Lucy and Charlie Brown play football

The practical failure of libertarians (and what to do about it)

I was floored by the sheer inanity of Walter Block going back on his word to disband “Libertarians for Trump” after the convention.  This nonsensical shilling for a would-be tyrant by a smart, prominent libertarian, based on nothing more than a willful naivete around a politician’s lies, is very discouraging.

Remember candidate George W. Bush’s claim to be against nation-building?  Boy, did that work out well.  Now we are supposed to believe Trump is a non-interventionist, even though his psychology and history clearly do not point to that conclusion.  It’s like the last 16 years never happened and no lessons were learned about believing presidential candidates’ words.

Walter Block isn’t the only libertarian with googly-eyes for Trump;  Lew Rockwell, Justin Raimondo, and others as well.   Maybe they are more paleocons than libertarians after all?  Who can tell.  But if these libertarian leaders can be so taken in by the emotional con game, what hope is there for the masses?  Can education and spreading ideas really result in a voluntary society?  Do we not have the right ideas yet and that’s why we’re falling into error?  What are we missing?

Here are a few suggestions of what I think we need, that we’re missing.

#1, devise ways to measure how much progress we’re making toward the goal of a voluntary society.  We need to be able to tell which tactics work and which don’t, which are more effective and less effective.  We clearly don’t have a good handle on this, judging by the constant debates on the merits of voting.

#2, create an institutional alternative to the Libertarian Party, focused on non-political means of achieving a voluntary society.  There are plenty of options already on the table; they should be catalogued, nurtured, promoted, and funded at an institutional level.  Right now, most people assume that electoral politics is the only way to effect change.  A non-political action organization would help break this paradigm.

#3, develop self-reinforcing systems of advancing liberty.  The problem with relying on education to advance liberty is that it’s a constant struggle, and only a few will have the motivation, time, patience, curiosity, resources, etc. to understand the issues and go against their emotional instincts.  Even with this education, as we’ve seen with “Libertarians for Trump”, it’s easy to go off the rails.

Just as the market functions regardless of the personal opinions of its participants, we need to devise systems that inherently advance liberty by their very nature.  Ideally, such systems would align people’s financial interests with advancing liberty.  It’s hard to stay in the fight if you have to scrape by to survive.  A focus on systems of coordination, not just the ideas of liberty per se, is needed to make the liberty movement an effective social force.

Hamster wheel

10 reasons why politics is a waste of time

  1. You don’t drain the swamp — the swamp drains you.  The system swallows everyone whole, even someone as audacious as Trump.
  2. To get elected, you need support.  To get support you need to make promises, which often will include statist actions.
  3. You need funding.   People only donate big money if they will see a financial benefit, which usually involves a government privilege.
  4. Even small money makes you more susceptible to pressure, because it’s harder to say “no” to someone who has given you money, even if they want a statist policy.
  5. You have to get along with people: candidates, bureaucrats, civil organizations, unions, the media, voters, etc.  That means not rocking the boat.  Avoiding hard truths.  Not being unpleasant.  It’s hard to get the truth out this way. It’s like trying to put out a burning building with your hands tied behind your back.
  6. Every small compromise leads to a bigger compromise, and so on, until you are fully coopted into the system.  If you accept the premise that a little bit of statist action is okay as long as your end goal is the removal of a bigger statist action, you will never be able to see that you are being coopted.  In your mind, you are fighting the good fight, but in reality you are merely doing the work of the state, with a fun, but hypocritical, marketing plan.
  7. Look at the opportunity cost of doing politics.  How effective is electoral politics, versus media or business?  Lots of energy spent for meager results.
  8. If you lie down with dogs, you get up with fleas.  Politics is dirty and savage.  The people in it are assholes.  If you get into the game, you have to play hard to win.  That means eventually you have to become as nasty and back-stabbing as your competitors.  How can you avoid it?  By buttering everyone’s bread and going along to get along, i.e. statism.
  9. Winning is losing.  If you win office, you take a salary funded by taxpayers.  That is inherently unethical.  If you forego the salary, you have to make it up otherwise.  If someone funds you, then you are beholden to them, which usually means statism.  If you are independently wealthy, then politics is an awful waste of your time.  You’d be better off buying professional politicians, than being one yourself.  Focus on making more money and funding media and tech ventures to benefit the liberty movement.
  10. Why hasn’t electoral politics tended to increased liberty, but only increased statism?  What fundamental change will happen to reverse this trend?  Politics is structured to produce an increase in state power.  The simple act of being “in power” demands that one exercise power.  If one’s only agenda is to refrain from using power, one will not have it for very long, as someone else will take it.  Seeking power to restrain power is a performative contradiction.
Global left-right politics

The globalization of politics

Something is different in politics recently.  No, not Trump.  I mean the global nature of previously domestic politics.  In the past, there was a superficial awareness of geopolitics and foreign leaders.  But now we have the same emotional, visceral response to other countries’ politicians, that used to be reserved for one’s own.  Brexit, Trump, Le Pen, Merkel, Wilders, Orban, Erdogan — have supporters and detractors across the world.  There even seem to be the rough outlines of political alignment across boundaries, such as Nigel Farage stumping for Trump.

Social media has certainly contributed to this globalization of discourse.  But there is a narrative structure to recent events.  A disaffected, right-wing, populist, global “revolution” against the “establishment” is a unifying thread.  Both sides of the political spectrum are engaging in cross-border alignments.  Is there a deliberate unite-and-rule tactic happening, to drive us into yet another false, left-right paradigm?  This time, it is pushing our consciousness to operate on the global level, rather than the national.

We are to believe that there is suddenly a groundswell of opposition to global governance, simultaneously, worldwide.  This opposition is momentarily winning, but it is painted in the darkest terms, as something that must be defeated.  Perhaps it is just one phase of the dialectic, to get us psychologically prepared for global governance.

Just as with national politics, there is a danger in engaging this new global politics.  It is putting our faith, hope, time and energy into these pantheonic figures, completely removed from our lives, which might as well be cartoon characters on a screen.  We ignore the local, the immediate, the personal.  We should not buy into these false alignments and alliances, as if they are our saviors — a grand revolution around the world.

The real revolution is at home.

Auto scrapyard: cars crushed

Twitterspeak: the shrinkage of language

Twitter is altering language, not just on Twitter, but across all media.  Everything is being compactified; short attention spans demand it.  Among the benefits are brevity, efficiency, and impact.  The downside is the destruction of nuance and precision.  Dropped indefinite articles, sentence fragments, and an explosion of abbreviations and acronyms.  The danger is a form of Newspeak, in which a decrease in expressiveness of language yields a constricting of thought itself.

Will our capacity for conceptualization be limited to the lowest common denominator or will this punchy format lead to communicating new ideas that otherwise would have collected dust in long-form academic essays?

three pirates fighting

Trump split libertarians

The Trump phenomenon has splintered the libertarian movement into three distinct groups.  The massive political realignment taking place has exposed fractures that have existed for a long time.  How will these factions reconcile and will they constitute a unified movement in the future?

Left-libertarians – Typically DC beltway libertarians and wannabe respectable types.  The biggest of the three groups, they are best represented by Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson.  They value left social issues and are animated by anti-racism, gay marriage, and baking of cakes.  They also think Trump is racist and hates women.  Any good that may come from Trump’s challenge of the establishment is overshadowed by his being Pure Evil.

Paleo-conservatives – People like Lew Rockwell and Jeff Deist.  They value nationalism and traditional right views on culture, immigrants, and political correctness.  There is a silver lining to every one of Trump’s totalitarian or economically destructive proposals.

Voluntarists – The smallest faction, with people like Robert Wenzel and James Corbett.  They see Trump as not much different from Hillary or any of the other candidates, and a potential disaster for the country and the libertarian brand.    They tend to point out both the good aspects and terrible aspects of Trump’s proposals.

growing stages

WANTED: Liberty entrepreneurs

Money is a dirty word in the liberty movement.  Ironic, for a pro-free-market and free trade ideology.  But when theory becomes reality, many recoil at the idea of bloggers doing sales or advertising.  Why?

Spending time to make content or technology means taking time away from other activities, whether business or leisure.  That time has to be compensated.  Yet some act like entitled socialists, expecting this work to be provided for free!

To be fair, some monetization strategies are obnoxious or spammy.  But all that means is we need better monetization options.  Better technologies.  Better feedback and suggestion from audiences of what works and what doesn’t.

For the liberty movement to survive, much less thrive and change the world, it must be economically self-sufficient.  If you can’t feed yourself, you can’t change the world.  If our activities in pursuit of liberty are not profitable, but only financial drains, we will never grow and advance.

We need more business models around advancing liberty.  We need more content, more media platforms, more technologies.  With the fake news media collapsing before our eyes, there has never been a better opportunity than now.  There is so much pent up demand and very little supply.

We need more liberty entrepreneurs.

Not just from an economic perspective, but from a psychological one as well.  It can get depressing focusing only on what the poweful are doing to us.  Who wants to be on a constantly losing team, with a victim mentality?  It’s time we recognize our own power, take responsibility, and become agents of change.

I am working on several media technology projects with a group of liberty-minded developers and creators.  Want to join the effort?  Email me at apollo at apolloslater dot com and let’s get to work!

Climbing a mountain

The 4 steps to political freedom

1. Philosophy – Your foundational ideology should be coherent and correspond to political reality; these are contradictory aims.  Yet the dialectical process between these two requirements is what produces your reason for acting, your reason for being.  Acting without it leaves you to the mercy of “some defunct economist“.

2. Education – This is not just the propagation of your ideology to others.  It is the application of it to the particular backgrounds and historical circumstances of your target audience.  Communication is a task in itself, yet the act of it also affects the thing being communicated.

3. Economy – You cannot change the world if you are scraping by.  To effect change, your community of ideology must be economically vibrant.  It must not only get by, but it must have a surplus of resources, time, and energy.  It must also do so in a way that retains independence from the very power structure it is attempting to subvert.

4. Power – A self-sufficient and well-organized group is unstoppable, regardless of numbers.  The challenge for a group propounding liberty is overcoming the history of such groups creating a tyranny, often worse than the one they replaced.  For the old revolutionaries, the end justifies the means, for the end is the revolution, and it justifies all.  The new revolutionaries must overturn the cycle between tyranny and revolution; therefore, the means can only be justified by their ideological ethics; therefore, the means is the revolution; therefore, the means is the end.