L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 269, May 2, 2004
Planes, Trains, and the Free State Project
Exclusive to TLE
When Amanda Phillips, President of the Free State Project, and I picked up George Phillies in Worcester in Amanda's Piper Warrior II, I had figured out that the secret to keeping my breakfast down while flying small planes was to remember to breathe, look around, and realize people had been flying little planes for a very long time. The technology, in other words, is pretty well-sorted out. Flying to speak with the Vermont Libertarian Party Convention, we had to fly over the very statist Massachusetts, into the much-less-statist New Hampshire, only to cross over the border into the moderately statist-but-taxed-to-death Vermont. From the air, after awhile, it all looked the samegreen rolling hills, some occasional "mountains" of about 3000 feet or so, and lots of blue lakes.
It's the people that are different.
George's agenda was clear: to pitch the VT-LP on why he should become Libertarian National Committee Chairman. The quirky physics professor did a commendable job wagging his finger at the tyrannts George Bush and John Ashcroft, and made his case for political hardball to get things done at the LNC. Its going to be tough to pick George, or Ernie Hancock.
Amanda and I went to talk about the Free State Project, and her change from greasy aircraft pilot into silk-suited, engaging presenter was like watching a warrior suit up. As usual, she did an excellent job of discussing the FSP, how 7 of the 8 members of Republican Governor Craig Benson's "Efficiency in Government Task Force" were members of the FSP, and how the Chairman of that group was none other than New Hampshire Libertarian Party Chair John Babiarz. She explained the goals and mission of the FSP, and that it's a "big tent" liberty-minded effort. In her speech, she mentioned that she happened to be an anarchist, so of course when evaluating the "efficiency" of government, she tended to find ways to eliminate functions government does (replacing them with free market solutions). Clearly she was speaking just for herself, but it was a good sign and it would have warmed the cockles of any TLE reader. It was an aside type comment with
Afterward, a foolish, misinformed lout rose to proclaim (loudly) that "Libertarians are not anarchists." When both Amanda and I raised our hands and disputed him, this, er, individual, launched into a tirade. At the conclusion of the evening's events, Chris Costanzo got 4 angstroms from my face and started screaming at me. Apparently we anarcholibertarians were ruining his 20 years of hard work to get Libertarians elected to office. Or so he bellowed. I was stunned, but the Reader will note that I was cool enough to remember the Zero Aggression Principle: he didn't actually touch me, so no violation. Fortunately he stormed away, leaving others there to apologize for his rudeness. There was no needas I said to them, "it doesn't matter what Chris Costanzo says: he's just one individual."
I had to remember to keep my dinner down: breathe. Look around. Realize libertarians have been having these arguments since Locke's time, certainly Paine's. The logic is pretty well-sorted out.
Subsequently, Costanzo tried to get Libertarian Party Chairman Geoff Neale (a friend of mineits an Austin thing) to proclaim, Nero-like, categorically, that "Libertarians weren't anarchists." Geoff, to his credit, was having none of it. Costanzo has had to retract his statement, though he continues to whine incessantly. Some in the Vermont Libertarian Party, apparently, are consumed with trying to get into power, so they can ostensibly violate people's rights just like the Ohio Libertarian Party. No accounting for people's tastes, I suppose.
We left Vermont having made some friends, and only one apparent adversary. It would have been nice to have had total success. But even pilots miss the runway occasionally and have to circle around
Some libertarians are anarchists, some are not. As Tom Knapp has said, we're all on the same Liberty Train. Some of us may get off the train sooner than others, some may stay on till we reach the end. I would add, "but we damn well better leave the station, folks." We all know the FSP is an ecumenical group of liberty-minded people who want to band together to get the Liberty Train rolling, at least in one place. Once we settle in New Hampshire, its up to us as individuals to decide how to proceed. Amanda and I may be anarcholibertarians, but that doesn't mean we can't work together with RLC-type Tim Condon, or RKBA folks, or NORML people who want to help us. We've decided to get on the train. Costanzo would rather lay down on the tracks than have us even get on-board.
But being misinformed, and yet having a forceful opinion, is really nothing that new. My friend, Lady Liberty (a woman I respect as a fighter for freedom par excellance), is another case in point. This business about changing the FSP, Inc. into a non-profit, 503(c)(3) tax exempt corporation is simple: allowing people to donate money towards fighting the very entity that harms us (instead of giving it to Uncle Sam the Kleptomaniac). The paranoia about "well, now the State regulates you" is all rather silly, because as we all know, if the State wants to get youhey, they have no shortage of "tools" to do so. Jean Alexander's essay on the FSP website, a public mea culpa, this makes good reading.
More misinformation: the FSP is not hostile to western (or now southern!) "free state" or "free county" movements. Some of us, as individuals, were a bit peeved at the timing of Boston T. Party's announcement regarding the establishment of a Western Free State effort. Some noted that hey, he has to sell his book, too. Some noted that it would have been nicer had he waited a few months. But no one is going to deny that those that opted-out of a particular state didn't have a right to do as they please. In fact, both Jason Sorens (founder of the FSP) and Amanda Phillips (president) maintain friendly relations with folks like Ben Irvin. There's no animosity, just a difference of opinion on focus. Our particular Liberty Train is leaving the station, but if other Trains want to give it a gowell, there's plenty of tracks to try out.
As Verbal Kint said in The Usual Suspects, [VHS or DVD] "The greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn't exist." Well, the greatest trick the real enemies of freedom play on us is to divide us, to keep us weak, to keep us fighting amongst ourselves over the petty, the inane, and the unimportant symbolics.
Is defining oneself as minarchist, or anarchist, or simply "libertarian" useful? Of course. Is explaining our differences worthwhile? How can it not be, as many have moved philosophy to another by such discourse. But to say that you are going to view as "enemies" those with whom you only "mostly agree"well, its really not your train, is it? How can someone who wants even more liberty than you, mark you as an enemy of someone ostensibly searching for liberty? If someone wants less liberty than you, all you have to do is allow them to get off the train when they wish, and you shall carry on.
Whether you take the Liberty Train, or choose to fly in a Piper Warrior II, or just walk towards more freedom and liberty, look around you. Remember to breathe.
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