everything is different doesn’t mean anything has changed.
~ Irene Peter
on the assumptions (1) that Ron Paul will not be the 2012 GOP
presidential nominee, and (2) that he is likely to retire from
future presidential campaigns, I focus on the question: where
are those who advocate peace and liberty to now direct their energies?
With three daughters, their husbands, and five young grandchildren
comprising my sense of the future of mankind, I am quite interested
in how they – and other members of their generations – can best
advance the values and social systems that serve their interests
rather than the interests of members of the corporate-state.
and inquiries keep me convinced that trying to dismantle political
thinking from within the system is both a futile and contradictory
undertaking. I do acknowledge that Ron Paul, using the political
process, has done more than any other individual to help intelligent
men and women discover the harsh and destructive nature of the
state. The central "issues" that whisked George H.W.
Bush into the White House in 1988 – whether Willie Horton should
have been let out of prison and the sacred nature of the pledge
of allegiance – can still arouse applause from aged defenders
of the status quo, but the younger generation knows that the quality
of their lives depends on more important questions. There is enfolded
into the life force of humans a need for fundamentally new
thinking and social practices that is – thanks primarily to Ron’s
concise and principled analysis – unfolding in the kids.
At my age, everyone is a kid.
believes that Ron Paul has simply dreamed up an ideology that
young people find attractive has no understanding of what is transpiring
in this movement. Ron has tapped into an energy source that could
be likened to a Rupert Sheldrake "morphogenetic field."
At both a conscious and unconscious level, tens of millions of
people throughout the world are sharing in the spontaneous eruption
of opposition to the dehumanizing, oppressive, violent, and destructive
nature of the corporate-state systems that exploit human beings
for institutional ends. Peace, liberty, private property ownership,
and respect for the inviolability of the individual, are qualities
insisted upon by growing numbers of persons, not only in America,
but elsewhere in the world.
did not invent this mobilization of the human spirit, nor will
the energies subside after November’s elections. If members of
the established order look upon this movement as a "fad"
that will disappear when Ron Paul retires, they are sadly disillusioned.
The question before us, however, has to do with how this energized
spirit will find expression in the following months and years.
How will those whom I affectionately refer to as "the kids"
advance the cause of peace and liberty when there is no presidential
campaign to attract them?
are drawn to libertarian sentiments and ideas are generally in
agreement that there is no definitive answer to the question of
how free men and women will live. When people ask me the kinds
of questions about "how will streets be provided for?,"
or "how will children be educated?," or "how will
the impoverished be cared for?," I respond: "I don’t
know. I suspect that in a society of free people, there will likely
be many different ways in which such services will be provided."
F.A. Harper stated the matter quite succinctly: "the man
who knows what freedom means will find a way to be free."
We ought not be surprised to imagine that, in a society of unqualified
liberty, millions of people will find a multitude of ways of living.
Uniformity and standardization do not characterize the nature
have a wonderful opportunity to demonstrate – both from reasoning
and empirical evidence – that human beings are capable of organizing
and creating ways of accomplishing whatever they value and to
which they are willing to commit their own resources. All that
the state can accomplish, in this regard, is to (a) restrain
such efforts in order to protect the interests of those who enjoy
access to state power, and/or (b) shift the costs of providing
such goods or services to those unwilling to pay for them. The
history of privately-built roads, alternative schools, early 20th
century health-care systems, private fire companies and security
firms, are just a few examples of how men and women can resort
to voluntary practices to accomplish what politically-conditioned
minds believe can only be done through state coercion.
So it will
be with the future of libertarian thinking and behavior. The man
I have long considered to be the father of modern libertarian
thinking, Leonard Read, was of the view that the most successful
way to promote the cause of liberty was to be – in your
behavior – the kind of person that your philosophy espoused. This
is another way of encouraging people to live the centered life;
to live with integrity; without contradiction between your ideas
and your actions.
– the late Karl Hess – had an interesting metaphor with which
to address the question of how libertarians might act to promote
their philosophy. Recognizing that there will be all kinds of
approaches people might take – from engaging in peaceful demonstrations,
to running for public office, to writing op-eds or letters-to-the-editor,
or teaching, or writing articles and/or books – we ought to be
supportive of any efforts, consistent with peace and liberty,
to which different people are attracted. "Imagine that you
are boarding a train and want to proceed to a destination of ‘total
liberty.’ There are some people who will ride with you all the
way, but others who will be more comfortable getting off early;
going as far as they feel like going." Karl went on to point
out that as long as the other passengers are going in the direction
of liberty – and not trying to reverse the direction of the train
– the rest of us should welcome their support.
I have long
been of the view that trying to reform the political system, or
running for political office, is counter-productive. I continue
to hold to this view even as I greatly admire what Ron Paul has
been able to accomplish within the political system. His accomplishments,
however, are to be found in helping to raise the conscious awareness
of millions of people to see the state for the vicious racket
that it is. It must also be noted that Ron is a very exceptional
case: he understands the problems of statism with an intellectual
depth few others share. Those who cling to faith in electoral
politics should be forewarned to pay little attention to the make-believe
"libertarians" who bandy about phrases they neither
understand nor embrace. There is an important distinction to be
drawn between making compromises as to strategy (i.e.,
how best to advance peace and liberty) and principles. One
must learn how to distinguish the two, as there will be many eager
for political power who will sound like principled libertarians
even as they help advance statism. (Does the name "Ronald
Reagan" ring a bell?)
weigh the options for advancing libertarian principles, I offer
this advice: bear in mind the comparative advantage these ideas
have in today’s world. Statist programs grounded in socialistic
thought and economic planning have had whatever respectability
they once enjoyed among most intellectuals dispatched by decades
of empirical experience. Even the case for superintending regulatory
systems is now understood to be little more than a cover for industry-desired
cartelism. The consequence of the failure to maintain a separation
of economy and state has been to foster recessions/depressions,
inflation, and increased taxation, and to discourage the creativity
and production necessary to the survival of civilization itself.
In a word, the modern state is economically bankrupt.
But the bankruptcy
runs much deeper than what can be quantified in material terms.
Our modern culture suffers from a moral bankruptcy as well.
Wars against any nations selected by the whims of an empirical
president; expanded police-state practices; the use of torture,
imprisonment without trial, and assassination of persons selected
by the president; increased surveillance, wiretapping, and censorship;
the war against the unimpeded exchange of information, combine
to reveal an institutional order that has lost whatever moral
foundations it might have once enjoyed.
these more obvious examples of a culture in entropic collapse
is to be found its most vulnerable trait: the spiritual depletion
of a politically-dominated society. Because the state is defined
as an institution that enjoys a monopoly on the use of violence
within a given territory, such power is dependent upon having
no impediments to its exercise. The idea of a "limitation"
on the exercise of state power is purely illusory, offered to
give Boobus the feeling that his liberty and individuality are
bounded by a cushion of inviolability. But the reality is to the
contrary: a limitation on state power is necessarily a
denial of its monopolization of the forces of violence.
Almost by definition, then, the state must treat its human subjects
as assets to be exploited on behalf of the purposes of the state
and its institutional owners.
This, I suggest,
is where the modern state is the most defenseless and subject
to criticism. It is, I believe, the state’s war against the human
spirit that has so energized not only the Ron Paul movement, but
much of the Occupy, Arab Spring, anti-war, Tea Party, pro-Wikileaks,
and other widespread, peaceful expressions of civil disobedience
and opposition to state power. While the institutional self-serving
economic consequences of governmental policies are also helping
to drive these various movements, Murray Rothbard’s deeper, spiritual
sentiments are also being voiced. Forty years ago, he accurately
prophesied that "the young kids out there are not going to
go the barricades in defense of lowered transaction costs."
With a growing
awareness of the dehumanizing and destructive nature of all political
systems, and the demonstrated failure of centralized banking and
regulatory practices to produce economic well-being, there is
a wonderful opportunity for the defenders of liberty to articulate
a coherent case that addresses the economic, moral, and spiritual
dimensions of the failures of statism. The bankruptcy of state
collectivism has left many otherwise intelligent minds without
an intellectually respectable basis for their thinking. As we
are witnessing in the "war on terror" as well as efforts
to advance the "global warming" religion, the statist
cause has reduced itself to little more than an attraction to
institutionalized violence. What better time to advance an intellectually
sound philosophy that values principled integrity more
highly than public opinion polling and special-interest funding
as the basis for their actions?
As our civilization
– and the thinking that’s bringing it down – continues its downward
spiral, there is a vacuum to be filled by ideas and practices
that sustain life. It is in response to such emptiness that Albert
Jay Nock’s "Remnant" will help to discover alternatives
to our politicized mass-minded destructiveness. I have been in
attendance at Ron Paul rallies and seen thousands of young faces
in the audience, and realized that I was looking upon the Remnant;
the future of truly civilized people. What a contrast is found
in comparing the attitudes of the young who see their lives enhanced
by such transformations, while those who have chosen to become
part of the life-destroying military are responding with ever-increasing
acts of suicide. What better images to put before our children
as they embark on the preparations for their futures!
But to be
a part of this metamorphosis will require great effort, not so
much in trying to organize and change others, but in developing
one’s own understanding. The defenders of the ancien regime
– having no intellectual foundations for their ambitions for
power – will be unable to sustain themselves in intelligent discourse.
As we have already seen, they have had to resort to name-calling
– "racist," "anti-Semitic," "hate-monger,"
etc. – as a substitute for clear, principled thought.
advice I can offer to those participating in this new renaissance
is to devote your energies to the expansion of your awareness
of the conditions necessary to a human-centered culture. This
involves moving beyond the recitation of clichés and bromides;
abandoning ideologies, dogmas, and gurus; and discovering that
a creative understanding is to be found not in answers,
but in refining the quality of your questions. Two
of my favorite quotations are Thomas Pynchon’s "if they can
get you asking the wrong questions, they don’t have to worry about
answers," and Milton Mayer’s "the questions that can
be answered are not worth asking." Learn to employ my favorite
word in the English language: "why?" Learn, as well,
how to take this question into the ever-deeper inquiries your
thinking will take you.
At the same
time, do your homework! No matter how knowledgeable you
believe yourself to be in various subject areas, keep expanding
your awareness. Read with greater depth in such fields as economics
– even challenging yourself with Mises’ Human
Action – history, psychology, philosophy, religion, the
genuine sciences (e.g., physics, biology, chemistry, brain/mind
studies, geology). There are many sources that can assist you
in your inquiries: Mises University, LewRockwell.com, Antiwar.com,
the Independent Institute, along with hundreds of other Internet
I am convinced
that any emerging life-sustaining renaissance will have its primary
focus on the liberation of the human spirit. It is the confrontation
between individualism and collectivism that will
be the focal point in efforts to civilize and humanize an uncivilized
and dehumanized world. As such, extend your inquiries into areas
with which many libertarians are unfamiliar or uncomfortable:
poetry, art, music, dance, depth psychology, and other spiritual
dimensions of what it means to be human. I suspect that what most
attracted readers to Ayn Rand’s novels was not her logical reasoning,
but her passion. Rediscover the liberating works of Shelley, Whitman,
Goethe, cummings, among earlier poets, as well as the more recent
poetry of Seamus Heaney and Lilija Valis. For spiritual accompaniment
on your journey, I offer "The Seedkeepers," written
by an unknown Palestinian: