by Ian Tartt
Many discussions in libertarian circles are focused on advancing liberty through political action. There’s nothing wrong with that, but that’s only one way to do it. This article will examine a few of the many different ways to spread liberty, both political and non-political.
The primary political method for advancing liberty is political action, which includes things like voting, running for office, supporting candidates, and so on. And there are different vehicles through which to do this: the Libertarian Party, the Republican Liberty Caucus, and the Democratic Freedom Caucus. Since many of us are involved in a political party, it’s natural for us to gravitate toward political action as our primary method of advancing liberty.
Now let’s look at some non-political methods. First, there is education. There are think tanks like the Mises Institute, the Cato Institute, and the Reason Foundation; there are also websites such as The Libertarian Republic, Liberty Viral, and the Stonegait Institute. These resources all provide content related to libertarianism that anybody with an internet connection can access and use to learn more about the philosophy and the way the modern world works. We can use them ourselves or recommend them to other people.
That brings us to the next point: talking to other people. At some point, we all knew enough about our philosophy and the modern world to be able to explain and defend our ideas to other people. And that’s what it’s going to take for liberty to spread. It doesn’t matter how much we know about this stuff; if we don’t share it with non-libertarians, the government will continue to grow and take away more and more of our freedoms. When we do talk to other people about libertarianism, we can make use of any of the many educational resources available to us if we want, but it’s not a requirement. As long as we’re reaching out in a civil, intelligent fashion, we’re building solid bridges from where they are to where we are.
Those are some non-political methods that are accepted by almost all libertarians. But now let’s look at some things that are more unorthodox and controversial. Black markets are the first thing on the bottom list. As libertarians, we often talk about how black markets, particularly black markets in drugs, are harmful and risky. But some libertarians embrace them as a way to avoid the state and experience greater freedom. Smuggling and tax evasion are examples of black market functions. Because smugglers bring in foreign goods under the radar so as to avoid tariffs, they’ve been called heroes by several libertarians. And of course tax evasion, whether by working off the books and under the table so there’s no paper trail for the IRS to follow or by simply refusing to pay a tax, is an attempt to keep more of one’s own money.
Embracing black market functions as a way to peacefully fight the state is known as agorism and is typically used by anarchists, especially ones who don’t see political action as effective. The risks of participating in black market transactions are great if you get caught, but many see it worth the risk compared to the alternative of living under ever-increasing statism.
Something less risky and controversial is the Free State Project. This is a plan to get a lot of libertarians to move to New Hampshire, a relatively low-population state and the freest state in the country, so they can have a greater impact on state and local politics. You don’t have to move to New Hampshire to have more freedom, though. If you live in a state like California or New York, there are dozens of states where you could move and have far more personal freedom. Moving to another state isn’t the best solution because it’s costly and time-consuming, but if you would rather live in a more free state, it’s definitely a realistic option.
The next point, leaving the country, is one that may or may not work well for a libertarian. There aren’t many countries that have overall more freedom than the US, so moving to another country could result in even less freedom. But if you can find a country with more freedom than the US, then moving there could give you more freedom than you can get in the US. Since moving to another country is even more costly and time-consuming than moving to another state, this is something that is best saved as a last resort in case all other options have failed.
This has been a brief look at some of the possible ways of advancing liberty. This is by no means a comprehensive list, so if something was left off that you know of or feel strongly about, it wasn’t intentional. As you can see, political action is just one of several possible ways to advance liberty. And while there’s nothing wrong with that, it’s merely one way to go. Some people are heavily involved in political action, others are more focused on education, still others engage in civil disobedience, and so on. We all have our areas of interest and talents, and not everyone has the time or money to engage in some of these tactics.
If we put all our efforts in one strategy and it doesn’t work, then we’ll all be disappointed. But if we try several different strategies, we’re increasing our chances of finding something that works. And if one of them does works, then we’ll have something to show for our efforts. But no matter what method we choose, we can all contribute in some way, shape, or form to the advance of liberty. And that’s awesome.