Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Collective Action

The less government we have the better - the fewer laws and the less confided power. The antidote to this abuse of formal government is the influence of private character, the growth of the individual.
Ralph Waldo Emerson

To be a socialist is to submit the I to the thou; socialism is sacrificing the individual to the whole.
Joseph Goebbels

Obama's coronation inauguration has come and gone. The liberal media predictably fawned over his speech; the conservative media predictably gnashed their teeth. Both the fawning and the gnashing were about the same thing, Obama's frankness in admitting his liberal/Progressive/socialist agenda. The fawners acted as if this was news; the gnashers basically said "Told ya so!"

Obama, pretending to care about old dead white guys' trifles like the Declaration of Independence, made an effort to link his agenda with their principles, declaring: 

"For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they have never been self-executing; that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on earth … We have always understood that when times change, so must we; that fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges; that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action." 

That is, in order to secure "for ourselves and our posterity" these inalienable rights we must act collectively. So far, so good. Ben Franklin knew that when he said "We must all hang together, or assuredly we shall all hang separately." But collective action of what sort? Individualism and collective effort aren't necessarily contradictory, but both God and the Devil are in the details. Let's look there.

The United States, founded on overtly individualist principles, has always benefited from 
collective action. Alexis de Tocqueville noted our fondness for voluntary association early in the 19th century, but it predates that. Americans work together to get all kinds of things done: help neighbors, care for the poor and the sick, promote enterprise, compete at games. In colonial and frontier times we helped each other build barns and harvest crops, and it's still happening today. We formed real militias to protect each other from Indians, bandits, and Brits. Towns formed volunteer fire departments, as they still do.
The key idea here is voluntarism, acting for the benefit of others of one's own free will. It's adding a clause to the social contract, that which enables free people to live together in harmony (well, mostly) without losing their freedom. The point of such collective action is to maintain and enhance each person's individual welfare.

The same principle can be seen in social action. The civil rights movement was about reclaiming the inalienable rights that had historically been denied to black people. When Martin Luther King said "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character," he was speaking of individuals. Only individuals have character. Those who marched with him then did so in the tradition of American individualism and voluntary association. The Deacons for Defense and Justice was an organization in the spirit of the  citizen militias of frontier times, formed for the same reasons. 

It saddens and sickens me to see these ideals perverted. That's what happens when government-mandated "collective action" takes the place of real voluntary association.

You get Great Leaps Forward, Cultural Revolutions, Five-Year Plans, class warfare.
You get May Day in the USSR and Cuba. Worse, here's what happens when people define themselves by race, religion, language, as members of groups rather than responsible individuals. And worst of all, here's what happens when you combine the two.

So what now? I propose we give Obama and his minions exactly what they want--collective action, but in our own way. We don't need street demonstrations and we certainly don't want violence. Let's start in small ways. Recall all those "flash mob" videos? Not the violent ones, I mean the singing and dancing that occurs in public places, makes people smile, and then disappears. Like that, with a twist. Instead of one event, how about dozens all over a city, at random times and places? People could sing "God Bless America," then blend back into the crowds. Can't sing? No problem. Form a group, come together, raise a flag and say the Pledge of Allegiance. Then hand out little flags, or copies of the Bill of Rights,  to people in the crowd, then fade away. Have somebody video the whole process and post it on YouTube. What does this accomplish? Besides any public sympathy it gains, it lets people know we're here. It says we're everywhere and anywhere; we're not going away.

Want more direct action? How about a consumer's strike? No mass demonstrations, no parades. On a selected day, nobody spends any money. None. No gas, no food, no movies, no Wal-Mart, no online purchases. What's it about? It's a peaceful way of saying that we're here and we can cooperate on a large scale. We can shut things down any time we want simply by refusing to participate. On a more active level we can take a cue from the unions.
One of their most effective "job actions" short of a strike is called a "rules action." Simply put, it means everyone in an organization follows every rule to the letter. If you know anything about modern organizations you know that this inevitably brings the place to a grinding halt.
Suppose hundreds of thousands of people all over the country followed every rule everywhere? If they drove no faster than the speed limit, for example? 

You might ask how all this is to be coordinated. Who's in charge? Think creatively for a minute. Why does anyone have to be? There's Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. There's virtually instantaneous communication. Those are the bases of self-organizing systems.
Keep things simple and nobody has to be a director. Spread the idea and let people organize themselves in small groups with a common goal. Let ideas generate and spread the same way. Let the common message be this: We are a free people who will not surrender our rights, our arms, the products of our labor to an all-consuming State. We will not be plodding refugees on the road to serfdom. We wish no harm to anyone, but:

We will not be moved.

1 comment:

  1. Well said Jack, Have been pondering these things myself. What to do next as I worry about my kids and grand kids future.


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