There is no doubt that when it comes to freedom, the situation in America is not good. Ever since I founded FFF some 31 years ago, our lives as welfare-warfare serfs has gotten progressively worse, year after year.
One option, of course, is to give up. Just surrender and accept our serfdom as a permanent condition and work to improve it.
That’s what libertarian reformers have done. Long ago, they concluded that the federal government was simply too big and too powerful. They saw that popular sentiment favored the welfare state and the national-security state. If they were to be “players,” they felt that they needed to accept the inevitability.
So, they decided to settle for reform. Social Security “privatization.” Health-savings accounts. School vouchers. Regulatory reform. Welfare reform. Pentagon reform. CIA reform. NSA reform. FISA court reform. Drug war reform. Immigration reform. Selective foreign interventionism. Getting libertarian-oriented conservatives in charge of regulatory commissions. And more.
That’s all fine and good in terms of possibly improving our lives as serfs. But it’s not freedom because freedom entails the elimination of infringements on liberty, not their reform. Reform keeps the infringements intact, albeit in reformed fashion.
Consider slavery. One approach in 1855 would have been to advocate reform. Fewer lashings. Shorter work hours. Better food and health care.
Those slavery reforms would have meant a better way of life for the slaves. But it wouldn’t have meant freedom. For freedom, one would have to dismantle, not reform, the structure of slavery.
It’s the same for our serfdom. Reform might improve our condition as serfs. But to achieve liberty — genuine liberty — it is necessary to dismantle, not reform, the structure of serfdom.
Consider the Covid-19 pandemic. For the last year, conservatives and libertarian reformers have complained vociferously about the mandatory lockdowns, mask mandates, shortages, and talk of vaccine passports. What their laments have amounted to, however, is that the federal government has mismanaged the crisis. They feel that it should have been managed in a different way.
Recently, I read an article about a guy who, given that the lockdowns and mask mandates have been lifted, now feels he is “free.” He isn’t. It’s just that his serfdom has improved.
With respect to healthcare, to achieve a free society there is an essential prerequisite: we have to completely get government out of healthcare. In other words, a separation of healthcare and the state, just as our ancestors separated church and state.
Therefore, freedom — genuine freedom — necessarily entails not a better functioning Centers for Disease Control or FDA. Freedom requires the abolition of these agencies and all other central planning healthcare agencies. Reform just doesn’t cut it if you want freedom.
But healthcare freedom involves much more than that. It also requires the repeal, not the reform, of Medicare and Medicaid, two major socialist programs that libertarian reformers are unfortunately loathe to advocate repealing.
Health-savings accounts are nothing more than a reform measure that assume the continued existence of Medicare and Medicaid. Such accounts are intended to provide people with a means to ameliorate the adverse consequences of these two socialist programs. But by leaving Medicare and Medicaid in existence, libertarian reformers resign themselves to defeat in the fight for freedom.
Sure, things are bad when it comes to liberty, and, yes, they are getting worse. There is no doubt about that. But one never knows what tomorrow will bring. Things can turn on a dime. But it all depends on arriving at a sufficiently large number of people who understand what freedom really is and who passionately want it. Advocating reform will not bring us that critical mass of people. To achieve liberty, libertarians have to stand for liberty and advocate it in a principled way without fear or compromise.