At present, the free-market ideology is completely off the radar of most people’s consciousness. They may occasionally hear about free markets, and have their opinions on it (“There should be government safety nets and regulations” or “There must be a national plan to direct industry”), but if you dig just a little deeper, you’ll find that they are referring to a kind of state-sponsored market.
‘Capitalism’ to them is a connivance between the rich and the powerful, and they believe that if a ‘dog-eat-dog’ system were allowed to prevail, there would be much fraud, businesses would settle for cheap shortcuts as a means of profit, and workers will be paid next to nothing. And if only government were not corrupt, companies would be kept in line so as to truly be of service to the public, and to the country.
PEOPLE ARE TYPICALLY ANTI-MARKET
While these opinions may be definite, they are not the result of long hours of contemplation, but rather knee-jerk responses. The anti-market sentiment is a common first impression for most (including me), if only because they are aware that bad things do happen in this world. There seems to be a need for an institution designed specifically to stop bad things such as hunger and hatred from happening, and that institution is government. In addition, it’s just right for there to be some representative of ‘the people’ by which people can receive official awards or shake hands with big shots.
AFFIRMED BY THE ACADEME
And if someone does study the matter more in-depth, they often do with their biases directing their learning, and with questionable methodology, so that their ‘educated opinions’ will be mere rationalizations of their prejudices. What’s more, their professors likewise affirm such viewpoints. And so we have most of the academe in support of the politically privileged, who naturally welcome the pro-state inclination of the ‘progressives.’ The media don’t know any better, and equate official expertise with sound reasoning, and so the large media institutions are just as entrenched in state worship.
THE LAYERS OF STATE WORSHIP
I’ve been writing in this blog a lot this past year, and it’s not out of any sense that some intellectual tide is changing. I can make my points one by one, destroying each layer of falsehood as found in statist theory, only to find that many readers are not even of the proper frame of mind to comprehend me. There’s just so much BULLSHIT we’re fed every single day of our lives by the political elite (including media and other crony industries), and the elite themselves believe it, that I’m not any closer to making a difference in the world as when I started.
Just look at the comments in the article I wrote on the girl who was rewarded for saving a Philippine flag from a flood. I must thank the anonymous commenters, who are proving my point that the protective instinct towards country and flag is a throwback to violent savagery. That they are unaware of Bill Clinton’s 1992 presidential campaign slogan is forgivable.
If I make a point against protectionism, dismantling the logic of the notion of ‘Buy Filipino’ or ‘Give back to the country,’ this wouldn’t mean a thing if a person still clings to the notions of loyalty to the motherland and other statist concepts.
Challenge them to make an essential distinction between their nationalism and that of Nazi Germans, and their brains would short-circuit.
AN IMAGINED CONVERSATION
Nationalist: Well, I wouldn’t support the killing of minorities!Me: Does that have to do with your allegiance to some nation, or because you recognize individual rights?Nationalist: But my country would always recognize individual rights.Me: And if it doesn’t, you would defect?Nationalist: Yeah, only a Nazi-like country would oppose freedom.Me: So you’re putting individual rights over the concept of nationalism after all. Isn’t it then redundant or irrelevant to salute a flag or put your heart to your chest for some stupid song, if it’s individual rights that are paramount?Nationalist: My country deserves my respect.Me: Who is your country then? Is it the dirt beneath your feet? Some person in Samar you don’t even know? Some spiritual entity comprised of each Filipino’s brain? Or is it really just this vague concept which politicians use to fool you into making sulong their programs? At best, the nationalistic images in your head provide an aesthetic thrill.Nationalist: You, you don’t get it. It’s like this. You see, if it’s just us as individuals, we’re each like barbecue sticks, we can be broken one by one, but if we’re bundled up together, we can’t be broken… You see?Me: You seem to be equating the state with community. So does forming a community entail the threat of physical harm if you don’t want to contribute taxes? If I’m not with you, I’m against you?Nationalist: … You’ll never understand.
LET’S GET REAL
So why am I writing all these articles and books espousing freedom, if I see ‘the cause’ as hopeless? I’d attribute it more to vanity and the joy in writing, rather than any do-gooder inclination. It’s not that I wouldn’t want a free society to come about; more than most anything, it’s an ardent desire of mine. But all the wishing won’t make it a reality. What’s more, all my individual attempts won’t be enough to sustain the philosophy of liberty in people’s hearts and minds, if people are not equipped for it.
It’s not a matter of ‘marketing’ it just right, where liberty is catered to the audience so as to bring about a real revolution. Reality is more complicated than that, and it would be mighty pompous and conceited of me to think I was a messiah on whom the fate of freedom and truth rested. Such conceit is what lurks in the minds of politicians who think they have the brains and know-how to decide on the allocation of resources for millions. This is what Hayek termed the ‘constructivist’ view.
Spreading the message of liberty is not a matter of saying something the right way so as to get others to agree, in the hopes that this viewpoint will spread like wildfire. Even if by some freak chance, someone sees the light as a result of your marketing efforts, this does not mean that you could apply the same formula elsewhere for others to become enlightened.
It is through Ron Paul that I was directed towards the literature of the great Austrian economists. Without having listened to his ‘The revolution’ in 2008, where I heard him talk about the website mises.org, I do not know how I would have otherwise become the libertarian I am today.
But wasn’t I just saying above that campaigns such as Paul’s are ineffective in bringing about change? Could I really be daft enough to say that Paul has not increased the number of libertarians on Earth? Not exactly. By necessity, Paul was part of the causal chain that made me, for one, a libertarian. But that’s not all there is to it.
TWO TO TANGO
It might help to recall Jesus’ parable of the farmer who sowed seeds on road, rock, thorns and good soil, where the seeds grew only in the good soil. My ‘conversion’ to libertarianism wasn’t a one-way thing. The conditions for my receptivity had to be present.
Why is it that only nearly 40 years after running for public office, people are beginning to listen to Ron Paul? Did his message change in between? Did he make use of some fabulous marketing techniques that got people to listen instead of laugh in ridicule? No. For some reason, people became more receptive, and although still not as popular as his stupider, shrewder colleagues, the obstetrician-turned-politician is a significant national presence.
It might be argued that Paul was largely helped by the internet, which ‘marketed’ him to his present status. But then, did Obama and McCain have any less access to the Web as a means of campaigning? Nonetheless, I believe the internet, with its decentralizing effect on the flow of information, is among the conditions by which reasoned economic thinking will prevail over the nonsense spouted by the paid hacks of traditional media.
GREENSPAN IN AID OF FREEDOM?
Another necessary condition would be economic collapse. In fact, it’s largely because of Alan Greenspan’s ‘masterful’ monetary policy and the ensuing depression that people are seeking alternative explanations for the crisis. If anything, Greenspan was more of a cause than Ron Paul in enlightening people as to the nature of central banking! The internet and housing bubbles may have even been an elaborate education scheme by libertarian-at-heart Greenspan, who has paradoxically remained an advocate of the gold standard! Of course, at this point, I’m joking. But my point remains that we can’t look at things so simplistically as ‘Ron Paul is helping the cause of freedom!’ He is just one aspect of the phenomenon of people waking up to the reality of their government being a monster.
MARKETING HELPS ENTITIES, NOT ADVOCACIES
Not to say that great marketing is useless altogether. Rather, adopting brilliant strategies would aid specific entities, but not their advocacies per se. An advocacy will advance, in some way or another, regardless of any specific entities’ presence or involvement.
And oftentimes, the ‘massification’ of particular advocacies, for the enrichment of the specific entity, comes with a dilution of the principles one wishes to impart. This, to me, is no better than an intellectual elitist who refuses to adapt his style so as to be more understandable or relatable (to whatever the degree possible without dilution).
EACH OF US KNOWS THE WORLD UNIQUELY
Part of the appreciation of free markets and decentralized institutions is the recognition that minds are so distinct from each other, wherein others’ lives and thoughts could be comprehended by us only through the most alien parallels.
We are unique beings. Technically, one never truly passes on knowledge. Others may appear to agree or approve on the surface, but their actual thoughts remain mysterious and not transmittable. We can marvel even at the disagreements of statists, who are blatantly wrong to our (correct) way of thinking, knowing that their experience of facts and ideas is fresh and exotic.
DESPAIR, OR LIBERATION?
So does this mean I should not bother with attempts at spreading liberty, since the fates will step in, or that we’re doomed anyway? Rather than saying “Fuck it” or despairing from the seeming hopelessness of it all, I think the knowledge of the complexity of social evolution would liberate us. We would be more inclined to do what we want to do anyway, no longer suffering far-sightedness.
But I’m not espousing ‘Let it be’ or ‘Que sera sera’ either. I’m wary of going into the whole metaphysical argument and defending my position that there is no such thing as free will, suffice to say:
It is not a predetermined nature of things, but one’s attitude towards such a notion, that determines one’s fate.
And my desired fate is to write and discuss liberty, regardless of how many people I convert or how large the free-market-voluntarism movement becomes.
The one thing I’d like you, my libertarian reader, to take from this entry of mine is to have fun with what you’re doing. If you don’t love it, then you won’t withstand the days and nights of work related to your ‘mission.’ And if you love it, the ‘utility’ of realizing a free society would be secondary to the enjoyment of your present task.
All his life has he looked away... to the future, to the horizon. Never his mind on where he was. What he was doing. ― Yoda, speaking to Jedi-in-training Luke Skywalker in the third person