Friday, June 14, 2013

Ideas Are Forever

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"These Boundless Wonders" is an original weekly column appearing every Friday at Everything-Voluntary.com, by Avery M. Tolliver. Avery is a writer and musician. His personal blog can be found here. Archived columns can be found here. TBW-only RSS feed available here.

The title for this column is a not-so-subtle riff on the classic James Bond film Diamonds Are Forever, one of the dozens of Bond films that arrested my boyhood imagination and sense of adventure. Aside from the Back to the Future franchise, which impelled me to start playing guitar, the Bond films, with those iconic intros, audacious story lines, smug, oh-so-cool one-liners and, yes, exotic Bond girls, provided some of my most memorable and influential cinematic experiences growing up. In fact, I was so captivated by the sleek intrepidity with which the world of espionage was portrayed that, at around the age of nine, I sent a hand-written letter to the Central Intelligence Agency, informing the reprobates there that I wanted to work for their gang - er, organization - when I “grew up.”

Eventually, I did “grow up,” but not in a way that the apparatchiks working for the Empire of the United States would approve. Whether because of psychological peculiarities or unique life circumstances, I somehow found a way to circumvent the institutions of collectivism and conformity which tend to putrefy the brains of their victims. I somehow found workarounds for the spiritual oppression brought on by rather disagreeable parenting techniques (which most “unschooling” parents are valiantly working against), brainwashing machines like government school and the Boy Scouts of America (!), and the torrent of propaganda from newspapers and mainstream television outlets.

The hierarchical violence and coercion that so many people tragically become accustomed to - and utterly suckered by - is not easy to shun. But shunning it, and developing the ability to connect cause-and-effect relationships and think for one’s self, rather than passively digesting propaganda, are some of the most exciting, frustrating and spiritually awakening things one will ever do.

I’m certainly not unique in that I’m an individualist in spite of lamentable surroundings. After all, many people around the world have been able to sidestep - or at least recognize the nature of - the illogical, irrational, stupid, soul-crushing menace of systematic, legalized terrorism known as government. Whistleblowers like Edward Snowden and Bradley Manning, who have sacrificed their physical freedom and creature comforts to reject totalitarianism and take a moral stand against the U.S. regime, have certainly handled adversity as well, and as much, as anyone else in recent memory.

What’s dispiriting, but perhaps not surprising, is the amount of vitriol currently being directed towards Snowden, who recently revealed the size and scope of the National Security Agency’s domestic spying programs. Snowden has been the target of bipartisan demonization from political rulers and pundits alike. Democrats and Republicans have called him a “traitor” and have promised to prosecute him to the fullest extent, while the dupes and frauds at the various news outlets of record have focused not on the government’s wrongdoing, but rather on Snowden’s personal life, educational background and libertarian-leaning political affiliations. The court jesters pose the delusive question “Snowden: Hero or Traitor?,” and then proceed to parrot executive branch talking points about the need to balance freedom and fascism (or, as they put it, “freedom and security”).

Recent polls aren’t necessarily reassuring, either. Whether one poll shows fifty-six percent of Americans agreeing with the NSA’s “dragnet” tactics, or another shows fifty-eight percent opposing them, there is certainly no overwhelming majority standing up to the “Land of the Free’s” encroachments. Maybe we can blame the apathy on rational ignorance or mass indoctrination or partisanship. Nevertheless, voluntarists and libertarians and anarcho-capitalists, who have plenty of other reasons to be frustrated by Leviathan and its enablers’ diabolic interventions - endless wars, inflation, a labyrinth of stifling regulations, to name a few - should put things in perspective.

Liberal changes will not come about via the political system. They never have, and they never will.

Communicating the philosophy of liberty and sound economics is still very much imperative, however. Websites like Everything-Voluntary.com, Mises.org, Antiwar.com, and LewRockwell.com make the world a better place, and are changing hearts and minds in an awesome way. But remember that, because of the enormity and gargantuan size of the State, neither the President nor Congress, much less the average denizen, controls, knows about, or has the ability to influence the vast majority of what we call "governmental" action. The State is its own beast, with its own rules. It is one huge, bumbling, backwards blob of useless bosh which would be fun to laugh at if it weren't so tragic and damaging to society.

It is the market which stands as the most effective apparatus for kindling genuine societal transformation. The market will eventually pioneer the world into the peaceful anarchy that we crave. But such a transition won't come about explicitly, or by some sudden mass enlightenment. The multitudes will not soon turn into a bunch of Murray Rothbard or Etienne de La Boetie sympathizers. But if a private arbitration firm offers someone a better deal than a court system, or an internet privacy app helps a citizen journalist fend-off domestic spying (something that’s already happening!), or a new technological innovation or entrepreneurial creation voids the need for some government "service," then more and more people will become Rothbards and de La Boeties in deed, which is far more important in the grand scheme of things.

The same force which has turned entities like Blockbuster and MySpace into commercial has-beens is the same force which will turn the State into an anachronism. The individualism that provokes and motivates billions of people around the world to remove felt uneasiness and improve their standards of living, whether those billions would describe their actions in such terms or not, is also the same force which drove Edward Snowden to leak the details of NSA corruption. It’s the same force which spurred me to write this column. It’s the same force which brings food to our grocery stores, water to our bathtubs, and electricity to our homes. Individualism and self-interest, properly understood, are the most humane and righteous (and immutable) elements of our human existence.

These ideas can be (and are) represented infinitely. Whether they’re manifested through the profit-and-loss system, or through the heroic actions of one moral, conscious government employee, or in the intricacies of a rock album or novel, the individualism and self-interest which improves the whole of society isn’t going anywhere anytime soon. Voluntary, non-violent, non-coercive human interaction is indeed the future. In maybe thirty, or one hundred years, people will look back at governments like they look back at witch hunting or slavery now. Slavery never really ended. It just took on a different form.