LOT’s Pete Responds to Slate.com’s Piece on Free Keene

SlateLiberty on Tour‘s Pete Eyre took the time to thoughtfully respond to Dave Weigel’s excellent piece on Free Keene that appeared this week on Slate.com.

David Weigel’s piece Live Free or Move on Slate.com about Kene, NH’s pro-liberty community went live last night – I thought I’d share some related thoughts as Liberty On Tour was specifically mentioned and I was one of those interviewed.

(Full transparency – I first crossed paths with Dave maybe five years back when I worked in DC’s libertarian think tank world.)

I was happy to read Dave’s positive overview of the going-ons here – it never hurts when an outlet with as many readers as Slate.com helps to introduce more people to voluntaryism. Thanks Dave! That said, at times I found myself wishing that different words or examples were used to paint a more-accurate picture.

In the first sentence Dave likened Ademo Freeman, Ian Freeman and me as “antigovernment activists” rather than something like “self-government advocates.” This differentiation may seem trivial but I think it’s important to tease out as our lives aren’t reactionary or led by negativity, but are proactive and led ultimately by love.

Framing and language (and “lexicon” as Dave later mentioned) do matter. Cops are “individuals.” Jails are “cages.” Arrest is “kidnapping.”

I was happy to see that Dave built on Ian’s statement about 50 individuals having relocated to Keene, by noting that that number “undersells the impact this city and these activists have on their movement.” The individuals involved with Free Keene (and the Free State Project) don’t just encourage anyone to move to the ‘shire but those who are doers. One motivated individual can do much more to advance the voluntary society than can 1,000 apathetic people. And that’s what’s happening.

Dave noted, “There’s some variety in how far people here are willing to take disobedience.” Exactly, we’re all individuals and we all have our own subjective values, time preferences and other factors to consider. We each have a scarce amount of resources (time, talent, treasure) and must weigh our pros and cons for ourselves.

Another area I worried may be confusing to those new to voluntaryism was that some mention of politics was made later in the article. It’s a distinction – working within an institution based on violence vs peaceful outreach and education – that I sought to make clear earlier this year after Dave referred to those active in Keene as “affable goofballs.” There are as many tactics being pursued as individuals active – it’s not ideal to lump everyone together.

Some activism I do, others – even voluntaryists – don’t support. And vice versa. The individual alone is responsible for their actions – not the entire “Free Keene movement” or “voluntaryists,” or on the flip side of the coin, the “government” or the “Keene Police Department.” After all, all these organizations and institutions are made up of individuals.

Not a biggie, but the “Keene Action Center” is actually the “Keene Activist Center” (KAC). And to expand on Dave’s point about food being cooked there, it’s done not just to feed bellies but to help better-connect. As do the activism, brainstorming and socials that occur at the KAC.

When I read that the lone author identified by Dave on the KAC’s bookshelf was Rand I was a bit dismayed. Yes, as is common for a lot of liberty-oriented people, there are some Rand books in the library, but so too are many more logically consistent authors who see no justification for some individuals to have a “legitimate” right to use force. Unfortunately I’ve seen some of the comments left on Dave’s article thus far focus on this point – which tends to be polarizing and thus distracting from the real issue – control vs choice. Enslavement or self-ownership.

Dave concluded his piece:

But the Tea Party protester who hates the stimulus and the man who moves here and shreds his tax bill—these guys come out of the same place. They are not just skeptical that the current government can work. They think government can never work. They respond to the pressures of the Great Recession, the drug war, and everything else that bugs them by giving up on the system that made them. They won’t be alone.

Pretty awesome – especially the last sentence, but again, this could have been framed just a bit different. I haven’t given up on anything – thanks to the insight provided by Austrian economics, history and life in general, I’ve simply learned that a more moral and efficient alternative exists – consensual interactions for every good or service. And many others introduced to these ideas are reaching similar conclusions. It’s an evolution that is happening one mind at a time, and it’s a beautiful thing.

If what you’ve heard about Keene grabbed your attention I encourage you to take some time to learn more about the innovative, growing community here. I left my full-time salaried position in DC to have a bigger impact here and I haven’t looked back.

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