Regardless of who ends up winning the presidential election, the question that naturally arises is: Where do we libertarians go from here? What are the chances of a free society given that there are obviously so many statists living in our country? Should we just throw in the towel and surrender to despair and depression? Should we throw our lot in with the reform-libertarians who long ago decided to devote their lives to reforming the welfare-welfare state and simply call their reforms “free market” and “libertarian”?
In 1890, Americans lived in a society without income taxation, the IRS, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, farm subsidies, education grants, Pentagon, CIA, NSA, FBI, drug laws, immigration controls, economic regulations, occupational licensure, minimum wage, foreign interventionism, coups, torture, foreign military bases, indefinite detention, state-sponsored assassinations, kidnappings, and bribery, Federal Reserve, fiat (i.e., paper) money, and other statism under which we live today.
Imagine being a statist in that society. Imagine the temptation to surrender to despair and depression. How would they ever get Americans to give up that way of life in favor of a statist system that has all of those features and more?
Yet, the statists persisted. They believed in what they were doing. They understood the power of ideas to influence people. In a relatively short period of time, statists began moving America in their direction — in the direction of socialism, interventionism, and empire. By the time the 1930s had arrived, they had succeeded.
That is precisely what we libertarians can do, in the opposite direction. One advantage we have is that Americans can see the consequences of the welfare-warfare state that both conservatives and progressives have foisted upon us and our country. They can easily see the perpetual crisis, chaos, conflict, fear, mistrust, and disharmony.
There is one way out of this statist morass, and that way is libertarianism.
However, there is a siren’s song involved here, one that libertarians need to avoid succumbing to. That siren’s song is reform. For decades the libertarian movement has become filled with disgruntled conservatives who have brought their statist baggage with them into the libertarian movement. Their modus is “reform, reform, reform.” Employing such mantras as “free market approaches” to statist woes, their motif is to advocate welfare-warfare state reforms and simply call them “freedom,” “free market,” and “libertarian.”
One example among many: “health-savings accounts.” The reformers are fierce advocates of this “free-market approach” to healthcare. They say that the adoption of this healthcare reform will mean “freedom” and “free enterprise” for America. They call it “libertarian.”
They are wrong. Health-savings accounts are just a statist healthcare reform that is billed as “free market” and “libertarian.” The adoption of health-savings accounts will mean nothing insofar as genuine freedom is concerned.
What the reform or conservative-oriented segment of the libertarian movement just doesn’t get (or doesn’t want to get) is that freedom — genuine freedom — necessarily entails the removal, not the reform, of infringements on liberty. At most, reform can improve the lot of a slave or serf, but it’s not freedom.
In the healthcare arena, that necessarily means a complete separation of healthcare and the state, just as in the religion area freedom necessarily means a complete separation of church and state.
If statists could influence Americans to go in a statist direction, we libertarians can influence our fellow Americans to go in the direction of liberty. In order to do that, we must reject the siren’s song of “free-market” reform that pervades the libertarian movement and raise people’s vision to a higher level by making the principled case for liberty.