The current state of liberty is, unfortunately, less than stellar. States are spending more than ever before. Foreign intervention has become so normalized that “At least there haven’t been any new wars” is a statement of celebration. The Libertarian Party candidate gained only enough votes to be unfairly blamed by unhappy conservatives. States continue to increase their control.
Of course, it would be unfair to ignore significant victories. Young Americans for Liberty’s “Operation Win at the Door” achieved 179 election victories. The Mises Institute introduced a graduate program for Austrian economics. Many small victories are chipping away at the War on Drugs. And, thanks to Liberty Fund and numerous other organizations, libertarian literature is available to anyone with an internet connection.
These victories and defeats paint a picture. The victories are steps towards changing things, but the defeats show an increasing change away from liberty. It can’t be for a lack of effort. There are numerous organizations working to further liberty (Walter Block, in a less-than-comprehensive list, names 55 examples).
Unfortunately, in many cases, liberty isn’t all that interesting. As hard as it is for some of us to believe, the crimes of the Federal Reserve don’t inspire interest from most people. Understanding the consequences of the Fed requires learning some basic economics. After that, damage done by the Fed is still something that has to be understood rather than directly witnessed.
Taxes are often a popular issue because you can witness the loss every time you glance at your paycheck. You can see what you earned, and then what you actually received. The impact doesn’t require any complex abstract thinking, just basic subtraction.
Spending, meanwhile, is more abstract. So what if the government spends a few trillion here and there? The only direct impact people witnessed from increased spending this year was a positive one: they received free money.
But then we have the lockdowns.
The lockdowns have destroyed countless people’s lives. Many elderly have been isolated from their families for months. State policies forcing nursing homes to accept COVID-19 patients needlessly spread the virus among the most vulnerable. Small businesses have been forced to shut down, some of which never reopened, while others have opened under severe restrictions. Some states prevented Thanksgiving get-togethers. Some people are fearful of being called out by a Karen in public for not precisely following guidelines.
Bit by bit, people are beginning to realize that these lockdown restrictions will continue to drag on. Things will either return to normal very slowly or not at all. And the clear double standard witnessed during the mid-year protests and riots showed many how little the lockdowns had to do with public health.
The numbers are brutal. Dr. Tom Woods has been especially brilliant on this. His speeches on the lockdowns have over a million views combined. He claims his first lockdown speech earned him many new listeners to his weekday show, exposing them to other libertarian ideas.
Conservatives have appeared much more hostile to the lockdowns than most other state interventions. This is a perfect opportunity (especially considering the election outcome) to nurture the renewed anti-statism of many conservatives, while not forgetting to point out that the police have (with very few exceptions) enforced these lockdowns.
Unlike so many important issues, the lockdowns have directly and visibly impacted the lives of almost everyone. One doesn’t need a sophisticated understanding of economic theory to understand that the lockdown had something to do with their local theater closing permanently. Losing one’s only means of income via lockdown restrictions will certainly get one concerned about state power. The numerous videos showing the shutting down of church services and small businesses should be concerning to any rational person.
This issue also provides an actionable path to victory. Ending the Fed and ending the warfare state continue to be two of the most important issues. They are also nearly impossible to achieve (but we shouldn’t stop trying, of course). The lockdowns, however, can be won step by step. Victories can be won one locality or state at a time. Individuals can resist lockdowns guidelines by encouraging local public support and refusing to close their own businesses, though there are certainly good and bad strategies to doing this. Public pressure can be used to back small businesses in their decisions to fully open, and to pressure sheriffs, mayors, and city councils to not enforce lockdown guidelines. Fighting back against the lockdowns can be won in small pieces, rather than through national support or through the federal government.
Many are watching the liberty movement. This is an issue directly impacting millions of lives. Police are shutting down churches and arresting small business owners. If we are not loud on this issue, we will lose all credibility, and lose our greatest opportunity to push back against state power.