An Introduction to Inactivism
by Thomas L. Knapp
I meet lots of activists; as a matter of fact, I'm one myself. This introduction isn't intended to insult activists or to denigrate the need for activism. Instead, I'd like to focus on an essential difference between outwardly directed political or social activity and personal accomplishment of the same goals that that outwardly directed energy is spent promoting.
ac·tiv·ism, n. 1. the doctrine or practice of vigorous action or involvement as a means of achieving political or other goals, sometimes by demonstrations, protestes, etc.
(Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged Distionary of the English Language, New York 1996, p. 20)
in·ac·tiv·ism, n. the doctrine or practice of personal withdrawal of consent and participation in institutions whose functions run counter to one's personal, political or social philosophy.
(You read it here first)
Inactivism, rightly understood, is actually a form of activism, but one which depends to a far smaller degree on persuading and educating others; its effects are more reliable, because it requires the commitment of only one person -- yourself. Another term for inactivism might be "personal secession." The concept of inactivism has been long understood and promoted by various people under other names; I make no claim to having discovered the idea, although I hope that this essay will introduce some to the concept and induce them to adopt it for use. This introduction to inactivism is, ironically, a piece of activism.
Just Say "No"
Libertarians are fond of protesting -- in print, in person, and through political mechanisms -- the injustices of the state. Our hope, of course, is to persuade enough people to agree with us, and to agree with us vehemently enough, to effect changes in the principles, persons and policies that constitute government.
That's nice. It might even work to one degree or another. And, while it requires a lot of effort, it has its own rewards. I'm not suggesting that libertarians leave the Libertarian Party, stop writing nastygrams for publication in their local newspaper, or give up political discourse. What I am suggesting is that there are alternative methods by which one can not only advance the cause for political change, but reap personal rewards that result in a lifestyle more in keeping with one's values.
A rally against the income tax may accrue to the weight of a movement toward its repeal at some time in the future. Finding ways to reduce the ability of the state to extort the income tax from one's personal income, on the other hand, does the same thing and more. It reduces government revenue -- making it harder both to fund other objectionable programs and, happily, to enforce the revenue code itself. It makes the overall "prize pool" of taxation smaller, reducing the incentive to continue the tax. And, of course, it enhances one's assets by the amount now no longer forked over, as well as eliminating the headache of filling out reams of paperwork to convince the bastards that you've paid them as much as they say you "owe."
A protest against Carnivore, Echelon or other electronic eavesdropping projects may accrue to the weight of a movement toward reducing the state's mandate and ability to spy on the populace. Finding ways to protect one's own communications from unwanted scrutiny, on the other hand, does the same thing and more. Not only does it achieve your own personal privacy, but it reduces the "target pool" of potential wiretap victims, making it less possible, and therefore less attractive, for the government to even try.
A protest against the Federal Reserve system, fiat currency and bank reporting laws that invade privacy may accrue to the weight of a movement toward real money and sacrosanct financial privacy. Going to a gold-based economic existence yourself ... well, you get the idea.
"Build it and they will come" has been an unstated assumption behind every government project. Impose an income tax, and people will pay it. Develop the ability to wiretap, and no one will stop them from listening in. Print pieces of paper and designate them "legal tender," and people will use them.
That assumption, given the currently available technology, is no longer true.You can, to a great degree, just say "no" to government intrusion in your life.
In the following section, I will describe, and link to, several products and services. Some of them are free, some are not. Some of the non-free ones are linked to in such a manner as to generate income for me should you choose to purchase them via the link. Am I doing this for the money? Yes, partially. Eccentric libertarian authors have to eat, too. Up front, however, I will tell you this: I have an E-Gold account. My Internet service provider is Anonymizer. I buy books from Laissez Faire, and I use PGP. I'm not going to point you at goods and services I haven't used, and found satisfactory, myself.
I do not hold myself, and will not be held by others, responsible for any ensuing relationship you may develop with the vendors I link to; or for any particular activities you may undertake. I'm not responsible for your decision to fill out -- or not fill out -- your 1040 this year. If you decide to set up an e-cocaine distribution service, it's your problem. I'm not going to go down with or for you. The purpose of this essay, and the included links, is to make it possible for you to realize your values in actuality. Do not make the mistake of assuming that those values, or the consequences of your actions, belong to anyone but yourself.
Conversely, where I link to goods, services or information, discard any assumption that they endorse this essay or any other aspect of my existence or work. They do not. I have not asked them to, nor do I have any particular reason to believe that they would. I've chosen these resources because I believe that you will find them useful; and, secondarily, because referring others to some of them may be profitable. Always the former, sometimes the latter.
Securing Your Internet Connection
It is my belief that each and every individual has a complete right to engage in any peaceful activity they may desire to engage in, without the permission, supervision or interference of others.In recent years, the Internet has developed along lines that both compromise the privacy of its users, and offer avenues by which those compromises may be guarded against.
Anonymizer is a company that offers various services for protecting your privacy online. Their "anonymous web surfing" feature comes in a free, advertising-supported form, or is available for a nominal fee; they also offer SSH Tunneling (a feature for secure connections) and a complete dialup ISP service, which I use. I have found their performance more than satisfactory, and, indeed, better than that of many well-known providers. The pricing for their full dialup internet service -- available in most major cities in the United States and around the world -- is competitive with other ISPs, and includes the anonymous surfing and SSH tunneling services. Furthermore, their affiliate program pays very attractive commissions for those who refer new users.
Click here to find out more about Anonymizer's anonymous web surfing, SSH Tunneling and ISP services.
Click here to find out more about Anonymizer's affiliate program.
Going on the Gold Standard
Precious metals have long been the standard for valuation of money; because they have real value in industrial processes and so forth, they are less susceptible to government value manipulations. The government can always crank up their printing presses and, in doing so, make those little green pieces of paper in your pocket worth less than they were.
E-Gold makes it possible to own gold, silver, platinum or palladium under secure conditions, without large investments and in a manner conducive to their use as a medium of exchange. It's free to open an account; the company makes its money solely on transaction and storage fees (a storage fee of once percent per year, and transaction fees that do not ever exceed fifty cents, regardless of how large the transaction may be). Through E-Gold and its third party service providers, it's simple and easy to make payments, even to persons or entities who do not themselves maintain an E-Gold account; to exchange the metals for various national currencies; or even to take delivery of the actual metal, if you'd rather have it lying around the house than stored in a bank vault. I am an E-Gold account holder, and have personally received payments into my account, exchanged gold for silver, etc.
Click here to find out more about E-Gold.
N.B. I always welcome revenue. If you feel the need to throw money at me, the best way to do so (other than availing yourself of the services described in this essay via my affiliate links) is to simply leave a present in my E-Gold account; the number is 240944. I prefer silver, but I'm not picky.
"Pretty Good Privacy" has been the standard encryption method on the Internet since its introduction. It's easy to use, highly secure, and is available both in a commercial version and as a free download for commercial use. You can encrypt mail, files, etc., so that no one other than the intended recipient will have access to them. I have no profit or economic incentive to point you to this one -- they're just good.
Click here for more information on PGP. (Note: The freeware version is accessible from the "downloads" link on PGP, Inc.'s site).
The list above is by no means exhaustive. Below, you'll find links to some sites and books that have inspired and/or contributed to the ideas here. In the future, I'll be keeping an eye out for goods and services that enhance your ability to direct your own future. My personal hope is that you will continue with activism in the political and social arenas, and that you'll find ways to benefit both yourself and the libertarian movement by availing yourself of the ability to live more freely -- what I'm calling inactivism. The next step beyond achieving one's personal goals, of course, is to gather with others who have, into intentional communities based on individual freedom. In the near future, you'll find bulletin boards on tlknapp.net aimed specifically at allowing inactivists to network for public discussion, as well as for the public posting of encrypted communications between inactivists and among inactivist communities.
Thomas L. Knapp
Free-Market.Net -- "The mother of all libertarian web sites." With over 100 partner organizations, a huge directory of resources that can be used by both activists and inactivists, current news and features.
DoingFreedom -- This online 'zine -- which obviously predates my thoughts on inactivism -- is dedicated completely to the concept of living a freer life now. Sound familiar?
Liberty Activists -- "Educate, Agitate, Organize for Freedom in Our Lifetime." Hey, nothing wrong with that. Here's to those who choose to be activists and inactivists!
Secession.Net -- Dedicated to the notion that the primary right in any political association is to end that association.
L. Neil Smith's Webley Page -- Smith's "covenant of unanimous consent" may be the ultimate instrument for ending the phenomenon of statism. Wide ranging essays of interest to activists and inactivists by libertarianism's greatest living novelist.
The Libertarian Enterprise -- The libertarian movement's most principled, yet eclectic, Internet journal.
How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World -- Harry Browne's masterpiece arrived long before the Internet, but the ideas were and are still revolutionary.
The Probabiity Broach -- L. Neil Smith's novels, particularly The Probability Broach and the rest of his "North American Confederacy" saga, bring to life the idea of unanimous consent and individual freedom.They're indispensable as both motivators and travel guides, and nobody is more entertaining.
Atlas Shrugged -- Ayn Rand defined the case for withdrawing sanction from evil institutions in this novel. It's nearly half a century old, but still carries so much punch that a Library of Congress survey found it the second most life-impacting book in the United States -- following only the Bible.