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I love the Star Wars movies, created by George Lucas. Often I recall scenes and lines. In one scene Chewbacca, the wookiee, and Artoo Detoo, a droid, are playing a game like chess. Artoo Detoo seems to be winning. But this should not surprise us; Artoo is a computer. The wookiee, a huge apelike creature, screams with exasperation.
Artoo Detoo's friend See Threepio is watching the game. At first See Threepio protests that the wookiee should stop his screaming; after all, the move was fair. But See Threepio changes his tone after being reminded that wookiees, when they lose, sometimes tear arms out of sockets. See Threepio turns to Artoo Detoo and suggests a new strategy: "Let the wookiee win."
We libertarians might identify with Artoo Detoo. In the game of debating economics, most of us probably believe that we can whip our statist rivals in every fair contest. But unfortunately, as in Artoo Detoo's game, our game of astute debate is set within a larger game –– a game of majoritarian populist appeal. And in that larger game physical power prevails. So should we take the advice of See Threepio?
As you probably know, the work plan of the Free Nation Foundation grows out of the belief that we should acknowledge what seems to be happening to us in the larger game. It seems to me that we are spending perhaps 80% of our political energy trying to convince the majority of our neighbors to disavow statism. And it seems to me that we are losing. Many libertarians respond to this threat with an obvious strategy: increase the energy invested in the fight to 90% or 99%. But what if even this increment will not stem the tide? Will another row of sandbags confine the Mississippi River? Maybe. But is it wise for us to spend the last 20% of our energy this way?
Maybe we should acknowledge that in the game of democratic-decisions-about-government-controls the statists enjoy a most awesome record of wins to losses. Maybe, rather than throw everything we have got into one more attempt to teach Austrian economics to the masses, we should reserve some of what we have for use in another game. Maybe we should invest a fraction on planning a refuge.
But I do not suggest a mournful retreat, in which, with heads bowed, we mumble submission: "Let the wookiee win." Were not Adam Smith and Friedrich Hayek right? Did not Milton and Rose Friedman show us that we hold the strongest cards in the deck? We can identify not only with the subtlety of the droid, but also with the muscle of the wookiee.
As events are unfolding now in western democracies, we try to draw our adversaries into our preferred game, economic debate. But they defeat us by simply refusing to acknowledge the legitimacy of our game. They switch instead to the greater game which they can win. But now it is our move. And it seems to me that we too can switch games. Why should we think that we have to play this game of no-property-rights with them? If our economic theories are correct, there must be a way that we can buy our way out –– and even leave our socialist rivals richer for the trade.
In my efforts to organize this Foundation I have been learning that libertarians are an individualist lot. Probably I should not be surprised. But as individuals we may each do well to make use of the few rights that we still retain from the Constitution written by the founders of America. We can still communicate, gather, and plan together. We still have this advantage over the poor souls in old East Berlin who, all alone, had to plan their individual attempts on the wall.
Do you believe in that invisible hand? Then join us. If we organize I believe we can get that hand working for us. Let the wookiee win! D
Richard Hammer owns a small business building houses in Hillsborough, North Carolina. He writes frequent columns, interpreting political events in a libertarian frame. On three occasions he has run for local political office. In the past he worked as an engineer and management scientist.
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