How to Fight for Liberty, Part Three – Inspiration and Motivation


How to Fight for Liberty, Part Three – Inspiration and Motivation

By Duncan Whitmore

“From all these indignities, such as the very beasts of the field would not endure, you can deliver yourselves if you try, not by taking action, but merely by willing to be free. Resolve to serve no more, and you are at once freed. I do not ask that you place hands upon the tyrant to topple him over, but simply that you support him no longer; then you will behold him, like a great Colossus whose pedestal has been pulled away, fall of his own weight and break into pieces.”  

                   – Étienne de la Boétie1

In this third part of our continuing series on how to fight for liberty, we will build on our conclusion in Part Two that liberty depends primarily on people being motivated to reduce systematised forms of physical enforcement (i.e. the state), and to turn instead towards systematised forms of voluntary co-operation. Our task here is to try and orient ourselves onto this factor as the focus of a political strategy.

One of the questions that any advocate of a free society is asked time and time again is “how can a free society work?” What the enquirer wishes to know is, absent the state, which institutions will guarantee law and order, how will they be sustained, and how will we know that they will succeed? Often implicit, of course, is the presumption that a free society is a hopelessly impossible experiment doomed to failure – a presumption that is usually deemed to be confirmed if, no matter how good his argument otherwise, the libertarian is unable to furnish a satisfactory answer to a just a single part of this enquiry.

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How to Fight for Liberty, Part One – Theory and Politics


How to Fight for Liberty, Part One – Theory and Politics

By Duncan Whitmore

“[T]he libertarian revolution is not the work of a day – or a decade – or a lifetime. It is a continuous process through the ages. […] There is a tendency among many libertarians to look for an apocalyptic moment when the State will be smashed forever and anarchy prevail. When they realize that the great moment isn’t about to come in their time, if ever, they lose faith in the integrity and plausibility of the libertarian philosophy […] Such attitudes are naive and not [to be] expected from mature sophisticated men of learning […] libertarianism can quite easily become merely an adolescent fantasy in minds that are immature and unseasoned by a broad humanistic understanding. It should not be an idée fixe or magic formula, but a moral imperative with which one approaches the complexities of social reality.”

                        – Joseph R Peden1

If one was pressed to choose the words which have been the most influential to one’s personal commitment to liberty, it would, for me, be the passage from which this quotation was lifted. For one thing, the reality that Peden paints maintains a healthy balance: the struggle to achieve a freer world is a long and difficult one that will not be won in any quick victory, but such a long term view helps to insulate one from the myopia of frustrating day-to-day problems thrown at us by the twenty-four hour news cycle. Indeed, I have often returned to these words whenever the clouds of despotism have gathered in a particularly angry shade of grey – a not infrequent occurrence during the past year or so.

The main reason for their importance , however, is that they have been a consistent impetus towards thinking and rethinking about how a freer world will be brought about. Indeed, it is interesting to note that the passage comes not from one of the tomes of Austro-libertarian literature (Peden was not a great scholar) but from a 1971 article in The Libertarian Forum magazine, the publication initiated by Peden and Murray N Rothbard in the late 1960s in order to cater for the growing libertarian movement. Its aim at a popular, rather than scholarly audience is more than symbolic, because such an audience provides the key to so much about how to fight for liberty in the real world – and the key to why modern libertarians have struggled with this endeavour.

This is the first part in a series of essays which will attempt to challenge some (unacknowledged) assumptions with regards to the way in which libertarians think about their philosophy, its relationship to political activism, and the criteria for success. What will emerge is not a precise blueprint for political activism, but we can hope to re-orientate our thinking so that the groundwork for a more successful path can be laid. To avoid undue length, we will endeavour to deal with only one major topic in each essay.

In this part, we will deal with the fact that, while most libertarians realise that their philosophy is radically different from political philosophies which use/accommodate/excuse/justify the state, they have been comparatively slow to realise that this radical differentiation should apply also to their political activism. Continue reading

What Libertarianism Is…


…and What it Must Do

 By Duncan Whitmore

Anyone who has taken the time to study in depth the wealth of scholarly literature of Austro-libertarianism cannot help but be enthralled by the intellectual treasures provided by our school of thought. Not only have we uncovered a body of knowledge which – especially in comparison to mainstream social science – is rigorous, scientific, coherent and interdisciplinary, but, as the true successors of classical liberalism, we have an inspiring vision of the future that can sweep away war, conflict, strife and poverty while propelling the human race to unheard of heights of peace and prosperity. Indeed, for many of us Austro-libertarianism has been the most joyous and rewarding discovery of our lives, providing a sheltered harbour in a world which would otherwise leave us adrift in a sea of chaos.

Unfortunately, we are forced to admit that the intellectual accomplishments of Austro-libertarians are disproportionate to our achievements in effecting real world change which, by comparison, are almost miniscule. Although most forms of direct socialism have been discredited by the disaster that was the Soviet Union, we are today living in a world of unprecedented state power which the majority of the population, buoyed by a sense of control instilled by their occasional visits to the ballot box, views as entirely legitimate. It is bad enough that the modern nation state has accreted to itself power and functions that ancient kings and emperors could only dream of; but we are confronted also by a pervasive attitude that any difficulty, problem, error, injustice or whatever that life may choose to throw at us – including our own personal foibles and failings – is always the state’s responsibility to solve. The problems of paper money, the welfare state, boom and bust, public “education”, crippling regulation, disastrous overseas wars and all of the other ills bred by the state are not going to be vanquished when the majority of the public regards this institution as the magic carpet that will whisk us all away to the land of milk and honey. Continue reading

In Praise of Margaret Thatcher


In Praise of Margaret Thatcher

Keir Martland

Margaret Thatcher won the 1979 General Election after the vote of no confidence in Jim Callaghan’s government. Callaghan had not been particularly disastrous as Prime Minister until the winter of 1978/9, the so-called Winter of Discontent. Thatcher then proceeded to transform this country from a largely free one to a largely unfree one.

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An Introduction to Polish Politics: a Casual Stroll through the Lunatic Asylum


Jakub Jankowski

Through this short introduction you will become acquainted with the contemporary, post-Communist Polish political scene. I will not be presenting this in a chronological order of events; rather I will exhibit a more in-depth approach to each party movement individually, presenting their history, achievements, ideals and their relation to other parties and the Polish nation as a whole.

Currently, the Polish political scene is dominated by two major parties, a phenomenon, not too surprising in the western world. The two are called Civic Platform (PO), which has been the ruling party in Poland since 2007, and Law and Justice (PiS), the opposition. These parties did not exist prior to 2000-2001, they have been only in existence for the last 15 years, and both have a similar genesis. They were formed in 2001 out of the ashes of an earlier right-wing coalition of parties raised to combat the post-communist left in the 1997 elections and both of these parties were thought of as being ideologically similar at the time. They went into 2001 general elections separately, but joined forces a year later in local elections as one voting committee – POPiS.

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The unholy trinity: collectivism, sovereignty, corruption


Neil Lock

“Know your enemy,” says the old adage of Sun Tzo. And this idea has, of late, been much troubling liberty lovers. We all agree that, from the point of view of freedom, justice, prosperity and peace, the political tone in Western societies today is bad and getting worse. But can we agree on the causes of this malaise, still less work out what to do about it? That’s hard.

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UKIP: focus on immigration, the EU, and political correctness


Lew Rockwell said, after the failed paleo alliance in the United States, that the main lesson he learned was to “[n]ever trust a politician to represent, much less speak for, an intellectual movement.” He was referring to the former Republican presidential candidate Pat Buchanan. Rothbard and Rockwell had originally supported Buchanan as the only plausible anti-war candidate along with the paleoconservatives, including people like Paul Gottfried. However, during the presidential race, Buchanan began to pontificate on economics, a subject he knew – and still knows – next to nothing about, arguing for tariffs and an expanded welfare state. The paleconservatives were thus given a huge incentive not to learn their economics and instead to fall back on the familiar: the tried and tested policies of import duties to ‘support the workers’ and welfare to ‘support families’.

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