L. Neil Smith's

Number 9, June 1996

A Civil Society

by Victor Milan

Exclusive to The Libertarian Enterprise

         It's time to start thinking seriously about dismantling the State. Actually, the time was a while back, but better to start late than wait until Republicans enforce the Bill of Rights and parallel lines meet.
         Or do we really believe freedom is possible? It seems to me we've three choices. We can keep jerking off. We can say, bag it, it'll never happen, and do the sensible deed, i.e. scramble off to Demopublican HQ to start rooting for our own spot at the trough. Which will be the only way to survive, much less thrive, if freedom isn't our future.
         Or we can decide we really mean it.
         OK. Now that it's down to just you and me, let's consider what we can do to bring about a free society, which incidentally will prepare us to actually live in a free society, and also improve our chances of surviving the transition, which is liable to be rocky.
         Forget politics: voting, lobbying, running for office, or planning violent revolution. Expropriating and enslaving us is built right into the political process. Politics cannot be reformed any more than human sacrifice or rape, nor can it be our vehicle to freedom. Only by circumventing politics can we free ourselves.
         And, indeed, that's how we do it. We enumerate those necessary goods and services which government allegedly provides, and figure out non-coercive means of providing them. Then we get down and do it. It's called "re-building civil society."
         Simple. Also profoundly subversive. Indeed, it's the only truly subversive thing we can do, since the conventional forms of "subversion" amount to nothing more than moves in the same old political game.
         Example: if government has any function, any justification for its existence -- and its exactions -- it is fundamentally to protect us, persons, rights, and property. Consider the aftermath of the Rodney King trial in 1992, when through cowardice or a desire to punish Los Angeles' citizens -- likely both -- LAPD permitted mobs to sack the city pretty much unhindered. The military turned out, but they didn't stop the riot. It stopped when its multicultural participants got tired, and their living rooms got full of VCRs.
         The LA riots made it excruciatingly obvious that government, at any level you care to specify, has neither the ability nor the desire to protect you. If there's a social contract, government cannot and will not honor it in even its most rudimentary form.
         But the rioters didn't have it all their own way. While business owners who left their property to the protection of police or soldiers often returned to ashes, individuals acting in concert, out of interlocking self-interest, proved very successful at repelling looters. Even nominal shows of readiness to defend by force sufficed: predators seek easy prey, not pain.
         So let's begin with the individual right, and responsibility, of self-defense. The State, you've surely noticed, doesn't want you defending yourself. Part of that is that, if you get the notion of standing up to common criminals, you might decide you can also stand up to the government's own paramilitary Nightmare Armies. But to at least as great an extent, the State doesn't want you defending yourself because then you won't need it.
         Personal defense is both necessary and subversive. What more could you want?
         Now widen the focus. Make your family aware that while ultimately each member is responsible for his or her own defense, together you form a natural mutual-defense force. Realize that protection goes beyond packing heat or making sure doors and windows are locked before leaving the house. Blurting, "My dad has the coolest guns!" in the schoolyard is going to remain conspicuously poor practice long after BATF is condemned as a criminal conspiracy and latter-day Simon Wiesenthals are hunting its remnants down back alleys.
         Talk to your neighbors about keeping an eye on each other's property, about being ready to come to each other's aid in emergency. Don't rely on the cops. Do it yourself: you'll be safer and freer.
         Try extending your mutual-defense network among your friends. Maybe they'll all laugh at you, or stare blankly. Make new friends.
         In fact, there's one model -- not the model, a model -- for creating any voluntary system: friendship. You pick your friends carefully, don't you? You establish value-for-value relationships with them, don't you, in which bookkeeping is unnecessary, but in which you maintain a rough parity? Try building a mutual-defense network the same way you've built your network of friends, deliberately, emphasizing quality over quantity.
         However you shape your defense net, apply a similar process to anything government supposedly gives you that you actually need or want. Build the systems and use them. That's how we re-create civil society. That's how we free ourselves.
         The details are up to you. Only you can decide what best suits your abilities and temperament and needs. Maybe my "friendship" model doesn't fit you; maybe it just won't work. It doesn't matter: Come up with what works for you. "One size fits all" is a paradigm of the Age of Big Government, now deceased.
         I suspect your big question is, "Do millions of people need to do this to make it work?" Yup. But there is no "society," no "masses," no "People": those millions of choices have to be made one individual at a time. Pop quiz: which individual can you make choices for?
         The real question is, do we really want to be free? If not by working out how to live free and then doing so, how can we become free? Will someone else give us freedom as a gift?
         The payoff is, if you try creating voluntary systems until you succeed, you make government irrelevant. You have in the process made yourself ungovernable. When enough people have chosen and acted similarly, government will become both unnecessary and impossible.
         In building civil society, you build a house of freedom. And prepare yourself to live in it.

Prometheus Award-winner Victor Milan is the author of over 70 novels, including the just-released CLD from AvoNova and War in Tethyr from TSR.

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