Like many before it, this election season has underscored the futility of American politics. Never before in recent memory have we been presented with choices so hostile to liberty. Politically speaking, we’re in for a rough, divisive next four years, with plenty of government expansion of power.
Thankfully, we have alternatives to politics. There are much better ways of effecting change for good than through voting. So don’t despair: get to work. Here are 13 of the best ways to advance the cause of human liberty outside of the political system.
1: Use Bitcoin
A big (biggest?) part of government’s continuing power over its citizens lies in its control over money. Government forces you to use their money, which they in turn can track through banking regulations and make sure you pay taxes. Even worse, they can just print more money to pay for stuff, making your savings worth less all the time. And, if the government ever collapses, so does your entire wealth, and the financial system you use. In short, you will continue to fund all the horrible things you voted against, like it or not.
Bitcoin allows you to escape from all that. It’s not controlled by any one entity, is unaffiliated with governments, and is not attached to any real-world identity. Having to deal with inflation, bank bailouts, excessive taxation, and highly restricted financial activity is now optional. You control your money. In a world where the government silences and shuts you down by going after your wallet first, that’s huge. So make some steps towards using Bitcoin as much as possible.
Here’s what you do: Get a Bitcoin wallet (Blockchain.info is a good, easy-to-use staple) and go buy some Bitcoin. Make sure your password and private keys are safe, because your funds are your responsibility now. Then find places to use it. Your local economy (landscaper, farmer’s market, gas money for friends) is a great place to start. Also don’t forget that you can use it to buy stuff off Amazon, sometimes at a significant discount, with Bitcoin by using Purse.io, and Overstock accepts it directly.
Tired of waiting for voting to make change? Stop waiting. Start using Bitcoin.
We live in an age of global digital connectivity. This has led to an explosion in information and progress, but has also made access to every aspect of our lives startlingly easy. Edward Snowden famously revealed the disturbing extent to which the government is spying on its citizens’ every move, causing quite the chilling effect on anyone looking to exercise their liberty in a way that would inconvenience the state. Well, it’s time to fight back. Encrypt your world, so you’re no longer held hostage by spying.
First, you need to get a good encrypted messaging service, like Signal for texts and voice, or Wire. Get your friends and family to use them. Next, encrypt and sign your emails with GPG. Finally, get rid of any third party apps that require a bunch of special permissions that shouldn’t need them. The SnoopWall Privacy App is a great way of identifying every permission that your apps need.
But remember, encryption is more than technology: it’s a mindset. No amount of technological tools can help you if your behavior is careless. Practice awareness of financial transactions, start to finish, realizing what information you’ve divulged for which purchases and what can be traced. Watch your social media presence. Don’t talk carelessly in public about sensitive information. Mind your audience and environment. Use euphemisms and communicate through context to avoid using keywords that can easily reveal exactly what you’re talking about to outside listeners. In short, keep a mindset that you’re always under surveillance, and anything you say can and will be used against you. Practice discretion. It will make you a much harder target, and could save your life someday.
Agorism is the act of engaging in counter-economic activity for the express purpose of defunding the state. Basically, that means doing business with people without paperwork and income reporting so that Uncle Sam doesn’t get any. The thought is, instead of wasting time trying to vote or repeal regulations to claim back a tiny bit of freedom from government, it’s way easier to just sneak that cash away without permission by dealing with grey and black markets.
Whether or not you know it, you’re already participating in the clandestine economy. Every time you buy cookies from a child’s bake sale, pay your (possibly illegal) immigrant landscaper in cash, or get gas money from your buddy for giving him a ride to the airport, that’s all off-the-grid. Agorism is just doing that intentionally, with the purpose of starving the government. So go out of your way to take work where you’re paid under the table, hire people for cash or Bitcoin without paperwork, and buy from unofficial vendors. If you’re really hardcore you can start your own business or become an independent contractor/freelancer where you have much more freedom to choose agorist work, but even if you can’t do that, don’t let it stop you from doing something. If a third of the country only pushes 10% of their economic activity underground, that’s like 10% of the population going dark, and the government gets a 10% budget cut. That’s a massive win for liberty. Make it happen.
One of the biggest things big government uses to justify its continuing existence is social service. No one denies that the free market will provide goods and services as long as there are willing, paying customers. What’s in dispute is whether or not people without money can be taken care of in a free society. Don’t argue that the poor will be cared for. Instead, show them with your actions.
Give some of your income to a private charity on a regular, recurring basis. This is deceptively difficult to do effectively, since you need to care enough to do proper research to ensure you’re actually helping someone. If you personally know someone reputable who has fallen on hard times, help them out. If not, find a charity you can trust, volunteer some of your labor so you know firsthand what they do, and then give. If it’s a 501(c)3 nonprofit, all the better, since you get to withhold more money from the government, fulfilling the agorist role as well. Keep building the voluntary social safety net, and making the case for abolishing government services gets ever easier.
Any spirited defense of government will invariably include “keep us safe” somewhere in there. And it’s true that, for most of us, the thought of being confronted by an armed assailant immediately leads to wishes for protection by someone who works for the government. “You need us” doesn’t get any stronger than “you’d be killed without us.” In order to move beyond reliance on a corrupt and oppressive government, we have to learn how to protect ourselves, and our community, from physical harm.
Get a weapon (or few) for self-defense. Learn how to use it, both in ideal and stressful circumstances. Practice carrying everyday whenever possible. Get together with friends at least once per month to hone your skills together and keep them fresh. Learn unarmed self-defense and practice regularly (several times a week if you can). Then, start using a community alert tool like Cell 411 so you can use those skills to defend other people as well. Grow a healthy and large enough trained self-defense community and demand for government safety-providing services starts to evaporate.
Victimless crimes are when someone can go to jail, be fined, or otherwise have their life ruined over something that hurts no one. There are thousands of such laws on the books in the US, from smoking marijuana to simply not cutting your lawn fast enough. Rolling back these senseless laws requires an uphill battle against vested interests, and in the meantime law enforcement can always interpret relatively reasonable laws in a way that can criminalize nearly anyone. Thankfully, the jury system exists, and jurors have the ability to vote no and nullify a bad law or application of a law that would yield an unjust effect.
This one’s a little trickier to get involved in, but still very doable. At a minimum, talk to friends and neighbors about jury nullification, especially ones who have recently been selected for jury duty. If you can, get involved in jury outreach directly. Get some materials from the Fully Informed Jury Association, look up your local jury selection dates, and hand out literature outside the courthouse. If you’re blessed enough to live in New Hampshire, contact the Rights Brigade, which is already conducting jury outreach across the state, and get involved.
7: Film police
In theory, Americans have rights. In practice, cops can shoot you on a whim, say you were resisting arrest and reaching for a weapon, and will get away with it if they’re the only witness. Justice only exists as far as it’s enforceable. That’s why it’s crucial to film police encounters. From an optimist’s point of view, filming an encounter ensures that you have enough evidence of your innocence and police misconduct to get justice in court. From a realist’s point of view, you have the footage to galvanize the public and cause a wave of outrage and pressure on law enforcement to leave you with some of your rights. Either way, the innocent benefit from the truth. If every police encounter is recorded, the leeway to abuse authority significantly diminishes.
This one can get uncomfortable if you’re not used to confrontation, and I would recommend against it if you’re easily intimidated or can get aggressive under stress. If you’re up for it, use a streaming service like Bambuser so that the video of the encounter doesn’t get deleted if the police confiscate or destroy the device. Remain calm, polite, and reiterate that you’re just making sure everything goes smoothly. Make sure you respect the wishes of the civilian in question, and stop filming if they want, including refraining from posting footage online that could cause an embarrassment.
In our increasingly polarized debate of ideas, it can be especially difficult for proponents of liberty, standing opposite of policy positions of both major parties, to gain any traction at all. That’s why freedom’s voice is desperately needed more than ever in the public debate. Liberty’s advocates have to work overtime in order to grow its philosophy. That’s your job, so it’s time to get to work.
Now, I know a lot of you think “Well I post about politics online all the time, I’m already doing this.” Not quite, there’s a nuance towards influencing the public debate. First, get outside your bubble and join a more general-audience conversation, or even an opposing viewpoint environment. Second, be the voice of alternative reason. The goal isn’t to be a hardcore fan or assault the opposition, but to be the most respectable voice in the room, sharing a point of view that others may not have heard. Third, deliberately seek out contexts where liberty is not represented at all. It can be tough to be the only one critical of some attempt to make yet another irrelevant holiday into a troop or cop worship fest, but remember: the ideas of reverence to the state only have such a strong hold because of a lack of dissent. And finally, bring a friend. If you can get two or more reasonable, calm, normal-seeming folks providing a radical perspective, that automatically lends it a good deal of legitimacy.
A critical weakness for the libertarian position, especially for anarchists, is offering theoretical free market solutions to compete with real-world government services. The harsh reality: when you talk about how private arbitration courts could potentially replace the judicial system, you’re advocating, in the short-term, for nothing to replace something. When “the market will provide” is your answer, you will invariably lose to what’s already in place, no matter how bad. Even worse, you yourself will find out quickly that calling the cops will save your anarchist behind better than a vision of a world where security contractors help you. You need to start solving problems without government in the real world, and you need to do it now.
This one requires some creativity, but basically boils down to this: whenever you think the government-provided solution is the only way, stop and try to come up with an alternative. Some of these might be easy, like using FedEx instead of the post office or filling in some potholes in the road yourself. Others can be a really tough call, like choosing to deal with a theft yourself instead of going to police, using community pressure instead of the law to deal with an assault, or even choosing to walk away from an abusive relationship without using courts to pursue child support or alimony. These can be hard decisions where sometimes you have to prioritize your own safety over your principles, but at some point we as a people will have to deal with living without government, and that will mean an overlap period where you’re having to eschew state services before there’s anything better to replace them. Start getting creative now, before you end up in a world without government and don’t know what to do.
Force is a great damper on human creativity and achievement, and we see this at work when the state uses the threat of violence to solve every problem. The missing link, though, is the fact that this principle applies to private life as well. Anyone seeking freedom from government while still continuing to act with authority is missing the entire point of liberty. Since we’ve been living under a government-ruled, force-filled world since forever, that reality has affected us on every level of human relations. That’s why we need a change.
In short, rid the concept of authority from your life, and instead see all relationships as voluntary agreements between parties who all seek to benefit. You aren’t the boss of your employee, you’re buying labor services from an equal. The customer isn’t always right, the business chose to offer you the service, making you both equally dependent on each other. Your spouse doesn’t owe attention, affection, or fidelity, but rather gives them willingly because they want the same from you. And, possibly hardest of all, you don’t own your children, but instead chose to shelter and guide them until they can make it on their own. When you force yourself to see the world in this way, your relationships will change and your life will become more peaceful and fulfilled.
Part of the great thing about living in a society is that not everyone has to worry about being able to do everything. The problem is, society has been compromised, and virtually our entire economy is under some manner of government control. No matter how much activism you do, there’s always some underlying fear that if you go too hard the government will shut off your necessities. If you provide one of those yourself, and each of your friends and neighbors provides their own, then at least you can have the peace of mind of knowing that you can all survive under trying circumstances. That focus will be invaluable.
Now it’s admittedly very difficult to go completely off the grid, and doing so will take up your entire focus, leaving little left for other activism or living in society as a whole. Instead, focus on one thing you can do. Growing your own food is one of the best options, whether it be tending a small vegetable garden or keeping a few chickens. Alternatively, you can dig your own well, fix your own cars and machinery, do your own electrical work and run your house on solar energy. Anything you’d need to go to the store for, and won’t survive without, learn how to do one of those things, and do it routinely. Coordinate with your community so someone covers everything, and your worries of being dependent on the system go down significantly.
You doing your best for liberty is a great start, but it’s limited. In order to truly change the world, there needs to be more of you. Sure, regular conversations with friends and family help, and all your various activities will provoke questions. You may even change a few minds through your persuasive online comments. But in order to really amplify liberty’s message, you need a better venue. Your chances of getting anything subversive in anything that qualifies as mainstream media are slim to none. Instead, you need to spread the word of liberty through a more high-powered vehicle. Get your voice in independent media.
If you can produce enough quality content on your own, and have a vision for a unique outlet, go ahead and start a blog, YouTube channel, podcast, etc (bonus points for joining a distributed content platform like LBRY). If you’re too strapped for time or content, contribute something to another independent outlet. Write for a news site (like The Desert Lynx!), guest-host a podcast, or explore other venues to participate. Remember, though: the world is filled with plenty enough terrible blogs spewing regurgitated ideological rhetoric. Make your content quality, and make it accessible to some kind of “normal” audience. Keep some sort of long-term consistency to your production and your voice will be sure to have an impact.
The fight for true liberty in a world dominated by both apathy and lust for power can be a lonely one. So don’t go it alone. Thousands have moved to the Free State of New Hampshire in order to concentrate their efforts towards the advancement of human liberty. If you’re tired of wasting your effort, come join us. We’re already winning, but could always use some more liberty activists. Together, in this place, we can win the struggle in our lifetime.
I get that picking up your whole life and moving it across possibly thousands of miles is potentially challenging. If you’re able to secure a good work situation, however, the rest will be relatively easy. The best option is to find a job that allows you to work from anywhere, or to negotiate remote work with your current company. If neither is possible, get in touch with the Free State community, which is famously tight-knit and eager to help. We will help you find a way.