"What has always made the state a hell on earth has been precisely that man has tried to make it his heaven." ~ Friedrich Hoelderlin
What a Time to Be Alive!
Column by Jim Davies.
Exclusive to STR
For ten thousand years, governments have polluted the human race by stealing and squandering the products of our labor, repeatedly creating war and destruction, and choking off initiative and invention. Yet now, in this present era, there is serious hope that these parasites will cease to leech. The root of the problem is, at long last, being struck. Can you think of any more thrilling time to live, of any higher privilege than to see it happen and to take part?
During most of those ten millennia, there has been no shortage of rebellion against whatever gang of thugs was in charge, in every time and place. But in every case, the revolt was either crushed, or else it succeeded only in putting a new gang of thugs in charge. Never once has there been an attempt to rid society of all such bloodsuckers, to replace the rulers with nothing. Yet now in our lifetimes, that is on the cusp of taking place.
The name "anarchist"--one who believes that nobody should rule--began to be used only late in the 19th Century, in Russia, and even then the users got it wrong. Not to blame them all that much, for despite the proximity of Austria, as lay contemporaries of Menger and Böhm-Bawerk, they'd have no occasion to study their radical findings in economics, but pioneers like Mikhael Bakunin and Pyotr Kropotkin could plainly see that the absolute monarchy (known as the Autocracy) had to be totally wrong as a way to arrange society; and they were sincere--although Bakunin was badly confused. His mantra "freedom without Socialism is privilege and injustice... Socialism without freedom is slavery and brutality" is deeply contradictory; for example, socialism always requires force and so is never compatible with freedom. Kropotkin was born an aristocrat, with control over 1,200 serfs; having worked out his worldview, he freed them all. The trouble was that all these early anarchists, immersed in a hierarchical society, were unable to visualize a completely free one; they got as far as seeing the need to scrap government as they knew it, but could not grasp that no rule of any kind should take its place. Thus, peasants and factory workers were to take over rule of their own establishments, meaning that the former owners were to be over-ruled. Their answer was not Marxism, for that involved a group ruling over all, but syndicalism, which greatly reduced the ruling to be done but did not eradicate it altogether.
That movement was close enough to real anarchism to scare the pants off ruling élites worldwide, so they got busy to change the language: "anarchy" was skillfully morphed into "chaos" with nary a shred of etymological connection. Those today called "terrorists" were for half a century or more called "anarchists"--regardless of their beliefs and purposes--famously including the group of Serbian nationalists who assassinated the Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife, after which all European governments tumbled into the idiocy of their alliances for mutually assured destruction. The misnoma was a handy way to smear the only philosophy capable of ensuring peace.
Those Russian anarchists were eclipsed by the ruthless violence of the Communists, one of whose victims got out of Petersburg while she could, in 1922, and reached America where she worked out her brilliant philosophy and corrected some of the syndicalists' errors. By mid-Century, their world was set back on its heels by Ayn Rand, with whom, according to Jerome Tucille, "it usually begins." Beautifully, she cut the moral ground from under the prevalent world-view and gave us a glimpse of individual sovereignty and responsibility. Her Anthem has to be one of the most delightful short novels of all time. Yet Rand still, surprisingly, contradicted herself; she never quite saw, much more than Kropotkin, that even a tiny, "referee" kind of government was still needless and parasitic; and even her "Galt's Gulch" was a gulch, an enclave in an otherwise statist country. When the young Murray Rothbard faced her with the anomaly, he was removed from her inner circle. A good thing, too, for on his own, he was able to blend Rand's individualism with Austrian economic theory and come up with what we know as Market Anarchism (or Anarcho-Capitalism) and finally dispense with the supposed need for any government whatever at any level and in any degree.
This took place less than half a century ago, right here in America. Ten thousand years of repression are poised to end! With Rothbard's Power & Market, even more than his Man, Economy and State, the theoretical foundation is laid. All that needed to be worked out was how to bring about the change.
Quickly, in the 1970s, other scholars built on Rothbard's foundation to amplify how a truly free society will work, especially in economic terms; notably David Friedman published The Machinery of Freedom in 1971, following the shorter The Market for Liberty in 1970, by the Tannehills with Anthony Alexander. So was an AnCap society described and visualized. What remained was to figure out how to cause it to happen.
That last item is the only piece of the puzzle not well developed by the heroes of the late 20th Century. Rothbard himself started by helping found a political party, evidently embracing an idea which (with hindsight) we can see as bizarre and contradictory: that power can be abolished by force, that while the bullet is unacceptable, the ballot is, for some reason, not. Easy enough to blame him now that the Libertarian Party has so consistently failed for 40 years, but at the time it may have seemed a good idea. And Rothbard was willing to try any idea, the matter was so urgent. He linked up with the radical Left, befriending the late, great Karl Hess; he later linked up with the remains of the Old Right, of which today Ron Paul is an eminent representative.
Those heroes were, predominantly, economists and writers rather than businessmen or strategic planners, so others like Andrew Galambos and Robert LeFevre came closest to what is needed. LeFevre ran a Freedom School in Colorado from 1956 to 1973, and rightly saw that for a free society to operate, let alone come to pass, radical re-education is required. The damage done by 150 years of collectivist, government schooling would have to be repaired; otherwise freedom would not survive even if implemented. As ill-luck had it, his main work took place a little before the great intellectual foundation had been laid by Rothbard, and so the school died with him.
I learned in my business career that there are five indispensable components in a plan to achieve anything whatever:
- Define and describe the objective
- Identify the method to be used
- Specify the time scale and milestones
- List the resources required, and where they can be found
- Name the key dependencies assumed, and test for credibility
What's your objective, as in #1? Mine is to see government eradicated, within one generation, or about a quarter century. That alone will create a free society and so honor and fulfill the genius of the intellectual giants above. Once we fix that aim, a couple of sub-objectives surface and indicate what method will suffice. They are that:
- nobody shall be willing to work for government, and
- everybody shall understand what it means to live by voluntary exchange alone.
The first of those will cause government to vanish, and I can see no other way to accomplish that end. Government can manage without votes and (being armed with a printing press) taxes, but it cannot manage without employees, for it consists of nothing else. Take those away, and it implodes.
The second of them ensures that when it has vanished, it won't ever reappear.
Those are pretty simple, right? But both are indispensable. Fail to do them, the race is forever condemned to suffer under government. Do them, and its slave-chains are broken. And both involve universal re-education; nothing else is needed. I'll not repeat the way in which it is being done, for that's explained well enough here, but that method does address items # 2 through 5 above, as well as #1.
The strategy stands in contrast to all others peddled by supposed champions of liberty, to the limited extent that any of them offer one. As far as I can tell they only say:
- find a way to refuse payment of taxes
- make oneself invisible to government
- disobey its laws
- move to a less onerous country
- build a survival hut somewhere in the boondocks
- campaign politically for smaller government (please, Massa, kindly shorten our working week!) or, to borrow some of Rothbard's wicked humor, applied rather unkindly to Samuel Konklin III,
- "fasting, prayer, or each one finding ways to become a better and more peaceful person, none of which even begins to answer the problem of State power..."
All of these have merit, each in its way. Some require great courage, and some will certainly be necessary for use during the years we have to wait for the strategy above to bear fruit. In particular, civil disobedience will give it a valuable assist during the later of those years. But not one of them even comes close to replacing that strategy. They don't even have the form or shape of such a replacement! They don't even, necessarily, specify Item #1! - but apparently, in an absurd example of muddled thinking, kind of assume that government will be here forever and that the best achievable objective is something far inferior.
So I hold them all in contempt, except as valuable techniques to use in that limited period, as necessary. Any here who may have found them interesting beyond that, are encouraged to get their brains in gear and decide crisply whether or not they are on-board the grand and achievable strategic objective of eliminating government in total. With the inherited wisdom of the heroes above, and the tools of ubiquitous computers and 50¢ CDs, we have an unprecedented opportunity to do that! What a time to be alive!