Where are our leaders? There’s the question of the day.
Tyrants and bureaucrats trample our rights. Freedom lovers are growing
angrier by the minute. But here we sit — informed, ready, but not
knowing what to do.
We are a vast and potentially powerful force. Though we disagree on
many things, virtually all freedom lovers hold to a central goal: less
government, more individual responsibility. We’re waiting here with a
well-defined, workable issue. But no one of stature is stepping forward
to seize the standard and lead us.
“Where’s our Thomas Jefferson?” people ask. “Our George Washington?
Our Madison? Our Adams, Paine, Henry, Joan of Arc, our free-market Che?”
Ed Moats of Shelton, Wash., put it as well as anyone when he wrote:
Action is risky, and people, separated and isolated, are
disinclined to court this risk unless they know they are part of
something larger than themselves. The role of leadership is to create
this something, then lead it into action.
Where have you gone, Thomas Jefferson? Our nation turns its
lonely eyes to you…
But leaders are dangerous as well as great. What if this time
we didn’t get a Jefferson, or a Henry or a Sam Adams? What if this time
we got a Lenin or a Pol Pot? In desperate times, people have a history
of following the worst, not the most thoughtful.
That’s one of many reasons I don’t join the call for leaders. Still,
the question hangs there, pending, brooding, looming like a
thundercloud. Where are the leaders of the freedom movement?
Maybe we ought to ask what we’re looking for. When we talk about
leadership, we’re talking about at least four different things:
Where are they all in this soul-trying time?
Not even worth talking about. The crop of contenders is pathetic.
Most are folks with an ax to grind, more than a vision of freedom. This
guy says he wants smaller government — but only after we’ve militarized
our borders and jailed a few million more hapless dopers, thank you.
That guy says he wants smaller government — but only after
giving the central state additional unconstitutional powers to police
doctors’ offices and bedrooms. The other guy is genuinely
committed to smaller government — but is backed by a corrupt and
ineffective party machine.
But even if Thomas Jefferson rose again (sans slaveholding and
womanizing, please) he couldn’t get enough of a hearing to draw more
than five percent of any nationwide vote.
“What, you don’t want to give anybody anything? You want to
take away benefits? You’re going to take away my subsidy?
How can you be so mean-spirited, Tom? Where’s your
compassion? What about the children?”
The political arena is where freedom is sold — but never acquired.
We’ve got ’em. Well potentially we have them. We’ve wonderful
writers, from Vin Suprynowicz to Walter Williams to our own Joseph
Farah. We own the radio airwaves.
But most freedom-loving commentators focus almost entirely on the
problem, not on truly effective solutions. They get us angry,
but offer no direction out of anger and into liberation. Our
commentators, unfortunately, leave that to the novelists.
In a sense, they have little choice. Anyone who speaks
non-fictionally about effective solutions will be shut out by the
mainstream media — and probably arrested, audited or otherwise subjected
to the tender mercies of power lovers. Advocating resistance is
I do believe the freedom movement could be electrified by a visionary
writer or speaker — not just another superb muckraker, or another media
clown with an agenda, but someone with a true vision of how it would
be to live free and why it’s worth getting there. And I miss this
leader, deeply. Where have you gone, Ayn Rand?
Reader Mitch McConnell writes from the “Live Free or Die” state:
No [freedom movement] will be effective if only each person
“chooses his own way” of resisting. After all, a single person can be
rounded up and jailed (or shot) easier than a crowd! Even for some of
the ideas you mention, like resisting SSN requests, would be effective
only if practiced on a massive scale by many thousands of people.
It may be dangerous to try and organize such disobedience, but that
is part of the liberty equation, too.
Again, he’s right, in a way. For the record, although I (like many
before me) focus on individual resistance, I’m not against organizing. It’s one
valid tactic in a varied world of tactics. Organizing
around specific issues like SSN resistance also has an advantage: It
doesn’t require nation-striding greatness. If you have some analytical
skills, people skills and persistence — you can do it.
As Mitch acknowledges, it is dangerous. But I differ with his
assessment of the danger. On the contrary, it’s easier to bust a militia
group, burn a church, or mow down 2,000 people in a public square than
it is to identify, catch and prosecute a lone individual who screws up a
privacy-invading database, silently retaliates against a thug, carries a
gun without a government license, or refuses to fill out a “required”
The person who chooses to step forth as a leader of resistance also
becomes a juicy target. Governments know that by ruthlessly crushing
that single person they can often kill a movement. Is it worth
But maybe Mitch and I can both be right. What if someone came up with
workable, detailed and fairly easy strategies for resistance — so that
people who didn’t want to do their own brainwork could just “follow Plan
A”? What if Plan A could mutate into Plan B at the speed of light? What
these organizational leaders remained anonymous, well-secured and
ever-moving — as effective resistance leaders have always done in dire
times? What if they spread their plans through a vast, amorphous network
without a central headquarters? A network capable of reaching millions,
rapidly, invisibly? Now, there we’d have something powerful.
What, you say? It’s already being done? Yeah, it sounds a lot like
every day on the Internet. All that remains is for resistance leaders to
come up with the right, simple plans and make effective use of this
It’s too early. The poor, busted militia movement showed that —
though it was a noble try, guys.
This is the one area in which — if it comes to that — we really
will need, en masse, to follow traditional leaders. It’s also the
one area where I’m sure the freedom movement does have potential
leadership. I hear from too many freedom loving veterans, soldiers,
fighters and strategic thinkers to doubt that.
In the meantime, we’re still left with the one category of leader we
don’t have to wait and hope for, the one we can follow today:
We are all leaders of our own lives. And no government is powerful
enough to crush a million or more separate, silent, resistance
We can sit around and wait for heroes. Most of us will. But if we
take our own freedom into our own hands — if we actively resist tyranny
with all our might and mind — we may even find, someday, that we
are the leaders and the heroes we’ve been longing for.
Personal note: Jim Bovard
— who has been praised and denounced in more exalted circles than I —
told me this week that my first book, 101 Things to Do ‘Til the
Revolution is currently at number five on the Modern Library
readers-choice list of the 100 best non-fiction
books of the twentieth century.
I was, to say the least, dumbstruck. While I suspect there must be a
friendly conspiracy somewhere to stuff the ballot box… well, who’s
gonna complain? I can only say thank you to all the unknown readers who
raised 101 Things up so high. And — since voting for as many as
separate titles per day is allowed — GO! Vote early and often for your
freedom favorites. There are already lots of intriguing books among the
100, including Jim’s new and powerful Freedom
in Chains (which deserves a strong push upward).