L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 268, April 25, 2004
The Standards for Standard Bearers
Special to TLE
I'll put up with a lot of things primarily because a lot of things simply aren't any of my business. Do I approve of those things? Maybe. Perhaps I even engage in or support those things myself. Do I condemn those things? Possibly. But if you're not infringing on the rights of others, I believe that you have every right to go right on ahead and do even those things of which I disapprove. But there's one thing I won't tolerate, and that one thing is hypocrisy.
Hypocrisy is, it seems, running rampant these days. We have parents who demand that schools do a better job teaching their children. But when their child is in trouble for being disruptive, or when their son or daughter brings home a failing grade, those same parents demand that the grades be changed or the punishment be suspended. Supposedly devoutly religious people spend a good deal more of their time passing judgment on others than they do on removing the mote from their own eye. Politicians make laws they don't enforce, or make unconscionably unconstitutional laws they intend to enforce to their last breath.
The vast majority of Americans as well as their political representatives think that illegal immigration is a crime. Our current laws call it a crime. But because there are so many people breaking the law, some politicians think that we should just permit those illegal aliens already in the country a "Get Out of Jail Free" card called the "Guest Worker" program. Politicians have rushed to assure the public that no one will get guest worker status without a background check to ensure against a criminal history. But the very fact that someone is inside US borders illegally makes them a criminal already! Yet Congress continues to consider the program (albeit contentiously), and California and Florida are both thinking about allowing illegal aliens to get legal driver's licenses (the fact that a legal ID is often all that's needed for someone to obtain government services merely adds insult to injury for the law-abiding American taxpayer). Meanwhile, those same liberal Americans suggesting that amnesty makes sense are the very people complaining bitterly that jobs with decent wages are scarce because foreigners are willing to work for less.
Many on the religious right or frankly, even the religious middle are arguing today that we need a Constitutional Amendment prohibiting same-sex marriages, and that the Ten Commandments be displayed in courtrooms. It is this same group that insists churches remain tax exempt and which urges that zoning laws don't apply to churches because of the First Amendment's implied separation of church and state. These are the people who "pooh pooh" any complaints about school prayer with accusations the schools are denying their god, but who paint signs and march in protests at high schools that include Wiccan or old Aztec in their religious studies courses. Either people want the government and the courts involved in specific religious issues, and to be even-handed about it, or they don't. Which is it?
When the McCain-Feingold version of campaign finance reform was passed, groups ranging across the political spectrum maintained the law was an infringement of free speech. Congress insisted that it wasn't, and the government defended the issue on appeal. Part of the defense consisted of claims that campaign finance reform was necessary (it most certainly was), and that this law would prove a method for that reform. But already, in the first presidential election since the law's implementation, we're learning that the Democrat candidate has found loopholes in the regulations, and there's no reason to think Republicans won't use it or another one shamelessly as well. Meanwhile, legitimate advocacy groups remain stifled under the law. (Want an even more specific example of hypocrisy in politics and where just one man is concerned? When he ran for the presidency, George W. Bush said he wouldn't sign such a bill as McCain-Feingold. Guess whose signature made it law?)
The Freedom Movement is alas! not exempt from its own brand of hypocrisy. But because I hold its representatives to a higher standard than the average political wonk (which, to be fair, isn't really saying all that much), I am most disappointed when this group exhibits its own version of "do as I say, not as I do." The case in point is some of the latest meanderings of the Free State Project on its way to taking up residence in New Hampshire.
On its own web site [www.freestateproject.org/], the Free State Project says that it is "an effort to recruit 20,000 liberty-loving people to move to New Hampshire," and that it is "looking for neighborly, productive, tolerant folks from all walks of life, of all ages, creeds, and colors..." Yet some members of the group, including the group's leadership, have been openly and very strongly critical of similar efforts focusing on a western locale. While Boston T. Party's Free State Wyoming [www.javelinpress.com/free_state_wyoming.html] says it wishes all similar projects well (there is also a Free West Alliance [www.freewest.org/] from which, for the record, I've also heard nothing truly negative), the Free State Project has been unkind at best concerning other projects. Some members have also openly and acidly criticized Boston personally. Reading further on the Free State Project web site, we learn that it believes "that government exists at most to protect people's rights, and should neither provide for people nor punish them for activities that interfere with no one else." Yet the leadership of the project has decided (against the advice of several board members) to seek 501(c)3 status. Due to the many regulations involved in such a status and the inherent violation of privacy of members accordingly not to mention the hypocrisy of signing up for a big-government program I personally condemned the notion. The application process continues, however, to move forward. Why? Because, I was told, since 501(c)3 exists, the group should take advantage of it. By that argument, since food stamps exist, we should take advantage of it (ironically, a downturn in food stamp program participants saw the government actually advertising the availability of assistance, which just goes to prove that government programs are quite a bit harder to get rid of than they are to establish). Since Medicaid exists, we should stop paying our health insurance premiums. Because there are government law enforcement agencies, we should turn in our firearms. And so on. As long as people take advantage of various government hand-outs, there will be those who will fight to keep those hand-outs for themselves, and those in government who will fight to keep them for their jobs. If the Free State Project really means what it says, it should be refusing any government aid or regulation no matter the temporary inconvenience or added expense.
The Free State Project and its companion efforts (note that I do not call them competitors because, in reality, they're not they appeal to a very different mindset than does the intellectual and east-centered Free Sate Project) are mostly a numbers game. Those who participate are wagering that enough people condensed in certain locales can influence the political process by voting, campaigning, speaking out, and running for office. New Hampshire, Wyoming, Montana, and Idaho all have their fans, and each has some reasonable statistical information to bolster their own claims.
But even more than a numbers game, the freedom movement in toto must not only "talk the talk" but also "walk the walk." It's the example they set that will be truly inspiring, not numbers on a spreadsheet. Real liberty and small government are worthy goals that should tempt many to relocate. Unfortunately, when one group takes advantage of the type of government program it claims it will work to phase out, and when one group that brags of its tolerance has members sniping at others, it not only lessens its own chances for success but makes all of the others look bad, even by the loosest association.
I continue to support in the strongest possible terms the motivations of all of the free wherever projects. But one of the groups is now clearly lagging in setting a good example of just what it is all three groups say they're trying to do. While I'm honest enough in my libertarian mindset to say that the Free State Project is free to say and do as it pleases, I'm still personally disappointed that the group I've long supported has done some of the things it has. Once it became obvious that such was the case, I had to say something. It would have been hypocritical to do any less.
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