Friday, September 10, 2010

How Far Are You Willing To Go?

I mentioned the short blurb about the Paul Jacob fund in a previous post and now the feature for The Voluntaryist Issue 4 is an interview with him. This interview was conducted by Wendy and published while Jacob was living underground as a fugitive from the FBI.

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.”


Kent McManigal said...

It is much more dangerous to practice civil disobedience now that the slightest hestiation in obeying a LEO's demands can be fatal.

Back in Thoreau's day, you might sit in an uncomfortable jail cell for a while, but the proto-thugs were not likely to kill you (or break out all your teeth) before you were put in the cell.

That may have something to do with the apparent lack of civil disobedience these days.

MamaLiberty said...

Most of us, I think, simply want to be left alone. "Civil disobedience" that involves overt action can skate very close to the edge of the aggression line for many of us.

Most of us easily do things like barter or encryption that deny our support or compliance with the PTB, but direct confrontation doesn't seem particularly effective and, as Kent says, can easily be fatal these days.

Maybe we need both.

Blacktooth said...

Hey Debbie,
Another good post, thanks for doing this.
We never seem to have the right words at the right time.
It seems to me that that guy who got in your face about the tax protest had something eating him.
If he fought for your right he should have been happy to see you there!
Obviously, he did not fight for your right at all.
That fact is plain to most of us.
He knew it too but could not admit it to himself hence the anger projected on to you.
You're doing the right thing with your blog.
I reckon the education process is all we really have...that and our personal evolution.

Ned Netterville said...

Debbie, another good post. I know and admire Paul Jacobs. We had a very close mutual friend, one who supported him to the utmost while he was in jail, which is a time when encouragement is most welcome.

Jail, I will say from my own personal experience, is much more frightful in the anticipation than the doing. And like most disciplines, it gets easier with practice. I've been jailed for contempt of court because I refused to obey a judge's order to give the IRS testimony and records, which I didn't have. And I have been jailed for "no operator's license," because I don't license. (Neither does my dog. I suppose the canine authorities would call her an airedale terriorist.)

Non-violence is the key to effective civil disobedience. You certainly did the right thing with the bozo who got in your face. Nothing you might have said would have made a difference to someone in that emotional frame of mind.

I think the most effective form of civil disobedience is efficacious tax resistance. I define effective, successful or efficacious tax resistance as that which both denies the state its life blood and doesn't wind up with the perpetrator in jail.

Harry Statel said...

There will always be differences in how one approaches a "free" life.

There is the indirect and direct way; many libertarians choose a combination of both.

I recommend three great books on personal liberty to anyone asking about libertarian viewpoints. Rather than send them to Murray Rothbard, Ludwig van Mises, and Ayn Rand (thought these three are great) I send them to these fellows.

"Looking Out for #1", by Robert Ringer.

"How I found Freedom in an Unfree World" by Harry Browne.

"The Freedom Outlaws Handbook" by Clarie Wolfe.

I find it easier to promote libertarian ideas by using concrete examples then to abstract ideas.

Keep up the good work.

Harry Statel

John said...

I'm caught up honey

Anonymous said...

And, of course, there is always "individual secession", i.e. the voluntary withdrawal of membership in the political association, but that is a very inconvenient remedy, so promoting that one will lose an audience fast.

"Certainly no man can rightfully be required to join, or support, an association whose protection he does not desire. Nor can any man be reasonably or rightfully expected to join, or support, any association whose plans, or method of proceeding, he does not approve, as likely to accomplish its professed purpose of maintaining justice, and at the same time itself avoid doing injustice. To join, or support, one that would, in his opinion, be inefficient, would be absurd. To join or support one that, in his opinion, would itself do injustice, would be criminal. He must, therefore, be left at the same liberty to join, or not to join, an association for this purpose, as for any other, according as his own interest, discretion, or conscience shall dictate. ~ Excerpted from NATURAL LAW or THE SCIENCE OF JUSTICE by Lsyander Spooner [Emphasis added]