Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Thinking About Libertarian Resistance During the Statist Deluge

In a post on Monday, I cheered the effort to recall California Governor Gavin Newsom (see: Recall Governor Newsom!).

The recall is gaining steam because of the severe lockdowns the mini-Mao has instituted in the state at the same time he was caught dining at a Michelin rated-restaurant while ignoring the demands he was putting on the citizens.

In the comments, regular commenter Brian Erickson responded this way:

This is a waste of time and energy. It plays into the identity politics that has driven most political activity since the beginning of time. Throw out that evil Newsom or Breed or Cuomo and things will get better. Well they never do get better. These stars of tyranny are easy targets but there isn't one politician that isn't a thief and a liar. And those lessor known politicians will end up taking the vacated office to continue the tyranny. Davis was recalled because of anger over power blackouts and rising costs. Well now California suffers rolling blackouts and sky high costs because the government bureaucracy never released its grip. The people changed the tyrant but had no effect on the system that enslaves them. The power needs to be re-taken by each citizen from the government/bureaucracy. Each individual should choose who they will take advice from, who they will buy power from and who they will interact with. Free entry and exit into any business by anyone who is willing to try and attract a customer base. Eliminate all taxes so the existing bureaucracies are required to operate voluntarily. If they fail, the service will migrate to the next best voluntary operator. Move away from the power motive which incentivizes each individual in coercive political organizations and move toward the profit motive which incentivizes each individual in voluntary private organizations. it is the only way to hold people accountable for their actions. A movement like that is worth fighting for but a recall effort isn't worth the time of day.

I emphatically disagree.

Liberty is under attack right now from many directions. It is a deluge. It can be difficult to know how to fight back.

Fortunately, the great libertarian Murray Rothbard studied strategy and in an unpublished paper left us with some important observations as to how to go on the attack.

First, libertarians must recognize that we are a small group, nowhere near enough to get the majority of people to pay attention to us and our complete hardcore beliefs. Thus, we must form alliances with groups that are larger and to some degree moving in the direction of liberty.

A recall Newsom group can prove to be such a fruitful effort. Not because it is going to end authoritarianism throughout America or even in California. But because it is a warning to politicians that there is a mad population out there.

This does not mean that ousting Newsom is some grand victory that allows libertarians to rest.  As Thomas Jefferson said, "The price of liberty is eternal vigilance."

It is foolhardy to think one battle, such as the one against Davis, was going to win the war. And the same with a potential Newsom ouster. These are just battles. Advances must be made on top of these battles, perhaps by converting some in the group to libertarianism, perhaps by co-opting most of the group and gaining control. It depends upon the situation "on the ground."

As Rothbard wrote in his paper, tactics must be adjusted to the situation.

But the key is to keep the pressure up from all angles possible with any alliances that make sense, and to never stop. Intensity and persistent pressure is a must.

I am all for eliminating all taxes and the elimination of business regulations and power centers, and the cadre should never stop preaching this message. But to demand only the all or nothing libertarian advance is what Rothbard pointed out the Leninist called sectarianism.

For strategists like Rothbard (and even Lenin) being called a sectarian is a major insult. The sectarian is like being the nowhere man in the first stanza of the Beatles song by the same name:

He's a real nowhere man

Sitting in his nowhere land

Making all his nowhere plans for nobody

We need to form alliances and attack from every direction we can. This is how we win.

It should be noted that although the French Revolution went way off track, the initial liberty-leaning phase was quite remarkable in how quickly it advanced from a few short declarations to a call for ending all taxation and many other authoritarian laws.

Timothy Tackett writes:

On June 17th [1789], following lengthy debates, the Third deputies unilaterally converted themselves into a sovereign “National Assembly." Equally dramatic, they declared that all former taxes were illegal - although they would be maintained temporarily until a new fiscal system could be put in place. The two declarations, both of which would have been unimaginable to the majority only a few weeks earlier, were now accepted with near-universal ascent.

Once the idea that the state can be challenged takes hold, the idea can bloom rapidly.

This is what libertarians need to do. To take part in challenges to authoritarians at a non-stop pace. It must be a full-court press, making just one basket in four quarters of a basketball game is not going to do it.

Opportunities must be taken advantage of everywhere, government officials need to fear taking away liberty rather than citizens fearing the government officials. Wherever we can find fellow travelers, even on a single issue, we should take advantage. It is the job of the cadre, the hardcore inner circle, to then make sure the libertarians at the forefront of alliances do not go askew.

This is how we march. This is how we advance.



  1. Strongly agree with this, RW.

    Call me a pessimist, but I consider a libertarian free society an ideal to strive for but not something we would likely ever achieve. And if we did, it's wouldn't last long.

    Afterall, maintaining liberty is challenging. Even with the best of systems, eventually it comes down to the minds of the populace, and we have the last few thousand years of human history as a demonstration of why it's not the natural state of things. It goes against human nature and is not an equilibrium point, and it slips from that point rapidly when people realize they can use the force of government to get what they want from others.

    Therefore, much less gaining liberty--merely maintaining the liberty we have will always be an uphill battle. Barriers will always need to be erected before the path of power-hungry officials and would-be tyrants.

    The group of people that have a deep understanding of the fundamentals of liberty and its related esoteric topics is quite small. But I believe the number of potential sympathizers is numerous and great. It's just a matter of when these people are ready to hear the message, and the large infringements on liberty in 2020 have been a significant catalyst, as it's pushed many past the thresholds of what they will tolerate...

    It's time to plant the seeds of liberty.

  2. Robert, I agree completely. But, we libertarians, do not have to bend or compromise at all, not one bit.
    I’ve had a 3 hour Saturday radio show on the air for the past 10 years that I’ve paid the air time for, at times with help from friends, I and my different co-hosts over the years have said from day one, we are Anarchists, Anarcho-Capitalist, libertarians anarchist, and/or volunteerist.
    The hate was powerful in the beginning. Especially from Republicans, cause we sounded so “conservative”. But after a few years, people started coming around to being less statist and a little more Jeffersonian let’s say. We have never compromised our Anarchism position, but have spoke to people in terms that they understood as far as statism is concerned. If you have to vote, then please don’t vote for this or that. Recall the governor! The reason being you don’t need to be governed. But if you feel you need to be then this isn’t the kind of representation you want. Then we will talk about Locke, Jefferson, de La Boetie, or Bastiat.
    Then contrast them with Hoppe and Rothbard.
    Have Wenzel and Daniel McAdams on the program, as well as Lew, Block and Deist.

    Fast forward to now, and our callers are on board. Many who have never called before. “I haven’t agreed with everything you say but I know now you are right”. A lot of people. Our show has more listeners than Rush Limbo, who is number one here.
    My point being, be strong and vocal, don’t be a mush mouth who compromises at every turn. Speak up. Speak out.
    Be a leader now.
    I have found that pulling people as far as I can to be Anarchist, makes them feel a lot more comfortable when they reach at least an anti-state conservatism. And I feel like more people than ever are ready for it. We may be a minority. But our voice has to be as loud as the majority. When the DOJ tells you to “calm down” just spit your tongue at them. 🙂
    Buy time on a radio station, you would be surprised how many people listen to the radio still.
    No, you won’t be singing to the choir, but we need as many Isaiah’s as we can get that are willing to speak out, forcefully even, for Liberty.
    I truly believe there is a strong remnant ready to hear us right now.
    Robert, I’ve always thought that you had a good point with the Hillary over Trump election last time.
    But maybe the Commies have become too emboldened in their lust to defeat him this time, and have awaken a lot of people to search for Freedom.
    We will never know if we just sit quietly and watch.
    The enemy isn’t playing games anymore.

    Neither should we.

    Resolve to Serve No More.

  3. "A recall Newsom group can prove to be such a fruitful effort. Not because it is going to end authoritarianism throughout America or even in California. But because it is a warning to politicians that there is a mad population out there...This does not mean that ousting Newsom is some grand victory that allows libertarians to rest. As Thomas Jefferson said, "The price of liberty is eternal vigilance." "

    -- RW, what you say makes sense, but you seem to have taken the opposite view when it comes to secession. As I recall during the 2017 Catalonian secession discussions, you said that secession is not always good as it could lead to more authoritarianism. But why wouldn't you make the same point as you did above, namely, that secession is a warning to politicians that there is a mad population out there (but that the population would need to remain vigilant even with the new state)?

  4. Right - And if you are either protesting or posting videos about how unjust these state mandates are, don't send a mixed message and do it while wearing a face diaper. Seeing that face of outrage, disgust, fierce resistance to tyranny and clearing hearing the spoken words is extremely important. Think L.A. County restaurant owner video. It would have been so much better!!!

  5. I think the first reality we have to accept is that there is not a large, critical mass of people, not even a significant minority, that wants to reduce the scope of government. We constantly talk as if this constituency exists and it doesn't. I'm not sure what to do about it, but until that changes, then even building coalitions is kind of pointless, because the people we are collaborating with have opposite ends. There are no "groups that are larger and to some degree moving in the direction of liberty." I'd love to be proven wrong about this. I've seen a few small pockets of small business owners pushing back even here in statist-to-the-core Western New York. But I see no numbers. And I fear even those pushing back against their businesses being closed would oppose abolishing the bureaucrats who perpetrate the closures but also protect them from new competition during "normal" times.

    1. But if we partnered separately with five single-issue groups to roll back the state in each area, then we could claim five victories while they are each only claiming one.

    2. You hit the nail on the head of the non-discerning Idiocracy Tom!!! I think RW forgets the exercise in insanity trying to take the same action in the one party system and expect different results is!!

      Simple non-compliance could exert a great deal of leverage in the most simple of terms at this point, but the sophistication of the propaganda and lack of intelligence by much of the masses condemns that to failure.

      In the macro view the only way forward as the state tries to foster dependence and compliance with Tyranny is to put all ones effort into moving toward decentralization and self sufficiency and local and community that takes the power away from centralization.

      As Charles Hugh Smith talks a lot about, Starve the Oligarchy and give back true sovereignity to those that forgot what it is - is the only way to asphyxiate the psychopathic state.

      We are a lot like all the oppressed peoples that have come before us. Lets learn from history.

  6. Newsom has been running for POTUS since his reign over Californians began. Sending him down the Grey Davis path sends a signal to all would be tyrants that the masses are not as deaf dumb and blind as we often seem to be. The likes of Newsom may not seem to be as bad as the worst tyrants in history but that is only due to the constraints put on him. If he were allowed to get away with what he desires he would be right up there with the Mussolini’s of the world. Recalling the bastard is not just a recall of Newsome but a message to all would be tyrants that there is still some semblance of freedom remaining in the USA even in California.

  7. “He's a real nowhere man
    Sitting in his nowhere land
    Making all his nowhere plans for nobody”

    Well RW you can be colorful but I reject the label. I think my previous suggested “plan” implied in my critique of the recall effort has merit. That focusing energy and effort on yourself and those closest to you is far more productive of liberty than political activity.

    I can appreciate the frustration of the current hysteria but urging the tiny number of liberty patrons to join in the recall effort, a blatantly political activity could seriously deplete the relatively small reservoir of energy that exists for liberty. And the primary message it would send is that political activity is a valid arena when advocating for liberty. How can this be true when all political activity is about power. And power corrupts.

    All serious political thinkers know this to be true. Many have written about it but none more succinctly than John Adams in his 1807 essay when he noted his life’s creed might be summarized as “…all men would be tyrants if they could…”

    The source of the tyranny we suffer needs to be clearly identified so we can productively target it. The stars of tyranny like Newsom, Pelosi, Fauci, Trump and Biden are not leading us to centralized planning and socialism. The public is. The stars of tyranny are nor the source of tyranny, the public is. The individuals in the public need to face the fact that “…all men would be tyrants if they could…” including themselves. And so no one should be so empowered.

    I appreciate that sometimes you have to “let the badger loose” with emotion uninformed by reason. But this is not a strategy for productive action. The recall, if successful might be emotionally satisfying but it will accomplish nothing toward liberty. If you must have pubic action try to focus on abolishing the legislation that empowers the tyranny, one law at a time.

    The struggle for liberty is a long journey as you yourself have pointed out and we need to spend our energy wisely if our ideas are to survive the trip.