Secession begins at home

As the Austrian Economist Mises wrote in 1927: “The situation of having to belong to a state to which one does not wish to belong is no less onerous if it is the result of an election than if one must endure it as the consequence of a military conquest.”

I’m sure this sentiment is shared by many of you. Mises understood that mass democracy was no substitute for liberal society, but rather the enemy of it. Of course he was right: nearly 100 years later, we have been conquered and occupied by the state and its phony veneer of democratic elections. The federal government is now the putative ruler of nearly every aspect of life in America.

That’s why we’re here today entertaining the audacious idea of secession — an idea Mises elevated to a defining principle of classical liberalism.

It’s tempting, and entirely human, to close our eyes tight and resist radical change — to live in America’s past.

But to borrow a line from the novelist L.P. Hartley, “The past is a foreign country, they do things differently there.” The America we thought we knew is a mirage; a memory, a foreign country.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is precisely why we should take secession seriously, both conceptually — as consistent with libertarianism — and as a real alternative for the future.

Does anyone really believe that a physically vast, multicultural, social democratic welfare state of 330 million people, with hugely diverse economic, social, and cultural interests, can be commanded from DC indefinitely without intense conflict and economic strife?

Does anyone really believe that we can unite under a state that endlessly divides us? Rich vs. poor, black vs. white, Hispanic vs. Anglo, men vs. women, old vs. young, secularists vs. Christians, gays vs. traditionalists, taxpayers vs. entitlement recipients, urban vs. rural, red state vs. blue state, and the political class vs. everybody?

Frankly it seems clear the federal government is hell-bent on Balkanizing America anyway. So why not seek out ways to split apart rationally and nonviolently? Why dismiss secession, the pragmatic alternative that’s staring us in the face?

Since most of us in the room are Americans, my focus today is on the political and cultural situation here at home. But the same principles of self-ownership, self-determination, and decentralization apply universally — whether we’re considering Texas independence or dozens of active breakaway movements in places like Venice, Catalonia, Scotland, and Belgium.

I truly believe secession movements represent the last best hope for reclaiming our birthright: the great classical liberal tradition and the civilization it made possible. In a world gone mad with state power, secession offers hope that truly liberal societies, organized around civil society and markets rather than central governments, can still exist.

Secession as a “Bottom-Up” Revolution….

“But how could this ever really happen?” you’re probably thinking.

Wouldn’t creating a viable secession movement in the US necessarily mean convincing a majority of Americans, or at least a majority of the electorate, to join a mass political campaign much like a presidential election?

I say no. Building a libertarian secession movement need not involve mass political organizing: in fact, national political movements that pander to the Left and Right may well be hopelessly naïve and wasteful of time and resources.

Instead, our focus should be on hyper-localized resistance to the federal government in the form of a “bottom-up” revolution, as Hans-Hermann Hoppe terms it.

Hoppe counsels us to use what little daylight the state affords us defensively: just as force is justified only in self-defense, the use of democratic means is justified only when used to achieve nondemocratic, libertarian, pro-private property ends.

In other words, a bottom-up revolution employs both persuasion and democratic mechanisms to secede at the individual, family, community, and local level — in a million ways that involve turning our backs on the central government rather than attempting to bend its will.

Secession, properly understood, means withdrawing consent and walking away from DC — not trying to capture it politically and “converting the King.”

Secession is Not a Political Movement!

Why is the road to secession not political, at least not at the national level? Frankly, any notion of a libertarian takeover of the political apparatus in DC is fantasy, and even if a political sea change did occur the army of 4.3 million federal employees is not simply going to disappear.

Convincing Americans to adopt a libertarian political system — even if such an oxymoron were possible — is a hopeless endeavor in our current culture.

Politics is a trailing indicator. Culture leads, politics follows. There cannot be a political sea change in America unless and until there is a philosophical, educational, and cultural sea change. Over the last 100 years progressives have overtaken education, media, fine arts, literature, and pop culture — and thus as a result they have overtaken politics. Not the other way around.

This is why our movement, the libertarian movement, must be a battle for hearts and minds. It must be an intellectual revolution of ideas, because right now bad ideas run the world. We can’t expect a libertarian political miracle to occur in an illibertarian society….

All of us, regardless of ideological bent and regardless of whether we know it or not, are married to a very violent, abusive spendthrift. It’s time, ladies and gentlemen, to get a divorce from DC.

This article is adapted from a talk presented at the Houston Mises Circle, January 24, 2015. – Mises Institute –

What “Jury Nullification” Is And Why It Matters

If you happen to be lurking around the Manhattan courthouse where Ross Ulbricht’s trial began on Tuesday, you may notice one of about a dozen signs urging you to Google something called “jury nullification.”

Walk a little further, and you may just encounter activists handing out jury nullification leaflets. But if you ask them to explain what it is, they may refuse—because doing so could land them in jail.

Jury nullification is one of the oldest legal concepts in the world. It means that jury members have the right to find a defendant innocent, even if they believe he’s guilty of the crime with which he’s charged. They would do so, theoretically, if they believed the crime shouldn’t actually be labeled a crime. Some of the most famous examples came in the mid-1800s, when Northern abolitionists, sitting on juries, refused to convict slaves for fleeing their masters under the Fugitive Slave Act.

More recently, a jury in New Hampshire acquitted a man in 2012 who openly admitted that he was growing marijuana in his backyard. “He grows for his own personal religious and medicinal use,” one of the jurors said after the case. “[A]fter chewing on all of the possibilities…we all decided that the only fair thing to do was to vote with our consciences and acquit the defendant of all charges.”

Jury nullification has become a popular tactic among activists, academics and lawyers as the government’s $51 billion-per-year drug war has heated up. Many of these people believe it’s crazy that a person can get thrown in the slammer for 10 or 20 years simply for using or selling drugs.

Some of these same people believe that Ulbricht, who is accused of being the mastermind behind the drug site Silk Road, should be set free regardless of his guilt—because simply operating a website shouldn’t land you in prison. Nicholas J. Sarwark, chair of the Libertarian National Committee, the official group that manages the United States Libertarian Party, called on Tuesday for outright dismissal of the charges against Ulbricht, saying that trial “grossly oversteps the bounds of a properly limited government.”

This week, I spoke with James Babb, the activist who raised the money for the jury nullification ads—and who is personally handing out leaflets at the New York City courthouse. “I’m reminding people that you’ve got a conscience—use it, don’t just rubber-stamp the prosecution,” he says.

Babb won’t explicitly say he’s there for the Silk Road trial. He’s cagey because jury nullification activists have a history of being sent to jail for jury tampering. Perhaps the most famous case came in 2011, when an 80-year-old retired chemistry professor named Julien Heicklin was jailed for standing outside a Manhattan court where he distributed jury nullification pamphlets.

Heicklin, whom Babb calls his personal hero, was eventually acquitted, with the judge remarking that it’s only jury tampering if someone tries “to influence a juror’s decision through a written communication ‘made in relation to a specific case pending before that juror.’”

To make sure that no jury nullification activists breaks jury tampering laws, the Fully Informed Jury Association has recently put out several guidelines. They include:
•Stick to the public sidewalk in front of the courthouse.
•Offer literature to everyone without regard to who they are and do not try to single out jurors in any way.
•Go the extra mile to be friendly and courteous, and to avoid being perceived as belligerent, profane, harassing or a nuisance.

From Vocativ.com –

Holidays from hell: Satanic Temple to erect ‘fallen angel’ display in Florida

The Satanic Temple is claiming a religious freedom victory after winning the right to erect a fallen angel holiday display in Miami. Now it wants to put up a statue of pagan idol Baphomet in the Oklahoma state capitol next to one of the 10 Commandments.

The cardboard display in the Florida state capitol consists of a diorama of an angel falling from the sky into hell and an inscription, “Happy holidays from the Satanic Temple” atop of it. The stand is scheduled to be put up on Dec. 22, together with a “Happy Winter Solstice” banner from the Freedom From Religion Foundation and an entry from the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. All the displays have been approved by the state government.

“We hope that, this holiday season, everybody can put their religious differences aside and respect that the celebratory spirit of responsible hedonism is available to all,” Lucien Greaves, spokesman for the Satanic Temple, said in an email to CBS Miami.

Last year the Florida Department of Management Services rejected the proposed holiday display from the New York-based Satanic Temple (not to be confused with Anton Szandor LaVey’s Church of Satan) because, according to the agency, the proposal was “grossly offensive during the holiday season.”

The temple continued demanding equal representation, with legal backing from Americans United for the Separation of Church and State threatening to sue the state of Florida for violating the temple’s free speech rights. This year a Satanic display appeared in the capitol largely because “this time around we arrived with lawyers,” Greaves wrote in an email.

“In a nation that respects religious liberty, viewpoint discrimination is simply intolerable,” Greaves said in a statement. “For that reason, we feel our holiday display sends a very important, affirmative message that goes above and beyond that of superficial season’s greetings.”

From Russia Today –

Great Moments in Taxing

When people ask me why I mock government for being a slovenly, bloated, and malicious entity, I’m sometimes not sure what to say.

Do I give them examples of corrupt corporate welfare?

Do I share instances of government thuggery?

Do I direct them to preposterous examples of waste?

Do I show them details about an insanely complex tax code?

Do I enlighten them about sleazy insider behavior by the political elite?

The short answer is that I’m never sure what to say, which is why I oftentimes resort instead to utilitarian arguments in which I show that nations with smaller public sectors out-perform countries with larger levels of taxation, spending, regulation, and intervention.

By Daniel J. Mitchell – Townhall.com –

Indy Police Chief : We Are a Paramilitary Organization At War

By The Skeptical Libertarian –

It’s not just libertarians who believe that police have become militarized. It’s police themselves. Last week, Indianapolis Police Chief Rick Hite told his city council that he sees himself as a “soldier in an army” and his police force as “paramilitary organization” that is preparing for “battle.”

With the issue of police militarization still hot after the heavily-militarized response by the Ferguson, Missouri police, Hite’s comments come across as remarkably insensitive to the political climate. When asked by a city councilmember whether the police department needed a $29 million tax increase to fund its expansion, the police chief was terrifyingly blunt:

“I’m going to say something very candid to you my good friend, Councilman Robinson. As a 36-year veteran of law enforcement, never in my career have I seen public safety been politicized the way it has been in this country. Why I say that is because we have historically been a paramilitary organization…. I don’t know what we would do if we had to go to battle, and we had to make a determination, based on past practices, whether or not we wanted to go into battle. … I am a soldier in an army. We serve you in that way.” (2:39:00)

Let’s catalog these comments away for the next time there’s a large scale public disturbance in Indianapolis and see how the police force responds. The Rise of the Warrior Cop, to use the title of Radley Balko’s book, has not gone unnoticed within law enforcement. Rather, it has been encouraged and indeed used to justify an ever-expanding amount of resources being devoted to fighting various “wars” on citizens, whether in the name of eliminating “guns,” drugs, or terrorism.

Hite’s comments were also out-of-touch given the local news events as well. Two Indianapolis police officers were arrested just this month for beating a man unconscious outside a bar. Hite was reported to have said at a news conference that “days like this make us wonder how we’ve lost our way.” Given the stated ethos of his department, I, for one, am no longer wondering.

 
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