As presented at the Second Annual Liberty Round Table Conclave
Estes Park, Colorado, July 4th, 1998
By Don L. Tiggre
Special to The Libertarian Enterprise
First and foremost, I want to thank each and every one of you for
coming and joining us. It really means a great deal to me to see you
people -- not just because it's a show of support -- but just because
you guys are my kind of people. I really enjoy this. I really like
to interact with people who think for themselves and have interesting
ideas in their minds -- and share them, and will examine them, and
turn them over, and discuss them with me.
So, I hope we'll see you again at future Conclaves and from the
outset, thank you very much for coming.
I also wanted to forewarn you that -- in spite of all my questions
around the campfire -- I am going to talk about winning. Y'all can go
ahead and groan ... I feel, as many people do, that the LP has peed in
that waterhole. It's because of those fund-raisers they send out that
claim that this time we're gonna win. We're gonna do this thing, and
that's gonna cure it all, and we're gonna get in the national debates,
and we're gonna win! Or, whatever. They -- the national LP -- talk
like that so much they've created another challenge for us to
overcome. We get this glib, "we're gonna win now, we've got the
silver bullet" shtick so often that people with any experience in the
libertarian movement just don't want to hear it. They've been
disappointed so many times, they don't want to hear it.
But ... I think there's a flip side to this.
Somebody mentioned around the campfire that we do have the
advantage of being right. We have the advantage of advocating a
system that works for human beings, living on this planet.
Eventually, in the evolutionary cauldron of social learning, systems
that work will bubble to the top -- even without any help from us.
And -- whether or not we ourselves see what we would consider full
victory in our own times -- what we do on our way towards victory is
worth doing. It is very, very much worth doing. I don't think I need
to explain that to this audience because most of you wouldn't be here
if you didn't already believe it.
So, I do want to talk about winning.
And I want to talk about being free -- about achieving freedom in
Before I get into that, however, I want to ask you all a question.
You don't have to blurt out the answer, just think about it in your
mind. This may offend some people -- and that's good -- I want to
Who do you think has done more for freedom in this country, in
this century: Ayn Rand, or Larry Flynt?
Now, over the long run, I would say -- hands down -- Ayn Rand. I
do believe that she is correct about the importance of ideas. But how
many day-to-day lives, people's choices, legal constraints, and so on,
has Ayn Rand really impacted and made a positive, measurable
difference on? In many ways, she's made us all more miserable because
now we are more aware of all the prison bars people are trying to
erect around us and keep us caged in ... Whereas, what Larry Flynt has
done, whether or not -- no, not whether or not'; to all appearances,
the guy is a flaming asshole.
But it doesn't matter!
What he has done in his fight has enabled more people to make
choices that the majority does not like. He has created a space in
which people can be more free -- with less fear. Nationally! And
it's for all kinds of people, people who are complete strangers to
him, even people who don't read his magazine. The environment of
freedom they have now is very different from what would exist had
Larry Flynt not fought his fight to sell his magazine and make some
The reason why I ask this question is because it focuses the mind
along the lines of activism and what really matters.
How do we create freedom?
A more down home example might help show that it doesn't have to
be Larry Flynt and all his millions on the national scene. There's a
man who liveS in my town who noticed that across the border in Utah,
there are 1.5 million people within a couple hours' drive that have no
access to hard-core pornography. It is not only illegal to buy it or
sell it in the state, they can't even mail-order it. They cannot
physically (legally) buy hard-core porn in Utah. They have to get in
their cars and drive, or fly, or run, or ride their bike somewhere
This man wanted to make some money -- very much a la Flynt. He
also -- I've met the man and spoken to him -- happens to believe that
human sexuality is a very healthy and normal thing. So, he decided to
open up a "sexually oriented business", as they call it, an SOB.
In the year that the store has been in operation, it has become
the number one retailer of X-rated videos in the entire country. This
situation is created, of course, by a massive government distortion of
the marketplace across the border, in Utah. The people physically
have to go somewhere and now they have somewhere very near to go. The
store is located in Evanston, which is in the corner of Wyoming that
projects deep into Utah, to within about 80 miles of Salt Lake City.
1.5 million people! Maybe only one in a hundred or one in a thousand
would be interested, but that's a lot of people.
And you know, it's very interesting. The man's store is clean,
well lit, has all these chrome fixtures -- very modern. His vision
for it is that it's meant to appeal to women and to couples. If
anyone has read Wendy McElroy's wonderful book, XXX: A Woman's Right
to Pornography, it's as though this man has taken Wendy's message and
is actually doing part of it ... And saying that, no, pornography
doesn't have to be sleazy, disgusting, or distasteful. It's a natural
human action, and I'm going to make products available to normal every
day people. The store advertises on the rock stations in Utah.
There's a fetish section and a gay section, and the owner puts those
against back walls, not in a dingy corner, but just so that people who
are sensitive to such images don't have to walk by them on their way
to what they want to see. And he has the lingerie and other things
that appeal more to women right at the very front of the store, so
that they don't have to walk by rows of videos that many of them might
find offensive on their way to what they want.
The townspeople, of course, were absolutely horrified by this.
They pulled out the stops to try to put an end to it. They
circulated a petition that one out of nine people in the entire town
signed -- which is incredible. El Neil points out that, well, eight
out of nine didn't sign it, but still, how many times do you get that
ratio of people in a community to sign a petition? Hundreds of people
showed up at a zoning meeting to try to close the store. The elected
officials sat up on their dais and said nothing (they knew that the
man wasn't breaking any laws but wouldn't dare take his side) while
person after person came up to the microphone and testified, with
tears in their eyes and stories of how they'd been raped when they
were children, about all the terrible things that were going to happen
if the store was allowed to open.
None of those things have happened.
There has been no increase in crime. There has been no sudden
mass perversion of all the people's daughters. No one has been ruined
by the presence of this store (except, perhaps, existing stores that
rented pornographic videos). The only noticeable difference in the
town is that tax revenues have shot up.
Nevertheless, all the elected officials know which side of the
bread is buttered, so they have tried to close the store with legal
maneuverings. And he beats them. It's gotten to the point now where
he's making so much money that he says, "Just let 'em. I've got more
money than the town does!" And he'll outspend them. And his lawyers
will out-lawyer their lawyers. And he'll win.
And the reason why I'm telling this story is because this man has
created freedom in my community. For nothing other than the profit
motive -- which I don't need to explain or justify to this group -- he
has not only created more freedom in the town for people to have
choices they didn't have before, about a very personal and important
part of their lives, but he has provided this for almost two million
people who were being denied it by the state.
He is not an activist. He is not an elected official. He is not
a crusader, out there to save everyone. He is not a women's libber.
He's just a guy trying to make money, and he has created increased
freedom -- more choices that people should be able to make for
themselves -- for two million people ... Just by his own personal
action. It's really kind of interesting. He was only fighting to
defend himself, but he has created this space around him.
So, if we want to promote liberty, maybe one thing we can do is
all become pornographers ... But, maybe that's not to everyone's
The point of the story is that it underscores the logo that's on
my shirt, and on my sig-line, and is my favorite product of the
Liberty Round Table's slogan generating machine: it's the idea of
He said, "people should have this choice," and he did it. And
they fought him, and they arrested him (they sentenced him to 45 days
on trumped up charges that were thrown out immediately on appeal), and
he did not wait for permission. He did not wait for Utah to change
its laws to be the first person that could open this kind of store
there. He just did it.
This relates to the two halves of the Liberty Round Table's
agenda. One of them is the political activism -- the "how can we get
the message out" that we've talked about around the campfire. The
other side is the "living freer now" half. I can't remember whose
sig-file it's in, but somebody who posts on the LRT list has it in
their signature that if you wait for permission to be free, you will
never be free.
That is so true!
And we can see it in practical examples like the one I've just
given. If you do it, you'll have it. If you wait for it, if you wait
for 'our' party to win, or if you wait for the 'right' politician --
who happens to be honest -- to get in and save us all, you are never
going to be free. Freedom is not something you ask for. If you do
you'll never get it. Freedom is something that is yours by right, and
that you assert.
So, a very large part of what we're trying to do is encourage
people to do that, to do freedom.
We encourage people to homeschool -- we homeschool. We encourage
people to use e-mail instead of the post office because when people
do, they are unsubscribing from a coercive, aggressive monopoly
system. Even simple things matter. For example, we encourage people
to shop at garage sales. They are a black market. There are no taxes
exchanged, there's no tracking of what you pay or what they sell --
it's great! When you do things like this, you are withdrawing the
Randian "sanction of the victim", from this coercive system that
attempts to rule over us.
Another very important one -- and I know that everyone here likes
to exercise this freedom -- is self-defense. How many times do people
who believe in the freedom philosophy complain about the police? But
how many of them rely on those same police officers they complain
about to provide protection services? I'll admit that there are some
things where the police have crowded other providers out of the market
and I would probably use the police for, but I bought a gun. I am
ready to defend myself and, and I think that is very, very important.
That is doing freedom.
One of the important reasons for doing freedom -- other than just
for your own immediate benefit -- is that by doing it, you are it.
And it gives you the platform from which to teach. It gives you the
power of example. It gives you the credibility -- the 'ethos' -- for
whatever you want to talk about as you educate other people.
Now, that doesn't mean you preach!
It just means that you get to have conversations like this:
Statist Relative: "Oh, you homeschool?"
Statist Relative: "Why would you do that? Isn't that a lot of
work? You have the kids at home all day, and when do you get a moment
You: "Nah, it's great, I love having the kids at home all day!
They're excited about what we're learning at home. Instead of coming
home pissed off -- from being pissed on -- at the public school, they
want to learn and are doing great."
You get to talking about the benefits of what you're doing and all
of the sudden, you get someone who's interested. Even if they're not
a libertarian -- even if they would vote for Bill Clinton -- they
might just unsubscribe from The System in this area, and subtract one
more little piece of support out from under it.
What we're doing with our essay contests -- I think everyone here
pretty much understands that strategy -- that also helps spread the
word about this other side. It helps move people closer to doing
freedom and once they do it, they can teach it, explain it, and even
become role models.
The VirtualCon idea ... You know, if we really pull that off
successfully -- and it doesn't take many people -- it will enable us
to do so many more things! If just 100 people make a pledge and
attend, that would cover all the prizes for the essay contest. That's
not a lot of people. We've got 20 well-known authors -- well, some
more well-known than others -- but even just on the science-fiction
side, where you have a well-developed fan situation, we've got 10 very
well-known authors who have a following. That's really exciting.
Imagine if we had a thousand people log on for VC1. They don't
have to go anywhere, don't have to pay for a hotel or meals, they
don't really even have to do anything other than make a pledge --
which they don't even have to pay this year! And even if they don't
have any money, they don't have to pay in cash; there's a way to pay
without cash -- which is again another educational activity. So, if
we had a thousand people sign up, that'd be $25,000! And a thousand
attendees isn't unimaginable, for a conference that is cheaper,
easier, and has a lot more speakers than other such event that people
pay money to go to.
This is an area we haven't pushed a lot on the internet, and I'd
like to suggest that you think about it. The purpose for doing all of
this, qua LRT, and not simply doing freedom yourself, is that to the
extent that you interact as a Friend or Knight of the Liberty Round
Table you engage in the public awareness campaign that all of us have
talked about around the campfire. We've talked about how important
this is. We've talked about how hard it is to educate, or to move, or
to see something change in the way you want to see it change, when
people don't even understand that there is a problem -- let alone
agree about what needs to be done about it!
So, the reason I've been asking you all for suggestions on ways to
improve LRT is not a guilt trip on my part, nor that I'm unhappy with
what we're doing. It's just that I'm so excited about being able to
do more -- I want to do more! -- that I'm eager for help in doing so.
I would like to see the group of friends we have now -- those
present and those who can't be with us tonight -- help us reach a
larger group. And it would probably take another iteration of that --
we'd have to reach yet another larger group -- in order to take on
some really big projects. Such projects would not be onerous to the
individuals involved. No one would need to put in any more effort
than they did, say, in our "Reefers" to Reno project. However, with
that many people participating, it would be very newsworthy. It would
get public attention.
Imagine if, oh, something on the order of 500,000 oregano joints
had arrived at Janet Reno's office during the last round of the
"Reefers" to Reno project ...
I mean -- can you imagine wheelbarrows of these things ... Some
poor schmoe opening up the envelopes -- and they have to open the
envelopes; it's official correspondence! And because we supposedly
have the right to petition the government for redress of our
grievances, we are not doing anything illegal, or bad, wrong. We are
communicating our discontent. This is a political protest action ...
So here comes the schmoe with another wheelbarrow, wondering, "What
are we going to do with all of these these things. Can you imagine
all the guys down at the lab, using all kinds of cop equipment they
have hanging around -- you know to test the leaves and the saliva used
to seal the envelopes -- just think of all the resources they would
waste on that instead of using them to persecute harmless people.
It'd be great!
And somebody might actually smoke the stuff and get sick because
it isn't pot -- that'd be one less bureaucrat to worry about!
Just think about what would happen if that got big enough that the
media noticed ... Picture CNN carrying this image of a guy coming out
of Reno's office with a wheelbarrow full of joints. It'd be
hilarious! And some guy -- even "Joe Sixpack", who will never be a
libertarian, who will never read Atlas Shrugged -- he's not gonna do
it! But he sees the schmoe coming out of Jackboot Janet's office with
a wheelbarrow full of cigarettes ... and maybe -- just maybe -- it
It's a meme.
And it spreads ...
That's my vision for the Liberty Round Table: I'd like to see us
remain enthused long enough to reach a larger group of people, so we
can start doing some more visible things. If we become nothing more
than a coffee club, I'll still be here, because I believe in LRT, but
that would not fulfill my vision. That's not what I want to see
For people like you who would drive all the way to the Rocky
Mountain National Park in Colorado, I probably don't need to make a
very hard sales pitch. But, there are people who didn't, so I want to
suggest one last thought. It's not new, but it's important, and I
hope you'll communicate it to other people, so that we can see this
vision happen. Realizing this vision would be great: it would make a
difference, it would be important, it would help us to live freer now,
and it would sure as hell feel good!
The idea is this:
In my office, when I used to work at the Center for Market
Processes, I had a poster on my wall of the picture that French
reporter took of that one man ... with the white shirt ... and the
black pants. He looked like a waiter just coming off work. He was
standing in front of four tanks on their way to Tianenmen Square. And
he's got his little satchel in one hand, and maybe a bundled up shirt
or jacket in the other hand ... And no gun, no bazooka, no army
behind him ... nothing behind him other than the sense that this is
wrong, and I cannot step aside.
I get goose-bumps -- I have shivers running up and down my spine
right now just talking about this.
Because this image is so powerful to me ... This one man, totally
unarmed, standing in front of four huge tanks ...
It so happens that the tankers didn't have orders to kill anyone
yet, so they didn't run over him. But eventually they came and
arrested him and hauled him off. And nobody knows who he was -- he's
probably still in jail for all we know.*
That picture, that image, of one man being so unreasonable, but so
right ... I would hope that I would have that much courage!
Here's the kicker -- here's how this ties into what we're talking
If we don't want to have to stand in front of tanks, if we don't
want to get to the point where -- in the middle of the night, without
knowing what anyone else is doing -- we decide to go stand in front of
tanks surrounding the parliament building ...
We need to do this now. We need to do freedom. We need to set
the example. We need -- we deserve -- to enjoy more freedom in our
We need to do freedom.
But we need to tell people that we're doing it!
And we need to tell them how to do it.
And we need to encourage them to tell other people.
Because if we don't do it now, with words, we will be standing in
front of those tanks ... Or we won't be, and we'll be crushed.
I don't know if it's too late to stop that -- that was another
discussion we've been having -- but if there's a chance, we need to do
this, or we will end up standing in front of those tanks.
So, I would like to ask all of you, to the extent that you can --
I make it my habit not to ask for onerous things, so I'm not going to
ask you to take out your checkbooks and make the biggest contribution
you can -- to do something that might be easier or harder. I want you
to commit, in your own mind -- because it doesn't matter what you tell
me; your own self-esteem and your own self-judgment is what matters.
I want you to commit, in your own mind, to -- after leaving here and
before the next conclave -- doing something specific that you know is
doing freedom, that you know is new and above what you've already
done. Do something new to expand the sphere of your own personal
freedom ... And to tell people about it!
There are some harder things, there are some easier things -- you
don't need to go and open a porn shop! Maybe you could choose some of
the activities we've lined up -- you could support a contest, or a
conference, or just forward our e-mail announcements. I think that
some of the more satisfying things to do, in addition to the ones
we've made easy, are some of the harder ones, like making the choice
to homeschool your kids. Or to take a greater role in your own
But do some freedom, and tell people about it!
If you do that, it would be a wonderful thing. I am already
honored and proud to be your friend, but it would just make me feel
terrific to know that you have gone out and made a difference. Then I
will have made a greater difference, and we'll all have more space in
which to do freedom.
Thank you very much!
* Someone at the dinner told me that it is known that the man in front
of the tanks was executed for treason.
"Don L. Tiggre", founder of the Liberty Round Table (1101 Main Street,
#104-254 Evanston, WY 82930) urges Libertarian Enterprise readers to
"Do Freedom!!!" -- and check out Virtual-Con 1: Science-Fiction and
Freedom-Lover's convention on-line, at http://home.lrt.org