Big Head Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 382, August 27, 2006

"Government is not the way to get things done."


Ready, Set. . .
by Lady Liberty

Special to The Libertarian Enterprise

They (whoever "they" might be) say that things happen in threes. Whether or not they do—or we simply re-set our counters when we get to three—is immaterial to the fact that three things came to my attention in the past few (dare I say three?) days.

The first was a relatively minor thing. I got an e-mail from somebody in connection with the Free State Project last week who thought I might find the content of some interest. With just over 7,000 participants currently signed up—well short of the 20,000 person membership level originally targeted for September of 2006—someone had publicly stated he'd never move to New Hampshire until the full 20,000 signer goal was reached, and that he frankly didn't think the group would ever get to that level.

The second thing that happened involved a showing of the newly released movie, World Trade Center. Aside from all of the obvious things the movie depicted, there was also featured something I've found all too common among too many: the anguished regret for things not done or said while a person was still alive to appreciate them.

Finally (thirdly?), a friend of mine just finished a book that she immediately brought to me with the urgent suggestion, "You have got to read this!" Entitled Sam's Letters to Jennifer, it's a heart rending tale of life, love, and discovery written by James Patterson. Of the many poignant moments in the book, one in particular stood out for me. A character offers up a quote she once heard:

"For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin—real life. But here was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first, some unfinished business, time still to be served, or a debt to be paid. Then life would begin. At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life."—Father Alfred D'Souza

Like most people, I can be a little obtuse when I want to be. But after being whacked over the head three times in as many days, well, I got the point: How on earth can you expect to get anything done if you don't get anything started? And how ever do you intend to get anything started if you keep making excuses not to begin?

Those who lean toward participation in the Free State Project, Free State Wyoming, the Montana Alliance for Liberty, or similar movements fall into pretty much the same archetypes that most people do: Some jump right in; some test the waters first; some claim support but offer excuses; and others' sole contribution is to criticize.

Those who jump right in are few and far between. They're risk-takers (though typically not foolishly so), and they blaze a trail for all of those who follow. Those who need just a little "infrastructure" in place before leaping rely on the risk-takers, but they've got at the very least the courage of their convictions as well. And critics are actually helpful in their own way as they point out possible pitfalls and, by demanding answers, ensure that such roadblocks have solutions whether it involves breaking through or navigating around them.

It's those who make excuses who really do the least good and the most damage to a cause. There's always something more important, some "obstacle in the way." The bottom line, though, is that those obstacles apparently represent less some insurmountable problem than they do something some are willing to exchange for freedom. Consider:

"But I have a good job here!" Okay. How much do you make? Write that down. That, my friend, is the value you've apparently placed on freedom. It is, after all, what you're selling it for.

"But my family is here!" Most of us wouldn't trade our loved ones for anything. But would we deliberately offer them up to eventual slavery (some would suggest that a certain amount of effective slavery is already well in place, and I'm hard pressed to argue)? Of course not! So why is it that we're staying with our families instead of doing everything we can to get our families to come with us? In a worst case scenario, shouldn't we be willing to at least play "trail blazer" for them the way the risk-takers have for us? Or would we, instead, use our stated love for them to justify our unwillingness to sacrifice proximity—at least temporarily—in part on their behalf? Worse, would we sacrifice all rather than do our best to improve the lives of those we can?

"But it will never work!" Maybe it won't. But "maybe" becomes a certainty if pessimism is the rule of the day. The person who indicated he'd never move until the Free State Project 20,000 participant goal is reached is contributing mightily to that goal never being attained. If everyone who said he or she would move if "enough" others did first would actually pack up and move, "enough" would already be in New Hampshire, or Wyoming, or Montana, or Idaho. . .

"But it will be hard!" Yes, it will. But have you ever in your life found anything worthwhile to be easy? Me, neither. I can't imagine Congressman Ron Paul (R-TX) finds it "easy" to be the lone man in Congress who bases his votes on whether or not the legislation in question is constitutionally authorized. I doubt Michael Badnarik (2004 Libertarian candidate for president, and 2006 Libertarian candidate for Congress in Texas' 10th District) thought thousands of miles of travel and very few hours of sleep while on the campaign trail was "easy"—nor could it have been "easy" for him to decide to do it all again in the hopes of making it to Washington as a Congressional Representative. I think it's fair to say that Jason Sorens (of the Free State Project) and Boston T. Party (founder of Free State Wyoming) have also likely not found the criticisms, the constant questions and second-guessing, and the burdens of leadership "easy." And yet they endure it anyway for the greater cause of freedom.

And then there's the fourth thing that happened to me in the past three days—or the first of three more things, if you prefer. That's the note I got from somebody who couldn't believe I'd suggest taking things incrementally toward freedom, who implied that I was as bad as the unfortunately statist majority if I wasn't willing to hold fast to my principles and take no prisoners. The thing is, though, that holding to my own principles has nothing to do with encouraging others to take whatever gradual steps are needed to get them headed in my—and his—direction.

He asked me where I drew my own "line in the sand." Was it the wanton government destruction of the Branch Davidians in Waco, Texas? Was it the government confiscation of firearms in Katrina-ravaged New Orleans? Was it the PATRIOT Act or the upcoming RFID-embedded passports? The short answer is, "Yes." The slightly longer answer is, "Yes. It was all those things and far too many others besides." But those lines are mine. They may not necessarily be those of most, at least not yet. (The fact that they should be doesn't suddenly make it so.)

So the largest obstacle of all to getting things accomplished, and the biggest excuse for some of those who could be real trail blazers themselves, is this (which also, by the way, came from the objections of that erstwhile Free State Project member):

"But it's not everything it should be, so why bother?" Hard work, it seems, and improvements aren't enough for this fellow. No, he wants there to be a 360 degree turnaround, and he wants it now. Absent that total change, he's taking his ball and going home—after, of course, having ridiculed the unsatisfactory results of the hard work of others to date. And what help is he now, for anyone anywhere, to make positive change? He is, instead, a hindrance despite his lofty motives.

My line-in-the-sand correspondent lives his life as freely as possible and in accordance with his own principles (and to his credit, he may be a critic, but he's also a doer, unlike the other example I've mentioned). So do I, and I hope to get better at it as time passes. Meanwhile, in his email, this man pointed out that Barry Goldwater once said that, "Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice; moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue." But however extreme my own dedication to the idea, I can't force my principles on others, nor can I control anybody else's level of commitment to them.

What I can do is follow some of those pro-freedom trail-blazers (including the man whose principles are so admirably inviolate—like I said, he's a doer!) and let others see where I'm headed and why. What I can do is point out smaller steps they might take if they're not yet convinced to overcome larger obstacles like jobs, families, mostly thankless hard work, and, worst of all, the less than complimentary reactions of the present majority. What I can do is make those smaller steps—political activism, self-education, and the like—the logical thing for them to do by presenting the rational reasoning behind them, knowing that, once convinced, the larger steps will follow—such as running for office, relocating, and living by newly affirmed principles.

What I can do is burst through the remaining obstacles getting in the way of my own life and proceed to live it now rather than in some undetermined fantasy future. Lines were drawn years ago, and crossed and crossed again. Now it's up to us to decide whether or not we're ready to cross a few lines ourselves—though the finish line is distant, the starting line is here, now, and right in front of us. Others are ahead of us, but this isn't about the fastest person in the race. In this contest, the more people who finish, the more of us will win. We have only to choose to step across it that starting line, and once across, to persevere.


Free State Project

Lady Liberty's Movie Review of World Trade Center

James Patterson: The Official Website

World of Quotes—Father Alfred D'Souza

Free State Wyoming

Montana Alliance for Liberty

US Representative Ron Paul

Michael Badnarik for Congress

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