Live Free or Die, or Move by Ellen Finnigan
The jackasses in Sacramento babble on about a $38 billion deficit and driver’s licenses for illegal aliens, probably by candlelight, while major businesses and hundreds of thousands of their, I dare say, most astute residents are quietly bowing out. Most likely, they are convinced that, regardless of the results of the recall election or any future election for that matter, the prospects for improvement in California in the near future are bleak. So they’re bailing—thus voting with their feet instead of their ballots. Why? Because the golden rhythm has been broken. Democracy is dead.
Thanks to the Free State Project, there is somewhere for these defectors to go, if they have what it takes. Just like brown is the new black, and TX is the new T-1000, New Hampshire is the new California. Last Wednesday, it was chosen to become the Free State by a group of 5,000 freedom-loving pioneers, activists, libertarians, visionaries, looney-tunes—call them what you will. Within five years, the Porcupines, as we’ll call them (this is their mascot), aim to recruit 15,000 more people and move, 20,000 strong, to the Live Free or Die state where they will then work without violence and within the political system to reduce the scope and size of government.
It’s a genius plan, for many reasons, but mainly because it does not require Porcupines to convince big government proponents of the fallacy of their beliefs or complacent Americans of the erosion of their liberties in order to attempt to get their own freedom back. They can simply depart from these folk in peace and say, “you don’t have to believe us, just watch and see.”
Yes, it’s a genius plan and altogether necessary. In the words of Johnny Cash, “Ya gotta know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em; know when to walk away, know when to run.” It’s high time to fold and walk away, because Americans aren’t made of the same stuff they once were. There are basically three types of people in this country, politically speaking, and the first two far outnumber the Porcupines, making their votes inconsequential. I make these generalizations at the risk of oversimplifying, but for the purpose of getting my point across efficiently.
One, we have here in America that great constituent, the silent bunch, which consists of people who don’t vote because they “aren’t into politics” or they are fed up with politics, or they just don’t know what the hell is going on. Now while I bemoan their apathy, I don’t really have a bone to pick with them, because they mind their business and I mind mine and this works out just fine for both of us. But group number two is another story; let’s call them the Dreamers. America has become a land of Dreamers. These are people who haven’t woken up yet to the fact that government doesn’t work and, on the rare occasion that it does, the benefits simply do not justify the multitude of ways that its involvement screws things up royally most of the time, often on an unfathomable level.
It is because of the Dreamers that government grows. It is because of the Dreamers that freedoms are lost. And it is the Dreamers who killed democracy. So allow me some more time to address these guys—maybe this will sound familiar.
Dreamers vote for candidates who speak to their personal vision of the world, in the sense that they will always ask themselves, “What do I want?” or “What do I want the world to be like?” rather than, “What is it the proper role of government to do?” As a result, they will grant politicians power in the interest of accomplishing something specific, something that they consider a worthy and noble cause, unaware that any power granted to any politician anywhere at anytime is always arbitrary power, no matter what they as a voter intend it to be for.
They do this because they possess an eternal optimism about the good that government can do if only the “right” people, whether that means having compassion or charisma or intelligence or honor or strength, could be in charge. They believe that mediocre individuals who happen to hold public office can accomplish grand sweeping schemes, while they balk at the idea that regular people who don’t hold public office could responsibly manage the small sphere of their own personal lives. Therefore, they see the “regular” people as clay to be molded and shaped, or masses to be goaded.
Now I often like Dreamers very much on a personal level—indeed some of my best friends are Dreamers—because unlike the silent ones they have great passion and fire and want terribly for the world to be a better place. But this very passion, when combined with a lack of regard for limited government, puts them at risk of becoming something of a tall reed on a windy day: they reach for the sun, admittedly beautiful in their hope and flexibility of mind, but unwittingly dangerous, because they bend with the political winds. They are swayed by emotionally charged terms like “discrimination” or “patriotism” or “poverty.” And with no regard for the demoralizing effects of power, they are facilely moved by the promises of those politicians that they find exceptional because of their intelligence or religious devotion. Dreamers take a toll on the country in the voting booth by causing government to grow.
Porcupines are in the third group, a dying breed—an endangered species, if you will. They believe that freedom is the greatest political end and don’t shirk from the responsibility that this demands. They believe that a peaceful society can only be achieved when human activity is governed by the principle of voluntary association instead of coercion. So consenting adults can participate in any activity they choose to participate in, so long as they don’t infringe on the rights of others. They believe that although government is given the power to protect those rights, this does not mean that government has the power to either grant them or take them away. They believe that people are inherently good, but power corrupts—hence the need to hand over power to government, but severely limit the realm in which it can be used.
Their ideas are unpopular. I guess they just don’t make Americans like they use to. Like I said, this is now a land of Dreamers, and whether they’re Dreamers of the right or Dreamers of the left really doesn’t matter. The only question anymore is: Who gets what and how much? No one ever asks: Whose is it to take? Or whose is it to give?
Alexander Tyler, commenting on the fall of the Athenian Republic, once wrote: “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves money from the public treasure. From that moment on the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most money from the public treasury, with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy followed by a dictatorship.” Sadly, it does not matter whether Dreamers seek to vote money to themselves or consider themselves the benefactors of a particular constituent; the results are the same.
The Porcupines cast their votes for limited government, but they are too few and spread too thin to be heard, and thus the Dreamers gain ground every year and government grows. That is not to say there is no hope. In 2002, 45% of Massachusetts voters came out in favor of the Small Government Act, which would have eliminated the state income tax entirely, starving the treasury of an estimated $9 billion a year and forcing the state to slash spending by 40%. And just last month, 69% of Seattle voters opposed the Espresso Tax, which would have added a tax of a dime a cup so that espresso drinkers could fund pre-school and daycare programs. Small battles are being won, but the war is an uphill battle and the Porcupines akin to Sysiphus.
By consolidating, the Porcupines can concentrate their voices in one place. It is their idea that 20,000 of them in the electorate is enough to be heard, and they just might make a difference. Just imagine what a truly free state would be like. Or can you? It’s a genius plan, I’ll say once again, and one that the defectors from California might want to consider, as they just might have what it takes: a first hand understanding of the decimating effects of big government and the gumption to actually do something about it.
To quote Tyler again: “The average age of the world’s great civilizations has been two hundred years. These nations have progressed through the following sequence: from bondage to spiritual faith, from spiritual faith to great courage, from courage to liberty, from liberty to abundance, from abundance to selfishness, from selfishness to complacency from complacency to apathy, from apathy to dependency, from dependency back to bondage.”
Go Porcupines! Cast off the old ways, load up the back seat, roll down the windows and go out East toward the sunrise. You show ’em what freedom is capable of if only it’s allowed to bloom. And do me a favor, will you? On your way to New Hampshire, look back at the voters in California and yell, “SUCKERS!” out the window, just for kicks.
But then, who am I to talk? I live in New York. I’ll be watching the Free State though. And you should too. This could be the dawn of a new day.