Mythology of a Free Nation
by Richard O. Hammer
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-Free-Nation Mythology within the Science of Organization
Different Situations Require Different Mythologies
-Do the Inhabitants of a Free Nation Need a Libertarian Mythology?
-Founders and Maintainers Need Different Mythologies
Myths For the Founders of a Free Nation
-Need for Free-Nation Libertarians to Stand Apart from Statists
-Need for Free-Nation Libertarians to Stand Apart from Majority-Rule Libertarians
-Need for Free-Nation Libertarians to Stand Apart from Free-Society Libertarians
Myths for the Maintenance of a Free Nation
-Need for Historical Grounding of the Free Nation
-Need for Humor
-Need for Organization, to Give Defense and a Appearance of Statefulness
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What myths will make it possible for a free nation to stand in this world of states? When I started to write about this topic I discovered that it was more complex than I had thought at first. More than one mythology seems involved. A free nation constituted as a democracy would probably require a different mythology than one which was constituted as a proprietorship. To further complicate the question, the founders of a nation probably need a different mythology than the eventual inhabitants. I start with a discussion of these issues. Then I offer some mythology.
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Free-Nation Mythology within the Science of Organization
I see mythology in a semi-scientific light. As a companion to this paper I wrote another paper, "The State Is a Form of Life, A Legitimate Peer in the Family of Organizations," which starts on the back cover of this issue. In that paper I argue that an organization can succeed if it possess one or more decision rules which, when followed by the members of the organization, enable the members to coordinate their actions in such a way that together they live better than they would without following the rule(s). The decision rules are thus the essence of the organization. We may think of the decision rules as the constitution, whether written or unwritten, of an organization.
I have argued often that a new free nation could be constituted somewhere on Earth, and that it could maintain itself separate and free. Now I add what may be obvious—the free nation must be an organization in the way described above. It must embody decision rules.
We do not live in a free nation now because the state, which I regard as a not-very-sophisticated class of parasitic organization, has grown upon almost all the land mass of Earth. At first glance there appears to be nowhere we can go.
But, I assert, the present ecology of states creates an environment in which a new type of organization could thrive. Now, more than ever before, evidence of the power of free markets abounds. We who believe in this power should see that it lies in our hands. If we organize properly we can use this power to purchase autonomy from statists and to constitute a realm which can easily defend itself from states. None of us can do this alone (unless perchance you are a billionaire). But if we organize we can do it easily. This free-nation organization should succeed in the ecology of organizations because it helps its members live better.
To wrap up this section:
REQUIRE DIFFERENT MYTHOLOGIES
Do the Inhabitants of a Free Nation Need a Libertarian Mythology?
Commonly, it seems to me, libertarians assume that liberty in a free nation could be secure only if the inhabitants were libertarians. But I tend to differ on this point. Consider two examples:
For another example consider the present condition of the United States. The US is still relatively free as nations go. But, for the most part, I would not attribute this freedom to the attitudes of present Americans. Rather I would attribute it to some powers which were established by the written Constitution to defend certain rights. Sometimes these powers still act with force.
To illustrate, imagine that a burglar is slowly breaking into your house in America. Further imagine that you call the government police, and that they send a patrol car quickly enough to arrest the crook. This could happen. (Further, I suggest that the possibility that it might happen explains why many burglars try to act rapidly.) But, to the point, notice that it could happen even if everyone involved in the institutions which have protected you (the taxpayers, the mayor, the police, and you) are all statists. Here we see that a libertarian right has been protected—not by libertarians—but by institutions through which all parties except the burglar advance their self-interest by overwhelming the burglar. Institutions, whether constituted for good or ill, commonly overwhelm the attitudes of individual human participants.
One way that a free nation could be constituted would be as a proprietorship. I suggested an example of such a constitution in my story "A ‘Nation’ Is Born."1 In this fictional birth of a free nation the large majority of initial settlers were boat people from Southeast Asia. These people were not libertarians. But, being eager to live and work, they were willing to contract to accept almost any environment of law. The libertarian environment of the enclave was established, for the most part, by the influence of the principal founder, one wealthy businessman who did not even live in the enclave. Such a constitution seems plausible to me.
Therefore I do not join libertarians who insist that the overwhelming majority of inhabitants of a free nation must be libertarians. But, if it might help understanding, let me speculate why these libertarians think this way:
Thus I believe that it would be possible for the founders of a free nation to install institutions which would act to preserve a libertarian polity, even if the founders were a tiny minority and even if the large majority were not libertarian. It is not necessary for the inhabitants of a free nation to have a libertarian mythology. And I wish more libertarians were cognizant of arguments such as these which I offer.
Yet I will join these libertarians, who believe that a free nation must have a libertarian populace, in sentiment if not in argument. I would like to live in a free nation populated by libertarians, a nation in which the institutions of law enforcement were held in place by a popular libertarian mythology. Such a constitution seems familiar to me, as it seems related to the US Constitution with which I was raised. It would give me a good feeling to think that I shared a mythology with most of my countrymen. Furthermore, if I am going to live in this nation I would like most of my neighbors to be libertarians—just so that I have a better chance of forming friendships with them.
As such, even though I doubt that a libertarian mythology is essential for the broad populace of a free nation, I will present some ideas about what such a mythology might be under the last major heading in this paper, "Myths for the Maintenance of a Free Nation."
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Founders and Maintainers Need Different Mythologies
It seems evident to me that the founders of a free nation would need to be equipped with different mythology than the eventual inhabitants of a free nation. The founders, those who tear themselves from their motherlands, must be hungry, passionate, or willing to take risk. Whereas the eventual inhabitants could be conformists for the most part, who absorb values without question and who act simply to conserve institutions which their forefathers have established.
I had not seen this dichotomy at the time I wrote the call for papers on "Mythology in a Free Nation." I was thinking primarily of the mythology which would be required of eventual inhabitants, in the sort of free nation in which the constitution was preserved by a libertarian mythology. But I now realize that some of the main points I want to make concern the beliefs which must be felt by the founders of the free nation.
As such, you will see two major headings in the remainder of this paper. The first will discuss the mythology necessary for founders of a free nation. The second will discuss the mythology necessary for citizens who would maintain an already-founded free nation of the sort which requires popular support for its constitution.
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MYTHS FOR THE FOUNDATION OF A FREE NATION
In the discussion which follows the concept of "need" plays a central role, because I believe that myths serve needs. When we feel a need which we could choose to satisfy in numerous ways, a myth guides us to give serious consideration to only a few of those possible choices.
As such, I organize the discussion which follows around a list of needs. Each need is set off with a heading. Under each heading I give a discussion of theory. Then, where I have it to offer, I give some direct suggestions as to how mythology might be taught or practiced.
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Need for Free-Nation Libertarians to Stand Apart from Statists
In the scenario which I promote through FNF, a new and separate political entity will be created. This will require that settlers separate themselves from their native lands to move into the new nation. They must separate from family members and friends. But this separation could prove so difficult that most libertarians never take the step.
In Figure 1, I present a graph which may help explain why this separation is difficult. The curve is not based upon any data. It shows only my guess about the distribution of attitudes among people. The important attribute of the curve is that it slopes continuously downward from left to right.
Each one of us, I suggest, might be comfortable deciding to separate from our native land if we knew that we would be going with our most important family members and friends. But, assuming attitudes are distributed as shown by the downward slope in Figure 1, each one of us, no matter where we might fall on the horizontal axis, probably has many more family members and friends who are more anchored to the present regime than we have family members and friends who are less anchored. And we find ourselves unable to persuade those who are more anchored, because each of them in turn has more contacts who are more anchored than ready to go.
I believe that this shows why free-nation libertarians have not yet formed a new free nation. A movement does not cohere. The energy of activists who have strong desire for a new free nation dissipates to no avail into the larger, inert mass.
If the free nation is ever to form, somehow a separation must be achieved from the larger, inert mass. Free-nation libertarians need a mythology to encourage this separation.
If a statist says to you, "People are not angels, you know. Government has to regulate businesses that do not care about anything but their own profit." Then you should say in reply to her, "I hope that you can have all the government which you desire—in your country. As a libertarian, I do not want to interfere with you. I seek only to find a realm apart from yours, in which I can live in peace with the rights which I prefer."
Further say to her, "We are lucky that there are over 100 countries on Earth. We do not all have to live under the same government. People with different tastes can choose different governments."
If a statist says to you, "Your scheme is pie-in-the-sky idealism. It will never work." Say in reply to him, "You may be right. We may be crazy. Still I feel called to try. I hope I can proceed without hurting you in any way."
And if a statist appears friendly, and says to you, "While I do not agree with your ideas, I am glad that ideas such as yours can be expressed in America. I like the debate in American politics. We need you here, to keep us on our toes." Say in reply to her, "Do not feel loss on our separation. The world is becoming a smaller place. Travel and communication are becoming cheaper. We will be in touch."
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Need for Free-Nation Libertarians to Stand Apart from Majority-Rule Libertarians.
By "majority-rule" libertarians I mean those whose attachment to their present country induces them to seek greater liberty primarily by trying to convert 50% of their neighbors. It seems to me that these libertarians still feel more ardor for their motherland than they feel for liberty.
Another model which I use to describe this phenomenon is that of a we-chain. When I call meetings on behalf of FNF to discuss how "we" libertarians can advance toward creating a new free nation, some libertarians attend who join me for the time in this "we" talk. I am apt to feel that I have succeeded, that I have connected with a community through which I can advance toward my goal.
But then these libertarians go into other circles, where they have many more present connections than I can offer, and invest even more of their energies in trying to convince statist Americans that "we" can make America better by shrinking the government. These libertarians hold to me with one hand and hold to the state with the other hand. I am thus held through a we-chain to the status quo.
But the we-chain must break at some point if my ambition to live in a new free nation is ever to be fulfilled. Either I must break from you, reader. Or you must break from your more-complacent contacts. Or they must break from their still-more-complacent contacts.
In certain favorable circumstances this break could be achieved with minimal pain. Such circumstances would exist if the curve, such as that introduced in Figure 1, had a dip in it, as I have drawn in Figure 2. In these circumstances the we-chain would break at the bottom of the dip. Only the few people near that break point would feel substantial loss. The free-nation movement could naturally cohere and break away from the main body of people who are anchored to the present regime.
For many libertarian activists, most of whom are men, the strongest link which holds them to the present state is a woman. As I have argued before, I suspect that the different roles which men and women play in reproduction have created, over the ages, a species in which men and women differ, on average, in mind as well as in body. These differences, although blurred in the larger population by a substantial crossover between the sexes, reveal themselves clearly in the libertarian movement because, as I speculate, our movement draws from an extreme end of the distribution.5
I propose it would help our movement if we own these differences rather than pretend that they do not exist. For the free-nation movement in particular I think it will help if we acknowledge that men more than women seem ready to gamble, in leaving a prosperous and safe nation such as America, in order to launch a new nation. Of course we should cherish the participation of any women who join us. But many libertarian men will have to choose between holding to the free-nation movement and holding to their woman. This choice will be so painful that they will try to postpone it, they will grip more firmly to free-nation activists, trying to keep us around a little longer, to give them more time to work on their woman. But the free-nation movement must separate from the larger, inert mass. So I need to release my grip to these libertarian men.
When the free nation starts to prosper, I expect there will be many women who notice the nice things but give little thought to the political structure. But the first boatloads of these will arrive from nations which are now poor, and not from nations which are now wealthy.
Of course, as some of you may reasonably suggest, I might achieve my freedom by simply going off alone. Why do I even pause to try to communicate with other libertarians, when I could live in a tent, probably unmolested by any state, on the ice pack in central Greenland? But my goal has never been to be alone. I seek community which is healthy and loving. I want to live in a prosperous, teeming city of humanity. I need compatriots. From my standpoint somehow a movement must coalesce.
But also somehow this movement must separate. The we-chain must break somewhere. And it seems to me that the break must pass through the libertarian community, with the more ardent of us leaving the more complacent behind.
If you meet a majority-rule libertarian who says to you, "But America is a great country. I cannot give it up yet." Say in reply to him, "Then you should stay. I am glad that I will have libertarian friends back in the land of my birth."
If a majority-rule libertarian says to you, "But don’t you think America can be saved for liberty?" Say in reply to her, "Perhaps America can be saved. But I will leave that effort to you. I do not want to fight with statists who know no comfort but their state. I think I see a more direct and peaceful way to get the liberty which I desire."
If a libertarian says to you, "I am really excited about the idea of a new free nation. But I do not think I could convince my wife to go along. I do not want to leave my wife." Say in reply to him, "Then you stay here, and continue to support the libertarian movement in America. Perhaps your wife will be easier to convince after the free nation is up and running, when it does not look like such a gamble. We will be in touch."
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Need for Free-Nation Libertarians to Stand Apart from Free-Society Libertarians.
By "free-society" libertarians I mean those whose hope to attain liberty lies in the spontaneous growth of free society which, these libertarians hope, should follow the spontaneous collapse of the state. Free-society libertarians, to the extent that I understand them, place no trust in any effort at organization among libertarians. Rather they strive to survive as individuals. They plan to hold out until things get better.
Since free-society libertarians have no ambition to achieve organization with other libertarians, they invest no effort in maintaining a positive reputation for themselves among libertarians. Rather they tend to keep themselves mostly obscure from view, and often use guises. Trying to organize free-society libertarians is like trying to herd cats.
But, as I promote the FNF scenario, free-nation libertarians do not need to wait for spontaneous order to produce institutions that will undermine the state. Rather, we can obtain liberty if we consciously create an organization which will stand shoulder-to-shoulder with states.
To build such an organization I believe that free-nation libertarians must first establish channels of trust and communication among ourselves. Thus it becomes all important to establish good names and good reputations for ourselves, in our circle. Among ourselves we need to be known and trusted for who we are. If I am not mistaken, this is the first step toward building an organization. This is why I gladly tell my real name and address, and gladly publish a summary of FNF’s finances in the Annual Report.
Sometimes, to contrast the free-nation scenario with the free-society scenario, I use the image of a cup of water placed in a freezer. We know that eventually the phase of the water will change from liquid to solid. But a question remains about how this phase change will take place. Will solid crystals form at one point in the cup, and grow only gradually as hours pass before the entire cup solidifies? Or will the body of the liquid cool almost uniformly with no crystals forming, until suddenly in the span of only a few minutes the entire body changes from liquid to solid?
Optimistically, I concur with free-society libertarians that the state may be doomed as an institution. Eventually, everywhere on Earth, it seems new networks will form which cut around the power of the state. The political phase of the entire Earth seems bound to change—eventually. But how will this change take place? Will it start in isolated spots and then spread only gradually, with centuries passing before the whole has changed? Or will all populations on Earth gradually approach a change which then happens everywhere in only a few years?
The way that you answer this question may determine whether you should act as a free-nation libertarian or a free-society libertarian. If you think that the change will be local at first, and that it will advance painfully slowly in other spots, then I invite you to join me as a free-nation libertarian. We can make sure we live in one of the good spots.
Free-nation libertarians, in contrast with free-society libertarians, will identify themselves openly and seek to organize with other free-nation libertarians. They will see themselves as the building blocks of a nation-strength organization. They will be proud and open about this participation.
When a free-society libertarian says to you, "Society is changing gradually in our direction. But times will be dangerous. You should wait out the storm. Diversify your assets. Use encryption. Assume a guise." Say in reply to him, "Did Ludwig von Mises hide the truth about the power of free markets? Or did he publish it 80 years ago in his book Socialism?
"I need not hide, because statists have no inclination to see the truth. And even if statists were inclined to see the truth—and even if they did see the truth—they could not do anything about it. Statists were powerless to save the Soviet Union. And they will be powerless to stop the first organization on Earth which uses Mises’ insight to erect a defense against the state."
Further say to him, "Statist nations will not see the free nation as a threat. Rather they will see the free nation as a prosperous and friendly neighbor."
Tell him, "It would be wrong for me to slink and assume a guise. The work that I need to do requires that I build good reputation for myself among libertarians."
Finally say to him, "I wish you well. But I must move on now, to invest in building relations with those libertarians who join me in seeing the promise of organization."
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MYTHS FOR THE MAINTENANCE OF A FREE NATION
In this section I make some assumptions. First I assume that a free nation has already been established. Second, I assume that it has a constitution which relies for its continuation upon the popular support of most of the inhabitants.
As described earlier, I believe a free nation could be constituted in a way which did not require popular support for its continuation. Yet in this section I will write about the mythology necessary to sustain a popular constitution, because a popular constitution is after all perhaps the most likely type to develop from our movement.
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Need for Historical Grounding of the Free Nation
The free nation will be most secure if its inhabitants have been educated in the history of its founding. While growing up in America I was ushered through many years of history classes which detailed the state’s view of its own history and justified the state’s role. I suppose that such indoctrination underlies much of the security that the American state now enjoys.
Therefore I suppose that parents who want to secure the future of the free nation may similarly expose their youngsters to a detailed account of the free nation’s history and justification.
Philip Jacobson suggests a straightforward syllabus. He suggests, for instance, the following five historical subjects. Each of these could and probably should be developed into a long course:
Need for Humor
I suppose a society which is mature and secure can laugh about itself, and that such humor helps to reaffirm the identity of the society. But the free-nation movement has no humor that I have seen published to date. I believe this is because we are not yet mature and secure.
We should not think that humor is about joy. Rather, as I recall P. J. O’Rourke telling, humor is a way that people process loss, pain, and disappointment.
Although humor is about processing disappointment, I think it shows strength. I guess that people can laugh about their society when they have an underlying confidence that the society will survive in spite of the weakness portrayed in the humor.
Repeatedly I have sought humor appropriate to the free-nation movement to include in Formulations. But the humor which has been offered to Formulations all seems wrong to me because it ridicules American politicians, American institutions, or American attitudes. Such humor is appropriate for majority-rule libertarians, because it helps them process their disappointment as Americans. But it is no more native in the free-nation movement than would be the joke which once circulated among Soviets, "We pretend to work. They pretend to pay us."
We in the free-nation movement need to be able to laugh about ourselves, as libertarians or as citizens (eventually) of a free nation.
As libertarians we might joke about: the shortage of women in the movement; the seedy poverty in which many of us live in spite of the fact that we preach about capitalism; the difficulty we have in pumping sense into the heads of statists or in winning elections.
Libertarians who are citizens of a free nation will joke about our disappointments in our nation. Such jokes might concern ways that our institutions fail, thus mocking our faith that a free market can solve all problems. For example: highways might be unsatisfactory; some factories may gush out noxious pollution; arbitration boards might prove corrupt; some people might get away with murder; recreational drugs might for some reason be more expensive and harder to find than in Los Angeles.
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Need for Organization, to Give Defense and an Appearance of Statefulness
For the free nation to protect its citizens from the regulation and taxation which other nation would impose if they could, the free nation must possess some organization. It needs to look enough like a peer among states to discourage opportunistic foreign powers from invading as a pretext to "restore order."7 And it needs to have a system of defense which other nations respect.
Happily most humans—and even libertarians—seem to possess some innate tendencies to organize. Most people it seems derive some psychic benefit from doing things which show their participation in a faith or order. This participation needs to be more than just intellectual discussion. It needs to be day-to-day practice.8
Perhaps we could learn from the example of Islam, which has its Five Pillars of Faith. All five are acts which believers are expected to perform. First they are expected to declare their faith, "There is no god but (Allah) and Mohammed is his messenger." Once in their life they are expected to go on a pilgrimage to Mecca. The other three Pillars each require regular activity: believers are expected to pray five times daily; to fast during the month of Ramadan; to give a fraction of their income for aid to the poor.9
I suggest we attempt to design a set of activities which both:
Logos could be used. Assuming that the free nation will rely for its defense upon one or more private defense agencies, the constitution of the free nation could foster support of these agencies by establishing offices which:
The nation could have a holiday, National Defense Day, with ceremonies and events reminding citizens of the nature of the free nation and its security. CDAs and Front Line Households could display some of their weapons, and hint about the power of other weapons not displayed.
Citizens of the free nation should be taught:
1 "A 'Nation' is Born," Formulations, Vol. V, No. 1 (Autumn 1997).
2 I offer a few suggestions in this vein in “A State Can Be Designed to Shrink,” Formulations, Vol. III, No. 3 (Spring 1996).
3 Bruce Benson, The Enterprise of Law: Justice Without the State, 1990.
4 Fully Informed Jury Amendment, <http://www.fija.org>.
5 “Men and Women Differ in Political Values: Theory and Implications,” Formulations, Vol. IV, No. 2 (Winter 1996-97) .
6 Philip E. Jacobson, “Political Curriculum: Education Essential to Keep a Free Society,” Formulations, Vol. III, No. 3 (Spring 1996), pp. 24-26. Phil focuses on a free society rather than a free nation, but the outline and much of the subject matter would be the same.
7 Roderick T. Long, “Imagineering Freedom: A Constitution of Liberty” Part I “Between Anarchy and Limited Government,” Formulations, Vol. I, No. 4 (Summer 1994), section 1.1.1.
8 Robert James Bidinotto, "What Objectivists Must Learn from Religion" (audiotaped lecture), Institute for Objectivist Studies, 1997, Poughkeepsie, N.Y., <www.ios.org>.
9 Thomas W. Lippman, Understanding Islam, Blackstone Audio Books, 800-729-2665.
10 Roderick T. Long, “Funding Public Goods: Six Solutions,” Formulations, Vol. II, No. 1, (Autumn 1994).
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