Free Society, The Unrealizable Ideal
Most of those who sincerely believe they are "fighting for freedom" do an excellent job pointing out what is wrong with the world's societies, and what is wrong with government.
For example, from Kent McManigal's blog post, "Surviving The Red, White, and Blue Death":
"Want to know why I so intensely hate the encroaching police state and all its tools - the counterfeit "laws", the cops, the judges, the politicians, and all the other parasites that infest The State? Because I do not want that world for my kids."
Who does? All of those who are, "fighting for the cause of freedom," are "fighting" because they do not want that kind of world for their kids, or themselves, or anyone else.
His article lists of some individuals he considers,
"heroes," in the fight for freedom including Claire Wolfe, and L. Neil Smith. I would also include, among those who sincerely believe they are "fighting for freedom,"
Carl Watner, of the Voluntaryist,
Karen De Coster,
Roderick T. Long,
Dr. Mary J. Ruwart, and
Wendy McElroy, but only as examples, because there are many many more.
All of these are, "fighting for freedom," and though they may choose different ways to make that fight, there is one common thread. Kent McManigal does, "not want that world," for his kids. What he wants is for them to know he, "did everything [he] could to rid their world of that growing threat." But what if it doesn't work? What if all you do to "rid their world of that growing threat," does not accomplish the objective? Does he really think what he is doing is going to provide a free world for his children?
What Most Freedom Fighters Really Fight For
Voluntaryist statement of purpose, says it best: "Voluntaryists are advocates of non-political, non-violent strategies to achieve a free society." [Emphasis mine.] Though I'm certain, in their view, it is individual freedom that is their ultimate aim, it is not individual freedom that is their objective, but a certain kind of society; for the Voluntaryist, individual freedom means living in a free society.
Tom Knapp is the
C4SS (Center for a Stateless Society) media coordinator. C4SS is a project of the
Molinari Institute. The mission of the Molinari Institute, it says, "is to promote understanding of the philosophy of Market Anarchism as a sane, consensual alternative to the hypertrophic violence of the State." Their emphasis in the, "fight for freedom," is the elimination of the "violent" state, that is, the government. Individual freedom for Tom Knapp and company means living in a society without the coercive state.
Karen De Coster, whose sight bears the description, "resisting tyranny one word at a time," describes herself as, "devoted to the causes of liberty, individualism, and the free market. I embrace the right to keep and bear arms; recognize the superiority of the Articles of Confederation ... believe that government is evil, immoral, corrupt, and unnecessary in a free society." Apparently Karen regards, "liberty and individualism," as dependent on there being a "free society."
Lew Rockwell's site is described as "anti-state, anti-war, pro-market." In his article, "For the Love of Liberty" regarding the so-called revolution in Egypt, he wrote:
"The liberty theme was clear enough in Egypt. Here we had multitudes of educated, young, tech-savvy, pro-freedom activists taking a brave stand against a national socialist dictator of 30 years—and the bad guy lost, thereby giving hope to all peoples in the world who struggle against tyranny. ... The parallels with 1989 and with 1776 were impossible to miss. Anyone who loves Jefferson, Bastiat, and Rothbard had to feel a mighty rush, a sense that the flame of freedom will never, ever be extinguished. If it can happen there, it can happen anywhere, including in Washington, DC." It is quite obvious that, to Lew Rockwell, Liberty is living in a society with the right kind of government, which, perhaps, only a revolution can produce.
Roderick T. Long says, "I run the Molinari Institute and Molinari Society," (already discussed) and "I'm active in the Center for a Stateless Society," (also already discussed), "and the
Alliance of the Libertarian Left which describes itself with this mouthful:
"The Alliance of the Libertarian Left is a multi-tendency coalition of mutualists, agorists, voluntaryists,
geolibertarians, left-Rothbardians, green libertarians, dialectical anarchists, radical minarchists,
and others on the libertarian left, united by an opposition to statism and militarism, to cultural
intolerance (including sexism, racism, and homophobia), and to the prevailing corporatist capitalism
falsely called a free market; as well as by an emphasis on education, direct action, and building
alternative institutions, rather than on electoral politics, as our chief strategy for achieving liberation."
Please note these words, "an emphasis on education, direct action, and building alternative institutions, rather than on electoral politics, as our chief strategy for achieving liberation." These are all social means. Again, liberation (freedom) is the handmaid of society or social action.
Perhaps the best description of Dr. Mary J. Ruwart's view of freedom is summed up in this description of her book,
Healing Our World: The Other Piece of the Puzzle, as described by Ron Paul, "HEALING applies win-win strategies to the political realm, 'bridging the gap between conservatives and liberals, Christians and New Agers, special interests and the common good with practical solutions to our economic, environmental, and societal woes.'" And of course, that is the means to individual freedom, if that is really the objective.
Wendy McElroy describes her site as, "A site for individualist feminism and individualist anarchism." She is a strong supporter of Carl Watner, of the Voluntaryist (already discussed) and publishes many of his articles on her site. Of her own site she writes:
"Our world is going through a wild economic and political ride that is far from over. The small but determined band of people who make up ifeminists and wendymcelroy intend to stand our ground in the firm belief that grassroots voices are the ones upon whom freedom depends...as it always has. Continue to speak out for justice and your rights." Once again the basis of freedom is some kind of social action, in this case by "grassroots voices," apparently.
What's Wrong With Promoting Liberty?
Of course there is nothing wrong with promoting the principles of individual liberty, of demonstrating what is wrong with coercive government (and there is no other kind), or of supporting the view that every individual owns their own life and that no individual may rightly use force to interfere in the life of any other individual. All of these individuals and sites do a commendable job in that promotion, and of making people aware of the ever-growing levels of government oppression.
Though I disagree with some views presented on some of these site, I have no criticism of what they are doing beyond those slight disagreements. In fact, I do not intend to criticize them at all, and highly recommend them to anyone wanting to learn more about the principles of individual liberty and free markets.
What They Are Not Doing
Though I am sure they all believe otherwise, not one of these sites I've described is promoting or fighting for individual freedom. I'm sure that they all want individual freedom, and want it to be a reality in as many people's lives as possible, but their stated methods and objectives will never make a single oppressed individual free.
Every one of these individuals and sites, implicitly, if not explicitly, expresses the view that individual freedom is a function of society, that in order for individuals to be free, a free society must first be established. They differ somewhat in how they believe that is to be accomplished, but whatever methods they advocate, that is their objective.
Those who, quite correctly, see government as the source of all oppression, advocate any method of limiting or eliminating the government, or the state. Those who believe it is ultimately society itself which is the reason government, or the state, is made possible, seek to spread the ideas of freedom, free markets, and individual liberty by means of education, propaganda, various programs and activism, thus changing society itself to one that will reject the state.
A Matter Of Faith
Many libertarians and anti-state individualists are atheists who criticize Christians for entertaining a delusion of some future paradise based solely on faith. But how many libertarians, anti-state, and free-market advocates really believe their educational efforts, propaganda, programs and activism are going to eliminate the state or change societies into free ones. Is it not mostly a case of faith, a kind of wishful thinking, and a desire to convince themselves they are at least doing something, so their kids, like Kent McManigal's, will know they did everything they could to prevent their oppression?
I think all these "freedom-efforts" are mostly a matter of faith, because there is no sound rational basis for supposing any of them will work. Consider the most common methods being proposed: education, propaganda programs, and various forms of activism, such as, "passive resistance."
How's that education program going to work? The US population is over 311 million (June 2012). There may be as many as 500,000 libertarians in the US, and, since it is impossible to get any statistical data on the number of anti-state and anarchist individuals, I will generously suggest 250,000 of such in the US, a total of three quarters of a million people interested in true individual freedom.
In 2010, there were 3.6 million full-time elementary and secondary school teachers, all promoting the leftist statist government curriculum. If all 750 thousand freedom-lovers in this country were active full-time teaching the principles of freedom and liberty, there would be four statist teachers for every freedom teacher. In reality, there will never be more than handful of active freedom-lovers, and all their "teaching" efforts will be swamped by thousands teaching on the other side.
What's Wrong With Teaching and Propaganda
There is a WEB site called,
Changing Minds, which is dedicated to, "all aspects of how we change what others think, believe, feel and do."
There is no doubt there are ways to influence what people believe, and even what they want and do. The very successful business of advertising, every successful political campaign, and the historic spread of religions, all testify to that fact. Teaching and propaganda work, but they do not work for everything. In most cases, teaching and propaganda work because most people are ignorant, gullible, lack discernment, and are easily influenced by appeals to their feelings—their desires (in the case of most advertising) or their fears (in the case of most political campaigns). What teaching and propaganda do not appeal to are reason and objective values.
[By, "teaching," I do not mean the transfer of knowledge from one individual to another by means of the rational explanation of that knowledge by the teacher and the rational comprehension of the knowledge by the student, both engaged in that activity by their own mutual choice for there own mutual benefit. Very little of what goes by the name teaching these days refers to that kind of legitimate didactism. What I mean by teaching is any attempt to convince or "change the minds of" people who, on their own, have no particular interest or desire for that "knowledge."]
Freedom Is Not Marketable
There is a bit of a mistake in the notion that people can be changed. In reality, people can only change themselves. A product, for example, can be advertised with all kinds of glowing descriptions that appeal to people's desires, but any individuals who actually chooses to buy the product have to make that choice themselves. We can offer people information, encourage them to think differently, and even attempt to motivate them to make changes, but ultimately every individual will change only when they choose to.
For those who understand the nature of freedom, and its individualistic nature, there is something wrong with the attempt to change people. There is nothing wrong with offering people information, or offering to teach them if they choose to be taught, but any other method of "changing" people is really an uninvited interference in their life. As moral individuals, we have no business trying to change others.
Morally, our only option is to offer freedom to others in the form of concepts in the "free market of ideas." Unfortunately, freedom is not a very marketable commodity, and our competition has all advantages.
Most People Do Not Want To Be Free
It was the socialist, George Bernard Shaw who ironically said, "Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it."
What most people want is not freedom, but security. Shaw was right, to be truly free means to be totally responsible for all of one's own choices and actions, one's success or failures determined solely by one's own efforts. For the truly free, there are no guarantees in life, and one must face every risk on their own, either learning how to deal with them, or suffering the consequences. For the truly free, nothing is provided and everything must be acquired or achieved by one's own effort. For those who love freedom, these are freedom's virtues, but for most people, the very virtues of freedom are a source of terror.
The collectivists and statists are offering exactly what most people desire. Where freedom offers responsibility, the state offers relief from that responsibility. "Don't worry about making provisions for your old age, the state will take care of it." Where freedom offers the reality of risk and danger, the state offer guarantees and safety. "Don't worry about natural disasters, the government will take care of everything and protect you from them. Don't worry about the dangers of the world, the government will pass laws that will make everything safe, your job, your food, your medicine, even driving your car."
The promoter of freedom can protest as clearly and loudly as possible that the state produces nothing, that the state can only confiscate what is produced by others and redistribute it, that the state cannot and never has been able to deliver on any of its promises. But the protest will fall on deaf ears.
The collectivists and statists have another advantage. There is no moral compunction on their part against outright lying, and all their propaganda and promotions can promise anything anyone might want, even when there is no intention or means of delivering on those promises. The promoter of freedom can promise only that every individual will be free to have or achieve whatever they can by their own efforts and ability. Since most people have little or no confidence in their own competence to achieve or accomplish much, the empty but appealing promises of the statists win the day every time.
There is a final advantage of the statist message that makes it almost impossible to defeat. That advantage is its shear simplicity. It is presented as the simple solution to all problems. It requires no effort to understand, only ignorance and gullibility to swallow. No matter what problem there is, the government can solve it simply by passing a law or forming an agency.
Think about what you are trying to promote. The principles of individual liberty and free markets are not easy concepts. Have a look at any of the sites I've referred to. Notice the language, the vocabulary, and the ideas that are being discussed. How many people do you think will be able to understand most of those ideass, much less be interested in them? Look at what holds the attention of most people, that mass of ignorance we refer to as the "television viewing audience." How much of free-market economics do you suppose they are going to understand?
Freedom, But When?
If you look at any of those sites I've referred to, and you ought to, with the admirable exception of Claire Wolfe's site, which she calls "Living Freedom," and describes as, "musings about personal freedom and finding it within ourselves," there is, sometimes explicitly, but more often implied, the idea that individual freedom remains always an ideal to be realized in some unidentified future. There is, in all the discussions, no sense that any of these freedom lovers really expect to have true individual freedom in their lifetime. They love freedom, work for freedom, even live for freedom, though, in truth, they do not really expect to be free.
Woody Allen once said, "I don't want to achieve immortality through my work... I want to achieve it through not dying." While his desire was not a realistic one, I have my own desire that reflects his sentiment. I do not want to work for freedom to be realized only in some future I'll never see, I want to work for freedom that I may enjoy in my own lifetime. I think working for freedom that will only be realized by some future generation is tantamount to altruistic self-sacrifice, a despicable act of immorality.
The Only Freedom Worth Pursuing
Freedom is not some movement to be promoted, and is not a social concept. Societies are not free, only individuals are.
Promoting freedom with the objective of producing a free society is a futile and morally mistaken idea. No society is anyone's society to make into one they think they would like. That is called, social engineering—a socialist concept, not a concept of individual freedom. A society is only individuals, and the character and nature of every society is determined solely by the individuals that are that society. To change a society means changing the individuals that make up that society. No one has a right to do that.
A society in which every individual is free to live their life as they choose without the interference of any other individual or individuals would be a wonderful thing. Such a society is impossible so long as most individuals neither choose to be free, nor want to be. If you are waiting for such a society to exist before being free, you will never be free, nor do you deserve to be free. If you are not a statist, you do not expect society to provide you anything, not your food, not your housing, not your education, not your health care or anything else. Why do you expect society to provide you your freedom?
If you want freedom, like anything else of value in your life, you must provide it yourself, or at least seek to provide it. Like everything else in life, there are no guarantees. You may pursue it and fail in our pursuit, but if you do not pursue it, you will never be free.