“Nowadays to be intelligible is to be found out.” — Oscar WildeIn the wacky world of American politics, if you as an employer have a religious objection to paying for your employees’ contraceptives, it is you who is contemptuous of religious freedom.As the New York Times editorial board lectured a judge who thinks otherwise, “the […]
Socialism is the big lie of the 20th century. While it promised prosperity, equality, and security, it delivered poverty, misery, and tyranny. Equality was achieved only in the sense that everyone was equal in his or her misery.In the same way that a Ponzi scheme or chain letter initially succeeds but eventually collapses, socialism may […]
Six months ago, I stepped out from the shadows of the United States Government’s National Security Agency to stand in front of a journalist’s camera. I shared with the world evidence proving some governments are building a worldwide surveillance system to secretly track how we live, who we talk to, and what we say. I […]
I opened a new bottle of probiotics this morning, and it had one of those circular seals on the top. You know, the one that reads, “Sealed for your protection.”And that seal got me thinking… how much protection do we need? How much security is enough?How much homogenization, pasteurization, disinfection, national security, etc…. do we […]
Last spring, Barack Obama told the graduating class of Ohio State University:“Unfortunately, you’ve grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that’s at the root of all our problems… They’ll warn that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner. You should reject these voices. Because […]
In the Huffington Post last week, Glenn Greenwald, Slate contributor Ryan Gallagher, and Ryan Grim had an investigative piece reporting that the NSA had been tracking the online porn-viewing habits of several Muslim leaders whom it viewed as radicals. A top-secret document shows that the agency was considering exposing these firebrands’ Internet dalliances as a […]
Americans are still trying to get a handle on the full extent of the government’s domestic spying activities, including the recent revelation that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been collecting and storing the email address books of ordinary Americans using online messaging services. Many users of such services are looking to tech executives for […]
A few months ago at a demonstration against the president of Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway, a Canadian citizen made the following claim: “We don’t have guns, we are not Americans, we are civilized.” A few days before, in early July, a train of the company had run away and exploded in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, killing […]
From the Tongue-In-Cheek Department of Laissez Faire Books…Washington, D.C. — Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, announced that her committee will hold a “major review into all intelligence-collection programs.” This surprising declaration followed the revelation, through documents leaked by government whistle-blower Edward Snowden, that the NSA has been listening to the […]
From the Tongue-in-Cheek Department of Laissez Faire Books…Washington, D.C. – The complex negotiations aimed at bringing a long-term solution to the federal government’s expenditure and debt problem have produced an unconventional proposal. “Although the solution only focuses on a tiny fraction of government expenditures,” declared President Barack Obama, “it is a step in the right […]
I’ve just spent a harrowing weekend reflecting on Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, the pamphlet that came out in January 1776 and turned the public toward seeking independence from Britain. I say harrowing because the distance between the ideals found in this pamphlet and those of today’s America is so vast as to be nearly unrecognizable.The […]
It was a wild ride last week in the world of the Deep Web, that section of the Internet that requires special tools to access. The feds took down the site called Silk Road and claim to have arrested its founder and administrator. The news streams were filled with lurid tales of derring-do in this […]
Want to know just how invasive the state is going to get in the United States?Well, take a look across the pond.In terms of the large, invasive state, we English are way ahead of you guys. We’re a good 50 or more years further down the road to serfdom.Nineteenth-century Britain was about as glorious a […]
A tense drama unfolded this week with the virtual shutdown of vital government agencies: the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the National Labor Relations Board, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, as well as many other such federal agencies. Without them, the Founding Fathers could not have imagined the republic.Even if fewer […]
Three months after Edward Snowden’s leaks began to reveal the extent of the U.S.’ mass surveillance program, “serious people” are beginning to make the case that it’s time for the outrage and indignation to subside and give way to a “national conversation” about the future of surveillance. So has the moment come for us to […]
A sixth-grader has been suspended for drawing an inappropriate picture. The drawing did not include any gun, but showed a checkpoint backed up by a SWAT team carrying flower pots while an unarmed drone hovered above.The suspended girl, whose name is kept secret at the request of her family, said she “just wanted to draw […]
The second part of this two-part article reveals an untold part of the story about how they were stopped last time. And shows how, if not again stopped, how it could lead to a fundamental loss of civil rights and freedom on the Internet.The offending legislation was barreling down the track, seemingly — even in […]
Two years ago, Hollywood, no kidding, masterminded a plot to, in effect, steal the Internet (by criminalizing certain conduct, booby trapping the Web in ways that few non-mega-corporations could cope with). There are signs, as perceptively flagged by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, that the perps are back at it. We should care.This two-part article reveals […]
It has now been nearly two centuries since French political scientist Alexis de Tocqueville visited America and compared American democracy to the French variety. The Martian asked his Earth correspondent to redo the comparison.The typical Frenchman thinks that Paris is the center of the universe, life without a baguette is not worth living, France is […]
I was at the Canadian border, headed toward the freedom that exists a few feet beyond the last security check. I was gently waved down a side corridor.Ninety minutes later, I was let go, but not before something truly alarming happened. I’m pretty sure that the Canadian government captured a mirrored version of my smartphone […]
Fort Meade, MD – The United States, the least unfree country on Earth, is fighting a major invasion of the Blueshirts.The most visible Blueshirts constitute a 50,000-plus army that occupies all the airports in America. Recognizable by their blue shirts and their inquisitive eyes and hands, they search and humiliate all Americans trying to leave […]
Sometimes, the news of the day causes me to say, “Huh?” The New York Times revelations last month about NSA programs and activities to enhance the agency’s ability to spy on ordinary citizens prompts today’s “Huh?” Who knew that our every phone call, Internet post and tweet is being recorded by the government?I have operated […]
U.S. and British intelligence agencies have successfully cracked much of the online encryption relied upon by hundreds of millions of people to protect the privacy of their personal data, online transactions and emails, according to top-secret documents revealed by former contractor Edward Snowden.The files show that the National Security Agency and its UK counterpart GCHQ […]
Oh, how the media love a good strike. Look at these fast-food workers and peasants standing up to the owners of capital! They aren’t going to take the oppression anymore. The suits in the boardrooms had better shape up and stop hoarding all that money. They need to give it up to the men and […]
Like all great historical ideas, the project of licensing journalists so that they may benefit from the First Amendment was born in a very modest place. In fact, it began in the most modest of all places: the brain of Dianne Feinstein, U.S. senator from California.The new law, which was just adopted by Congress and […]
The position that there need be a state is too often taken for granted.The main body of Sartwell’s book Against the State is dedicated to destroying the arguments for a state from the likes of Hobbes, Rousseau and Hegel. In fact, one thing that becomes crystal clear in reading Sartwell’s book is how bad the […]
Crispin Sartwell is someone you should know. He is doing important work in recovering forgotten greats in America’s anti-authoritarian tradition. Among other works, he’s put forward a lean and powerful book titled Against the State.In what follows, you’ll see why he’s my favorite living philosopher. Sartwell will take you on an intellectual tour de force […]
Dreamers and accountants — they say that both types of people are necessary for a great business. One without the other is a dead end. Together, the magic can happen. And the magic is certainly happening at the Laissez Faire Club, now celebrating what Doug Hill calls its one-month-iversary (I’m pretty sure that is a neologism) with a level of success that has lifted everyone’s spirits.
Am I surprised? Not entirely. Everything seems inevitable in retrospect. We had put months of careful thought into what people really need in these times of growing government tyranny. We can’t just throw in the towel. We can’t just submit to unrelenting abuse. We can’t just stand by and let government dismantle civilization piece by piece.
Frank Chodorov wrote that we must first will freedom in order to achieve it. That requires reading, learning, communicating, sharing ideas and growing intellectually — all with an eye toward the practical results of living freer, smarter lives. This is the vision, the dream, the hope. The Club embeds that dream in a practical and generous solution within a commercial context.
We are hardly the first people in history who have faced this problem, and we are joined by people all over the world who are struggling to throw off the anachronism of the invasive state. There is nothing more ridiculous, in a digital age, than the belief that millions of bureaucrats in a far distant capital city can protect us, plan our lives, manipulate economic outcomes, redistribute the wealth and bring justice to the world.
Fewer and fewer people believe in this system anymore. The failures of despotism surround us, as does the evidence of the success of freedom and the capacity of societies to form and manage themselves. We only need to learn to see these truths, understand them and use the freedoms we have to build institutions that help us gain more freedom, one step at a time.
And think of all the advantages we have that previous generations did not have. We have centuries of scholarship, amazing new tools for communicating and getting to know each other, the technology of real-time contact between individuals all over the world. These are tools that have been granted unto this generation, right now, in our times — tools that seemed like science fiction only a decade ago.
Even with all these advantages, every act of entrepreneurship is a leap into the unknown. People who like stories of successful businesses fail to appreciate this. In retrospect, every success seems inevitable, just a matter of going through the paces. Data of history always look this way, like the unfolding of a coherent story with a beginning, middle and end.
In the thick of the building process (which never ends!), however, the future is uncertain and the results unknown. As if in a dark room, you use whatever signals you have to find your way forward. It requires a combination of intuition, attention to accounting data, wise judgment, careful monitoring of consumer feedback. The risks are always present, and the failure rate is extremely high. It is always an uphill struggle, especially in these times, when the whole of leviathan seems to conspire against success.
Many scholars have written about that special cast of mind that characterizes entrepreneurship, scholars such as Ludwig von Mises, Joseph Schumpeter and Israel Kirzner. Entrepreneurship requires the imagination to see that the world can be different from what it is today, to believe that new knowledge can emerge and be acted upon in a manner that shifts the given reality into something better.
This is a rare cast of mind even for individuals. It is especially difficult to embed this outlook in an institution like a business firm. It is an outlook that is cultivated through outstanding and imaginative leadership, attentive and accomplished employees at all levels, a widespread tolerance for living with risk and uncertainty and a culture of adaptability and flexibility that is pervasive throughout an organization.
This is true whether the business is tiny or gigantic, the lemonade stand or multinational conglomerate. Every business faces the same unknowns. Tomorrow is a blank page. For those who want to see beautiful images appear, there can be no rest. They must have that hunger for the new, and the ability to live with the belief that the answer is out there but has not yet revealed itself. In this sense, an entrepreneurial firm lives on faith. There is no infallible formula for making it work.
These features are completely absent in government bureaucracy. Bureaucracies see only what exists and are unprepared for change. They want stability and conformity. They certainly cannot and will not lead that change. This is why government is not in a position to keep up with our times, much less manage them. This is why societies that are dominated by bureaucracies dry up and die.
I think about this often as I look back to the formative days of the Club. I watched and learned as people at Agora Financial brought ideas to the table. Every bit of evidence and experience for or against any idea flowed freely and openly. Criticism flowed as freely and compliments, disagreement was as welcome as agreement. People listened, contributed, learned, and the model emerged in fits and starts, at first slowly and then at a quickening pace until it all fell into place.
The Laissez Faire Club would indeed be something entirely new. It would be rooted in the deepest desire of humankind to discover and thrive — even in hard times — but use tools that are only now on the table. There was no mastermind behind the plan; everyone contributed, and the result was something no one expected. The whole was bigger than the sum of the parts.
Forgive me for being a bit dreamy about this whole project. Working with Club staff yesterday, I sat and recorded a series of videos in which I discussed many books, one by one, that have had a gigantic impact on my life and experienced that great pleasure that comes with sharing knowledge of things one truly loves. I kept thinking to myself, “I’m the luckiest guy in the world.”
The unity of great ideas and the commercial spirit — here are the things that make life dramatic and exciting. Poets of old wrote of battles and wars, of kings and their exploits, as if these were the things that shape history. It’s not true. The best that history offers humanity is shaped by the producers and the entrepreneurs who serve others in peace through creativity. In this sense, the Laissez Faire Club is making history in our times.