Number 13, September 1, 1996

Questioning Authority Trey: But Is It Safe?

by Victor Milan

Exclusive to The Libertarian Enterprise

         I've actually gotten responses -- hey, thanks! -- and since I didn't warn anybody, I'm including only the names of respondents I quote. In future I'll include names and email addresses unless requested otherwise.
         Please consider letting me include the info. WIRED magazine ran an article on cracking Netscape's export-version encryption for commercial dealings on the Net. Granted, it was a crippled program, as required by US law -- thanks again, Uncle Sam -- but an imposing challenge nevertheless. Some crypto and computer buffs got together, broke the problem down into pieces, and distributed it via the Net. People all over the world tackled manageable chunks of it, each in his or her own way. They fed their results back to the coordinators.
         They did it.
         What I'm trying to do here is similar. Our problem: how do we actually get to live in a free society? It's more involved than mere code-cracking; for one thing, there isn't going to be one answer, but an infinity of them. But we don't need them all. If we get some workable solutions as models, we can wing it.
         So please, talk to each other, not just me. Brainstorm. Even John Galt had help; Galt's Gulch wasn't just a vacation resort in the Rockies.


         From Robert Edwards [whose address I couldn't print if I wanted to, since his server bounced my reply back "user unknown"] comes the question:

1) "What has been stopping all the brilliant entrepreneurs of the world from doing this [competing with government] so far?"

         He offers three explanations: government regulation restricting direct competition, e.g. the postal monopoly; the government's propensity, as in Sam Zhdanov's case, for squashing people who aren't even competing with it, or indeed committing anything remotely intelligible as a crime; & lack of start-up capital.
         These are real problems. I'd add lack of proper perspective: it hasn't occurred to a lot of people to think how they could compete with government, or even that they could. I'm trying here to start such things occurring to people..
         Robert suggests amassing greater wealth as one solution. That's good advice, but to me addresses only the third problem. In terms of the other two, though, it would seem to make you a better target. Can you say "asset forfeiture"? He promises further suggestions, so if you're reading this, Robert....
         Bill Cox, in response to my last QA, reminds me that competition is our protection against a business acting like a government. True; however in the particular case I put forward, the existence of a physical monopoly -- such as a town having only one power plant -- initially precludes competition, and the monopolist seems to be in commanding position to keep it from arising. So Bill refines my earlier question:

2) How do we introduce competition into situations where an actual physical monopoly exists?

         Thanks, Robert and Bill. Keep it coming. Who else has something?


         Robert Edwards' response suggest two key -- and uncomfortable -- questions:

3) Can we render the State irrelevant without breaking laws?

4) Is it safe?

         Both of which I happen to know the answer to: nope.
         Yes, I'm telling you to break the law. It's time somebody did.
         But I won't tell you which laws to break. That's up to you.
         Give nothing to the State, and accepting nothing from the State, does not automatically mean breaking laws. It's not illegal to defend yourself or refrain from seeking subsidies for your business -- yet. But there are damn few economic activities, for example, which you can pursue without filling out a lot of forms, buying licenses, and, of course, paying more taxes.
         Can we topple Leviathan by continuing to pick up his tab? No.
         There's only so far we can go down Freedom Road without breaking laws -- and it isn't far enough. We will be free only when we stop asking permission and paying tribute. Somewhere between here and there lies an invisible boundary, and the State will attack you if it catches you beyond.
         And don't feel too confident about being on the right side of the boundary even if you try to obey all laws. There are people in the government -- for example, Bill Clinton, Janet Reno, and Louis Freeh -- who believe that opposition to their enlightened social-engineering agenda is itself a crime, now; only fear of negative publicity -- the only behavior-regulator our government recognizes -- prevents them from acting more overly on that legal theory.
         It wasn't illegal for Sam Zhdanov to make little vials. Even innocence can't protect you from that most evil and rapacious of predators on human meat, the Ambitious Prosecutor; or from the covetousness of bureaucrats armed with asset-forfeiture laws; or from the alphabet-soup Death Squads getting the wrong address. Again.
         To live free, we'll have to break laws -- which, we all should know, is not the same thing as committing crimes, except in the State's eyes. Never break the Non-Aggression Principle.
         And be discreet. The State, already perceiving its mortal peril in a dim, dinosaurid way, is beginning to thrash in blind fury. That'll only get worse in the next few years. Don't make yourself a target.
         Since breaking no law is no defense, either:

5) How do we avoid the lashings of government's spiked tail?

         Remember the first axiom of modern warfare: if we see it, it's dead. Let's take a hint from Monty Python and study How Not to Be Seen.
         Finally, as for an old girlfriend said, life's fatal. You can achieve a measure of safety only through what efforts you are willing to expend, including the effort to arrange with others for mutual defense -- understanding, always, that you can only truly rely on yourself. But ultimately, the only real safety's in the grave.
         If you're thinking about trading freedom for safety -- forget what Ben Franklin said and answer me this:

6) Who feels bound to honor promises made to slaves?

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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