The Elephant in the Libertarian Community

There’s an ugly elephant in the libertarian community. And it’s not the Ron Paul Republicans. I’m talking about the disgusting chasm between word and deed.

There’s an ugly elephant in the libertarian community. And it’s not the Ron Paul Republicans.

I’m talking about the disgusting chasm between word and deed.

Libertarians make astute observations about cop oppression and unaccountable judges. We write endless economic and moral analyses of taxes. “Taxation is theft!” we boldly and empty-headedly repeat. We whine about our rights. We zealously condemn state agents and sympathizers. We dissect the logic behind the drug wars. With great solemnity we rage against the ravages of war. Central banking is an arcane topic near and dear to our minds. We opine in endless editorials that allegedly edify the masses. We’re experts at the talk.

We suck at the walk. Here are 6 examples.

  • Taxes. Do you pay income taxes? Do you file income tax forms? Why? Are you scared the big bad state will come after you and inconvenience your cozy middle class life? One radical blogger whom I (still) respect a lot, announced that he was selling most of his silver stockpile in order to pay the IRS. I called him a coward to his (digital) face. I’d especially like to know if the people who so categorically condemned the Pennsylvania state police informant have caved to the pressure of state intimidation in the area of taxes.
  • Jobs. Do you have a job? Are you an employee? Does your boss manage most of your waking hours? Does a chunk of your salary go straight to the federal coffers every week? Why don’t you have a business? Are you at least trying to start up a counter-economic enterprise on the side? Why not? What is your excuse?
  • Sloth. Is your cellar stocked for the collapse – complete with a spare tire around your midsection? Does your (r)evolution happen on the couch? Do you really expect a libertarian society to emerge just by typing on a computer or watching TV from the comfort of a Lazyboy? When was the last time you tested your limits? Get yourself in shape and make it happen. (I recommend Aikido.)
  • Privilege. Do you work for a big corporation? For the government? A defense contractor? Do you or your employer provide services to the government? Do you own stock in big corporations? Then you are part of the state-privilege establishment. Are you more worried about getting the latest tablet than in expanding your activism profile? When are you going to get your hands dirty?
  • Currency. Have you bought any silver, gold or copper coins? How about some Bitcoin? Are you trading on the side? If you’re not experimenting with non-governmental currency and unauthorized trade, what are you waiting for?
  • Inactivism. I can barely rouse a few volunteers for the chance to make money with an international conference. Organizing airport meetups for a righteous and internationally mega-popular campaign complete with free TV appearances was like pulling teeth. Finding someone willing to run a camera with me in front of courthouses proved impossible. Are you committed to your ideals? Then put some skin in the game.

I read about what the Cuban revolutionaries led by Fidel Castro and Che Guevara endured. Their commitment is incredible. Disease, starvation, filthiness, heavy backpacks, sloping mountains, mosquito attacks and constant haranguing by heavily-armed and numerous Batista troops – they took it all in stride. It doesn’t matter that you don’t appreciate their political views. Look at their devotion. Consider what they sacrificed in pursuit of their ideals. Do you measure up? How much of your convenient life are you willing to put on the line for your freedom?

You may have clothes on your back, three squares a day, work, education and friends. But that doesn’t mean that everything is hunky-dory in the world. Your economic activity is the battery that supplies the global US war machine. Your silence is the grease that eases the gears forward. You bear, if not complicity, at least responsibility. Your mission is to stop feeding this machine with your life force. And to start growing a better one.

When you are at the end of your life, long past the emergence of the new libertarian societies we seek, what will you tell your grandchildren about your role in all of this? Were you on the sidelines? Did you go with the flow of statism? Or did you stand up, risk something and make a difference for your ideals? What do you want your descendants to think and say about you?

Your words, your analyses, your rational arguments are nothing but a lot of hot air until and unless you actually live them.

Are you ready for liberty? Prove it.

By George Donnelly

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

22 replies on “The Elephant in the Libertarian Community”

Another great article George, one discussing the elephant in the room few wanted to admit existed

You do have a point there. Though I would like to raise two points. One you said earlier that “we’re idealists and principled people” however that is not entirely true. Many anarchists, myself included while we DO have issues with the morality/immorality of the state, care more about pragmatics and utility. Which still results in anarchism as the state is a massively inefficient and impractical tool for bringing about happiness and prosperity. As for the other point, it was raised in the agorism subreddit on the link to this article. I”ll admit I’m curious as to what your response is:

I think this article is about two decades ahead of its time. I also hope I’m wrong about that.

Change doesn’t occur just from people participating in direct action.
Society first has to – in general – accept that direct action as
legitimate before it will have the desired effect. Right now, refusing
to pay one’s taxes amounts to financial suicide. The government will
come to take your taxes by force, and all your statist neighbors will
stand by watching with righteous indignation at this weirdo who hates
America and doesn’t want to pay his fair share.

Refusing to pay one’s taxes will only be a viable form of resistance
once one’s neighbors rush to defend you when the government comes to try
and take your money anyway. I personally think we’re a long way off
from that sea change of public opinion, which is why I dedicate my
efforts to advocacy and argumentation – changing peoples’ minds now, so
that when it comes time for direct action we’ll have some dedicated
allies to support us.

The only truly successful revolutions are revolutions of ideas, not of actions.

My experience is that most libertarians, at least most in my audience, came to liberty because of moral reasons. Libertarianism is also a highly idealistic and moralistic philosophy. That’s just its nature.

I’d actually say, from my point of view, that this article is about a year late. :D

You have a chicken and egg situation. Which comes first, the direct action or the acceptance of direct action? They happen simultaneously. And the latter will absolutely never come about until we do the former.

But who cares about society accepting it? Of what importance is that?

This idea that tax resistance immediately or inevitably leads one to facing jail time and asset seizures is hyperbole. It doesn’t work like that and you don’t have to keep your assets in such an easily-seizable way.

Not to mention the question that perhaps accumulation of assets at this time is a waste of time.

Talk yourself until you’re blue in the face. It’s just so much hot air until you put your ass on the line to back it up. ‘Twas always so and always will be.

Very good reply to the copy and pasted part of the criticism toward your article. I’d post it on reddit where I found that original bit of criticism but it seems you’ve already given the critic your rebuttal.

Sorry I took so long to reply to this. And okay I will do so in the future. Sorry for not giving warning this time.

So how does one not pay income tax without going to jail? Is there some guide out there or do you simply expect each libertarian to figure this out for themselves and reinvent the wheel every time?

I agree JW. Civil disobedience has historically only worked when it was mass civil disobedience. The reason libertarians write is because what is important is getting more people on board first. I’m actually planning on getting a parking ticket to see if I can beat it so I can get experience winning in government courts. And then maybe I will be willing to start an agorist business. But I think the most important thing is to get more people to agree that forcing their neighbors to pay for services they want is wrong.

Mass civil disobedience is not complicated. It starts with one person. And then another. Also, one must point out that waiting for others is utilitarian. But we’re idealists and principled people. There’s an incongruence there.

I never said mass civil disobedience is complicated. It just requires a lot of people willing to commit it. Ian Freeman has been committing civil disobedience for a while and mass civil disobedience is still not happening.

I stopped paying income tax and stopped filing returns in 1975. Haven’t been bothered, but then I haven’t been drawing attention to it either. I’m only mentioning it here now because I’m using TOR (The Onion Router) to conceal my identity and location.
I learned not to fsign a return, because once you do you can be charged, since you are signing “under penalty of perjury”. Also, note that the fifth amendment says that you don’t have to testify against yourself by doing so, or by answering ANY questions by IRS goons. So don’t! Besides, there is no law that says you are “required” to file or pay, remember that when words like “must” or “shall” are used in a federal statute against a citizen the Supreme Court has ruled that those words are to be construed as “may” (meaning it’s optional) but it is mandentory only when used against a government agent, like the Secretary of the Treasury. So the way the law is written in legalese, it is optional for you to file a return, but if you do you can be charged with tax evasion because you signed it, but if you fail to file for any reason the Secretary of the Treasury is REQUIRED to file on your behalf, based on his own information, and then he is REQUIRED to bill you.
Since 1975 I have earned no “income” as defined by the code, nor have I received any bill. Nor have I done jail time. (The few who get jail time are those who signed a return and the tiny minority who would dare teach you, people like Erwin Shiff whom published books on the topic.) Mr. Schiff was railroaded into prison to silence him.

Yes, you want us to put our lives, fortunes, and sacred honor on the line, but when you were faced with it, you didn’t follow through.

There’s nothing shameful about submitting to their threats, and there’s nothing honorable with having them take everything you have, just to make a point.

You’re incorrect on more than one count.

(1) I advocate “rational resistance.” Resist for as long as one can, for the maximum ROI and the minimum of damage to oneself. When it comes to income taxes, that point might be when the IRS starts sending one letters or when they file suit. But it’s not on April 15.

(BTW I never said that “people are cowards for paying income tax.” I said that to the gentleman in question because he was abandoning a very intelligent financial strategy midway in order to pay the IRS on time and without so much as a small delay.)

(2) In the situation you make reference to, I put all of me on the line (multiple times) to run a video camera in defense of two fellow activists. I paid for it with a threat in my face, a cut to my hand, a pile-on by a half-dozen US marshals, 2 nights in prison, thousands of dollars, tons of inconvenience and stress not just for me but also for my family and almost with a significant amount of time in jail.

The plea deal I accepted is consistent with my theory of rational resistance.

You’ve exaggerated what I was saying, which is perhaps understandable given that it was a tiny part of the article and I didn’t expand on it much.

On a final note, NO, I do not want you to put yourself on the line. NEVER.

I want YOU to want YOU to put yourself on the line for your principles.

Great article–as it says what I’ve been saying for a long time now! I don’t envy the vituperation you’re in for as a result of speaking the truth so many refuse to recognize.

Very good article which raises some very valid points. However I think that one of the reasons why libertarians have not been walking the walk as you put it is because things still are pretty comfortable here in the USSA. You talk about what Che and Fidel had to endure in their revolution and you are correct in your analysis of the modern libertarian movement. However what I think you are missing is the fact that for most libertarians things have just not gotten that bad yet. The revolutionary movements of the past have usually resulted from massive economic and political shifts. We have yet to see a trigger event like hyperinflation or martial law, something that is an obvious and immediate threat to liberty. Most libertarians are white and middle class, they have jobs or businesses and they have mortgages and debts. It is much less risky to write about the problems that this country faces and the injustice of the current system than it would be to actively resist it. That sort of dedication of purpose is usually seen only when the shit hits the fan. When food and energy prices become astronomical, when cops start shaking ordinary citizens down en mass and when the middle class finds itself jobless, homeless and hungry. This is the kind of situation that Egyptians and Tunisians were facing and they took to the streets. Things are going to have to get much worse economically and politically before people are willing to risk the remaining freedom and prosperity that they believe that they have. However I do believe that time is coming and sooner than most people believe. Now is the time to network and plan for when the system collapses. It may seem like you are fighting the good fight if you actively resist now, but now is not yet the time. The state has dumped too much effort into militarizing the police and passing laws that give police extraordinary powers to beat, arrest and hold you indefinitely all while ceasing any assets you and your family may have. Right now the risks are not worth possible benefits. Be patient because the time is coming soon and when it does, people of all walks of life will start to ignore and disobey the dictates of the state. Just keep spreading the word and bide your time!

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