The Future of Liberty: One Reason for Optimism

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I am a staunch supporter of a liberty-focused society, as regular readers may have figured out by this time. I am a libertarian; not necessarily as a member of the political party, but certainly in principle.

One pervasive and somewhat disturbing trend I have noticed amongst ideological libertarians is this: an overwhelmingly pessimistic outlook. These libertarians believe that society is basically doomed, that special interests and government bureaucrats always win out, and that individuals will always be ultimately sacrificed at the altar of the federal government. Amongst some libertarians, this outlook gets downright apocalyptic. To libertarians who think this way, George Orwell’s 1984 was not just a novel, but a prophecy.

I agree that some things in America will probably get worse before they get better. For instace, the $222 trillion outstanding long-term liabilities of the US government. There’s no dancing around that one. But do I think that the USA is marching towards a “1984”-esque totalitarian dystopia? No. I am optimistic, on-the-whole. I think there are a lot of reasons why freedom-loving individuals like myself should be rejoicing, and not cowering in fear of the future.

The main reason can be summed up in one word: Internet. The Internet is, in my opinion, possibly the most important invention ever devised. Life has been fundamentally altered by introduction of the Internet. Society has been fundamentally altered. Perhaps most importantly, the relationship between the rulers and the ruled has been fundamentally altered.

50 years ago, the public largely received its news only through the newspapers. 90% of these publications were dominated by progressive liberals who were hostile to the Free Market and libertarian ideas. They suppressed these ideas. Adding insult to injury, the new Neoconservatism was no longer beholden to Conservatism’s pre-WWII semi-libertarian roots; the “world police” foreign policy mentality was fully ingrained. The remaining conservative news outlets refused to accept any ideology that did not embrace foreign interventionism. Neoconservatives therefore suppressed libertarian ideas; the last gasp of Old Conservatism died with Harry Truman’s signing of the National Security Act. Support of the free market by Neoconservatives was token; they, much like the progressives, were hardcore Keynesians. Both Neoconservative and Progressive outlets suppressed libertarian notions.

This all changed with the advent of the Internet. The major news publications are dying these days. The once high-and-mighty newspapers and magazines are being crushed under the heel of the Internet. The magical thing is that no one entity, or group of entities, controls the Internet. Anyone can start a blog. Anyone can post videos to Youtube. Libertarians who were once suppressed by Progressives and Neoconservatives are free to connect and grow in ways never before possible. Progressives and Neoconservatives are open to criticism like they’ve never experienced. Governments around the world are open to criticism like never before.

The recent clash between the Bureau of Land Management and cattle rancher Cliven Bundy is a demonstration of this. In the days before the Internet, the public would not have learned of the clash until it was potentially too late to do anything about. It would have been like Waco; by the time the public knew what was happening between the ATF and the Branch Davidian in Waco, it was too late to stop. This was not the case in the Bundy affair. The Internet allowed the story to spread like wildfire. Amateur photos and video allowed the lid to be blown on the SWAT outfits sent by the BLM. Communication over the Internet allowed supporters to coordinate instantaneously.

If there’s one thing bureaucrats hate, it’s negative attention. They do not like having their activities exposed. Bureaucrats are used to having free reign, because the public usually ignores them. Now, the Internet has opened bureaucrats to an amazing amount of exposure. Now, they have to answer for their misdeeds when some enterprising individual manages to expose their activities on the decentralized bullhorn that is the Internet. This does not mean the activities stop, such as in the NSA’s case. The activities may not stop, but they are no longer totally hidden from public consciousness. Now, the bureaucrats involved cannot pretend like nothing is amiss. They are forced to acknowledge and embrace their own activities. The politicians who support them are forced to acknowledge their explicit support, such as with Harry Reid in the Bundy Affair. Harry Reid recently called the Pro-Bundy protestors “domestic terrorists” who “thumb their nose at authority”. These words should make Reid look downright malevolent to anyone who places at least an iota of value on a free society. It is wonderful that he has been forced into the light this way.

The Internet has changed the game. The Internet has placed a tremendous amount of decentralized influence back into the hands of individuals. This frightens bureaucrats and politicians, who prefer the comfortable control of a tiny elite. The Internet fights that paradigm. I think it’s a good reason to have hope.

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One Comment on “The Future of Liberty: One Reason for Optimism”

  1. carham April 19, 2014 at 9:50 pm #

    I think I’m a LIbertarian politically but not socially. That is, I recognize that that standard of law is given by God through his Word, the Bible. Man is not the arbiter or measure of all things. Man wants to be the measure of all things, but then this results in less freedom for man in general. It’s not his role to fill or position to occupy. John 14:15

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