Strategies for our Possible Political Future

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Republican Party, and by implication freedom in general, has suffered
a grievous setback with the explicit abandonment of all conservative
principles by the Bush Administration in its oversea aggression
against a defenseless and impoverished Iraq and its abandonment
of all pretenses of adherence to a “limited” government ideology
in domestic affairs. The complicity of the Republican-controlled
congress makes the situation even worse, for here we have the spectacle
of a Republican President and Republican-controlled congress, together
for the first time in fifty years, doing the exact opposite of what
was promised pre-election and which has been the fodder of conservative
talk-show hosts, speeches, and think-tank press releases from time
immemorial: the growth in the ability of our federal leviathan to
control our lives and make the world a more dangerous place for
all of us.

If the anti-capitalist social-democratist left needed anything to
boost their flagging ideology, this is it. It has now been proven
to the general population beyond a shadow of doubt that what the
socialistic left has been saying for decades is true; capitalism
is inherently corrupt and those who espouse its tenets in government
are the shills of corrupt big-business types who would like nothing
better than to exploit third-world labor and resources as best they
can to the hilt. The supposed protectors of individual rights and
the freedom of trade amongst individuals without which personal
freedom is a sham have done more than anyone to damage the cause
of freedom. The renaissance of classical-liberal thinking which
has taken place in this country since the early 1970′s has now been
almost entirely sold out in the political realm. It is not possible
for free-market think tanks like CATO to gain more influence then
they currently have with the Republican Party and the public at
large. “Been there, done that” is the attitude free-marketeers now
face in light of the failed “free-trade” scams like NAFTA which
these groups supported. As Ayn Rand once perceptively said with
regard to the same political party, freedom has been sold-out by
its own protectors, who bear heavily the burden of guilt in her

For anarcho-capitalists (defenders of the natural order, Lockean
or Rothbardian anarchists, call us what you will) such as myself,
the idea to approaching politics has typically been to select the
lesser of two evils. The Republican Party is bad, one might think
when looking at electoral choices, but the Democratic party is a
hell of a lot worse. Ergo, the best idea in advancing the cause
of freedom would be to elect a mushy self-effacing and self-contradicting
Republican over a devoutly egalitarian power-worshipping leftist
Democrat. This kind of thinking has a certain plausibility to it.
It’s rather analogous to being on a sinking ship in the middle of
the sea or among the victims of a medieval siege; if one doesn’t
join the bucket brigade or attempt to help “hold the lines,” what
else is one to do?

Unfortunately, as has historically been the case with those who
seek to strictly limit the use of force in human affairs, this strategy
has proven to be extremely short-sited and has back-fired big time.
By supporting people who mouth the slogans of limited government
while acting on the opposite of principles the defenders of liberty
have once again been out-maneuvered by the left. Freedom has been
discredited and the ideology of all those who pretend to protect
minority interests against the machinations of power (whether this
power be “economic” or “cultural”) by, paradoxically, using the
power of violence, but cause strife and faction where it would not
naturally exist, has gained the day.

If you disagree with me and think I’m mistaken in predicting this
(because this is a sort of prediction; I speak in the present tense
because I believe the groundwork is there ready to be exploited
by the left), I can only say I hope you’re right. But much like
the hope expressed by school-voucher advocates that the implementation
of their program won’t lead to the very opposite of their goal and
eliminate private schooling in this country altogether, I think
it is the hope of fools.

At this point, one might ask, what strategy should the defender
of liberty and freedom adopt? Is there anything one can do short
of giving up the game and waiting for the next revolution which
may or may not take place in our lifetime?

I think two strategies present themselves, one devious and risky,
but sure to expose the impossible distopian nature of modern leftism,
and a second frank and open but fraught with pains and difficulties
and no sure guarantee of success.

The first strategy would be to stick to one’s principles in explicitly
rejecting statism and totalitarianism in all of its forms, but to
vote for and support the left with the idea that the sooner the
immorality and unworkability of a massive leviathan intruding into
all of our affairs becomes obvious to even the most intellectually
slavish portion of the public, the better. Kind of the opposite
strategy enunciated above. This has the advantage of giving explicit
empirical reality to the consequences of socialism and interpersonal
state interventionism.

No one could doubt the results of statism then. Or could they? I
think history has shown the need of the public to find a scapegoat
for national tragedy and the willingness of their temporal leaders
to deliver one up. With the apparent intellectual decline in public
discourse over the last fifty years in this country, the possibility
of this happening has only been increased, in my opinion. Even ignoring
the probable bloodshed and chaos such a strategy could result in,
its simply too risky of a venture. In letting the disease run it’s
course, we run the risk of killing the patient. The cost is simply
too high, even putting aside (for a brief moment) the moral conundrums

The second strategy would be to advocate a clear and concise political
platform of adherence to principle while refusing to support Republican
candidates for office who either have a history of speaking with
a forked-tongue or who explicitly reject the principles of individual
rights and limited government. What this means in reality is backing
away from the Republican party as currently constituted and, while
not forsaking politics altogether, it does mean refusing to participate
in the electoral process when none of the candidates, be they on
the right or left, fit the bill. While this strategy if acted upon
by a large-enough number of people would mean, in the short-run,
more political power for the left, what it could result in, in the
long-run, is a reconstitution of the right along classical-liberal
lines. But this strategy could only be enacted if enough of us throw
off our political apathy vis-à-vis the daily grind of political
action and participate in the Republican party, speaking out against
Republican candidates who do not regard principle as inviolate,
and making our views known to the general public as best we can.

This would naturally be a long and slow, possibly torturous, process
which again might not come to fruition for decades to come. But
I think it’s one that is eminently worth undertaking, if only for
the fact that once a man realizes that reality demands of him a
certain course of action, no matter how difficult the undertaking,
he really has no choice in the matter. His values and his principles
guide him.

In saying all of this I don’t pretend to be ahead of the tide here.
I’m simply riding the wave of a new political undercurrent of which and are a big part. I also grant many
of us are already engaged in just this process of which I speak.
But I seek something further, albeit undefined as of yet. Whether
this something further be a loosely-organized group led by someone
with the ability to make it work, like Justin Raimondo, or whether
it be enacted solely on the individual level with people engaging
in this type of activity with an understanding of the common end
towards which they work, I have no idea which is best. But I do
know that a new, explicit and, especially, enunciated strategy is
called for. And that this strategy should include both participation
in political processes and an uncompromising stand on principle.

The future of liberty depends upon its protectors. It's a job that
can only be accomplished by people of principle and understanding.
People like those of us who read and support LRC.

That is, by people like you and me.

6, 2003

Stearns [send him mail] writes
from Portland, Oregon.


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