Friday, March 14, 2014

FEE: "A willingness to 'play the game' is absolutely vital if the liberty movement has any hope."

My, my, the Foundation for Economic Education has moved a great distance from the ideas of the founder Leonard Read. Read abhorred political action of any kind and consider self study the only method of correct advancement of the liberty philosophy. He once said:
What I wish critically to scrutinize here is an attitude of mind that finds expression in the all-too-common questions, "How can I insinuate my ideas into so-and-so's thinking?" or "How can I reach the masses?" Liberty will never prosper at the hands of such supporters, for their method is at fault; it is the opposite of what is required. Perhaps I can put it another way: their eye is cast in the wrong direction. The very first question in exploring sound methodology is, in which direction or at what should the eye be cast? The answer is to be found in one's major premise or basic datum line or fundamental point of reference — and nowhere else...

Were reforming the masses a possibility — which it is not — success would spell disaster. No individual can ever be secure in his libertarian beliefs except as the philosophy of liberty and the imperatives of liberty are an outgrowth of his own developing intellectual and spiritual faculties. What cannot be done to inspire, attract, and draw out that growth should be discarded as not only useless, but downright harmful.

Once an individual who would advance liberty has settled on self-perfection as correct method, the first fact to bear in mind is that ours is not a numbers problem. Were it necessary to bring a majority into a comprehension of the libertarian philosophy, the cause of liberty would be utterly hopeless. Every significant movement in history has been led by one or just a few individuals with a small minority of energetic supporters. The leaders have come from strange and odd places; they could not have been predicted ahead of time. One, I recall, was born in a manger. Another, the leader of a bad movement, was an Austrian paperhanger...

Perhaps a better way to express the power of attraction thesis is: go only where called, but do everything within one's power to qualify to be called. I refer to more than calls for lectures or seminars. Wait for the call from friend or foe, even from one's husband or wife or business associate. If you are a source of light, which is your responsibility, and if another is seeking light, which is his responsibility, count on it, you will be called...

If the attention is focused on individual growth and emergence, there is only one appropriate question: Am I working as diligently and as intelligently on advancing my own understanding as possible? If the answer is affirmative, then draw the obvious conclusion: managing the shape of humanity is God's, not my, problem...

The sole force that will turn indifference into acceptance is the power of attraction. And this can be achieved only if the eye is cast away from the remaking of others and toward the improvement of self. This, as an aim, is in harmony with personal and human evolution; the effort demanded of each individual is not a sacrifice, but the best investment one can make in life's highest purpose.
The current edition of FEE's house organ, The Freeman has this view, which is about as far away from Read's view as you can get:
If you’re involved or even interested in politics and haven’t heard about House of Cards, then it’s likely that neither you nor your friends own a TV, a tablet, or a smart phone.
The series, one of Netflix’s new in-house productions, portrays the ruthless, power-hungry politician Frank Underwood. In addition to its critical acclaim, it has become a staple in the conversations of political activists everywhere. Watching as a libertarian, Underwood's nearly every action is reprehensible. He acts solely to increase his own power, never shying away from doing immoral things, and he consistently pushes legislation that increases the scope of government. He is a libertarian nightmare. And yet we can’t help but be entranced by him.
But what if Frank Underwood was a libertarian? At first thought, the idea is a complete paradox. His blatant acts of aggression and his vision of power as an end rather than a means are contradictory to the underlying principles of libertarianism. Yet if Underwood viewed power as a means to accomplish libertarian policies rather than an end to satisfy personal desires, it wouldn’t be so easy to despise him. A plethora of valid critiques can be launched at him, but it is indisputable that he has a talent for getting things done...

Envisioning a figure like a libertarian Frank Underwood makes it clear what the impact of a master politician who pursues libertarian legislation could be. This isn’t to suggest that all libertarians must attempt to emulate Underwood or that those in politics should try to mold themselves into replicas of him. But questions about purity—doctrinal or otherwise—rarely touch on how the sausage gets made. At some point, some libertarians are going to have to get their hands dirty...

The extent to which a libertarian Frank Underwood deserves our support has no simple answer, but it’s a question we have to ask ourselves as we begin to aspire to political offices. In any case, we cannot dispute that a willingness to “play the game” is absolutely vital if the liberty movement has any hope of moving out of the Internet’s basement and into the statute books.

Yikes, gain political power to kill political power? It doesn't work that way. The lefty radical Saul Alinsky understood that power seeking changes a person. In Rules for Radicals, he wrote:
Two examples would be the priest who wants to be a bishop and bootlicks and politicks his way up, justifying it with the rationale, “After I get to be bishop I’ll use my office for Christian reformation,” or the businessman who reasons, “First I’ll make my million and after that I’ll go for the real things in life.” Unfortunately one changes in many ways on the road to the bishopric or the first million, and then one says, “I’ll wait until I’m a cardinal and then I can be more effective,” or, “I can do a lot more after I get two million”—and so it goes...In this world irrationality clings to man like his shadow so that right things are done for wrong reasons--afterwawards, we drudge up the right reasons for justifications. It is a world not of angels but of angles, where men speak of moral principles but act on power principles...


  1. Regarding FEE and the House of Cards, Alice (from "Looking Glass" fame) offered her commentary:

  2. Sounds like The Freeman has penned a pre-emptive apologia for a presumptive Rand Paul presidency.

  3. Bob - Two things on this. The ad atop of your page is for Murray Sabrin for Senate in NJ. Knowing Murray the way I do, I can attest that he is seeking power to dismantle it.

    Secondly, I do not think there is anyone in the liberty movement that believes Ron Paul's legacy as a congressman nor his campaigns for president were anything but ultra positive for the cause.

    There is a case to be made for the attainment of power in order to decimate that same power. I recall being asked by a friend during the 2012 GOP primary to identify the single biggest difference between Ron Paul and the other GOP thugs. I answered that Ron was the only person on that stage that would eradicate most of the power that he won immediatley after being elected.

    You have to be the ultimate optimist to believe that if we sit back and let them destroy our freedoms that we will somehow come out the other side for the better. For this reason I applaud and support the true believers in liberty that are willing to step in the ring and fight the power hungry mongrels on their turf.

    1. "You have to be the ultimate optimist to believe that if we sit back and let them destroy our freedoms that we will somehow come out the other side for the better."

      I think what the Ron Paul campaign demonstrated is that there is no way to win ethically on a national scale, where the power gained would be enough to effect actual change. The choice IMO is try to "out lie the liars" in your attempt to win, in which case Read's commentary is every bit as relevant today as it was then. If you attempt such a thing, it would be almost impossible to not become what you once set out to destroy, which is different from the type of campaign strategy Sabrin is trying to employ.

      In fact, I could easily suggest we are seeing another candidate do that very thing(trying to out lie the liars) and we are watching him lose his soul in the process.

      The value in Ron Paul's national campaigns in retrospect was the education/eye opening to the small minority willing to receive it. Starting in 06' I photographed his blimp in my home town, attended rally's, donated money, talked to radio stations, etc., I did the same in for his 12' run..but with far less vigor because I had already detected that the powers in control would never RP attain success(as demonstrated by Iowa).

      I have learned the lesson, I'm not interested in proving out the definition of "madness" any more. Those open received the message during that time, they continue to work and develop themselves after being set on the right course.

      Joining the mafia to defeat the mafia is futile. Sometimes people have to learn lessons the hard way. like yet another financial collapse, social unrest, etc. Maybe humanity is doomed to repeat that film reel over and over again...Mencken thought so for good reason. But also, there's the POSSIBILITY that with enough education & understanding that the sheeple come around. How many people from communist shit holes have you talked to that understand economics pretty well?(the ones that left that is!) Regardless, there's a reason Cato too has lost its soul and it's not because they've stuck to principle.

    2. Ron Paul didn't act like Frank Underwood.

      Yes, he was in office, but he certainly didn't play games in order to win more power or achieve political goals.

      As his opposition loves/loved to point out, he barely had any bills passed while in congress.

      The FEE article, however, is explicitly talking about playing the game in order to get laws put into statue. Not the same thing at all.

    3. "There is a case to be made for the attainment of power in order to decimate that same power."

      Nonsense. The only reason the Ron Paul campaign was positive is because of its educational value. A Ron Paul presidency would have been a 4 year stall of statist politics at best, and damaging to the libertarian cause at worst because of the various problems that would be ascribed to his presidency and to libertarianism as an extension. Imagine if a terrorist attack took place with Ron Paul in office. First of all the fact that it COULD take place would be ascribed to his presidency and to libertarianism, and the fact that Ron Paul would not strike back forcefully at any country would then also be ascribed to him and libertarianism. Americans in general would be foaming at the mouth because of libertarianism in the white house, even though the terrorist attack would be blowback from previous eras and policies.
      Imagine all the strikes, and possibly riots that would be taking place as Ron Paul would slash government department (and employees) after another.

      You have to be the ultimate optimist that a system that has basically always - all throughout history - been used to usurp rights and freedoms can be turned against itself. You have to be the ultimate optimist to think that politics can be the answer rather than the problem. It is based on NOTHING in terms of logic or evidence.

      Society is a statist mess and it is not going to be cleaned up by a single libertarian president. The only thing that will make a positive, long lasting change is a change in mentality in more and more people. You will not see a libertarian society in your lifetime. Deal with it. It took about 200 years to go from what the founding fathers erected to what America is now, even with all the pro-big government politicians. It will likely take longer than that to make it libertarian.

      For Ron Paul or any libertarian to become president, is like making a libertarian the captain of the Titanic after its already hit the iceberg and is sinking.

      As anonymous (March 14, 2014 at 10:34 AM) said, this system simply needs to collapse. And hopefully people will be receptive as to why it happened.

    4. Education itself decimates that power. That you are resigned to suffer through the mindless dictacts of the oppressors is hardly encouraging. Further, if Ron paul was correct in his assertion that the terror attacks are caused by our overt militarism, and a Ron paul paul presidency would end overt militarism, why pray tell, would terrorist attack the USA under Ron Paul's watch?

  4. One does not defeat evil by sinning. Those who believe they can kill the devil with his own pitchfork are delusional.

    Evil is self-liquidating; it can never increase prosperity. The task of the good man is to simply keep breathing in and out longer than the bad guys, and withhold his fruits from those who would take them where possible. This strategy, consistently applied over time, will grind the evil into dust.

    If our philosophy of non-aggression is indeed what we believe it to be, we need do nothing but live it in our own lives to achieve the change we wish to see. We will never convince the high priests of the state to repent, but when the next generation sees the contrast between our way of life and the statists' way, I am confident they will choose our way, if only because it achieves greater material prosperity and less stressed lives.

  5. Nothing new here: One of Roy Childs' favorite expressions was: "If the end does not justify the means, what does?" Leonard Read, on the other hand said something along the lines of: "The nature of the means determines the nature of the end." Rothbard took a middle of the road position on this apparent conflict and criticized both views as a deviation from the plumb line, but his willingness to engage in coalition building with non-libertarians and his explicit criticism of Read's grade-school version of economics would suggest that he shaded a bit toward Childs. This, I believe, was error. But there is plenty of room for both approaches.

    1. I find it ironic you mention Roy Childs, since he ended up embracing politics and rejecting anarcho-capitalism.

    2. Remember this one fact: Childs was paid to do so. And Read, a prodigious fundraiser, may very well have found it to his interest to take the approach he did. Read got in big trouble with his industrial supporters in openly denouncing the Korean War and never made that sort of mistake again. The golden rule in action. It is sometimes the easy way out to be "above politics."

    3. "Remember this one fact: Childs was paid to do so."

      Well of course. That's what makes it even worse. I may think it's stupid but i at least can respect someone who rejects anarchism out of conviction.

      "Read got in big trouble with his industrial supporters in openly denouncing the Korean War and never made that sort of mistake again. The golden rule in action."

      No the golden rule is that if you don't want your country to be attacked, don't attack theirs either. Read was right the first time. The only thing this proves is that a man with principles and a conscience should steer clear of a political career. Because when people give you money, what they expect to have bought is you.

  6. In a larger context, it's always better to engage, no matter the method.
    Take for example, the Judges appearance on the Daily Show:
    Even the most dim-witted lefty would see that it was all stacked against him. One would hope that the inate American sympathy for the underdog would be aroused by that. Next, maybe some of the statements about Lincoln would sink in. Maybe questions would arise, leading to enlightenment?
    I know, I've become a better libertarian through exposure to RP and Rothbard, and Woods, etc.
    RP won those elections, believe me.

    1. The kind of people that watch the Daily Show are the kind of people that were no doubt amused by seeing some libertarian ganged up on and put in his place.

      You were exposed to RP, Rothbard and Woods. Were these three engaged by the likes of Jon Stewart in an obvious trap?

    2. I used to be a lefty soft-statist (I grew up in and still live in Massachusetts) and used to be one of those people who poo-pooed libertarians/ small govt types. However I was converted after hearing Ron Paul and being exposed to his ideas. Just exposing people to these ideas is a great start and might get people thinking. Until Ron Paul's 1st campaign I didn't know anything about libertarianism, and only learned a few years ago about how awful Lincoln was. So I think education is key and I actually think the Judge's appearance on the Daily Show was a positive.

  7. The end does not justify means that contradict the end.