What Is To Be Done?

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It is ideas
that group men into fighting factions, that press the weapons into
their hands, and that determine against whom and for whom the weapons
shall be used. It is they alone, and not arms, that, in the last
analysis, turn the scales. ~
von Mises (Liberalism,
p. 51)

Several months
ago I asked
readers for a suggestion
of a practical tool for our age for
use in withdrawing support from tyrannical government. It would
be, metaphorically, a small crowbar that could be leveraged in the
cracks of the armor of the state. It would be a simple and effective
tactic, like Gandhi's or Martin Luther King's tool of nonviolence,
but suited to our times.

My query implied
that the discovery of this tool would come from thoughtful readers
like yourself, not from the masses. There was no expectation that
this tool would come from the Tea
Party
, any more than it might have come from Perot's 1992 United
We Stand America
, or from a spontaneous
revolt
or Spartacist
uprising of any kind. In short, as Lenin stated in his famous apostasy
What
Is to Be Done?
, the change would come from the bourgeois
intelligentsia.

I am gratified
to report that such a tool just might have been discovered.

I arranged
the suggestions that were offered in ascending order of personal
risk, and happily, this tool is at the low risk end of the spectrum,
and indeed derives its effectiveness precisely from being low-risk.
But first briefly consider the other contenders.

Attitudinal
shift

The first,
and lowest risk, group mainly concerned adopting a new attitude
toward the government and popularizing it. These suggestions included
scoffing or passively provoking the authorities through delaying
payment of fines and taxes, ignoring the authorities through not
voting, and so on. The best suggestion of this group was simple
mockery. This could be small scale, as a whispered snicker that's
more effective than a punch in the face; or it could be large scale,
as in plastering Facebook or your favorite blog with videos of George
Carlin
on the state.

Lifestyle
revolution

A riskier group
suggested making radical changes to your lifestyle. This could be
small scale, as in homeschooling your kids; or for those willing
to radicalize themselves, their families, and their associates in
varying degrees, it could mean the practice of autarky
or "prepping"
or voluntaryism.

Tax defiance

Riskiest of
all were those who promoted some of the many forms of tax defiance.
For rather obvious reasons, it would be irresponsible to detail
any of these schemes. You may think of this defiance as a nonviolent
alternative, but you can be confident that the government response
will be far more than nonviolent. Pay your minimum legal taxes,
to be sure, but pay them all the same.

Conditional
campaigning

The effective
tool of our times for withdrawing support from the state, or challenging
its power, just might be the creation of mass campaigns with a conditional
response.

A central defect
of democracy is that opposition to any proposal from the centralized
state requires an expensive, draining, and nonstop mobilization
of factions significant enough to oppose it. Assembling such factions
requires endless resources, and it requires the galvanization of
popular passion that marginalizes sober thought. For example, which
is easier: Whipping up enthusiasm for an imperial war against foreigners
with keffiyehs
around their heads, or getting a majority to understand the historical
case for secession?
Anyone who has tried to mobilize voters to vote for someone other
than a RepubliCrat candidate is familiar with the response: "I
don't want to waste my vote." It is exasperating, but true:
No one wants to waste his energy on a venture that is likely to
fail.

Now suppose
that your expenditure of energy was conditioned on the involvement
of a critical mass of other like-minded people. Suppose that you
could somehow commit time, money, and resources on the condition
that others, many others, make a similar commitment. The
promise, in and of itself, would generate participation from these
other people.

This idea was
suggested by my friend Randy Dumse, a robotics engineer and owner
of New Micros in Dallas,
Texas. As he puts it,

the key to
pulling such a showdown [with the state] off bloodlessly is not
to actually do anything, but only plan to do it, popularize the
plan, until so many people sign on, that the government either
relents or goes ballistic and reveals its evil. [...] Remove support
without doing anything illegal.

This is not
a hypothetical tool. It has in fact already been used with tremendous
success. The success of Ron Paul's "money bombs" in the
last presidential election was based in part on the online visibility
of a significant number of others with a good prospect of success.
And, most gratifying of all, it has been hit upon by someone already
familiar to readers of this site, economist Robert
P. Murphy
. As I said in my original article, this tool might
be discovered by "someone like you [...] while driving."
While I must confess that my article had absolutely nothing to do
with Mr. Murphy's discovery, that is exactly how he made it. His
discovery was to use the online site ThePoint for gathering and
popularizing conditional pledges of sponsorship for various campaigns
or causes. In Murphy's case, it is conditional sponsorship of his
debate with Keynesian economist
Paul Krugman
. Read his account, which contains his details of
how ThePoint
wonderfully implements this idea.

Now then, if
this idea — and not just its application by innovators like Robert
Murphy and those at ThePoint — is indeed the tool of our times for
withdrawing support from the state, the next question becomes: What
is the most effective campaign for using it?

October
30, 2010

Terry
Hulsey [send him mail]
is a writer living in Fort Worth, Texas.

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