Monday, November 29, 2010

Societal Change Without Government Force

In Issue 10 Carl shares with us an example of a societal problem that was solved without government intervention: the move to the standard time zone. According to this article, the need for time zones didn’t really exist until the railroad industry began. People were moving faster across the continent which increased the need for accurate coordinated timekeeping, particularly when it came to figuring out rail schedules.

The article goes into detail about how organizations were formed to resolve this issue and although it sounds like it was still pretty difficult and tricky to coordinate, a plan was created. As you might expect, there were those who objected and didn’t want to be controlled by the railroad industry. But in the end, most people saw the benefits of the change which was officially completed on November 18th, 1883.

There are two important points made in this article about government. One is that these time zones were well in place before any government organization made them “official” and the other point is that government force was not used on anyone to get compliance. Carl writes:

“Any old curmudgeon who wanted to continue operating on his old time had the right to do so. He might miss his train or be late for the movies, but no one would throw him in jail for refusing to live by standard railroad time. The fact that the large number of people living around him operated on standard time would be the strongest inducement possible for him to change his habits. Public opinion has the power to change behavior and influence our activities in ways that legislation and government cannot touch. Peaceful, evolutionary change based on the voluntary principle is the voluntaryist way, not the resort to either bullets or ballots. Thus, this history of standard time proves that voluntary social movements can achieve important and long lasting improvements without resorting to governments or coercion.”

This makes me think of one particular societal change that’s happened here locally and in many other areas concerning smoking in restaurants. My biggest disappointment in relation to smoking laws is that I could see that changes were already happening spontaneously simply because society was beginning to demand change. As more and more people rejected smoking, more and more places of business became interested in serving them in smoke-free environments.

Yet there were those who were not content to let this change happen freely and spontaneously, no, they wanted ALL restaurants to change and conform IMMEDIATELY and they were willing to use government force to make it happen. This is too bad because I could see it was happening already and government did not need to be involved at all.

But instead we just ended up with another “example” of why we need government. If only we could have given it more time.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Military Conscription Is Unnecessary

In Issue 9, I see that Paul Jacob is still out and active in his educational efforts against registration for the military draft. This issue contains text of a speech he gave by videotape at a Libertarianism and War Conference, held in the Spring of 1984.

As I’ve read about his activities in these past issues in the early 1980s, it’s difficult to go back to the thought processes people may have had then because now, after the events of 9/11, the idea of conscription doesn’t even seem necessary.

This terrorist attack, and the continued government manipulation of the event, changed everything.

We see evidence of this all the time. As I write this, a controversy is heating up as to how much we are willing to take in order to prevent another terrorist attack on a commercial airplane. As it stands now, if you want to fly, you might have to choose between a “naked” body scanner or an “enhanced patdown” by Transportation Security Administration (TSA) employees.

But I’m not here to discuss that controversy, I want to explore how 9/11 has gone deeper into our body cavities, so to speak. Are you ready?

The attack led Americans to think in a totally different way. We were forced to be much more engaged and aware of the violence in the world because it finally came here.

And how did we react? Well, exactly like all people around the world who have been facing large-scale violence in their countries react. We suffered through deep sadness from the death and destruction. We became angry.

People were ready to retaliate or fight back in some manner. Many wanted to “kick some ass.” These feelings ripened the natural inclination many people have of wanting to protect and defend. Young men and women joined up to fight willingly. Conscription was not necessary.

Even as time moves on, a military draft is still not necessary because society does its part to keep certain emotions and feelings alive. The idea of automatically classifying any member of the military as heroes is stronger than ever. This hero worship is based on no action other than joining this group.

Society’s job is to continue to commend military membership itself as virtuous, even to celebrate this membership for those in the past who only became members against their will due to conscription.

If we celebrate the military service of these veterans too, it helps us ignore the fact they were conscripted. This helps us create an illusion that overshadows the truth of the past. Just in case anyone starts thinking about it too hard.

This myth making, on top of the continued manipulation of 9/11, lessens the need for military conscription. But it increases the need for war.

Friday, November 12, 2010

A Long Campaign of Education

The feature article in Issue 9 of The Voluntaryist is an edited excerpt from a book published in 1896 by Francis Dashwood Tandy. The book is titled “Voluntary Socialism.” (Carl explains the title in his introductory remarks. Also, the original version of this entire book is available online here.)

Carl chose the chapter on Methods where the author talks about various means that could be used to reach the goal of a voluntary society. Tandy explains in this chapter why revolution and political action won’t work and his reasoning matches up with current Voluntaryist thought. He then discusses the benefits of nonviolent resistance. (NOTE: Tandy uses the term “passive resistance,” but Carl edited this to the more modern “nonviolent resistance.”) Here is an excerpt that certainly appeals to all Voluntaryists:

Nonviolent resistance can never pass a law. It can only nullify laws. Consequently, it can never be used as a means of coercion and is particularly adopted to the attainment of Anarchy. All other schools of reform propose to compel people to do something. For this they must resort to force, usually by passing laws. These laws depend upon political action for their inauguration and physical violence for their enforcement. Anarchists are the only reformers who do not advocate physical violence. Tyranny must ever depend upon the weapon of tyranny, but Freedom can be inaugurated only by means of Freedom.

Tandy seems quite enthused about the possibilities of nonviolent resistance and uses the example of the Quakers refusing to serve in the army during the Civil War. However, he also points out that nonviolent resistance on its own isn’t going to be nearly as effective without accompanying education.

And the biggest educational hurdle is society’s belief in the State, which is an abstract idea that exists only in our heads. This is the essence of the problem and why it’s so hard to change. Tandy writes:

The State Is king only because we are fools enough to stand In the relation of subjects to it. When we cease to stand in the relation of subjects to it, it will cease to be king. So that in order to abolish the State, it is necessary to change people's ideas In regard to it. This means a long campaign of education.

We have more than an entire century between the publishing of this book and the publishing of this blog post. A lot has happened since then. How are things different? How do the various events of the 20th century change or validate what he says?

We certainly still have the vast majority of people believing in the state. This belief, this superstition lives on in most people’s minds.

How do we battle something that is inside people’s minds?

Education is the only way and so far I'm wondering if we aren't just spinning our wheels because the focus has been on trying to re-educate. AFTER the idea is settled like concrete in our minds. Once that happens it’s hard to break out.

Maybe we need to focus our educational efforts on ways to make sure the idea doesn’t get enough traction into into minds of the young in the first place. How can we do this?

Homeschooling or some free form of institutionalized private school (which I’m not sure exists) is one obvious option but I also want to mention three examples I’ve also had some personal involvement with that seem like good attempts to help jump this hurdle.

One is Brette Veinotte, who hosts a podcast called School Sucks, where he brings down the illusions of our government-controlled education system. His main intended audience is teenagers but his podcasts are worth a listen no matter what your age.

The second example is Stefan Molyneux of who is trying to educate people BEFORE they become parents so they can raise children without such mind baggage.

My last example is the more enlightened younger crowd itself trying to educate. Pete Eyre, Jason Talley and Adam Mueller have been traveling around the country in an RV, connecting and engaging with the younger crowd. The three of them participated in the Motorhome Diaries Project and as we speak Pete and Adam are still on their current Liberty on Tour RV project.

It is indeed a long campaign of education but these are just three examples of things I’ve observed that make me feel as if more positive change might begin to occur.

What do you think? Do you agree that more attention should be focused on reaching the young? Do you have any ideas or are you currently working on a project that you would like to share?

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Voting: Channeling Mass Discontent

Considering we just emerged from the muck of another election season, I thought I’d begin my posts about Issue 9 of The Voluntaryist by discussing Carl Watner’s book review of Benjamin Ginsberg’s “The Consequences of Consent.”

Carl says this book caught his interest because even though the author really knew nothing about voluntaryism, his conclusions match Voluntaryist thought about voting and elections, particularly the part elections play in helping government maintain its power.

Carl writes:

Throughout much of the world’s history mass political disruptions and outbursts, such as riots and revolution, have been the real threats to government. Those in power finally realized that they could channel away potentially disruptive political activity by introducing formal means of controlling such mass protests. Elections enable governments to substitute institutional mechanisms for non-electoral sanctions (such as nonviolent resistance or revolutionary violence), which might otherwise be used by a disaffected public. Political party activity turns attention away from non-electoral strategies and forces those who oppose the government to operate by the government's own rules.

I’ve noticed the election process is often used to shut people up and control behavior in between elections. We are told we do have power, that we can have direct influence on the government – just wait until the election. Then by golly, you can show ‘em. You can really register your opposition, your discontent.

Every time a law or government action occurs that someone approves of, and someone always approves, one way they defend it, particularly to those they know will never really like it, is to tell the discontented that they still have the power to change things, just work on electing new people to office.

All sides of the political spectrum take their turn in doing this, even the Libertarian Party which hasn’t even ever had any control.

Many people have bought the “If you don’t like it, then get involved and work to elect others” line. The discontented start focusing all their energy on the next election, as they develop strategy and plans. Working and waiting for the next election.

And if that energy does pay off in electing “new” people, then the system has just created a whole new set of discontented people with energy that needs channeling and where will it go? To the next election. Back and forth. Back and forth. “Change” to “change.”

But it’s all fake. It’s not real change. It’s just taking dirty underwear, turning it inside out, and back again.

I’m ready for real change, how about you?