That sounds so dangerous and sinister doesn’t it? What was his crime, a crime so horrible he had to hide out and leave his family? He refused to register with the Selective Service.
Others also did this, but Jacob did it publicly and also encouraged other to do so. He wanted to make an issue of what he considered an unjust law. He decided to go to war over draft registration, so to speak.
I’m one year older that Jacob. When he served his 5 ½ months in prison, his oldest child was a year old. At the time this interview was published (1983), I was pregnant with my first child. Politics, war and injustice were far from being on my radar and the same can be said of my husband. And even if it was, I certainly would not have wanted him to go to prison at that time in our lives.
Mr. Jacob understands that it’s one thing to be radical in thought and another to be radical in action. This is where I guess I fail. And yet, isn’t there one more step in between thought and action? From my experience, lots of people are radical in thought because many people agree with a lot of what I say, but they won’t or can’t say it out loud. Maybe it’s rationalization but isn’t it at least a step towards action if I just speak my radical thoughts out loud, and also write them down for all to see?
I’m not a civil disobedience type of person. You already know that if you’ve read about my journey. For me, just speaking out can feel pretty “disobedient.” I still cringe slightly when I type the word anarchist because I’ve been trained so well by the powers that be who have worked hard to set it up as something that it’s not.
When I was involved in the Libertarian Party, I organized a couple of tax day protests, where we simply handed out brochures at the local post offices on April 15th. Those experiences were pretty far out for me even though I’m sure most would consider that so bland and tame.
Occasionally we’d hear from someone irritated at us or get into an interesting discussion but most people just smiled and either took our pamphlet or politely declined. However, one year a man came up to me and was very angry. He got right up in my face. I mean right up nose-to-nose and screamed at me.
I’m not really sure why he picked me out, but he really wanted me to know that he served in the armed forces and it was because of what he did that I was able to stand out there and protest. I was really taken by surprise and you probably already guessed that I didn’t say anything back; I just let him say his piece and move on.
I also remember having a discussion about tax protest days when I attended some statewide meeting of LP members. Some thought it was a pretty useless thing to do and others thought it at least garnered some needed attention.
This interview discusses Wendy and Paul’s perception that libertarians of the present are not nearly as likely to engage in real action and civil disobedience as those in the 19th century were. The two of them speculate as to whether libertarian involvement in politics has anything to do with this.
But it’s not just political libertarians. Whether or not libertarians are involved in politics, I see civil disobedience as another big rift in the movement. This is happening in New Hampshire and particularly in the city of Keene, I think. Also Brett Veinotte, who does an excellent podcast called School Sucks, became mired in some controversy when he did a podcast on the subject and this led to an interesting round table discussion on Stefan Molyneux’s Freedomain Radio show. All of these people are voluntaryist/anarchist types and yet there are ongoing debates and disagreement about civil disobedience.
Interestingly, as Jacob grew older he seemed to get more and more involved with the political system. He’s still been out there pushing the edge of laws, even very recently, but they are political laws about the political process. This seems kind of strange to me, considering all he said in this interview many years ago.
I would like to close this post with a quote by Jacob from the interview:
“Our [the libertarian movement] goal is not to take over the government but to stop the government from oppressing people, victimizing people, and we should never lose sight of that. It would be much better to never get anyone elected and yet to free one person from prison than to elect every official as a libertarian and leave that one person in prison.”