Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

“Resolve to serve no more, and you are at once freed. I do not ask that you place hands upon the tyrant to topple him over, but simply that you support him no longer; then you will behold him, like a great Colossus whose pedestal has been pulled away, fall of his own weight and break into pieces.”     Étienne de La Boétie,    The Politics of Obedience: The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude

December 3, 2005

The Big Tent

by Eric

There’s a time and a place for purity of principle, purpose and ideology. And there’s a time and a place to set it aside and willingly work with those folks who are traveling anywhere close to the direction you’re going.

In a day and age where individualism is tossed in favor of collectivism, where inherent rights are infringed upon daily, where economic liberty is set aside in favor of egalitarian mediocrity, those of us who treasure liberty must make common cause with a lot of strange bedfellows. The great and enduring Revolutions of the past, whether we are talking about the American one, the Czech velvet revolution, the Bolshevik revolution, were successful because a variety of groups made common cause with each other. Of course, in some cases, they later betrayed their fellow travellers (Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin, anyone?).

That isn’t my real point though. Please recall that men like Thomas Paine, one of the most radically liberal of the Revolutionaries, made common cause with Puritan radicals like Samuel Adams, Federalists like Madison and moderates like Franklin. Had these various groupings in America stayed separate they would have, in Franklin’s words, “hung separately” for failing to hang together. Instead, they set aside their differences and united around their common cause, which was liberty from the oppression of King George III and Parliament.

Today we see the various groups of people who oppose the further encroachment of socialism in the US, the continued expansion of government powers, the continued collectivist approach to economics splintering and refusing to associate with each other because they disagree on points that those outside of our community would see as quite minor differences. Let’s be clear on this. The things you and I see as huge, massive differences, ones that make one person a “statist” in your eyes or another person an unrealistic anarchist or, maybe from a different viewpoint, attached to “mystical nonsense”, are so minor to the mainstream citizens of this country that they think we are a bunch of idiots for arguing over it. And truthfully, the differences are minor COMPARED to the horrific statism we confront. You and I may oppose any sort of tax as anti-property theft, but replacing income tax with a sales tax would be more free than we currently are. A sales tax would be voluntary compared to an income tax. So, while I want no taxation whatsoever in my idealism, I recognize that such a goal is not achievable right this instant, but that a sales tax that is somewhat more free is potentially possible. I’d rather get half a loaf than none at all.

Perhaps a big part of why I see things this way is that I’m a rational anarchist. Rational anarchy is not a political philosophy in the sense that many other flavors of anarchy are. It is actually very simple. I recognize that we, each of us, are and always will be individually morally responsible for our behavior. Even if we are a soldier or a cop or some other cog in the state, the choices we make are wholly owned by us. At the same time I recognize the reality that the vast majority (like 99% +) of humans want government, want to be told, to some degree, or another, what to do, like being able to put the issues of their behavior off on someone else. Until such time as we can spread beyond this planet a society that I want, with no government or competitive governments, is not going to come into existence, not even in the ocean habitats that some advocate.

But, it is potentially possible, by working with people who want to make government smaller, to reduce the burden and oppression of government, at least temporarily. So, even though I don’t fully agree with, and in many cases only slightly agree with, many of the people who are in Life, Liberty, Property, I think that I would rather see something come together that has some opportunity to effect change in a positive direction rather than no opportunity. As much as QandO’s rather strident support of Iraq bothers me, I recognize that they advocate movement away from other parts of the oppressive state. So, I will choose to associate with them.

There’s only three choices in front of us that I see.

  1. Remain ideologically pure and remain politically ineffective
  2. Do nothing, quit
  3. Tarnish our purity, but possibly bring about some change

Maybe I’m wrong. I’m willing to listen to ideas that show me how I’m wrong and how at least some change could be accomplished without association with people that propose some degree of statism. But I’m not willing to keep on doing the same old song and dance.

I would rather take a job that involves me with the state but gives me the opportunity to work for increased privacy (which my job does) and increased protection and security of personal data (which my job does) than refuse to be associated with the state. I would rather voluntarily use a health insurance company than not be able to make sure my kids have the healthcare they need. I recognize that I may (indeed will) have to compromise on my absolute principles at times to achieve what I want. But, while I firmly believe that radicals are the people who accomplish real change, I don’t think they do so by never compromising.

If all of this means that I’m not acceptable to “Libertarians”, so be it. They aren’t acceptable to me, for the most part. They are completely unable to see that they will never achieve anything more than sitting in coffee houses and talking about how things should be, in their perfect world. There are some people, Sunni to name one, who choose to work, instead, for their personal, individual, liberty. This I can respect. But sitting around whining about the government, talking the pure ideals of Libertarianism, and blacklisting those who aren’t “pure” is a surefire ticket to remaining completely ineffective. The people you are trying to “wake up”, to convince, will never respect you or take you seriously. Not so long as you are unwilling to compromise, work with others or tackle reality, rather than religious-like wishes.

And so, I take the position that a big tent of folks is the best approach. I truly think it could be built right now, but the Libertarians (as opposed to the libertarians) stand in the way.

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3 Comments

  1. I’ve posted my thoughts here.

    Comment by Kirsten — December 5, 2005 @ 8:23 pm
  2. Carnival Of Liberty XXIII

    Welcome once again to Below The Beltway as I play host to the Carnival of Liberty for the second week in a row. This wasn’t a planned hosting on my part, but Eric asked me to step in and, since I had such a great time hosting last week’s carnival, I …

    Trackback by Below The Beltway — December 6, 2005 @ 4:03 am
  3. I agree, Eric – in fact, that’s pretty much where I headed in the last paragraph of my posting on tolerance. We must pull together and work toward a common goal or we are destined to fail in our pursuit of perfection.

    Comment by Kay — December 6, 2005 @ 5:22 am

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