Big Head Press

L. Neil Smith's
Number 631, August 7, 2011

"A vast paradigm shift is bringing the
8000-year Age of Authority to an end"

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Social Insurance in a World of Dangerous Uncertainties
by L. Neil Smith

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Special to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise

It is said that in October of 1781, at the close of the American Revolution, when British General Charles Cornwallis sent a flunky to surrender his sword after losing the Battle of Yorktown, that the band he'd brought with him played a ditty called "The World Turned Upside Down".

It certainly must have seemed that way to the hapless British, who were running the biggest, most powerful empire on the planet at the time, and hadn't expected to lose a shooting war against the motley army in rags that they saw before them at the end. Then again, nobody can ever predict what will happen in a revolution, what will work and what will not, until the events themselves have unfolded and it's too late.

Science fiction author Robert A. Heinlein observed in at least a couple of his works—Revolt in 2100, comes to mind, as well as The Moon Is A Harsh Mistress—that every revolution is a freak, a phenomenon entirely unto itself, unlike every other revolution in history.

There are different kinds of revolution, violent ones in America, France, Russia, and Iran, for example, as well as non-political ones like the instant popularity of the private automobile in the early 20th century, the spread of television in the 1950s, the switch from vacuum tubes to solid state in the 1960s, and the replacement of six-shot revolvers by high-capacity semiautomatics in police holsters in the 1990s.

Who could have predicted that sixty percent would be Austrian?

A peaceful revolution let Czechoslovakia divide itself into the Czech Republic and Slovakia, as a reflection of a vast paradigm shift that is bringing the 8000-year Age of Authority to an end. Authority itself, however, is like a slowly dying dinosaur, whose death throes endanger everything and everybody around it. In America, the passage of increasingly idiotic, corrupt, or pathological laws, arbitrary and inappropriate enforcement of laws already on the books, and a shattering rise in police violence are manifestation of those death throes.

This reign of dangerous uncertainties can't last forever. History clearly demonstrates that people will quickly replace the currently collapsing old structure with "new guards for their future security". However these remain perilous times and a number of preparations are in order, that go far beyond simply collecting plenty of guns and ammo, and storing hundreds of tons of freeze-dried lentils in your basement.

A key part of dealing with predatory government practices "under color of law" must be some kind of community or neighborhood action which can protect individuals and even prevent such practices in the future. It would be the height of folly to settle on some temporary fix that would leave our kids and grandkids to face the same old problems.

Happily, there's no need to ask anybody "Where do we start?" The individual who has perhaps done the most theoretical work on a concept I call "social insurance" is the individual who has perhaps done the most social insuring. His definitive essay on the subject may be found here:

His essay also links to an account by William Stone III on an actual operation in which a young woman was heroically rescued after an attempt to have her committed for observation by her ex-husband and ex-father-in-law because she resisted their attempts to control her life.

The incident, and others like it, remind one strongly of American pioneers who banded together with their neighbors, at need, to protect one another on the frontier, where they couldn't depend on government and needed to provide for their own physical security. It's also highly evocative of the historic pre-Revolutionary Committees of Correspondence.

Today, the bulk of our correspondence is carried out at the speed of light by telephone (voice, text, and Twitter) and computer (e-mail, blogs, FaceBook, and other such systems). Our neighbors are not those who live closest to us, necessarily, but individuals all over the country—sometimes even the world—whom we may never have met in person, but with whom we visit every day, and who share our values and convictions.

One element I'd add is this: the world—at least those of us who desire to remain free and unmolested—needs a new camera. It should be autofocusing, store information on an internal chip, record sound, and be cast in a solid block of some indestructible plastic. From time to time it should transmit the contents of its chip, perhaps on cell phone frequencies, to some location where it can't be seized and destroyed.

Fasten it to the dashboard of your car with inch-thick bolts. The records would be freely available to anyone in the general freedom movement including those pledged to rescue you should you get locked up.

Social insurance: an idea whose time has come.

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