L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 341, October 16, 2005
Tenth Anniversary Edition, Part 3
Special to TLE
Libertarians are such losers. I know, this is not a way to endear myself to them, even when my best friends are all libertarian or near-libertarian. But success is staring them in the face, and a significant proportion of them deploy massive brainpower and argument to make sure that nothing ever gets better. It's incredible.
LISTEN, libertarian! It's over 30 years later, and we're still hearing endless platitudes that keep us from gaining political power in the service of individual freedom.
"All we need to do is a better job at selling our product!" the activists say. But we've been trying to "sell our product" for decades, and the people of America aren't buying.
"All we need to do is a better job of educating people about what we stand for!" say the activists. But after 30 years of libertarian presidential candidates and campaigns, the voters are more than aware of what we stand for.
We are caught blinded... blinded in the floodlights of an ugly reality: Today there is no significant voting constituency in America for libertarian ideas. And it's time to face up to that fact.
If we are really interested in living in a society where every man and woman can do whatever they want so long as they harm no one else, there is only one possibility for success. Our numbers must be concentrated in one sovereign American state, there to exercise the power that comes with voting power in a democracy.
There is simply no other way.
Such a "democratic experiment" would be no experiment at all. It would merely reference what the Founding Fathers intended the thirteen sovereign, revolutionary states to be. It would be a shining example to the rest of America and the world, demonstrating the salutary effects of people living in freedom. It would be a "little Hong Kong," and would instruct our country on what it has lost, just as Hong Kong instructed China on the benefits of free markets and property rights for the past half-century (as of January 2005 Hong Kong was rated by the Heritage Foundation and Wall Street Journal as the freest country in the world economically; the United States isn't even in the top 10).
This is the meaning, and the aim, of the four-year-old Free State Project (FSP). It offers real hope for liberty in your own lifetime.
Yet in the face of the FSP opportunity, the great majority of libertarians remain immobilized, or worse. The Executive Committee of the national Libertarian Party has refused to endorse the Free State Project, even while many state parties have. Former LP Presidential candidate Harry Browne all but dismissed the Free State Project ("I have not been a big fan of the Free State Project...I have no wish to participate in such a program..."). Reason magazine ran an article that reprised all the failed "new country" projects of the past 40 years, making it clear they think the FSP is just another "pipe dream" And the CATO Institute won't even comment on the Free State Project.
As for the rest of you libertarians, you seem to regard the FSP plan with a mixture of fear and revulsion. Move to a small-population, cold-weather state to attain liberty in your lifetime? Suddenly we hear you bleating about how "things aren't so bad" where you live. And we hear emphatic statements that you're sure as hell not moving thousands, or even hundreds, of miles away from your comfortable home, just to live free. Uh uhhh!
After all, you live where you live because you like it there. It may be that you arrived at your present place and state of lassitude through an accident of birth or parentage. Or you may have visited at some point, and liked it enough to stay. Now it is where your friends are. It is where your job is. It is where your family is.
But most of all, it is where you are comfortable.
Of course, the question of "comfort" to those who profess to believe in libertarian ideas and ideals is problematical. When you say "things aren't that bad here," you sound both smug and hopeful, even as you delude yourself. You also sound oh-so-earnest when you explain that "I'm not prevented from doing most of the things I want to do. As long as I'm careful, and don't make myself too public, it's not that bad at all."
You pause to let that fortuitous bit of information sink in, and then continue: "Besides, I'm not really interested in smoking pot or setting up a whorehouse." As if such things meant anything in the parlance of what individual freedom is about. Texas Representative Ron Paul has stated that, "American history, a least in part, is a history of people who don't like being told what to do." Yet today, he points out, we have built a society that has "laid the foundation for tyranny by making the public more docile, more accustomed to government bullying, and more accepting of arbitrary authority."
Meanwhile, you libertarians fall all over yourselves explaining why you can't or won't move to a single state where you could fight being "told what to do." After all, it's not so bad to bend a little to accommodate your lives to the ever-increasing demands of local and state governments, right? You're quite comfortable where you are, and if you can't stem the increasing tendency of government to minutely supervise what you are permitted to do, well then, you just go along with it.
Let me ask you a few things.
What does it mean when a house of a few thousand square feetnice, but not palatial by any stretch of the imaginationcan be assessed and taxed so that the property tax bill amounts to one or two thousand dollars per month? It means those who own the homes aren't really the "owners"; they merely "rent" their homes from the local government, often while clamoring for more "government services."
But it's okay to you libertarians, because you don't live in a big, expensive house anyway, so you don't have to worry about sky-high property taxes. And you think paying two hundred dollars a month in property taxes is quite reasonable, especially when compared to the taxes paid by people with bigger houses. Except that even those levels of taxation applied to our homes are outrageous when you think about it.
In New Hampshire, by contrast, there are no state income taxes, no general state sales taxes, no estate taxes, no tangible personal property taxes, no intangible personal property taxes, no corporate income taxes, and no fat "political class" endlessly agitating for higher taxes and larger state government. Says one committed libertarian from another northeastern state, "When all state and local taxes are taken into consideration, along with other mandated expenses such as insurance, I'll save between $50,000 and $75,000 every year after I move to New Hampshire from New Jersey."
How about when whole cities, and even states, presume to tell business-owners whether they can or cannot allow smokingor drinking, for that matterin and on privately owned commercial property?
That's all right with you libertarians. You don't like smoking anyway, and you're perfectly willing to do your drinking at home. And when the property rights of others are violated to suppress behavior you don't favor, well then that's okay too.
In New Hampshire, by contrast, there are no statewide anti-smoking laws because the predominant cultural outlook is "live and let live." There are also no "open container" laws, and random police roadblocks are forbidden by law without a court order. Fittingly, the state motto is "Live Free or Die."
Here's another example: What does it mean when cities totally ignore the 2nd Amendment, routinely outlawing the right to keep and bear firearms by citizens living in those cities? The people must like the idea, since they keep electing the politicians who push it. And when murder and assault rates skyrocket in such placesas they have in Washington DC since firearms have been virtually outlawedthe people and politicians agitate for even harsher anti-gun ordinances!
But it must be okay with you libertarians, because you continue to live in such places. Perhaps you don't feel the need or desire to own or carry a firearm. And you figure you're safe enough in your neighborhood anyway, so you think such laws really don't affect you.
In New Hampshire, by contrast, the right to openly carry personal firearms is enshrined in the state constitution. It is also a "shall issue" jurisdiction where state law commands local authorities to issue concealed carry permits upon submission of an application. Not surprisingly, New Hampshire has one of the lowest crime rates in the country and is said to be one of the four safest states in America.
LISTEN, libertarian: Virtually every political and philosophical position you hold is well thought out, logical, and beneficial. Yet most of those political and philosophical positions are utterly rejected by the mass of Americans. They don't agree with you! Your ideas scare them! And your numbers are so pitifully small that after 30 years not one LP candidate for any statewide or federal office has ever been elected.
Why do you sit there so smug in the clarity and justice of your positions that will never be implemented? Nor ever be seriously considered or debated? You cannot win because in any democratic political calculus you are swamped by those who disagree with you and fear the ideas you espouse.
The only way for you to have any kind of hope for success is to take it upon yourselves to concentrate your numbers. It has been done in Utah, where the Mormons hold sway. It has been done in San Francisco and Key West, where gays hold sway. It has been done in New York and New Jersey, where predominantly corrupt state socialists hold sway. It has been done in Vermont, where a formerly rock-ribbed Republican state has been transformed into a highly-taxed political paradise for liberal statists, so much so that whole towns are now asking to secede and join neighboring low-tax New Hampshire.
New Hampshire. The chosen Free State. It is the only place where politically active freedom-lovers have a chance to wield real political power. Why? Because the state is already semi-libertarian in outlook, which is why the FSP membership chose it.
The chance is right in front of you, libertarians! Right now! The migration of freedom-loving people to New Hampshire has already begun. Several hundred people from all over America and the world have already moved to New Hampshire. You can read about them and their stories on the Free State Project web site at www.freestateproject.org. If you join the others already moving there in a steady stream, you won't have to put up with the common, petty annoyances forced upon you by increasingly officious apparatchiks of state and local government. You won't have to put up with the increasing numbers of "little Hitlers" in daily life whose mission it is to help make you "do as you are told" and "obey the rules." Rules that shouldn't exist in the first place.
But even that prospect doesn't entice most of you. For most of you the response has been continued lassitude. After all, you're comfortable where you are, and you're certainly not going to endure any disruption or discomfort in your life to make freedom happen. Not now, and not in the future.
In the 2004 national election, Libertarian Party presidential candidate Michael Badnarikhimself a signed participant with the Free State Projectgarnered almost 400,000 votes. Yet the Free State Project seeks only 20,000 activist libertarians and other freedom-lovers to make the move to freedom (they're currently at almost 7,000 signed-up participants: www.freestateproject.org/about/membership.php).
What would be the impact on politics in New Hampshire? "If you put just 5,000 politically active liberty-lovers into New Hampshire, let alone 20,000," one Granite State resident told me, "they could sweep the state; they'd be more politically powerful than anything either the Democrats or the Republicans could put up."
But you libertarians sit there in your highly-controlled, high-tax home states where property rights are routinely violated and local ordinances endlessly proliferate, and you refuse to take any action other than running futile election campaigns that never garner more than a few percent of the vote.
In the final analysis, you're doing little to attain liberty in your own lifetimes, even while you prate on about how much you believe in political activism, individual freedom, and the Bill of Rights.
Never before were Samuel Adams' words more apt than today with regard to the general libertarian response to the Free State Project. On August 1, 1776, less than a month after the Declaration of Independence had been signed and published, Adams said these words in a speech to a packed house: "If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude than the animating contest of freedom--go from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains sit lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen."
Is it any wonder that the flame of freedom flickers and sputters in America today?