Number 11, August 1996

Questioning Authority

by Victor Milan

Exclusive to The Libertarian Enterprise

         If you're a survivor of the public schools, or maybe if you aren't, you've likely heard a refrain to the effect: "Don't criticize unless you have something better to offer." Which, despite a surface plausibility, is just another device to turn you into a mindless little slavey: don't ask questions you don't already know the answer to is what it translates into in human speech. After all, the public schools are and always have been nothing but a system of psychological, emotional, and not infrequently physical abuse designed to take autonomous human beings and torture them until they turn into taxpayers, consumers, and conscripts who will unquestioningly serve the ruling class, even unto their own destruction.
         In the world of real people questioning is the crucial first step toward discovery. If you knew the goddam answer, would you have asked in the first place?
         People who write opinion columns for publication, on paper or the Net, are arrogant bastards. I sure am. What I'm not is stupid enough to believe that I know all the answers.
         Question Authority, the bumper sticker reads. Cool. Better, let's ask the questions that will rid us of Authority.
         Right here in TLE, I want to raise questions we're likely to have to face on the freedom road. Then you can try your hand at answering them -- or submit your own questions.
         Think of it as a contest. The prize is a better chance at a free life. And if you win, everybody wins, at least those who can apply your answer to their own situations. Gee -- it's almost New Age!
         I'll start with two key questions:

1) Do you really want to be free?

2) Do you understand that a free society is vanishingly unlikely to be achieved without enormous hardship, turmoil, and danger, to you?

         Unlike most I plan to ask, these questions have simple yes/no answers. If you can't honestly answer "yes" to both, don't bother reading on; it won't profit you.
         Answering "yes" to the second question does not imply you endorse or even expect a new Civil War [I expect but don't want one]. It means that you face the fact that the evil of Statism has sunk its tendrils deeply into everything, from our physical infrastructure to our social relationships to our patterns of thought. It won't get rooted out without great disruption at every level, from the personal to the societal -- and likely global. I'm not asking you to like it. Just confront it.
         And for you eagle-eyed federal spies'n'snitches out there, no, this is not a veiled call for violent overthrow of the US government. I don't believe in initiating force, and besides, violent revolution just replaces one set of oppressors with another -- one that's likely to be more effectively oppressive to boot. Besides, I'm almost certain that you'll neatly overthrow yourselves before long, and that there's damned little you or I can do to hasten or delay it.
         Now some more involved questions.

3) What services do you believe government provides?

         I've asked this before, and won't dwell on it again.

4) What can you do to provide yourself those services without government?

         I've asked that one, too, but examining its ramifications will generate a lot of questions I -- and with luck, you -- will ask in future. For example:

5) What can you do to provide others with services the government claims to provide, and realize a profit doing so?

         Helping others is fine, if it's voluntary, but altruism is among the most dangerous and destructive of human impulses. If that statement shocks or puzzles you, please consult the truly vast individualist literature on the subject. Start with Atlas Shrugged, which is itself truly vast, but worth the effort.
         You have to make your own living; that's part of what this is all about. And your current livelihood may not survive the turbulent passage to freedom -- for example, the impending collapse of the bubble upon which America's, if not the world's, economy is built. Even if the crash never comes, a second income wouldn't hurt, would it?

6) How do we get the message out that even people who fundamentally disagree with us will win if a free society is achieved?

         Yes, I know the hated Outreach Question isn't exactly radical or new. But it occurs to me one very good answer to #6:may be implicit in answers to #5: build a non-coercive system that more efficiently provides a "government" service. People will flock to it and damn the politics. It shouldn't be that hard to outcompete government....
         There's a start. Now it's your turn.
         Don't you hate those self-improvement articles that offer glowing homilies backed up by anecdotes of others' successes, but never anything substantial enough to offer a remotely useful clue as to how the hell you can do it? And how they always end with "now it's your turn"? That's not what I meant.
         Not only do I not know all the answers, I don't know all the questions. If you have questions that need to be answered to build a free society, please send 'em to me at If you have answers to questions we raise, send them too.
         If your answer is so good you can't give it away free -- great; keep it to yourself. If it makes you rich as Scrooge McDuck you're materially advancing the cause. Enrichissez-vous. Knock yourself out.
         I'll share worthwhile questions and answers in future columns. Please understand that "worthwhile" is subject entirely to my caprice, although it doesn't mean "fits my preconceptions." The best hint I can give is: be brief. If you have the Absolute Most Vital Questions And All The Answers Thereto, and send them to me in a 1.6 Mb file - or 1600 1Kb files - we're all SOL, because I won't read them. Use common sense.
         We won't get the answers until we ask the questions. Fire away.

Prometheus Award-winner Victor Milan is the author of over 70 novels, including the just-released CLD from AvoNova and WAR IN TETHYR from TSR.

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