L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 257, February 1, 2004
"It's up to you, Democrats"
An Ounce of Prevention
Special to TLE
Recently I wrote about "Warning Signs," some of those indicators that our liberty is under serious and immiment threat. Almost all of the e-mail I received in response to that column agreed, and lamented that things are the way they are. But one of those e-mails was written by a man who, while he also agreed the warning signs were definitely of the red-flag variety, challenged me by adding, "So what can we do about it?" Good question. And certainly one that deserves an answer.
The answer, of course, is at least as complex as the problem: a government out of control on virtually every level, and freedom under seige at almost every turn. But, simplistically speaking, there are still things that can be done even by those who (for reasons I'm sure I don't understand) don't want to do all that much. Of course, before you do anything else, you need to commit to working for those things that are Constitutional, and against those things that are not. Next, and in escalating order of commitment, I'd suggest that the following are among things we can do to regain at least some of what we're losing:
1. Educate yourself about those issues you're most passionate about. You can't make any kind of intelligent decision without knowing and understanding the options between which you're to choose. Read your local newspaper (yes, most are biased, but you'll still get a flavor for what's going on in area politics). Search the Internet. Go to the library. Read about similar incidents in other places, and see how those played out to give yourself an added perspective as well as a taste for what works and what doesn't in such campaigns.
2. Vote. Although I've come to believe voting doesn't make much of an impact on a large scale, on a localand even occasionally a statelevel, just a few votes can draw the line between candidates or issue passages and failures. But note that I've listed "educate yourself" before "vote." That's because an uneducated voter can easily vote for the wrong thing, and it's better to sit out the election than to cast your ballot for something you'd oppose if you knew the details.
3. Join an activist group such as the Institute for Justice or Gunowners of America. Even if all you do is pay your dues and read the subsequent literature you receive, you'll be helping to further educate yourself as well as being supportive of those who are willing to do even more than you can commit to doing at this stage of your life.
4. Educate others in your circle of friends and acquaintances. Once you know enough to take a stand, it goes to follow that you'd like to see things come out your way in the end. After all, you're right...aren't you? (If you're not sure, go back to Number 1 and begin again.) So if others have the wrong idea, gently introduce counterpoints to their viewpoint. If they want to learn more for themselvesand they should if they have any sense of responsibilityrefer them to sources of information you've found. Although it may be a naive, I'm still a firm believer that, if people only know all of the facts, most of them will make the right choice in the end.
5. Join a campaign. Whether you contribute time or money for a candidate or cause, you'll be promoting what you know to be the right thing. Better still, volunteer to place yard signs, pass out literature, or man an information booth at an event.
6. After elections are over, monitor those candidates and issues that won. Remind candidates of their campaign promises and urge them to work to keep them. If they don't fulfill, or actively break, those promises, work to ensure they don't get elected again (you'll have the most fun if you tell the official that's what you're doing, by the way). If your candidate or issue lost, examine the vote margin, find out why voters weren't convinced, and try again next time. Nobody said it would be easy!
7. Remember that activist group you joined back in Number 3? Get active within the group. Participate in local meetings and/or online discussion groups. Volunteer to spread the word on a specific campaign. Any such group will have plenty of suggestions for ways you can help. Take some of them.
8. Educate others on a broader scale. Write letters to the editor of local or regional newspapers, and even national magazines (if you're great at passion but not so hot at spelling and grammar, have somebody check your contributions before you send them). Offer to be a local representative for your selected activist group, and speak about the group at various local forums such as civic club meetings or political campaigns.
9. Make sure your voice is heard. Attend City Council or County Commission meetings. Whenever your state or federal political representatives hold local Town Hall meetings, be there. If you can, visit your state legislators in the state capital and while the legislature is in session. If you can manage a trip to Washington, DC, contact your Congressional Representative and Senators offices for a face-to-face meeting with each of them (they'll be surprisingly willing to accommodate your requestjust be sure to call well in advance of any trip).
10. Run for office yourself. If you promise to act according to Constitutional principles, you may have a tough time getting elected, but at least you'll be bringing the idea some badly needed publicity. And if you do get elected, you'll almost certainly have a hard time convincing other elected officials that compromise isn't the way to go where principle is concerned, and an even more difficult time getting re-elected (although the fact that no one is running against Congressman Ron Paul [R-TX] this year shows there's an exception to every rule). But again, and for as long as it lasts, you'll have a public platform to use to do whatever good you can legislatively, and to offer a great deal of good where educating citizens is concerned.
I was recently told by a longtime pro-freedom activist that it was no longer possible to affect real change via such actions as I've listed here. I'm hard pressed not to agree, though I do believe that engaging in the activities listed above will at least work to slow down the rapid slide from freedom to fascism that seems underway. Some other suggestionsthese are the ones that require a little courage to go with your commitmentinclude:
11. Have you ever read a book entitled 101 Things To Do 'Til the Revolution by Claire Wolfe? If you haven't, get yourself a copy (it's available from various online sources including via Claire's own web site, as is a follow-up book). It's full of suggestions for "monkeywrenching" officialdom. (I've personally had more fun than I should probably be allowed to have by refusing to hand out my Social Security number to those who request it and then using Claire's suggested responses when the usual argument ensues.)
12. Don't cooperate with officials when the officials are in the wrong. A prime example involves the increasingly common use of roadblocks. Yes, if you say "no" when an officer asks to search your vehicle, you've just given him what some courts have ruled to be "probable cause." But imagine what would happen in the wake of a "just say no" campaign when almost everybody stood up to authority and just said "no!" The police don't have the time or manpower to search every vehicle, so something's going to have to give, and we can hope that what's given is something back of our Fourth Amendment rights. (The Roadblock Registry web site offers helpful information for those intending to take such a stance, and I'm going to extend my own personal caution here, as well: I don't know for a fact that this has actually happened, but I've been bombarded with anecdotal accounts that say some law enforcement officers don't take kindly to this affront to their authority, and have planted evidence to "get back" at those who would question their actions.) The same tackjust say "no"has also worked with Fifth Amendment fights against inappropriate application of eminent domain (a garage in Mesa, Arizona and a neighborhood in Lakewood, Ohio are a pair of recent success stories.
13. Commit yourself to the efforts of the Free State Project, Free West Project, or Free State Wyoming Project (no web site is available yet for the latter, but interested persons can e-mail email@example.com for information). Each of these groups is recruiting individuals to move to a specific locale and then to work through existing political processes to reform bad laws and restore good ones. (There's nothing questionable about the legality of any of these projects; it's listed here, however, because such a commitment does require that you pack up and move to one of the selected regions. For many, that's a risky proposition in and of itself.)
NOTE: I do not personally recommend Number 14 because that would be to encourage breaking extant law. I cannot tell people that's a good idea because a) that would be breaking the law in and of itself, and b) the negative repercussions of doing so can be substantial, and such risks aren't mine to take on another's behalf. There are, however, people who are willing to take the risk when they view the law itself as being wrong (unconstitutional). For them, I offer the following:
14. If the law is wrong, don't obey it. A New Hampshire man, recently arrested in Ohio for carrying concealed firearms says he plans on fighting the arrest based both on the fact that the traffic stop that started the incident was unwarranted and on Second Amendment grounds (a list of related news reports has been posted online; those interested in perhaps committing so far as Number 3 above can contribute to a legal defense fund). There is also a growing tax resistance movement in America, and although the price can be high, such battles can be won (Vernie Kuglin is currently viewed as something of a hero by those who agree with her stance).
Will any of these things work? To an extent. Some bad things (the MATRIX database comes immediately to mind) will fall flat without adequate political will and so could be avoided or repealed as a result of activist protests. Att the very least they'll stall off what now appears to be the inevitable. It seems to me that, ultimately futile or otherwise, until we can cure the disease, we'd best take advantage of what preventive measures we can. After all, if the patient is dead, no cure in the world will bring him back.
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