Libertarian/anarchist Chris Cantwell wrote this brilliant article about his expulsion from the Free State Project.
Porcupine Non Grata
Jody Gevins Underwood emailed me today concerning last nights board meeting of the Free State Project, and the motion to kick me out of the organization. Below is the exact text of that email, and then I will give you my thoughts on the matter.
The FSP Board met last night to discuss your situation and what to do. Our decision is stated below, which includes our reasoning.
Whereas Chris Cantwell has made the following public statements, been offered the opportunity to retract, and has refused to do so: “It’s a terribly unpopular thing to say, but the answer, at some point, is to kill government agents,” and “any level of force necessary for anyone to stop any government agent from furthering said coercion [tax collection in the context of funding the salaries of all government employees] is morally justifiable…”
Whereas the FSP Board believes this view exceeds the right of self-defense
Whereas the Policy and Procedure for Removing Participants (passed 7/11/04) states:
Participants may be removed for promoting violence, racial hatred, or bigotry. Participants who are deemed detrimental to the accomplishment of the Free State Project’s goals may also be removed.
Therefore, according to the Policy and Procedure for Removing Participants, the FSP Board removes Chris Cantwell as a participant and declares him unwelcome to attend FSP-organized events.
In peace and liberty,
for the FSP Board
What this means is, I’ve been removed from the list of FSP participants, and I’m not welcome at events like PorcFest. It means the FSP has chosen to alienate not only me, but thousands of other people who agree with me, or even disagree with me but want to continue the conversation. It means that rather than write a coherent response to my blog, they would rather cut off communication and discourage others from having philosophical and tactical discussions (two different things) about the proper application of force.
What this doesn’t mean is, you shouldn’t move to New Hampshire, the Free State Project is fascist or doesn’t believe in free speech, or any number of other negative things people have said about the FSP in an effort to support me. This sort of rhetoric is counter productive. The FSP is voluntary, they can associate with whom they see fit. I believe in freedom of association, if the FSP doesn’t want me, who the hell am I to impose myself upon them? I’m still free to say whatever I want, I just can’t come to their party. I’m still free to live within the arbitrary geopolitical boundary commonly known as New Hampshire, I’m just not a member of this particular organization. I’m not ostracized by every member of the Free State Project, in fact I’m still facebook friends with the president thereof, this is a PR stunt to avoid unwanted attention. New Hampshire is a great place to live, and the FSP board is only 5 people.
Now, there’s quite a bit to say about this. Not the least of which is, I knew it was going to happen when I wrote “Concord Police, Go and Get Your Bearcat“. I alluded to that in the article when I said “the inevitable outrage that this article will invoke from libertarians may serve as further proof” [of their aversion to violence]. If anything, I’m surprised it took so long. When I moved to New Hampshire last year I found myself in a similar mess, but with a much lower profile and much tamer rhetoric, and it made me realize that there’s very little hope for the cause of liberty because there’s almost nobody willing to actually fight for it. I sought to change that, and my strategy is working.
Think of it as private sector civil disobedience. Other people go to prison for their beliefs, I think it’s quite a small sacrifice for me to miss PorcFest for mine. People are afraid to even discuss the use of force as a moral concept, much less a useful tactic in the fight for freedom. Since force is inevitable, as evidenced by our friends in cages and caskets, somebody has to talk about these things. I’d prefer it wasn’t me. Saying the things I say puts my life in danger and causes me a great deal of trouble in my interpersonal relationships. Unfortunately, there is only one other voice in the voluntarist community I can think of willing to talk about it, and that’s Larken Rose. Seems unfair to let one man shoulder all that burden. I hope that others will join the discussion, that’s part of why I’m saying the things I’m saying, and again, my strategy is working.
By threatening to kick me out over a blog, the FSP helped me draw light to this subject and made a lot of people talk about it. Yesterday, social media was buzzing with philosophical and tactical conversations over the use of force, and most of what I saw acknowledged that a line exists where force was necessary and proper. There’s still a lot of difference over where exactly that line is, and that’s a personal decision for each individual to make on their own. I think it’s important for people to discuss that more often, because as we’ve seen, things are getting worse out there, and the rate of change is picking up.
The IRS is targeting political enemies, the NSA monitors nearly all of our communications, the Nobel Peace Prize winning president who was elected as an antiwar candidate is preparing to launch yet another unprovoked attack on a foreign country while several such conflicts already exist, Boston fell to martial law on the day the first shots of the American Revolution were fired, Adam Kokesh is held in solitary confinement over a YouTube video, and by the way we still have high taxes, inflation, over-regulation, the war on drugs, a complete disregard for the bill of rights, and all the other things libertarians have been complaining about since before the coining of the term libertarian. If that line has not been crossed yet, it’s time to have a serious discussion over just where that line is. If not now, then when? If not you, then who? Decide now, because if you decide after you’ve been disarmed, things are going to become much more complicated.
I think the predominant line of thinking within the voluntarist community can be attributed largely to Stefan Molyneux, a brilliant man who I enjoy listening to. The strategy is a multigenerational solution, which means we allow this madness to continue for another 200 years or more. We leave this struggle for future generations to suffer through, we all die as slaves, we raise our children as slaves, and we hope against all evidence that reason will win out over force and irrationality, and eventually mankind will live in a world where the good guys always win. While this is a fine thing to desire, my study of history leads me to believe otherwise.
Larken said it best, ironically enough as a paid speaker at PorcFest, when he said “might does not make right, but it does make outcomes”. Ultimately, good will win out over evil when the good guys are better at using force, and more willing to use force, than the bad guys. It is an inescapable fact that people who will use force will always defeat people who are not willing to use force, and if violence is to be the exception rather than the rule, then those with the greatest aversion to violence are going to have to come to terms with its necessity and inevitability.
I find it really funny how things get taken out of context, and how people can’t seem to draw a line between philosophical and tactical discussions. Last year it was paperclips. This year it’s killing the mailman. As if I’m actually advocating you shoot a little girl in the face for stepping on your flowers. People will always jump to these absurd fictitious scenarios when they want to find something to disagree with you about. Every anarchist should know this by now, how many times have you been accused by some sheep of wanting to legalize slavery or child pornography? I mean, you could beat around the bush, or you could just run with it.
The paperclip incident, comes from a discussion about a burglar being shot by the Keene Police Department last year while trying to escape. A faction of activists from Keene claimed this was murder, and my contention was that the property owner would have been justified in shooting the burglar, so while I disagree with the existence of a compulsory police department, as things stand the KPD was justified in acting on behalf of the property owner when they shot the burglar. If the property owner took issue with their actions, that of course, would be a different story.
This lead to a philosophical discussion on the use of force to protect property, where it was posed to me by Jason Talley “Do you have the right to shoot someone over a paperclip?”. Sure, why not? It’s my paperclip, he stole it, I have the right to defend and retrieve my property using whatever level of force is necessary. Now, shooting someone over a paperclip seems like a waste of a bullet, and the cleaning costs would surely be astronomical especially if we were on a carpeted floor. I also think that people would look at you funny and think twice about associating with you if you did that, but if you ask a silly question, expect a silly answer.
Jody saw fit to take out of context in her response, my mention of justification for killing any government agent from the more recent controversy. In case you haven’t read the transcript of my email discussion with her, after the initial threat to kick me out of the FSP, Jody responded,
I’ve read your blog post again, and I’m not actually clear about what you’re advocating. Are you suggesting that people defend themselves in the moment, for example, when they are threatened with being kidnapped? Or to preemptively kill a government agent who has not personally interacted with them? I’m not sure the FSP board would agree with either, but there’s a huge difference in my mind.
More than anything, I want to put the question of force back into the larger discussion of tactics. What answers are reached in that discussion remain to be seen.
For me personally, all government agents are paid through coercive means, so from a purely philosophical angle, any level of force necessary for anyone to stop any government agent from furthering said coercion is morally justifiable.
The question then necessarily moves to efficacy, and opening fire on the mailman seems like a rather senseless use of ammunition, not to mention the loss of life and public relations problems. To ask whether or not a person would be justified in shooting a cop to avoid arrest on the other hand is also a no brainer, of course they would be justified.
I say we have the discussion on where to draw the line between the two examples, that’s impossible to do if I’m worrying about who’s going to get pissed off or threaten me over my writings, so I’m not going to take such things into consideration.
So, to be clear, I’m saying that a person is absolutely justified in shooting a cop in self defense. If you disagree with me on that, then sleep well, slave. But I’m most certainly not saying you should shoot the mailman. The mailman is a thief, because he knowingly receives stolen money. The State obfuscates responsibility so that nobody is ever really responsible for their crimes, the elected officials operate on a demand from the people, the tax collector and the police officer are just following orders, the mailman is just doing his job, etc, etc… Does that excuse them of their crimes? No. Does that mean we should kill them? No.
Perhaps we should just arrest the mailman, we’ll get a man in a robe to write on a piece of paper that the mailman is subject to arrest for suspicion of conspiracy to commit grand larceny, then we will steal some money and pay two guys to take him into custody, and we’ll coerce 12 people into a court room to judge his guilt and if he is guilty then another man in a robe will decide how long we should hold him in Jody Underwoods basement. Now, there’s quite a bit of violence being advocated in this example too, but people don’t freak out as much because they’ve been conditioned to accept this as justice. Let’s think this through though, if you arrest the mailman, his family will call the police, the police will investigate his disappearance, and whether or not they are successful, they will at least try to track him to Jody’s basement at which point they will use any level of force necessary to break him out, up to and including burning down the house, killing everyone inside the home including the mailman, and delivering his bones to his family for burial. If all these people are going to die, then it makes a lot more sense and causes a lot less violence if we just shoot the mailman where he stands and drop the gun and run away.
If I point out that it makes a lot more sense to leave the mailman alone, am I still advocating violence by painting this picture? Apparently.
But if it is justified to shoot a cop in self defense, is it not justified to shoot the politician who wrote the law that orders the cop to kidnap you? Is it not justified to shoot the tax collector who sends the letter that is inevitably followed by cops coming to kidnap you? The judge who writes the warrant? The mailman who delivers the threatening letter? Philosophical questions all, and I think it a shame that so many people say we can’t even discuss it.
Tactically speaking, I got a speeding ticket in New Hampshire last week, I had a gun, and surprisingly enough, I’m not on the run for murder. I’m probably not even going to fight the ticket in court, I’ll probably have the mailman deliver my payment.
What Should You Do?
You should do, whatever you want to do. That’s sort of the whole point, isn’t it? I plan on living my life in New Hampshire whether the FSP wants to acknowledge my presence or not. I think it would be cool if you joined me there. Unless the FSP sees the error they made and decides to reverse their decision, I won’t be attending PorcFest or Liberty Forum, but if you haven’t been to these events, you owe it to yourself to go at least once. Aside from that, there’s really no other implication to the decision of the FSP, so I’m really not that concerned about this decision, and you shouldn’t be either. It’s just a silly symbolic gesture by 5 people who take themselves too seriously. Being kicked out of the FSP for being an advocate of forceful resistance, is like being kicked out the Libertarian Party for being an anarchist as far as I’m concerned, only less significant. (No, I haven’t been kicked out of the LP, I left on my own because I got bored.)
If I could offer the FSP some advice, perhaps changing your guidelines to something like “credible threat of violence” would help preserve some of your credibility, because this is all really silly. Everybody who knows me, knows that I’m a threat to no voluntarist, and banning me from PorcFest was out of line. Especially after I rocked Soap Box Idol, not once, but twice.
Whatever you do, don’t ban Larken Rose. His talks at PorcFest are really important, it won’t help preserve your consistency any, and the last thing you need to do is alienate more philosophically sound non-aggressionists.