Wednesday, August 29, 2007

In defense of "opting out" (2)

El Ray further defends those activists who’d rather focus their efforts on personal freedom than pursue libertarian ends by political means. This short piece, “Objections to Self-Liberation,” is pulled from a larger article titled “SELF-LIBERATION WAYS: A Compilation and Evaluation,” which appeared in Innovator, Spring 1969:

Any self-liberation method (like anything else) has potential problems; there can be grounds for honest reservations. But most of the more vehement opposition stems not from real obstacles but from ignorance or psychological blocks of one kind or another. These include:

Belief in the omnipotence of evil: “There is no way to hide. With satellites, radar and computers (etc.) they will find you no matter where you go and what you do.” This objection ignores: (1) the limited resources of any State; (2) the much greater concern of rulers with rival power-seekers than with opt-outs; (3) available techniques for frustrating detection and identification — technology is a two-edged sword. Such remarks are usually a confession of inferiority feelings and envy; in essence one is saying, “I’m afraid to become free so I refuse to believe that it is possible.”

Appeal to collective duty: “Instead of ‘copping-out,’ you should join my crusade and help achieve freedom for everyone.” Besides presuming altruism, this ignores the really horrendous problems in reforming a large, far-gone State, and the poor record of previous collective endeavors. A free society probably must begin with free individuals.

Dichotomy between expression and conduct: “Statism is basically an intellectual problem and requires an intellectual solution. The way to gain liberty is not by ‘opting out’ but by disseminating rational ideas.” Not only is this only a partial truth (see my editorial in Winter 69 INNOVATOR) but unnecessarily either-or. Some opt-outs are among the most effective communicators — Dr. George Boardman, for example.

Equation of self-liberation with technical retrogression: “You are abandoning thousands of years of civilization with all the benefits of the market to slink off someplace and live like a savage.” Such an objection ignores what can be AND HAS BEEN accomplished. A modern remote homesteader who may have electric plant, freezer, power tools, stereo, jeep, and perhaps even amphibious airplane need not live like the pilgrims. Nor does the neo-nomad with “self-contained” motorhome live like the plains Indians. Products of “civilization” are used when appropriate; what the self-liberator probably does avoid is complete DEPENDENCE on these.

Utopian notions of liberty: “‘Self-liberation’ does not provide real liberty, freedom exists only when one can act without need to defy or evade coercion.” But the latter kind of freedom has never existed on earth. The American Frontier, one of the freest societies known, included bandits and protection racketeers eager to prey on cowards and fools. Even in a new laissez-faire country with (hypothetically) non-coercive government, there might be attack by private criminals and foreign States.

Low valuation of freedom: “For me, self-liberation would be more trouble than it is worth.” This is an honest objection and is probably the real objection of many persons who offer other excuses. Their ancestors in spirit were Europeans of a century or two ago who became very interested in the New World and did much talking about it — but remained where they were!

Liberty is the heritage of men with the will to be free.

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At 11:09 PM, Blogger mnuez said...


I love it when eccentric idealists are rational and non-utopian. This guy is coherent and clear-headed in every which way and it's truly a pleasure to read him. Far too often, eccentric idealists are depressingly unsound. This man more than makes up for it and his personal example is inspirational too.

Thanks for sharing him.



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