Politics Is Education
May 23, 2011 at 8:44 AM
If you have been involved in the liberty movement for more than four minutes, I'm sure you've run into one of us.
Now by "us" I mean a group of individuals who think that the state in all of its grandeur is immoral and therefore call for its reduction and even its abolition. There are many divisions within this group -- anarcho-capitalist, mutualist, voluntarist, and more -- but one commonality is a belief that politics doesn't work. You'll typically hear, "we just need to educate enough people who think X about the rightness of Y and then we'll have liberty." This is called the educational model of societal change, as opposed to the route of engagement with the political process. Many even go as so far to argue that the simple act of voting is an immoral tacit justification of the state.
Now, I'm not here to pick sides; I think both education and political action are important. The truth is that to achieve true liberty, we must be willing to work together on our common goals. I just want to layout some of my beliefs as to why even anarchists should get involved in politics.
1. Voting is not support of the state.
There is no wrong in choosing a candidate who legitimately wants reduce the size and scope of the government and who is a consistent advocate of liberty. I always find it funny when anti-voting anarchists say that votes don't matter while simultaneously blaming the system for being impossible to change. If everyone who thinks their vote doesn't matter voted, they would be the majority.
Simply because you cast a vote doesn't mean you are implicitly supporting the state or majority rule or anything like that. If your guy doesn't win, that's that. Your soul is no different; you don't have to accept the authority of winner (at least philosopically); and you at least have actively tried to stop the rise to power of someone untrustworthy. Just because candidates are not anarchists doesn't mean we can't work with them to reduce our current government now.
I'm sure even the most ardent anarchist accepts that whether they like it or not, the state is going to affect them -- so why not vote for someone who will reduce its size and scope? The state existed before voting and voter turnout is typically quite low, so it's hard to say that simply by withdrawing our vote the state will collapse. If you have nothing to vote for then don't vote, but don't tell me that by my voting I'm "accepting majority rule;" I'm just taking what I feel are pragmatic steps for my own percieved self interest and doing what I feel can prevent the state from growing any farther.
2. The idea that we can educate everyone to voluntarily agree that we don't need a state is as laughable as Marxists believing we can educate everyone to believe that private property doesn't exist.
Perhaps this is why the typical Marxist revolutions resulted in massive bloodshed, something I know libertarian anarchists reject as a solution and want to avoid.
Like it or not, you are the radicals of human history. You have about 10,000 years of state control in human society to run up against. Couple that with the institution of government education, which creates a pro-government prejudice among most of the population. The current mentality is that coercion is the answer to our problems and that isn't going to change overnight. If you want a libertarian society, you will at least need principled people in government to get an ideological foot in the door. Most people will not be convinced that a society of liberty can work without some sort of real life example of its success. Voting for supporters of liberty is not asking permission from the government to have a revolution; it's putting in people in place who will hold back the government dogs for you to proceed in spreading the message of liberty.
Besides, I'm pretty sure paying the government taxes with its fiat currency supports the state much more than simply casting a vote which may actually reduce its control.
3. Politics and education are not mutually exclusive.
In the last few years we have seen an explosion in research of the Austro-Libertarian school of economics, the beginnings of a left-right antiwar coalition, and an overall awakening to the ideas of liberty. There are now two major youth organization focused on promoting liberty, thousands of activists involved in their local towns, and support for libertarian think tanks has skyrocketed. We have even seen the rise of liberty-friendly congressmen like Rand Paul and Justin Amash, as well as television shows like John Stossel, Freedom Watch, and Adam Vs. The Man that promote liberty daily.
As shown here by these Google Trends graphs, "libertarian" and "Austrian Economics" have had major spikes in searches since 2008, when Ron Paul wasn't even on the public's radar. Fast forward to present day and he's gone from being universally ignored and dismissed by the media and political establishment to being afforded a grudging respect -- and lots of television appearances.
The truth is the modern liberty movement can attribute at least 3/4 of its recent growth to Ron Paul's 2008 campaign and subsequent role in founding grassroots organizations like Young Americans for Liberty and Campaign for Liberty. I, for one, would still be a Democrat pushing for universal health care had I not stumbled upon Ron Paul.
So even if you're an anarchist who plans to change the world through education, don't write off politics. After all, what better place to educate than at a political event with a bunch of enthusiastic people who already agree with 80% of your ideas?