The Only Path Forward For Liberty

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Recent events, including the exodus of Parler from mainstream institutions and the banning of many more alternative media figures from social media, has led to quite a bit of despair. Much of the American right has finally lost faith in the political system. Hopefully, with some encouragement, they will permanently sever any remaining donations to politicians and crony DC think tanks, rather than continue on as usual.

After a year of harsh lockdowns, and continual loss after loss for those who care about liberty, there are plenty of reasons for despair. Managerial states across the world are continuing to increase their hold on their respective populations. At this point, what can be done?

A portion of the right is laughing at the libertarians who mockingly told them, “Just build your own Twitter!” after Parler has been banned from app stores (reminder: apps can be downloaded other ways) and dropped by their hosting service. To some extent, they have a point. Those who (still) don’t see an issue with tech giants restricting discourse to a single, false narrative deserve ridicule.

But to those who have been advocating regulation of social media instead of the “build your own Twitter” option, I must ask why they cling to such a utopian fantasy. If we accept, for the sake of argument, that there is no moral objection to using the state to prevent these tech platforms from banning certain viewpoints, how do we expect to bring this about? The best chance of this happening was during the Trump presidency, and it didn’t. Do we really expect the Biden administration to come to the defense of alternative viewpoints? And if it did, do we expect it to be effective? If Twitter bans a message calling for peace because it “risks violence,” do we expect legislation to account for decisions like these?

As difficult and demanding as it may seem to “build our own Twitter,” it really is the only option. But at least half the work has already been done.

Perhaps then we should simply hunker down and wait for the inevitable collapse, maybe help it along the way, and then rebuild from the ashes when the time is right. But this is also nonsense. Society is never built from scratch. Looking through history, one may see examples of a “new era” of history, but with a closer look, one can see the roots of that era extending back centuries. There will never be a new “Year Zero” moment, only a continuation of the past. If there truly would be a pinpoint moment of collapse, what is rebuilt would be based on the foundations that are being set up now.

There are others who are talking about following in the footsteps of the American founding fathers, and are preparing for a Second American Revolution. They look to the founding fathers for inspiration, and that’s fine, but they forget (or ignore) what’s important. If one wishes to truly emulate the founders, and follow in their footsteps, they cannot ignore what the founders themselves would consider a vital component: their classical education. They were educated, and not in the modern sense of getting a college degree, or reading feminist theory, or “following the accepted science.” They were reading Greek and Roman thinkers in their original languages. They were educated in the trivium (grammar, logic, and rhetoric) and the quadrivium (arithmetic, astronomy, geometry, and music). 

This isn’t to say that if you want to make a difference, you need to be fluent in Ancient Greek. But if you are interested in action, furthering your own education will be a benefit. Read, watch, and listen to the great classics. Maybe go through with that New Year’s resolution to learn a new language. And, of course, physical education should be included in this as well. Establish a routine, and keep it. As Jordan Peterson (and many others) would say, “Set your house in perfect order before you criticize the world” (Rule 6). If you want to fix your country, or the entire world, focus on the immediate first. Self-improvement is never a distraction from the world’s problems. It is the first step towards solving them.

Onto bigger things.

Institutions that have aligned themselves with the Leviathan state must be either recaptured or replaced. While a faction of the left (which is to say, the now-establishment left, as a reminder that there are many great allies on the left that do not fall into this category) has spent at least the last century focusing on “the long march through the institutions,” most of the rest of us have been asleep at the wheel. In his 1972 book Counterrevolution and Revolt, Herbert Marcuse of the Frankfurt School wrote:

“To extend the base of the student movement, Rudi Dutschke has proposed the strategy of the long march through the institutions: working against the established institutions while working within them, but not simply by ‘boring from within’, rather by ‘doing the job’, learning (how to program and read computers, how to teach at all levels of education, how to use the mass media, how to organize production, how to recognize and eschew planned obsolescence, how to design, et cetera), and at the same time preserving one’s own consciousness in working with others. The long march includes the concerted effort to build up counterinstitutions. They have long been an aim of the movement, but the lack of funds was greatly responsible for their weakness and their inferior quality. They must be made competitive. This is especially important for the development of radical, ‘free’ media. The fact that the radical Left has no equal access to the great chains of information and indoctrination is largely responsible for its isolation.”

Leftists realized long ago that this march through the institutions was a path to success. Their opponents must do this, too. Take over what is possible to take over, and abandon what is lost. Boycott the public school system (if you weren’t already) in favor of the numerous alternative systems that already exist. With many schools still working remotely, now is the easiest time. The alternatives to major social media platforms exist and have existed for some time, but they need support. What they need most of all are regular people willing to talk about anything besides politics on their platforms.

The important thing to focus on is the achievable steps. Building a rival institution takes a long time, and it rests on a foundation of good people willing to put in the work. Institutions need not be national or global. They can be community-focused. They can be charitable and/or religious. They can focus on a minor goal first and, if successful, grow afterwards. These are large goals, and it cannot be emphasized enough that these large goals can only be accomplished through a series of small, achievable actions.

Many of them already exist, and are ready to be discovered. That small institute or charity could put your money to much better use than any DC think tank or politician. That small business owner resisting the lockdowns could use your support much more than any lobby group. And before you devote an hour to arguing with some nobody on Twitter, check on your family and friends.

Yes, now is the time for action (as is any other time). But this action must be productive and effective, not unrealistic and unattainable. Accomplish what you can, bit by bit. Action for the sake of action is a waste of energy, and can be not only unproductive, but counterproductive. The bastions of liberty must be maintained.

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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]

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