What are We Really Doing Here?


What is it we liberty-lovers are working towards? What’s the libertarian endgame? What kind of project is this fight for liberty and how we should be prosecuting it? I hear all the time that we’re involved in fomenting a revolution or executing a war. Or is this just a debate? None of the above, I say emphatically. We’re working on an evolution – and a peaceful one to boot.

Revolution Too Violent

I discard revolution because it has violent political overtones and is too short-sighted anyway. Revolution evokes images of whiny hippies or Latin American guerrilla movements. Establishing complete liberty is not just about changing some institutions or their leadership. It requires changing people’s minds as well. And that won’t happen in one fell swoop or by the application of force or intimidation.

War is the Tool of the Statists

War is all wrong because that’s what our opponents, the statists, do to get their way. We are not them and can not afford to be associated with them and their practices in any way. War is doing “whatever it takes” to achieve your ends, which often means cutting corners and not living in alignment with our principles. War is aggression writ large. Complete liberty – our goal – is the non-aggression principle writ large. Never the twain shall meet.

Debate is Good, but this is More

It’s not just a debate, either. Don’t get me wrong, debate is critical, and calling it mental masturbation or speaking seriously of “master debaters” is simply idiotic. Thought, concept formation and identification, discussion and debate are critical foundation-building activities for the work of advancing liberty. Without it we are chickens with our heads cut off wasting time, working against each other and doing things that only must be undone later.

Gradual, Peaceful, Voluntary Evolution

Our goal should be nothing short of a peaceful evolution of the human culture – one individual at a time – from what it is today to one where aggression, in all its forms, is absent. When I say evolution, I’m using the second definition in my dictionary for that word, to wit: “the gradual development of something, esp. from a simple to a more complex form.” Note the word “gradual”. This is what primarily distinguishes “evolution” from “revolution”.

Off-Message Tactics Will Only Hurt

So when I see comments like the below (often from minarchists and anarchists-in-name-only):

“I am willing to use whatever means are most efficient to oppose tyranny and end oppression.”

… used to defend tactics like running for office, voting, trickery and intellectual intimidation, it reveals the chasm between those who really get the zero-aggression principle, and those who aren’t actually living it. What is right is what is efficient and vice versa, there is no difference here.

Tactics Must be Aligned with Principles

In order to sell our principles, we must be living examples of them. Anything else will not carry the day. Worse, it will set us back. We distinguish ourselves with our consistent principles. Not living in alignment with them discredits us. Instead we should be using tactics that are in alignment with our shared values, such as reason, truth, directness, discussion, love, satyagraha, civil disobedience, non-voting and counter-economics.


Let us drop talk of wars, revolutions and the pooh-pooh-ing of debate. Let us drop this machismo that talks of doing what is necessary and focus more on doing what is right. Liberty is a philosophy of peace and trade, so let us be peaceful traders, dealing with our fellow man via reason and respect. Let our tools be consistent with our message: reason, truth, directness, discussion, love, satyagraha, civil disobedience, non-voting and counter-economics. We must assist our fellow man with his evolution – starting with ourselves.

Photo credit: coda. Photo license.

30 June 2009
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