If freedom means anything, it means the freedom of individuals to live their lives as they choose without the interference of any other individual or group of individuals. If that is not the objective, then whatever is being put over in the name of "freedom," is not freedom at all, but some kind of ideology, usually a social or economic one, that regards society, rather than individuals, as the ultimate end. Only individual freedom is truly freedom; there is no such thing as "collective freedom."
There are many organizations, groups, institutes, societies, campaigns, centers, forums, foundations, and think-tanks, as well as many individual efforts, all dedicated to individual freedom. Though these efforts vary widely in both their philosophy and methods, they may more-or-less be categorized by their apparent emphasis into three groups:
1. Those which regard government or "the state" as the primary source of oppression and seek to establish individual freedom by eliminating government (anarchists) or limiting government (minarchists).
2. Those which regard "big" government that intrudes into any aspect of society, especially the economy and private life, as the primary source of oppression and seek to establish individual freedom by limiting government to its only "legitimate" purpose, the protection of individual rights and liberty which may be calssified as libertarian.
3. Those which regard the corruption of government as the primary source of oppression and seek to establish individual freedom by returning government to a strict Constitutional form which may be classified is political conservative.
I readily admit these classifications are arbitrary and the actual differences between many of these organizations is indistinct and there are many variations within each group.
Anarchist and Anti-State
I've included in this category those groups and organizations that have identified themselves as anarchist or anti-state.
Center for a Stateless Society, which is, "dedicated to building public awareness of, and support for, market anarchism," which, they say, "is the doctrine that the legislative, adjudicative, and protective functions unjustly and inefficiently monopolised by the coercive State should be entirely turned over to the voluntary, consensual forces of market society." Associated organizations are the
Molinari Institute and the
Voluntaryists, "are advocates of non-political, non-violent strategies to achieve a free society."
The International Society for Individual Liberty
(ISIL) is an association of individuals and organizations dedicated to building a free and peaceful world, respect for individual rights and liberties, and an open and competitive economic system based on voluntary exchange and free trade.
Strike The Root "The mission of STR is to advance the cause of liberty, primarily by de-mystifying and de-legitimizing the State. STR seeks a world where people are free to live their lives as they see fit, as long as they don't use force or fraud against peaceful people.
The Online Free Academy
"You'll gain a deep sense of freedom, as you discover things never seen before. That benefit will come at once. Its larger benefit will come when most of society - scores of millions - has graduated, by some time in the 2020s. Then, the whole country will be free."
Though they vary widely in their views, the groups and organizations included here identify themselves as libertarian.
The Cato Institute is a public policy research organization—a think tank—dedicated to the principles of individual liberty, limited government, free markets and peace.
Ludwig von Mises Institute [including the Journal of Libertarian Studies] "It seeks a radical shift in the intellectual climate as the foundation for a renewal of the free and prosperous commonwealth." "Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders," wrote Ludwig von Mises, "no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interest, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle."
Libertarian Party "Libertarians believe that being free and independent is a great way to live. We want a system which encourages all people to choose what they want from life; that lets them live, love, work, play, and dream their own way." [Perhaps should be listed with "politically conservative," since, though their views are libertarian, their methods are political.]
Libertarian Alliance "The Libertarian Alliance is an organisation working for fundamental and permanent changes in the social, economic and political arrangements of the human race. We deny the moral legitimacy of the present order of things. We regard the State as both unnecessary for any good purpose, and as the foremost violator of life, liberty and property." [UK]
Advocates for Self-Government, "since 1985, has worked to bring about a free society by empowering those who love liberty to become highly successful at taking the ideas of individual freedom and responsibility, free markets, and peace to the world."
The Property and Freedom Society "The Property and Freedom Society stands for an uncompromising intellectual radicalism: for justly acquired private property, freedom of contract, freedom of association—which logically implies the right to not associate with, or to discriminate against—anyone in one's personal and business relations—and unconditional free trade. It condemns imperialism and militarism and their fomenters, and champions peace. It rejects positivism, relativism, and egalitarianism in any form, whether of "outcome" or "opportunity," and it has an outspoken distaste for politics and politicians. As such it seeks to avoid any association with the policies and proponents of interventionism ..."
Free State Project "The Free State Project is an agreement among 20,000 pro-liberty activists to move to New Hampshire, where they will exert the fullest practical effort toward the creation of a society in which the maximum role of government is the protection of life, liberty, and property. The success of the Project would likely entail reductions in taxation and regulation, reforms at all levels of government, to expand individual rights and free markets, and a restoration of constitutional federalism, demonstrating the benefits of liberty to the rest of the nation and the world."
Oddly enough it is freqeuntly the political approach of limiting government, or "restoring Constitutional" government which is most likely to be explicit in identifying individual freedom or "liberty" as their purpose. I include such groups and organization in this category.
Campaign for Liberty, "Our mission is to promote and defend the great American principles of individual liberty, constitutional government, sound money, free markets, and a noninterventionist foreign policy, by means of educational and political activity."
Center For Individual Freedom, "A non-partisan, non-profit organization with the mission to protect and defend individual freedoms and individual rights guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution."
The Freedom Forum, "The Freedom Forum, based in Washington, D.C., is a nonpartisan foundation that champions the First Amendment as a cornerstone of democracy."
Future of Freedom Foundation, "The mission of The Future of Freedom Foundation is to advance freedom by providing an uncompromising moral and economic case for individual liberty, free markets, private property, and limited government."
FreedomWorks, "FreedomWorks fights for lower taxes, less government and more economic freedom for all Americans."
Liberty & Freedom Foundation, "The Liberty & Freedom Foundation was formed to promote and defend conservative fiscal, moral and security ideals in the face of a liberal agenda that is devastating business and lowering our values in America. The Foundation's mission is to educate and motivate the American people and promote conservative principles across the country."
It is not the details of any group's or movement's philosophy or political view I wish to emphasize, but the fact that individual freedom is at least one of their major objectives. What is important is the methods by which these various groups propose to achieve that objective.
Broadly speaking, there seem to be four general approaches to the establishment of individual freedom: 1. promotion and propaganda, 2. education, 3. activism, and 4. political activism. I describe these as follows:
1. Promotion and Propaganda, we might call, "selling freedom," as though it were a product, like the latest detergent or electronic device. "If only we can develop the right 'sales program' and 'advertising' the world will beat a path to our freedom store."
2. Education, which will somehow bring enlightenment to the ignorant masses, who, having seen the light, will suddently embrace freeedom and personal responsibility.
3. Activism, which, it is usually emphasized, does not involve any kind of violence, though it does include, "passive resistance." Such activism mostly manifests itself as "demonstrations" and "rallies" of people yelling slogans and marching around with signs.
4. Political Activism, includes everything from, "getting out the vote," to writing and calling one's political representatives (Congressmen and Senators), to participating in petitions. Political activism includes campaigning for the "right" political candidates and promoting the "right" political platforms; "right" meaning, of course, pro-individual freedom.
I'm sure my characterization of these methods will not be appreciated, especially by those whose methods they are. My intention is not to minimize the significance of such methods, and quite frankly I would be delighted if they would work, and individual freedom would thus be established. That is the entire point of my challenge.
My challenge to every anarchist, minarchist, libertarian, and politically conservative site, organization, group, institute, society, campaign, center, forum, foundation, and think-tank proposing some program or method of establishing individual freedom is to explain how their program is going to work, and when we can expect to see the results.
From the largest foundation to the smallest individual WEB site promoting some program or method promising to establish individual freedom, they all seek the support of freedom loving individuals, openly soliciting financial contributions, the purchase of products, or membership.
Before anyone invests their time, money, or effort in these organization, the wise investor will want to have a look at their business plan. In other words, how is their program going to work? When will it produce results? How soon can I expect to be more free by supporting their work or program?
Generalities are unacceptable. It is not enough to simply describe what they are doing, what methods of promotion they are using, or kinds education they are providing, or activism they are engaged in. They must explain exactly how that promotion, education, or activism is going to work. It is not a business plan if they only hope it will work.
If they only hope it will work, then they have no claim on anyone's investment or effort, because there is a method that will work, and anyone who truly wants freedom can use it.
The Same Problem
Perhaps one of the methods or programs of one or more of the organizations and movements to establish individual freedom will work, and perhaps one or more of them can explain how they will work—and when. "Sometime," is not good enough, but "sometime," is the most likely answer, because every one of the methods and programs proposed shares the same problem—they all depend on changing society.
In most cases it is stated explicitly: "advocates of non-political, non-violent strategies to achieve a free society," "dedicated to building a free and peaceful world," "seeks a world where people are free to live their lives as they see fit," "Then, the whole country will be free," "for a renewal of the free and prosperous commonwealth," "We want a system ... that lets them live, love, work, play, and dream their own way," "working for fundamental and permanent changes in the social, economic and political arrangements of the human race."
But there is no need to wait until a "free society," has been establish, or a "free and peaceful world," or for "the whole country" to be free, or for the right "system" to be established or the right "social, economic and political arrangments," to be made in order to be free. There is an alternative.
All of the methods and programs being promoted to establish individual freedom share the same fault—you will not be free until others, in your community, your country, or the whole world, are free. Why do you need to wait for others to be free, to be free yourself?
Must you go hungry until everyone is fed? Must you go naked until a system for clothing everyone is established? Must you be sick until the world is made healthy? Must you remain ignorant until an educated society is established? Must you remain enslaved until everyone is free?
As the late Harry Browne demonstrated, you do not have to wait for another soul to be free, because you can find your own freedom in the world today, in your own lifetime. It was the name of his book, "How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World."
If you truly desire freedom, it is the only path to freedom that will actually work. It will be work, but its virtue is that it does not depend on anyone else—you do the work and you reap the reward—your own freedom.
As much as all of the organizations promoting their programs despise collectivism, at bottom, they are all collectivist methods, they all depend on a change in a society, a community, a culture, or a political system. Establishing your own freedom in the world today is the only individualistic method of establishing freedom.
[The Independent Individualist
Freedom Pages are dedicated to providing methods and principles for establishing one's own freedom in the world today.]
Answering The Challenge
This article will be mailed to every organization listed above, and perhaps some others as well. If any of them choose to take the challenge they are invited to respond in any of the following ways:
1. Simply respond by email (iimail (at) usabig.com) understanding the Independent Individualist will publish your response.
2. Write an article with your response to the challenge. You may publish the article on your own site and provide the Independent Individualist a link to the article, or ...
3. You may forward the article to the Independent Individualist to publish for you. [Pleaase email the article to: iimail (at) usabig.com. Any format except PDF or Word is acceptable. Simply pasting it into an email works fine.]
4. A thread on the Freedom Forum has been set up to discuss the Individualist's Challenge. You may simply respond on that thread, if you choose.
5. You may ignore the challenge, which the Independent Individualist will duly note and make known the tacit admition that your program or methods do not have any objective basis for any expected success.
—Reginald Firehammer (12/31/10)
All comments and criticisms will be read, and, if decent, published. Please include the title of the article. Questions are also welcome.