THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 727, June 30, 2013
No more secrets, no more lies.
From the Rust Belt to the Asteroid Belt:
Attribute to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise
A few months ago I had one of those deep, thoughtful conversations with a good friend on the issues of Freeholding and self sufficiency. We concluded that much of what has transpired in the headlines over the last several years boils down to a battle between two Americas and two separate and mutually exclusive visions for the future.
Two Americas, as politicians—usually as those of the leftish persuasion put it—are the manifestation of the alleged unfairness of the free enterprise system with its high achieving, or lucky "Haves" and the low achieving or unlucky "Have Nots". As if somehow it must be a sin to reap the fruits of personal achievement or good fortune. In the grand scheme of things it has much to do about the completion of life for resources in a finite world that is actually being made less finite by the insights and ambitions of creative people who down through the ages have increased the margin of survival and quality of human life at an ever accelerating pace that has really quickened in the last two centuries. But in recent times, we have come to a time of crisis which some think will propel us into a new golden age of peace and prosperity. Or will destroy us and all our hopes and dreams forever.
The battle lines have long been drawn—as the late science fiction writer Robert A. Heinlein put it—between people who want to control others and those who want no part of such and the authoritarian mindset that usually goes with it. On one side there are the Progressives—who my dear friend and I sometimes affectionately refer to as the "Proggies" who have pretty much dominated American politics and the popular culture for all of the 20th Century going into the 21st. With few exceptions—in periods of resurgent political opposition—their ideas and policies which center on centralized planning and management of all things including people by "qualified" government experts—aka civil servants—have become the social norm for much of the population. On the other side there is their opposition—which has remained true to the founding principles of America—the other America the founders hoped to create when they sat down to hash out the Declaration of Independence. An America made up predominantly of a class of people known as Freeholders: free persons who owned land and other property—which in turn gave them great measure of personal sovereignty over their own lives. As opposed to the system that existed before. A feudal system in which the common person—serf or peasant worked the land of a Barron or lord who was in turn was beholden to a higher Barron or overlord who was in turn beholden to the ultimate landlord—the royal sovereign—king or queen.
There were of course a few freeholders that existed in the Middle Ages—landowners or yeoman farmers who operated independent of the feudal system to a greater extent than the peasant class, and skilled craftsmen, artisans, blacksmiths and merchants who operated mostly in cities. They were, apart from the ruling class, the freest people of those times in which freedom as we like to define it was severely limited.
The idea of Freeholding is based on the concept advanced by John Locke during the Age of Enlightenment: which defines the creation of property—foremost in mind—private property in the form of developed land, housing and business enterprises—as the mixing of human labor and I will also include creative thought with the natural world. Despite the Earth being common to all people; when a human brings take something that is unclaimed by any others and apply their efforts toward making it more useful for supporting human life—property is created. This process began the transition of humans from a hunting and gathering lifestyle to what came to be defined as civilization. Unfortunately—the surpluses created by such made it possible for those who were more skilled at hunting and warfare were able to dominate those who who chose to specialize in agriculture or industrial production. Those with skill in various specialized trades as described above might enjoy a better standard of living due to the leverage of being less replaceable than unskilled agrarian labor—but over all—the ability to create property does not mean much unless you have the means to defend it. Which is not easy in a world dominated by hordes of barbarian warriors or the kings and warlords who rose out of the first group to become what came to be called government. To survive the onslaught of the former—it was necessary to side with the latter. And so for much of history—tyranny and slavery have been the norm. Security and physical survival obtained at the expense of liberty and personal happiness—except for those in the upper echelons of the social hierarchy. And given the imperfection of human nature—many of society's betters were not always happy either. And that has not changed over time.
But in recent centuries—beginning with English settlement of North America—there came a few game changers that advanced the idea of a society based on Freeholding. First of all, the opening of a new frontier itself created the opportunity for human beings with an individualistic mindset to escape the constraints of an existing civilization and lay the foundation for a new and potentially better civilization. Like the frontier culture that emerged here in Western Pennsylvania in the 17th & 18th Centuries. Primarily derived from the course and rugged Scotch-Irish who moved westward to take their chances among the wild Indians because all the good lands near the coast were already settled and beyond their ability to afford. They took advantage of the opportunity for creation of private property via Tomahawk Rights. Just find a nice spot near a natural spring flow coming off a hillside—possibly like the place where I live which may have been founded in that manner -—and just carve your initials on a nearby tree, clear the land and build a house. Like John Locke said; when Man mixes his labor with the land it rightfully becomes his. And they became freeholders.
Freeholders. Mostly the Scotch/Irish but also a few of the Indians in this region who wandered away from their tribes and built their own houses. Joined by the English, Germans, a few French and even free blacks and runaway slaves because it was an attractive way to live; based on life, liberty property—or as we call it today: the pursuit of happiness—and they assimilated. This way of life was also championed to a great degree by the 18th Century Enlightenment and America's founders which also became part of philosophical underpinnings of the Revolution—which the Scotch-Irish / frontier culture overwhelmingly supported. Mainly because the British government's effort to restrict settlement beyond the Appalachians and active measures to burn out "illegal" homesteads. Nice way to pay back the people for the land they helped win in the French and Indian War! I live very close to that history. Within easy walking distance of the bottomland, now a lake where forces of General Braddock paused to bridge an extensive area of swampy ground that stood between them and their ill fated objective—Fort Duquesne—known today as Pittsburgh.
The heart and soul of America—a least the one that our founders tried to create and the one that Libertarians and Tea Partiers hope to one day restore was born here in Western Pennsylvania. A fairly red area in an otherwise blue state in the Rust Belt that was once home of the Whiskey Rebellion and to this day remains a hotbed of anti-government sentient and a Tea Party stronghold. Another friend of mine who is big into history refers to the region as an outlier. A culture that has more in common with the culture of the south and the west than the northeast. Rural Pennsylvania as a whole leans conservative—which in a sense means it adheres to its cultural roots—or in the words of the current President that were also echoed by our late Congress creature—John Murtha (who likewise felt the need to apologize for the hicks among his constituents) "Cling to their guns and religion" and whatever else they might hold dear. Like maybe their land, and the independent lifestyle they have come to cherish over the generations. A way of life that is much like it was in the beginning—made even a little better by the trappings of modern technology. Could almost say it is a very optimal way for humans to live and a very resilient way that has survived many downturns and other changes and will continue to do so if left alone.
But it's kind of hard for Progressives to do that. They tend to have this pathological compulsion to meddle in the affairs of others.
The Proggies on the other hand, and those who buy into their manta think the way to go—if you have any ambition; is to go to school and get credentials, then get a government job either teaching those with less ambition how to be codependent on government or managing the lives of the same. In their eyes, being self-sufficient is bad. You don't require government assistance if you can do more things for yourself. Create your own food and shelter? Trade your labor for transportation and medical care? Fix your own things needing repair—ie clothes or machines, or buildings, or trading labor in areas you are proficient to others proficient in these tasks?
In the current hard times we are kind of headed in that direction with DIY and prepping. Positioning ourselves for self—sufficiency to ride out the unraveling of the civilization built by the age of mass production and mass society. While it may not be desirable to go backward technologically, it is definitely useful to keep some old tech and skill sets around in the event of emergency. It is also preparation for the next phase of civilization based on home based fabrication of goods by 3-D printers and nanotechnology. The individualistic mindset of the 18th Century enlightenment—aka The Spirit of 76—is seen by the Proggies as obsolete but is infact better suited for that transition. Or better said: the transition is creating a world better suited for individualism.
Is it any wonder the Progs are so afraid of the Tea Party?
The Progressives are the product of the Mass Production Age. The Progressive Era was all about reorganizing society around Mass Production—the lock step of the factory and the modern army. But in light of current trends in technology and social life—the efforts of the Progs to bend society toward conformity to their obsolete vision just inflicts more harm. And I will go one step farther to assert that the progressive vision was at best a wrong turn in History, at worst: a planned counterrevolution against the American Revolution that was a century on the making starting with remnants of the Tories who reconstituted as the Federalist Party and then were defeated for a while by the Democratic Republicans and Jeffersonian agrarianism. They attempted to reconstitute again as the Whig Party and failed and then wormed their way into the Republican Party in the 1850s. Later they expanded to the Democratic Party which had long departed from the Jeffersonian ideal of the self-reliant Yeoman Freeholder to become the party of unbridled populism and the Plebeian Tyrant. There the aristocratic oligarchs who came to call themselves "Progressives" discovered success in a working coalition of the worst of human vices—elitism and populism that were the basis of success for the feudal aristocrats and the Roman and Greek tyrants who came before them. From this unholy alliance of the reform-minded authoritarian and the low achiever; the Progressive movement that came to dominate the politics of the 20th Century was born.
Unlike the other leftist brands of statism that frequently call for violent revolution, the Proggies prefer a slow, gradual progress of achieving their goals be it political and economic control or population reduction. Rather than aspiring to overthrow the government, they aspire to become the government and over the years they have done very well. It's usually death by a thousand small cuts but they will happily take advantage of any crisis or war that opportunity might bring—and the opportunities it might bring to achieve quantum leaps and escape any accountability for wrong doing in the chaos. Another part of the problem is that the plebes have become addicted to government dependency, or have personal issues or lifestyle preferences the aspiring tyrants have given lip service to promoting or defending and that makes them willing to let the powers that be off the hook for corrupt or downright malfeasant behavior. Like Bill Clinton's apologists in the feminist movement or the low info voters who returned Barak Obama to office last fall.
But in their success the Progs may have sown the seeds of their own destruction.
There may be a desire on the part of elites to reign in the resurgence of an independent Yeomanry on the grounds of environmental concern—which in reality has a lot more to do with a desire protect their own power than the alleged limited carrying capacity of the planet. Progressive intelligentsia derive a great deal of support from the affluent professional class—once known as "Yuppies" which for the most part depend on government for jobs—indeed these people are the bulk of the government workforce. But they fear the emergence of a new Freeholder Class—in the form of entreprenures and independent small farmer engaged in specialty markets or subsistence production. These are the people who are looking for ways to survive the collapse of Mass Society and they are the backbone of the Tea Parties and Freedom movement. They are the return of what America was originally meant to be. A nation of Yeoman. Freeholders. Built on individual liberty, private enterprise and private property rights. Supported by the miniaturization of higher technology which enhances the quality of life which becomes ever more powerful and productive as it gradually disappears into the environment of the home as well as the public spaces.
Now comes the pivotal issue.
Progressives like statists in general betray their aristocratic mindset in their desire to limit individual aspiration and fix progress in the here and now of the present day. Or in their case—the here and now of yesteryear. In essence they are still chasing the future of 1913 in a world that has long passed them by. Mainly because while the majority of Americans liked the modern conveniences the Progressives promised them as fruits of their enlightened vision—they also wanted to keep their freedom and have fought tooth and nail to keep it. For this they call us bitter clingers—but who are the real bitter clingers now?
The perfectly planned utopian future of the Progs once enshrined in the pages of early 20th Century science fiction (often known as the Golden Age of that literary genre) obviously failed by the early 1990s when the Soviet Union collapsed and America was riding a wave of prosperity set in motion a decade earlier when it rejected defeatism and limits of growth that were for the most part the malaise of the progressives in reaction to the rejection of their vision by the greater part of the American people. This too was reflected in science fiction—in the increasingly dystopian stories that were the hallmark of the latter half of that century.
Forgive my digression but it was necessary background information.
The other reason progressives came out in favor of the Internet was because they saw it as an opportunity to organize and mobilize their own and it also represented the opportunity to achieve the kind of technological surveillance they had long craved but had so far eluded them. In light of their dilemma of being rejected by a population which embraced their entitlement programs but didn't want to be told what to do—they already had a few aces in the hole in the way of shifting demography and a couple generations worth of influence by way of the popular culture and working through the system of public education—but they needed another generation for those cohorts to come of age and some of the older ones who were still more in touch with the traditional values of American life to die off or become senile and unaware of what was going on. So the Progs for the most part dropped the radical prose and adopted a centrist pose—outwardly professing "balanced approaches" and "market based solutions" while they continued to quietly build the machinery of government control and letting the people fan out in cheerful anarchy into the cyberspace frontier of the Internet, chattering, browsing, buying and selling—exposing themselves, creating a cyber trail that would come in handy someday in the future when the prefect storm of an eventual crisis era would make the people more accepting of the police state the Progs have long hungered for.
The technology of the Internet represents a double edged sword to both the Progressive hungering for power and control and the contemporary Freeholder yearning to live free of such. One one hand they may be able to wield it in their favor but opportunity presented by this current perfect storm of crisis is limited. If the Tea Party, Libertarians and like minded others can continue to stymie the progressive agenda and run out the clock—just as the Proggies have typically done to their enemies in the past—there is a chance that sword—which will become a Sword of Truth can be employed to decapitate them instead of us in the way of exposing the evil nature and harmful effects of their agenda to the very people that were supposed to be helped. Sooner or later the really bad stuff is going to kick in. If we can manage to keep our heads above water we have a chance and once free of the tyranny of Progressive Rule—a glorious freedom filled future awaits.
It has been suggested recently by Howard Bloom (The Lucifer Principle—and another work on cities) that human evolution is in the process of adapting to urban life and those of us who prefer the rural lifestyle are obsolescent throwbacks destined for the ash heap of History. Or it could be like the Wellsian version from the novel "The Time Machine" where humanity is diverging into separate lines of cultural and possibly biological evolution. But instead of the Eloi and the Morlocks it's the Baggers and the Progs and hopefully the Baggers will be successful enough to come out on top of the latter or at least avoid annihilation or becoming their slaves or cattle by escaping to the endless frontier of space where they could instead live wild and free and grow into a serious competitor.
That of course is another big nightmare for Progressives and other like minded authoritarian control freaks. Least we—as in the words of one of the devilish Overlords in Arthur C. Clarke's "Childhood's End"—"spread havoc to the stars"! Those who aspire for power over their fellow Man seek to prevent human expansion into space or at least delay it until they have consolidated control over the entire population of the Earth. And then maybe let a few people go out there to advance their interests. To the central planners, space is way too big for them to control effectively and turning loose a bunch of homesteaders under a private enterprise system is the equivalent of opening Pandora's Box or letting a genie out of a bottle.
We need to unleash the genie. Then smash the bottle or throw away the cork!
It is important for everyone in the Freedom Movement, even those with little or no interest in space exploration to understand the value of space development not only for its great potential to enhance the quality of life here on Earth, but also as possible bolt hole for future generations to escape tyranny or a planetary catastrophe. Given the tendencies of governments to screw things up and the vast destructive powers at their disposal—future history may prove that both can go hand in hand!
But let's try to be positive.
I can see the Jeffersonian vision of Freeholding becoming the model for spacesteading (created a new word!) in the Asteroid Belt and later on the planets of other stars. Our future could very well one day be in the form of a "Promised Planet", which ties in well with Thomas Jefferson's ideal of the Yeoman farmer. I noticed that Jefferson had a disdain for the industrial revolution ongoing in England at the time and preferred that it stay over there. At first glance it is easy to construe this as the ramblings of an anti-modern Luddite but considering another quote attributed to Jefferson warning of dire consequences if we allowed ourselves to be piled up on top of each others in cities like was the case in Europe—it signifies more a preference for rural over urban life and perhaps a justifiable fear of the threat to individual freedom posed by the establishment of an urban proletariat that is as much subject to social unrest as the peasantry of a feudal society or a slave population. Either subject to manipulation by those with tyrannical aspirations or posing a perpetual threat of violence that can be naturally expected of oppressed or deprived peoples.
The Freeholder concept solves that problem through the advancement of private property rights and individual freedom which will apply the fruits of emerging technologies toward the enhancement of individual lives at individual discretion as opposed to the discretion of central planners allegedly serving the axiom of the Greater Good but more often just serving their own personal ambitions for power and wealth obtained in the way of dominance over others. The major source of human conflict in today's world are the Progs who are essentially the Ruling Class playing the Freeloader Class against the Freeholder or Productive Class in an endgame to destroy the current order and the remnant Freeholders (and Freeloaders as well once they've served their purpose) and clear the way for an eternity of Progressive Rule supported by automation and maybe a little bit of human labor—enough to provide the satisfaction of ruling over something else but without the control and security issues of the current system.
My vision which is essentially an updated version of the Jeffersonian vision is more chaotic than the so called modern 20th Century progressive vision—but of the two—it is the more humane and involves a lot less destruction of life and treasure. The loss of life by a few starving ex-freeloaders or suicidal ex—central planners that would occur in the transition from a mixed economy to a total Freeholder economy would forever pale against the misery, the atrocities and wars waged for the want of a "perfect world" or "fair and equal society"—caused the deaths of millions in one century alone. And I will hazard to guess that suicide deaths on the part of despondent Proggies bummed out over the prospect of never being able to tell someone else what to will by far outweigh the starving Freeloaders. Once sufficiently awake, many of the latter will get with the program and take it upon themselves to adapt and prosper in a free society.
And there are many ways that a society based on sovereign Freeholding can accomplish this through acts of individual charity -—in an arena as big as the Asteroid Belt—it could be something like building artificial worlds in the fashion of Amish barn raising giving new meaning to the concept "Habitat For Humanity"! And there will be myriad network based resources to educate people in basic Freeholding concepts and survival skills that are sadly less known to those who could really use them today. The Low Information Plebiscite.
Also I think Thomas Jefferson would have found the iPad very useful in his day—much like I do now!
The source of the pastorial ideal of Old America and maybe worlds to come. [LINK]
Yesterday's Frontier & Promised Land
George Washington and Daniel Boone (who was then a teenager) were here with Braddock on his ill fated march to Fort Duquesne (Later Fort Pitt—now Pittsburgh).
The stream impounded in the 1970s is actually Greenlick Run—which joins Jacob's Creek just a short distance below the dam.
There is a hollow in the hills on the opposite shore that I call home. Beyond that, another valley and then Chestnut Ridge—the beginning or end of the Appalachians—depending which way you are going?