"Too Late For a Political Solution?"

The following post was composed in reply to one Charlotte Meador, whose post to misc.activism.militia (Wed, 24 Apr 96 22:18:21 GMT) solicited "thoughts".

I had a few to spare...so I did.

Charlotte Meador wrote:

>As some of you know, I have been holding discussion groups on the IRC
>for militia members. In these groups there seems to be a serious
>difference of opinion about whether or not it is too late to affect a
>political solution to problems militia members see with the government.

>There seems to be various discussions of two basic positions.

>1. There is still a possibility to solve our problems using political
>solutions, such as educational activities, exposure of corruption,
>political involvement, etc.

>2. It's too late for political solutions. The political system and power
>structure of the country is too corrupt for it to succeed. Our only
>prudent course of action is to prepare for some sort of violent

>....and there may be other positions that haven't come up in the
>discussion groups.

>I would appreciate your input on these positions...and your reasoning
>for your thoughts.


Your post is the most intriguing that I have come across in the past few days. I have replied while neglecting other engagements, for that reason. The length of this reply is more than I had in mind when I set out, but I've not written anything that I do not think important. I hope you will find it a valuable contribution.

I am a newcomer to m.a.m., and not a member of any militia. I am armed (although not in the league of many of these folks), however, and have considered the possibilities/implications of organization in my area (metro Atlanta).

I reply to this post because you pose implicit questions which I have long regarded as important and more pressing as each year goes by.

In my view, the very fact that these questions arise in my lifetime is historically significant in a way which cannot responsibly be dismissed. For example: the very idea of armed resistance against the government would have been perfectly alien to my grandfather's view of America. It simply would never have occurred to him, and the sound of any such discussion in the terms that we hear today would have fallen very strangely on his ear.

I believe that the most divergent of outlooks might yet agree that something is terribly amiss in our country. This is not to say that everything was just peachy in 1953. To cite a single example: my grandfather (a second generation German-American railroad engineer in the northeast) was well aware of the problem of race relations vis-a-vis civil rights - that was a big problem which was going to be a struggle to solve. He knew it wouldn't be pretty, and Birmingham and Little Rock confirmed his apprehensions. However, he believed that Americans and their institutions would come to their senses, and their sense of justice, and that the pain of those times would bear fruit.

As I said; any discussion of armed resistance would have been absurd to his political outlook.

Bear with me.

I make this point, and cite this single example, in order to illustrate the scope of political challenge in America today. Without diminishing (please!) the importance of, or blood-sweat-&-tears investment in, the civil rights movement, it seems clear to me that it cannot compare to the urgency of the problem which is manifest in the very existence of a "militia movement". I will stand corrected if I am mistaken, but I think that the last time so many people seriously uttered the words "civil war" in America (outside of history class), we actually fought one. Today, lots of people on every side do their best not to utter that phrase out loud...and they are less successful as time passes. Many people don't make the pretense of circumspection.

It has long been my view that American political affairs were necessarily bound for such straits. I began studying politics (both as a branch of classical philosophy and the modern practice of "public policy") at an early age, in 1969. My attention was necessarily drawn to corollaries of economics and history. I grew to adulthood casting a fishy eye at the disintegration of a culture, worried over it. Call me doctrinaire, but I have always been a libertarian, which is to say (without any partisan affiliation); I am convinced of the truth and imperative of human freedom. There is no other way for a culture to thrive and flourish to the greatest possible happiness of its inhabitants, than for each of them to make their own way by their own lights.

The past thirty years or so have been a case-study of the opposite course.

The most cursory glance at this period shows us two things: 1) Government of every species has steadily waxed large and prevalent. There can be no rational denial of this. 2) A general "Index of Dismay" has steadily increased. (I use the term loosely to denote a mixed bag of cultural symptoms which indicate decay, without specific references. Everyone, I think, could point out their favorites; crime rates, rising economic class disparities, decline of morality, declining civility of discourse, appalling new species of corruption and their flagrance, etc. Take your pick.)

I maintain that there is a direct correlation between these two observations.

At this point, there is no way for me to proceed without taking a stand: I am certain that the essential political, and thus cultural, dispute is between those who believe that people are the subjects of government, and that it is good for a government to manage the affairs of its subjects, and those who hold that their lives are not subject to the management of government.

I am fully aware that I have, in the above statement, couched the debate in terms which many will find offensive, and absurdly so. The terms of my statement are in no way "politically correct" in America c.1996 - they must be immediately rejected by the former of the two sides posited above, precisely for their clarity. After all, a political climate in which euphemism ("contribution", for example) holds such sway, cannot bear explicit terms or definitions.

(Witness the tedious debates over definitions in the various Usenet battles. One can hardly begin a serious political discussion before one or the other party is madly leafing through Webster's in order to sort out "meanings". The interminable dispute over the meaning of the Second Amendment offers another epic example. Further; the rapid evolution of definitions is significant: the word "gunloon", for instance, has made a lightning-fast appearance in the popular political lexicon. Everyone knows how it is used, but I have never seen a precisely useful definition of a "gunloon".)

It would never do for any advocate of government to stipulate to my terms, for the very idea of "subjects" has been abhorrent to the most dearly held traditions of the past two centuries of western political history. To abandon euphemism in favor of clarity would imply an admission that these traditions, and the ideas from which they spring, have been abandoned. Given the intellectual climate which brought America to the world political scene, such admissions in clear language would be a tough sell. America led the world to liberty and, more than 200 years on, we are not yet so jaded on the idea that it could be disposed of without a fight.

The last word in that paragraph is chosen carefully. The "fight" can be intellectual or physical, depending on the urgency of the times. I submit that, historically, the times are ever more urgent.

I would pose a question:

How can one determine the moment when reason has failed, and that there is no longer any hope of argument against force?

An advocate of government might well ask the question with regard to the rise of militias. In my view, however, such a person would have implicitly ignored or denied the nature of government. Any belief in the efficacy of rational debate must assume the reasoning powers of both sides, applied in rigorous good faith to the challenge of determining the truth. It can be safe to disregard a failure of reasonable agreement over many debates (e.g. - "Ford or Chevy?"), but downright foolish in others (e.g. - slavery or freedom?). Note that both examples are fraught with definitions, but that the latter is one in which parties to the debate cannot agree over basic terms. There are many who regard social security as an example of slavery, and who do so with reference to principles of force in an integrated chain of abstraction and logic. There are many others who cannot grasp the logic, and they reject the premise.

The element of this example (and many others in a broader context of "social policy") which is beyond contention is that social security is forced upon many who would live without it if they were free to do so.

The advocates of government often hold forth the recourse to "democracy" as a solution to this problem. I would offer two points of note: 1) It was democracy which brought us this enormous failure of "public policy" which now violates the liberty of those who do not value it. (This point illustrates the fundamental flaw in democracy: it is possible and common for democracy to reach conclusions of policy which are destructive of liberty. A majority of opinion is no more right because of its virtue as a majority. This is found throughout the history of democracy.) 2) After a poll is taken, and the violation of liberty survives, the advocate of liberty is yet faced with the forceful intrusion of government into his private affairs.

Clearly, this is a failure of reason.

What alternative is there?

(reprise Charlotte)

>There seems to be various discussions of two basic positions.

>1. There is still a possibility to solve our problems using political
>solutions, such as educational activities, exposure of corruption,
>political involvement, etc.

>2. It's too late for political solutions. The political system and power
>structure of the country is too corrupt for it to succeed. Our only
>prudent course of action is to prepare for some sort of violent

Frankly, I see very little hope. What little there is, is also desperate in character.

Your first alternative seems, to me, quite clearly to be an extension of the methods which have brought us to requirement for this discussion in the first place. I cannot dismiss them out of hand. However, I would point out that "exposure of corruption" toward a purpose of alleviating violations of liberty is a hugely daunting task in the face of the goal. My own personal view is that the depth and breadth of ideological "corruption" is beyond the reach of such methods with regard to the years, days, and hours of my own life. I cannot imagine how I will ever be permitted to live as a free man, in the original heritage of American politics, as a result of such methods. This government is fatly seated, now. It avails long-standing intellectual foundations, un-challenged for generations. Ideas which I hold important to these matters are routinely dismissed as "whacky", and otherwise beyond the pale, in mainstream discourse which shapes the world-view of fellow men who only vaguely "feel" that something is desperately wrong in America, but who do not commit their own intellectual efforts to sorting through it in explicit terms.

"As for adopting the ways which the state has provided for remedying the evil, I know not of such ways. They take too much time, and a man's life will be gone."

(Henry David Thoreau - "On Civil Disobedience")

This point cannot be overstressed. The reason that a man takes up resistance to government is that his own life is his highest value. He necessarily holds it in higher regard than assertions of "public policy", or their methods. A rational man understands that he is given to walk the planet for only a limited number of days. A principled man, who would make the most of each one of those days, will also never submit a single one of them to any other powers but his own.

As for "violent confrontation", I have long believed that it would be virtually inevitable, while hoping that I was wrong.

The reason for the belief has been the steady progression of government into the private affairs of individuals. I have always understood that such progression, sufficiently advanced, would reach a point where people who have borne "compromise" and euphemism would finally rise in anger and outrage founded in reason...but that reason would not be enough to overwhelm and reverse the logical fallacies of public policy.

Rational people yearn for liberty. This passionate recognition of their own nature cannot be denied or suppressed. Every human being has a "threshold of outrage" beyond which a transgressor proceeds at peril of response. At this point in our history, individuals are responding ever more frequently. The only question to me concerns the nature of the response.

There is no question over the rampant destruction which must be manifest in widespread armed confrontation. All rational people will agree on this point. Most will agree that is should be avoided.

Does this mean that those who passionately hunger for liberty must resign themselves to endless pedantic debate over definitions and principles, without satisfactory resolution?

I think not.

I see a course lying between your two alternatives. That course is massive, passive, civil disobedience.

I am convinced that sufficient numbers of rational individuals could focus the essential dispute of our times by simply, and peacefully, rejecting the claims of government.

Stop paying taxes of every kind. Stop voting. Burn drivers' licenses, social security cards, marriage licenses, business licenses, and every other document which attaches the sanction of government to one's own private affairs. Cease, immediately, the obedience to every article of posited law which our "representatives" scribble across our days and years. Conduct one's affairs according to the right, regardless of the "law".

I am fully aware of the implications of such a course.

I am, right now, a "criminal" by the definition of the federal government. I await my arrest. I have brought harm to no person, but I have acted in perfect disregard of certain federal "laws" which presume to dictate the disposal of my productive efforts. They are wrong, and I will not submit my conduct to their error.

However, I will not resist with arms against prosecution. In my view, such a course would commit the future to complete hopelessness. The reason is that my individual resistance would be perfectly futile against the massed force of the government. The destruction of my life which would result, would also leave not the slightest possibility that the future might see a day when my liberty will again be upheld as a proper object of "public policy"...and not its subject.

There is no way for me to know what the intervening days, months or years might bring, or the hardships to be endured. However, should that day of liberty ever actually dawn, I would walk out into its light shining on a world ready for me to exploit to productive ends, without the heavy task of reconstructing something long gone in the winds of war. I would simply take the place which I had left behind, and go back to my normal work.

In considering the option of armed resistance, I value my own course for its possibility of recovering a social fabric which, otherwise, will certainly be destroyed. It is my own, freely chosen, course. I would point out that it has nothing to do with "martyrdom", or any other notion of "sacrifice", for I do not recognize the concept of "sacrifice". I choose from a rationally valid hierarchy of values, and the foremost of them is my integrity. The concept of right bears me through the challenge.

I would only suggest that others consider the same challenge. Whether they do, and choose to act similarly, will have no real bearing on my own choice...with one important caveat:

"The more, the merrier."

This tongue-in-cheek reference addresses the impact of massive disobedience. It is an easy matter for the state to dispose of a single life. It is quite another to effectively dispose of millions. I can easily go down in the dark. To take millions of others down would require an effort of state that must move in the clear light of day, while the world...and all other Americans...watch.

I submit, Charlotte, that your second "position" ("It's too late for political solutions") is closer to the mark. "Political solutions" of the sort which we have attempted to bring to bear on the decline of America have, I think, proven themselves completely futile. I, for one, am convinced of the futility.

However, I would point out that armed resistance and passive disobedience are "political" actions.

It is also clear to me that people who profess themselves tough enough to take up arms and risk the destruction of that sort of action, should also examine their toughness to see whether it can stand in the cold stare of government, long enough to, perhaps, walk away to tend the world for their children.

The final step would yet be available in the event of failure.

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