L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 74, May 29, 2000
Belief is Cheap
by Michael T Haggard
Special to TLE
Do you believe in freedom? I mean, really believe that freedom is right and good and that all people have it? Do you believe that freedom is a cherished thing, to be protected in its totality and fullness? From lurking around "alt.politics.libertarian" and other news groups and listserves, I don't think many of you do.
However, for the sake of argument, I shall assume that everyone reading this article believes. By that I mean, that each of you want freedom, total freedom, for every individual person. I will allow that you completely agree that the initiation of force or fraud is wrong no matter what the motive. I will concede that you all believe that the individual is the only measure of justice, the only consideration of freedom, and the only focus of law.
Conceding that, I still see that the majority of you believers are not doing enough. Your belief is cheap.
However, the reality is ... I don't think many of you even really believe in freedom.
A dispute has come to a head in Arizona that seems to be bringing out strong feelings and views in other states as well. There is an artificial division in the Libertarian movement. Artificial because, by defining "liberty", one side is completely outside of libertarianism.
The issue has been described on many discussion boards as "The Purists verses the Pragmatists." To define the label as it is used in common discussion: the pure libertarians (purists) who will not compromise even iota of the libertarian message are conflicting with the work and effort of the libertarians who will allow for incremental success (pragmatists).
I argue that the "pragmatist" side are not pragmatic. They simply do not have any real belief, or rather faith, in freedom. I further argue that the "purist" side of the camp are the true pragmatists.
Faith and pragmatism are brothers. They come to us from classical Greek philosophy. There are three words from the Greek language that I need to familiarize you with; pistis, hypostasis, and pragmatos.
In Greek philosophy, no one could exist and life could not function without pistis in something. We translate the word pistis as "faith," but that is rather poor translating. When you get out of bed in the morning and place your feet upon the floor and stand up, you are executing pistis in the fact the floor will not give way under you. If you sit down in the chair beside the bed, you are fulfilling pistis in the chair that it will not dematerialize under you and spill you onto the floor.
Pistis is, then, faith or belief that requires an action of trust upon an object of physical or non-physical focus. There is a quality in the word that suggests "leaning upon a staff" or "hanging your body upon." So faith in this light is 90% trust and 10% tenacity. It requires the action of risk in the trustworthiness of some object or force outside of yourself. The Greek argued that you could not function in life without pistis in something. Whether that be a political belief or a god or gods, you needed a focus of trust in action to live.
How do you get that? First, you gather your hypostasis. One translation for "hypostasis" comes from an archaeological discovery in the 1800's. A box was found with documents from a woman who was going to court over the ownership of a property. She sent to the court the box which proved her claim. She said, "In this box is my hypostasis, proving my claim." Hypostasis means "that which evidenced ownership." It was the "title deed" proving the claim. It was the "substance" of her hope that she had possession of that property.
Are libertarians CLAIMING freedom? Are we living as if we own it? So many libertarians I talk to are acting as if freedom comes from the government or somehow the government can take away freedom. To really have pistis in freedom, you must claim it and use it and have your living and being in it. Possession and use are nine tenths of the law, I understand. Use it or loose it, I hear. So, where are the hoards of libertarians carrying concealed weapons without concern for the law? Where are the groups of libertarians building houses without permits? We do not see masses of libertarians opposing licensing and taxation.
"Rule of Law!" some scream. Oh ... Rossa Parks was an evil anti-american for sitting in the front of the bus. Rule of law, my eye.
Once you claim freedom, how do you hold it, prove it, and share it?
Pragmatos (were we get the words pragmatic and pragmatizing) in Greek meant "to gather evidence." It did not mean that you gathered evidence for a court case. It meant you gathered experiences that built up your faith/belief in what you claimed to be your possession.
Pistis/faith is action demanding hypostasis/title-deed (or substance which provides confidence for the action) and becomes the pragmatos/evidence that the substance is real. Pistis means you never relax the grip or back off. You set your head in faith and, if necessary, you die not having obtained the promise of that hypostasis. If you stop that pistis action at any time, you give away the title deed and disqualify your pragmatos/evidence.
Is there anything that we have claimed in pistis that is not our possession? If you claim liberty and freedom and do not possess it in your actions and have evidence of its workings in you life's walk, then your belief is cheap. In fact, it is not "belief" at all.
This is not a battle between the purists and pragmatists in the party! It is a fight between people who really believe in freedom for all and those who do not!
You see, there can be not true pragmatism in a group that is not purist in their belief of their goal.
The Greek philosophers argued, as was stated, that pistis was a requirement of functioning through life. One had to have pistis in something. So, if the don't-believe-in-freedom side has no focus of pistis in liberty and freedom, what do they pistis/believe in? Well, they have told us; working within the laws that hamstring freedom, looking and acting "respectable" like the other parties, eliminating parts of the libertarian message that offend the masses, and accepting non-freedom for now as we work for the masters and convince them that freedom is okay. How do they hypostasis this? By getting some libertarian elected at any cost ... even at the cost of the liberty and freedom of others. By initiating and supporting the initiation of force through taxation and rule of unjust law. What is their pragmatos? They see how good the Republicans and the Democrats have it. They show how well the media responds to our new image.
They have pistis in statism.
The issue in Arizona and in the nation is libertarians versus statists.
How shall we then solve the Arizona issue? How then shall we heal the party? There is a phrase we use willingly for government, "kick the suckers out!" Why are we so afraid to use it in the party? Because we don't really believe in freedom. We have not hung our body on it. We do not have that tenacious do-or-die hold on liberty.
What you need to understand to gain the ownership of freedom within the party is evidence that the side calling itself "pragmatic" is not libertarian.
Only by believing in freedom will we be free.
Only by faith in liberty will we be libertarians.
Those of you who will hang your body on liberty and take possession of your freedoms, meet in Anaheim with the same resolve that the Minutemen had when they met to hang their bodies on freedom and took possession of their liberty at Lexington and Concord.
And what if the fight is not at Anaheim? Then we take it to the glens, valleys and streets where the people live and where the statist sow the seeds of disbelief in freedom's call. What do we do? We live free, showing that faith in freedom and liberty can produce ownership of freedom and liberty and is evidenced in being free and libertarian.