This article was published in the Winter 1999-2000 issue of Formulations
by the Free Nation Foundation

Why FNF?
A Personal Exposé

by Richard O. Hammer

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I like a Big Challenge
Do We Need to Keep a Low Profile?
Why Don't I Seek Work in the Mainstream Libertarian Movement?

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Why have I spent seven years trying the farfetched scheme of FNF? Level-headed people ask this question.

As the new leadership of FNF has been taking shape, we have discussed what we should do in FNF. We have not agreed on all points. In such situations I think it is useful to take the "we" apart. It becomes worthwhile to study each person, asking "What do you want?"

Here, assuming it might help, I will try to answer that for myself. My readers must be wary of course. While I like to think that I can be honest, surely my ego may distort what I tell.

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I Like a Big Challenge

I am exhilarated by the challenge of engineering a free nation. It seems to me that a free nation could be built, consciously incorporating an engine of free enterprise to power whatever defense is needed, for the first time in history. I want to feel myself to be one of the builders of this grand, new kind of structure. For comparison I think of the Wright brothers, who engineered and flew the first powered airplane.

Many people have pointed out to me that I already enjoy many liberties in the US. And they point out that I could enjoy even more liberties if I would modify my approach. All I have to do is: invest offshore; get a passport from a second country; assume a low profile; take on some protective coloration. But this sounds berserk to me, given my love of the FNF big challenge.

Do you think that the Wright brothers did what they did because they, personally, wanted to be able to travel faster from city to city? If this had been their goal, I suppose wise counsel would have told them to invest in a better horse. But no. I suppose they were motivated by some heady dream. They saw a whole new frontier about to open for the first time. They wanted to open it, to create something that many people, as well as themselves, could enjoy. This is the way I feel about the free-nation challenge.

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Do We Need to Keep a Low Profile?

Once again, I think we can see more clearly if we split this question apart. Who is "we"? I do not need to keep a low profile, as I will explain.

But many people who get in touch with FNF seem to be using protective coloration, and perhaps for good reason.1 The state is big and nasty. People who decide to enjoy life in ways that the state deems punishable need to cover themselves. I endorse the efforts of these people, who are my friends in the libertarian movement, to live peaceably behind whatever guise they find appropriate. But, as these people make choices which require a low profile, I think they limit their ability to contribute in FNF’s mission of design and debate. So, apart from financial contributions, I think they cannot help much with FNF.

I believe it is possible for FNF to be completely open. I find it easier to be open, and not worry about what snoops might discover.

Please do not misunderstand me. I consider the state to be my enemy. As such I expect that the state might consider me to be its enemy. For all I know they watch my every move. They may have a bug in every room in my house. But that is okay with me, for these four reasons:

_First, I do not have much to hide. As a gullible boy growing up in America, I grew up wanting to be President. Until recent years I thought that one day I might hold political office. Harboring this ambition, I have lived all my life with the assumption that anything I do might be exposed by a hostile press. I have chosen, almost uniformly, to forego any short-term convenience or pleasure which, if it were exposed, might undermine my long-term ambition. As such, while my life history is not squeaky clean, it is close enough that I am not worried about exposure. I have lived with the model of Gandhi: If ever the state throws me into jail for violating one of its dictates, I calculate that the imprisonment will embarrass the state more than it embarrasses me.

Second, thanks to the founding fathers of the US, and to the US Constitution, there is still plenty of liberty in America. America still has a Bill of Rights, which even some statists affirm. Within bounds, we can still meet and publish to refine our ideas.

Third, if you will look at FNF’s publications as I suppose the CIA might look at them, you will see that FNF poses no threat to US interests. The end of all FNF’s academic work really is nothing more than a peaceful market transaction, probably between a corporation and a third-world government.

Fourth, to the extent that libertarian ideas do pose a threat to existing states, this truth is more powerful than any existing government. Existing governments might force those who would publish into temporary hiding, but they cannot stop the truth.

Because of these things, FNF can be completely open. Ludwig von Mises did not hide his statement showing how the constitution of socialism must fail. He published it.2 And FNF does not need to hide its statement showing how a constitution of liberty can succeed. We can publish it.

Now many libertarians, being in the habit of popular persuasion, might assume that FNF should try to grab headlines, since I say there is no reason for FNF to hide. But no. The mainstream media are beside the point to FNF. I believe that we should publish what we want in specialized media where our collaborators may be found. The mainstream media will ignore us almost completely, just as they ignored Mises. And that is fine.3

My plan in FNF has been to use the slack which still exists in the US. I can obey all their stinking laws and still carry out the FNF revolution. For me, obeying their stinking laws is a small price to pay for freedom to work toward FNF’s exciting goal.

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Why Don’t I Seek Work in the Mainstream Libertarian Movement?

While you are tolerating my essay about myself, let me add one more thread which may help you understand my future involvement, or lack thereof, in the libertarian movement. To some people it seems natural that I might seek a job in some better-funded libertarian think tank.

But first, I am not sure I have the right temperament for that kind of work. Unless I am mistaken, virtually every other libertarian think tank works to carry the messages of Mises and Hayek to the masses. Or, if not to the masses, to the "intellectuals" as Hayek described them. But in either case this work entails diluting the truth until it is thin enough that either the masses or the intellectuals will try some. Typically this work involves researching the effects of policies, discovering that voluntary solutions work better (surprise, surprise), and packaging the results in such a way that, hopefully, the mainstream media will pick them up. To me, this is like teaching "two plus two is four," again and again and again.

And second, I suspect that the popular-persuasion paradigm, which is worked by other libertarian think tanks, overlooks something essential about the nature of the state. The state is a living thing.4 It will not sit, statically absorbing the force of our arguments until finally it crumbles under the assault. Rather, it will enter the fray, actively fabricating arguments and building defenses. I doubt that the state will succumb to argument. It has to be out-organized. Or at least that is the paradigm I have pushed in FNF.

Nonetheless, the popular-persuasion paradigm is worthy work. I have to admit that it may have a higher chance of success than my free-nation paradigm. So I am thankful that many people undertake it. But to me it seems boring and perhaps misguided.

I want to work with people who join me in understanding, already, that two plus two is four. I seek collaborators in design more than I seek students. I am disposed more as an engineer than as a school teacher.

As I understand history, the Wright brothers never argued for their design of an airplane in the mainstream media. It never came up for a vote. Similarly, today, designers who conceive of a way to maximize the preservation of liberty, within an organization, do not need to beg acceptance from intellectuals. The organization can be started as soon as resources can be gathered. It does not matter what the majority thinks. This is my dream. D


1 Spencer H. MacCallum, “New Countries and the Case For Keeping One’s Cards Close to One’s Chest,” Formulations, Vol. V, No. 1 (Autumn 1997).

2 Ludwig von Mises, Socialism, (1922), 1981, LibertyClassics.

3How to Handle the Press,” Formulations, Vol. VI, No. 4 (Summer 1999).

4The State Is a Form of Life, a Legitimate Peer in the Family of Organizations,” Formulations, Vol. VI, No. 3 (Spring 1999).

Richard O. Hammer spent much of December 1992, writing Toward A Free Nation, a booklet which became the founding prospectus for the Free Nation Foundation. Now, frustrated for the time being in his effort to find collaborators in the FNF work plan, he is learning the Java programming language. He plans to find employment in e-commerce, and within a few years may start some e-business.

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