Guest Post: In Defense Of Liberty Extremism
Submitted by James E. Miller of the Ludwig von Mises Institute of Canada,
It’s a safe statement to make that when Mitt Romney is finally crowned the GOP nominee for president during the Republican National Convention, any vestige of liberty will be firmly wiped away from the ballot box come this November. For those who have followed his campaign in the United States, Congressman Ron Paul has been swindled out of the nomination through various underhanded tricks at state conventions. The explanation is straightforward: Paul’s views are not comfortable within the Republican Party establishment. Today’s GOP is a party of banker interests, imperialism, and clandestine state empowerment while claiming to represent small, limited government. Romney embraces this platform while Paul’s decades-long voting record stands in opposition.
For towing the party line, Romney has been anointed the “electable” candidate while Paul has been deemed an extremist. The GOP declares this while the media parrots the message as it does every election cycle. To the pundits and writers who cover political affairs, only moderation can win over a large electorate. The people don’t look kindly upon radicalism or so it’s alleged.
Ron Paul’s campaign manager, Jesse Benton, has even gone as far as to discourage dedicated Paulians from voicing their discontentment with the status quo. In a recent New York Times article, Benton shares his disinterest with so-called “true believers”:
Some true believers want to “dress in black, stand on a hill and say, ‘Smash the state,’ ” said Mr. Benton, who is married to one of Mr. Paul’s granddaughters. But “it’s not our desire to have floor demonstrations. That would cost us a lot more than it would get us.”
The often referred to rule of American political campaigns is that candidates should appeal to the party’s base during primary season but once nominated, should strive to attract the “center.” This strategy is totally befitting for a whorish game like politics because it allows those seeking public office to change their rhetoric and tune in order to attract as many voters as possible. In politics, principle is placed on the back burner for the glory of supreme victory. The “center” electorate is just a term used for the majority looking to government for what they mistakenly believe to be a free lunch.
To Benton, the political establishment, and the state-worshipping press, moderation is the rational choice of anyone looking to be taken seriously.
But what Benton and like-minded thinkers don’t understand or refuse to acknowledge is that ideas don’t make a lasting impact unless they are logically consistent. Ron Paul was unique in that he stuck to his message for three decades and never wavered. He paid the price with being marginalized while his beliefs were portrayed as archaic. Paul is by no means a radical in that he recognizes a proper role for the state to guarantee the liberties of people are protected yet he was rejected just the same. For all the abuse and concessions Paulians have had to make, the Republican Party has awarded state delegations with large numbers of Paul supporters “nosebleed” seats at the National Convention; just behind the delegations from Northern Mariana. Benton’s advice of toning it down and playing nice did little to change the reception from a political party not the least interested in representing genuine liberty. This rejection, while predictable, should serve as an important lesson for advocates of individual freedom. Temperance in philosophy may be the less arduous road to take but it will not bring a lasting change.
Because of the forces pitted against it, the incremental approach toward a free society has little chance of succeeding. For every step forward comes two or more back towards socialism or its ugly cousin of corporate fascism. The ratcheting effect of state power may not be readily apparent but it is in constant motion. The heart of the state lies not with the legislature that is still accountable to voters but within the multitude of bureaucracies that are needlessly large and unaccountable. It is the bureaucracies that are given the authority of law enforcement. They are usually staffed by people who enjoy wielding state power and are always on the search for an excuse to exercise more.
The result has been various states grotesquely inserting themselves into all aspects of Western society. Chipping away at their stranglehold with half-hearted ideals helps little when the statist influence is everywhere. It must be opposed without remorse on all grounds for any headway to be made. Benton’s demeaning characterization of black-clothed activists who refuse to buddy up with what they see as evil undermines liberty’s very cause. It is the radicals, not the moderates, who hold the water for the freedom movement. They provide the intellectual vision for what could be achieved. And when push comes to shove, they will not sell out.
Liberty is far too important to be dumbed down, conceded, or sold for a marginal victory. The case for freedom is to be unapologetic because it embodies the great desire for justice above all else. The ruling class within or closely affiliated with the central state operates outside the bounds of moral law. Murder, theft, and fraud are all dear functions of government. Behind the propaganda, aggression is always the true nature of the state. While it is certainly true that easing the burden of taxation or cutting down on the amount of imperial crusades are laudable goals, they should not be ends in themselves. The goal is liberation from institutionalized coercion and nothing less. Murray Rothbard once likened the cause of liberty to the oppression faced by the people of Ireland by the British when he wrote:
the goal of ending English oppression — that could have been done by the instantaneous action of men’s will: by the English simply deciding to pull out of the country.
The fact that of course such decisions do not take place instantaneously is not the point; the point is that the very failure is an injustice that has been decided upon and imposed by the perpetrators of injustice — in this case, the English government. In the field of justice, man’s will is all; men can move mountains, if only men so decide.
The pervasiveness of the state is the most compelling crisis of our time and is not limited to the Western world alone. Economically and morally, those laws and freedoms which sustain civilized life are withering away. Economists speak in terms of government spending crowding out private investment because the money squandered on political projects must come from the pockets of the public. The effect also applies to the notions of self-responsibility, a natural right to acquired property, and the unwillingness to employ violence which have all been purposefully tamed and made acceptable through the actions of the welfare-warfare state apparatus. In essence, the ability to live life with little interference from Leviathan has become crowded out.
Countering this trend is no easy task. Government attracts large amounts of resources not just through theft but also by attracting power hungry individuals. Those who earn a living through the police state, the educational establishment, the mainstream press, and the central bank-controlled financial system enjoy their state privileges and will do what it takes to maintain them. Educating the public on both the benefits of liberty and to withdraw “consent to its own enslavement” as Etienne de la Boetie put it is difficult to carry on against entrenched interests. It is nonetheless a fight worth carrying on with one clear objective in mind: for all men to live free from coercion. It is a passion best embodied in a quote from 19th century abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison who when asked why he spoke so fervently on the need to end slavery immediately, he retorted
“I have need to be all on fire, for I have mountains of ice about me to melt.”
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