Story-telling liberty

29. April 2010

I’ve had a few requests for a copy of the speech I delivered at the 2010 Liberty Forum last march. My presentation was recorded on audio and video, but some have wanted a text version. Here’s what I wrote, and I mostly kept to this script, although I wandered away from it a few times. Also, there was a slide show that went along with this which is not included here.

Thanks everyone for showing up to hear me blather; I’ll try my best not to bore you.

To achieve a libertarian society of course we must develop and spread the ideas of liberty, and do so in a manner that persuades. There are various means of doing this, and we each choose means that best suit our own particular talents and skills.

These days libertarians mostly tend to favor two general means: academic discourse, and political theater. Libertarian ideas originated in academia so naturally they must spread initially through academic discourse. Also, since we live in a society in which electoral politics is, we are instructed, the preferred means of changing our governing culture, we formed the Libertarian Party almost 40 years ago with the intent of injecting libertarian ideas into the national political conversation.

Academic discourse has been and remains vital, while political theater has become more controversial of late within the movement. But now I’m going to talk about a different means of spreading ideas, and that is, story-telling.

Humans seem hard-wired to want to hear stories. We tell stories, of different sorts, all the time in our daily lives. The most popular types of stories are rumors.

Rumors can be true or untrue. For example, one rumor has it that Sarah Palin strongly dislikes gays. This is UNTRUE. Her hair stylist for her first major campaign (her town’s beauty pageant) was gay, and she thought he did a fantastic job with her highlights, and used just the right amount of hairspray, and was a pretty likeable person considering his abominable lifestyle.

Jesus of Nazareth was, arguably the most effective spreader of new ideas in history. And he loved telling stories, which were called ‘parables,’ to illustrate some point he wanted to make, and helped his followers remember them.

He told one parable many of us can relate to: the Sower and the Seeds: “A sower went out to sow his seed; and as he sowed, some fell along the path, and was trodden under foot, and the birds of the air devoured it. And some fell on the rock; and as it grew up, it withered away, because it had no moisture. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns grew with it and choked it. And some fell into good soil and grew, and yielded a hundredfold.”

The point of the parable being that as you spread your ideas there will be some who will reject them, some who will accept superficially but not be ready to truly understand, some will be too distracted by other concerns to pay attention; and finally, those who are prepared to receive the ideas and take them to heart – and these are the ones who make your efforts worth-while.

Of course, many people like to tell stories about Jesus:

Jesus came across an adulteress crouching in a corner with a crowd around her preparing to stone her to death. Jesus stopped them and said, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”

Suddenly a woman at the back of the crowd fired off a stone at the adulteress. At which point Jesus looked over and said, “Moth-er! Sometimes you really tick me off!”

Here’s another one:

A burglar broke into a home and while he was looking around he heard a soft voice say, “Jesus is watching you”. Thinking it was just his imagination, he continued his search. Again the voice said “Jesus is watching you”. He turned his flashlight around and saw a parrot in a cage.

He asked the parrot if he was the one talking and the parrot said, “yes.”

He asked the parrot what his name was and the parrot said, “Moses.”

The burglar asked, “what kind of people would name a parrot Moses?”

The parrot said, “the same kind of people who would name their pit bull Jesus”.

The first story works when people know the background story about Jesus and his mother the Virgin Mary, and relates to the frustrations many of us experience when our mothers show up at work and embarrass us.

The second story works even if you don’t know much about Jesus, or Moses, but you should have some passing familiarity with pit-bulls.

Now, the interesting thing about parables and jokes like these, is that it doesn’t really matter whether they are true in a literal sense. What matters is that they ring true, that is, that they conform with the experiences and expectations of the listeners. So long as a story rings true, the listener or reader will willingly suspend disbelief, in order to accept the story; and whether consciously or not, by accepting the story he will on some level accept the ideas embedded in the story.

The defining nature of sci-fi is that it takes some basic ideas, not just of science but also of ethics and social organizations, and uses them to construct an alternative world, fundamentally different from the mundane reality in which we find ourselves. When done correctly, these alternative worlds are believable – that is, they ring true. When they are compelling, they can persuade people as to the value of those embedded ideas. This makes science-fiction uniquely suited for describing libertarian cultures, while we must yet live in and deal with a statist world.

We would hope, of course, that those embedded ideas are libertarian, but unfortunately they don’t have to be for the stories to be effective.

The science-fiction writer Cory Doctorow, in accepting his recent Prometheus Award, notes how “we’re all familiar with [the television program] 24 ginning up these situations in which it seems moral and ethical for Jack Bauer to stick his revolver in someone’s thigh, pull the trigger and blow a bullet into the meat of it in order to get him to tell where the ticking bomb is going.” And how “in Orson Scott Card’s Ender’s Game we have an incredibly powerful and ultimately manipulative argument for the doctrine of pre-emption, where you have a character who is really one of the most sympathetic characters in science-fiction, I think, who repeatedly finds himself bullied by people who make him feel uncomfortable and who responds by killing them.”

L. Neil Smith, author of The Probability Broach and more than two dozen other novels, notes that our adversaries have long noted the value of story-telling, including that sub-set of stories we call science-fiction. The most famous of the 19th-Century sci-fi writers, H.G. Wells, was a fabian socialist; less famous now but no less influential was Edward Bellamy, author of Looking Backward; at the turn of the last century Jack London produced Iron Heel, about scholars from a 27th Century socialist world finding documents depicting a fascist oligarchy in the United States and a worker’s revolt against it; most famously from the 20th Century, though he was a TV producer rather than a writer, was Gene Roddenberry, who didn’t use the term “socialist” but presented a compelling vision of a society militarized, politically centralized, and utopian in the sense that people “had moved beyond the need to accumulate wealth” and somehow manage a complex economic system without money.

Of course, sometimes statists tell stories on themselves – George Orwell was a socialist who fought alongside communists in the Spanish Civil War, and yet is most famous for two novels, Animal Farm and 1984, which are cautionary tales about socialism run amok.

But libertarians have made their mark in science-fiction, as well. Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged is not generally regarded as sci-fi but it did posit a near-future society, and had some sci-fi tropes such as the advanced metal alloy “Rearden Steel,” the holographic screen concealing Galt’s Gulch, and of course John Galt’s own invention, the revolutionary engine that draws power from the static electricity in the air.

Better known as a sci-fi writer, of course, was Robert A. Heinlein, whose political philosophy evolved into libertarianism over time and flourished in his stories The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, Stranger In A Strange Land, and I Will Fear No Evil, among others. Neil Smith has remarked that when the libertarian movement began forming in the 1960s, 80-odd percent of the people calling themselves libertarians said they’d joined the movement because of Rand and Heinlein. A survey by Liberty Magazine conducted in the early 1990s indicated that the fiction books by Rand and Heinlein were more likely than any other, including the highly-respected non-fiction works of Rothbard, Von Mises, Nozick, or Friedman, to have lead people onto the libertarian path.

Of course, Rand and Heinlein were not alone. We also were fortunate to have, for a while, writers such as Poul Anderson, Robert Shea and H. Beam Piper; Larry Niven and James P. Hogan are still around but appear to be retired [Ward Griffiths informs me that both Niven and Hogan have books coming out soon -- sorry, gents]. The most explicitly libertarian authors still active that I’m aware of include L. Neil Smith, J. Neil Schulman, Victor Koman, and Victor Milan.

Now, through most of the time we have had novels, authors have required publishers. Publishers not only get books printed but they also have set up distribution networks which get books into bookstores. Thus, publishers are positioned to act as gatekeepers – in theory, they separate the wheat from the chaff and make sure that only those stories worthy of the sacrifice of many trees make it into print and the distribution channel. In the process, they also can decide which theories of ethics and social organization get a hearing, and which die on the vine.

Heinlein, when he began his writing career, had the advantage of a flourishing market in adventure-story magazines, where he could hone his craft. One of these was Astounding Science Fiction, whose editor, John W. Campbell, nurtured Heinlein and many of the other “golden age” sci-fi authors. Heinlein later published full-length novels, and had his short-stories collected, by Fantasy Press, Doubleday, Scribner’s, Putnam’s, Fawcett, and Del Rey.

Although science-fiction movies have been made since the 1920s, and a few notable motion pictures were made in the 1950s, the locus of science-fiction shifted from the textual to the visual media in the 1960s through the 1980s, as improving technology began to make possible the realization of fantastic worlds as vivid as one might imagine from reading a magazine or book.

The success of movies like Star Wars and Avatar on the large screen, and Star Trek and Battlestar Galactica on the small screen, show that people are still hungry for visions of worlds that aren’t, but might be. Even while the market for science-fiction novels seems to be shrinking even faster than the market for fiction books in general.

So where does this leave libertarians? Not in very good shape, unfortunately. Since the passing of Heinlein and the retirement of Niven, libertarian authors have faced an increasingly up-hill battle in a New York-based publishing world that seems increasingly indifferent at best, and hostile at worst. Neil Smith has not been able to get a novel published by a New York house since 2001. Victor Milan had a book published recently but it was a straight-up adventure story with only low-key political themes. We have one libertarian movie producer who is a box-office success, Clint Eastwood, and he doesn’t do science-fiction.

It seems that the gate-keepers in publishing and cinema who used to at least tolerate libertarians, are excluding us now. The best we can hope for from the establishment entertainment media is to try and glean some second-hand elements of partially-libertarian themes in stories whose authors would object mightily if you accused them of being libertarians.

So while libertarians are spreading through academia and making some inroads in political activism, in the culture war we have sustained losses. But while we might get knocked down, we get up again. And our best hope lies in the fact that the game in popular entertainment is changing.

That game-changer, you might guess, is the Internet, and the alternative distribution opportunities it creates. Print-on-demand publishing has become a viable option, and is quickly losing its earlier stigma. Neil Smith, for example, has signed a multi-book deal with Arc Manor Publishers, to both re-publish Smith’s classic works and several new stories as well under the Phoenix Pick imprint. J. Neil Schulman and Victor Koman have moved into independent film making, and are presently raising funds to produce a movie version of his seminal Alongside Night.

And then there are upstarts like my brother Frank and myself, the people behind Big Head Press.

Big Head Press started because I left the computer game businesses in 2001 so I could home-school my sons, but also needed to work from home so I could help my wife pay our bills. I was able to pick up some free-lance work, including a commission from Susan Wells to co-write and draw A Drug War Carol, but I needed more and steadier work.

I had discovered Neil Smith and his works a few years earlier, and several of our mutual friends thought it would be a good idea to create a graphic-novel adaptation of The Probability Broach. This seemed like an idea whose time had come because in the book business, graphic novels were the only growth segment. We put together a pitch package and shopped the project around to comics publishers, but had no takers. Although both Neil and I had each done some comics work in the 1980s, by 2001 we were unknowns so far as that industry was concerned.

So, in the grand tradition of libertarian visionaries, I went and found an angel investor. Who it is my good fortune to be related to. I called Frank, we developed a business plan, and dove in.

Starting a publishing company is a highly risky business, even in boom times, but we knew that Neil already had a fan base we could build on, Amazon.com and Diamond Comics Distributors offered viable distribution channels, and the Internet promised new marketing tools. So in 2002 we founded Big Head Press, and as I completed A Drug War Carol for Susan, Neil wrote a comic-script adaptation of The Probability Broach. In early 2003 I began the illustration work, which I completed in the fall of 2004.

We promoted the book on the Internet by offering the first 42 pages on-line for free viewing. This seemed to help a bit, but in 2005 we decided to try some-thing bolder. We commissioned three new works, two partially-drawn shorter stories with libertarian themes written by comics-industry legend Mike Baron, along with an all-new story co-written by Neil Smith and Rex F. May, who is better-known as the cartoonist “Baloo.” ROSWELL, TEXAS was illustrated by me with colors by Jennifer Zach, and it was serialized on-line in its entirety, a week at a time, as we produced the art pages.

When the stories were completed, we had them printed and sold them through Amazon and Diamond and Baker & Taylor, a trade-book distributor we hooked up with. This worked well enough that we uploaded the entire Probability Broach graphic novel in 10-page installments in 2006, and doubled our total sales of that book from 2004 and 2005.

We of course were not the only people trying this give-it-away-to-sell-it model. Hundreds of fresh young cartoonists, unable to find deals with the newspaper syndicates, have been putting their gag strips on the Web for free since the late 1990s, and the best few dozen of them have been able to make enough money selling book collections and merchandise that they could earn a full-time living this way. A few of the most popular web-cartoons support small businesses with five or six employees. The most successful strip, Penny Arcade, has its own annual conventions attracting thousands of fans.

Also, Cory Doctorow has been publishing his stories on-line, building an audience for his work, and since he’s only partly libertarian he can get a New York publisher, which he did for his Prometheus-Award-winning Little Brother.

Big Head Press has continued with new projects, including La Muse, TimePeeper, a print version of A Drug War Carol, Odysseus The Rebel, and currently Phoebus Krumm, which is a sequel to Neil Smith’s Henry Martyn books.

Also, noting that Web-browsing readers seem to strongly prefer their stories to update more frequently, we took a shot at re-creating the daily adventure strip. That strip is ESCAPE FROM TERRA, based on short-stories written by Sandy Sandfort, adapted into comics-format scripts by me, and drawn by Lee Oaks, an artist introduced to me by Mike Baron. EFT is a space-adventure set in the late 21st Century, features an explicitly libertarian culture in the Asteroid Belt, and is far and away our most popular on-line feature. We are producing a print-collection of the first 300 or so strips which we plan to premier at the Libertopia festival in San Francisco this coming July.

[Note: Libertopia has subsequently been re-scheduled to October, but we are still releasing the EFT collected volume in July.]

While our reach to date is still pretty small, our potential to break out into the mainstream is good. Every year scores of graphic novels get optioned for movie treatments, and every year the best half-dozen or so movie adaptations actually get produced. Hollywood loves comics as source-material, because both comics and movies are visual media. Producers can look at comics pages and more easily visualize how a movie would look.

Relative to political activism, doing libertarian entertainment has some draw-backs. Almost anyone can attend a political rally or carry a protest sign, but there are only a small portion of us with the skill sets conducive to working in entertainment media. And producing graphic novels costs many thousands of dollars; and even “low-budget” independent films costs tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars.

But the advantage of books, graphic novels, and movies is that, generally, more people will pay attention to them, than to academic works or protest rallies. And they will regard entertainment works with a more receptive frame of mind, that “willing suspension of disbelief” our literature teachers always blathered about. In terms of the parable I mentioned earlier, these are seeds more likely to take root in a trod-upon path, or a rocky ground, or under a thorny bush.

Those of us who aren’t able to be story-tellers themselves can still help out, simply by buying libertarian books and movies, and giving them to friends and relatives as gifts. If you know someone who reads and is curious about libertarianism, give them Rothbard’s For A New Liberty; if they’re already sympathetic to liberty but cynical about politics, turn them on to Konkin’s Agorist Primer; if they’re seriously interested in learning about economics, turn them on to any of Von Mises’ works.

But if they’re none of these, but enjoy fiction, give them a copy of The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress, or The Probability Broach in either version, or Alongside Night. Or, Roswell, Texas; or Odysseus The Rebel; or ESCAPE FROM TERRA when it comes out this summer. At worst, they’ll get an entertaining read, and at best, there’s a chance you’ll start someone along the path to libertarianism.

Kategorie anarchy, Big Head Press, comics, Posts, Webcomics | 9 Kommentare »

Another special guest rant

19. September 2009

I don’t intend to make a habit of this, but I followed a link to this powerful video by Stefan Molyneux that nearly brought me to tears, and in explaining why he has chosen his path, also explains why I have chosen a similar one.

Kategorie anarchy | 3 Kommentare »

Special Guest Rant

13. September 2009

A few days ago, one of my correspondents on the “LeftLibertarian2″ mailing list produced a rant that expresses some of the frustrations I myself have had of late in my political discussions with non-libertarians, at least as well as I could if not better.

So, with his kind permission, I present the following from Jay P. Hailey:

My discussions with people in my enviroment sugggests that they could not tell the difference between between fascism, corporatism and socialism.

Attachment to the state seems to be an emotional process, not a rational one. Saying “We don’t need a state” often provokes a fearful, angry or dismissive reaction.

Once people accept the premise that the state exists, and that it’s okay for a state to use coercion or force against individuals for the benefit of all – That’s about as far as the analysis and consideration of the organization of it goes.

People seem to associate “fascism” with little men shrieking about Jews, black uniforms and goose stepping marches.

I say, “No, look, seriously. It fascism. it works just like that, see? what we have and facism? government/private partnership? There you go”

And they say “Is NOT! We haven’t annexed the Sudetenland! We haven’t invade Poland! I don’t see any swastikas!”

I can think of three movies, Robocop 2, Starship Troopers and V for Vendetta where a lot of the signage, flags and design work were deliberately evocative and reminiscent of the German national socialists.

And still people did not see it.

I try to point out that a lot of totalitarianism is about selling the public. It’s about spin, public opinion control and pressing emotional buttons in the human psyche.

it seems a lot of people can’t see past the immediate branding and logos.

Like pointing out that a Dodge Stratus and Ford Taurus of similar vintage are functionally identical. “No they’re not! One has a dodge on the hood, one has a ford!”

“Both are similarly laid out to accomplish similar ends, burning gasoline to produce go.”

“Are not! The measurements, door shapes and specific details are all different!”

“Well, okay, let;s look at the ackerman angle and the purpose that serves in steering the vehicle.”

“I don’t want to hear it. They’re different cars. You are an irrational conspiracy theorist, a radical and you spend too much time focusing on obscure details that don’t matter!”

-*-

The term fascism has lost any useful descriptive power because it’s too closely associated with Hitler (ignoring Mussolini, Franco and the rest).

Similarly, Corporatism is poisoned, too. If I use it to mean corrupted “crony capitalism” People wonder why I support liberty and gold backed currency. (Since “everyone knows” the “free market” leads to “corporatism”)

Hell, even the term “Crony Capitalism” while pithy and evocative is inaccurate, because you’re not investing capital in production when you bribe a congressmen to legislate in your favor.

Unless your product is noise and hot air. As they say “Talk is cheap because the supply exceeds the demand.”

So that’s just corruption. There’s no capitalism involved.

-*-

I tried to ressurect Mercantilism for a while. I figured that it’s descriptive but hasn’t been poisoned by bullshit modern associations or lies.

Someone one said, paraphrasing that it wasn’t working for them because it felt like having a political argument with a character out of a Dickens novel.

(Oh, and that f-er, Dickens… oooooo. “everyone knows” you see, that the industrial revolution was a hellish death trap for the working class until Marx and the Fabians set them free.)

Just like “Everyone knows” that unresricted free markets lead to corporatism, facism and oppression of the masses.

I find myself battling the battles of assumptions, bullshit, fear and ignorance.

-*-

I say that distinctions between early 20th century mercantilism, imperialism, corporatism, fascism and socialism are lost on most folks.

They really don’t believe half of it happened, and the other half, they could ‘t tell you if it was Socialism or Fascism in action.

-*-

A lot of basic assumptions of Fascism – The superiority of the State, the idea that the collective good of the nation has a pre-emptive claim on any individual’s wealth or personal property – That nation-States are lead by great leaders who represent the will of the nation made manifest.

Phrase these things subtly enough and normal folks will totally buy it.

They FEEL better when they’re part of a state and can tell themselves that the victims who are murdered, tortured or completely ganked are part of a minority who brought it down on themselves.

They can justify being stolen from because it’s “Fair” and happens to everyone.

Makes me crazy.

I am pretty sure most folks could care less about whether their state is socialist or fascist, so long as they aren’t getting bombed, and the state branding logos are cool and tough looking enough.

Oh! ARRGHHH

And when I retreat back to first principles “Don’t hurt anyone. Force and Coercion are bad ideas and unethical to boot. The good of the many does NOT outweigh the good of the few or the one.”

I get told I am hopelessly naive and radical.

-*-

So, parsing whether Orwell’s dire (and all too accurate) warnings were rooted left or right wing political ideology

I think that’s not entirely useful. Winston Smith can’t tell and doesn’t care if he’s living in a socialist or a fascist hell.

In the end Oceana would look the same either way, because both boil down to the supremacy of the group over the individual, and the “Need” for all individuals to be controlled for the good of the collective.

-*-

Most people in the U.S. couldn’t tell you if thosee are fascist or socialist cameras going up every where.

I couldn’t tell you.

But I can tell you this – the idea that good of the many outweighs the good of the few or the one – Most of our neighbors accept that idea, Strongly.

I really don’t think it makes a difference in the long run if the good of the greater whole is the fascist greater whole or the socialist greater whole.

I think they’ll each wind up in pretty much the same place.

Just a few of the advertising slogans might read differently. Coke v Pepsi. Whatever.

It’s about control, fear and trust.

Our neighbors fear and distrust us and each other. They want security through control.

My attempts to point out that yes, it can, does and is happening here meet with denial.

“Nope. No police state. No fascism. No oppression. Ain’t happening. There are no swastikas.”

Forgive me for rambling. I am really sleepy!

G’night. Keep the flame alive, even if only in your heart for now.

Someday, maybe if we hang in there long enough, our neighbors, friends and family, having tried everything else may grudingly give the NAP a try.

We just have to keep plugging.

G’night, Jay, and thank you.

Kategorie anarchy | 2 Kommentare »

The problem with “folk activism”

7. April 2009

A tip of the hat to Perry Metzger for alerting me to the essay by Patri Friedman on the Cato Unbound site, “Beyond Folk Activism.”

Friedman provides a cogent theory for why electoral politics and what we normally think of as “political activism” cannot achieve libertarian goals. Rather than restate that theory here, I invite readers to peruse Friedman’s essay.

Friedman also highlights a quartet of alternative strategies, which he denotes as “Free State Project,” “crypto anarchy,” “market anarchism,” and “seasteading.” He examines what he sees as the strengths and weaknesses of each, and seems to regard seasteading most favorably.

“Free State Project” here refers to the movement seeking 20,000 libertarians to relocate to New Hampshire, so as to provide a sufficiently large concentration of activists to wield political clout at the state and local levels. As Friedman himself notes, this is really a variant on traditional activism, and the only really “alternative” aspect of this strategy is that it’s a response to the libertarian movement’s failure to develop the massive following necessary to change national policy.

(I should note here that I am nominally a part of an alternative to this alternative, the “Free State Wyoming Project,” promoted by Boston T. Party, attempting a similar strategy in Wyoming. Boston felt that FSP chose the wrong state, and I was inclined to agree with him. So far, FSW appears to only be a tenth the size of FSP, and is currently focused on just getting libertarians here and so far has had zero impact on Wyoming politics at any level.)

The second strategy, “crypto anarchism” refers to employing the Internet and encryption technology to carry on economic activities outside the state’s purview. So far, this strategy has not had much success either. PayPal was reigned in by the state and now reports cash flows to the IRS. E-gold’s principals have been arrested and are being prosecuted on money-laundering charges. Other digital-currency schemes simply don’t have the kind of widespread participation needed to liberate its participants from the Federal Reserve-run economy. I can’t spend e-money at the grocery store, or the gun shop, or the furniture store. However, this strategy yet holds some promise, when combined with other strategies, as I’ll explain in a moment.

The third alternative Friedman lists is “market anarchism,” which he lauds mainly as a promising “ecosystem” with the sort of institutions and incentives built-in to serve a free society. And I agree. The problem, according to Friedman, is that there seems to be no path from here to there. Contemporary state institutions have formidable inertia and a strong tendency to preserve and propagate themselves. Market anarchism as developed by, for example, Murray Rothbard or David Friedman, lacks a cogent strategy for establishing itself.

But it is here that Friedman is mistaken. For one variant of market anarchism, developed by Samuel Edward Konkin III and denoted as “agorism,” does have such a strategy. In a nutshell the strategy is for libertarians to withdraw from the legal economy as much as possible and participate in the black and grey markets, and in the appropriate times and places to develop alternative institutions which will replace the state’s monopoly on such things as dispute resolution and law enforcement. SEK3, who died in 2003, outlined his theory of revolutionary change in his book The New Libertarian Manifesto, currently available in print from KoPubCo and in PDF form at the agorism.info site. Konkin’s other book, An Agorist Primer, also available from KoPubCo, presents a more general outline of agorism, including his theory of how-to-get-there.

I note here that this is an area where “crypto anarchism” may be employed to enhance the development of alternative institutions, while the state is still strong enough to otherwise suppress them. In this sense, agorism might be regarded as a combination of market and crypto anarchism.

Agorism is a relatively under-developed branch of market anarchist theory, but also a very promising one. In fact, novelist J. Neil Schulman wrote a science-fiction story, Alongside Night, dramatizing how agorist theory might someday rescue civilization from a future crisis — a crisis which looks alarmingly similar to what we face presently. Schulman has developed a screenplay adaptation of his story and is endeavoring, with the aid of activist Jim Davidson, to raise the capital needed to produce a feature film.

(I have also been asked to produce a graphic novel version in the event the screenplay is green-lighted.)

Friedman’s fourth alternative, seasteading, involves developing floating cities which would float about the world’s oceans, outside of any current state’s jurisdiction. Currently various technologies are in development which promise to create stable floating platforms which could be linked together, (or un-linked, where appropriate) to form stateless communities. Friedman notes the principal weaknesses of this approach: 1) the dangers of the ocean environment (think hurricanes and tsunamis); and the likelihood that states will interfere either to prevent establishment or to destroy or enslave these communities after the fact in the name of “fighting terrorism” or closing tax havens or what have you.

This suggests a rather more fanciful fifth alternative — space colonization. If some technological breakthrough or breakthroughs can allow inexpensive access to space, then we have a “new frontier” similar to that which eventually birthed the United States. Colonies on the moon, Mars, the asteroids, etc., could be established beyond the easy reach of existing governments wherein stateless societies may develop. This of course is an idea my writing partner Sandy Sandfort and I explore in our adventure web-comic, Escape From Terra.

Kategorie anarchy, Big Head Press, comics, movies, Posts, Wyoming | 20 Kommentare »

Kindle Comics

26. March 2009

I figure the way to get ahead in this funny-book business is to stay on top advancing technologies that have relevance to making and selling comics. That’s why I pioneered air-brush coloring in 1986 and why I got myself a Macintosh back in 1988 and taught myself how to use it, and with it produced Cyber-Lust, the world’s first computer-generated porn comic. Actually I don’t know if there have been any others, but these days computers dominate comics coloring and lettering and are making advances in penciling and inking, too.

I wasn’t the first to bring long-form comics from print to free-on-the-web (Lea Hernandez is to my knowledge the first to do that, and Phil Foglio’s Girl Genius and Carla Speed McNeil’s Finder series are much better known), but I see a lot more people coming up behind me on this path than in front of me.

So when Amazon.Com unveiled its Kindle2 dedicated e-book reader, I took notice. The specs said it has a 600×800 screen with 16 greys. Maybe, just maybe good enough to be an e-comics platform?

Since my brother Frank was also curious about this, he sprang for a Kindle2 and I went to work, experimenting with putting comics on this thing.

I found very quickly that, in the first place, that 600×800 spec is a tad misleading, because when the comics pages are compiled into a book they display at more like a maximum of 512×626 pixels. There is a “Zoom” feature that will bring a graphic up to the full 600×800 range but you can’t flip though pages in “zoom” mode. Hitting the “next page” button returns you to “normal” view mode and it requires three more button clicks to get the next page zoomed up. Clearly, artwork intended for this platform needs to look good within that 512×626 pixel frame.

I also found that a normal-sized comic page will not work in that resolution. The tones tend to get muddy and the lettering is too small to read. What’s required here, as with comics-on-phones, is to break the pages down into their component panels and re-assemble them into a frame about one-quarter the size of a typical comics page.

So, after fiddling around with samples pages and panels, I decided to create an actual Kindle comic, put it up for sale, and see what happened. For this experiment I took the political mini-comic I made last year, The Last Sonofabitch of Klepton, and spent about 6 hours cutting and pasting frames, adding an “apology to Siegel and Shuster” page and re-working the cover from its former landscape shape to Kindle’s portrait shape.

The book is now in the Kindle Store: you can see its Kindle web-page here. If you have a Kindle or Kindle2, you can buy it for 99 cents. If you’re a cheap bastard with a Kindle, you can get a free “sample” that contains almost half the book.

I think the results are pretty good, and apparently I’m not the only one: My Twitter tweet announcing the story has been bouncing around the Twitterverse, and someone who runs a blog called “Kindle Culture” gave it a favorable review.

So, onward. My next Kindle project will be reformatting TimePeeper, by L. Neil Smith and Sherard Jackson, and putting together Big Head Press’ first Kindle GN. This will take more than a few hours, and has to be done in my spare time, so it may be a few weeks, but I’ll announce it when it’s up in the store.

Kategorie anarchy, comics, Webcomics | 9 Kommentare »

“All those libertarians seem to care about is pot”

16. March 2009

Lately I’ve come across an interesting pattern of remarks by conservatives relating some past encounter they’ve had with Libertarian Party activists. The complaint runs along the lines of “all they seem to care about is pot,” or “all they seem to care about is legalizing drugs.”

Which strikes me as a bit odd because I’ve never been to a public gathering of libertarians where marijuana or drugs has been the principal focus of interest, to the exclusion of all else. Yes, libertarians are opposed to drug prohibition. Some libertarians also happen to be recreational users but most whom I’ve met are not (unless you count caffeine and alcohol).

But the libertarian argument against drug prohibition is not, “I like to use drugs and don’t want to go to jail for it.” That’s hardly different from saying “I like to rob banks and don’t want to go to jail for it,” or “I like to molest children and don’t want to go to jail for it.” It’s a ridiculous argument.

There are four principal libertarian arguments against drug prohibition: 1) Moral argument 1: It violates an individual’s right to control his body, provided he is not harming someone else. 2) Moral argument 2: Prohibiting possession or sale of a substance is a violation of private property rights. 3) Practical argument 1: Prohibition raises the prices of the prohibited substances which creates a windfall for violent criminals willing to risk jail, or willing to kill to avoid jail, and leads users to commit burglaries and robberies to finance their habits. 4) Practical argument 2: Prohibition of peaceful activities leads to corruption of law enforcement and a breakdown of legal protections against violations of privacy (4th Amendment) due process (via civil asset forfeiture and no-knock warrants) and gun rights (black-market-related violence leads to public demand for more gun control).

Conservatives will dismiss these arguments in favor of one they think trumps everything: government has an obligation or duty to uphold public health and morals, therefore it has a duty to prohibit the use of intoxicating or mind-altering substances because these things are unhealthy and immoral. (Immoral because they induce irresponsible behavior.) So as to prevent a general social collapse.

My point here is not to debate the topic of whether prohibition is good policy, but to examine this frequent reaction conservatives seem to have when dealing with libertarians. So far, I haven’t had the direct experience of sitting in on one of these meetings which are later characterized as “just about drugs,” but I have a theory about this I wanted to share.

What I think goes on is, when conservatives meet with libertarians, they tend to spend very little time discussing the things they agree on — free market is good, gun prohibition is bad — and focus on things they disagree on. And the biggest areas of disagreement tend to be drug prohibition, and foreign policy.

However, most libertarians, especially the sort of neophytes who tend to populate the Libertarian Party, are not strong on foreign policy. What I mean by that is, they tend not to be particularly well-informed, and either can’t hold their own in a protracted discussion on the matter, or in some cases tend to agree with conservatives that the United States should dominate the world and spread “freedom” everywhere.

So that leaves drug (and sometimes other vice) prohibition, where the background information is relatively simple to learn and the arguments easy to master. And so the conservatives and libertarians go round and round on the topic, each side usually arguing past the other, usually because they are each proceeding from different premises.

And the conservatives come away remembering the encounter as being mostly an argument about drugs. And both camps are frustrated because conservatives can’t understand why libertarians think prohibition is so awful, and libertarians can’t understand why conservatives don’t apply the same principles to personal vices as they apply to running a business.

Is there a way to work around this gap in cognition? I wish I knew. If libertarians strongly desire to work with conservatives on some matter of mutual interest, it may behoove them to focus on areas of agreement, and if the matter of drugs come up, state their position simply and clearly but avoid getting drawn into lengthy debates which are unlikely to be resolved. Agree to disagree and move on.

And remember that even if an ad-hoc alliance with either conservatives or progressives offers some tactical advantages, libertarians are not likely to argue them out of being conservatives or progressives. Like some smart fellow I know says, “You can’t argue someone out of a position he was never argued into.”

Kategorie anarchy | 14 Kommentare »

So how come we’re not free yet?

21. December 2008

Last week Lew Rockwell hosted Libertarian Party co-founder David Nolan on his regular podcast, in which the two discussed at length “what has happened to the Libertarian Party.” Or more to the point, why it seems to have gone off the rails, and why has the world gotten more statist despite all the blood, sweat and tears invested in reversing that trend.

Nolan’s remarks have been reverberating around the libertarian blogosphere and via mailing lists in the days since, and were passed on by long-time LP activist Richard Boddie. One responder opined that it was unfair to blame the LP for this failure, but the fault lies instead with a “failure of people to want freedom.” Which to me sort of begs the question.

I began what was to be a two-paragraph response which quickly telescoped into a full-blown essay, which took me a few hours to get down, and with that sort of time investment, I figured I might as well post it to my blog as well. Herewith, with some minor edits for style:

In much the same way as declaring property is owned by everybody, really makes that property owned by nobody, spreading the blame for failure around to everybody is pretty much the same as blaming nobody.

But rather than assign blame for our current situation either to particular libertarians, or to libertarians generally, it might be more constructive to examine the strategies and strategic philosophies that were pursued, and consider whether or not they were helpful.

It might also be useful to compare the success or failure of the libertarian movement with that of another popular movement which developed at the roughly same time — environmentalism.

When the Libertarian Party was formed in 1971, its founders had no plans for actually electing people to office. The LP was intended to be an educational vehicle for promoting libertarian ideas during electoral campaigns, when, it is assumed, more people are more interested in political discussions.

It was assumed that as LP candidates explained our philosophy in public fora and media, a much larger portion of the public would embrace it and then candidates for the major parties would begin adopting our positions, moving us incrementally towards greater liberty.

In the half-decade following that founding, the movement quickly coalesced around the Party, with only a few anti-electoral hold-outs such as Samuel Edward Konkin III, Carl Watner, and Wendy McElroy. Murray Rothbard was originally skeptical but came around by the ’76 election cycle. The Party thus became the primary organizational engine of the movement, and its Platform Committees became the movement mullahs who defined the parameters of what “libertarianism” means.

In contrast, environmentalists did not form a political party at this early stage. They formed study groups to develop and popularize their ideas, and membership-based advocacy groups which began to lobby Congress and state legislatures. They also established relationships with opinion-makers in the news media and academia, as well as media celebrities. They wrote books and began to script movies.

Various disparate strains of “environmentalism” quickly developed, ranging from a “don’t soil your own bed” pragmatic view through a crypto-marxoid, anti-capitalist stance all the way to a “humans are a cancer” attitude. Disagreements were vehement, but each camp was able form its own organizational base, from which the different blocs could either forge ad hoc alliances or do their own thing, which was mostly public outreach and education.

To be fair, the LP was never the only libertarian game in town. We had Society for Individual Liberty, we had FEE, we had The Institute for Humane Studies, we had Reason Magazine. But the LP was so much larger than any of these it became the public face of the movement.

Libertarians also had their factional splits, largely between the radical anarchists and the limited-statists, who quickly adopted the sobriquet “minarchist.” But rather than form separate organizational bases, they remained together under the Party rubric and in 1975 formed “The Dallas Accord” in which the slightly more-numerous minarchists agreed not to purge the anarchists and the anarchists agreed not to advocate abolishing the state in Party political campaigns.

So the inwardly-anarchist, outwardly-minarchist LP continued to grow and attract various people to its limited-statist message. The anarchists told one another not to worry, once we bring people in we’ll “educate” them in the sublime wonders of pure libertarianism and transform them into proper anarchists, or at least, radicalized minarchists.

But already by the close of the 1970s another transformation was taking place, unforeseen. Whereas the founders saw the LP as an educational vehicle, the new recruits viewed the Party as they do any other political party — as a vehicle for electing candidates to office who would then implement desired policy changes. Furthermore, less and less ideological “education” was going on at LP meetings and conventions, and a great deal more focus was on the nuts and bolts of election campaigns, from ballot-access and finance laws to “how to appeal to Miss Grundy.”

The 1980 Presidential campaign, fueled by Koch money, almost quintupled the 1976 vote total, and the Party seemed to be on the track to success. Through the early 1980s, so many of us were high on the prospect of real electoral triumph. As a Texas LP activist in those days I remember predicting to media in 1983 that we’d be winning Congressional races in the next decade and maybe even the White House in 2000.

Then 1984 happened.

The LP nominated California attorney and well-established Party activist David Bergland, who ran a campaign hitting on the same themes as his predecessor, but polled barely more than a quarter of the 1980 vote. Disappointment was blunted somewhat by a smattering of local electoral successes — to small-town city councils, rural county-commissions, suburban water-management districts, and such-like. The LP managed to elect Andre Marrou to the Alaska state assembly in 1985. Marrou lost his re-election bid in 1987 but became the LP’s VP running-mate to its first Republican crossover Presidential nominee, Ron Paul, in 1988.

Paul’s vote total almost doubled Bergland’s but it became clear by that point that the Party had fallen far off the path of “liberty in our time.” Some long-time activists and donors began dropping out (or as in my case, going on “sabbatical” to focus on developing a career far removed from politics). And in our place, a new breed of activist took our place — people less interested in the grand vision of pure liberty and more inspired by the forms and functions of governance.

And as for the hope that mainstream party candidates would adopt libertarian positions? Well, there was Ron Paul’s election to Congress in 1976, a fairly spectacular victory in itself. But one that has not been replicated elsewhere. Ronald Reagan ran on vaguely libertarian themes and was elected President in 1980, even claiming in a Reason Magazine interview that “the heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism.” But once in the White House, aside from reducing some taxes and de-regulating oil prices, Reagan’s mantra became “politics is the art of the possible” and the only possibility was business-as-usual.

The enviros, meanwhile, continued their poly-centric activities. By not running candidates for office, they avoided the cycle of heightened expectations followed by brutal disappointment which has enervated so many Libertarians. And perhaps also, has discouraged prospective recruits from joining the LP bandwagon.

By the mid-1990s, environmentalism as a general idea had achieved virtual mainstream status. Homeowners cheerfully joined the recycling movement, either hauling newspapers, cans and boxes to neighborhood centers, or dividing their refuse into various color-coded curbside bins. Anti-animal cruelty laws were strengthened and the SPCA practically became a branch of state and county governments.

When the first American Green Party formed in 1996, it seemed more like an afterthought, and has since functioned more as a dumping ground for disaffected socialist ex-Democrats than the movement’s driving force.

At the same time, LP activists seemed to be splitting their energies evenly between interminable ballot access campaigns, and squabbling amongst themselves over the direction of the Party. “Pragmatists” squared off against “purists” in endless arguments at party meetings, on platform committees, and on the rapidly-expanding Internet.

And at the National level, the LP National Committee clearly ceased being a neutral facilitator for party activists and by 1996 (or perhaps earlier) had become a faction of its own, enabling the nomination of its preferred Presidential candidates. When the Arizona LP split in 2000 over the issue of government campaign financing, the NatCom interceded in favor of the “pragmatists” who wanted tax subsidies, and the long-time “purists” suddenly found themselves politically homeless.

These and other problems began driving away an increasing number of “purist” activists (myself included), and the party became ever more focused on governance and ever less on philosophical principle.

Several score, local activists manage to win election to local offices in each cycle, in smallish constituencies where party affiliation means a great deal less than the personality of the candidates. Some office-holders flame out in 2 to 4 years. Others manage to hang in there year after year, serving as in-house gadflies, annoying local power brokers, sometimes holding down taxes or stopping regulatory excesses here and there. But like Ron Paul in Congress, they can do little besides stand athwart a growing tide of enslavement.

In the bigger picture, and on the larger scene, the libertarian movement seemingly may as well have never existed. The police state is metastasizing. The failure of Republican-led monetarism and faux “deregulation” is being laid at the feet of libertarian “laissez-faire.” Because Libertarians were too busy with internecine quarrels, and perhaps also too seduced by the power Republicans wielded, to effectively call out the Republicans on their phony rhetoric, when it might have done some good.

And the LP National Committee, as David Nolan has observed, has fallen prey to a tendency all institutions have, in which the original mission of the organization becomes subordinate to the continued thriving of that institution for its own sake. In 2000 and 2004, their institutional self-interest led them to ensure the nomination of Harry Browne, an investment advisor with fairly extensive funding connections. In 2008, that same interest led them to support the second Republican crossover candidate, the near-beer-”libertarian” Bob Barr, who promised to raise a campaign war-chest of at least $20 million.

Meanwhile, environmentalism has become the new civic religion, without a single significant electoral victory by the Green Party, but instead through a far greater victory over the hearts and minds of Americans.

Because, what most libertarians have failed to grasp is, to paraphrase Reagan: Politics is the problem, not the solution.

The Libertarian Party seemed like a good idea at the time. Electioneering is a game that anyone could join in, and offers the entertainment value of horse-races which stir the blood and stimulate fund-raising. But _as a strategy_ it clearly has done nothing, or almost nothing, towards achieving a libertarian society. It hasn’t even halted the advance of statism. Possibly, it has slowed it up just a little bit, enough so that as we grow old and die off we can shrug and pass the mess on to our children and grandchildren.

But that wasn’t what I signed on for back in 1978, and I don’t think it’s what the rest of us hoped for either.

A political party, clearly in retrospect, is not an educational organization. A party is for mobilizing existing support for a set of policy positions and social values, and electing people to office who will implement policies in support of those values. This has been the position of the “pragmatists,” and on this point they are correct. But without sufficient popular support for those policies and values, a political party must fail.

Our strategic failure, as a movement, is that we have put the cart before the horse. At the early stages and also in the present stage, before we can make any real headway we need to persuade enough of our neighbors as to the virtue of our beliefs, that they will join us in resisting statism. It need not be a majority, but it has to be a great deal more than the one or two percent who consistently vote for LP candidates.

And to achieve that we need to work in other areas. We can support the growing number of academic organizations like IHS and the Ludwig von Mises Institute, which promote free-market scholarly studies. We can support educational-outreach groups like the Future of Freedom Foundation, which presents seminars to the public and op-ed articles to newspapers. We can support journalists, pundits and bloggers like Alan Bock or Vin Suprynowicz or Brad Spangler or Tom Knapp or Wendy McElroy (still purist after all these years), or pop-philosophers like Stefan Molyneaux. We can support libertarians working in popular culture (here, I only know of a handful of novelists, and maybe five cartoonists besides myself — we desperately need more musicians and film makers).

Finally, we need a membership-based organization, one that stays clear of electoral politics but promotes the ideals of liberty in a way that can include all the rest of us without special scholarly or fine-arts skills, bringing the ideals of liberty into every neighborhood. Advocates for Self-Government has done work in this direction, but seems to have limited vision. Maybe we need three or four organizations like it, partly to provide suitable homes for the different factions and partly to provide an energizing competitive environment.

And once we get that critical mass of popular libertarianism, then just maybe it will be time for a new Libertarian Party. Or better yet, maybe it won’t be necessary after all.

Kategorie anarchy | 25 Kommentare »

Launching ESCAPE FROM TERRA

25. September 2008

I’m expanding my comics efforts to include scripting as well as drawing. Today, Big Head Press is launching our latest feature, ESCAPE FROM TERRA. This is a 5-days-weekly, sci-fi adventure web-comic co-written by Sandy Sandfort and myself, with art by LEE OAKS! (That’s how he wants to have his name styled, all caps with an exclamation point.)

Our promotion keys off of two principal characters, Guy Caillard and Fiorella Stellina, two intrepid agents of the United World Revenue Service, in the late 21st Century. The promotional copy is a bit tongue-in-cheek, written from the perspective of the characters, who see their duty in bringing the wild miners of the Asteroid Belt to heel and collecting a “fair share” of their wealth for humanity.

Of course, anyone who knows me, or Sandy Sandfort, can guess what’s really going on here. EFT will describe a thriving and robust market anarchist culture developing on Ceres and elsewhere in the belt. The initial story arcs do indeed relate the struggle of this new culture to maintain its independence from the iron fist of Terra’s unified government, but later we’ll delve into some other happenings at the leading edge of human civilization in that time period.

This project has its roots in a prose short story, “World Ceres,” which Sandy wrote as an entry in a contest honoring Robert A. Heinlein’s fiction. He sent it to us and we thought the universe he described has great potential to be the backdrop for a continuing series. Sandy has no experience with the comics medium so we agreed to team up. He continues writing prose short stories, which I take and massage a bit, sometimes adding new elements and trimming away others (always in consultation with Sandy), and establishing frequent story beats suitable for a daily strip.

We then pass the script to LEE, a Fort Collins cartoonist to whom I was introduced by the legendary Mike Baron. LEE is also working with Mike on the fantasy web-comic BLACK ICE, which is running on the ComicMix site. It’s also worth a look. LEE took over that comic starting with Issue 8 from the original artist Nick Runge when Nick left that project for a better-paying gig elsewhere.

Kategorie anarchy, Big Head Press, comics, Webcomics | 1 Kommentar »

Chinese cop-killer becomes internet hero

28. August 2008

I don’t want to make a habit of link-blogging but here is something that came to me via Brad Spangler that I want to share.

Yang Jia, a 28-year-old unemployed man from Beijing, appeared in court in Shanghai charged with an alleged attack against the police on July 1, the anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party.

Mr Yang is said to have thrown molotov cocktails into a police station in Zhabei, a northern suburb of the city, before entering the building and attacking a group of unarmed officers with a knife. He was arrested at the scene.

However, instead of condemnation, he has received widespread approval from Chinese internet users, or netizens, for his apparent act of defiance.

You can read the rest of this story here.

Kategorie anarchy, Free speech, Posts | 3 Kommentare »

Hey, it could happen

27. May 2008

Hey, it could happen

The good news from the Libertarian Party National Convention in Denver this past weekend was, Big Head Press sold a big pile of books. Also, my friend L. Neil Smith got to meet up with a dozen or so friends he hasn’t seen in years, and I got to hang with some great people who had been “Internet friends” till now, and meet many interesting new friends.

The bad news is, well, already pretty widely known. Bob Barr has the LP Presidential Nomination, and his buddy Richard Viguerie at long last can add the LP national mailing list to his collection. Actual Libertarian Steve Kubby went down in flames, although the other Actual Libertarian, Dr. Mary Ruwart, ran a strong second in the voting. If 50 delegates had voted the other way on that 6th ballot, the outcome would have been very different.

The question now is, should we care?

Back in the 1970s, when I joined the libertarian movement, the operating definition of “libertarian” pretty much boiled down to as follows:

A libertarian is someone who believes that no one has the right, under any circumstances, to initiate* force or fraud against another person, nor may one delegate to or incite others to do the same.

* — to “initiate force” means to be the first to introduce coercion into a situation, either by violence or threat of violence. Defensive
force is justified, and retaliatory force may be justified depending on the circumstances.

This is the “non-aggression principle,” which coupled with the Lockean definition of property rights, is the core of libertarianism, and the basis for an ethical system that the Libertarian Party was founded in order to propagate and _eventually_ establish in public policy.

There are, to be sure, some difficult questions — such as abortion, or pacifism, or engagement in electoral politics — about which reasonable
libertarians may disagree. But advocating taxation, or legal discrimination against people with unpopular lifestyles, or prohibiting
any peaceful activity, are clearly against libertarian principles.

One result of this move to form a political party was that, as the most visible movement vehicle, whatever the Party does has come to define what “libertarian” means to most people. What Rothbard wrote, or what core libertarian activists wrote into the original party platforms, matters little compared to what that guy in the tie on the idiot box exclaims.

So with the nomination of Barr, the word “libertarian” will cease to describe a unique ethical and political philosophy, but simply indicate a kind of low-tax conservatism. And the Libertarian Party will now become a dumping ground for other failed Republicans. And it still won’t be able to win elections except in some local offices in low-population towns and counties, and when these “neo-libertarians” gain office, they will act just like Republicans, because the requirements of political power will easily overwhelm whatever weakened principles they may have and drive them tax, borrow, and spend just as politicians always have.

As a complement to the pragmatist triumph of Barr was the completion of the gut-the-Platform project begun in the off-year convention held in Portland in 2006. Replacing the formerly clear and deep explication of libertarianism of previous platforms is a series of TV-friendly sound-bites that are, for the most part, so vague as to render the Platform useless as the educational tool it was once intended to be.

Now, I fully expected something like this to happen, sooner or later. As I explained when I quit the Party eight years ago, the formation of a political party seemed like a good idea at the time but turned out to be a major strategic error. The founders did not expect to win elections in the short term, but thought the Party could be an educational vehicle, by attracting free media attention during election seasons when people are most inclined to think about politics.

However, electoral politics, with a few exceptions, has proved a very poor means of educating people. While it has found some success in bringing together and mobilizing people who are already inclined to cherish liberty, most of what educating has been done has happened outside the Party. (Mostly by authors such as Ayn Rand, Robert Heinlein, R.A. Wilson and L. Neil Smith writing compelling stories with strong libertarian themes, and by academicians making the case for liberty in economics, history, game theory, and so forth.) The public cannot be educated with bumper-sticker slogans and the short sound-bites that get through the media filters during election campaigns. Most Party energy is taken up with satisfying ballot access requirements and the various nuts-and-bolts requirements of campaigning — canvassing, making signs, mailing out flyers, organizing campaign events.

What little “internal” education has been attempted has run up against people who feel they already know the score and resent being told they need educating. They are mostly people with opinions only slightly removed from the mainstream, who are just looking for a vehicle to achieve power and enact their agendas. They don’t understand what libertarianism really means and they don’t want to understand, they just want to get elected.

And so while ballot access drives and lawsuits have chewed up activist money and resources, so have the continuing factional struggles between the “pragmatists” and the “purists” consumed much of our energy. And over the last two decades, many of the “purists,” myself included, have walked away from this useless fight, and now have left the Party in the hands of the Republicanoids.

As I said I knew this was going to happen, and it is a painful but necessary step towards fixing the problem that was created when the Party was founded in 1971.

The danger we face now is that the ideals of libertarianism will be polluted and twisted just as was the formerly honorable term and tradition of “liberalism,” at the hands of the progressive/socialists of a century ago. But this can be avoided.

The solution to this problem is to get the Party to give up the name “Libertarian.” I think this can be done via a two-pronged approach: 1) Those of us outside the Party but retaining soap-box power must make abundantly clear what libertarianism really is, and constantly harangue the Party for its failure to live up to that; 2) Those radical stalwarts remaining in the Party must make themselves such an enormous pain-in-the-ass that the leadership will gladly change the Party name if it will get rid of them.

Once the erstwhile Libertarian Party becomes the Fair-Tax Party or Conservatoid Party or whatever they end up calling themselves, we will have saved our “brand” and can apply it to something better — a membership-based advocacy group modeled on the Sierra Club, or something like it, which can be as successful in spreading the ideals of liberty as the SC has been spreading the ideals of environmentalism.

And we can focus on the important task at hand, and spend a great deal less time and money jumping through the government hoops designed to enervate and defeat us.

Kategorie anarchy, Posts | 27 Kommentare »