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Is Sam’s Change of Course Tactically Consistent?

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Sam Dodson talks about his experience in jail in this 52-minute video recorded at PorcFest. It’s entertaining and even inspiring at times, so I recommend you at least check out the first 33 minutes. At the same time, I noticed a few things in the video that just don’t jive. Why is Sam using a member of the government to defend himself against the government? Is it tactically consistent of him to try and get a share of the government’s stolen goods? Is removing Judge Burke a useful goal?

His Lawyer is a Member of the Government

I learned in the video that Sam hired a New Hampshire state representative to defend him. This really took me aback because Sam initially said he didn’t want to use a real lawyer. They have their own ties to the government that bind them in ways counter to the interests of the people they represent. So for Sam to go out and hire one – and a state rep to boot – blows my mind. Why this change of direction Sam?

Should Libertarians Try to Get Money from the Government?

Sam also mentioned his coming civil suit. I heard about this before when it sounded just like a vague statement of fact of liability aimed at pressuring the government to do what was right in his case. But now it seems like he plans to follow through and, if successful, could be looking at a settlement as high as FRN $4.4 million.

Morally Right, Sure, but Tactically Smart?

If what we’re after is peaceful evolution, should we be exercising the right to self-defense against the government that includes demanding large amounts of money? Morally correct it is, for sure. But is it tactically consistent with a message of peaceful evolution? My initial inclination is that it is not, because our opponents would be more provoked to change by the shock of simply being forgiven. Exercising the right to self-defense like this will only raise their hackles, thus interfering with our attempts to shift their paradigm.

Meddling in the Internal Affairs of Statists

Someone in the audience asked Sam about getting Judge Burke removed. Sam thought it would be difficult if not impossible but I heard no mention of the more important question of whether his removal is even something libertarians should be seeking.

Leverage his Position to Change his Mind

Since we libertarians either are not or should not be members of the government (it is inherently contradictory to our principles), why should we as outsiders attempt to tell the government people who their leaders should be? We are not subject to this government and should make that fact evident at all times through our refusal to consent and our resistance. But if that is our tack then we can not remain consistent and attempt to meddle in internal government affairs. Instead, we should leverage Judge Burke’s position in the hot seat and use love and satyagraha to change his mind.

Conclusion

I think Sam is going down the wrong path if he pursues these options. I don’t question his right to do as he pleases with his life or his moral correctness in seeking to defend himself, I only question the strategic intelligence and consistency in pursuing these options. Obviously Sam doesn’t owe me any explanations but it’s critical that we distinguish between the inconsistent and that which is consistent and can be emulated in the future.

I’d like to add that I admire what Sam did and I spent what my wife considers to be a huge amount of time promoting his actions and defending him online. I wrote Sam multiple times while he was in jail and called the jail. I worked very hard on getting coverage for Sam’s work in both on- and off-line media. I say this to show you that I am not attempting to attack Sam on a personal level. I just want to dialog with Sam and others on this topic.

Photo credit: geishaboy500. Photo license.

By George Donnelly

I'm building a tribe of radical libertarians to voluntarize the world by 2064. Join me.

23 replies on “Is Sam’s Change of Course Tactically Consistent?”

You seem to beleive that it’s possible to change government workers into lovers of liberty. Other than the few exceptions that prove the rule, I don’t share that belief. I’m willing to withhold my desire to decorate the lampposts with their swinging carcasses, but only because I don’t think that will be as effective as just ignoring them and living a free life.

Of course, there’s another reason not to sue the government. They’ve got nobody’s money but ours, so, if you win, you’re actually stealing from your neighbor. Then again, I’m sure Sam Dodson will use that money for much more useful stuff, for everybody involved, than the government would were they to spend it.

I think that our only way forward is peaceful evolution, and that for that to be successful we must deploy love as our “weapon”. IOW, our goal should be IMHO to change minds and not just to get our way. I think that exercising our morally-correct right to self-defense should be avoided as tactically inexpedient.

Thanks for commenting Bill. :)

You raise powerful questions — ones I sheepishly admit did not even come to mind as I heard Sam speak that day. Now I have that uneasy feeling that I always do when someone examines my logic for errors…and I feel that you have stumbled across something here.

I am just an infant Agorist/voluntaryist/an-cap-ist, so bear with me as I reach for a new concept…and more than likely, I will blow it. I’m thinking without a net, here, having been a libertarian much longer than anything else — with the exception of my socialist upbringing, which I’m terrified is about to rear its ugly head.

One: if the New Hampshire state rep hired to be his lawyer is friendly to liberty and the best human for the job, is he truly irredeemably tainted by the State? Or does he pirate more power by using his influence for liberty?

Two: if the State’s money is ill-gotten, is that money (indeed, energy, capital, whatever you want to call it) better served in the cause of liberty, or is such thinking merely veiled, totalitarian violence? Can “Sam’s share” of stolen goods actually belong to Sam? I have a sinking feeling that it cannot, despite whatever good intentions Sam may have. This is so tough, because it *is* a matter of consistency. Would it matter what Sam did with that money? It’s so tempting. It’s tempting to justify the use of the money he may gain from a settlement for liberty — but that’s just redistribution of wealth again, isn’t it? Am I making a mistake here?

I really hope you can debate this on video. It would be powerful. Failing that, a text tete a tete or audio debate on one of the internet talk shows like James, Mike and Tod have, or FTL would be fantastic.

Oh, and one more thing — I’d be thrilled to hear about some specific course of action to use love and satyagraha for change with public officials.

I see that opinion a lot at the New Hampshire Underground forums. I disagree. It is almost never possible to change a power-damaged mind. So if you encounter one, you have to either avoid it or eradicate it.

We can convince people who have not yet been power damaged, and doing so is a lofty goal. But once a former-human has embraced the dark side, it is nearly impossible to work the Star Wars miracle. If accosted by one, the only choices I see are to run away, or, if that isn’t an option, to squash it like a bug (this from a guy who catches indoor bees and spiders in a glass and releases them, unharmed, to the outside).

One: if the New Hampshire state rep hired to be his lawyer is friendly to liberty and the best human for the job, is he truly irredeemably tainted by the State? Or does he pirate more power by using his influence for liberty?

Good questions. I’m not sure. I just find it surprising. Why does Sam think he can control this lawyer? Why does he think this one won’t betray him? What does he seek to gain from using this guy? I think Sam’s initial decision not to use a lawyer was gutsy and principled, so I don’t understand this decision – and would like to.

Two: if the State’s money is ill-gotten, is that money (indeed, energy, capital, whatever you want to call it) better served in the cause of liberty, or is such thinking merely veiled, totalitarian violence?

The latter, IMO. That’s similar to the question of whether voting and running for office are moral. The presumption is that we just know better and will use the state’s power more judiciously when the fact is that just the existence of the state’s power is what is wrong and it must be resisted. IOW, it’s not just a question of initiating force better, it’s a question of initiating force. Hope that makes sense.

Can “Sam’s share” of stolen goods actually belong to Sam?

Definitely. See Ragnar Danneskjöld from Atlas Shrugged, right? But is that what this is? I don’t think so.

Would it matter what Sam did with that money?

Not in my opinion.

Thanks for commenting. :)

Bill, you may be right, but I think if the goal is peaceful evolution then we must be the change we want to see in the world. It follows logically.

I want to be clear that I don’t abdicate the right to self-defense except temporarily and selectively on a tactical basis.

George, vengeance is part of the human condition. When coupled with being imprisoned, it is very easy to understand why Sam would want to undertake a lawsuit and perhaps remove the judge. Personally, I would find it extremely difficult to not seek vengeance after I was wrongfully imprisoned.

All that said, I must say that removing the judge via political means is a waste of time. Still, the judge should pay. I say: use the facts against him. Research all of the wrongheaded decisions he has made and publicly embarrass/ridicule him. Make him a laughingstock. Create a website dedicated completely to him and publicize it to the MAX. Billboards, songs, cartoons, street theater, videos, handbills…the list is endless.

As for seeking a lawsuit? I’m a bit torn on that because I do believe in bleeding The Beast dry. After all, every dollar it doesn’t have is one small fraction of force it cannot use against us. Perhaps the proper resolution would be a compromise: Let Sam reclaim what is properly his and the rest of the money be destroyed. This could accomplish a few things at one time:

1. It would allow Sam some level of justice and receive “victim’s compensation”.

2. It would bleed The Beast. It would potentially be $4.4 million dollars poorer and be less able to fund it’s violence against private individuals and businesses.

3. Destroyed FRNs would mean less in circulation.

4. It would be a public rebuke against the “judicial” system. The more negative press we can bring about on The Beast, the better because it will alienate even more people from The Beast.

5. Destroying the FRNs provides a moral “out” for Sam because there won’t be the stigma of living off ill-gotten gains. Plus, there is no practical (or moral) means of re-distributing the money to all tax victims.

Something to think about.

I have no desire to be a sacrificial animal for the cause of other people’s liberty — it appears Sam doesn’t either. Sam was doing his activism, and he was thrown in a government cage… I can’t condemn him for using whatever means necessary to get out. If I’m a Jew in a Nazi’s concentration camp, and an SS party member wants to help me get out, you think I should refuse to collaborate with Nazis?

I think the whole “I forgive you” routine is creepy and cultish. And besides, you have no standing to “forgive'” aggressors on my behalf. I do NOT forgive them. In forgiving them for the aggression they’ve committed against me, you are morally aligning with them against me.

On the issue of sewing government: I think taxes and debt are always at a maximum, so the suit will not engender more taxes or debt, but have to be shifted away from other spending. If that’s right, then sewing the government could be not only acceptable, but an act of reducing aggression. I never thought of that until just now.

Gene – Wow, interesting idea on destroying the FRNs. Not that I would do it, though!

Gene:

it is very easy to understand why Sam would want to undertake a lawsuit and perhaps remove the judge

If that’s what Sam wants to do, I think it would be morally acceptable. I wouldn’t begrudge him that (nor would I support him).

But I wouldn’t want that to serve as an example for other libertarians to follow. Just to give one example, can you imagine Gandhi doing that? If what we’re doing here is peaceful evolution, then vengeance is tactically inappropriate. If we’re not doing peaceful evolution, then I want nothing to do with it.

Inform the public about the judge? Sounds good. Ridicule him? Doesn’t sound like it’s consistent with peaceful evolution.

If we’re not about peaceful evolution, I think we’re just spinning our wheels and getting all muddy.

2. It would bleed The Beast. It would potentially be $4.4 million dollars poorer and be less able to fund it’s violence against private individuals and businesses.

Really? They can just get new money anytime they like, via loans or inflation or force.

Will a lawsuit bring people around to our way of thinking? I think it does the opposite.

JD:

Sam was doing his activism, and he was thrown in a government cage… I can’t condemn him for using whatever means necessary to get out.

Non sequitur. That’s not what I’m talking about.

If I’m a Jew in a Nazi’s concentration camp, and an SS party member wants to help me get out, you think I should refuse to collaborate with Nazis?

Collaborating with Nazis connotes doing so in furtherance of their aims. In this hypothetical case, the Nazi is collaborating with you. So I don’t think your example works.

I think the whole “I forgive you” routine is creepy and cultish.

So Gandhi was creepy and cultish?

And besides, you have no standing to “forgive’” aggressors on my behalf. I do NOT forgive them. In forgiving them for the aggression they’ve committed against me, you are morally aligning with them against me.

Who said anything about offering forgiveness in others’ names? This is a straw-man.

I think taxes and debt are always at a maximum,

If that’s true then the $13 trillion of new money that was injected into the banks/financial system last fall was actually produced somehow. Is that really true? Especially during the popping of a bubble when trillions in imaginary wealth was finally realized for what it was?

If that’s right, then sewing the government could be not only acceptable, but an act of reducing aggression. I never thought of that until just now.

So you’re not about peaceful evolution then? What is “this” for you? revolution? war? something else?

Thanks for commenting guys.

“That’s that what I’m talking about” — But it was. You were saying it was wrong for him to accept help from a NH state rep: I’m saying you do whatever you have to do in that situation. Your own liberty is the highest end. And following your response to my Nazi example, it isn’t Sam that’s collaborating with the state rep, it’s the state rep collaborating with Sam.

“So Gandhi was creepy and cultish” — Ghandi was creepy. The people who formed a cult around him were, by definition, cultish. Ghandi was a racist and a fascist sympathizer. That doesn’t mean his tactics in opposing the British were wrong, but he isn’t some kind of awesome figure you can throw out there and be like, “Oh, so Ghandi was creepy and cultish” like whatever he did was by definition good. His tactics were of limited success in getting the British out of India… to be replaced by a woefully oppressive and corrupt socialist regime. Who’s to say that other tactics would not have been more successful? Who’s to say that our situation is the same as that of Indians in his time? Our goals are not the same. I’m more for emulating the tactics and strategies of Malcolm X and the Black Panthers than of Ghandi and King.

“Who said anything about offering forgiveness in others names? This is a straw-man.” — I think it’s implied. If I forgive Charles Manson, who am I forgiving him on behalf of? Oh, you’re only forgiving for the limited crimes committed against you? Which are very small in the grand scheme of things — i.e., the millions of people these parasites aggress against. That might be a nice gesture but it’s very tiny. I do not and will not forgive. That doesn’t mean I seek retribution or even compensation — but I will never morally condone their actions with my forgiveness.

“If thats true then the $13 trillion of new money that was injected into the banks/financial system last fall was actually produced somehow.” — I’m saying that the $13 trillion was the maximum they could get away with, so that’s what they created. They’re always going to loot to the maximum extend they can. What do you think — that they show restraint? If so, you think more highly of our rulers than I do. :) Regardless, this was just an idea I was entertaining: it’s not a deeply held conviction.

“So you’re not about peaceful evolution then? What is ‘this’ for you? revolution? war?” — The “peaceful evolution” idea seems to mirror the socialist idea that human nature can be changed. It cannot. Or if it can, it is a truly “evolutionary” process, i.e., requiring millennial. I’m not interested in securing liberty for my greatx100 grandchildren, especially considering the world will probably not even last that long, and especially not at my own expense. Here is the one area where I disagree with agorism: counter-economics are no longer relevant to the fall of the state. The state is falling, and it doesn’t matter what we do. So what is ‘this’ for me? Waiting for the state to fall. Taking action to prepare myself and those I care about for this inevitability. And forming alliances with people like you, for future mutual aid and present reciprocal education.

“That’s not what I’m talking about” — But it was. You were saying it was wrong for him to accept help from a NH state rep: I’m saying you do whatever you have to do in that situation. Your own liberty is the highest end. And following your response to my Nazi example, it isn’t Sam that’s collaborating with the state rep, it’s the state rep collaborating with Sam.

Oh, that. He’s already out though…

However, as Sam pointed out early on, bar lawyers have their own loyalties. They depend on the state and are loyal to it, first and foremost. The client comes second.

So for him to hire one, knowing this, makes no sense to me. According to his previous line of reasoning (which I agree with), hiring a bar lawyer is selling yourself out.

So if your own liberty is the highest end, why use a bar lawyer – a person who is completely compromised and unable to make your own liberty his highest end while he serves you?

Given the conflicted loyalties of the state rep, it’s more like a Nazi offering to get you out of the train – and straight into the ovens. It’s a trick.

Ghandi was a racist and a fascist sympathizer

Later in life he realized his mistake in collaborating with the British. Let’s praise him for coming around rather than taking his mistake out of context and elevating it to more than it is.

like whatever he did was by definition good

Strawman.

Our goals are not the same. I’m more for emulating the tactics and strategies of Malcolm X and the Black Panthers than of Ghandi and King.

Not the same, no, but he has many useful lessons for libertarians, just as Ayn Rand and Murray Rothbard and Karl Hess do. I’m not elevating any of them to deity status.

Malcolm X IIRC had at least two significant and very different stages to his life/strategy. Which one?

What about the Black Panthers exactly do you seek to emulate? I don’t actually know that much about them.

“Who said anything about offering forgiveness in others names? This is a straw-man.” — I think it’s implied. If I forgive Charles Manson, who am I forgiving him on behalf of? Oh, you’re only forgiving for the limited crimes committed against you?

“I forgive you”. “I” is the actor here. In order for the forgiveness to be in someone else’s name it would have to be “He/She/We”, not “I”.

Charles Manson seems like a strange example. He’s never been in government. Have you seen Ian Freeman’s recent “op”? Thoughts?

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zcfhzT2mAYA

but I will never morally condone their actions with my forgiveness.

forgive: “stop feeling angry or resentful toward (someone) for an offense, flaw, or mistake”

Where does that say anything about condoning? Where do you get that from?

I’m saying that the $13 trillion was the maximum they could get away with, so that’s what they created. They’re always going to loot to the maximum extend they can. What do you think — that they show restraint? If so, you think more highly of our rulers than I do. :) Regardless, this was just an idea I was entertaining: it’s not a deeply held conviction.

But surely right before they took the additional $13 trillion, they were already at their maximum according to your theory. So perhaps news coverage of the “crisis” justified the additional amount? Maybe. I’ll have to think about that some more.

The “peaceful evolution” idea seems to mirror the socialist idea that human nature can be changed. It cannot

I don’t think the peaceful evolution concept requires a change in human _nature_, just in thinking and level of education. I see that happening around me daily.

I’m not interested in securing liberty for my greatx100 grandchildren, especially considering the world will probably not even last that long, and especially not at my own expense.

I’m in a big hurry too! +10 for that.

Here is the one area where I disagree with agorism: counter-economics are no longer relevant to the fall of the state. The state is falling, and it doesn’t matter what we do.

We can accelerate it and have new institutions in place for when the fall happens. Without the new structures in place before the fall, I worry that our chance to change the course of history will be lost.

Have you read Asimov’s Foundation series? I think it’s like that, sort of.

So what is ‘this’ for me? Waiting for the state to fall. Taking action to prepare myself and those I care about for this inevitability. And forming alliances with people like you, for future mutual aid and present reciprocal education.

+10 on the alliances. I want to do more though.

“Oh, that. He’s already out though…” = Yeah, whoops. Using any means to secure your own freedom and using any means to try to extract fiat money from the state — itself a questionable course — are two very different things. I agree with you here.

“Ghandi was a racist and a fascist sympathizer” = I wasn’t talking about his collaboration with the British. I was talking about his literal “sympathy” for Mussolini’s fascist Italy, and his earlier racist depictions of blacks in South Africa. Sure, he might have changed (I’m sure he did). As for me erecting a straw man — that wasn’t my intent. I’m not trying to erect straw men to defeat your points, I’m just having a lapse in my interpretative abilities, it would seem.

“Malcolm X had two very different stages to his life/strategy. Which one?” = A little bit of both, perhaps, but more emphasis on his pre-Mecca stage. Obviously I don’t mean racial separatism, religionism, etc., but that his assessment of white society and the way that black people and/or black Muslims should relate to it. Substitute “the state” for “white society” (same thing) and substitute “the productive class” and/or “libertarians” (in different contexts) for “black people” and/or “black Muslims.”

“What about the Black Panthers exactly do you seek to emulate?” = Militancy, self reliance, self defense, the establishment of alternative institutions, and ultimately — as a possibility — separatism. (I don’t need to say this for you, but for anyone else — I do not mean along racial lines here!)

“Where does that say anything about condoning? Where do you get that from?” = I’m saying how I interpret an apology from one person to an entity that has aggressed against many, many people. Is this interpretation illogical? You say the emphasis is on “I”, but you’re not emphasizing what you’re forgiving them for. Just the crimes they’ve committed against you? Okay, but is that how they understand your apology?

On all other sub-topics, I think I either accept your points or our differences are too small to continue haggling. :)

“What about the Black Panthers exactly do you seek to emulate?” = Militancy, self reliance, self defense, the establishment of alternative institutions, and ultimately — as a possibility — separatism

I like that. Recommend any good books on them?

I’m saying how I interpret an apology from one person to an entity that has aggressed against many, many people.

I think it’s useful to forgive the individuals involved, not the institution. I’m definitely not interested in forgiving the institution, if that is even possible.

Thanks for your comments, I do enjoy discussing these things with you. :)

George: I say absolutely he should try and get that 4.4M (!!).
It can be justified on ethical grounds as restitution for all libertarians in the country!
And, man that’d be great to get that much money in the hands of someone deeply dedicated to liberty.

Huh George? I laid out two specific arguments (1. it can be justified on restitution grounds, and 2. that it’d be great to get that sum of money into a hardcore libertarian)….and you give me some pat answer?

A well reasoned response would be nice George…

it can be justified on restitution grounds

Restitution is “the restoration of something lost or stolen to its proper owner.” Not all to one guy. If you want Sam to have money, give it straight to him. Don’t try to use government to get money for your favorite cause. That’s what the statists do.

People who live by principles don’t happen upon something nice and try to justify it. We work from first principles and let that dictate our actions.

that it’d be great to get that sum of money into a hardcore libertarian

If the greatness of Sam being a millionaire is so important, does it justify bank robbery? What does it justify? Surely you see that that approach is backwards. Let’s all focus on understanding and practicing liberty and let the chips fall where they may.

FRNs are not the path to liberty. Liberty is the path to liberty. That means peaceful trading. Not begging the state or using the state against itself (ludicrous), which even if it worked would be a huge loss of time.

Also, it would be a tactical blunder if he got the money. Free Keeniacs talk about government taking people’s money but if Sam took that much it would appear inconsistent to many less liberty-savvy folks. It would erode Free Keeniacs’ credibility – you want govt to spend less money but you want $4.4 million from government? Sorry, doesn’t compute. You sound like another doubletalking, self-serving republicrat.

It’s like Gandhi said, sometimes you have to swallow the insult and move forward.

It’s important to act in alignment with our principles *and* tactically:

http://morelibertynow.com/opinion/what-are-we-really-doing-here

If you want a well-reasoned response in the future, make it a fair trade by putting forth a well-reasoned argument.

Thanks for commenting.

Thx for a serious reply George.

Restitution is “the restoration of something lost or stolen to its proper owner.” Not all to one guy. If you want Sam to have money, give it straight to him.

OK, yes, I agree with that definition of it. Now…regarding dead people… Could one accept restitution on their behalf? I think so. And furthermore, why not living people as well? I myself consent for Sam to get back via restitution some money that was stolen from me. Why? Because I’ll probably never get it back on my own from the State…if someone else can get it and put it to a cause that I approve of, then I consent.

Don’t try to use government to get money for your favorite cause. That’s what the statists do.

Of course…and that is not at all what I am suggesting. I am not advocating that government go out and steal money to then give to me.
What I am advocating is getting back money from government that is already in its coffers. If I advocated the former, I’d be a criminal.

If the greatness of Sam being a millionaire is so important, does it justify bank robbery?

Don’t be silly George, of course it doesn’t. Furthermore, a bank is different from government…the latter stole money from you. The former did not.

Actually my first reply was serious as well.

Now…regarding dead people… Could one accept restitution on their behalf? I think so. And furthermore, why not living people as well? I myself consent for Sam to get back via restitution some money that was stolen from me.

Deceased people often have wills that determine to whom their assets pass. That should be respected. For those who don’t, why should you or Sam or I or anyone else get it. Arbitrary is not good for something like this.

May I suggest that the appropriate way is to research how much has been taken from you, put your evidence and conclusions out there and then pursue restitution once an independent party has validated your claim?

I’m not opposed to restitution. I just think it needs to be done in an objective, transparent and reasoned manner. Even Ragnar Danneskjold kept detailed records.

I am not advocating that government go out and steal money to then give to me.

Where do you think the FRN4.4 million is coming from?

a bank is different from government…the latter stole money from you

The government has stolen FRN4.4 million from you?

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