As America plunges deeper into the darkness of welfare-warfare statism, the question naturally arises: How are we libertarians going to achieve freedom?
Of course, the preliminary question is: Is it possible to achieve a genuinely free society? Have things gotten so bad that we should just give up and resign ourselves to simply reforming the welfare-warfare state serfdom under which we live — and just call it freedom?
The answer is: Of course it is possible, and, no, we should never give up.
If the American people in 1890, for example, could live a society in which there was no Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, public housing, welfare, income taxation, Federal Reserve, fiat money, Pentagon, CIA, NSA, FBI, military-industrial complex, national-security state, drug laws, public schooling, immigration controls, minimum-wage laws, and much more, then it’s possible to restore that type of foundation and build on it.
In order to accomplish that, we need a critical mass of Americans who understand what freedom really is and who want to live in a genuinely free society.
That necessarily means identifying all of the infringements on liberty (including, but not limited, to the ones listed above), and then making the case to people for removing, dismantling, or repealing them.
If we leave the infringements intact and simply reform them, as the reform-oriented segment of the libertarian movement advocates, we will not be achieving freedom, any more than reforming slavery would have meant freedom for slaves. To achieve freedom for slaves, people had to dismantle the structure of slavery. To achieve our freedom, we have to dismantle the structure of serfdom under which we live.
Throw in the towel?
Long ago, many conservative, reform-oriented libertarians decided that striving for liberty was just too difficult. They concluded that that while Americans would accept reform of welfare-warfare state programs, they would never accept their repeal or dismantling. Thus, they devoted their efforts to advancing reform-oriented programs like Social Security “privatization,” health-savings accounts, school vouchers, selective foreign interventionism, surveillance reform, drug war reform, regulatory reform, military reform, CIA reform, and various other types of reform. They also devoted themselves to getting libertarian-oriented conservatives into public office, including in regulatory positions.
There is no doubt that making the case for freedom is much more difficult than making the case for reform. With freedom, you are asking people to adopt an entirely new paradigm. With reform, you’re telling people that their paradigm will be kept intact and will be made to work more efficiently.
Again, however, if you want the genuinely free society, you need to remove, not reform, the infringements that are preventing freedom. In order to reach the critical mass of people understanding and wanting freedom, people have to hear what freedom entails and why it’s worth striving for.
For example, if all that people hear is how school vouchers are going to improve the public schooling system, then they will never consider the idea of separating school and state, which is what the genuinely free society requires. By making the case for separating school and state, people are challenged to think at a higher level — at the level of freedom, not reform.
Consider the Covid-19 pandemic. Reform-oriented libertarians can spend all day long making the case against government lockdowns and mask mandates. But that’s just reforming how the state addresses this particular healthcare crisis. The genuinely free society involves the separation of healthcare and the state, which necessarily entails the end of all governmental involvement in healthcare, including the repeal of Medicare and Medicaid and the dismantling of the Centers for Disease Control and the FDA.
Of course, there are no guarantees that a critical mass of Americans can be arrived at. But after many decades of libertarians making the principled case for liberty, we might be closer to our goal than we think. One thing is for sure: The more libertarians there are advocating freedom instead of reform, the closer we get to our goal of living in a genuinely free society.