Many people who’ve tried to organize libertarians or anarchists will tell you it’s like trying to herd cats. Sheep might blindly follow a leader, but cats all know what they want. It’s the same way with this crowd. Each one of us believes he knows everything — which is frustrating for those of us who really do know everything.
Yes, I’m kidding, but only a little. For those of us who want individual freedom, we’re frequently our own worst enemies. Even though we’re in a tiny minority — roughly 10 percent of the population — we’re so fragmented among ourselves that we seem to be even smaller minorities than we are. What’s even worse is that many of the people within the 10 percent do more shooting at each other than anyone else.
Part of the problem is that you can make so many (very different) rational arguments for how to pursue individual freedom. I’ve certainly run the gamut, so I’m familiar with most of them. You can make pragmatic arguments to get what you can through the existing system. You can make semi-pragmatic, but still principled arguments to try to transform the existing system through a third party. Or you can make principled philosophical arguments against the coercive state as a whole. Some people even combine bits and pieces of the different arguments. What they rarely do is overcome their differences in approach to work together for very long.
Some people are convinced that there’s no sense in doing anything other than working inside either the Democratic or Republican party. (They tend to choose sides there depending on whether they’re more interested in economic or social freedoms.) Others are overtly libertarian and believe they can somehow force the Libertarian Party (or an even smaller third party) to become relevant.
Then there are the people who choose sides between the approaches taken by the libertarian pragmatists at the Cato Institute and the more hardcore anti-statists in the Lew Rockwell and Mises Institute camps. (Many of those people seem to hate each other.)
Personally, I get along with all of these people, even though I think what most of them are doing is useless, at least as compared to the amount of effort expended. But I understand that other people are going to follow different paths in their attempts to get what we all want. Since I’ve pretty much taken every approach that other people have to one extent or another, I know why they arrived at the conclusions they did. I’m just convinced that none of the approaches that call for working within the system or even trying to save some form of an American nation are going to work.
There’s an old joke that asks what the difference is between a libertarian and an anarchist. There are different versions of the reply, but it’s generally something like, “10 years.” If you understand the need for liberty, you’re generally going to start trying to work within a framework you’re already familiar with. Over the years, though, you’re going to give up more and more of that existing majoritarian intellectual framework — usually arriving (eventually) at the conclusion that the state itself is immoral and that there’s no way to ethically compromise with it. Until you reach that point, though, nobody can convince you.
I’ve given up on the coercive state, for reasons that are both moral and pragmatic. If I believed the coercive nation-state were going to continue to be the only way of organizing the political world around us, I’d join the people who just want to hunker down and survive as best they can. But I believe the nation-state is going to collapse as the dominant system, because technological changes are going to make it easier for productive people to take their wealth and leave. The changes aren’t going to happen overnight, but the coercive state will find itself without the ability to milk the cash cows that subsidize everyone else. When that happens, frightened sheep will collapse the system. The independent-thinking cats will have their own plans and be scurrying in different directions by that point.
Over and over, I’ve made it clear that I see what we’re living in to be a slavery from which we need to escape. I’ve also talked a lot about free cities and charter cities and even things such as seasteading. There are going to be a world of new choices, but they’re only going to be available to those who have had the courage to think clearly and independently — and to think proactively about what is going to bring happiness for them and provide a foundation to build a better future for everyone.
We need to help each other. We are like independent cats, but we need to provide mutual aid to each other, intellectually and psychologically. Those in the 10 percent who generally support liberty need to find a way to quit fighting each other and accept that others have the right to be wrong in pursuing their own ends, even if we know they’re wrong. (After all, haven’t you changed your mind about it over the years? I certainly have.)
I’ve talked before about research that shows an idea has to simply reach acceptance by 10 percent of the people and it will eventually become the dominant idea. If we’re willing to concentrate on our basic idea — that freedom is good and coercion is bad — we have enough critical mass to do that. But it means we would have to give up our arguments among each other and just accept the fact that we’re going to disagree on how to implement it.
I’m not interested in people who want to fight ideological holy wars. I’m interested in people who want to find ways of working together to bring more choice to all of us. That should be our goal — for all of us to be able to pursue our own paths — not to prove to everyone how right we are.
Now … if I could only find a way to get the rest of you to listen to me.