The Declaration of Independence… Minus Politics

I’ll begin this post by admitting that I have an affinity for “declarations” and even for “manifestos.” Whether they be particularly good or bad, the people writing such things have invested more passion in these documents than most people have ever invested in anything. By itself, I think that’s worthy of respect. Right or wrong, the people who write such things are actively living… they are energetically engaging with herculean issues.

This world would be a lot farther along if more people had the courage and drive to do such things. It takes a lot of guts to write and publish a manifesto.

I further admit that I’m an ardent and long-time admirer of Thomas Jefferson.

And so, today I’m editing Jefferson’s Declaration on Independence. I’m really changing only one aspect of it, though it’s a significant aspect: I’m taking out the politics. And that, interestingly enough, leaves us with a document that revolves around morality and liberty.

Editorial Notes

Here are a few editorial notes on my version:

  1. As much as I admire the preamble to the Declaration (“When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another….”), it’s about politics: nations separating themselves and so on. My version is apolitical. Like many others, I’m convinced that politics is, to use an American legal phrase, “fruit from the poisonous tree.” It derives from the practice of men ruling over other men, and I find that whole exercise degenerate.

  2. I’m ignoring all the complaints against King George. They’re also tied to politics, as well as being way out of date.

  3. Likewise I’m ignoring all the complaints about Britain in general.

  4. In order to keep the document pertinent to Americans, I’ve left the remaining text unchanged. That is, except for removing political material and doing some minor rewording around it, I have altered not a single word. I even left the old-style capitalizations in place. You can check the original text here.

This version, then, is shorter than the original. It’s also, and more importantly, an enlightening read. And it certainly should be for Americans, who tend to claim it as the justification for their way of life.

The Declaration

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. – That when any organization becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to separate from it, and to institute new arrangements, laying their foundations on such principles and organizing them in such forms, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that established arrangements should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such arrangements, and to provide new arrangements.

We, therefore, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of good people everywhere, solemnly publish and declare, That we are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent; that we are Absolved from all Allegiance and have full Power to conduct our own affairs.

And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

My Own Experience

My eyes opened to the Declaration in High School, where a copy of it hung on a schoolroom wall. I read the second section – “We hold these truths…” – and was awestruck by it.

My first impression, and a powerful one, was that this was the truth… that the ideas underneath this were the right ideas to live by… the right way to order my life.

My second impression, coming a second or two later from I know not where, was very simple:

No one believes this.

But whether anyone believes them or not, the core principles of the Declaration – the core principles of what’s written above – define a moral universe suited to all decent men and women. I think we should take it seriously.

* * * * *

As it turns out, history was never too hard to understand; they just told you the wrong story.

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* * * * *

Paul Rosenberg

The Specter of Suffering


Jews know how to suffer. Christians don’t, although they once did. Most libertarians don’t know how to suffer either.

While there’s no virtue in suffering itself, certain kinds of suffering are unavoidable if we want to change the world. (That is, to really change the world, not just to jabber about it.)

If you run away from suffering, anyone with a pin and a threat owns you.

Let’s be clear on this: Wanting to live in a new way opens you up to suffering. If you hope to avoid it and still attain liberty, you’re kidding yourself. It won’t happen. And to make this point very clearly, I’ll restate it:

Suffering is required; if you can’t hack that, stay home.

And while we’re at it, let me give you a few more stark statements:

  • If you care more about losing money than gaining liberty, you’re not going to get liberty.

  • If truth isn’t something you’re willing to be hated for, you’re not going to get much truth.

  • Entrenched hierarchies always oppose progress. They’ll want to tear down the things we build. If we can’t accept losses and rebuild… and then rebuild yet again… we’re not going to get past tyranny.

Please understand that I’m not endorsing masochism here; I don’t expect anyone to like losing money or to enjoy seeing something they built torn down. But if a negative reaction stops you in your tracks, if fear of “something going wrong” paralyzes you, please stay home until you’re ready to pay that price; you’ll only muck things up for yourself and others.

What Do We Value?

In the end, our willingness to suffer comes back to a simple question: What do we want and how badly do we want it?

We can “want liberty” or “want truth” all we like, but the ruling systems of this world don’t agree. More than that, they have millions of people who believe they are utterly necessary and their edicts must be obeyed without a second thought.

Furthermore, many of those people can be counted upon to enforce the status quo. Being different is punished in a hundred ways and in a thousand places, ranging from the subtle to the gross.

So the question remains: How badly do we want it?

Will being insulted at a cocktail party turn you away? Will the threat of losing a contract turn you back? Is putting your time and effort into something that might be torn down too big a risk? Too big an embarrassment?

If we can’t take such risks and more, we’re not ready to change the world.

How It’s Done

Changing the world requires that we hold our ideas of the good and right above the ideas of the world’s rulers. We’ll have to do what we think is right, regardless of what the world thinks.

Whether we’re believers or not, there’s a great deal to learn from Christians back in the early days, when they knew how to suffer. Jesus, as it happens, went out of his way to prepare them for just that, saying things like, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’s sake,” and, “When they persecute you in this city, flee to another.”

The early Christians avoided suffering when they could but took it when they had to. And they did change the world for the better. (You really should read issues #33 and #70 of my subscription letter.) Rome was built upon slavery, and the Christians eradicated it, pop history be damned.

Christianity, like Judaism, was never meant to be easy. A follower of Jesus was supposed to lead mankind “into the light,” thus angering those who remain in darkness.

As for the Jews, they’ve stood apart from centralized societies for thousands of years, making the world see a humane life outside of their precious boundaries. And for that, centralizers will always hate them.

Christianity was intended to continue that same model. And in fact it did continue it for some centuries.

An Illustration

To illustrate my opening line, that Jews know how to suffer, here’s a quote from my friend Joe Katzman. I think it’s worth some thought:

Judaism is like the Blues Brothers: “We’re on a mission from God.” It isn’t a safe mission, but it’s ours. Think. Adapt. Make your mission happen. Get back up. Keep. The. Faith. Oh, and you’re probably gonna be chased. A lot.

Those who wish to be better than the enforced status quo will have to start thinking like the early Christians once did, and as many Jews still do. We’ll have to transcend the specter of suffering.

* * * * *

If you’ve enjoyed Free-Man’s Perspective or A Lodging of Wayfaring Men, you’re going to love Paul Rosenberg’s new novel, The Breaking Dawn.

It begins with an attack that crashes the investment markets, brings down economic systems, and divides the world. One part is dominated by mass surveillance and massive data systems: clean cities and empty minds… where everything is assured and everything is ordered. The other part is abandoned, without services, with limited communications, and shoved 50 years behind the times… but where human minds are left to find their own bearings.

You may never look at life the same way again.

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* * * * *

Paul Rosenberg

A Cancer on the Liberty Movement

LibertyMovementI can’t believe I actually have to write this article… and I’m deeply disappointed that no one else has. Where are all the other adults? I don’t want to wade into Internet crapstorms; I have better things to do with my time.

But there is disease in the liberty movement, and if no one else will call it out, I guess I’ll have to. So be it.

Old poisons are flooding back into the broader liberty movement, being sold with new packaging. And they’re leading ‘anti-state’ people right back into the swamps of political obsession and plain old hate. The more you suck it up, the more you’ll slide right back into the stinking pits of politics and mingle your life with all the venom and degeneracy it produces.

Welcome back to the Matrix, Mr. Libertarian.

The Obsession

I just checked a popular liberty website, and of the 50 stories linked, 14 had titles like these:

“Israel’s Friday Bloodbath”

“Ethnic Cleansing and Zionist Supremacy in Israel”

“Israelis Are Today’s Nazis”

This is simply obsession. Articles like these are the seeds from which poisoned fruit grows. Don’t believe me? Then maybe you won’t want to read some of the comments this post will generate.

Israel is a state, and we hold all states as morally inferior, do we not? So, why the obsession with just this one? Where are the breathless horror stories from Belarus? Where are the brave investigations of Turkmenistan? Where’s the in-depth analysis of Uzbekistan, or Burma, or the Congo. Why do none of those places matter?

The answer becomes obvious soon enough: Those places don’t generate the right kinds of passions. And if you keep reading these obsessive stories, you’ll absorb their slogans and take their rationalizations into your mind.

Do you really want to go back there?

But, But, But…

Almost any angle you take to justify the Israel obsession leads right back to politics and drags your mind right back to statism, anger, hate, and the endorsement of violence.

Here are the usual angles – the new labels for the old poisons:

We’re only talking about Zionism.

That is to say, “We’re not against all politics, only certain kinds.” That’s some kind of a position for an anti-statist to take. Isn’t political force by itself contrary to the nonaggression principle? Why then should this one be the focus of all our attention? Aren’t they all refuse? Why the obsession with only one among hundreds?

But these people cannot let go of Israel; it stands as the central target for their nasty blows, like “Israelis are today’s Nazis.”

In the end, “only about Zionism” serves little purpose but to deflect charges of anti-Semitism. And seeing that the title mentioned above puts millions of Israelis into one bag and slaps a “Nazi” label on it, those charges seems quite fitting.

And if the Israelis were actually like the Nazis, the Palestinians would all be dead by now. So the statement is also illogical.

They’re not really Jews; they’re Khazars.

A modern classic. Aside from the fact that this line has been fairly conclusively proven false, what difference would it make anyway? Why should anyone care? Shall we scrutinize the genetic history of the Hmong people too?

If people call themselves Jews, follow the traditions, and die for their beliefs from time to time, what else matters? Jews, after all, have lived amongst other peoples for 2,000 years. There is plenty of Russian, German, Polish, Spanish, and other types of ‘blood’ mixed in by now. Why should that even matter?

But it matters for this reason: If they’re not really Jews, then they’re not really entitled to their tiny slice of land.

So, here we are, back to deciding which group is or isn’t entitled to political power over a piece of land. Welcome back to the same old endorsements of violence: “my favorite ruler monkeys versus your favorite ruler monkeys.”

Same old poison, same old results.

There are Jews at the forefront of the (insert nasty name) movement.

Marxism was a big one to blame on the Jews for a long time, but media, banking, and others are now vying for the crown.

The truth is that there have been Jews at the forefront of almost every new movement, including the liberty movement. We had Rand, Rothbard, and von Mises, didn’t we?

There is of course a reason for this: Jews survived for many centuries by getting involved in new things before the regulators caught up with them and forced them out. Over time, the strategy stuck and Jews internalized it. At this point in world history, new things simply attract more Jews than most other ethnicities. So what?

“You’re Just Pro-Israel!”

With us/against us
If you’re not condemning them, you’re supporting them

All of this, my friends, is binary thinking; all of it declines to the level of primate instincts. All of it is devolution.

Israel is a state and is therefore a geographic monopoly on the use of violence. And that’s not good.

But so is the Palestinian Authority a kind of state, and it authorizes violence too. Is that somehow okay?

  • The Israelis did some nasty things under British rule.

  • The Palestinians (and fellow Arabs) murdered lots of Israelis after the UN vote in 1947.

  • Israel forces many decent people through road blocks and puts them behind walls.

  • Palestinians have a long history of blowing people up, and now stabbing them.

So, who’s your favorite victim?

Which cause is the one to fight for?

Which side must be put down?

Which enemy do you want dead?

Does being in the area make someone guilty?

Does their religion make them guilty?

A Path Back to Barbarity, Back to Hate

That’s all this stuff is, my friends: It’s a path back into darkness. The stories that call you to walk it are poison.

And if you want to see the reality of life in the tiny piece of land these people are so obsessed over, take a good look at this.

Choose light, not darkness.

Paul Rosenberg

Word Formulas Are the Wrong Path

formulaRecently, an argument was made that libertarianism is okay with hate, since a word formula that libertarians like, the non-aggression principle, or “NAP”, didn’t exclude hate.

Therefore, I’ve concluded that it’s a good time to address the subject of word formulas and rules. And I’ll begin by being explicit about this:

Word formulas are the path to destruction. They are the wrong path.

Word formulas are the province of academia and politicians, of people trying to prove things. They are part of the “winning” game, which goes nowhere except to support domination.

Again, I will be explicit:

Liberty and life are not about proving other people wrong and proving ourselves right. That is the wrong path, and it leads back to bondage.

The case I mention above is one of many, and I’m not interested in attacking the person involved, whom I believe to be a decent man. I’m trying to make a point, not to “win.”

Why Word Formulas Fail

Liberty is a means, not an end.

Liberty matters because it is a condition in which life flourishes. And that’s all.

Our goal is not to achieve liberty; it is for life to flourish.

Hate, as you must know, is the enemy of flourishing life. So, if a “libertarian” word formula preserves hate, something is wrong somewhere. And the problem here is not the specific word formula, but all word formulas.

Words are necessary tools of communication, but they are imperfect symbols of reality and are easily abused. If then, we use these imperfect symbols in formulas and then claim that they define the most crucial things, we place the symbolic above the real, and we lose our bearings.

Then What Is Right?

It’s a telling commentary that so many people feel utterly lost without rules. But we don’t need rules when we have reality right in front of us.

For example, private property is right, not because we have ironclad arguments from famous people to prove it. Private property is right because it derives from nature.

Earlier today, I ate a few oranges, and by doing so, I made them utterly unavailable to any other person or animal. They were mine, and if not previously, they certainly became my private property when I ate them.

Likewise, I must sleep somewhere tonight. And when I do, that space is mine and cannot be used by any other person at the same time and in the same way. And when I drive my car, the gasoline I use must be mine; no one else can burn that gas.

So, life itself – reality itself – requires private property. That is primary, and our explanations of the principle are secondary.

A word formula does not justify my private property; reality does.

We Are Not of the System

We are living in a tight, intricate world system that has its own ways of justifying things, and those ways have degenerated Western culture significantly over our lifetimes.

We see the insanity of the “war on drugs,” the irrational fear-baiting of the “war on terror,” the emotional manipulation of “do it for the children,” and so on. All of these are based upon word games, and frequently on word formulas. They go like this:

We believe in supporting democratically elected governments, right?

Yes, of course.

Well, XYZ was democratically elected, so we must support them.

XYZ, unfortunately, likes to bomb innocent people in suburban subdivisions. But according to the word formula, the bombers must receive our support. The word formula says so.

Let me be clear:

The system that surrounds us is not like us. It is a system devoted to dominance and control. That’s why they always end up playing the “winning” game.

Their game is not our game. We are not like them.

We’re not going to “win people to our cause” by using the tools of oppressors; by doing that we would undermine ourselves… and we see precisely this when we excuse hate in the name of our formulas.

Their game involves the abuse of symbols and defeating opponents. Our game involves spreading life. We are not like them and we shouldn’t try to be.

Rules Are Not God

More often, rules are idols.

I’m not going to take a great deal of space on this subject today, but I would like to make the point that rules are all too often tools for evading consciousness… a way to skirt the responsibility of seeing and deciding.

Here are two quotes on the subject that are worth your consideration:

The truth is that many people set rules to keep from making decisions.
– Mike Krzyzewski

I have only two rules which I regard as principles of conduct. The first is: Have no rules. The second is: Be independent of the opinion of others.
– Albert Einstein

When we appeal to a rule, we are stepping right past the real reasons and appealing to authority… and authority is the foundation of our oppressors.

To quote a wise man of many centuries ago: If we rebuild the things we have previously destroyed, we make ourselves transgressors.

Word formulas are our enemies, and hate has no place among thriving life.

We are not like them, and we will not improve ourselves using their tools.

Paul Rosenberg

Liberty: The Unapplied Cure


I had been working late on one project or another. When I closed down for the night, I decided to turn on a TV and let my mind slow down before climbing into bed. But it was after midnight and there wasn’t much on, so I scanned the channels for a while.

I stumbled across a rustic infomercial from a local church. They were offering prayer for the sick, depressed, and overwhelmed. My thumb was poised to move to the next channel, but instead, I stopped and watched. I decided to look at the people in the pews—to really look at them—not as a collection of the misled, but as individuals.

What I saw were people who knew they needed help. They were in pain, they had failed to become what they wanted to be, they had hurt others, they were lost in the midst of a confusing world, and they didn’t know a way out.

These people were not idiots. They knew that dipping slips of paper with their names on them into holy oil was silly. But they overlooked it because they were desperate, and because maybe, just maybe, something might help.

And don’t kid yourself, people do get help in those places; not from the hucksters, of course, but from the other attendees. Humans are clever creatures, and when they try to help each other, they often succeed.

So, we can complain about the huckster all we like, but he’s only in business because people have nowhere better to turn. Their target audience is sitting in front of their TV at 1 A.M. because they are depressed, guilty, desperate, and they need something.


So, what if there was a group of people who had the solution to their problems… who knew how to eliminate the causes… but who didn’t apply them?

Yeah, that would be us.

I don’t think I’m being overdramatic when I say that we have failed these people. Applying our liberty only to the tar pit of political policies, we didn’t see how it applied to people like these… people who need help so badly that they chase hucksters.

Our Enemies Knew

And we should have known, too.

How many of us have had an experience like this: You’re at some gathering and find yourself talking to someone who is emotionally joined to the ruling system. You say how much you want liberty, and they fly into a rage.

We thought we were talking about something good, but they saw it as dangerous.

As it turns out, they were right; we didn’t appreciate the scope and power of what we had.

What Is It That We Have?

Let me start with a question: How many personal problems, do you suppose, thrive on low self-esteem? The answer, pretty clearly, is “most of them.”

And how many personal disasters happen because people are afraid to use their own judgment? That answer also, more than likely, is “most of them.”

So, how many of these problems would fade away if self-esteem and judgment weren’t at such abysmal levels? Yeah, most of them.

The people in the huckster’s pews were trained to believe that their role in life was to fear and obey, not to imagine and judge and opine. They had their wills crushed by hierarchy and its institutions. They were confused by smooth-talking people in expensive suits. They were intimidated by people in uniforms. They were repeatedly shamed. They were taught to bow before the idol of authority.

Those are the sources of their problems, and they are precisely the things that real, applied liberty chops up.

We’ve been slow to see it, but the people who freaked out knew: Healthy, free, and confident people do not reflexively obey, and such people are an existential threat to their systems.

Rulership requires its subjects to be confused, insecure, and ashamed. And that requirement is sickening millions of souls.

We hold their cure in our hands. We should take it seriously.

Paul Rosenberg

This article was originally published by Casey Research.

Destroying the Myth That Military Power Equals Freedom

military power equals freedomAs I was finishing up my liberty entertainment article a few weeks ago, I checked lists that other people had made, just to see if I had forgotten something. As I did, I was dismayed to find that in most of these lists, pro-liberty really meant pro-military.

So I think it’s time to take a quick look at the myth that military power gives us liberty.

The Fantasy of the Foreign Oppressor

There is a plot that lies behind this “military power equals freedom” belief. It says that the enemy of liberty is a foreign invader. So, if the outsider is afraid to approach, we are free.

It implies that “local rule equals freedom.”

This is simply a lie. But it’s a lie that works very well in fiction.

Back in the real world, the hometown of an oppressor – whether it be near or far – makes him no better or worse.

Are we free because the people who rule us reside within local borders? Does that remain true even when it’s the “inside our lines” people who oppress us?

May only foreigners be oppressors?

Consider these recent cases:

  • No people suffered more to defeat Hitler than the Russians. So did killing the foreign invader make them free? Hardly – it kept Stalin, who killed far more people than Hitler ever did, in power.
  • What about Southern blacks in 1950? Almost everything done to them was “under the law,” and they were protected by a massive military and a nuclear arsenal capable of reducing any invader to ashes. Were they free?
  • And what about their great-grandparents who were slaves? They were militarily protected, after all. And their local oppressors operated fully under the rule of law. The  Supreme Court approved. Did that make them free?
  • The people of Eastern Europe were protected by a Soviet arsenal that included thousands of atomic bombs. They were further protected by constitutions and courts, all of which were locally administered. Were they free?

I could go on, but I think the point is made: The vast majority of human oppression comes at the hands of locals, not foreigners.

That’s a fact, whether or not it works as a movie plot.

I know that many good men and women have spent time in various military capacities, but the fact is this:

Foreign invaders abuse far, far fewer people than do local bosses.

And here’s another fact: Once a foreign invader takes control of a new place, he usually tries very hard to keep the populace happy. The foreigner does not murder civilians by the millions… but local rulers do. (Think of Mao, Pol Pot, Stalin, etc. They each killed millions of locals.)

The Flip Side of Xenophobia

Xenophobia is fear of the foreigner and usually applies to things like hating immigrants. But it’s not always “fear.” It’s more often a need to keep the foreigner beneath us.

In any case, classic expressions of xenophobia involve punishing immigrants, Jews, or some other outsiders (justified by whatever facts can be conveniently assembled).

It seems to me that the myth we mentioned above, “military power equals freedom,” is the flip side of this xenophobia phenomenon:

  • On one side of this “xenophobia coin,” we have outsiders whom we need to keep beneath us.
  • On the other side, we have outsiders whom we must prevent from putting us beneath them.

Both of these fears come from a dominance instinct:

We must allow no one above us.

We must keep those below us in place.

Both of these impulses are irrational, and they tend to travel together.

Perhaps I’m missing something, but my experience tells me this:

The people who love the “military equals freedom” fantasy are the same people who oppose immigrants.

That’s not just an American thing, by the way. You see it more or less everywhere.

I know that there are many exceptions to this statement (we’re talking about millions of individuals, after all, many of whom DO analyze their own minds), but I think this statement holds up:

“Military equals freedom” grows from the same impulse as xenophobia.

The Case of America

Since the majority of my readers seem to be Americans, I’ll devote a minute to the US’s fear of the “foreign devil.”

Should Americans really take an “alien invasion” seriously? Even when surrounded by two huge oceans and friendly people to the north and south? (The trouble in Mexico exists largely because the US government created it.)

There is no potential invader who takes invasion seriously. Here’s what Japan’s Admiral Yamamoto said during the hostilities of World War II:

You cannot invade mainland United States. There would be a rifle behind each blade of grass.

No foreign power would seriously consider invading America, where there are 270 million guns in the hands of ordinary people. Everyone, not just boys in uniforms, would be a deadly threat.

The US can be taken by stealth, but not by an open invasion. If the American people ever paid attention to what was being done to them, no oppressor would survive it.

To close this discussion, here’s a quote from General Douglas MacArthur, who knew something about America and war:

Our country is now geared to an arms economy which was bred in an artificially induced psychosis of war hysteria and nurtured upon an incessant propaganda of fear.

We need to let go of fear and think rationally.

Very seldom do foreigners oppress us. The vast majority of oppression comes from within.

Paul Rosenberg

Get Ready for Adversity Now

adversityAdversity is coming. Get ready for it now.

I’m not pessimistic about the future, mind you, I’m optimistic. Once we get through the present transition (and presuming the world doesn’t descend into deep darkness), human life will massively improve. Our descendants will look back at our time as “the dark ages.”

All in all, things are going fairly well for us at the moment. The decade of government worship is falling behind us, the Internet remains, the NSA has been exposed as a criminal hacker collective, and Bitcoin has burst onto the scene.

Sure, there are the usual petty squabbles and distractions, but the younger crowd is learning to ignore them and to keep moving forward.

But adversity is coming. In situations like this, it always does. Forks off the main cultural line – which is what we are – are accompanied by problems from without and problems from within.

We’ve all seen libertarian movements and projects that shot themselves in the foot. For whatever reasons, that’s just part of the current landscape. We’ll see more of it.

We’ve had attacks from the outside also. And while the state is generally declining in potency, they still have millions of employees who are willing to authorize and/or use violence on their behalf.

Learn to Take the Blows

There will be blows, and they will hurt. I wish I could assure you that all will be sweetness and light, but I’d be lying.

The first big blow is rough. It leaves you questioning what you really believed. It may also leave you afraid for your own reputation, and even your safety. Probably the deepest issue is shame: a dread of people ridiculing you and casting you out.

I’m sorry that these things are so painful. None of them will be as bad as the first big blow, but we live in a screwed-up world at the moment, and these things happen.

Such things also happen to people who hide in the corner, obsessing over every rule and assuring their rulers that they love them. The difference is that they are given crowds to hide in – we stand by ourselves.

Then What?

Once you’ve taken your first big blow, you are left with a choice: What to do next.

You’ll have to make your own choices, of course, but I know I didn’t start caring about liberty because I was hoping to get rich out of it or to find the easiest path through life. I was interested because it was good and true. I wanted to learn and to grow.

So, if liberty is the better way, what else is there for us to do? Shall we try to forget everything we learned and recondition ourselves to passive state worship? Shall we go back to believing lies and repeating vapid slogans for the rest of our lives? Could we, really?

We are building a better world, person by person, piece by piece. What else is there for us to do? Should we deny our own minds because people think we’re weird? Should we disregard the value of lives because people are terrified of ideas that lack an official stamp?

Liberty requires you to value yourself. Shall we pretend that this is a bad thing?

Huge numbers of people are sure that leaving the approved path will call punishment down upon them. They are terrified of being different and doubly terrified of being different and better. Bad new ideas may bother them, but when a clearly better new idea comes along, they fall into an existential panic.

Jesus wasn’t killed for being a bad man, after all. He was killed for being better.

In the end, this is about living and thriving. Everything else is merely a means to that end. We’ve chosen life, and if we occasionally suffer for it, our only real alternative is to walk away from ourselves.

I leave you with one of my favorite quotes, from Helen Keller. These are true words, and worthy of your consideration:

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.

To Freedom in 2014!

Paul Rosenberg

You Don’t Have to Look Far to Find a Certain Kind of Freedom

pro-freedom entertainmentLiberty is important, not for its own sake, but because it’s the condition that allows life to flourish. So, you could call the list below “pro-life.” However, since we don’t want to confuse this with an abortion debate, let’s just call it “Pro-Freedom.”

Two weeks ago, I published a list of important history books. Now, I’d like to start a list of pro-freedom entertainment: films, TV shows, and music that inspired me towards freedom, or opened my mind, or encouraged me, or in any way (to use a great but forgotten word) edified me. I’m casting a wide net.

I should note, by the way, that these are not all serious works – some are comedies, even a stupid comedy or two – but that doesn’t mean they aren’t valuable in their way.

I made this list fairly quickly, which means that I’m probably missing an awful lot. So, please add to the list if you can.

Here we go:


The Shawshank Redemption

V For Vendetta

The Matrix


Alongside Night

Atlas Shrugged, Part 1

Atlas Shrugged, Part 2

The Fountainhead

The Great Dictator

The Dead Poets Society


Fahrenheit 451

They Live

The Caine Mutiny


Enemy of the State


Rocky Balboa


Apollo 13

Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope

The Day The Earth Stood Still (1951)

Chariots of Fire


Gran Torino

October Sky

The Sound of Music



Young Sherlock Holmes

The Time Machine (1960)

The Legend of 1900

The Lives of Others

Television Series


Star Trek, Original Series, especially episodes #28, 34, 55 & 63

Have Gun Will Travel

The Twilight Zone, original series


Kung Fu

Kung Fu: The Legend Continues

Northern Exposure

Babylon 5


Steve McQueen, Sheryl Crow

Icarus: Bourne on Wings of Steel, Kansas

Purify, Lacuna Coil

Going Mobile, The Who

Won’t Get Fooled Again, The Who

I’m Free, The Who

Dream On, Aerosmith

Taxman, The Beatles

Hand Me Down World, The Guess Who

At The Stars, Better Than Ezra

Woodstock, Crosby, Stills & Nash

Carry On, Crosby, Stills & Nash

Highway Star, Deep Purple

Already Gone, The Eagles

Roll With The Changes, REO Speedwagon

Riding The Storm Out, REO Speedwagon

Ventura Highway, America

Born To Run, Bruce Springsteen

Étude in C minor (Revolutionary), Frederic Chopin

Polonaise in A Flat Major (Heroic), Frederic Chopin

Born To Be Wild, Steppenwolf

I’ve Got A Name, Jim Croche

Hero, David Crosby

The Morning After, Maureen McGovern

The Grand Illusion, Styx

Come Sail Away, Styx


Here are a few things that seem to have been important to a number of liberty people when they were young:

Peter And The Wolf, the audio version narrated by Sterling Holloway

Flatland : A Romance of Many Dimensions, by Edwin Abbott (Yes, this is a book.)

Deus Ex, a video game, versions 1 and 3


What can you add as great examples of Pro-Freedom (pro-life) Entertainment?

Paul Rosenberg

Could You Have Answered This Question?

servitudeSome years ago I found myself at dinner with a small group of people. We had a pleasant time, but soon enough, someone brought up my “weird” opinions. I explained that I was an advocate for freedom and opposed restrictions on it.

A spirited debate followed, of course, and at one point I said something about disliking servitude. In response, one of the people at the table – a medical professional – asked:

“What’s so bad about servitude?”

At first I was shocked, because I had never heard anyone say such a thing. I’m an American boy, after all, and I grew up surrounded by at least an implied demand for freedom.

But once past that, I realized I didn’t have an answer to the question. I had always taken it as a given that servitude was bad – not only from what I had heard and read, but from what I knew in my bones. I dug within myself for a serious response to the question, but I came up dry. I had no answer to give.

I continued the conversation as best I could, and perhaps I did some small amount of good. But, as I drove home, I realized that I had a problem. This man asked a simple and essential question, and I didn’t have an answer to it.

The Answer That Should Have Worked, But Didn’t

Needless to say, I did eventually come up with an obvious answer: Being in servitude means that other people control your life, and they can lead you into disaster at any time, purposefully or not.

I saw the man again not too long afterwards and brought up our initial conversation. I gave him my answer to that first question. His response?

“I’m doing okay.”

In other words, he didn’t care. Now that really bothered me.

By all outward appearances, he was in control and successful. But, aside from work-related activities, he avoided almost every subject I brought up. He didn’t want to explore any new thought, had no measurable curiosity, and was threatened by the very idea of freedom.


The answer, it turned out, was a simple one: This man liked the idea of other people running his life for him. That way, nothing would ever be his fault, and if things went badly, there would always be someone to blame.

No doubt you run into such people all the time – your friends, family and coworkers. To put it another way, my doctor friend didn’t really appreciate life itself. He grudgingly exerted himself in his medical trade, but wanted no further responsibility. He was happy to remain as minimally conscious as possible.

Now, I don’t want to pick on the fellow too much, but he makes a good example.

People have a tendency to hide behind masks. In this man’s case, the mask was “doctor.” There’s nothing wrong with being a doctor, of course, but to limit ourselves to a single role in life – even a good one – is a big mistake. We are vibrant, creative creatures by nature. You can see this in small children, who simply throw themselves into whatever subject interests them and expect to discover the truth of it. That’s our nature too, regardless of how badly it’s been beaten out of us over the years.

Freedom and Life

The feeling of zero restraint is exhilarating. And it’s wonderful to feel your natural preference to do good, separate from the fear of punishment. But even so, what’s really important about freedom is that it allows life to flourish.

In other words, freedom is a means, not an end.

It allows life to expand and to express itself. Again, the example of the child: He or she naturally wants to explore, to know, to see, to learn… to live, as opposed to merely existing.

Freedom allows life to operate. Servitude, on the other hand, limits life to narrow channels.

The truth is that people lose their love for liberty when they lose their love for life. For this man, following rules that others set made sense – it’s a safe position. But once there, he’ll never really grow again, and he will be cut off from a lifetime of discovery and satisfaction.

What’s bad about servitude is that it prevents us from living.

Bad News, Good News

The bad news you already know: To one extent or another, we’ve all let our love of life dim and have taken ‘safe’ positions. We live in a tough world after all.

The good news, however, is that we can regain what we’ve lost merely by changing our minds. As Earl Nightingale was famous for saying:

We become what we think about.

To repair ourselves requires that we think about these things – to notice when we begin playing a role, to act on curiosity when we feel it, to stop defending our previous choices, to expect surprises and opportunities.

Try it. You’ll like it.

Paul Rosenberg

Liberty And Art: How And Why Libertarians Have Failed

liberty artAs I have noted in my “Failure of the Libertarian Movement article,” libertarians have generally limited their activities to marginally useful areas like politics and economics but have seldom used them to illuminate and free the human spirit. Liberty is ideal for freeing the human spirit, but we really haven’t used it very well.

In fairness to the economic and political folks (and I’d have to include myself as one of the guilty), a lot of analytic ability was required to push through the thick web of statism that we grew up with in the 50s and 60s. Often, highly analytical people were the only ones who could push through it all without serious emotional damage. As a result, most of the early libertarians were moved, by both their skills and the situations they faced, into economics and politics.

But regardless of libertarianism’s unique past, politics and economics are not rich fields – they certainly matter, but they leave huge sections of the human experience unaddressed.

Music, on the other hand, is a much richer field, as are painting, sculpture, and a dozen other artistic endeavors.

Doing Art, Not Politics

There have been a few libertarians pursuing art (God bless them), but they have often felt a need to use the early libertarian model of political and economic analysis as fodder for their art. The results were not as good as they could have been.

Let me be clear about this: Mixing politics with art demeans the art. Actually politics plus art more or less equals propaganda. And it is not beautiful.

Mixing philosophy and art can be done, but it can’t be preachy, doctrinal philosophy. It needs to be immediate and real – the fruit of life lessons that you personally experienced – not someone else’s ready-made doctrine.

Art has to be fresh and exciting: authentic, soul-birthed emanations of light and love and passion. It can be wise passion, even intelligent passion, but it may NOT be formulaic or analytical.

There is nothing wrong with analysis, but it is not soul-breathed like good art. As much as I love passages from Rand, Rothbard, and Mises, they cannot be simply set to music and expected to take on a life-giving beauty.

Politics is external and economics is external; art is primarily about internal experiences and visions. Art is not at all mechanical; it is organic.

The Fields Are White for Harvest

The truth is that we libertarians hold the answer to the world’s problems in our hands, but we’ve never spread it beyond a few small and contained areas. There are vast areas lying open before us, and it is time for us to go out into them.

Liberty is the great handmaid of life and beauty on the earth. It is the great catalyst of new visions, the key that unlocks the barriers between people and their impossible dreams. Liberty empowers the life-force inside a billion individuals, and when touched by it they find new ways to release hidden talents, to remember lost epiphanies, and to reanimate their crushed spirits.

I am not trying to be poetic here – I am trying to describe the real situation that sits in front of us.

Let me say this again, in a slightly different way:

Liberty is really about life. The purpose of liberty is to allow human life to flourish. And it is art that reaches inside of people and touches the frustrated life inside of them, that draws it out of them and makes them believe that it can thrive in the world. Economics and politics, however necessary they may be, cannot do this.

What Now?

Here’s the great thing about art: There is – and can be – no plan.

Art is an expression of life. It must be planted and nourished separately in each of us. It grows differently in each of us, and it emerges differently from each of us and thus enters the world. We are each a unique womb of sorts, in which our art grows and matures.

It is our job as artists to take in the best seeds, to nourish them as best we can, and to be as purely honest with what we produce as possible.

When we create, we should not be focused on external things like approval, style or reward. (Though we must seriously develop our skills; they are essential to expression, after all.)

To create great art, we must focus on the thing itself: this new expression that is growing inside of us, the people we will give it to, and most of all, the unique nature of what we are producing.

Life improves every living thing it touches, and our job as artists is to birth these emanations of life into the world and to love the people we hope it will reach.

Each creation of yours will have its own nature and should be used in its own way, not according to anyone’s expectations. Plant and nourish the best seeds you can find, but let each thing that grows inside of you choose its own direction and nature.

But, most of all, go out and create. Don’t wait. Start small if you must, develop your skills at whatever pace you can, but do NOT sit still and wait for some magic day when “it happens.” Make passable art at first if you must start there, because passable art has a way of developing into good art, and that often becomes great art. But it will never develop at all until you are in motion.

And by all means, cooperate with other artists. Learn from them, teach them, collaborate. Think of this as cross-pollination: We are all unique, and we can pass those unique characteristics from one to another, and all benefit from the experience. To borrow a phrase from my economic training: Creation is positive sum game.

Creating art can be hard, frustrating and even disappointing. But if you give honest expressions to the things that really matter to you, to the things that mature within you, the effort will enrich you for life, and many others with you.

I wish you all the best.

Paul Rosenberg