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An acquaintance of mine in the technical field has been working for the past twenty years to develop a product that has the potential of revolutionizing the field of energy distribution. He tells me an important lesson he learned the hard way: Keep a low profile. There are lots of vested interests out there, he says, who talk a good line about changing with the times but who privately want nothing more than to keep things as they are. I suspect that this is especially true of those enjoying political privileges, and most large companies these days do. My friend recommends to anyone developing something out of the ordinary, that they read The Incredible Bread Machine1 and take it to heart. Invariably, he says, talking about what you are doing will make you enemies, and they'll stab you in the back. My friend is no idle theoretician. He's a successful businessman who knows the real world and deals with it every day.
With respect to establishing a "new country" along libertarian lines, something that my friend would like to see happen, he warns that "nothing is to be gained by publicizing it with a view to bringing in a crowd. The crowd won't understand."
Another extremely successful businessman and long-time friend who took an early and active role in the new country movement recently told me: "Fifteen years or so ago I learned by experience that a low profile is by far the wisest course. Publicity gains us nothing."
Reflecting on these friends' hard-earned wisdom prompted me to write
the following lines for this issue of Formulations.
By the time the first free nation to survive infancy becomes operative, I suspect the political governments of the world will clearly be on their way out—and the presence of a free nation will accelerate their exit. The first free nation will become so prosperous by comparison with the political nations of the world that any threat posed by the latter will be short-lived. Spencer Heath once quipped that "Health is more catching than disease." That is patently true, because if it were not, none of us would be here today. By the same token, once a healthy society gains a foothold in any part of the world, it will not be long before its health will spread to all parts of the globe.
The only reason this has not happened before now, I believe, is that the necessary supportive social institutions—insurance, finance, communications, money, global markets and pricing system to mention a few—were not in place. Spontaneous social order has to evolve—and is evolving. The market was not always capable of handling the functions we traditionally assign to coercive institutions. But in view of the acceleration of market processes we have been caught up in since the end of the 18th century, and, most dramatically, in the last fifty years, if the spontaneous order of the marketplace has not yet reached the point of performing those functions itself, it must be very close to it.
The first years of a free nation, like the infancy of any living thing, will be its most vulnerable. What will be its natural enemies? The very idea of a free nation, which would present a living demonstration that the mystique of the state is hollow, will be so threatening to the self-styled "leadership" of the world that the latter will find ready excuses to try to stamp it out (if not quietly sabotage it) to "save the world from anarchy." If you think the world's governments are collapsing and will pose little threat, you may have forgotten that a wounded and dying viper can be the most dangerous. From the perspective of the world's "leaders," the idea of a truly free society will represent not health but a dangerous virus unleashed on the world, and most will be altogether sincere in their belief.
The strategy, therefore, of any who might be contemplating midwifing the first free nation should be one of protective coloration. Let it be looked upon as nothing but a business enclave, perhaps, or one more among many variants of a free-trade zone. Compose no national anthem, claim no sovereignty, assemble no uniformed border guards, fly no flag, use no bureaucratic language, establish no ministries of this or of that. Let the enclave be under the nominal jurisdiction, perhaps, of a recognized country; once it has become ten times as wealthy as the "mother country," sovereignty as an issue will evaporate. Have no foreign relations with the governments of the world. Instead, let there be only the usual activities of a chamber of commerce recruiting private firms and individuals worldwide for trade, investment or immigration. Avoid anti-state rhetoric that might be inflammatory and become seized upon as an excuse for "intervention" by the powers of the world. Follow Benjamin Franklin's sage advice to "avoid foreign entanglements."
Look upon the politicians of the world not as wrong headed, but as quietly irrelevant. Dismantle and put aside, if you can, within your own sphere, the libertarian "war against the state." Like the so-called "wars" against poverty or drugs or anything else, it is subject to the "law of reverse effects." At the very least, it is a distraction and a costly diversion of energies that could be more constructively and gainfully employed. Tend to the baby until it can fend for itself; the all-important goal is that it survive its infancy.
This is not a head-in-the-sands policy, but a counsel of self-discipline. It is essential to know the enemy well—even better, if possible, than it knows itself. The wise man of Galilee put it: "Be ye wise as serpents…and harmless as doves." The world's first "free nation" will take on its appropriate plumage in its own good time as it matures, and its natural enemies will disappear—absorbed into legitimate work. But its birth nest mustn't be obvious. If the babe is drawn prematurely into defending itself, then even if it is not overwhelmed from without, it may contract the virus and be subverted from within. It will, after all, be young, inexperienced, and susceptible.
That's not to say that all would be lost, for there could be other beginnings. That is in the nature of social evolution. But failure often discredits a new idea and makes further efforts along the same line more difficult. Let's take no foolhardy chances, therefore. Let's play it close to our chest as the mother bird does with her eggs and her young. Let us follow, and follow carefully, nature's successful strategy of protective coloration—a strategy long and well established among her surviving species.D
1 The Incredible Bread Machine. Dick Grant, 1411 3rd St,
Manhattan Beach CA 90266; 310-379-3162.
Spencer Heath MacCallum is a theoretical anthropologist and writer living with his wife/colleague, Emalie MacCallum, in Tonopah, Nevada, where together they direct the Heather Foundation.
The Foundation among other things is dedicated to furthering understanding of society as an evolving natural phenomenon of spontaneously patterned cooperation among freely-acting individuals. It views taxation and other institutionalized coercions as evidence of insufficient development of social organization, a condition to be outgrown rather than overthrown.
The Foundation also administers the intellectual estates of persons who contributed to this perspective, such as Spencer Heath and E.C. Riegel. Areas of focus include philosophy of science; monetary theory and alternative money systems; the institution of property in land as it relates to community organization; the societal implications of risk sharing (insurance); and the inspirational aspect of religion and the esthetic arts.
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