Big Head Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 698, November 25, 2012

Our single nebulous hope resides in a leaderless,
centerless spirit of individual liberty. Each time
it's provoked into raising its head, it startles
and frightens those who think they own us."w3

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Liberty Leading the People

To the Barricades! Or Not.
by Chris Claypoole

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Attribute to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise

I spent the day on Friday at home, trying to rest and recover from a bout with my chronic bronchitis. My daughter had come home for Thanksgiving, and we were sitting in the living room. She had the television on, watching a PBS beg-fest that featured a recording of the musical, Les Misérables. When the song Do You Hear The People Sing was playing, I had a thought or two, which I am going to share with you.

The book and its adaptations are set in the early 19th century France, from 1815 to 1832 during the period called the Bourbon Restoration. While technically a constitutional monarchy, the franchise was limited to men with significant amounts of property, little more than 1% of the population. The primary tension in the government was between those that supported a more-powerful monarchy and those that wanted a more representative government. The Industrial Revolution was picking up steam, but the peasant class of France did not flock to the cities nearly as much as in Britain. The conditions of the city-dwellers were quite similar, though. Even those with factory jobs lived precariously; those without jobs (often women, the elderly, the disabled, etc.) were even worse off. And without the franchise, they had no means of expressing their desperation short of rebellion.

There are two other ways in which the conditions in Restoration France and contemporary America are vastly different. One is the support held by the ruling class. In early 19th century France, the commoners, even if the bourgeoisie was excluded, were an overwhelming majority of the population, and mostly could not vote. In 2012 America, a large minority (about a third of the registered voting population) supports each half of the ruling elite running the federal government. And that one-third support is roughly the same for each faction of the ruling elite that controls the federal government. Let me be more specific. Whether the Democrats or the Republicans (the ruling elite's mirror images) control the levers of power, about two thirds of the voting population will swear fealty to the illusion that there is a desperate struggle for the future of "democracy in America". Each third has been lead to believe that they are fighting the other for control of the federal government, but in reality they are all being duped.

Yes, the voting population is only a fraction of the total adult, eligible population, and only a fraction of those registered vote. For example, in the 2008 election, 71% of eligible adults registered, and 64% actually voted. Not quite 53% voted for Obama, which means he was elected by 33.9% of eligible voters. I don't have numbers that I trust yet for 2012, but I doubt that they will differ much.

So the remaining one-third of the adult population is, for many different reasons, too disillusioned by the whole mess to register and vote. Some don't want to get called for jury duty, some don't give a damn (and there's lots of reasons for that, too), etc. So Americans who don't like the current governmental system are somewhat less than one-third of the population. And most of those are not likely to man the barricades, as the Occupy movement showed.

Which brings us to the second reason. Today's force providers have a greater advantage in power than existed in Restoration France. In the latter, the king's men had cannon and professional soldiers armed with muskets. The Parisian students and other disaffected folks had some muskets and enthusiasm, which was insufficient against trained troops. Modern force providers have force multipliers far beyond anything available in the early 19th century. Any attempt to reprise what the French did in those years would only result in what is euphemistically referred to as a "target-rich environment". Sure, the recent Occupy activities were settled with little bloodshed. But brutality was there, and I doubt that any actions perceived by the powers that be as truly dangerous to their phony baloney jobs would be met with only a few "Harrumphs".

So we have a lot of angry men (and angry women) who are sick and tired of being slaves to the ruling class. And if anyone disputes that we are, by and large, slaves, consider how much you pay in taxes, how many regulations must be followed to avoid jail or even death, and how one must act to the minions (I love that word!) of the various levels of government in order to avoid trouble. Talk back to a cop? Disrespect a civil "servant"? Per Heinlein, "In a mature society, 'civil servant' is semantically equal to 'civil master.'" Try being impatient and snarky to the clerk at the DMV if you don't believe me. What are we to do?

Well, overt violence is not the answer. You don't have to be an expert on The Art of War to know that it is stupid and suicidal to attack an enemy on his ground using his preferred style of fighting. Some advocate agorism, as readers of TLE will know if they read Jim Davidson's essays. Others try to live apart in remote areas; so-called gulching. They are similar but not necessarily identical. But each involves refusing to "feed the beast" of government. Full disclosure: I am not actively doing either of these, although I would support those who do. My life choices have backed me into a corner as far as this sort of thing goes, but there's no point in griping about it. It is what it is. And circumstance may change. Therefore be ready in your mind and in your heart to do what you can to be free.

When the beating of your heart
Echoes the beating of the drums
There is a life about to start
When tomorrow comes!

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