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L. Neil Smith's
Number 608, February 20, 2011


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Why a University?
by Jim Davidson

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Special to The Libertarian Enterprise

Some people, notably enthusiasts of voting, secession, and nullification, have been asking me what I am doing to advance the cause of freedom. What do I think is better than another political campaign, another nullification crisis, or another secession crisis? And, of course, why do I think so?

Well, I think living free would be better. Withdrawing from the state. Withdrawing all support from the state and those who benefit from the state. And I think technologies have arisen which help a great deal in making that possible, in making jurisdictional arbitrage possible, and in making the world, finally, safer for those who, like Laozi advocated thousands of years ago, wish to withdraw from the system but, like Murray Rothbard, wish to continue to be prosperous. Which are some of the reasons I've gone ahead with plans from 2009 to found the Individual Sovereign University.

People help each other on the path to agorism.

I'm not terribly old. I've had the ambition to fly in space since 1968 when I heard Frank Borman reading some passages from a very old book from lunar orbit. I've mistrusted politics since the same year, when everything Nixon and Humphrey said was criticised within moments by my parents or brothers. That was before my father banished the "idiot eye" to the basement.

I think that I woke up in 1977 when I joined the L5 society, or in 1978 when I joined the committee against registration and the draft. I found the words of Reagan about the idiocy of a free people being defended by conscripts to be interesting, but the results were typical - he won, and never eliminated selective service. So...I've been waiting for people to wake up.

In the early 1990s, while I was starting my search for a free country, somewhere in the world, I advanced the theory, presumably not my own, but in discussions of my own with friends, that prosperous people do not revolt. That atrocities like Ruby Ridge and Waco were not answered with revolt because people thought they were prospering, were getting ahead, and would do better by not upsetting the apple cart, so to speak.

Many people began waking up in 2007. I remember seeing my MySpace friends list morph into faces of Ron Paul. And my Facebook friends list, longer, was doing the same. And I'll tell you, I don't think it was Ron. I think it was the fact that people had begun to penetrate the illusion of prosperity. Many people were suffering, already, a year before the worst of the financial storm.

Yes, more and more people have been waking up in the years since. I've noticed. But I don't think it is rational to ascribe these awakenings to politics. I believe it is economics, and to some extent the ability to communicate with one another more rapidly than ever. If you make the argument that we should talk about politics while the season is political, why, yes, we should. And I do. You can read what I've written in TLE and elsewhere. I do talk about politics, and politicians. I don't have to vote to do so. And if I voted, my vote wouldn't be counted.

The Long Journey
I believe that the trip to freedom and enlightenment is very long. It is evidently fraught with peril. I also believe that we have tried classical liberalism, weighed it in the balance, and found it wanting. Like the long journey to the stars, I believe we need to create institutions (many institutions, so there are no single points of failure, and so we can benefit from competition) that have a scale comparable to the scale of our objective.

If you then consider that the Magna Carta was first developed in AD 1215 as a means of limiting government by contract, in writing - the missing written constitution of England - then the objective of a free society through some mechanism for limiting government, or preventing it from expanding its scope, or even getting rid of it entirely (my preference) as an externally imposed institution, is something that has been worked on, diligently, for nearly 800 years. We can then say, despite chopping off the head of Charles First and Louis Seize, we haven't worked out all the bugs. So if it were to take a comparably long time, another 800 years or so, to "get it right this time" we would need a set of institutions which had a lifespan of 800 years or greater. Sixteen hundred would be better.

Then please consider the words in 1610 of Johannes Kepler in a letter to Galileo. "Create ships and sails capable of navigating the celestial atmosphere and you will find men to man them, men not afraid of the vast emptiness of space." Add to these fine words the thought of John Wilkins, bishop of Chester, that "If we can only avoid politics, we'll be flying winged chariots to the Moon in a few generations." Spoken roughly 1665 at the time of the great plague. Notwithstanding that Archimedes had the calculus about 1800 years before that time, we can be assured that the possibility of going into space, to other planets, to the asteroids, and eventually to the stars has *already* spanned hundreds of years. And to see it through to its logical conclusions (successful colonies, not failed attempts, on multiple planetary bodies and throughout this region of the galaxy) would take hundreds more years, possibly thousands, not to mention the million year plan to meet at the far side of the galaxy for the biggest party ever conceived (by H. Keith Henson, at the NASFIC in 1987) we again need a set of institutions that can compete with one another and keep the dream alive for millennia.

Okay, so, what are our choices? Governments are ephemeral things, lasting a few years at best. There is nothing of the character of Jefferson's government in Obama's. Corporations have been known to last a few hundred years, but with totally different markets, vastly different managements, and typically very different products. The two types of human institutions that I think bear scrutiny are religions and universities.

One of the oldest religions of which we know is Daoism or Taoism, founded by Laozi, arguably 400 to 600 BC, depending on what you believe about him. Another ancient religion is Judaism, arguably founded by the deuteronomist monarchists in or around 980 BC - and claimed by them to date back to at least Moses, possibly Abraham, possibly Adam, depending on what you want to believe. Then there is Catholicism which was arguably founded in AD 325 or so by Constantine, you could look that up. Hinduism, Buddhism, etc., all have very long lineages. But, for me, founding a religion, even with some "sacred" text like my "Neo-hippie Manifesto" would require more arrogance and a lot more tedium than I am willing to put up with.

Universities, on the other tentacle, are also of very long lineage. One of the oldest, I believe, the university of Bologna, was founded around AD 980. Some say a bit later. I think you can find institutions of "higher learning" such as the House of Wisdom in Baghdad around AD 1100 and the "groves of Academe" in Athens in 400 BC, amongst others, going back as far as you care to look. And universities have the traditions of scholarship and research one might wish to associate with both the search for freedom and the journey to the stars. Which is why I founded the Houston Space Institute in 1993 and why I founded Individual Sovereign University in 2009.

You can get involved as a teacher, or blogger, at Registration is free for the site. Let me know and I can add you to the group that is allowed to blog (the open blogging was spammed). You can come to our founding conference in early March near Kansas City, Missouri. You can help by sharing this note with your friends, by "liking" the Facebook version of this note, by commenting on it, or by going to and clicking some money into our ChipIn. Thank you.

Epilogue: What happened to my search for a free country? I visited many places, and researched a great many more. Do you know what I found out? In all countries, I believe you have more freedom the further you get from the state and national capitols. Centres of government are centres of oppression. But the basic truth is: no place is yet perfectly free. If we are to live free, and bequeath to our children and descendants a free land, we must build it. There is no choice, really. If it is to be, there is no time but now, no place but here, no one but us.

You can get more knowledge for yourself by taking one or more of our classes. You can wait until you become the better person you know you can be, or you can start working on a free society, right now. You can wait until someone tells you that it is time to begin, or until you've "elected" someone to a position of authority to tell you that it is now time to live free. But I think that's all nonsense.

You are good enough the way you are. Now is the time to start. Let's go!

Jim Davidson is an author, entrepreneur, and anti-war activist. His 1990 venture to offer a sweepstakes trip into space was destroyed by government action as was his free port and prospective space port in Somalia in 2001. His 2002-2007 venture in free market money and private stock exchange was destroyed by government action in 2007. He's going to Mars if he has to walk. His second book, Being Sovereign is now availble from Lulu and Amazon. He is currently working on a book about travel to Mars with John Wayne Smith, a book with international fugitive Chad Z. Hower on his story, a book on sovereign self-defence, and a book compiling his letters and essays in The Libertarian Enterprise since 1995. Contact him at or Come visit the Founding Fiesta of the Individual Sovereign University 4-6 March 2011 in Kansas City.


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