Not infrequently, I receive emails from readers asking a variant of one simple question: what is to be done? The correspondents usually note that writers on LRC are very good at diagnosing our society’s problems, but are usually short on constructive suggestions. If society is going to hell in a hand basket, these folks ask, what practical advice do I have to offer?
This is a reasonable query which goes straight to the core issue for many in the LRC family. Without doubt, major problems are brewing in our country. America’s finances are eroding badly, the government is dismantling our constitutional freedoms, and our foreign policy is becoming increasingly delusional.
So, given this situation, what can any of us do? Can any of this be changed? How does one live a moral life in the midst of the chaos? How do we raise our children, run our businesses, and prepare for the future?
Good questions, all.
And for many of them, there are no easy answers.
Nevertheless, after some introspection, I offer the following suggestions:
Despite the mess, enjoy life:
This may seem obvious, even puerile, but it is nevertheless an important point. In many ways, Epicurus was the wisest of the classical Greeks. He counseled his countrymen to esteem happiness as a major value. The Epicurean man cherishes time with his family, entertaining conversation with his friends, and quiet moments contemplating the beauty of nature. He enjoys superb cuisine, occasionally indulges in fine wine and aromatic cigars, and is inspired by art, music and intellectual pursuits.
Inevitably, this recommendation will lead to accusations of defeatism, solipsism, or even collaboration with the various forms of statism currently devouring America. But I am not counseling complete inaction (as will soon become evident below). While we should not passively acquiesce to the damage being wrought on our society or cooperate with the agenda of our destroyers, I draw a distinction between submissiveness to the establishment’s actions and my own, personal worldview. Too many libertarians are downcast, or even apocalyptic, in their attitudes. Hiding in a bunker with a pallet of canned rations won’t do anyone any good. Having a positive attitude, on the other hand, is the key to living a joyful existence.
For the most part, there is little any of us can do to alter the big picture anyway, so why should we give them the satisfaction of making us miserable?
Life is too short. Come what may, it should be lived to the fullest.
Within reason, organize your affairs:
Just because I counsel a joyous lifestyle doesn’t mean I believe everyone should ignore the ominous realities around us. In all probability, our nation’s economy will enter a serious tailspin in the not-too distant future. Our government is accumulating debt at an unprecedented rate. The Fed is manipulating the money supply and debasing our currency. The military-industrial complex is rampaging around the globe, wreaking havoc. Various government agencies are gazing over our shoulders without legal oversight.
The best way to prepare for trouble is to honestly confront it and the effects it will have on your life. First, and most important, is getting out of debt. Pay off those credit cards, make extra mortgage payments, and stash some money away for a rainy day. The more stable your finances, the better you will be able to care for yourself and your family in a pinch.
Unfortunately, this is the exact opposite of what most Americans are doing. Most of our countrymen are maxing out their credit cards, "taking out" equity from their houses, and spending far beyond their means. These folks, like the proverbial grasshopper in autumn, will be out in the cold if the situation hits the fan.
For those even more motivated, I also recommend a nice stash of gold in your portfolio, and maybe some silver too.
But for those at the top of the motivation scale, I advise the cultivation of an "international lifestyle". As part of this strategy, one should diversify some of one’s financial interests offshore. A little place in the Caribbean, for instance, could be a profitable real estate investment…and it might also provide a safe haven if things get rough.
In a dicey situation, a second passport could come in handy too.
As for your immediate environs, I recommend choosing a small, stable community as your domicile. In times of political tumult or economic hardship, most small American towns should do just fine. Their inhabitants are the salt of the earth. They obey the law and they look out for their neighbors. Once there, it would also be a good idea to join a church or other religious organization. When times are tough, these institutions provide a nice framework for cooperation that could prove invaluable. On the other hand, I would stay away from the major cosmopolitan areas. If we ever have an economic downturn anywhere near the size of the Great Depression, our polyglot cities may well turn into giant Superdomes. Since you don’t want to star in a contemporary remake of Mad Max, it’s best to avoid the major cities altogether.
One of the few practical activities I recommend that may actually have an effect on the future course of our nation is education. Specifically, LRCers need to inform our fellow citizens about the nature of America’s problems and educate them about the individuals, organizations, and philosophies that have brought us to our current circumstances.
One of the great tragedies of the 20th Century occurred when statists successfully convinced the American people that the Great Depression was caused by the "inherent instabilities of the free market". For nearly two decades, the Federal Reserve had engaged in a wildly irresponsible binge of "easy money" and low interest rates. That policy gave us the "roaring twenties", but the subsequent deflating debt balloon caused the downward spiral in the thirties.
Rather than placing the blame where it rightly belonged (i.e. the government’s manipulations of the marketplace) the government and academia successfully convinced the common man that the problems were caused by "too much freedom". Thus, America was given a giant dose of the same poison that caused the original illness (namely, the New Deal).
We libertarians must not let this happen again. As Greenspan’s new debt balloon deflates and the dollar tanks, the American people must have easy access to a simple, accurate libertarian explanation for the whole mess. Only when the population sees the situation through the correct paradigm will there be any chance to enact sound solutions.
Otherwise, we’ll get another round of statism which will effectively end the unique experiment that was America.
Many libertarians have big ideas about staging political rebellions against the establishment and sparking a wave of individual liberty. While I sympathize with the sentiment, I believe it is unrealistic. We are dealing with numerous, entrenched special interests which will not be unseated by anything short of a calamity.
The military-industrial complex, for instance, is a massive network of defense contractors, politicians, lobbyists, etc. which has a deep-seated, institutional priority in continuing our destructive foreign policy. It is not simply going to "roll over" and allow noninterventionism to become the order of the day.
And that is just one of the many "complexes" which afflict us.
The welfare complex, for instance, is a gigantic network of social workers, government bureaucrats, poverty pimps, and race hustlers. It oversees the distribution of multi-billion dollar programs which function largely to keep its recipients in a permanent state of dependency.
The public infrastructure complex is a web of slum lords, HUD bureaucrats, construction companies, and labor unions which manages our public housing and transportation networks. And, yet again, this complex consumes tens of billions of tax dollars every year and is highly motivated to keep the scam rolling.
None of these complexes will go down without a fight. Preaching a gospel of individual liberty and limited government will not connect with any of the participants in these networks. They simply have no intellectual framework to comprehend the ideas.
It would be like trying to explain Avogadro’s number to a hamster.
Worse yet, the modern Total State has developed sophisticated methods of manipulation designed to continue its rule indefinitely. This establishment has co-opted the mainstream media, taken over the educational system, and has designed intricate propaganda techniques to influence the masses. The whole purpose of these endeavors is to ensure that the game will continue without fundamental opposition.
So we are stuck with this system. Its tentacles are wrapped around every aspect of our lives even as it devours the very substance of our nation like some giant, seamy Whore of Babylon squatting on the banks of the Potomac.
Unfortunately, the regime will continue to build multi-billion dollar "bridges to nowhere" for the foreseeable future. It will continue to randomly bomb, strafe, and depopulate small, defenseless countries. It will continue to corrupt ever-larger populations of marginalized citizens into the nightmare of perpetual dependency. It will continue to miseducate our children, steal our money, and deprive us of our liberty.
But never fear, for eventually the system will collapse. Like the old Soviet Union, it will run out of time, victims, and loot. Its funny-money will become worthless, and its reputation will be nil.
On that day, my fellow libertarians, with a populace properly educated in the paradigms of freedom, a better nation might be born.