L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 222, May 5, 2003

WHAT HAS IT ACCOMPLISHED?

Pain
by William Stone, III
wrs@0ap.org

Exclusive to TLE

Letters to the editor, your Congressmen, the President. Protests, marches, political parties. T-shirts, coffee mugs, Web sites. Mailing campaigns, leaflets, fliers ...

We've tried and done them all, but in the end, what has it accomplished? Very damned little, I'm sorry to say. Every year the police state grows and every year the noose tightens a little bit more.

Now we've even got American KGB Director — sorry, Homeland Security Director — Tom Ridge advocating tracking livestock on the Federal level.

Albert Einstein is often quoted as defining "insanity" as "doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." If this definition has any merit, then the overwhelming majority of libertarians are insane.

There is, unfortunately, little or no point in asking government for our freedom back. They're not going to do it for the simple reason that it's not in their interest. When I see solutions from well-intended individuals that essentially rely on government "coming to its senses," I admit that I'm unimpressed.

It's all been tried. The result? Federal tracking of cattle.

From my perspective, all the political action in the world has but one use: to make a philosophical point. It has absolutely no use in terms of actually effecting change.

Change — particularly political change — historically occurs when one very simple thing happens: a large number of people are unable to receive the basic necessities of life. These necessities do not include cable TV, new cars, or brand new tennis shoes. It involves food, clothing, shelter, and that's all.

For political change to occur, large numbers of people need to be going hungry, naked, or sleeping in the rain.

People must be in real, substantial pain.

The reason that change has not yet occurred is precisely because America — even as a burgeoning Neocon police state — is still extremely prosperous. The number of people literally without food, clothing, and shelter is such a tiny number as to be statistically insignificant.

No one's really in pain.

Certainly everyone would be better off if half their money weren't stolen from them. Sure, they'd be safer if they could carry deadly arms unrestricted. Sure, they'd be more prosperous without government screwing up every area of their life that it can get into.

But that's not pain.

America is so prosperous that any individual, anywhere can get a hot meal, clean clothes and a roof over their head — if they want one. Any claims to the contrary by homeless activists are simply out-and-out lies. The so-called "permanently homeless" in this country are more correctly termed "transients," and suffer from mental illnesses that preclude them taking advantage of charities.

I don't make these claims without some personal experience. My father is a clinical psychologist who for many years worked and consulted for a state mental hospital. He occasionally worked with transients. Many were drug or alcohol addicts who couldn't abide by the local Salvation Army's one rule for entry for the night: leave your booze or drugs at the door. The Salvation Army didn't make this rule to be spiteful. Rather, they observed that a bunk room filled with drunken or stoned transients inevitably led to brawling.

Those transients who are not addicts tend to suffer from mental illnesses that preclude them staying anywhere longer than just a couple of days. They'd be perfectly capable of being rehabilitated, they just don't want to be "tied down" by a permanent shelter.

Regardless, both types of transients — who either cannot or will not enter a shelter for more than a brief period of time — make up the only real segment of the American population that's actually in pain, and in their case it's entirely self-inflicted.

The rest of us aren't really in pain — we're just complaining.

There's a world of difference.

As long as there's no one in any real pain, we cannot assume that politics with yield the free society we're fighting for. We therefore need to use other tactics.

One tactic is outright revolution. However, as this is actually a subset of political change and also requires enough ongoing pain to support it, it's not viable at this time.

Another tactic is to build your own free society. This is essentially the goal of the Free State Project and the Zero Aggression Institute, but we approach the goal from different directions.

A third tactic is to simply ignore government. This is what the overwhelming majority of people do, and the number is growing all the time.

In fact, I advocate a combination of building your own free society and ignoring government. Live the Zero Aggression Principle: do what you like short of initiating force against others. Live as a free individual and by example show how a free individual lives.

Combine this with the fact that the current FedGov is inherently unstable and must ultimately collapse, and you have a recipe for ultimate success. It's not a success that will come as soon as any of us would like, but it will come. The FedGov cannot proceed as a police state, something the Soviet Union proved beyond any shadow of a doubt. America is headed down the same path as the Soviet Union — only in America's case, there's no other propserous country around to send us aid and keep the government afloat for an additional thirty years or so.

The FedGov is going to collapse, probably sooner than any of us think.

In the meantime, live as a free individual. Do what you like, short of initiating force against another human being. Ignore the edicts of the toadies in government employ.

Soon they'll be extinct — and guess who's going to be in real pain, then?



William Stone, III is a computer nerd (RHCE, CCNP, CISSP) and Executive Director of the Zero Aggression Institute. He seeks the Libertarian Party's nomination for the 2004 Senate race in South Dakota.


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