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Inside, Outside, Upside-Down

(With apologies to Dr. Seuss)

Let's not mince words: I advocate breaking laws. To the extent they put to use the information we're publishing on unsubscribing from coercive institutions and drop out of the legally-sanctioned protection rackets, DF! readers will become outlaws. Pause and think about that for a moment, because it's every bit as serious as it sounds--as potentially lethal as it can be liberating.

To be sure, bad laws deserve breaking. However, it's not a trivial decision; embarking on such a strategy deserves careful thought and preparation. I try to keep in mind the examples of the many courageous people who broke laws to help Jews escape Nazi persecution in Hitler's Germany, or to help blacks escape slavery in antebellum America, to help early Christians escape persecution in ancient Rome, and so on throughout history. Many of them died, unsung, their names not even remembered. I don't want that to happen to me.

On the other hand, William Lloyd Garrison, publisher of the original Liberator (an absolutely uncompromising journal dedicated to the complete obliteration of the immoral laws that made slavery legal in the US), lived to see the victory he sought. When he started out, his views were overwhelmingly unpopular, even in the northern states where he operated. He was constantly in danger of being arrested, having his offices broken into by mobs, and having his presses and materials destroyed. After decades of bitter struggle, he saw slavery struck down. I like that outcome better, but am not so thrilled about the "decades of bitter struggle" part.

Based on successes I've seen firsthand, I believe a careful person can arrange their affairs so that they can fight evil as Garrison and the others did, but do so in greater comfort and freedom. I am not promising Shangri La to all who drop out with me. I am trying to point out the strategies I believe will maximize the chances of success for those who don't wish to be forced to support their jailers and destroyers.

"Outside" can be as lonely and terrifying as it can be rewarding and pleasurable, but it's not the only way to Do Freedom. Because there are many publications, Web sites, individuals, etc. advocating strategies that involve working within the system, DF! will focus a great deal on exploring unsubscribing strategies. However, our focus should not be interpreted as a criticism of other strategies. "Inside" can also be lonely and terrifying, both made worse by the dread that one may actually be playing into the hands of the enemy, but there are moral and tactically convincing arguments for some inside strategies.

Why might one choose to remain within an evil system that leaches its sustenance out of its own victims? This is not my specialty, but there are some reasons that come to mind. For example, someone might do it to accumulate tactically significant resources. I donít just mean guns and such, but money. I donít accept the claims of some that you can't drop out of the system and make good money, but it is true for most people that it is easier to make money within the system (the rulers certainly intend it to work that way). It would certainly be of great tactical use to have 100 able freedom lovers to completely drop out of politics and concentrate on becoming millionaires and billionaires over the next 5 to 10 years. Can you imagine what could be done if we had 100 such right now? If you tried hard, you could probably do this without committing any rights-violating actions--you'd have to put up with being the victim of many such, but you should be able to get away without doing any yourself.

Others might do it to become moles. I don't know if Iíd have the stomach to make this choice myself, but I can certainly see the value of having people infiltrate statist organizations. Such people could share vital information with the forces of freedom, and even take pivotal actions if they get a chance. Can you imagine how useful it would be if some dedicated people had adopted such a strategy, say, after Waco, and were now in high positions in the DOJ, military, FEMA, etc. Such people wouldn't even have to be working with anyone else--"cell of one." They could be there right now, biding their time, perhaps waiting for imminent martial law to switch sides and do the most damage on their way out. It might prevent a great deal of bloodshed if would-be dictators knew there were such people (but not who they were!) and couldn't be sure they would be obeyed if they gave blatantly illegal and/or unconstitutional orders. To be honest, I'm not sure this could be done without moral compromise--I'm not sure a person could get very far in important statist organizations without committing any rights-violating actions--but I can imagine someone giving it a try.

Less dramatically, perhaps, but equally valid from a moral perspective would be a choice to stay in because your life, or that of someone you love, depends upon some good or service that can't be had without cooperation of coercive institutions. For example, suppose you had a wife with a serious chronic illness that required many prescription drugs and frequent hospitalizations. Or, suppose you had an ex-husband who would either turn you in or keep you from being with your children if he found out you were an outlaw (which would be damned hard to keep your kids from blabbing about). In such cases, I would say that, like driving on gummint roads where there are no private ones, you don't have many choices that don't involve a great deal of self-sacrifice, and I accept the premise that you have a higher duty to yourself and your family than to "save the world", as long as you're not actively helping the institutions of coercion.

I can imagine other scenarios, but trust my point is clear; I do not condemn people who opt to stay in the system, just for that. However, I do believe that the institutions of coercion are completely immoral and believe it is very wrong for people to surrender their dreams of freedom, give up on trying to do what's right, and decide to collaborate with them. In so doing they add to the problem and subtract from the solution.

As I try to emphasize, doing the right thing isn't always easy. It does have its rewards (self-esteem for one, without which real happiness is not possible), but it can be hard. Many people speak of civil disobedience as though it were a cool fad in the 60s that got your picture in the news, if you did it right. But it's not just a hip thing for college students to do; it's breaking the law and it can get you killed. I'm here to talk about freedom--real freedom--with all its risks and glory, not some sort of Disneyesque version in which you take a freedom pill and live happily ever after.

I will concentrate on the strategy I like best, but inside, outside, upside-down, as long as you're trying--if not to be part of the solution, then at least to avoid being part of the problem--I don't care which way you Do Freedom.


(c) 2000

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