can detect it.

Yes, there is a lot of doom and gloom out there, and yes the state is using every means possible to cement its position, but that is natural in "end of empire" times. It's all a house of cards.

"The vast majority of the population have never even considered our ideas."

As a distinct, complete program, you are right. But that is almost never (in my opinion) how ordinary people learn. They accumulate bits and pieces of the truth over time, without even realizing what is going on.

I think you are way too pessimistic. But even a pessimist can follow Sam's prescription.