Is liberty activism pointless? Is it not working? Are we doing it all wrong? I don’t think so. Is the medical profession failing because people still die? Is the food industry a failure because some yet go hungry? Should security guards pack it up because shoplifters sometimes succeed? We libertarians have to set reasonable goals and not allow ourselves to be discouraged. Neither should we give in to the haters who play armchair quarterback on our activism but don’t dare risk their own hides in the pursuit of a more just world.
Liberty activism is like a scientific investigation. We try different tactics towards our goal of bringing about greater liberty and less government oppression. Some work, some don’t. Sometimes we give up on a promising tactic because it doesn’t pay off early. Sometimes we persist with another and it bears fruit. The key ingredient is perseverance. We must keep trying. Try lots of different tactics or try the same one over and over again, but by all means we must keep trying.
“I’m convinced that about half of what separates the successful entrepreneurs from the non-successful ones is pure perseverance.” – Steve Jobs
Just because a particular tactic doesn’t immediately produce something you consider useful doesn’t make it a bad one. That it might produce a negative immediate result doesn’t mean it won’t pay off in the long term. That one tactic doesn’t make sense to you doesn’t mean it won’t make sense to others or isn’t a useful tactic. Don’t be too quick to pass negative judgment on your fellow activists’ ops.
It’s in our self-interest to continually experiment, document our experiences doing liberty activism and share the resulting media as far and wide as possible. While to you it may be old news and to the haters it may be moronic, your experiences may inform other minds in ways that produce revolutionary new tools and tactics. That’s the marketplace at work. We need to plug ourselves all the way in in order to get the best results. Are you plugged all the way in? How much of your activism do you share with the liberty community? How much of the liberty community’s activism do you discover and share with your network?
Think about your act of liberty activism like a blog post. Only a few people may view it, less will read it and even fewer will act on it. Is it pointless? Does it have no effect? Should you stop posting? No. Any successful venture requires sustained and committed action over a period of time. Your first post may not generate any noticeable fruit, but add ten more, then one hundred more. Soon you will notice the constructive impact of your writing. This very blog is an example.
“The world is so fast that there are days when the person who says it can’t be done is interrupted by the person who is doing it.” – Anonymous
Consider open source software as a paradigm for your liberty activism. This month you might write a simple tool that resolves domain names to IP addresses as a beginner’s project. Next you write tools to resolve other kinds of DNS addresses. Soon you’ve developed enough expertise to write a DNS caching server, a zone transfer server and your crowning achievement, a highly secure resource-efficient DNS server. Now you have DJBDNS, arguably the best DNS tools package available today.
In these examples, and countless others, people start small and build something that actually has a constructive impact on other human beings. Consider the people who invented fire or the wheel or farming. They must have struggled terribly at first. But their discoveries have had profound positive effects on the lives of billions of people. How will our actions today impact the generations to come?
Don’t pay any mind to the armchair haters who denigrate your activism. If you want to really be effective, you should do X instead, they say. Your activism was stupid and pointless. Let me tell you, no act of resistance is pointless. It all adds up. It makes you a better activist because the results inform your future actions or increase your motivation. We should trade constructive ideas on how to be better liberty activists, but we can’t let the haters and the do-nothings get us down. We are better than that. We will succeed if only we keep trying, learning and improving. When we look back on our lives from our deathbeds, we will know that we gave it our best, and that counts for a lot.