Over at YAL, Vladimir Rudenko asks: "How should libertarians advance the cause of liberty: through political action or through gradual social change?"
Of course the use of the adjective "gradual" implies that the alternative is something other than gradual. That political action can bring about a free society in the here and now, while all this writing and talking business is only aimed at some vague and distant future. But he sidesteps the question of whether political action can effectively advance the cause of liberty. The past 200-odd years of political action in this country would seem to suggest that at the very least, that is not a closed question.
"Now is the time for action," says Rudenko. "Let us not waste resources starting book clubs when we can take over parts of the government and throw off a few of our many chains.”
I'm not going to knock all forms of political action. Some, such as local nullification of Federal laws, can be good tools in the fight for liberty. But taking over parts of government leading to a throwing off of chains? Unless there is a widespread desire for liberty, and a widespread willingness to tolerate the liberty of others, then no number of good people in City Hall is going to protect us from the predations of those who would use government power to control, or get what they want from, others.
I think it is safe to say that the vast majority of Americans fear liberty. Many of them fear economic liberty, while others fear personal and social liberty. Many simply swallow the pro-government propaganda they are fed in school, and very few understand the arguments for free markets as a benevolent social force well enough even to argue with them. As I see it, bad ideas are the source of our problems and combating bad ideas is where we need to begin if we are to solve them. Let us not waste "resources" by encouraging good people to go to work in a bad system. Let's start more book clubs.