Thursday, July 3, 2014

"The Secret of Liberty is Not Revolution"

By Robert Wenzel

Gary North is out with a short essay, There Will Be No Revolution. I am tempted to call it the most important essay on advancing liberty since Friedrich Hayek's The Intellectuals and Socialism, perhaps even more important.

I have long argued here at EPJ that direct confrontation with the government makes little sense. I have also argued that the problem with most revolutions is that generally what occurs is that one bad actor is simply replaced with another.

North in his essay argues that this is the nature of revolution. He writes:
Revolutions centralize power. In order to fight centralized power militarily, you must centralize power, and this only leads to a shift of loyalty to a new group of centralists....
Revolutionaries have to have a centralized agenda. Either it's open, or it isn't. But there is always a centralized agenda with every revolutionary movement. Every revolutionary always thinks his revolution is going to be the last one. Every revolutionary thinks that when he gets in control of the hierarchical chain of command, things are going to be different. Yes, they will be different. There will be a different set of looters skimming off the productivity of the victims.
Until conservatives stop dreaming about capturing existing hierarchical systems of power, nothing is going to change.
He also argues that the true path to liberty is not via revolution, that is direct confrontation with the government via another group of centralized operators, but by secession from the government:
 With massive decentralization, there comes, not revolution, but secession. I don't mean secession like the secession of the American South, which was just another way to centralize power in the South. The governor of Georgia, Joe Brown, saw that one for what it was. It was just another group of armed revolutionaries seeking to centralize power in the region they wanted to control...

You don't need a revolution to escape the system. You need secession. You need a withdrawal of support for the existing systems. You need to revoke the legitimacy which you extended to these organizations. You need to do it, and everybody else needs to do it. Nobody organizes this. People just learn, scandal by scandal, bureaucratic snafu by bureaucratic snafu, that the system is irreparable. It cannot be reformed. It must not be captured. It must be de-funded. The secret of liberty is not revolution; the secret of liberty is to de-fund the existing centralized order.
North's observations here are extremely important. They provide an important understanding of how we can get from where we are to a libertarian society.

My one disagreement with North comes with regard to how close we are to a secessionist movement that changes society. He seems to be quite optimistic that it is already starting. My view is that while there may be pockets where secessionist type decentralization is developing, it is far from an overwhelming force. More people need to have the instinct to withdraw "support of the existing systems." Yes, perhaps it can evolve on its own, but this may take a very, very long time, if at all---the problem is that there are still too many people who see government and/or revolution as the answer. There is nothing wrong with attempting to speed up the secession process by getting the message out that the current system is irreparable, that revolutions don't work, and that withdrawal of support of centralized power, i.e., the government, is the answer.

Further discussion of North's observations combined with discussion of Hayek's observations on the nature of the dissemination of ideas, and the questions and problems he raises, can probably do more to help us understand how to move toward liberty than anything else we can do.

Robert Wenzel is Editor & Publisher of and author of The Fed Flunks: My Speech at the New York Federal Reserve Bank.


  1. We may not be close to secession, but how many people in 1991 foresaw the dissolution of the Soviet Union?

    When millions of people suddenly withdrew their consent, *poof.* Gone! It was neither secession or revolution, but spontaneous order.

    People can spontaneously form a "market" to discover unexpected means of withdrawing consent, much in the same way that people spontaneously form a market to discover unexpected uses of the internet.

    And now we have them both, which the Soviets did not. History doesn't repeat, but it does rhyme!

    1. I agree. Anyone studying the USSR in 1990-91 and applying ABCT would probably see it coming a mile away, but still unable to predict the time. We are in a similar situation. The majority are dissatisfied with the status quo, from many perspectives. Add high inflation, arrogant officials, indifferent and ignorant's an explosive combination.

  2. But how do you decentralize, secede and defund? Need some good examples.

  3. Secession and decentralization begins with individual action, personal subjective choice. In addition to avoiding direct confrontation with the state, one can avoid direct & indirect interaction with the state. I don't need to "grow" my business in order to enjoy a happy, successful and fulfilling life; its made even more enjoyable avoiding the countless gangster-state interventions upon production and employment contracts. The same can be asserted regarding consumption. One is limited only by their own imagination and subjective preference rankings when choosing to secede & decentralize.

  4. "The true path to liberty is not via revolution, that is direct confrontation with the government via another group of centralized operators, but by secession from the government..."

    But what if the government won't let you secede?

    1. "But what if the government won't let you secede?"

      The underlying blessing to the economic misery government causes is that it becomes an aid to secession...government that doesn't have the ability to pay for enforcement of its edicts becomes impotent.