Saturday, July 13, 2013

Libertarianism, Civil Disobedience and Adam Kokesh

From a distance, there is something romantic about a freedom fighter being locked up because of his principles. Something like that type of lock up is being experienced by Adam Kokesh. He was arrested during a police raid on his house in Herndon,Virginia. Rumors are circulating that he may be charged with armed sedition because of a video that he made. Kokesh pushes the envelope and gets in the face of government. He is a principled libertarian from what I can gather. I haven't followed his career close enough to know how he stands on every issue, but from what I have seen of his commentary, I don't have any objections to his being considered a libertarian. That said, the in the face of government method to bring liberty to the world is not going to be one that will be practiced by every libertarian---and it shouldn't.

Indeed, the libertarian that stands alone directly in the face of modern day government is likely to be taken down just like Kokesh was. It's a different period from when Henry David Thoreau was thrown in jail. There were no storm troopers, flash grenades or isolated cells in Thoreau's time. Thoreau was only in jail for one day and night. He reports on his stay this way:
The night in prison was novel and interesting enough. The prisoners in their shirt-sleeves were enjoying a chat and the evening air in the doorway, when I entered. But the jailer said, “Come, boys, it is time to lock up”; and so they dispersed, and I heard the sound of their steps returning into the hollow apartments. My room-mate was introduced to me by the jailer as “a first-rate fellow and a clever man.” When the door was locked, he showed me where to hang my hat, and how he managed matters there. The rooms were whitewashed once a month; and this one, at least, was the whitest, most simply furnished, and probably the neatest apartment in the town. [...]

He occupied one window, and I the other; and I saw that if one stayed there long, his principal business would be to look out the window. I had soon read all the tracts that were left there, and examined where former prisoners had broken out, and where a grate had been sawed off, and heard the history of the various occupants of that room; for I found that even here there was a history and a gossip which never circulated beyond the walls of the jail. Probably this is the only house in the town where verses are composed, which are afterward printed in a circular form, but not published. I was shown quite a long list of verses which were composed by some young men who had been detected in an attempt to escape, who avenged themselves by singing them.

I pumped my fellow-prisoner as dry as I could, for fear I should never see him again; but at length he showed me which was my bed, and left me to blow out the lamp.

It was like travelling into a far country, such as I had never expected to behold, to lie there for one night. It seemed to me that I never had heard the town-clock strike before, nor the evening sounds of the village; for we slept with the windows open, which were inside the grating. It was to see my native village in the light of the Middle Ages, and our Concord was turned into a Rhine stream, and visions of knights and castles passed before me. They were the voices of old burghers that I heard in the streets. I was an involuntary spectator and auditor of whatever was done and said in the kitchen of the adjacent village-inn — a wholly new and rare experience to me. It was a closer view of my native town. I was fairly inside of it. I never had seen its institutions before. This is one of its peculiar institutions; for it is a shire town. I began to comprehend what its inhabitants were about.

In the morning, our breakfasts were put through the hole in the door, in small oblong-square tin pans, made to fit, and holding a pint of chocolate, with brown bread, and an iron spoon. When they called for the vessels again, I was green enough to return what bread I had left; but my comrade seized it, and said that I should lay that up for lunch or dinner. Soon after he was let out to work at haying in a neighboring field, whither he went every day, and would not be back till noon; so he bade me good-day, saying that he doubted if he should see me again.
This is what Kokesh reported to his father about his experience:
Adam was able to make a call to his father. His father thinks that Adam may not be allowed to make another call anytime soon.

Adam wants a lawyer. He has requested access to a lawyer constantly since being caged. He refuses to go to court without a lawyer. Adam’s manager, Lucas Jewell, is working on getting him trusted counsel ASAP. 
Adam is being held in solitary confinement in a 6.5′ x 7.5′ cage without bedding. He was kidnapped while wearing shorts and has not been given proper clothing to protect him from the frigid temperatures that have become standard operating procedure in America’s prisons.

Adam reports via his father that the cage he has been locked into is infested with ants. Furthermore, the lights are kept on by the guards 24 hours per day without any break for rest.
It's hard for me to object too strongly to a man who is willing to go to jail to promote liberty for me. However, words come to mind that it is reported General George S Patton spoke to his troops:
 No bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making the other poor dumb bastard die for his country.
Something of the same can be said to the person fighting for liberty, who gets locked up, especially for a long time, in the slammer. You don't really win the battle by government making life difficult for you, you win the battle by making life difficult for government.

There are a lot of ways to do this. Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich von Hayek and Murray Rothbard did huge amounts of work to irritate the state, without getting locked up. Though all three are deceased, their writings continue, to this day, to irritate the state by educating people about the evils of state power.

Drug dealers and other black market operators break down state power. These operators do face risk of response from the state, but for the most part they stay down low and try to avoid the state.

We will no doubt see much activity in the future from cyber-warriors, who will attempt to shield their identities from the state as they irritate the state.

In short, in the fight for liberty, there is a division of labor. Much can be done without direct in your face confrontation of the state. The in your face method may have some value, but it is limited. The Kokesh arrest may teach us a bit more of how aggressive the states can be when it wants to be, and his arrest can also serve as a rallying point ( A rallying point as long as the message of the arrest is that many of our liberties are at stake and I am not so certain that is in the message in the Kokesh case, in general, it appears that MSM wants to portray him as just a "gun activist") , but it is certainly not the only way to fight for liberty.

An artist, filmmaker or writer with just one creative insight may do a lot to advance liberty, as may economists, journalists and those that build libertarian institutions, all by simply doing what they are good at. Ron Paul, in his unique way, has done incredible amounts to spread the word of liberty.

Kokesh appears to be one tough dude and he probably has a make-up that makes it easier for him to confront the state head on, than the type of make-up that most of the rest of us have. But, even if we all had his make up and challenged the state with in your face action, we would simply all end up in jail cells. The government has the police power which allows them to be the winners in direct confrontations.

For most of us, Mises, Hayek, Rothbard, and institution builders like Leonard Read and novelists like Ayn Rand, are better role models than Kokesh, though I appreciate the effort Kokesh is putting out to advance liberty.

In other words, do your thing, find your niche, but try to avoid getting arrested.  It's about irritating the state, not the other way around.


A friend points out to me that the state loves the Adam Kokesh type protests. It is an opportunity for the state to promote the idea that all libertarians are in your face (with guns) drugged out crazies. The state's involvement in pushing guns on the Blank Panthers should not be lost on libertarians at this time. It was an FBI informant who helped the Panthers obtain guns and trained them on how to use the weapons.

The San Francisco Chronicle points out:
One of the Bay Area's most prominent radical activists of the era, Richard Masato Aoki was known as a fierce militant who touted his street-fighting abilities. He was a member of several radical groups before joining and arming the Panthers, whose members received international notoriety for brandishing weapons during patrols of the Oakland police and a protest at the state Capitol...

But unbeknownst to his fellow activists, Aoki had served as an FBI intelligence informant, covertly filing reports on a wide range of Bay Area political groups, according to the bureau agent who recruited him.
I am not attempting to suggest that Kokesh is an agent provocateur, but the state just loves street-fighting militants. As I write above, the battle is not going to be won in street fights with a government that has overpowering military strength, it can only be done by influencing the hearts and minds of the people that liberty is the way to go.


  1. This is so true. I love Adam to death but he should not have had drugs IN HIS house. This is just asking for trouble. I'm so scared that the gov. will make an example of him and crush him with the media completely abandoning him and vilifying him. You can not fight as well when you are in a cage.

  2. The state's vicious response against Kokesh definitely seems like revenge for his political activities. I read he's facing 12 years in jail. 10 for possession of psychadelic mushrooms plus 2 for the shotgun. In history, many political writers have been incarcerated, so it's always a risk whenever you criticize those in power.

  3. Good points all, Mr. Wenzel, and well stated. Poking the monster is not a recommended practice and accomplishes nothing other than to bring the monster out of hiding and check his temperature. This is certainly valuable information for the rest of us but highly dangerous for the poker.

  4. From the reports I read, Kokesh was expecting to be arrested. Either he was an idiot to possess drugs or they were planted by the cops.

  5. I am not attempting to suggest that Kokesh is an agent provocateur, but the state just loves street-fighting militants. As I write above, the battle is not going to be won in street fights with a government that has overpowering military strength, it can only be done by influencing the hearts and minds of the people that liberty is the way to go.

    And that is indeed the bottom line, it's a battle for peoples minds.
    Most enlightened Americans are aware that 'freedom' is an illusion on so many levels in the USA that it basically does not exist at all. You are free to behave in ways that are approved by the state. But once the state has its eyes on you, Don't give them an excuse to use their Nazi techniques on you.

    The methods used on Adam are basically the same employed by Nazi Germany, break down a door with an army of programmed to kill human robots.

    He needs to get out of there, make bail, and continue his fight. The bogus drug charge should have a probation sentence since he can take 'diversion'. (ya I know its stupid but you have to play the game the way those in control want you to play it)

    Adam is gonna have to play nice, at least until he gets out of the state sponsored cage.

  6. This is a very wise blog post. Thank you.

  7. Robert, you have captured the right balance with this post. Very well done.

  8. Civil disobedience can work if you have enough people do it all at once. Remember when 2m people protested in DC? If they sat down and said we're not leaving until you lower taxes, balance the budget, stop borrowing, and close down all bases overseas, that would of worked.