My observation is that many, if not most, Voluntaryists or their fellow-travelers do not arrive at this strategy from a studied conviction that political action is immoral. (Even if it were, non-violent resistance would still be an illusory, dead-end strategy). Instead, they begin with various forms of disillusion or exhaustion with LP activities. At this perhaps temporary moment of weakness, they seize on Voluntaryism for providing them with a cosmic rationale for dropping out of a commitment to the libertarian movement.Maybe it’s because I found my way to libertarianism in large part from experiences around education, but Rothbard’s use of the phrase “dropping out” really caught my eye. Every time I see those words, I immediately think of THE TEENAGE LIBERATION HANDBOOK By Grace Llewellyn. (This is an excellent book on education and homeschooling/unschooling. It’s unique because it was written for the teenage audience in mind rather than the parents. Highly recommended reading.)
In this book Ms. Llewellyn speaks about the term “dropping-out” and the connotations that come with it. She points out that the term is not very useful, at least for those teenagers who are giving thoughtful consideration about leaving school. The term just loses its meaning when a teen makes a conscious move to something better.
For the individual teenage homeschooler, he is not dropping out of a commitment to education; he’s beginning on the most important journey he can and taking control of his own educational path. And in the end that will do more for the education movement than staying in school.
It’s the same for the individual Voluntaryist. She’s not dropping out of a commitment to the libertarian movement; she’s beginning on the most important journey she can, working on bringing one improved individual to the world. And in the end, this will do more for the libertarian movement than staying in a political party.
Rothbard may be right to some extent in that many people do leave because of burnout, disillusion or exhaustion. But I think he’s wrong if he thinks anyone who finds Voluntaryism is simply using it as a rationale to drop out of a commitment to the movement.
If anything, someone investigating Voluntaryism quickly understands there is hard work involved in one day reaching the goal of a voluntary society. It’s just that most of it needs to be on an individual basis first.
So to use a phrase I first heard from Grace Llewellyn, Voluntaryists who leave politics are not dropping out at all, they are “rising up.”