Montréal, 2 septembre 2000  /  No 66
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Scott Carpenter is a young entrepreneur living in Victoria, B.C. and the founder and editor of Liberty Free Press.
by Scott Carpenter
          It's difficult to sit and write during July and August. In my neck of the woods the summers are especially short so one either takes advantage of the weather or one spends the better part of the year indoors. Frankly, I'd rather be hip deep in my favorite mountain stream with a grayling on the end of my line than sitting in front of this damned box. That is, after all, the point of all this bickering, posturing and politicking in the first place – it is a struggle to claim my life as my own. Living that struggle is not the point – when it becomes so it's time to stop altogether. Indeed, politics as an end in and of itself is an aberration of its original purpose.
Surviving Well  
          Life is about surviving well – living as you choose without hurting others and doing that which satisfies you. I hesitate to call it happiness – some folks enjoy just being miserable. And to these crotchity old codgers I say « power to you ». It's your life. And this seems to be the point. A life not owned isn't worth living. Perhaps this is what makes politics – at least today's pragmatic version thereof – so frustrating to people like me. The aim of practical politics should be – to a large degree – a sort of inverse utilitarian ideal. Politics exist to make social interaction between men as painless as possible. Thus a proper polity is not based on the greatest good for the greatest number (which seems in many ways to lead naturally to socialism) but rather to create an arena in which the potential for human suffering is at its lowest. 
          I have to question the need of any nation – regardless of size – to have a government which sits in session most of the working year. Whenever I hear someone complain that « Those lazy bastards in parliament don't work hard enough, » I can only respond with: « If it were only so. » Politics in a non libertarian society is primarily the exercise of force and as such a legislature that operates on a regular basis is generally up to no good. As Mark Twain once said: « No man's life, liberty or property are safe while the legislature is in session. »  
The Purpose of Governance  
          Men are rational creatures and fully capable (if left alone) of governing their own affairs and destinies. Government's purpose is to punish them when they physically or fraudulently harm others and to defend the borders of that supposedly free state. Stepping beyond these important primary boundaries (there may be other small roles which government is suited for – although this is a matter for future debate) becomes almost necessary when men seek permanent political positions. After all, what else would they do with their time? A nation, although in need of a justice system, is not in need of a full time parliament to create laws. Dispensing justice is quite simple when law is based on individual rights and not someone's idea of etiquette. Law should not be complicated – do no knowing harm to other men; honor your contracts. Justice is law's natural outcome and as such, in a system based on individual rights, men will reap their rewards without government interference or suffer the consequences of their actions through the mechanisms established by the courts and the legislature. Indeed, law and positive justice are natural processes. All that is artificial is the punitive side of justice and the mechanisms established by men to punish wrong doers. 
          Issues such as foreign relations are moot. Men within a free country are at liberty to associate with whom they please inside or outside of national boundaries. The same can be said for the sphere of economics, social services and so forth. These are all areas which need to be left to the voluntary interaction of individuals – in the hands of government all of these activities become an exercise in brute force – especially with regards to funding things as seemingly harmless (and even helpful) as a battered women's shelter or business resource center. None of these activities can be funded by government through any means but forced taxation.  
          Realistically, a voluntary tax system can not produce the revenue needed to operate these programs on a national (or even local) scale. However, if by some miracle the government was able to raise these voluntary taxes – collected strictly for the purpose of implementing such programs – it would then be ethical for it to implement these programs in that manner. I would hasten to add that although this may be a perfectly legitimate thing for government to do (collect voluntary taxes for special programs) the end result of such collusion has often been, in the long run, an opportunity for the bureaucracy to control the lives of those it services. Moreover, it is an open invitation for government to implement forced taxation « for the good of the people » or to « make us equal ». At the very least government, like any other entity, should be forced to compete for its share in the market place. 
     « I have to question the need of any nation – regardless of size – to have a government which sits in session most of the working year. Whenever I hear someone complain that "Those lazy bastards in parliament don't work hard enough," I can only respond with: "If it were only so." »   
          Thus the only other primary function left for government is to establish some sort of military for defensive purposes only. As the Swiss have proven over a period of hundreds of years, even this task can (to some extent), be handled by private individuals. After all, a nation whose citizens are armed is almost never invaded and when it is those citizens are rarely, if ever, defeated. In short – a free man, having much more to lose than a slave, will be more likely to voluntarily come to the defense of his nation. His own self interest demands it. 
Combating the Addiction  
          A while back a friend sent me a paper entitled « Don't Participate in Politics ». It was an ethical piece on the aberration of the concept of politics and how many so-called Libertarian politicians are anything but.  
          The way our current system of politics is structured is incompatible with Libertarianism. One cannot run for the office of « Supreme Ruler of the Nation » when one's principles are in direct conflict with the said position. That being stated I don't believe there is not a place for libertarians in modern (pragmatic) politics. We simply have to redefine our positions. 
          A colleague refers to those of us combating statism (libertarians, objectivists, etc.) as belligerents. This may be the only legitimate way for libertarians to operate within any given power structure. In fact, it may be more accurate to say that libertarianism acts upon instead of within, the system of power we have in place. 
          To summarize Richard Rieben's position on this matter in his book The Libido of Liberty: The concept of Liberty is antithetical to our current « domination » style of governance. It has no logical place within a system built upon the foundations of brute force. But this does not mean that it cannot act upon the system and influence it from the outside. In fact, if one thinks about it carefully, there are several ways in which this can be done. 
Making Friends and Influencing Others  
          Perhaps one of the most important things we as libertarian « political activists » can do is to politely and subtly inform others of the current state of our once free nations. We need to reclaim such terms as « life » and « liberty » and return to them their proper, rational meanings. This can only be done by gently informing others – by influencing them with reasonable arguments when the opportunity presents itself and by allowing them to come to their own, logical conclusions. Remember – converse – don't preach. 
Guerrilla Politics  
          Democracy is a tool that, when used properly, is the tyrant's worst nightmare. Many libertarians are in the habit of criticizing democracy as mob rule. To a certain extent they're right. However, what they and many statists seem to forget is that democracy is simply a tool within any system of governance. It is a method of decision making – for implementing policy and creating change. Democracy is, after all, amoral and unprincipled. In short – it can work for or against the principles of liberty as easily as it can be used to raise the tyrant to power or to remove him. 
          In a multi-party system (such as the one we have in Canada) politicians are very susceptible to the power democracy holds over them. In such a system « the vote » can create disunity and a decentralization of power, thus (under democracy) it is much easier to divide and conquer the ruling party. The utter decimation of the Progressive Conservatives and the subsequent rise of the Bloc Québécois and the Reform party in the early 90's is an excellent example of what can be achieved when individuals from outside of the system begin to chip away on the outer hull of the ruling elite. This statement will undoubtedly be met with skepticism as many will say that we simply replaced the PC's with the Liberals but if one pays close attention one will notice that the Canadian Alliance (formerly the Reform Party of Canada) has been building momentum and will undoubtedly gain some political ground over the last election. They may not oust the Liberals from the throne but they will continue to decentralize power in parliament, perhaps by creating a minority government out of the Liberals and, given time, by possibly forming a minority government themselves. 
          Alliance politics are influenced (western style) from the ground up. Libertarians and objectivists have been working inside and outside of the party for decades to influence its policies and direction. This has been done in part by influencing candidates directly but mostly it has occurred by influencing the thought processes of the electorate themselves. The Alliance, being a grass roots party, is more or less forced to listen to the demands of their voters. By educating the voters in a given area we have seen demands for less government becoming increasingly more common. As a result, Alliance policy has been directed largely at dismantling the massive bureaucracy that past governments have put in place. Should the Alliance form a government the results of this type of grass roots activism will be astounding. Moreover, it will become increasingly easier, as government shrinks, to place sovereignty back in the hands of individual citizens. 
          This style of guerrilla politics takes time and involves tactics not listed in this essay. It is, however, preferable to bloodshed. That being said, guerrilla politics (i.e., active democratic participation) is the first option of liberty loving peoples in dismantling a corrupt system. It is not, however, the only means. 
To Revolt or not to Revolt  
          At what point during the development of a tyrannical state does it become ethically permissible for the victims of that tyranny to pick up arms against their oppressors? When is the correct time to revolt – or for that matter is revolution even an option? 
          The various doctrines of Libertarianism hold different standpoints on the issue. Some Libertarians (objectivists, classic liberals, etc.) seem to abhor violence – many view revolution as a weak man's solution; freedom can be found politically and economically they say. One must vote for the right man and support the right type of market. Perhaps. But waiting for the right man and the right changes – although preferable to bloodshed – is certainly not always an option. Indeed, why fiddle while Rome burns? 
          When the Black Hooded, Jack Booted thugs are kicking down your doors because of your political opinions or because you refuse to relinquish specific rights, it may be too late for politics to save you. Indeed, to say that a man has the right to defend his life against an animal or human predator but not a government that has fallen into a state of madness is to claim a contradiction. Government is, after all, only men with power. 
          The question is really one of timing and in places where democracy is less effective – such as the two party system in the U.S. – of much more relevance. In such places the ballot box has far less potential for change – particularly when both parties are almost equally corrupt and totally uninfluenced by the voices of their electorate. 
          Thus the time for revolution may be when the electorate themselves no longer have the power to vote the tyrant out of office or to, in some manner, effect policy from outside of or within the political landscape. Indeed, even « voting » men in and out of office is irrelevant when each man voted to power is a carbon copy of the latter. When a man's rights are constantly violated by his government and when there is little to no hope of changing things « democratically » or « politically » then it may very well be time to shoot the bastards. 
          However, let us hope that reason and not « the bullet » will prevail in this struggle. But also, let us not be fooled by promises of compromise. Remain ever vigilant and keep your mind alert. Through the exercise of either option – democratic participation or revolution – the battle is not over until statism is rendered obsolete. 
          More thoughts to come... 
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