In Oakland, California, not far from where I live, urban homesteading – growing food on private land for small-scale trade and consumption – has become so common the city government was forced to back off for once. In a rare triumph for sanity and freedom, anachronistic zoning ordinances from 1965 were liberalized to accommodate the city farmers. Molly Samuel explained at KQED:
“The city has already made some changes; it’s now legal to grow and sell vegetables on an empty lot with a conditional use permit. . . . Oakland North reports one of the hotly debated topics [at a city meeting] was animal husbandry: Should Oaklanders be permitted to raise, slaughter, and sell animals? Or not?”
Despite the remaining government bureaucracy, we have to cheer on the homesteaders. They are so impossible to ignore, hundreds of them flooding a city meeting, that the tyranny of zoning is being ratcheted back for once.
And although it has a leftish quality, libertarians ought to take notice of this counter-cultural movement, whose localizing agenda poses profound implications for the future of liberty. With the economic forecasts dire and the corporatist system of mega-farms firmly gripping the Obama administration and all federal politics for the foreseeable future, our rights and perhaps very lives may depend on the freedom to farm at home.
This summer I had the honor of speaking on the Laissez-Faire Books panel at FreedomFest, the annual libertarian mega-event put on by Mark Skousen in Las Vegas. Now the audio of the panel — the theme of which was “Live Better, Live Liberty: The Quest to Get Government Out of Our Lives” — is online:
The lineup for the panel includes:
Robert Murphy, speaking on alternative educational institutions
Wendy McElroy, speaking about her new book, The Art of Being Free
Jeffrey Tucker, on “defying the plan through your own digital civilization”
Jacob Huebert, on private forms of security and dispute-management,
Stefan Molyneux, on “redefining communities of peace and learning,” and
Douglas French, as emcee
If you only have time for part of this two-hour event, then at least be sure to listen to Jeffrey Tucker’s talk. I have already heard from people who have said they found this presentation life-changing, and I understand why. Tucker talks about how we can defeat the state by creating better products through the market, rather than by just following the old think-tank model. He’s putting these ideas to work through LFB, but, as he explains, there is so much more to be done by people who aren’t just selling books or ideas.
The other talks were very well-received, too. First, Robert Murphy talks about one of my favorite topics, the importance of education in the advancement of liberty.
Next, Wendy McElroy offers a taste of her latest book, The Art of Being Free, which is available in paperback and as a free e-book for members of the Laissez-Faire Club. (The talk is great, but you may just want to skip directly to the book and start reading, since that’s what you’ll end up doing anyway.)
For my part, I talk about ways that the market already provides security and dispute-resolution through products such as credit cards, smartphones, and Yelp. When people think about how the market would provide these goods in the absence of government, they tend to look back to ancient examples (e.g. Iceland, Ireland) or speculate about insurance companies funding police and armies — but perhaps the most relevant examples already exist today, right in front of our faces (or in our wallets).
Finally, the inimitable Stefan Molyneux offers his usual clarity and enthusiasm in arguing that we must make the moral case for liberty. I don’t agree with his suggestion that we must only make moral arguments — I think consequentialist arguments may often be a good place to start, as I argue in my foreword to LFB’s new edition of Gary Chartier’s Conscience of an Anarchist. Still, Molyneux is compelling and enjoyable, and if you like his approach, there is of course much more at his site, Freedomain Radio, and in his books, two of which are also available from LFB.
Unlike the political activism of the past, I’m excited to see that direct action, especially entrepreneurial action, is the libertarian activism of the 21st century. If you missed the agora.io online-only conference etienne this weekend, please visit the archives of the conference. The introduction to the conference by George Donnelly is here. There were four channels that ran concurrently. I participated in the channel sponsored by the AnCap Entrepreneur Network, a new site founded by Mark Thomas that is just kicking off and organizing. I spoke about my research and “open source entrepreneurship” which you can find here.
Relatedly, I have also learned recently of The Society of Libertarian Entrepreneurs which are a series of meetups dedicated to self-improvement and the building of libertarian networks and businesses.
In a previous post, Voting, Moral Hazard, and Like Buttons, I discussed the moral hazards of voting and why democracy does not legitimize the state or protect our liberty. I also discussed how statist democracy, particularly representative democracy, is manipulative and conducive to top-down central planning of society. (Statist) politics tends to reduce all basic social issues to problems requiring administrative manipulation. In this post, I’m going to delve into this issue further and draw upon insights by Hannah Arendt in The Human Condition1 to illustrate how (statist) politics is inherently an attempt to run society as one massive organization, organism, or machine.
Hannah Arendt’s analysis of the differences between action (praxis)2 and work – and between politics, which involves action, and fabrication or making (poi?sis), which involves work – has negative implications for the central planning of society that is characteristic of modern representative-democratic states. In particular, I have in mind her criticism of Plato, and to a lesser extent Aristotle, regarding their tendency to view society as a sort of organization and politics as the running of society as such an organization – or, in their words, politics as akin to household management. This fits with the tendency in many cultures to refer to one’s country as “the Fatherland” or “the Motherland” and with socialists and communitarians (on the left and the right) essentially modeling their ideal society after the family.