Kaleb Matson: “Why You Should Quit Politics”

(And embark on a much more effective path to liberty)

by: Kaleb Matson

You’re young, you’ve got your whole life ahead of you, you’re zealous for liberty, and in some capacity or another you want to spend your life in the meaningful pursuit of a better world. What do you do with your life? In this article I’m going to argue that if your goal is liberty, electoral politics is the last path you should consider. Then I will suggest a far more exciting, fulfilling, enriching, and – most importantly – effective path to a better, freer world.

"In dealing with the problems of social and economic policies," Mises writes, "the social sciences consider only one question: whether the measures suggested are really suited to bringing about the effects sought by their authors." The entire course of your life will be shaped by your answer to this question. Even more, the entire course of history has been shaped by various leaders’ answer to this question. Isn’t it the basic source of all political divisions? Putting aside all the polarizing rhetoric of opposing sides, does anyone honestly believe political leaders set out with an end goal of misery, poverty, famine, genocide, holocaust, war and atrocities?  Yet the vastly different outcomes of the life work of Marx and Mises, Lincoln and Jefferson, Obama and Ron Paul, etc. clearly demonstrate the highly consequential nature and importance of correctly discerning the best means to achieve the mutually desired ends of liberty, prosperity and peace. Imagine spending your whole life believing you are fighting for the cause of liberty, only to realize on your deathbed that the means you chose – your life work and legacy – only resulted in advancing tyranny? Is what you’ve chosen to do with your life truly an effective means of promoting liberty? Answering this question requires some thoughtful inquiry into what creates liberty, and what destroys it.

"If there be any truth in political science, perfectly clear it is that centralized power is but another name for despotic power. Precisely in proportion as you centralize; in the same proportion do you approach absolute power. Power begets power, and a tendency to centralization, that in the long run, will reach tyranny. To render power innocuous, it must be broken up into fragments…" (1836 Congressional Debates) If centralized power is the opposite of liberty then the pursuit of liberty is principally the fight for the decentralization of power. What then are the best means to decentralize power? The American experiment was an attempt to maintain decentralized power by making power-holders promise to obey a power-limiting document (the Constitution) that was written by, is interpreted by, enforced by, and usually simply ignored by the very power-holders it is intended to regulate. Oh, but when those in power fail to self-regulate the people are allowed to offer pleas or threats (the political process) in hopes that power will un-corrupt! They’ve been taking oaths and getting fired for over two hundred years now, look around you- how’s it working out? The political process as a means to liberty has been about as effective as socialism as a means to prosperity. Even wild success in the political process means only that the progress of centralization has been temporarily delayed… until ‘our man’ retires or the next scheme, bill, or despot comes along. Yet we continue dumping most of our energies, monies, and lives into the political process, trying to convince ourselves that despite its dismal record of failure this means is still the appropriate path to our desired end. We continue in the delusion that through the political process we can somehow transform the will of power towards opposing centralization. Or believing this idea that by giving power to ‘our people,’ we can negate its corrupting effects -yet we of all people should be able to recognize and admit the incorrigibly malignant nature of power. I suggest we act accordingly by ceasing to waste our time and energy attempting to redeem it, and instead begin working to undermine power’s very ability to centralize altogether.

To undermine power’s ability to centralize, you must understand how power consolidates and centralizes. Imagine you had absolute control over every molecule of oxygen on the planet, so that every human being’s life depended on your granting him or her the use of that resource which you controlled. Your absolute monopolization of that resource would give you power like that of a god (ultimate power). The means to power, then, simply consists of working towards monopoly control of a needed resource. The stronger the monopoly, the greater the power. The foundation of the nation state’s power over you ultimately lies in its control over resources that you need, as your only method of acquiring that resource is by subjecting yourself to its demands.

With that in mind, let’s now ask the question: what is the best means of preventing or undermining the monopolization of a resource Despite all its promise of god-like power for whoever controls it, oxygen has never been monopolized. Why? Because its sheer abundance makes it impossible to control. The scarcer a resource, the easier it is to control. The more abundant a resource, the harder it is to control. Scarcity seems to lend itself to the centralization of power; but abundance denies the very possibility. The best means, then, for preventing centralized power is to identify the scarce resources which it would monopolize and to make those same resources so abundant that maintaining control of them becomes practically impossible. Undermining a monopoly of resources that remain scarce simply requires the introduction of competition, which by definition results in a more decentralized control of it. Fortunately the defining characteristic and function of capitalism is to take scarce resources and make them abundant, a process fully aided and abetted by competition.  No wonder the state is so hell-bent on maintaining the scarcity of its monopolized resources and will use every form of violence to crush any threat of competition.

To figure out specifically what scarce resources the nation state currently builds and centralizes its power on, imagine the absence of the state. What resources or sectors of the economy immediately come to mind? Who would build the roads? Transportation. Who would provide school for the children? Education. Who would settle disputes? Judicial system. Who would protect against aggressors? Defense. Etc. Once you’ve identified these often state-monopolized resources, begin to brainstorm about how you could, by the nature of the capitalist process, make the resource more abundant and/or offer competition by providing it better and cheaper. Most of us spend our days complaining of the utter incompetence and ridiculously wasteful nature of the state… but from the perspective of an entrepreneur desiring to undermine a monopoly, that attribute in your competition couldn’t provide a better opportunity!

Now let’s consider some real examples of the possibilities of this approach. Think of how the printing press and ultimately the Internet have destroyed the scarcity of information, making it super-abundant and rendering any hopes for a monopoly over the flow of information a pipe dream. For education, imagine how the Kahn Academy with its incredible K-12 education available to anyone anywhere for absolutely free could undermine the current costly and ineffective state-run school system. For college level there’s MIT’s OpenCourseWare, one among many programs pioneering the trend of making the most prestigious college educations available for free. As for gaining an official degree (a failed approach to credentialing,) Mozilla’s Open Badge project may present a superior model for skills-based credentialing. All these could work together to make education ubiquitous and free, putting the state out of the education business.  What about other local resources like public services and utilities? Think about the private firefighting companies like Wildland Defense Systems (hired by insurance companies), or even entirely privatized cities like Celebration, Florida. For transportation (moving beyond privatized toll roads), how about the Tokyo Expressway, a free-to-the-public, privately owned and profitable highway? Isn’t this essentially what parking lots (a substantial percentage of the paved surfaces in the US) are already? For medicine, the Surgery Center of Oklahoma is obliterating its state-subsidized competitors by providing superior healthcare at a fraction of the cost, providing a model that could make "The Affordable Health Care Act" irrelevant. Social safety nets? Start a mutual aid society. For trade, the Silk Road (a black market Amazon) is offering a marketplace with no third party limitations on voluntary transactions between individuals.
As for the state’s attempt to wield power by claiming the sole right to sanction who you hire, to limit the division of labor, to block your access to foreign talent with immigration barriers, and to subsidize inefficiency through unions (with their resulting protective tariffs and wars) -they can be easily undermined through sites like E-lance or offshore office space like the BlueSeed project. Currency monopolies, sanctions & capital controls? No problem- BitCoin or gold-based debit cards. Looking to the future, what about a Tricorder device that helps increase the abundance of accessible diagnostics and doctors, further decentralizing control of the medical industry? Could advances in 3-D printing someday radically decentralize the production industry? How do you compete with the state in more difficult resources like geography, dispute settlement and defense? Seasteading or free trade zones could offer an exciting alternative to the monopolization of land by nation states. For dispute settlement, try private arbitration like Judge.me. For defense…if you concealed carry you’re already decentralizing the state’s control of defense and providing a superior alternative. Large-scale defense? How about those insurance companies, who in the face of the incompetent state, are forming private navies to protect the private property of shipping companies from pirates? Want to end war? The Middle East and Africa are a hotbed for water wars… imagine you take that scarce resource and through something like graphene desalination you make fresh water super-abundant? War’s over. What if we did the same for energy? Imagine a scientist discovers a source of power that fits into a freezer-sized box and can independently power any home…. technology that completely makes energy abundant and decentralized- suddenly geo-political strategic wars over scarce energy resources become pointless. The only reason wars are still fought over water or energy or anything else is because they are still scarce and therefore hold the promise of power to whoever controls them. Who’s fighting wars over oxygen (or for water in the west where it isn’t so scarce)? Why don’t we, in pursuit of liberty and peace, intentionally pursue technologies that subvert government monopolies by offering a superior, cheaper and more abundant product?  

After a brief venture into electoral politics, I began to think long and hard about what a life in the political process might look like. A long life of money-grubbing, dirty-dealing, doing things I hate with people I don’t like but acting like they’re my friends anyway because I could use them politically, being backstabbed by friends who thought the same thing, spending many nights away from my family and friends attending obligatory boring meetings or parties I don’t want to be at, trying to coerce and harass everyone I know into doing things they have no interest in either, being broke and having to suck up to the highest bidder, living with a dirty conscience and making enemies at every turn, all for something I am fundamentally repulsed by anyway, and would have no part of if I thought there was any other way to preserve and advance liberty. All that sacrifice for what, if history is any guide, would at best result in a minor slowing of tyranny. A stopgap measure. Is that really the best we can do?

The whole prospect compelled me to re-examine the efficacy of the political process as a means to liberty, and I’m beginning to think that this state sanctioned mechanism for change may not actually be the most appropriate means for our desired end. Perhaps it’s time to rethink all this- to demote on our priority list the stopgap measures of the political process and to begin fervently pouring our talents, energies and monies into a ‘targeted capitalism’, if you will. Liberty lovers everywhere intentionally targeting state-monopolized resources and disintegrating those monopolies through the capitalist process. These means are by nature decentralizing and can be pursued while completely disregarding the will of power. Enough of this pleading with our oppressors not to oppress us so much! Let’s stop being depressed victims of the state and instead start imagining all the endless opportunities its incompetencies create! In the process, we can be around people we like, create wealth by offering real value for the masses, live adventurously, with a clean conscience, and most importantly, live free.

And that is why I’m quitting politics and starting a business.

Republished from LewRockwell.com with permission