In order for people to achieve a genuinely free society, there has to be a critical mass of people who understand it and who are passionately committed to achieving it.
So, how do we arrive at that critical mass?
It is rare that a person conceives of an original concept all on his own. In order for most people to start thinking about a concept, they must first hear or read about it from someone else.
Some might immediately recognize the virtues and merits of the concept and immediately accept it. Others might resist it and only come to accept it after some period of questioning, doubting, and reflecting on the concept.
To induce enough people to embrace the concept and devote themselves to achieving it, it is necessary for people who already embrace the concept to continually introduce it into the marketplace of ideas. In that way, it stands a chance of finding those people who are naturally disposed toward the concept and end up embracing it. The number of such people will then hopefully increase over time until a critical mass is reached that will transform society.
Consider, for example, the concept of freedom of religion. For centuries, the state controlled religion. It was just considered the natural thing to do. Then along came someone who proposed a separation of church and state — i.e., the end of all governmental involvement in religion.
People were shocked over such a strange notion. Most people summarily rejected it. But over time, a critical mass of people thought about it, accepted it, and committed themselves to achieving it.
By the time the United States was founded, most Americans were passionate advocates of religious liberty. That’s why we have the First Amendment, which prohibits the federal government from involving itself in religion.
There is something important to note though: If advocates of religious liberty had settled for reforming the state church system, it is a virtual certainty that religious liberty would never have been attained. That’s because advocating reform would have caused people to think about reforming the system rather than the separation of church and state. The most that would have been achieved, therefore, would have been a reformed state church system.
The principle is the same with economic liberty. Today, we live in a society in which the federal government wields the authority to control and regulate economic activity.
One option is to advocate reform. But that won’t get us economic liberty — i.e., a separation of economy and the state, a system where economic enterprise is free of governmental regulation and control. To reach a critical mass of people who embrace economic liberty, we need to be making the case for economic liberty rather than the case for economic reform.
We also live in a society in which the federal government wields the authority to take money from those who have it and give it to others. Examples: Social Security and other welfare-state programs.
Again, one option is reform — Social Security reform, welfare reform, etc. That might conceivably improve America’s welfare-state economic system. But it’s not freedom. Freedom entails the separation of charity and the state — i.e., the end of all governmental involvement in charitable activities.
Another example: education. We live under a system where the state controls education. One option is to advocate reform, such as school vouchers. But to achieve freedom, we need to make the case for separating school and state, just as our ancestors made the case for separating church and state.
One final example: Healthcare. We live under Medicare and Medicaid, the Centers for Disease Control, and other federal agencies that pertain to healthcare. We can devote our efforts to adopting health-savings accounts or to replacing federal healthcare officials with free-market-oriented conservatives. To achieve freedom, however, we need to separate healthcare and state — i.e., end all governmental involvement in healthcare. That necessarily means the abolition, not the reform, of Medicare, Medicaid, the Centers for Disease Control, and other federal agencies that deal with healthcare. That means we need to be making the case for healthcare liberty.
Of course, even if there are lots of people advocating genuine liberty, there is no guarantee that enough people will embrace it to reach the critical mass necessary to its adoption. But it is the only chance there is for doing so. That’s why we libertarians must continue making the case for genuine liberty to our fellow Americans. No guarantees, but standing fast for liberty is what enables us to have the chance of ultimately achieving our goal.