Our present crisis is the direct result of nearly a century of economic mismanagement, and has not gone unexpected to any astute observer of the defining trends of capitalism. We of the left have long predicted the fall of this dark winter over the springtime idyll of industrial development; we of the libertarian left have have always known that it would be the result of an overreliance on centralized industry, and a monopolization of the means of production by forces who preserve their economic hegemony by way of the State.
For the traditional political divide in America, conservative and liberal, over the size and scope of the government, is in reality an intentional misdirection from the truly pressing issue: the State's dogmatic support of corporatism and cartelization, that is, its insistence on supporting the national industry through means both overt and covert. And, for its part, industry has been more than happy to allow the State to play its role of sworn defender of the profits of its shareholders; indeed, business exerts its control over the machinery of government whenever it can, so as to take possession of the State's monopoly of violence to apply to its own uses. From the "Banana Wars" in Central America during the administrations of McKinley and T. Roosevelt to our present, sprawling military-industrial complex, industry and the State have walked hand-in-hand at every turn in an incestuous fashion, each owing its successes to the other.
And yet no political programme today in proposal by either of the major Parties even pretends to challenge this state of affairs. Our conservatives feign allegiance to the cause of small government, save when they require that self-same government to exert force in the defense of their traditional social hegemonies; and, when they mouth the dogmas of their puerile misunderstanding of the laissez-faire society, what they mean by it in reality is a corporatist nightmare: they would destroy trade and regulatory barriers to economic expansion, but do absolutely nothing to halt - indeed, actively promote - the continued centralization of the economy in the hands of an elite few.
Our leftists are little better. For nearly eight decades now they have championed the advances of the State in nearly every aspect of life: from taxation to regulation, they suppose that the economic difficulties now making themselves known can be corrected through the continued, judicious application of State power. They are wrong, and they know it; for they lived, as we left-libertarians were forced to, under the shadow of the Bush Administration's efforts to sanctify and whitewash the use of force in the social sphere, to achieve its own perverse ends.
And just what are those ends? The continued monopolization of economic resources; the destruction of wealth through excess; the enforcement of legislation designed to actively give established economic interests an advantage over any potential competitors, fundamentally distorting the true meaning of the free-market economy; the establishment of a police-state - both our "conservatives" and our "liberals" march together in lockstep towards this, their final goal.
This is an extremely bleak picture of America's present, but if it is not painted over, the future is likely to become only worse. Fortunately, the means to avert this destiny are closer to our grasp than ever before. Only the will to implement them, and to re-evalute our fundamental values in the process, is lacking.
The Entrepreneurial Society
The economically free man is the economically stable man. Our agrarian ancestors, though certainly materially poor in comparison to even those in our modern society who exist on the fringes, were nevertheless not nearly so subject to the twists and turns of the financial markets as we are today. For their lives were in their own hands; and they alone were responsible for seeing either that their harvests came in on time, or that their handicrafts had a market - no man and no market downturn could take from them their sources of wealth.
I do not dare propose that we attempt to stem the advent of modernity; far from it. Agrarianism worked well in the past for material reasons relating to the vastly smaller and more diffuse population and the absence of modern farming techniques and technology - to retreat back into premodernity, as many of our conservative populists and cowardly "paleoconservatives" seem to want, would be deadly folly.
What is needed instead is a new modernity, which masters the forces of physical production and places them in the hands of productive individuals. For, in freeing one's self from the bonds of the State-controlled corporate markets, one assers control over his own economic fortune, and, in doing so, breaks the authority of both State and business over his own being, over his very own individuality.
Accordingly, a new strategy is needed. The left-libertarian does not shy from using the State to undermine itself; far from it. If the power of government can be manipulated to further the cause of liberty - always, of course, resulting in its own eventual dissolution - then it is only appropriate that such actions be taken.
Therefore, the left-libertarian seeks to cause the State to invest in those technologies which will ultimately be the source of its own undoing. We have seen this occur naturally, without a concentrated effort to realize this end - the Internet itself (surely the greatest threat in our modern world to State power) was itself the product of Cold War paranoia realized in its ultimate form and given life through DARPA. Today it threatens to undo the stability upon which the modern nation-state relies, by rendering physical borders obsolete and tearing down cultural barriers.
This same fundamental process can be applied towards the goal of rendering individuals fully self-sufficient in the area of economic production. Already potentially disrupting technologies like personal rapid fabrication and desktop manufacturing threaten the traditional mores upon which the mass mobilization of labour is founded - we can rock these foundations further by investing in such technologies and ensuring their speedy availability to enterprising individuals.
Eventually the technology will exist to render collective industrial employment and all of the difficulties it entails - labour costs and conflict, the need for a welfare-State, and reliance on the whims of capitalist chieftans as guarantors of social progress - irrelevant. Man does not truly own himself until he exerts total ownership over himself; by turning every man into an owner, every man will do just that.
The Peaceful Society
"The only real purpose of government is the defense of its citizenry." This conservative canard is as false as it is ancient; for the State has served its historical purpose and must be permitted to die away.
In times of old - and here we see the source of conservative nostalgia - the State was an unfortunate necessity, when, prior to the Treaty of Westphalia and the rise of the modern nation-state, standing armies were a rarity in Western society and the bribing of corps of mercenaries was the typical means by which the feudal and mercantilist orders secured their defense.
Today, of course, as the threat of truly international, universal war such as that which racked the last century recedes into the distance, the Western world finds itself confronted with a dilemma: how does a State which relies on a standing professional military to inflate its employment numbers and provide contracts to a centralized and uncompetitive defense industry continue to justify military spending in the absence of potential conflict?
The United States has hit upon one potential solution: perpetual war without the aim of perpetual peace, but instead the radical transformation of a competitor society whose alternative form of monotheism offends the popular (vulgar) mass sentiment and whose basic similarities frighten it, like a reflection in a fogged-over mirror.
How incoherent, how self-contradictory both "wings" of our politics have been in response! Indeed, on security matters, the American political establishment is akin more to an ostrich than an eagle. Our "leftists" - that is to say, our liberals - demand a more 'humane' art of war, proving in one stroke their utterly lack of artistic taste. Moreover, they expose their own hypocrisy every time they do so: for in this instance, and this alone, they quietly acknowledge what we libertarians have always known - that so long as the nation is defended by a military whose sole justification is the continued subsidization of the armaments industry, there can be no lasting peace. And the political wing which led us into the three most destructive wars of the past century has no moral authority whatsoever on the issue.
Our conservatives, of course, are no better, and are in many ways worse yet. They will cry and hue regarding the deficit, and yet any effort to tear down the shrine they've erected to the gods of machismo in the professional miliary is regarded as something approaching heresy. Boeing is regarded more favorably among their ranks than the independent contractor; their preferred form of welfare is welfare for Lockheed Martin and Boeing. To this both the genuine leftist and the genuine libertarian cry: enough!
We will no longer tolerate a military whose Constitutional justification is nonexistent and whose purpose it is to slave at the beck and call of industrial leaders and their slaves in the Federal government. We instead demand a return to the legally obligatory form of defense as provided for in the United States Constitution: a self-organized and thoroughly voluntary militia. Only when the apparatus for making war has been ground into dust and salted over can a genuinely peaceful society be established.
The Free Society
Capitalism without personal freedom is industrial slavery. This maxim must become second-nature to anyone who professes a personal conviction towards liberty.
For the past five centuries, capitalism has played a pivotal role in destroying those social conditions which stifle technological innovation by impeding personal initiative. By creating the economic progress that drives technical achievement, free enterprise gave forth the tides of material bounty that in turn constructed the world in which we live today, a world that grows ever-more open to a philosophy predicated upon individualism and creates ex nihilo those choices that allow men to conduct themselves according to their own personal orientations. This is, in a word, liberty.
But today this progress is threatened by the very forces that erstwhile pretend to champion the cause of capitalism. The forces of reaction have seen this new world, and fear it mightily, for reasons rooted primarily in their own base instincts and ignorance.
The modern Luddite, for instance, fears the continued development of capitalism because, he claims, it has a negative environmental impact - paying no heed to the fact that technological innovation is inherently capable of minimizing its own destructive tendencies by rendering itself ever more efficient in its application. The theocrat, to the contrary, bemoans its destructive effects upon "community" and "tradition": utterly neglecting the potential of communication technologies to bring forth new communities and new traditions out of the ashes of the old.
Neither of these causes of cowardice are cause for alarm. Both will be defeated in the ultimate course of things. The danger lies in the possibility that these retrograde crusaders will temporarily inhibit the eternal advance of man by causing him to doubt his aims, to doubt himself, and thereby to destroy himself.
Progress requires economic freedom, which in turn relies upon personal liberty. If society is tamed by primitive savagery, if it harnesses its potential in a sheath of superstition, it cannot possibly expect to overcome the difficulty it presently faces.
Conservatives have long complained that a kulturkampf is being waged against them and against their values. They are absolutely correct. The left-libertarian ultimately intends the final destruction of their collectivistic values-regime, which demands absolute obedience to the "higher authority" of conventional wisdom while rejecting the true tradition of the West, which is absolute freedom of thought and will.
Conclusion: The End of Society
It will be charged, of course, that our final aim is to end society as we know it. And we stand, guilty as charged. For we find that society itself is quickly undermining the very need for its own existence; its tendency is towards self-devaluation and thereby self-destruction. The very need for organized civility declines as the atomizing effects of technological progress increases.
This needn't be a painful process, though the vulgar mind will, of course, imagine it to be just that. By isolating the causes for collectivism, we can actively pacify mankind, making him more social by obviating the need for it.
And therein lies the victory.
And since there is such an extraordinary quantity of prophecies, apocalypses, signs, and insights in our age when so little is being done, there is probably nothing else to do but go along with it, although I do have the unencumbered advantage over the others' burdensome responsibility to prophecy and forebode that I can be sure no one will dream of believing me.- S. Kierkegaard, Two Ages