Shayne Wissler
“… to understand is, above all, to unify.” – Albert Camus

How to fight liberty

January 25 2013

If you understand human liberty, then you understand that it is fundamentally an achievement of the rational mind – only the rational, principled mind can understand what liberty means and how it is applied. It is not simply a matter of “don’t hurt anyone” or “don’t initiate force”, because the world is not like a child’s playground. There are complex webs of property, contract, fuzzy borders, complicated histories of injustice, etc. It takes sincere and rational thought to sort out what is a proper use of force and what isn’t. Therefore, if you want to destroy liberty, then destroy rational thought. Here are some ways to do that[1]:

1. Thwart the development of the virtue of rationality in children. They will probably carry the vice of irrationality the rest of their lives, especially when the surrounding culture approves of their irrationality while disapproving of those who act rationally.

There are many ways to thwart the emergence of rationality. Mere distraction by meaningless activity is one. But chief among these, and also the final bulwark against persistent youth, is to erect philosophical barriers, to construct seemingly authoritative and complicated arguments that conclude: reason is arbitrary, human ethics is arbitrary, the human mind is cut off from knowing anything other than itself, etc. Such things will instill such an uncertainty and doubt that they will have no energy or motive left to affirm the principles of liberty, or they will affirm them only in a weak and incompetent manner (for rather than attempting to root these principles in reason, they will “root” them in subjective personal opinion and preference).

2. Keep those who have some remnant intuitions about liberty distracted by constant anxiety and emergency. This way they never get the time to coalesce coherent thoughts about liberty, they never really find out what it truly is, or figure out a rational plan of action. There are various ways of achieving this:

- Fixate their attention on conspiracy theories, so they spend all their time digging further and further down a limitless rabbit hole.

- Instill an irrational fear of boldly standing up for reason and liberty. Make them think they’ll lose their job, be deported, be ostracized, be put on a list, etc. Now, obviously this is not all myth – and that is what makes this tactic even more powerful. Every individual has to decide for themselves, given the context of where and how they live, what degree of risk they will take when standing up for truth and justice. So all one must do to implement this tactic is to exaggerate the risks, to shift them toward paranoia and fear and away from speaking out. Any degree of bias away from standing up for the truth counts as success of this tactic.

- Instill a rational fear of boldly standing up for reason and liberty by tricking them into breaking laws for petty, self-serving reasons (and don’t forget to tell them the lie that this makes them heroes exercising “civil disobedience”). A person always looking over their shoulder, wondering if they are going to get caught, is a person who avoids the attention that can come from standing up for an idea.

- Convince them that the only meaningful battles for liberty are the petty battles of the moment. Have them run from one emergency to another: Whether it is about getting this candidate elected, fighting that law about gun control, stopping ObamaCare, “Ending the Fed” (this one has a convenient conspiracy aspect to it), etc. etc. ad nauseam and ad infinitum. The key point here is to never have a really clear definition of what liberty or injustice is. A vague conception will do, so long as there is a constant stream of political emergencies.

3. Convince people that humankind stopped progressing intellectually at some point, so all important conceptions of liberty already exist, and all we need to do is “return” to this or that. A focus on tradition – any tradition – is key. Whether the return is to Murray Rothbard, Ayn Rand, The Founding Fathers, “The Constitution”, or John Locke – it doesn’t matter. What matters is that people look backward to others who tell them what to believe, to authority – and not forward to their own personal and improved understanding, to developing their own personal virtue of rationality and their own personal wisdom. By doing this, not only have you virtually guaranteed failure (for these older traditions did already fail to achieve the ends of liberty we need), but you have established a worshipful, subservient frame of mind, which is indispensable to thwarting liberty.

4. As a complete opposite tactic from the previous, but which is also just as effective: convince people that with virtually no effort on their part, they can become a genius, that what they think and what they have to say is important, because they thought or said it, that they are the philosophical center of the Universe, that they don’t need to learn from other thinkers, that what is to be regarded as true or false is not predetermined by anything so mundane as facts or reality, but is up to them to decide. This is of course related to point #1 above, specifically relating to the progressive education system. It is also related to point #3, as it is still a form of subservience, not to other people, but to personal whims (i.e., if we analyze their psychology, we can see that these whims were actually established by other people, such as parents or teachers or priests, without the person ever becoming quite conscious of having been manipulated).

5. Convince people that humankind is hopeless, that perhaps there are glimmers of rationality possible to a select few, but really, most people are by their very nature and not by their own choice, morons. For example, tell them this:

The mass-man is one who has neither the force of intellect to apprehend the principles issuing in what we know as the humane life, nor the force of character to adhere to those principles steadily and strictly as laws of conduct; and because such people make up the great and overwhelming majority of mankind, they are called collectively the masses. The line of differentiation between the masses and the Remnant is set invariably by quality, not by circumstance.

— Albert Jay Nock

Or this:

An equalitarian and democratic regime must by consequence assume, tacitly or avowedly, that everybody is educable. The theory of our regime was directly contrary to this. Our preceptors did not see that doctrines of equality and democracy had any footing in the premises. They did not pretend to believe that everyone is educable, for they knew, on the contrary, that very few are educable, very few indeed. They saw this as a fact of nature, like the fact that few are six feet tall. … They accepted the fact that there are practicable ranges of intellectual and spiritual experience which nature has opened to some and closed to others.

— Albert Jay Nock

By instilling the belief that humankind is hopeless, you achieve this very useful tool in the fight against liberty: you cause the enemy of tyranny to either give up hope, or to engage in pointless tactics, such as trying to manipulate those he is trying to free into choosing freedom over tyranny. But a game of dishonest manipulation is doomed to fail, for two reasons: 1) People aren’t morons, and they will learn what you are doing and despise you for it; 2) If people do not understand something then they cannot really implement it (also see this post).

6. Create organizations that claim to stand for liberty, but really are fundamentally opposed to it. Having a cult of personality is extremely beneficial to this. Whether the personality is alive or dead is beside the point. What really matters is that you trick people into thinking that, while not being perfect, the group has good intentions (and the personality helps tremendously in this), is aimed at improving the state of liberty in the world, and is worth giving one’s time and money to. The ultimate sophistication is to claim not only to stand for liberty, but for rationality as well, but instead of offering authentic rationality, what you offer ultimately boils down to some form of authoritarianism.

  1. This is not intended as a complete list. Being irrational doesn’t mean not being creative, so I’m sure I have missed something important.

  2. Also published here: