Some Thoughts on the May 2022 Federal Election in Australia

This recent election was the first election I have observed close up since my return to Australia in 2020. My wife and I haven’t voted for 47 years. The last time was in 1975 when we voted for the Workers Party, which, if you don’t know, was very libertarian in spite of their provocative name (I have put their Platform online here. Since then we have escaped fines and other harassment for not voting, which we do not think should be compulsory. [The current fine for not voting is $55 – see here for details “What Happens If I Didn’t Vote”, NSW Electoral Commission.]

In many ways it was discouraging for someone in the liberty movement to watch the events of the past few weeks unfold with barely a mention of issues which are most dear to me. In my own electorate of Mackellar (Sydney, Northern Beaches), held by a “moderate” liberal Jason Falinski (i.e., he is a LINO – “liberal in name only”) in what had been a very safe Liberal seat, there was a massive swing, via preferences, to one of the “Teal” independents who won handily. [On LINOs see “The Success of Liberal Ideas has led to the Decline of Radical Liberal Parties” (6 Sept. 2021) here.]

On the other hand, my spirits rose when I began thinking about all those who didn’t vote for our new rulers (more on this below). In order to get this election into some kind of perspective I looked at the data on the Australian Electoral Commission website [for the 2022 election results; for the 2019 election results] and found some interesting nuggets which have not been reported by the mainstream media. Here is what I found.

The low voter turnout

I was surprised at how many people did not even show up to vote on election day this year which suggests that there is large section of the voting public who are disillusioned with or disengaged from politics and the major parties. Since there is compulsory voting in Australia I had thought there would be 90-95% turnout (or “compliance” with a government order backed up with a fine). This was the case in previous elections. For example, in the 2019 election there were 16,419,543 eligible voters who had been enrolled. Of these 15,088,616 (91.89%) voted, either “formally” (14,253,393) (i.e. government approved votes) or “informally” (835,223) (i.e. government non-approved votes) and there were 1,330,927 (8.11%) who did not show up to vote on the day.

When you add the number who did not vote at all to those who voted “informally” (and whose vote thus “did not count”) we have a total of 2,166,159 voters who make up what I have termed the “block of disillusioned or disengaged voters” which in 2019 was 13.19% of all eligible voters.

Contrast this with the precipitous decline in voting in the May 2022 election. In May 2022 there were a total of 17,228,900 eligible voters of whom 12,822,068 voted (made up of 12,177,265 “formal” votes and 644,803 “informal” votes) which was 75.07% of the eligible voters. There were also 4,406,832 people who did not vote at all in the election for a number of reasons, comprising 24.93% of all eligible voters. This means that there were in 2022 4,947,233 (28.71% of all eligible voters) members of my “block of disillusioned or disengaged voters”, which was a massive increase of 2,781,074 over the 2019 election – an increase of 128.34%

At this level of voter participation one can now form a government with less than a quarter of all all eligible voters or barely a third of the primary vote before preferences have been distributed. In 2022, the Labor Party can form a government with 3.9 million votes or 22.86% of all eligible voters which converts to 32.34% of the formal vote before preferences are distributed. This of course means that 77% of the eligible voters did NOT vote for the new governing party. It also means that 76% did NOT vote for a “liberal” party, even in its ideologically gutted and illiberal form known as the Liberal Party (16.85% of all eligible voters and 23.84% of the formal vote). The Liberal Democrats, which should be seen as the Australia’s version of a Libertarian Party and the heir of the old Workers Party, got 204,827 votes which translates as 1.19% of all eligible votes and 1.68% of all formal votes. This was a very large increase over its results in 2019, although it came from of very low base figure. (See below for more details).

“Informal” and other protest votes

In my seat of Mackellar the list of candidates for the House of Reps was pretty dismal (both in terms of the character of the party they represented and their ideological positions) so I decided to vote “informal” as a way of protesting the limited selection of candidates and the way in which elections are seen as a “mandate” for ruling the country by whomever “wins” the election. The word “informal” is a derogatory term and carries the suggestion that the voter is stupid, uniformed, or careless for not being able to vote “properly” and thus has “wasted” their vote. I don’t think I am any of these things. I took a Sharpie pen with me and carefully drew a box at the bottom, labelled it “None of the Above”, and put a 1 in the box. I think this is a “thoughtful and considered vote” not a “wasted vote” as the mainstream press regards it. As a libertarian my dream is that one day a clear majority of the voters (if they bother to vote at all) will choose “None of the Above” and the seat will remain vacant. This is my version of the anti-war saying “what if they held a war and nobody came”, viz. “what if they held an election and nobody voted”. Where would their much vaunted “mandate” to rule be then? The Labor Party’s 23% of all eligible voters is a pretty feeble “mandate” in my view.

The collapse in the vote for the major parties

[Tacoma Bridge Collapse 7 Nov. 1940]

This collapse I believe is another indication of the increasing disillusionment of the voters with the political system as represented by the “major parties”, such as Labor, Liberal, and National. This must be added to the corresponding increase in the vote for “Independents” of various “colors” (“Teal in 2022 in particular) and for the group of disillusioned “non-voters” as discussed above. In what follows I compare the national results for the major parties between the 2019 and 2022 elections. The list below is in order of the size of the collapse (or increase) in the primary vote nationwide (% is of all eligible voters):

Liberal:

  • drop in vote – from 3,989,404 in 2019 (24.29%) to 2,959,255 in 2022 (17.18%); a drop in absolute votes of 1,030,149 or 25.82% of the 2019 figure

Nationals:

  • drop in vote – from 642,233 in 2019 (3.91%) to 486,796 in 2022 (2.83%)); a drop in absolute votes of 155,437or 24.20% of the 2019 figure

Liberal National:

  • drop in vote – from 1,236,401 in 2019 ( 7.53%) to 970,901 in 2022 (5.64%); a drop in absolute votes of 265,500 or 21.47% of the 2019 figure

Labor:

  • drop in vote – from 4,752,160 in 2019 (28.94%) to 4,046,234 in 2022 ( 23.48%); a drop in absolute votes of 705,926 or 14.85% of the 2019 figure

Greens:

  • drop in vote – from 1,482,923 in 2019 (9.03%) to 1,450,874 in 2022 (8.42%); a drop in absolute votes of 32,049 or 2.16% of the 2019 figure

Parties/groups which saw an increase in their vote (or not voting):

Liberal Democrats:

  • increase in vote – from 34,666 in 2019 (0.21%) to 207,903 in 2022 (1.21%); an increase in absolute votes of 173,237 or 499.73% of the 2019 figure

My “Block of Disillusioned or Disengaged Voters”:

  • an increase from 2,166,159 in 2019 (13.19%) to 4,947,233 in 2022 (28.71%); an increase in absolute votes of 2,781,074 or 128.39% of the 2019 figure

Independents:

  • increase in vote – from 479,836 in 2019 (2.92%) to 676,517 in 2022 (3.93%); an increase in absolute votes of 196,681 or 40.99% of the 2019 figure

One Nation:

  • increase in vote – from 438,587 in 2019 (2.67%) to 599,438 in 2022 (3.48%); an increase in absolute votes of 160,851 or 36.67% of the 2019 figure

United Australia Party:

  • increase in vote – from 488,817 in 2019 (2.98%) to 506,576 in 2022 (2.94%); an increase in absolute votes of 17,759 or 3.63% of the 2019 figure

In my own electorate of Mackellar these factors can be seen playing out as follows:

  • the Liberal vote collapsed from 52,088 in 2019 to 37,082 in 2022 – i.e. 15,006 or 28.81%
  • the Labor vote collapsed from 16,648 in 2019 to 6,859 in 2022 – i.e. 9,789 or 58.80%
  • the Green vote collapsed from 11,283 in 2019 to 4,980 in 2022 – i.e. 6,303 or 55.86%
  • the Independent candidate (not Teal) vote rose from 11,975 in 2019 to 34,516 in 2022 (Teal) – i.e. 22,541 or 188.23%
  • my block of disillusioned/disengaged voters rose from 17,412 in 2019 to 25,924 in 2022 – i.e. 8,512 or 48.89%

It would be interesting to look at a previously safe Labor seat which changed hands to see how these factors played out there. I haven’t had the time to do that.

Conclusion

My conclusion from all this is that on the whole the Australian electorates is unhappy with the current state of politics and the behaviour of the major political parties. Thus, they either chose not to vote at all (up 49%), not to vote for one of the major parties (Liberals down 26%; Labor down 15%), to shift their “Green” vote from the “dark” green, hard-core Green Party (down 2% nationally) to a “light” green (Teal) independent candidate (all Independents up 41%), or to vote for an alternative party like One Nation (up 37%) or the Liberal Democrats (up 500% from a very small base).

How real classical liberals should react to this is up for discussion.

Lectures and Talks I have given at the Centre for Independent Studies

Below is a list of lectures and talks I have given at the CIS over the years:

  • L&S Conference: “The Classical Liberal Tradition: A Four Hundred Year History of Ideas and Movements”, Liberty and Society Conference (6-8 May 2022): lecture slides PDF and supporting blog posts
  • “Unfortunately, Hardly anyone listens to the Economists”: The Battle against Socialism by the French Economists in the 1840S” (8 July, 2014) HTML and PDF
  • “Images of Liberty and Power” (29 Nov. 2011) PDF
  • L&S Conference: “A History of Classical Liberalism: Key Concepts and Movements” Liberty and Society Conference (2-4 Dec. 2011). The full conference program PDF; slides for my two part lecture PDF; a text summary of the lectures PDF
  • “Ideas and the Internet: The Prospects for Liberty” (24 Aug., 2010) PDF
  • L&S Conference: “Historical Reflections on the Classical Liberal Tradition”, Advanced Liberty and Society Seminar (2 March, 2001) HTML and “The 12 Basic Concepts of Classical Liberalism” HTML

DAVID HART’S “ABC OF ANZAC HISTORY”

The Advertiser of Monday, 31 March, 1997 had a front page article
on an “ANZAC Day School Pack” which has been devloped by the Federal
government and the Australian Army for use in schools on the eve of ANZAC
Day 1997. A key part of the pack is an “ABC” of key words designed
to “encourage young people to remember and appreciate the sacrifice
of veterans”. As a counter to the patriotic, uncritical and even absurd
government-sponsored list I have prepared my own list (which is NOT to be
recited in class but read and reflected upon in private).

The government’s list was modelled on the original 1916 ANZAC Book which I have online and on which I wrote an “illustrated essay” a short while ago. The soldiers who published that book drew up the original “ANZAC Alphabet” in two different versions, one by Henderson and one by “Ubique” (see below for the image of these lists). As I wrote in my illustrated essay on this <Art/WarArt/AnzacBook/index.html>:

An ANZAC Alphabet” by Henderson is one of the best loved illustrations in the ANZAC Book (pp. 115-18). It is a 4 page rhyming poem based upon the letters of the alphabet with rather crude illustrations of each letter of the alphabet along with a two line poem which illustrates various aspects of the soldiers’ life at Gallipoli. This was not the only ANZAC alphabet which appeared in the ANZAC Book. A second one “Another Attempt at an ANZAC Alphabet” (by “Ubique” [Latin for “everywhere”])  appeared a few pages later (pp. 146-47) but it was not illustrated and is less well known. It takes a roughly chronological approach to relating his experiences at Gallipoli and focuses more on the everyday hardships and fear faced by the soldiers.

 

The Federal Government’s List

David Hart’s Alternatives

A

is for

Anzac Amputation, Ace, Armistice, AIF

B

is for

Bully beef Boche, Brass hat, Barrage, Bayonet, Bolshevik Revolution, Bean (C.E.W.)

C

is for

Color (sic) patches Conscription, Comradeship, Conscientious Objector, Capital courts martial

D

is for

Digger “Donkey”, Dictatorship (of Ludendorf and Hindenberg), Death

E

is for

Enlistment Empire (British, French, German, Russian, Ottoman)

F

is for

Friendship Flanders’ fields, Fascism (and other ideologies of total war and the total
state)

G

is for

Gallipoli Gas

H

is for

Home Front Hun, Heroes, “Home by Christmas”

I

is for

Ice Imperial War Graves Commission, “Im Western Nichts Neues”

J

is for

Jacka (Albert Jacka) Jünger (Ernst)

K

is for

Kit Kaiser, King and Country, Karl Kraus

L

is for

Letters home Lee Enfield rifle, “Lost Generation”, Live and Let Live System,
Langemarck, Legend of the ANZACs

M

is for

Medals Mutiny, Machine Gun, Mitteleuropa, Militarism, Morley (John)

N

is for

Nurses No Man’s Land, Nationalism

O

is for

Observation “Old Lie”, Over the Top

P

is for

Poppy Passchendaele, Propaganda, Prosthesis, Poilu, Pacifism, Prostitutes

Q

is for

Questions Quakers, “Questioning”

R

is for

Rising Sun Random death

S

is for

Simpson and his donkey Shell shock, Strafing, Sport and War, Somme, “Storm of Steel”,
Soldier Settlers

T

is for

Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Trench foot, Total War, Thirty Years War of the 20thC

U

is for

Uniforms Unknown Soldier, “Under Fire”, Unconditional Surrender

V

is for

Villiers Brettoneux VAD, Versailles, Verdun, VC, VD

W

is for

War memorials War Socialism, War Widows, Western Front

X

is for

Xenyl chloride Xenophon (classical defender of the “Old Lie”)

Y

is for

Years apart from family and friends Ypres

Z

is for

Zimmerman Zeppelin

 

Bastiat’s Anti-socialist Pamphlets, or “Mister Bastiat’s Little Pamphlets”

One of the most prolific and persuasive critics of socialism in the late 1840s was the economists and free trade campaigner Frédéric Bastiat (1801-1850). Between May 1848 and July 1850 he wrote a series of over a dozen anti-socialist pamphlets, or what the Guillaumin publishing firm marketed in their Catalog as the “Petits pamphlets de M. Bastiat” (Mister Bastiat’s Little Pamphlets), which included several for which Bastiat has become justly famous such as “The State” (June and Sept. 1848), “The Law” (July 1850), and “What is Seen and What is Not Seen” (July 1850). The pamphlets sold well for Guillaumin and they were reprinted several times and even marketed as a set which could be purchased for 7 fr. for the complete set of 12. Some originally appeared in journals such as the JDE, while others were written as stand alone pamphlets.

In two of his Election “Manifestos” which he circulated among the voters in his home district of Les Landes during the election campaign in May 1849,1 which he duly won, he identified the particular socialists whose ideas he was attacking in each one of them. Bastiat also wrote other anti-socialist essays and articles which are also included in the list below.

The “Small Pamphlets” included the following titles. The order of publication is provided by his editor Prosper Paillottet in the Oeuvres complètes , vol. 4, p. 274. We have added the price for each pamphlet from an advertisement we found in one of the Guillaumin books {Note_ 1 franc = 100 centimes]. The Paris Chamber of Commerce estimated that average wage per day for an ordinary worker in Paris at the time was about 3 fr. 80 c.,2 so the cost for a worker who purchased the pamphlet Damn Money! and the State for 40 c. was nearly 11% of their daily wage.

Bastiat’s series of anti-socialist pamphlets and articles (the links are to the works in French and to the English translation at the OLL where available):

1847:

  1. even before the February Revolution he had addressed the growing threat of socialism in essays like “Du Communisme,” Libre-Échange (27 juin, 1847) which he published in his free trade magazine. In this he criticized the socialist ideas of Philippe Buchez who edited the workers’ magazine L’Atelier (the Workshop) and became the first President of the Republic [ HTML and facs. PDF ]

1848:

  1. the first article he wrote after the Feb. Revolution was “Funestes illusions” (Disastrous Illusions) JDE (mars, 1848) in which he urged the people to abolish all political and economic privileges and not to replace the old group of “plunderers” with a new group as the socialists were urging them to do [ HTML and facs. PDF ] [English at OLL ]
  2. “Propriété et loi” (Property and Law) (JDE, May 1848) [40c.] – a defence of property rights against the criticism of socialists like Louis Blanc and others [ HTML and facs. PDF ] [English at OLL ]
  3. “Justice et fraternité” (Justice and Fraternity) (JDE, June 1848) – a response to the socialist Pierre Leroux [ HTML and facs.PDF ] [English at OLL ]
  4. “Individualisme et fraternité” (Individualism and Fraternity) (c. June 1848) – an unpublished paper also written to refute the socialist’s claim (esp. by Louis Blanc) that free markets led to ruinous individualism and competition while socialism led to fraternity and brotherhood for the workers. [ HTML ] [English at OLL ] This is a a topic he would return to in several chapters of Economic Harmonies such as chap. X “Concurrence” (Competition) [ HTML ] and XXI “Solidarité” (Solidarity) [ HTML ]
  5. “L’État” (June, Sept. 1848 and early 1849) [40 c.] : there were three versions of this famous essay – the 1st in June before the June Days riots in Paris which was short and written for the ordinary worker in the streets [English at OLL ]; the 2nd longer version was written for a high-brow magazine in Sept. 1848); and the 3rd longest version was written as a pamphlet and gave a detailed critique of Ledru-Rollin’s socialist (Montagnard) party platform. [ HTML and PDF] [English at OLL ].
  6. “Propriété et spoliation” (Property and Plunder) (JDD, July 1848) [40 c.] – a defence of property, especially of land (and the charging of rent), against the criticism of Victor Considerant [ HTML and facs. PDF ] [English at OLL ]

1849:

  1. “Protectionnisme et communisme. Lettre à M. Thiers” (Protectionism and Communism. A Letter to M. Thiers) (Jan. 1849) [35 c.]- addressed to the conservative politician Adolphe Thiers and the protectionist Mimerel committee pointing our the similarities between conservative and socialist policies, namely their use of state coercion to give privileges to some members of society at the expence of others [ HTML and facs. PDF ] [English at OLL ]
  2. “Capitale et rente” (Capital and Rent) (Feb. 1849) [35 c.] – in opposition to the criticisms of Proudhon and others on the legitimacy of rent. [ HTML and facs. PDF ]
  3. Maudit l’argent! (Damn Money) (April 1849) – in opposition to socialist misconceptions about money, banking, and debt. [ HTML and facs. PDF ]
  4. “Propriété, Communauté” (Private and Communal/Community Property) (chap. VIII of Harmonies Économiques 1850) (written mid 1849 and published in the first edition of EH in Jan. 1850) – Bastiat attempts to answer the socialist critique of private property by showing that a system based on private property actually increases the amount of “communal” property to the enormous benefit of all members of the community. [ HTML ]
  5. “Le capital” (Capital), Almanach Républicain pour 1849 (1849) – against Proudhon and Blanc HTML.

1850

  1. Baccalauréate et socialisme (The Baccalaureat and Socialism) (early 1850) [60 c.] – written to oppose the teaching of interventionist and statist ideas (“socialism”) in government schools by means of the teaching of the Latin language which was supported by conservatives like Adolphe Thiers [ HTML and facs. PDF ] [English at OLL ]
  2. Gratuité du crédit. Discussion entre M. Fr. Bastiat et M. Proudhon (Free Credit. A Discussion between M. Fr. Bastiat and M. Proudhon) (1850) 1 fr. 75 c.] – an extended debate with Proudhon over the legitimacy of profit, interest and rent. [ HTML and facs. PDF ]
  3. Spoliation et Loi (Plunder and Law) (1850) [40 c.] – written to oppose the ideas of Louis Blanc, the Luxembourg Commission, and the National Workshops program [ HTML and facs. PDF ] [English at OLL ]
  4. La Loi (The Law) (June 1850) [60 c.] – one of the last things Bastiat wrote before his death; a lengthy critique of the ideas of Louis Blanc and the 18th century predecessors of socialist ideas, most notably Rousseau and Robespierre [ HTML and facs. PDF ] [English at OLL ]
  5. “Liberté, Égalité” (Liberty and Equality) (1850) – a draft of a chapter for the Harmonies Économies which was never published. He attempts to explain how the liberal understanding of “equality” differs from that of the socialists’. [ HTML ] [English at OLL ]

In the last months of his life he wrote on more general economic matters which also covered the errors of all kinds of interventionist policies, including of course, socialist intervention:

  1. Ce qu’on voit et ce qu’on ne voit pas, ou l’Économie politique en une leçon (What is Seen and What is Not Seen, or Political Economy in One Lesson (1850) [60 c.] – [ HTML and facs. PDF ] [English at OLL ]
  2. his unfinished treatise on economic theory Harmonies Économiques (Economic Harmonies) : the first half published in his lifetime (10 chaps in early 1850) in facs. PDF ; and a partly “completed” posthumous edition in 1851 (with an additional 15 chapters or sketches of chaps, and an outline of a much larger future work on economic “harmony” and “disharmony”) in HTML and facs. PDF
  1. “Statement of Electoral Principles in April 1849” OC7.65 and “Statement of Electoral Principles in 1849. To MM. Tonnelier, etc.,” OC1. English at [CW1, pp. 390-95] []
  2. Chambre de Commerce de Paris [Horace Say], Statistique de l’Industrie a Paris résultant de l’enquête. Faite par la Chambre de commerce pour les années 1847-1848 (Paris: Guillaumin, 1851). “Chap. XXII. 13e Groupe – Imprimerie, Gravure, Papeterie,” pp. 187-94. []

The State of the Libertarian Movement after 50 Years (1970-2020): Some Observations

See my earlier posts:


[Collapsed Building, Bangladesh (Apr. 20213)]

1.) The Collapse of the Liberty Movement in Australia and Elsewhere in 2020

What we have witnessed during 2020 in Australia and probably in the UK and US as well, was the catastrophic collapse and failure of the liberty movement in the face of the Covid hysteria and panic, and the lockdown socialism which has been the result (or in the case of the state of Victoria “lockdown stalinism”). We haven’t seen anything like such an expansion of government power and intervention in the Australian economy since the mid-1970s, and I fear 2021 will continue down this path with barely a squeak of protest.

In 1972 the social democratic Labor Party came to power and in the space of three years completely transformed the Australian economy, including the introduction of a country-wide single payer health care system, huge increases in taxation, and in government debt. That is the reason why I first became active in libertarian politics and I joined many thousands of people who were appalled and outraged at what was happening. Last year, a conservative government did more in 10 months to expand the power of the state, increase debt, and drastically cut private economic activity than three years of a “socialist” government back in the 1970s.

Yet where are all those who once could be relied on to speak out and stand up for liberty? They are all lying low and saying and doing nothing.

Something very similar has happened in the UK and has been recognized by an interesting post on the Lockdown Skeptics website looking back on the anniversary of the first lockdowns in March 2020. See “The First Anniversary of “Three Weeks to Flatten the Curve”” Lockdown Sceptics (23 March 2021) article

It is hard to know what to do in the face of this. Is it “betrayal” of our ideals? cowardice? the failure of their critical faculties, on many levels, to question the dictates of politicians and the so-called advice of technocrats? Have they forgotten all the economics they once knew? Have they stopped loving liberty? Have they become “willing slaves”? Who knows.

2.) Some Reasons for Optimism 50 Years ago

When I look back over my working life things seemed to be more hopeful back in the 1970s and 1980s than they seem today. In 1974 I was at high school in Sydney at the time and had just discovered libertarianism the year before. My path was not unusual – Rand, then Rothbard, then Mises and Hayek. Toss in Lysander Spooner and Bastiat as well for good measure.

At that time, there were reasons for some optimism: Hayek won the Nobel Prize in 1974; Friedman in 1976; Nozick had published Anarchy, State, and Utopia to much acclaim; Rothbard had published a best seller with a mainstream publisher For a New Liberty. A couple of years later Thatcher became PM (1979) followed by Ronald Reagan in 1981; Roger Douglas was Minister of Finance in NZ in 1984 and began deregulating its economy. . Free market ideas were even beginning to appear in popular culture with Friedman’s “Free to Choose” in 1980 and “Yes, Minister” (1981). This was all topped off with the coming down of “The Wall” in 1989 and the collapse of the Soviet Union. It seemed we were on a roll and victory might be seen, admittedly at the end of a still very long tunnel.

On a personal note I was living in Stanford when Reagan was President, and then in Cambridge when Thatcher was in power, so I was able to witness what was going on first hand. But that is another story.

But then progress in our direction stopped and everything thing seemed to unravel during the 1990s. Instead of cutting back on military expenditure and using the savings to begin winding back the welfare state the neo-cons got control of the US and pushed it in the opposite direction. So I see the 1990s as the “lost decade” for libertarianism. When 9/11 occurred the stage was set for what turned out to be 2 decades of the expansion of state power, not its winding back. I thought in 2001 that the US was “only one crisis” away from full fascism. In 2020 that new crisis might well have come. The people are afraid and they automatically turn to the state for help.

3.) The Willing Slavery of everybody around us today

Watching the craven way in which people just surrendered all their liberties without a fight or even a peep of protest in 2020 made me go back to Étienne de la Boétie’s great essay “Discourse of Voluntary Servitude” (c. 1550s) in order to understand better why this was happening. I started putting different versions of the essay online in English and French. See the Boetie index page His conclusion was that most people accepted the fact of and necessity for being “willing slaves” as a result of custom, education, and ultimately the threat of force. A very few had “a love of liberty” in their hearts which couldn’t be extinguished and struggled against this servitude. The frustrating thing is that he also realized that if enough people just said “no” to the state it would crumble. The problem was to figure out how to fan the spark of the love of liberty in those that had it into a stronger flame, as well as the bigger problem of creating a tiny spark in those who did not already have it. That too is our perennial problem and it has just got much, much worse.

4.) Rethinking the Strategy to achieve Liberty

In Nov. 2020 I also went back to the various papers I had on libertarian strategy going back to Rothbard’s seminal paper) “Toward a Strategy for Libertarian Social Change” (April, 1977) which I put online in a new clean copy (I had an old one there for over a decade but nobody paid any attention to it). I also got hold of several others papers from a conference on strategy which Koch and Rothbard organized in 1976 at the time of the founding of the Libertarian Party and the Cato Institute. These are very interesting and are not readily available. I wanted to provoke a more serious discussion of strategy given the current dire circumstances. See these papers here.

I started getting interested again in strategy back in 2015 when I began writing a few papers and we organised a Liberty Matters discussion on the spread of CL ideas. I wrote even more position papers when Liberty Fund was going through its “Strategic Refresh” in 2018 but these too were all ignored. Some of these are also listed under Nov. 2020 new additions on my website.

5.) The Growing number of Fronts on which we have to fight for liberty


[M46 Patton and M4 Sherman Tanks massed in Korea]

Back in 2010 when Liberty Fund celebrated its 50th anniversary I thought that there was little to celebrate since in the previous 10 years it, along with the other well-funded liberty organizations, seemed to have had no impact in halting some of the greatest new threats to liberty, such as the expansion of wars in the Middle East (now going on for 20 years); the massive and secret surveillance of private emails and phone calls; the restrictions and impediments to plane travel implemented by a massive new bureaucracy; and most recently the Global Financial Crisis of 2008-9 which had seen the almost instantaneous conversion of nearly all economists into Keynesians (if they weren’t already).

It was at this time that I drew up my first list of four major ongoing and new threats to liberty which the liberty movement had failed to address adequately up to 2010. These were:

  1. War: the expansion of the warfare state following 9/11 and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and its further proliferation in Libya, Syria and elsewhere
  2. Presidential Power: the growth of presidential power and the abdication of Congress to restrain these powers, such as declaring and financing foreign wars, or ordering the execution of individuals deemed “enemies of the state” without court or congressional oversight
  3. The Surveillance State: the power of the NSA and other agencies to spy upon and surveil ordinary citizens at will
  4. Sound Money and Banking: the knee-jerk reversal to Keynesian orthodoxy following the Global Financial Crisis of 2008/9, concerning government debt, deficits, and monetary expansion

I tried to encourage my colleagues to discuss this but they were not interested. They were too busy “celebrating.”

Now 10 years later in 2020 not only have we not been able to counter these four serious threats to liberty, we can add three more to the above list:

  1. Protectionism: and the use protectionist trade policies under President Trump after 2016
  2. Socialism: the growth in interest in “socialism” since the 2018 elections; the open self-identification of many politicians as “democratic socialists” is a bad omen
  3. Radical Environmentalism: the Green movement (e.g. the Green New Deal) has become a powerful force and uses fear of “global warming” as cover for socialism; its impact on the thinking of school age children is very worrying for the the future of liberty

If these seven “pre-existing conditions” (to use a medical metaphor) were not enough to frighten lovers of liberty with the enormous effort and time which countering any one of these threats would require, we now face yet two more additional threats to add to my list:

  1. Critical Race Theory and Wokeness – which has exploded in the last few years and seems to have taken over all levels of education, but most especially the university sector; I fear that this has progressed to the point where we have lost at least one generation, perhaps two, to pro-liberty ideas
  2. Hygiene Socialism: the hysteria and panic over a virus which has come about because of the public’s change in their tolerance (and accurate evaluation) of risk, the uncritical acceptance of false mathematical models of the spread of the disease, and belief that government central planning and massive restrictions on individual liberty and economic activity can “halt” the spread of the disease and save more lives than it takes.

It is depressing when one lists these threats to liberty on one page. To switch to a military metaphor, it is hard to know where to begin to fight back on a battle field with so many fronts. Our army is small and theirs is so large and apparently growing in numbers and strength. If we only have scarce resources to fight on one or two fronts, which ones should we focus on? what should we do about the other fronts? can we still fight and win some skirmishes on the margin? what happens about the core or the HQ of the state’s armies? do we have to wait for some crisis or collapse to show people the folly of the old statist ways of doing things? how do we know that something worse won’t replace the current system? have we entered a new “Dark Ages” of liberty which was a fear Pierre Goodrich wrote about in one of the founding memoranda for Liberty Fund which he wrote in the late 1950s?

I was struck by this pessimism of Goodrich when I first read it. One function of the Online Library of Liberty, in the light of this, was to act as a “scriptorum” where dedicated (electronic) monks would copy the great books of liberty for the benefit of future generations , since the current generation had lost interest in and knowledge of these works. It was a very long-term strategy and one Goodrich seriously thought about when LF was founded. I wonder if anybody today is taking a similar long term perspective. And if so, does it really matter given the foes we now face on numerous fronts?

Conclusion

The year 2020 has turned out to be a watershed year in the struggle for liberty. Little did we expect that a corona virus (remember when they called it the “novel” corona virus which meant it was merely the latest of several such viruses we have encountered?) would turn the tables against liberty and the liberty movement so suddenly, so completely, and with so little resistance on the part of the public.

But we need to keep this latest attack on the principles, practices, and institutions of liberty in some historical perspective. I believe that when we do that our plight will appear to be even worse than we have imagined. I say this because this latest expansion of state power (what I have termed “hygiene socialism” or “lockdown socialism”) comes on top of the eight other major areas of expanded state power which have emerged over the last 20 years, which remain largely unchallenged (intellectually) and still intact (politically). Had we been able to make some headway in reducing these other manifestations of state power and intervention, weakening their intellectual justification, persuading voters to exercise their electoral power to elect politicians to begin dismantling key government programs, then we would be in a much better position to tackle head-on this latest manifestation of state power, but because it comes on top on these existing programs, our task has suddenly become much harder.

My great fear is that in order to continue to impose and expand hygiene socialism the state will seek and get enthusiastic public support to use these other, pre-existing programs to do this. This means that the corrupted system of money and banking will be called upon to “fund” programs to support failed businesses, locked-down workers, and drug manufacturers; the extensive system of surveillance of private citizens will be used to “trace” and “monitor” suspected disease carriers (or “ex-disease” carriers); the trade policy of “protection” for domestic industry will be expanded to make sure that “the nation” will be able to manufacture all of its “own” masks and vaccines and not be “dependent” on foreign manufacturers (especially the dreaded “Chinese”), and so on. The result will be an expanding and increasingly interlocked system of government programs and interventions which will be argued is “necessary” in order to secure the “safety of the people” (salus populi). Of course, this notion of “the safety of people” could be vastly expanded to other risks to life and limb which are even greater than covid 19. Once one has started down this slippery slope of statism there is no stopping once a certain momentum has built up.

Given the nine “battle fronts” on which we now have to fight the battle of ideas the big issue as far as I can see is whether or not we can identify the “golden thread” which ties all these different fronts together. If we could pick at that thread and unravel the whole cloth, we might have a chance of reversing the course of the battle. But I don’t know what that thread is. Do you?


[Chinese “Tank Man”]