Friday, January 30, 2009

The Progression of Acceptance of Liberty

Through my many years of activism, I have noticed a sequence of levels of understanding when promoting the philosophy of freedom to people who have been trained to employ a deaf year. You know the type, those who have been “educated” away from the natural belief in freedom from the halls of “higher learning” in our universities and colleges.

In economics they are taught that to increase wealth, government can spend the wealth of taxpayers and national banks can miraculously through the “multiplier” theorem print money backed by nothing to do the same.

In political science, the concept of power and force reigns.

In sociology, they are taught that government must provide for the non-productive.

In engineering, many students extrapolate the laws of physics to the human being, forgetting about the dynamics of human action.

In psychology, many are still taught to ignore personal responsibility in the choices humans make, since the cause of behavior is their upbringing in childhood.

In history, they are taught that the great presidents of the United States are the ones who have engaged in war and government activism in the economy.

In accounting, there is an implicit acceptance of the power of governments to confiscate through taxation.

In law, students are taught to accept the Roman-style code enforcement “positive law” versus the Anglo-Saxon tradition of natural law, common law and the Constitution.

In philosophy, many are taught that everything is relative including existence.

I have only touched the surface of the bad influence “higher learning” makes on the “educated” and “anointed” ones.

So when promoting the philosophy of freedom, I find that those not brainwashed through the formal educational system in this country “get it” much faster than those others. For those others there is a sequence of understanding that must be obtained before one of those becomes a fellow traveler in a true belief in individual freedom. This is especially true with journalists and politicians.

And it is best illustrated through the activism of Congressman Dr. Ron Paul in his recent quest for the presidency and subsequent appearances on the cable news shows.

When Dr. Paul first appeared on the presidential debates, the positions he took sounded like wonderful pearls of freedom-speak; to the anointed, it sounded like the ravings of a fool. So the first step was to ignore the fool.

Then as Dr. Paul obviously started making some inroads with the people, the anointed took him seriously enough that they felt the need to ridicule him.

The next level came when ridicule became counterproductive. This is when the cable news shows started to give Dr. Paul a token minute to explain his views so they could pat themselves on their backs for being “objective.” This has been going on for some time now.

But a few days ago I saw our freedom movement move to the next level, probably the most important level in achieving an acceptance of the freedom philosophy. On “Morning Joe,” the MSNBC morning talk /news show, Mika Bzrezinski invited Ron Paul on and requested, earnestly, to explain to her panel of “experts”, and she said that she used that term guardedly, to show them how they are wrong for supporting the stimulus package. She was sincerely interested in Ron Paul’s answers with ears wide open. And so were here guests. No one-minute token interview here. The exchange must have lasted at least ten minutes where probing question and articulate answer were revealed. These people were really looking for answers and considered Ron Paul the expert in the field. He answered masterfully, at least in the abstract, and probably only failed a slight bit to give them concrete answers on solving the problem. He did but didn’t synthesize his solution enough to satisfy one of those on the panel.

But the step had been taken, the most important step from my experience, that of the anointed type finally asking a real probing question and wanting real answers, not to argue, but to learn. I have found in the past that once this barrier has been overcome, the final step is only a matter of time because we have logic and reason on our side. That final step is the acceptance of the philosophy of freedom with all the de-programming that must occur–a true belief in individual freedom and personal responsibility.

Yes, we will have to go through the additional pain this stimulus package will bring, but I now believe that it is only a matter of time before we see a true new dawn of freedom.


  1. Well written and I agree with your premise. I have noticed it as well and I hope it will continue. I think more and more people, as they become disillusioned wiht the direction our political class is taking us will be seeking real answers.

    The good side effect of this "crisis" is that is it putting on very public display the utter impotence of government.

  2. Another excellent essay, Ken. And a much-needed (in these dark times) ray of hope. (I hadn't heard about the breakthrough "Morning Joe" Ron Paul interview.)

    Still, I would add (getting back to the first part of your essay) that part of the reason so many "educated" people have trouble "getting" libertarian concepts is because they make their living off of government oppression, whereas "uneducated" people tend to have honest (if more modest paying) jobs.

    I'm not just talking about the obvious examples, such as lawyers who make quite a nice living off of the illegality of drugs (whether they are prosecutors or defense), but a whole host of other jobs -- from hi-tech workers (due to the insane patent laws and their inappropriate use) (a subject that would require an entire essay to explain clearly), CPAs (to the extent that their work is beyond what is instrinsically necessary for the company and simply to please the government), etc., etc., etc.

    I could go on further (with other examples, further clarifying the above examples, and related hypotheses) but I've already probably taken up too much space (sorry). After all, this isn't my blog!

    - NealR

  3. Hi Neal,
    no, you certainly have not taken too much space. Yes, I agree with your assessment that people know where their bread is buttered. For the most part, I don't think they consciously see any conflict as to what they do for a living. i think they have convinced themselves of their viability in a "complex" world and it fits in with their "education" that I illustrate above.


  4. Hi Ken,

    Great essay. I think a lot of leftists/statists also set 'barriers' they will not cross, such as "I will never be a part of anything that contains even the slightest amount of racism". ...And are confused terribly from poisonous contradictions from the freedom movement.

    These are the people who would already be libertarians if Russell Means had won in 1988, but who were turned away by their confusion regarding "Austrian economics at" "anti-immigration and anti-abortion stances from Ron Paul" or "racist newsletters" or "the fact that there were no blacks at the LP meeting a friend dragged them to" or "any other superficial appearance that actually lacks substance".

    Understand that I'm not smearing Paul, and I respect his near perfect voting record. I'm just pointing out that there is a communicative and philosophical ideal that Paul falls grossly short of, in spite of his record being the most pro-freedom. Paul's near-perfection on most issues communicates well to anti-war conservatives, but leaves a lot of liberty-minded leftists cold, because of where he comes from, who he associates with, and what he looks like.

    I agree that programmed statists who are heavily-invested in the status quo cannot be budged. I've met them while petitioning, you've met them while petitioning, and we all understand that people who are squarely on the side of evil know the view themselves as government beneficiaries, and they are morally compromised.

    I also think there is merit to using chaos theory, emergent order, and information laws to combat the bogus "higher-learning" that people may have received in college. Human action is informational, not physical and biological, as you note. After all, if "science" gives the left's views authority then we can't countermand that authority by citing "individual rights" as the reason for restricting government. We need to characterize their woldview as unscientific, and cite authoritative scientific sources. (Like Kevin Kelly's "Out of Control" and Robert Freitas' "What Price Freedom?") (I understand that this is logically flawed argument, to some degree, because it gives unnecessary information. Nonetheless, it is sometimes more effective on "miseducated" people whose learning was based on superficial "evidence".)

    That said, in the book "Molon Labe", Kenneth Royce mentions that there are a lot of people whose "voltage" is set in the direction of freedom. They have a naturally rebellious and questioning personality. This kind of person, even if they are a union Democrat is often amenable to the idea of freedom, whereas a Ron Paul supporter that is comfortable in suburbia and only superficially acts to move in the direction of freedom is possibly not as great an asset to the freedom movement.

    Eventually, that "pro-freedom" Democrat will take a look at some state atrocity and begin retaliating against the state to the death, whereas that Ron Paul supporter will buy Ron's book, pat himself on the back for being smarter than everyone else, and then argue in favor of pushing people out of the freedom movement at libertarian supper club meetings.

    I'm not criticizing public meetings, but I am criticizing the exclusionist libertarian mentality that prevents the ideas of Ron Paul from being exploited.

    I also get tired of the failure of libertarian public speakers to point to solutions like privately held gold and silver, and e-gold. The very least Paul could do is demand that the federal government both
    1) Stop raiding the holders of private gold and silver
    2) Give notice that such raids will no longer be allowed by law, and that private currecies will hereby be safe from confiscation (heck, they could even state that that would be the case, so long as the dollar sign and cent symbol is off the currency, and suggest using weight-demarcation only instead, which would absolve the private mints of claims of "counterfeiting").

    Right now, the confusion comes from the liberty dollar embossing "$20" on their coins, when the price of silver fluctuates below $20. They can then paint Von Nothaus as a "fraud" and arouse controversy in the uninformed. People are thus less likely to come to his defense than if he had not pursued that "assumed future value listed on the coin" advertising scheme.

    The argument you make is basically the one in Atlas Shrugged where the union leader remarks something to the effect of: "The lowest longshoreman is apt to remember he's a man. The last thing you need to worry about are the intellectuals." To some extent that's true, but to some extent the college-educated contain the same rough number of people whose "voltage" is in the direction of freedom.

    They simply require a higher-level logical argument to eliminate whatever bad-meme programming they encountered in college. Most people also carry around a hodge-podge of contradictions in their philosophy. If you start with the freedom elements that "everyone agrees with", and proceed from there, you can often show them the contradictions in their thinking.

    I usually start with Free speech and due process, and show them how they've lost their jury rights. The only thing that will reach most of them is new historical information, so I first establish that "We both agree on due process, even we disagree about other subjects, Right?". If they answer "Yes", then I ask them if they know how jury rights have been lost in the last 200 years. If they don't know, I inform them about jury instruction, voir dire, and the creation of universal licensing of lawyers, and then finally the loss of free speech in court.

    It's effective, but it takes time. Maybe 5 minutes.

    If there were a continual supply of us speaking in public 24-7, we'd see gradual change. If we selected out the incoming jurors, we'd see faster change. If we selected only the incoming jurors at one courthouse, we'd could engineer media coverage of the ensuing confrontations, and we'd see faster change. If we posted counter media all over the net, and it went viral, we'd see still faster change. If we also handed out information that fully connected all of those who were interested with the Libertarian Party, we'd see still faster change.

    But asking people to buy into a whole philosophy simply overwhelms them. They are not used to looking at the whole, and so they file it away for one of two occurrences
    1) A rainy day
    2) The total collapse of civilization

    Until then, across the entire range of college education to uneducated union worker, to self-employed with no college at all, we are preaching generalities to narrowly specialized people who are comfortable.

    People deal only in concrete specifics.

    For years, I recommended Ayn Rand's books to people. I was fairly ineffective at promoting thought, because most people were unphilosophical and could not draw conclusions from logical premises.

    Then, I recommeded "The Creature From Jekyll Island: A Second Look At the Federal Reserve" by G. Edward Griffin. and "World Without Cancer".

    The fact that these books reveal historical facts to people, and that those facts are shown to have specific consequences makes them vastly more effective at altering thought patterns. Hypothetically arguing that someone's ideas are unsafe is different from showing them people who are being killed with chemotherapy drugs and diabetes medications. When you can point to FDA agents burning books and shipments of Celestial Seasonings tea as the actual cause of their prior ignorance, it makes a difference. It is concrete.

    Libertarians like to speak in the abstract, and that's why most of them are libertarians: they look for underlying causes, not symptoms. Most of society works in the reverse manner: they need to see the symptom, and only then will take the larger general truth in multiple sessions. Otherwise, they need to feel bad about themselves, and what they've done.

    There is no reason for them to fight their own guilt if you gave them specific knowledge they didn't have before. They may have already rejected "libertarianism" as a rich white man's social club for people who didn't want to pay taxes. But when you show them that there are really terrible things going on that libertarian could fix, it moderates all the other specifics they've been taught "need addressing".

    Anyway, this was kind of a "stream of consciousness" provoked by your essay. Thanks for prompting me to restate a few of my ideas. It helps clarify what I need to do.