Building a Free Society – Misconceptions

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Will we achieve a free society within our lifetime?

This was a common question during the Ron Paul campaigns, when the liberty movement was growing and the ideas of liberty were spreading far and wide. Nowadays, although small victories are achieved here and there, and by some standards we are quite free, it is much more about preserving what freedoms we have from the imposing power of the managerial state.

Popular ideas of achieving a free society involve violent revolution, overthrowing the old order and introducing a new order. This is the most unstable and deadly option, and is unlikely to succeed.

Other popular ideas involve voting for the right people. This was the MAGA method. Vote for someone who will allegedly fight for your interests, and they might succeed, or will at least stir up some trouble. At best, this can earn some small victories, but could never go that far.

A rising idea in America in recent years, as the divide becomes greater, is secession. States like Florida and Texas have a chance at secession, or at least nullification. State governments with liberty-minded populations and liberty-minded leaders already have some degree of separation from the federal government, and have the institutions and organizations available to make organizing a secession movement feasible. But even then, secession on such a scale seems incredibly unlikely.

The trouble with all of these plans of achieving (or defending) freedom is that they rely on a massive group of people all setting aside their smaller differences and uniting together for an extreme change. This is very rare, and when it does happen, there’s no guarantee that the resulting change will be in the direction you hoped.

Instead, those wanting to achieve a free society must first think on a smaller, decentralized scale. We cannot control what masses of people do, but we can control our own lives to a certain extent. As the state proposes and implements centralized measures, and many larger corporations align themselves with the state, we have the choice to either go along with these measures and complain, or choose alternatives. When an alternative is chosen, it must be viciously defended. When there is no alternative, one must be established.

One story of 20th century America is the story of decentralized institutions becoming increasingly centralized by the state. If one is seriously interested in a free society, there is so much one can do to separate from these centralized institutions.

There is a story of the American conservative that laments the loss of his freedoms, the decline of his culture, and the censorship of his ideas. He is amazed at how all of this has happened so quickly, and how so many people are so easily buying into the propaganda. He may or may not regret voting for George W. Bush, and for supporting the Patriot Act and the Iraq War. While he hopes for a Second American Revolution, his kids are in public school, being taught the worldview he despises. He opposes the lockdowns, but backs the blue that enforced the shutdown on those churches and small businesses. He is angered at the attacks on Christianity, while attending church maybe twice a year, at most.

In the age of the internet, finding alternative institutions is easier than ever before. There are numerous liberty-minded alternatives to the public school system, and knowledge is easier to attain than ever. With virtual storage so cheap, smartphones that act as ebook readers, and public archives of literature freely available online, it is incredibly easy to read the classics and preserve them. With a little bit of research, it is easy to find out what charities and companies fund what causes. 

All societies rest on institutions. A free society requires institutions that reject becoming an arm of the state and reject promoting its propaganda. These institutions need support. Put aside dreams of leading a revolution and seek out the good institutions, and defend them. They are the groundwork for the rise of a free society.

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Nathan A. Kreider is author of the Misconceptions column for Being Libertarian, and has written for the Austrian Economics Center, the Foundation for Economic Education, and the Liberalists. He also occasionally publishes a blog and video content, including short book reviews, which can be found on his website, nkreider.com. He can be contacted by email via [email protected]