A perhaps not terribly impressed reader of one of my recent LRC blog posts, in which I linked to an article explaining that forced in-home vaccinations could be a result of President Obama’s health care "reform" bill, wrote: "Why do you guys on LRC report stuff like this? There is nothing anybody can do about it and you propose no plan of action yourself. Is it just to invoke fear or to irritate people? I just don’t get it. And please don’t give me ol’ — u2018well, if enough people know about it and stand up….’ — Hasn’t happened yet, ain’t gonna’ happen anytime soon…"
Despite the tone of my interlocutor’s correspondence, he did ask a valid question, the answer to which deserves some consideration. Here is the reply I sent him:
Why do you read LRC if not to find out the latest depredations of the state? Why do people read any news, the overwhelming majority of which is out of their control? Sometimes we just like to know what’s going on so we can at least be prepared for what’s coming down the pike.
Furthermore, I dispute the notion that our efforts are fruitless. LRC played a large part in building up support for Ron Paul’s presidential candidacy, a run that brought ideas of liberty, nonintervention, and sound money into the public eye and possibly even into the mainstream of thought. Would Paul be called upon by major news organizations today if not for his candidacy last year? Would his "Audit the Fed" bill even be close to passage without it?
Also, sometimes people who spread ideas don’t live to see the results of their work, but that doesn’t make it worthless. Many of the thinkers whose works inspired the Founding Fathers were dead long before the American Revolution. Neither Moses nor the Apostle Paul nor Mohammed could possibly have had any inkling how many people would be attracted to the faiths they helped to found, but that didn’t stop them from producing the works that still draw people to Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
Even though freedom appears to be on the ropes everywhere, as Anthony Gregory recently pointed out, in some areas we are markedly more free than our ancestors were. Anthony wrote: "If these ideas of liberty can win out, then others can too. And only when the ideas win will we get our freedom." LRC is in the business of ideas. We demonstrate in a positive way what can happen when people are free, and we demonstrate in a negative way what happens when the state restricts their freedom. Both types of demonstrations are necessary.
What website, by the way, has been among the most outspoken in favor of the right of secession? It might seem a lost cause, but it is catching on, as evidenced by the fact that I just received an online Zogby poll with this question: "Do you agree or disagree that any state or region has the right to peaceably secede and become an independent republic?" Without people spreading the idea of secession, would it even be on the radar?
Thanks for writing. It made me think, and in fact I’ll probably turn this into an inspiring column for LRC.
Well, at least I hope that’s what I’ve done here. Sometimes it does seem as if our efforts are in vain, and it’s easy to become fatalistic about the prospects for liberty, especially in the age of Bush, Clinton, Bush, and Obama (and Clinton again!). Yet who would have thought that chattel slavery, an institution that had existed from time immemorial, would be (at least in the West) effectively wiped out, and mostly in a peaceful manner, within the span of a century? Though abolition took place via state action, it would not have happened if not for philosophers, ministers, and others who laid the foundation for it in the minds and hearts of ordinary people, who then brought pressure to bear on their political leaders, who had themselves been prepared by the very same thinkers to do the heretofore unthinkable. Much of the preparation for slavery’s abolition involved describing its horrors to those who either were unaware of them or had deliberately chosen to ignore them — most of whom, in view of the fact that they did not own slaves, were largely incapable of affecting the way slaves were treated, let alone their condition of servitude. Nevertheless, they needed to be made aware of the evils of the institution so that they might conclude its abolition was necessary.
In the same way, while libertarians’ continual drawing attention to the evils perpetrated by the state may seem at times to be a waste of effort given that the state in general continues to grow apace, the suspicion of the state that we are sowing in people’s hearts and minds may someday ultimately flower into a movement to abolish the state or at least severely restrain it. None of us writing for LRC today may live to see it. Mises and Rothbard, both great critics of central banking, didn’t live to see the day when the Federal Reserve would become increasingly an object of scorn rather than reverence among the general population and its abolition a somewhat remote but nevertheless real possibility; yet it is undeniable that the ideas that they promoted, carried forward and built on by Lew Rockwell, Ron Paul, and others, have brought us to this very point in history. The unthinkable during the early Austrians’ lifetimes has become the thinkable and the possible during ours. Similarly, while those of us writing for LRC today may never witness the downfall of the state, by providing example after example of its depredations and supplying an alternative view of society without the heavy hand of government we are performing the groundwork for just such an eventuality. We’ll leave it to future historians to give us our due; and even if they don’t, the important thing is that liberty was extended, regardless of who gets the credit for it.
Well, I may not have inspired you, dear reader, but I’ve inspired myself pretty well — and coming from a natural pessimist, that’s really saying something. To borrow from the entrepreneur Bob the Builder rather than some hack politician: Can we fix it (i.e., lead the way to liberty)? Yes, we can!
Michael Tennant [send him mail] is a software developer and freelance writer in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.