Few of us can easily surrender our belief that society must somehow make sense. The thought that the state has lost its mind and is punishing so many innocent people is intolerable. And so the evidence has to be internally denied. ~ Arthur Miller
Butler Shaffer once wrote about an encounter he had at the grocery store with two college-age women who were working for Greenpeace. They asked him for his support and a conversation ensued. It is a great example of how to teach others about liberty and the State. His essay was called; “Conversation at a Grocery Store.” It is a wonderful short essay and you should read it in full. I promise you will enjoy it.
The essay ended with:
“But don’t you see that this is the problem? Political systems divide people into exclusive groups, making their coercive powers available to those who control the state’s machinery. This can only produce conflict, anger, and, ultimately, the violent and destructive world in which we now live. The corporations you fight today can so easily become the people the government kills in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen, Pakistan, and elsewhere.”
Our conversation came to an end, and I could see the look of complete bewilderment on the face of the woman who had been the most vocal. I knew two things: (1) I had not convinced her of my point of view, nor had I sought to do so, and (2) she had heard ideas that were unfamiliar to her. Having heard them, they will remain in her mind; she cannot unhear them. At some point she will hear them from someone else and they will not be so unfamiliar. When she hears these ideas a third or fourth time from others, she may be inclined to think to herself: “I’ve always known that.”
I often get into discussions (is that the right word?) with “progressives” in a comments section at a progressive newspaper. Most of the time the progressives are so ignorant of the real issues involved that there is no real debate or discussion at all; just a little shouting of standard government worship and personal attack. Are these conversations of any benefit? Mostly I doubt it, but Dr. Shaffer has a good point in that we need to make sure the people who grow up in the propaganda cesspool here in the Empire hear the ideas of liberty and freedom even if they don’t understand them or even if they hate you for bringing the ideas to their attention. Someday they may have an epiphany due to the seed you sowed long before.
Libertarians of all kinds have been arguing for generations about the best strategy to convince the masses that individual cooperation and not State coercion is the best way to go for all of mankind. Some say that we should just give up and wait till the government falls to have a chance to see our ideas given a chance. I disagree with that — we need to educate the people in liberty and real economics (which informs our world view) before any collapse. Revolutions often turn out much different than the original revolutionaries thought it would. Besides, I am not hoping for an apocalypse anyway: I am hoping for a peaceful revolution like the one that took down the USSR.
To help the masses understand how political systems work and what is the essence of the State we must help dispel the illusions they have about what the entity called The Government really is. Even students of government define the State as the agency “enjoying a monopoly on the use of violence within a given territory.” The ordinary people need to be made to understand that this definition is used by students of government even in our State funded universities. This definition is an acknowledged truth. And so; there is nothing that the State ever does which does not flow from the the presumed authority to use whatever amount of deadly force that the officials deem necessary or convenient to achieve the desired results.
Government employees are not “public servants”, an odious lie which they like to use to cloak themselves, government employees insist upon their power to demand obedience by force. As the Red Chinese communist dictator Mao Dedong famously explained, “all government flows from the barrel of a gun”.
In the end, we must somehow educate the masses that their ancestors the Classical Liberals who built a relatively free country in the US were on the right trail.