Friday, June 26, 2009

The New Sons of Liberty

A good friend wrote me about the speed with which the government is erasing freedom and establishing a fascist regime, and the despair this phenomenon can cause: “If presented with an existential crisis, I don‘t see a modern day Sons of Liberty around to fight for liberty.”

I will reply that we are the new Sons of Liberty. We’re all over the place. You will recall that the Sons of Liberty, for about ten years leading up to Concord and Bunker Hill, communicated with each other all over the colonies through committees of correspondence, trading intelligence, ideas, strategies, and progress reports. The new committees are facilitated by the Internet. Fundamentally, there is no difference between their functions, except the element of time. It might have taken two weeks for correspondence from Boston and Sam Adams to reach Richmond and Richard Henry Lee. Now, it takes mere seconds for anyone‘s communications to reach a hundred times the number of addressees.

Another chief difference is that the committees of yore were guided in their policies and actions by many of the Founders, who acted as intellectual workmen. Today, many of the movers behind the Tea Parties are acting in the same capacity. They are not especially intellectuals, but they will come around eventually, out of necessity, in order to present arguments, and not just stage ad hoc demonstrations of anger and disgust. Objectivists are making their presence known at the Tea Parties, and they are attracting lots of attention, especially from protestors looking for moral and intellectual guidance and not more of the “same old, same old.”

Here’s another parallel: In the Founders’ time, before the Declaration, opposition to Crown policies was expressed by a number of groups. Call them 18th century “libertarians,” religious based groups, conservatives, and the like. But by the time of Bunker Hill and the second Continental Congress, most of them were agreed on the fundamentals of why the colonies should separate from the Crown. We are in the same situation today. Religious groups, libertarians, conservatives, and other groups opposed to Obama and the Democratic Congress’s policies are all vying for attention and trying to dominate especially the Tea Parties. But Objectivism is the only philosophy that offers a consistently rational politics. None of the other forces do.

If Yaron Brook and ARI don’t exhaust themselves with speeches and appearances, in time Objectivism will come to dominate the political thinking. All the other groups are capable of compromise, whereas Objectivism is not. This stops the rationalizers and compromisers cold, and they have nothing to say, nothing to add, nothing to refute. You’ve heard especially Yaron on TV and on the radio expound the philosophy of individual rights and handily discard or rebut objections and reservations about the necessity of a consistent policy of individual rights, that is, a moral philosophy based on the nature of man, and not on religion or utilitarianism (capitalism and freedom promote the greatest good for the greatest number, etc.). He doesn’t give an inch. He doesn’t concede the fallacies of any of his opponents.

I agree with you that many Americans are now emerging tentatively from what Jack Frake and Hugh Kenrick might have called their “Plato’s caves.” Some are blinking, others are shutting their eyes or sidling back into the caves. They don’t matter. And some are bravely moving ahead. But it is we, the new Sons of Liberty, who never inhabited those caves, who are the point men in this conflict. Objectivists are now running and contributing to dozens of “committees of correspondence” today.

Remember also that all throughout the pre-Revolutionary period and during the war itself, the population here remained roughly divided in thirds: one-third loyalist, one-third neutral dross, and one-third that fought for independence or supported it. You cite the overwhelming number of people in the “masses.” The “masses” don’t count. Look what happened in Iran. For days hundreds of thousands of Iranians took to the streets and had running fights with the mullahs’ armed thugs and their “thought police,” but the numbers of the protestors didn’t matter. They probably outnumbered the thugs. They were moved not by radical ideas, but by emotions. Their protests had to peter out. They have only a vague glimmering of “freedom” and worse yet some notion of “democracy,” which they associate with freedom. Well, “majority rule,” or those who support Ahmadinejad, spoke, and that was “democracy.” I haven’t observed any evidence, through the news, that anyone there has grasped that. (And I think that the U.S.’s Voice of America broadcasts to Iran and other countries ruled by dictatorships do more harm than good, because in a mealy mouthed way, they also promote “democracy”; this is the confused confusing already confused minds.)

Of course, victory for us isn’t guaranteed. It wasn’t guaranteed for the Founders, either. How it will all end, and when, is an open question. If Obama and the Democrats move to their final folly, which is censorship (and we know they very much would like to silence any and all moral opposition), then we may see actual rebellion against government force, and that may or may not be a good thing, given the state of the culture. It could backfire, as some Objectivists elsewhere have noted, and only provoke the government to impose even more stringent controls, and possibly result in the arrest of the most outspoken and rational critics. The statists are too close to their final goal, a “democratic” dictatorship in which everyone exists in support of and for the sake of the state, to concede rationality in any quarter or on any issue. If that end can only be achieved by becoming bestial, they’ll have nothing to lose and won’t hesitate to bloody a few heads (and that may be their undoing -- or not).

One thing we should not doubt -- and I noted this in “Obama contra Churchill” and in past commentaries -- is that if they cannot exercise complete political power over the country, they would rather see it die or descend into anarchy. That’s their death premise. No one should underestimate their viciousness. The obvious glee with which they legislate our freedom away will be matched by their bottomless malice for any resistance. Fundamentally, it’s as much “either/or” for the statists as it is for the advocates of a philosophy of reason, who act on the life premise. You can see it in their faces and hear it in their words. Their capacity for evil is sustained only by the confusion and mixed premises of their current and future victims. Atlas Shrugged dramatized that in no uncertain terms.

A major problem is the state of the American spirit. Generations of dumbing-down and educational indoctrination can’t be undone during a single repressive administration (which is how the Obama administration can only be characterized). Perhaps Americans will wake up quickly to their peril, perhaps not. They must be taught the value of freedom. Many do not even know what it is, and many don’t put a value on it. Where the Founders had the advantage of the spread of Enlightenment ideas, and a population receptive to them, we have the disadvantage of the decline of those ideas, and a population largely indifferent to or ignorant of them. This is quite an obstacle.

All we can do for now is keep on arguing, talking, writing, and protesting, to get as many people on our side as possible. To paraphrase Rand, by fighting for our future, we are living it now. For the moment, this is all that is within our power to do.

Long Live Lady Liberty!


Burgess Laughlin said...

There are many points in this essay that deserve applause. This one stands out, for me personally:

> "Religious groups, libertarians, conservatives, and other groups opposed to Obama and the Democratic Congress’s policies are all vying for attention and trying to dominate especially the Tea Parties. But Objectivism is the only philosophy that offers a consistently rational politics. None of the other forces do."

The Right is the movement for individual rights. The Left, consisting of conservatives, "progressives," and other statists, is radically opposed to the Right. In particular, conservatives (those who support conservatism, which is the ideology of God, Tradition, Nation, and Family) are a special threat because they occasionally use "friendly" words -- such as "free market" -- but without objective meaning. Those words can lead astray those who are tempted by a hunger for heroes and allies.

As always in society, individuals can be confused or mixed cases. They can be allies in narrow, ad hoc efforts. They can never be partners in a philosophical revolution.

Thank you to novelist and polemicist Ed Cline for the essay and to Nicholas for providing the venue.

Rational Jenn said...

Inspiring post! THANK YOU!

Zip said...


Anonymous said...

Bravo, Ed.

From my Tea Party flyer:

"Read Ayn Rand and learn to reject the only weapon the socialists have: the morality of altruism, the doctrine that morality consists of serving others and sacrificing yourself. Freedom requires that the implicit philosophy behind “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” be made explicit and defended. Ayn Rand argues that your life belongs to YOU. Accept the enemy’s premise, that your life belongs to others, and you’re lost: government will step in and sacrifice your liberty and your property. That’s why the “turn to the right” of the Reagan years did not last, and why the Republicans have now become a party of big government; they accepted the enemy’s moral code."

followed by several Ayn Rand quotes, including:

“Man—every man—is an end in himself, not the means to the ends of others. He must exist for his own sake, neither sacrificing himself to others nor sacrificing others to himself. The pursuit of his own rational self-interest and of his own happiness is the highest moral purpose of his life...."

Ayn Rand, “Introducing Objectivism”

“For centuries, the battle of morality was fought between those who claimed that your life belongs to God and those who claimed that it belongs to your neighbors—between those who preached that the good is self-sacrifice for the sake of ghosts in heaven and those who preached that the good is self-sacrifice for the sake of incompetents on earth. And no one came to say that your life belongs to you and that the good is to live it.”


Bill Bucko

RickWilmes said...

I think a positive should be offered as opposed to identifying a negative-altruism, the ethics of self-sacrifice.

Instead, the Founding Fathers recognized the separation of church and state. It is our turn to recognize the separation of political power from economic power.

We should be 'Lasers of Liberty' traveling the internet at the speed of light, separating the two powers based on a moral foundation of self-interest.

C. August said...

Ed, thank you for a rousingly positive and inspirational message. Being in the trenches, watching as our liberties are stripped by men who fear their "little men," it is sometimes too easy to become despondent. Your words are a rallying cry and a validation. You are a true paladin of liberty.

Randy said...

A hearty thank you from sunny South Florida. I look forward to more inspiration from the eloquent Mr. Cline.

mtnrunner2 said...

Interesting paralells.

I seriously doubt the Democrats realize the logical implications of their own principles so completely as to use force against those who want freedom. They are far too pragmatic for such a direct approach.

On the plus side, there is also no way they can win. They think they have morality on their side, but they don't.

The Religous Right also thinks they have morality on their side, but they don't.

We have both practicality and morality on our side. Nobody can say when -- in how many years, or in how many generations -- but eventually WE WILL WIN.

Elisheva Hannah Levin said...


A rousing reminder that the founding of our country on the premise of individual rights was not predetermined. It is easy to think that the founders knew that they would triumph. But that was not the case. They knew when they signed the Declaration of Independence that the words "we pledge our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor" was not mere prose, but a very real possibility. Some did die for the Revolution. Some lost everything. But they all did retain their honor.

Keep your honor, you Sons and Daughters of Liberty!
Many who are waking up will be inspired.

Zardoz said...

A rousing message from our 'Point Man' in the battle for Liberty.