THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 791, October 5, 2014
Bureaucracy is the form of government in which
everybody is deprived of political freedom, of
the power to act; for the rule by Nobody is
not no-rule, and where all are equally
powerless we have a tyranny without a tyrant.
Attribute to L. Neil Smith's The Libertarian Enterprise
Revolution is just and often justified. It is a type of warfare to overthrow a government which has become tyrannical. As an anarchist, I approve of overthrowing, or throwing down, governments, all of which are more or less forms of tyranny in my view. So, don't get me wrong, I'm not against revolution.
But, there are problems with revolutions. In his great classic novel Animal Farm, George Orwell wrote about the overthrow of the tyranny of the farm owners by a group of animals under the leadership of the pigs. In very short order, the pigs decide to have the best of things, refuse to divide things equally, and take exception to calls for equality. Soon, the pigs have taken over the role of running the farm, and not a little later, started walking on two feet to distance themselves from the other animals. By the end of the story, the pigs are no different from the human masters that were overthrown.
Since the book indicates that revolution ends badly, was Orwell's message "to hell with revolution and hail the status quo"? Quite a few leftist, especially Stalinist, intellectuals of his time seemed to think so. Dwight McDonald wrote a letter to Orwell in December 1946 which appears in George Orwell: Life in Letters, 2013. McDonald felt that the "hail the status quo" view wasn't what Orwell meant, and sounded him out about it. A favourable, but confusingly footnoted, review of the volume of letters provided me with Orwell's reply and appeared in the 11 July 2013 issue of The New York Review.
Orwell says, "Of course, I intended it primarily as a satire on the Russian revolution. But I did mean it to have a wider application in so much that I meant that *that kind* of revolution (violent conspiratorial revolution, led by unconsciously power-hungry people) can only lead to a change of masters. I meant the moral to be that revolutions only effect a radical improvement when the masses are alert and know how to chuck out their leaders as soon as the latter have done their job. The turning point of the story was supposed to be when the pigs kept the milk and apples for themselves (Kronstadt). If the other animals had had the sense to put their foot down, then, it would have been all right. If people think I am defending the status quo, that is, I think, because they have grown pessimistic and assume that there is no alternative except dictatorship .... What I was trying to say was, 'You can't have a revolution unless you make it for yourself; there is no such thing as a benevolent dictatorship.'"
Readers are left to exercise their interest in research by looking into the circumstances in 1921 at the naval base at Kronstadt, where sailors supported workers striking over food shortages and harsh treatment. The fact that Trotsky and Tukhachevsky put down this rebellion, violently, and were subsequently liquidated by Stalin, illustrates the dangers of all forms of dictatorship.
The fallacy of a benevolent dictatorship appears also in Unintended Consequences the epic 1996 self-defence novel by John Ross. His protagonist, Henry Bowman, objects to a scholarly analysis of Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes in which the professor says it is "just one more scholarly justification for forfeiting your rights and allowing you to be subjugated by the State."
Bowman points out, "The important question is, when do you know it's going to become enslavement? When is the proper time to resist with force? ... The end result, which we want to avoid, is the concentration camp. The gulag. The gas chamber. The Spanish Inquisition. All of those things. If you are in a death camp, no one would fault you for resisting. But when you're being herded towards the gas chamber, naked and seventy pounds below your healthy weight, it's too late. You have no chance. On the other hand, no one would support you if you started an armed rebellion because the government posts speed limits on open roads and arrests people for speeding. So, when is it not too late, but also not too early."
Bowman, and Ross, go on to point out that when the big bully tries to take away your future ability to resist, that's when you should fight to the death. The balance of Ross's novel goes into the despicable nature of the bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms, and how agents of that tax enforcement agency have historically proven themselves to be evil, hateful, psychotic misanthropes with totalitarian ambitions. Numerous enjoyable fictional scenes ensue where the gun culture overcomes tyranny.
Now, today, where do things stand? There is global espionage. Your privacy and, therefore, your autonomy, have been revoked. Only very determined people who use encryption have any meaningful privacy in their communications. Only very determined people have any meaningful economic privacy. Enormous bureaucracies exist to eliminate your freedom to use your property and money as you see fit, prevent you from using plants and plant extracts as you see fit, prevent you from owning certain types of weapon, prevent you from travelling in certain ways while in possession of the ability to defend yourself, and force you to support a welfare and warfare state with an endlessly increasing debt. And those facts are true whether you live in the United States, Canada, Mexico, Europe, or elsewhere in the world. Emigrating isn't an option, because the reach of these bureaucracies is global. If we consider NASA to be just another such bureaucracy (and I do), then their reach is inter-global.
Which brings me to sunny point number three: Hannah Arendt, writing in "Reflections on Violence," an essay published by the New York Review on 27 February 1969, notes: "Violence, being instrumental by nature, is rational to the extent that it is effective in reaching the end which must justify it. And since when we act we never know with any amount of certainty the eventual consequences of what we are doing, violence can remain rational only if it pursues short-term goals. Violence does not promote causes, it promotes neither History nor Revolution, but it can indeed serve to dramatize grievances and to bring them to the public attention. As Conor Cruise O'Brien once remarked, 'Violence is sometimes needed for the voice of moderation to be heard.' And indeed, violence, contrary to what its prophets try to tell us, is a much more effective weapon of reformers than of revolutionists. France would not have received the most radical reform bill since Napoleon to change her antiquated education system without the riots of the French students [in May 1968], and no one would have dreamed of yielding to reforms of Columbia University without the riots during the  Spring term.
"Still," continues Arendt, "the danger of the practice of violence, even if it moves consciously within a non-extremist framework of short-term goals, will always be that the means overwhelm the end. If goals are not achieved rapidly, the result will not merely be defeat but the introduction of the practice of violence into the whole body politic. Action is irreversible, and a return to the status quo in case of defeat is always unlikely. The practice of violence, like all action, changes the world, but the most probable change is a more violent world. Finally, the greater the bureaucratization of public life, the greater will be the attraction of violence. In a fully developed bureaucracy there is nobody left with whom one could argue, to whom one could present grievances, on whom the pressures of power could be exerted. Bureaucracy is the form of government in which everybody is deprived of political freedom, of the power to act; for the rule by Nobody is not no-rule, and where all are equally powerless we have a tyranny without a tyrant. ... Huge party machines have succeeded everywhere to overrule the voice of the citizens, even in countries where freedom of speech and association is still intact."
Arendt notes that dissidents in Russia, China, and elsewhere (we would mention Hong Kong and North Korea, today) "demand free speech and thought as the preliminary conditions for political action; the rebels in the West live under conditions where these preliminaries no longer open the channels for action, for the meaningful exercise of freedom. The transformation of government into administration, of republics into bureaucracies, and the disastrous shrinkage of the public realm that went with it, have a long and complicated history throughout the modern age; and this process has been considerably accelerated for the last hundred years through the rise of party bureaucracies."
How then, are we to proceed? In their excellent 1993 book-length essay, "War and Anti-War," Alvin and Heidi Toffler quote former secretary of state Christopher Warren in supposing that if people were not forced to live together under multi-ethnic governments there would, fairly quickly, be "five thousand countries" on Earth. Warren describes this eventuality with alarm, of course, presumably imagining how tiresome and irritating it would be to have a separate desk at the State department for each country. How dare people imagine that they live as they choose, are free to determine their own destinies, seems to be his attitude. And, indeed, that has been the attitude of any number of United States politicians, diplomats, delegates to the United Nations, and so forth. With very rare exceptions (the 1993 establishment of Eritrea and the 2011 independence of South Sudan come to mind), the nearly 2,000 identifiable ethnic populations in Africa, over a billion people, are forced, by US, EU, UN, and African Union political policies, to live together in 54 countries, nine territories, and two de facto states which have limited recognition by other countries.
An old friend of mine used to comment on injustices with his favourite question, "Yeah, but, what are ya gonna do? Start your own country?" Perhaps you should, at least a micro-nation that brings you some money from the sale of unique postage stamps, passports, and visas. But you really aren't going to get very far that way.
Nor can I give you much reason to expect to emigrate from Earth to another planet any time soon. Dozens of space entrepreneurs have tried very diligently to mine or at least claim asteroids, send probes to the Moon or Mars, or even simply bring tourists up into "space" on suborbital flights reaching an apogee of more than sixty miles. If Sir Richard Branson, with all his billions, was unable to keep his 2004 promise (at the X Prize victory celebration for Scaled Composites) to have tourist flights in 2007, and has, at latest inquiry, postponed beyond 2014 his first flights, you may be waiting quite a while for affordable tourists flights to Earth orbit, let alone colonisation trips to other planetary bodies. Or, to paraphrase an old space enthusiast clarion cry, "L5 did not arrive by 1995." Technically and economically you can certainly do quite a lot with the space frontier, but you are not allowed to get there from here.
All of these sunny points should, by now, do much to explain why hard science fiction is mostly a dead end for authors, so many of whom have been writing time travel fiction, swords-and-sorcery fantasy fiction, and looking for a really good pay-off in video game licence fees. The definition Eric Raymond gives (here) of hard science fiction as involving individuals solving problems using knowledge and understanding is an excellent one. But it isn't a surprise that a great many people don't expect to be able to solve their problems, or, having the ability to be permitted to profit by so doing. So, fantasy games, role playing games, and extremely violent single-person-shooter games are triumphant. Planning your way to a sustainable future in a community beyond the Earth is no longer fashionable.
If these facts make you feel frustration, good. Your mind is still free. You chafe at the idea of endless boundaries and limitations. You are ready for a change. So, too, are tens of millions of others.
You can see their readiness for change in their protests, in Hong Kong, Catalonia, Ferguson Missouri, Kiev, and elsewhere. You can sense their readiness for change in their investigation of and experimentation with new technologies, such as the crypto-currency revolution unleashed by Satoshi in 2009. You can see their willingness to act in the work of Anonymous and in the work of identifiable world heroes such as Chelsea Manning and Edward Snowden. The fact that tens of thousands of people have supported projects like WikiLeaks and people like Julian Assange indicates a willigness to seek the truth. Today's revolutionaries are often seen carrying video systems to capture (and instantly upload) images of protests while they happen.
Bitcoin and other block-chain-technology currencies have their own limitations, of course. You cannot use them directly without publishing that fact to the blockchain. The blockchain is the essential instrument of decentralisation that makes bitcoin work, and it is a key vulnerability to your privacy. But there are effective ways to use that tool in order to benefit from the innovation surrounding the bitcoin financial community. I've elsewhere pointed out that to "finance war no more" (external link) you should consider SilentVault, a technology with which I've been very familiar for several months, based on a system called Voucher-Safe which has been developed since 2008.
Of course, that isn't really very easy to do. In order to create a SilentVault wallet, you need to download and install the SilentVault wallet application, or the more-than-complete SilentVault Spark plugin. Doing so on a Windows operating system requires that you reach a screen where Windows tells you it has "protected your system" by refusing the installation of our software. On that screen there is "more info" which, if you choose to look, takes you to a screen that lets you actually install our software. On Linux and Mac systems, our software doesn't have this issue.
Why is that screen there? SilentVault's technology lead, Justin Turrell, recently commented on it. "This means that whenever you install software not from Microsoft, or from a vendor with a package signed by a key belonging to a Microsoft-certified Certificate Authority, you are perforce going to have to click past a warning indicating that the sky is falling. In order to eliminate this warning, a software company has to submit to a highly invasive and somewhat costly procedure in which names, photo IDs, and proof of address must be submitted for all company management and responsible developers. Needless to say most open source projects cannot or will not comply with this, and it is particularly out of the question for a financial privacy application like ours. At least, it's safe to say that no such 'know-your-developer' regime will be complied with whilst I am on the staff. The purpose for these annoying warnings is restraint of trade by a state-facing cartel, with security used as a pretext. It's especially ironic given that the operating system itself is made deliberately insecure."
Indeed, there are good reasons to expect less freedom and privacy from Microsoft products than from nearly anyone else in the world. They are, after all, a significant military and government contractor. They reap significant benefits from their relationship with the state. You cannot really expect them to be all that concerned if, through the security holes they maintain and the software they build, a bunch of people are sent to long term detention without trial, as seems to be the case.
If your economic privacy, your individual liberty, your personal sovereignty, your ability to refuse to participate in a global warfare/welfare state which actually oppresses you is motivation enough to get involved in securing your economic privacy, good. Very good. Welcome aboard.
If not, if you really just cannot be bothered to, say, update to a recent version of Java in order to install a client that runs on your computer in a java virtual machine, therefore safer than a browser, and which decentralises data storage using page kites and public key cryptography, if that level of technical sophistication is "a bit too much" for you right now, I don't blame you. I am not very surprised that only a few people are sufficiently interested to explore this opportunity. The good news, which comes later, is that there is a "killer app" coming which provides a substantial independent motivation for going and getting a SilentVault wallet for yourself.
The problems, as Ernie Hancock noted on a recent interview (link) with crypto-currency expert Sean Daley, with fighting for your freedom are significant. You are outnumbered, outgunned, and likely to be sold out by people you thought were your compatriots. Fighting a system which over a hundred million people still seem willing to pay taxes to support (while roughly an equal number are, apparently, unwilling) is probably a forlorn battle. So if you can simply be free without having to fight, why not?
I think it is worthwhile. I think you'd like the results. Avoid the system that oppresses you. Refuse, as Etienne de la Boetie urged, to hold up the tyrant, and he will fall. Even if "he" is a nameless, faceless bureaucracy. Even if that bureaucracy is financed by an international banking cartel that would rather you participate in their system and pay your taxes to finance the debts they've inflicted on your country, non-support is eventually going to bring about change. Refuse to don the manacles.
If you enter the SilentVault, you'll be glad you did.
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