Landlubber Libertarians?

I'm one of those people who love the sense of freedom on the ocean, where the sky kind of blends with the deep waters at the horizon. I love sailing and to be left to my own devices, to be totally and utterly dependent only on my own ability. Sailing is everything life is and isn't: when sailing you can drift along with currents and bob on the waves and be totally at the mercy of nature; or you can challenge its enormous powers and learn to master the elements and stay in control despite the enormous forces of great waves and the rage of storms. I choose, and I decide.

Of course, sometimes nature sneaks up on you and forces a change of plans. But no matter what, nature is tamable, controllable, and I can use it as I please. That's what I like about sailing: a sense of control and freedom that cannot, as far as I know, be experienced on ground.

Sailing is also a great teacher — it is necessary to learn how to take advantage of whatever there is to take advantage of, and to use the powers of nature in whatever form or shape they happen to be at the moment. You have the destination clearly set, and whatever the current temper of nature you have to use it to get there.

In this sense, sailing is just like politics. Our destination is liberty, and we need to get there no matter what forces are set against us. When the wind blows our way, we need to set sail and ride as far possible on the waves towards liberty. There is no time for detours and indirect routes, just cruise along. Focus on the destination; hoist the biggest sails you've got!

When the wind blows heavily from the side, from the left or right, we're in for a rough ride. Great waves may toss our boat back and forth and jeopardize the whole mission. But it is nevertheless possible to go forward without too much effort — if we know how to use the winds and waves and turn the great forces to our advantage. Even though this kind of weather is much tougher than sailing before the wind, it is far from impossible to go forward.

Most of the time, however, the wind seems to come straight at us. As libertarians, we should know everything about sailing in head wind — we've had quite some experience in the political waters for decades (if not centuries). Yet it seems we are often taken by surprise and blown off course whenever the wind once again rises. How many libertarian sailors weren't blown ashore by the biting winds of the war on Iraq? How many didn't find themselves and their boats stranded on the shores of Patriot Act Island half a decade ago simply for relying too much on the winds of security?

Any good sailor knows one cannot rely on hope alone and simply drift along in head wind. To get to the destination of your choice you need to act and take command — it is necessary to take control of the situation, even if storms are heading your way. As always, and even more so in rough weather, one has to use the opposing forces to one's advantage.

In head wind it is impossible to sail only with the wind coming in from one side, and it is simply stupid to stubbornly try to sail straight against the wind. It is vital to go right and then left, to crisscross and gain little by little using both sides of the sail. It is hard work and takes a lot of time, but it means one will eventually reach the destination — without being blown off course.

That's also what we, as libertarians, need to understand when the hostile, pro-war, pro-government and anti-market winds are blowing and rising. We need to keep working and take advantage of whatever there is that can help us get ahead — a little help from the left, and a little help from the right. A sailor committed to use winds coming from the right (or left) only will never get anywhere; he will undoubtedly be blown off course and end up a shipwreck on some hostile coast somewhere.

What I'm proposing is simply to learn the lesson from sailing. No wind is sacred and no wind can be relied on; we libertarians need to learn how to tack.

May 30, 2006