Which Way To Liberty?

Political change is excruciatingly slow. You start with an idea – perhaps legalizing marijuana. You plant ideas. You negotiate, beg, bargain, vote, campaign, and nothing happens. Nothing. Nothing, Until one day – decades later – you finally have enough people onboard to win majorities.

Even those of you who are “just a little libertarian” know it’s going to take decades to win your dream. What – other than politics – can be done meanwhile? I have come to prefer non-political methods, for several reasons.

  1. You get immediate benefits.
  2. If you “come out of the closet,” your cause is more visible.
  3. You demonstrate the superfluity of the State

Let’s take a concrete action, one of my top suggestions: Take control of your own education, and of those who are in your care. This might mean home education; it might mean a Democratic Free School such as Sudbury Valley; it might mean some other private school; it might mean self-education.

I’ve written extensively about these options. If you explore any of them, you’ll discover a few things – one of them being that the existing methods of education are horribly wasteful of both money and of your own and your child’s time. You’ll start to wonder why we put up with government schools at all.

You’ll also learn different things – a different view of the strengths of government vs. voluntary associations. Perhaps you’ll have a deeper and broader view of economics and history. You and your children will most probably have better math and writing and reading skills – since you’ll be practicing those skills more often.

The more people do this, the more obvious that government schools are a net cost, not a net benefit. This will tip the political equation more rapidly than simple campaigning would – and at the same time, you get immediate benefits. This is an incentive to keep on with a task which succeeds fairly quickly in miniature, but slowly in big-picture terms.

I generally believe that political change lags public opinion; and public opinion is sensitive to private (but visible) success. The more people know about home-schoolers, or about gay people, the less objectionable they appear to be, statistically speaking.

Thirty years ago, people asked – I kid you not – if home schooling was even legal? Or even possible? Don’t you have to be a certified school teacher? Yes, yes, and no.

A similar avenue: self-defense. It is becoming obvious that police are better at murdering Americans than at serving and protecting them. They’re spread too thin to actually protect any individual American anyway – unless you happen to be Mayor Bloomberg or President Obama, with your own security detail.

So why not take private measures? Locks, safes, alarms, weapons training, and so forth? The life you save may be your own – or the life of somebody whom you care about. Again, you get immediate benefits before you can transform the political system. You have an incentive to carry on. Others can see your progress.

Lastly, many people are rediscovering the virtues of thrift, savings, and mutual aid with respect to private provision of safety nets. I have known people – of modest income – who combined frugality and savings to survive years of low or un- employment, with their own private resources. I’ve seen great acts of private generosity – which often include time more than money. My daughter, for example, is nursing two twin boys, while raising five other children. It seems that every day somebody brings over a meal, or cleans house, or watches some of her children; this is her own “safety net” which supports her during a difficult time.

To eliminate or reduce the burden of the State, to bring about liberty, it helps greatly to build the institutions which would supplant the State; to demonstrate to the greatest degree possible the superfluity of state “solutions” to private problems.

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