Number 7, April 1996

Non-Electoral Political Action

by Don L. Tiggre

Exclusive to The Libertarian Enterprise

         Recently, a friend asked me if I thought Rick Thompkins' ideas about what he'd do if he won the White House are practical. I wrote:
         "On the presidential thing... I don't think any libertarian candidate stands any chance of getting elected. At least, not until most people think the way we do. So I'm not interested in what one might do in a situation that will never arise. The point is that if we compromise & bend toward the mainstream, then there is no pressure on the mainstream to bend our way. If we remain true, then we can force the mainstream to bend our way. It's about liberty, not about winning elections. Let the republicans compromise and move closer to us. Just as the socialists did before us, we can see many things enacted without ever winning an election.
         "Remember that I don't call myself an anarchist for shock value, or just to be cute. I am an unreasonable man; I want to see society bend toward my position, and that's not gonna happen by me moving closer to theirs.
         "If you ask me, HB & RT would both be impeached within a week if they fulfilled their campaign promises, and everything would be reversed overnight. This would result in a backlash against libertarians that would destroy the party, and maybe even the organized parts of the movement. I mean it quite seriously when I say that it would be a big mistake to win now. I honestly think it would lead to more violence than change..."
         Frankly, I don't think libertarians even need a national LP. I think we can do more teaching and persuading on the local level. A congress of state chairs (and any committees they empower) could deal with any national needs. The state parties are where it's at, and where it will be at for some time to come. The million bucks that goes to national each year could make a big difference if it were spent in some states...
         But, even that focuses too much on the questionable strategy of trying to win elections. When winning elections becomes the goal, it is all to easy to forget that the real goal of our movement is increased liberty.
         Why not focus on electoral politics?
         Well, remember Ayn Rand's notion of the "sanction of the victim"?
         In my view, any participation in the electoral process can be used by our opposition as evidence of sanction for their actions. After all, they won -- fair and square -- didn't they? "But it's not fair!" You might answer. "We need to get in there and make it fair!" Ahhhh... Now that's the real rub isn't it? When a people know that 'the system' is corrupt and that it can never be changed from within, they turn to violence, and the government eventually falls. Has it ever occurred to anyone that our 'democracy' has lasted as long as it has, not because it gave people control over 'their' government, but because it gave people the pacifying illusion of said control?
         How's this for heresy: the adoption of the U.S. constitution was a counter-coup. The 'civil' war was not the time when slaves were freed, but the time when all Americans were equally enslaved, and the key to our manacles thrown away.
         I ask you, what better way to pacify a populace with a predilection for rebellion than to channel all their striving for change into futile political contests which they mistakenly believe can reign in the beast that rides them?
         It is not necessary for our situation to have been designed, engineered, or brought purposefully to its current state, for this to be true.
         I won't just flat out say that voting is immoral (though I will say that, in the current context, it is the moral equivalent of firing a gun) because guerrilla tactics can be moral in war. Of course, this only applies to legitimate military targets. Violence against non-combatants (say, the civilians that lived in Hiroshima in the mid 1940's, or the non-voters who are subjugated by our would-be rulers) is immoral.
         So, voting (like shooting) in self defense (against those voters who would enslave you and steal the fruit of your labor) is legitimate. Voting to destabilize the immoral system (or just to give the bad-guys ulcers) is legitimate. Actually winning though...
         I'm not sure how anyone can do that and remain true to the non- aggression principle.
         If you are still reading, I must assume that you are at least willing to consider the possibility that participating in the system may not be the best way to abolish it.
         So, what else is there?
         Well, how about tried and true change-inducing tactics such as civil disobedience? Thoreau pointed out the way over a hundred years ago. Ghandi proved that non-participation in the lie of government is enough to bring a government down. Our "civil rights" movement got woefully off- track, but certainly showed that non-electoral political action works in America.
         Here's an idea: we could try to demonstrate freedom by living it.
         Could it be that the hippies have created more change than we have because they were willing to be arrested for what they believed in? Could it be that by trying to be reasonable, we have helped our would-be rulers place our manacles on us? Could it be that we need to be a little less reasonable?
         Could it be that if we all sit around wondering who will do the right things if we send them money, there won't be anyone actually doing the right things?
         Jefferson thought we could use a little rebellion ever quarter century or so... When did the land of the brave and the home of the free turn into a sheep pen?
         I believe that we do need a little rebellion, though I don't think things are bad enough that armed insurrection is our best choice.
         Disobedience to would-be rulers is still an option and can take many forms...

How about refusing to do business with the government's postal monopoly?
How about becoming a tax protester?
How about refusing to use the government's courts (don't do business with anyone unless they'll sign a consent to arbitration)?
How about refusing to rely on the government's Police Protection racket (assuming responsibility for your own safety)?
         I realize that these things, and many, many others are inconvenient...
         But, again, what was it the old man said about those who choose security over liberty earning neither?
         Unlike Walter Williams, I do not call for individual secession from the union; I was never asked if I wanted to join. I urge -- recognizing the limits of my own courage and abilities -- everyone to disobey those who would rule us.
         Now here's the hopeful part:
         If we can do this, while adhering to our own standards of moral behavior, we may eventually create an awareness among people at large that the status quo is not the only way for things to be. When was the last time the government launched an assault on a Quaker church? If they did, might the public react differently than they did to the Waco massacre?
         My observations lead me to believe that obnoxious and hateful dissidents are crushed and forgotten (this is not a commentary on the character of the Davidians, just a reminder of the importance of perceptions). Good people who understand the value of positive PR can be the sand grains that eventually bring the machinery of the state tumbling down.
         Finally, let me reiterate that I don't see why a movement, containing as many brilliant and creative people as the libertarian movement does, should get so hung up on winning elections. It's not the only way (and may arguably be one of the worst ways) to create more freedom.
         For me and my family, I want to do what I can to live freer, now.
         And I don't intend to ask permission!

"Don L. Tiggre is a grant-writer and a would-be author of fiction. He lives with his three sons, who teach him daily lessons in effective ways to resist tyranny. Having just barely survived 16 years of 'education', Mr. Tiggre is doing his best to study the human animal in it's natural habitats."

A Juror's Creed: As an American juror, I will exercise my 1000 year old duty to arrive at a verdict, not just on the basis of the facts of a particular case or instructions I am given, but through my ability to reason, my knowledge of the Bill of Rights, and my individual conscience.
-- L. Neil Smith

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