Sunday, September 14, 2008

On reformism and revolution

In my last post I laid out a three-step plan which I described to be a possible road to a libertarian society. This plan involved, to some extent, political action. It is therefore often branded as "reformism". Niccolo from Catholic Market Anarchy, for example, has found pretty harsh words for "guys like me":
Conflating their system with one of incrementalist phases, claiming a monopoly on a realistic approach to change, the reformists, narrow minded and pompous, shut off completely to external logic and consistency in favor of the compromise of a crazed lunacy that suggests the nature of an entity can be overcome by the will of a handful of old men spitting and drooling into their couch cushions every night in their father’s mothball filled coats – still that’s progress from not knowing where they were sleeping to begin with.
Apart from such ungentlemanly rants, however, he still has a number of points worth considering. In short, he claims that states and their minions will always have a tendency towards more oppression, exploitation and general decay and thus, every attempt to minimize or abolish them from within must fail.

I partially agree. I consider it pointless to try to shrink the state massively from within. There is too much vested interest, too many roadblocks hindering you. The only way to stop the expansion of the state in some areas is to use roadblocks yourself, as I proposed in my last post when I encouraged people to elect decent people into local offices to impede the enforcement of harmful legislation. This uses the state's planned chaos and inner inconsistency (the reasons why government tends to screw up big time at everything it does) against itself. To hope for more is pretty much make-believe indeed. Even though Ron Paul's presidential bid might have awoken this hope in a number of people, the chances for America to "return to its founders' intent" don't exceed 0 by a lot.

Talking about Ron Paul, I'm often flabbergasted as to how much hostility is brought up against him among libertarian purists. Sure, I'm biased because it was Paul who turned me over to libertarianism, but to consider his campaign a grab for power is lunacy. He did what I recommend, too: he used the self-important state apparatus and its extensions, namely the presidential election circus which already tends to flare up 2 years before the actual election, to throw in some important issues besides the usual quip about candidate A's sex life and B's haircut.

I guess he didn't expect too much from his education campaign and just wanted to fulfill his duty. But to the contrary; many mainline conservatives and watered-down libertarians, even some disenchanted liberals, were ready for the doctor's shock treatment. He caused something big to start rolling. That's his contribution. The fact that his campaign sometimes became what it tried to fight against, political pandering, is sad but not necessarily related to Paul's aims and convictions. After all, he delegated a lot of responsibility to his campaign staff. No excuse, but an explanation.

One last point. There will be no libertarian society as long as a critical mass of people still believes in the superiority of the state. This belief is communicated very early in public schools and is also touted by the government-corporate media complex. It's self-enforcing as it is being held and expressed by a crucial number of people. It is therefore not just a nice idea, but probably essential to use traditional state institutions in our struggle against the state apparatus. To inform themselves about the possibilities of social change, people will not go to the library and read Rothbard, as some libertarians tend to imagine, but watch TV talk shows and political debates. "Our guys" need to be in those programs to reach out to an increasingly disaffected, but mostly misguided citizenship. Political action and speech, as dirty and mindless as it is, still remains an important vehicle to carry out freedom's message (note that you don't have to be in office to engage in it).

Thus, reformism, as scorned and hated as it may be, still remains a way to follow as long as practicing agorists count as a minority among the minorities.

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