When I read these newsletters, a mere 8 pages each, there is usually so much for me to consider, to ponder, to wrestle with, to argue with myself about, that I just can’t do this project very fast.
The problem, though, is that I’m also impatient. When I have a project on my plate, I want to get it done. When I have something on my “to do” list, I want to complete it as soon as possible and check that item off the list. And yet, if a project is worth doing, it’s worth taking the time to do it in the manner that works best for me.
And so it goes. I read, I write, I think, I take a break and I go back and do it all again. This project doesn’t have to ever be completed, that’s not the point of it anyway, the point is to learn and grow in my understanding of the ideas, theories and principles put forth in this newsletter and share my thoughts here. So I plod on.
And that brings me to the feature article in Issue 34, “Does Freedom Need to Be Organized?” In this article, Carl challenges Murray Rothbard’s chiding of individualist anarchists who are traveling the self-improvement route as the means to greater liberty for society as a whole. Rothbard thinks it’s more important to work and collaborate with people on issues of common agreement. He wants us to get out in the “real world” and get things done! Rothbard wants action!
Carl is adamant that the “quiet” process of self-education and self-improvement are key to the change we want to see:
“THE VOLUNTARYIST has consistently maintained that such virtues are the prerequisites to the achievement of spiritual freedom and physical liberty. Effective and long-lasting improvement in human affairs MUST begin with the individual. Reform begins with the individual because society is never better or worse than the persons who compose it, for they in fact are it.”Yes, if we all learn to live responsibly and do not initiate violence upon others to satisfy our own wants and needs, then society will change as a natural result of the change in individuals. This is not really that hard to get. It’s a logical argument that surely makes sense to any libertarian-minded person and yet, it is often rejected as useless and ineffective. Why?
I think people just get depressed when thinking that real change can’t happen until the individuals in society change because they look out in the world and see that we have a long way to go. I can understand why people simply look for ways to make their own lives better NOW, like perhaps the repeal of an unjust law.
People want change NOW. They want to do something to pursue greater freedom NOW.
I have not always known exactly how to respond to this desire within myself and others, but in this article Carl makes a great point that changing the individual units of society is the only way to get PERMANENT change:
“The problem that we face is not really how to get rid of the State, but rather the longer range one of how to prevent another one from taking its place.”That really hit home for me and this point does not even have to be thought of in the full-fledged terms of getting rid of the state to be useful. We can also think about permanent change even in terms of the hopes people have on an issue-by-issue basis when working to add a new law or repealing an old one.
I recently ran into an excellent example of this in regards to the currently very hot “right-to-work” issue in Indiana. I learned that this exact battle happened before. A right-to-work law was passed in the late 1950s and repealed in the mid 1960s. And now it’s all happening again. Has progress been made? Has any permanent change occurred?
No, and it’s because the individuals within the society have not changed. Until they do, these conflicts will be infinite. People think they’ve won when something is changed through political means; they don’t seem to understand (or admit to themselves) that if they “won” a change through the political game then their “opponents” can do the same.
Yes, it requires patience but if you truly want to change society permanently, then changing the individual units is the only way it’s going to happen.
(Photo courtesy of wikimedia)