the dollar vigilante blog
Beware of the False Paths to Freedom!
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[Editor's Note: The following post is by Menno Troyer, TDV Subscriber and a pioneer of the Free State Project]
Thanks to the rise of rapid dissemination of information through the internet, and more recently the "Ron Paul Revolution", the awareness of and quest for freedom is on the rise both here in the US and worldwide - even as the relentless drive toward a globally integrated police state continues to accelerate. It truly has become a definitive race between the forces of good and the forces of evil; between those who seek to leave alone and be left alone, vs. those who seek to plunder and rule their fellow human beings.
Unfortunately for those who yearn for freedom (though fortunately for those who seek to exploit them), a pair of beguiling yet highly destructive fallacies have risen to prominence in libertarian circles: "Public freedom" and "collective emancipation".
You have probably never heard of either of these terms. This is because nobody uses these terms per se - but the ideas they embody are alive and well.
What is meant by "public freedom"? It is the erroneous notion that freedom is a condition of society. Whenever you hear someone talking about "a free society", or expressing a desire for "the world" to be free, you are observing that fallacy being propagated.
The fact is, freedom is NOT a condition of "society". "Public freedom" is every bit as absurd as "public rights" and "public property". There exists only one kind of freedom: Freedom of the individual. Think about it: To the extent that you - the individual - are free, you have freedom regardless of the rest of the individuals in society, or the world. Yes, freedom is always and everywhere an individual phenomenon, regardless of how many individuals in a given society enjoy it.
The idea that "the world" has to be made free in order for the individual to be free, is as absurd as the notion that people have to be ruled in order for the individual to be safe.
The fallacy of "public freedom" paves the way for the other fallacy, "collective emancipation": The absurd notion that freedom must, or even could, come about through the deliberate collaboration of a greater "We". Whenever you hear someone saying, "We need to..." or "If enough people..." (relating to the quest for freedom), you are observing the fallacy of "collective emancipation" being propagated.
While the destructiveness of the fallacy of "public freedom" lies in its capacity to trigger despair, the destructiveness of the fallacy of "collective emancipation" lies in its capacity to misallocate the resources of those who seek freedom. "Collective emancipation" demands the individual divert his or her precious personal resources such as time, energy, money and mental focus to "the greater good" of collective initiatives for freedom - "public freedom", that is.
The fact is that one is at all times but a single individual; and the single individual’s participation in a collective initiative does not change the outcome at all (with only extremely rare exception).
Examples of such collective initiatives for emancipation include: All political action "for freedom" (i.e. voting or campaigning for Ron Paul), civil disobedience, demonstrations and protests, armed revolution, participating in anonymous hacker attacks, limiting oneself in an effort to collectively starve the beast (agorism), etc. Do you see the common thread in all of these? They all require the individual to sacrifice his or her precious resources (some more than others). They all promise "public freedom"; none hold any promise for making the individual participant any freer - only poorer. Even if the collective goal is in fact accomplished, it would be accomplished even if that single individual - you - had not participated. In a word, the common thread running through each of these is collectivism - self-destructive, impotent collectivism (though, of course, always for "the greater good").
Just as there exists only one kind of freedom - freedom of the individual - there also exists only one path to freedom: Self-empowerment. Anything that empowers oneself - the primary individual - is a step on the true path to freedom. Ask yourself: Does my vote in an election actually result in a different outcome than if I did not vote? Does my participation in acts of civil disobedience, protests, revolution, etc. result in me actually being freer afterward than I would have been had I not participated? If you can be reasonably certain in advance that the answer is "no", then it is a false path to freedom. It does nothing to actually empower YOU. But it sure will waste your precious resources which you could have used to become freer in real terms - and it may even result in the loss of what freedom you have, or even your life.
Libertarians easily grasp how the phenomenon of a smoothly functioning and prosperous economy cannot result from central planning, yet astonishingly most of them readily assume that the phenomenon of a freedom-supporting society must result from a deliberate collaborative effort to bring it about. In fact, just as a prosperous economy arises from individuals everywhere each independently pursuing his or her own interests (think "I Pencil"), so the infrastructure of freedom can arise and become accepted as the norm only through individuals everywhere each independently pursuing self-empowerment. There is simply no other way.
Note that this is not the kind of phony "self-empowerment" promoted by new age or self-help gurus. The self-empowerment referred to here is anything that actually increases one's power over one's own life in a real, palpable sense. Things like money, knowledge, and good health (especially these three). Things that expand your options. Things like camouflage techniques and privacy enhancements. Self-sufficiency skills and tools. Strong value-reciprocating relationships and useful connections. Developing the skill of spotting trends and hidden dangers in order to position yourself ahead of the crowd and out of harm's way. Security-enhancing technology such as wireless security cameras. Bitcoin and encryption. Foreign residency and second passports. Inflation proofing your savings. Learning foreign languages to open doors to vast new opportunities. The list goes on and on.
Now, there is almost certain to be someone so thoroughly brainwashed with the collectivist mindset (itself a product of the State) as to say, "But 'if every libertarian' did as you suggest, there would be no one to stop the State from running amok!" First of all, it is ludicrous to even contemplate that this simple message could possibly be powerful enough to perceptibly dampen the efforts of "the greater libertarian collective". But just for fun, here is an eye-opening exercise in collectivist daydreaming: “If enough people” focused all of their personal resources on actual self-empowerment, instead of wasting them on collective initiatives where the single individual’s participation does not change the outcome at all – then the oppressive yoke of those who rule their fellow humans would disintegrate as the market rises to fill the demand for self-empowerment technologies and techniques.
But the phrase “if enough people” amounts to nothing more than impotent collectivist daydreaming. Face it: “If enough people” actually did the right thing, then that would happen regardless of whether or not you wished for it, or participated. On the other hand, well thought out self-empowerment efforts lead to maximum freedom – and the wonderful part is, self-empowerment works regardless of what the greater “We” does.
Nothing could possibly be more gratifying to the parasitic elite than watching those who yearn for freedom waste their precious resources on impotent endeavors, and encouraging others to do the same. Are you playing into their hand?
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Menno Troyer is a voluntaryist, atheist, and an advocate of free markets. He currently resides in New Hampshire, and is one of the “First 1000” movers of the Free State Project. Forbidden to do so by his Old Order Amish father, he defiantly read the book The Neo-Tech Discovery at the tender age of 16 – and thus began an inexorable odyssey toward objective thinking and personal freedom. At the age of 20, he left his Amish roots to pursue his dreams in the “real world”, and has never looked back. Menno counts among his mentors and kindred spirits Dr. Frank R. Wallace, Ayn Rand, Andrew J. Galambos, Ian Bernard, Doug Casey, Jeff Berwick, and – ironically – his own father, Daniel Troyer, who was a renegade in his own right.