Roger Kimball – a genuinely smart guy and a great writer – has a long article up over at Pajamas Media entitled The Anglosphere and the Future of Liberty. It is a good article and well worth reading, but I do think it misses a very important point. The gist of it is that the Anglosphere – those nations which share the English language and precepts of English law and government – have led the world in to liberty and are likely to save and restore liberty in the future. In as much as it asserts that the English-speaking world has had a unique desire for liberty, it is correct. It is also correct in the assertion that it is the English desire for local rule which is the basis for this liberty. But if anyone is thinking that because of this heritage that there is a future for liberty in the world, then he’s gravely mistaken.
Kimball is smart enough to out a large “if” on the whole concept – if we do what is right and necessary, then we may save and restore liberty. But I believe that most in the Anglosphere don’t understand fully what is right – what, that is, needs to be done. And this is because we fail to understand why liberty is dying: it is dying because people work for others, rather than themselves.
Liberty is not an outgrowth, tyranny is. Liberty is the natural condition of all mankind, until the corruptions of the world come along and wreck it. We don’t actually run from tyranny to liberty, but it is always from liberty to tyranny. You can’t have a revolution – a real one, that is, as opposed to the mere replacing of one tyranny with another – without there being a democracy; without, that is, a free people who are possessed of liberty and thus willing to fight to preserve it. The Founders were not slaves – they were free men, and so fought when they perceived that someone was proposing to take their freedom away. And here’s the thing – you can’t have a democracy unless a majority of the people are independent of all others. For there to be liberty, most people must be able to take care of themselves without let or hindrance from anyone else.
In olden times, this was done by trying to have at least a majority be free farmers, working their own land. That is not terribly practical today, but the fact of the matter is that liberty started to atrophy in the Anglosphere at the same time that a majority of people stopped being owners of the means of their own livelihood. As we were ever more crammed in to cities to work in factories and offices owned by others, we became unfree – and ever more willing to listen to people who proposed to take from some and give to others. It made more sense, don’t you see? When you’re a free man or woman working your own farm you know what “re-distribution” is – it is the taking of what you’ve worked very hard for and giving it away. When you’re a drudge in a factory or an office cubicle, it becomes less clear…its a matter of taking away from the rich SOB who runs the factory or office and, presumably, giving to you, the worker. That it doesn’t work out like that doesn’t take away from the appeal of such a scheme in a society which has become unfree – most of the money taken from one group of rich people is just passed over to the group of rich people currently favored by the government, of course, but the rhetoric of re-distribution appeals to a sense of justice in the wage-earner.
And this is where we conservatives have failed for so long – we don’t accept that socialism has an appeal, let alone an appeal to an actual, genuine sense of justice. But, it does. Deep in the hearts of all men and women is a notion that you really shouldn’t have too much – certainly not too much of wealth you clearly didn’t earn by the sweat of your own brow. This is why there is little hostility to someone who builds up even a quite successful small business and becomes a millionaire, but there is resentment against a financial shark who made his billions by sharp practice. The socialists twist this rational sense of justice, of course. No socialist has ever really figured out what the problem is, but they have figured they can make hay by playing upon rational resentments and twisting those emotions in to a scheme whereby the socialist now becomes the owner (as it were) of the un-earned wealth – the distributor of the fat, and thus the tyrant of society. But for all their twisting, we must not loose sight of the fact that there is a real basis here.
If there is to be a future for liberty we won’t find it in appeals to a Constitution that most Americans only have a hazy idea about. We won’t find it in a rigid defense of what is called Capitalism but which has completely degenerated in to a State-run, crony-Capitalism. If there is to be a future for liberty it will only come by a revolutionary movement determined to set up a system which will in short order get a solid majority of the people owning their own means of livelihood. Either directly as individuals, as part of family enterprises, or as worker-owned and managed cooperatives. Once we get 50% plus 1 of the American people working desperately hard for themselves and only enriching themselves, then all appeals to socialism will die off…people are able to be suckered in to thinking that stealing from others is a good idea until they realize the person being plundered is themselves.
All our proposals must advance this cause. We must seek to tear down regulations which hamper business formation. We must reform the tax code so that it doesn’t punish someone who wants to work. We must provide financial backing and incentives via the tax and regulatory code to make it ever more appealing for people to set up on their own. And we must campaign among the propertyless with a vision of them owning property and working for themselves – not because we’ll get all of them, all at once, to join us, but because we’ll get some of them…and any addition to our ranks of free and independent citizens means that genuine democracy has spread, and our side is one step closer to victory. Our campaign must be of Freedom against Slavery…while making it clear we mean real freedom: the freedom to work for one’s self and take care of one’s own.
There is a future for freedom, IF we understand what freedom really is and then go out and fight for it.