If the world is slipping inexorably toward statism, then what grounds do freedom fighters have for optimism? With
the citizens of the freest country on earth calling for more government control in their lives after government control has
failed spectacularly throughout all of history, who would even listen to a plea for freedom?
People who fight for freedom often study United States history because that's where it once nearly existed without compromise.
But even that is depressing, because it's a story of how a free country started with a contradiction but corrected it with
an unnecessary war that killed 640,000 Americans and established the idea that social goals are to be achieved through the
compulsory power of the federal government. We were no longer a union of voluntary states after Lincoln's war; we were
states held together at the point of a federal gun. By putting the states under federal control, the federal government
established a coercive monopoly on the rule of law.
Although repeated failure usually extinguishes the life of other entities, in the case of the federal government, failures
foster its growth. When its failures reach crisis proportions, the growth comes in great leaps. We keep moving
toward complete state rule, yet mainstream intellectuals sound few warnings. Apparently, we're to believe a totalitarian
government here won¹t be the same as it was in Germany, the Soviet Union, or China.
Since we attempt to re-create our government periodically through voting, it would appear the way to change this trend
is to vote ourselves a free society. But in our current culture, this won't work. Most people think freedom is
wrong or at least dangerous, and so won't vote for it. And the two major political parties have formed a cartel to keep
With rare exceptions, neither Republicans nor Democrats are going to promote freedom by trying to cut government to its
constitutional limits. The hope for freedom, therefore, lies mainly in third-party candidates, specifically the Libertarians.
But the political process makes it very hard for third parties to get their message out.
As Harry Browne explains, the Republicans and Democrats have laid down the law. To begin with, there's new campaign finance legislation
that helps incumbents stay in office. Along with that are the Federal Election Commission (FEC) requirements for reporting
campaign donations, which causes a severe drain on the very limited resources of third parties.
Another obstacle is taxpayer subsidies. In the 2000 presidential election, Bush and Gore took $67.6 million each
from taxpayers' pockets to fund their campaigns. "The general-election subsidies are limited to parties that received
5% or more of the vote in the previous presidential election," Mr. Browne writes. But Libertarians, as the party of
small government, could not accept the subsidies without compromising their principles, even if they met requirements.
The TV presidential debates are legally rigged to exclude any but the two major party candidates. "The Republicans
and Democrats decreed by law that the Debate Commission would consist of an equal number of Democrats and Republicans, but
no one else. The Commission then decided to limit participation in the debates to (surprise!) just the Republican and
Democratic candidates," Mr. Browne says.
Jesse Ventura's popularity soared after he got into the Minnesota debates in 1998, Mr. Browne points out, enabling him
to pull a big upset. The major parties don¹t want that to happen again.
Just getting on the ballot in most states is expensive for third-party candidates. State laws require them to pay
much larger filing fees and collect far more petition signatures than Republicans or Democrats to become eligible for the
Because of these legal hurdles, the media virtually ignores third-party candidates because their chances for victory are
unrealistic. And with third parties kept off TV, the public will never hear of them.
We could still vote our way to freedom, in principle, but that will take Supreme Court intervention. Harry Browne
and Perry Willis have filed suit against the FEC to put them out of business. It would be great if they can kill the
FEC. But even if they do, there are still formidable cultural barriers.
Freedom today is almost as unpopular as terrorism. People hear that terrorists were free to get into our
country, were free to attend flight-training school, were free to board airplanes with box cutters. Since
9-11 the government has mounted an undeclared war on freedom. It's as if they can stop terrorism by eliminating that
which terrorists try to destroy. And the public overwhelmingly approves this approach. So even if freedom advocates
do get on TV, who will listen to them?
The answer is, Americans will -- if they hear the right words. The biggest battle being fought today is not in the
Middle East or Afghanistan -- it's here, and the fight is for the minds of semi-free Americans. They are not blind to
government destruction. They are open to better ideas.
Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr. recently published an excellent speech called "The Marvel That is Capitalism." He notes that during the last two centuries under capitalism, "life spans have more than doubled and the world population
has increased one thousand times." Capitalism, he points out, has liberated "mankind from poverty, dependency, and despotic
"Given this history," Mr. Rockwell says, "one might think that everyone would sit and marvel at the products of capitalism.
We might think that intellectuals would dedicate their lives to defending this system and explaining its merits."
Of course, this has not happened. "The intellectual world often appears to be a conspiracy against market economics, and
the media routinely ridicule capitalism," he says.
We can speculate on why intellectuals and the media have sabotaged our social system, but the important point is their
views are groundless. No one can justify initiating physical force against another person, and that's what their positions
reduce to every time. If enough people accept the idea of voluntary human relationships, we can get our lives back.
History shows us that ideas move the world. The fight for freedom is allied with reality, including the Constitution.
That is reason enough for optimism.