Politically, it means being more concerned with the roots of the Tree of Woe (as Robert E. Howard might have written) than its branches and twigs, which only grow back. It is the opposite of “rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic“, which is all politicians are ever interested in, instead of dealing with the fact that the ship is sinking.
I knew a man once — so did you, although you may not be aware of it — who believed government is the problem, and the answer is to ”aim at zero”, to strive as hard as possible to eliminate it from society, even if you are not an anarchist, because society has so much inertia, if you aim at anything else, you will always fall short of your real goal. If you go too far and actually abolish government, it is so persistent and pervasive (think kudzu or crabgrass) that you can arrange for a new one with a couple telephone calls. That man (I’m proud to have known him) was Robert LeFevre. If you’ve read Heinlein’s The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, you’ve seen him as Professor Bernardo de la Paz. Bob was a great gentleman, a deep thinker, and a genuine radical.
I was probably predisposed to agree with Bob about aiming at zero. It has been a basic theme throughout my professional life. It kept me away from conservatism which was — and remains — bogged down and clogged up with obsolete, suicidal ideas. It kept me away from the New Left which was nothing more than a front for the Old Left. It made me politically homeless — which is to say libertarian — and caused me endless trouble with a Libertarian Party that degenerated over the decades into a bleating herd of wooly Republican wannabes, too timid to stand up in public and tell folks what real libertarianism consists of.
Nobody I know is better at aiming at zero than Ernie Hancock, of Phoenix, Arizona, who seems to have no trouble staying on point, despite the distractions of today’s political life. On the strength of a convention speech I made in 1993, Ernie applied ideas I had proposed to create the most productive state Libertarian Party in the country – which (because the ideas hadn’t come from them, and were making them look bad) the national LP took away from him, with the help of a judge who was either crooked, stupid, or crazy, and handed to a sleazy lawyer.
But, as Edward Albee put it, that’s all blood under the bridge.
Undaunted, Ernie went on to create what might be termed “intellectual
infrastructure”, including the amazing and formidable daily Freedom’s Phoenix, as valuable to maintaining civilization and defending — and extending — individual liberty as the rest of the New Media put together.
I’m not mentioning these things to advertise Ernie’s various enterprises, but to make a point about strategy and tactics. He didn’t accomplish any of this by gradualism or compromise. I was present once when he told the editor of a major metropolitan newspaper what to write about an event, and saw the story, as Ernie had dictated it, on the front page the next day. The man never swerves from what he knows is needed to build a free society. That he thinks I had anything to do with it is the greatest — and least justified — flattery I’ve ever received.
Without my having told him, Ernie seems always to have known that a new movement can’t be like any of the older institutions around it. It must be radical and confrontational. It must be unbending in its fundamentals and unafraid to use guerilla theater. One thing I wrote that seems to have impressed him is that if you’re not at least a little uncomfortable with the position you’ve taken, it isn’t radical enough.
Progress doesn’t care about dignity or comfort. It doesn’t give a damn about “respectability”. If Progress is intimidated by authority it never lets it show. And Progress doesn’t wear a necktie, a perversion that appears to be intended to cut off circulation to the courage centers of the brain.
I want to be like Ernie when I grow up.
How about you?