This article was published in the Spring 1996 issue of Formulations
by the Free Nation Foundation
 
Keeping Our Freedom in an Unfree World
 
by Mary Ruwart

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Outline
--introduction
Dealing With the Internal Threat
Dealing With the External Threat
The Swiss Strategy for Survival
 
 
 

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Let's imagine we were indeed able to obtain a tract of land, build an ocean platform, or otherwise obtain a place to create a free nation. How would we could we keep it free?

A free nation would be threatened by internal and external aggressors. Effective defense against both would be necessary.

 

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Dealing With the Internal Threat

The United States has succumbed to the internal threat. No nation has subjugated us; we have given away our freedom. After avoiding military conquest, Americans began to slowly acquiesce to government aggression, believing it would benefit them (or their chosen interests). The belief that aggression against others benefits us more than honoring our neighbors' choice underlies the internal threat. Our human nature makes us selfish, seeking to improve our lot. As long as we believe that aggression benefits us, we will acquiesce to big government and forfeit our own freedom.

Even individuals who believe that aggression violates individual rights will sometimes rationalize aggression in the name of a greater good. I have personally witnessed such deviations from principle on more than one occasion. We are only free from such temptation when we become convinced that aggression backfires every time.

Even if we were to establish a free nation and avoid military subjugation, we would face this internal threat. As our free nation prospered, immigration would accelerate. Unless the immigrants really understood what freedom was and how aggression backfires, some would eventually lobby for government aggression. The more successful the free nation, the more immigrants there would be. Eventually, the perspective of the immigrants would overwhelm that of the free nation's founders. A constitution, as we've seen with the United States, provides little real protection. Only a belief that aggression harms, not helps, the aggressor will ever lay the internal threat to rest.

Limiting immigration by law would be a form of aggression and would backfire in several ways. By keeping the free nation small, it would make it more vulnerable to external threats. Requiring some sort of oath-taking by prospective immigrants would hardly be effective, since an unprincipled person could simply say whatever was required of them and do as they pleased.

The key to preventing internal aggression would probably be continuous education and debate, both within and without the free nation. In the U.S. today, 95% of restaurant customers tip their servers because it's the cultural norm. If the cultural norm of the free nation was continuing education and discussion of the nature and benefits of freedom, immigrants would experience considerable social pressure to explore their own feelings in these matters. As they became convinced that aggression would not serve them, they would have no incentive to turn to it. Ultimately, showing that aggression doesn't work is the only lasting defense against it.

(The reasoning behind my statement that aggression backfires and harms the aggressors is detailed in Healing Our World. Briefly, however, aggression inhibits the creation of wealth so much that aggressors are poor compared to what they would have in a free world; a belief in aggression triggers biochemical cascades that are harmful to individual health and lower life expectancy; our human nature requires us to reject aggression in order to enjoy lasting happiness.)

How would a free nation create a society that engaged virtually all its citizenry in continuing debate and education about the virtues of liberty? One possibility might be to declare the date of the nation's founding as a day of celebration. On that date every month, it might be customary to have several neighbors gather to dine together and debate the viewpoint of the speaker's chosen topic. Every month, a different neighbor might be assigned to spearhead the discussion. If the nation's founding citizens established this as custom, immigrants would be invited, become involved, and carry on the tradition. Although these meetings would be attended voluntarily, the founders might agree to commit themselves to such an endeavor in order to preserve what they had established against internal threats. If such a tradition became part of the nation's culture, considerable social pressure would be brought to bear on those who didn't wish to participate.

Of course, many other forms and forums for continuing education and debate about the benefits of freedom are possible. We lost our culture of liberty in the U.S. and forgot how it worked to serve us. Some way must be found to counter that internal threat for a free nation to survive.

 

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Dealing With the External Threat

The external threat to the free nation also springs from the belief that aggression is a useful means to an end. Invasion from outsiders could occur because a foreign government wished to steal the wealth of a free nation. However, I believe that foreign governments would see the free nation more as a threat to their own power. After all, the example of how well the U.S. fared without a king inspired citizens of other countries to take political power away from their own royalty. Certainly, any far-sighted aggressor government would fear the example of a free nation prospering without much political oversight. Most Western governments today get their power from the consent, however begrudging, of the governed.

If a Western government or coalition decided to attack, blatant military force could effectively overpower a small country. Even if the free nation could recruit the brainpower and the money to defend itself, the might of the U.S. government, acting with the United Nations, would be likely to out-muscle any attempts at traditional defense.

The United States itself survived its infancy in large part due to its relative isolation from the superpowers of the day. The cost of sailing across an ocean to attack the free nation was prohibitive over the long term. The colonists had only to survive long enough to exhaust Great Britain's treasury.

Today, such a strategy just isn't feasible. Technology has made the world much smaller. A fledgling free nation would not be likely to hold out long enough to bankrupt the aggressors.

However, much can be learned from watching how Switzerland, with only a part-time national government, manages to maintain its relative independence from the world's superpowers. The Swiss refuse to join the United Nations or participate in a common European currency. The Swiss now enjoy a higher per capita income than U.S. citizens. Since the production of wealth and freedom are linked, this indicator suggests that, over the last few decades, the Swiss have gained freedom (or lost less of it) relative to North Americans. Why haven't aggressive governments seen Switzerland as a threat and tried to bring her to her knees with military might?

 
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The Swiss Strategy for Survival

The survival of Swiss sovereignty in today's world isn't primarily due to the fact that every Swiss man is a trained soldier with a weapon in his home. I rather doubt that an armed citizenry would deter determined modern invaders with nuclear weapons and missile-bearing aircraft at their disposal, especially if their primary purpose was to destroy an example of how wonderful freedom is.

Ground wars are only fought when an aggressor wants to loot. An aggressor government would be most likely interested in crushing a free nation just to keep it from serving as an example to the aggressor's oppressed populace. There needn't be anybody or anything left to serve that purpose. Surrender is not even necessary if the object of the attack is to simply render the other country dysfunctional.

So how has Switzerland avoided attack? Isn't it a threat to all Western governments with its small central government and gold-backed currency that prevents the massive inflation that politicians are so fond of? I speculate that there are two factors that have protected Switzerland thus far. First, those who fear the example of Switzerland as a free nation are counting on the internal threat to destroy it from within. Although national government is part-time, the local governments of the cantons are often quite oppressive.

Second, Switzerland, by accident or design, provides a service to those who profit from aggressive governments. Switzerland gives government-associated plunderers a place to stash their cash. Those secret numbered bank accounts in a stable, secure nation are one of the safest places in the world to protect their ill-gotten gains (remember where the Iran/Contra profits ended up?). Government aggression is concentrating the world's wealth in the hands of the few. Once confiscated, the aggressors must protect it. What better way than to place it in a relatively free nation that protects a person's right to secrecy and backs its currency with gold to preserve its value? This service outweighs, in the aggressors' minds at least, the threat that a relatively free nation poses. Ironically, Switzerland is able to provide this service better than other nations because it is relatively more free than the aggressor nations it serves! Thus, an attack on Switzerland or these specific freedoms would be an attack on the aggressors themselves!

Aggressors, therefore, find themselves in a quandary with Switzerland. They want to (and do) violate the banking secrecy laws and right to privacy to find out which of their citizens are evading their taxes and confiscation tactics. On the other hand, they want to safeguard these freedoms and rights to protect their ill-gotten gains. This schizophrenic attitude, I believe, is largely responsible for Switzerland's survival.

The free market (such as it is) has survived to a large extent for the same reasons. Governments and their special-interest support groups want total control of the economy. However, when they have it, such as they did in the Soviet Union, little wealth is created. When there is nothing to seize any longer, they must loosen their hold and allow some freedom, so that wealth creation -- and their looting -- can continue.

If a free nation is to survive subjugation by another country or world coalition, such as the United Nations, it may very well need to position itself to take advantage of freedom's attractiveness, even to those who seek to take it from others. A nation wishing to stay free might need to provide an indispensable service to aggressors, one that only freedom permits.

One might legitimately ask how moral it would be to deliberately try to serve the enemy. As long as there is an "enemy," someone who believes that aggression serves them, our free nation is threatened. Somehow, we need to teach the enemy that liberty serves them too. Once this realization occurs for our enemy, he or she becomes a friend. Real-life examples may provide the best instruction. Providing a service for would-be aggressors helps them understand how aggression will hurt them and stays their hand -- at least temporarily.

During that moment of hesitation, the free nation prospers. Immigration swells the ranks of those who believe in liberty, thanks to continuing education that pervades the free nation's culture. In today's world of rapid communication, the success of the free nation becomes common knowledge. Other citizenries clamor for this better way and start to withdraw the power of legitimacy from their governments. Attacking the free nation becomes less politically sound and does little good, because the example and its truth have already "infected" the oppressed peoples of the world. People who understand and want liberty begin to network and share ideas of how to counter aggression. Internet communications is rapidly linking them into a virtual community that cannot be bombed out of existence.

Something similar helped contribute to the break up of the Soviet Union. With modern communications beaming satellite pictures of what was happening in other countries and phone lines supplying fax messages, the Soviet citizens realized they were being ripped off. They withdrew their support from a government that couldn't give them what liberty could. Unfortunately, they are still in a state of confusion, as much of their information about freedom comes from Western governments that don't understand it either!

Ultimately, the survival of a free nation, whether geographically contained or not, depends upon education. As long as people believe that aggression serves them, they will fight for it every bit as hard as libertarians fight for freedom. We will always be at war, always be in danger. As necessary as military defense might be at times, we must not lose sight of the most effective defense of all. We must invite our enemies to truly act in their best self-interest by abandoning the aggression that boomerangs back to them. We must address their self-interest to serve our own. Naturally, the place to start is with those who understand at least some of the principles of freedom.

The best defense of our free nation is the creation of a free world. D

 

Mary Ruwart is author of the acclaimed book Healing Our World: The Other Piece of the Puzzle. A frequent speaker at conferences, she is a prominent force in the Libertarian Party., and a member of the Board of Directors of the International Society for Individual Liberty. She holds a Ph.D. in Biophysics, has worked as a Professor of Surgery, and until recently served as a senior research scientist at Upjohn. She has been honored in Who's Who and Outstanding American Men and Women of Science.

 

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