Boston's Molôn Labé! Hopes for Wyoming Freedom
by Ari Armstrong, February 18, 2004
[Direct citations From Molôn Labé! by Boston T. Party (Common Law Copyright 1997-2004, Javelin Press. All Rights Reserved. www.javelinpress.com).]
If I worked my whole life, could I help achieve a Colorado as free as Wyoming is right now?
That's a question I've been asking myself a lot lately, thanks in large part to Boston T. Party, author of the just-released novel Molôn Labé! If the answer to that question is "no," as I think it is, then is there any other compelling reason not to move there?
Wyoming has relatively benign gun laws, no state income tax, and a low sales tax. Where I live in Westminster, I pay state income and sales taxes, plus both Jefferson County and Westminster City just raised the sales tax for local purchases. Just up the street from me, a "Stop Work" order from the city sticks to the window of a still-dormant business. Sure, I could move to a relatively less-restrictive part of Colorado, but why stop there?
But the current level of freedom is the relatively minor consideration. What's important is, where are the two states headed within my lifetime? Yes, the Taxpayer's Bill of Rights helps to restrain the growth of government somewhat here in Colorado, and the Republican-controlled government recently approved concealed carry -- with a government permit. On the other hand, the majority of voters (though the small minority of residents) of many localities and even the state as a whole have increased many taxes. Amendment 23 has put increased tax spending for education welfare on auto-pilot. Just days ago, the Republican legislature killed a bill to allow concealed carry without government registration. This fall, the ballot might host a multi-billion dollar socialized transit proposal as well as an evisceration of TABOR. I expect both those proposals to fail, but do I really want to spend my time fighting off tax increases and hoping to make marginal gains, stepping forward and back?
In collecting signatures for Douglas Bruce's new tax cut initiative, I've seen first-hand the split personality of Colorado residents. Of course, the vast majority are simply apathetic, but of the rest, one minority answers "Hell Yes!" when I ask people if they want to cut taxes, while another minority answers with something like, "I think we should pay all the taxes," "I think we should pay even more in taxes," or "where's this money going to come from?" That last answer demonstrates some people really believe our money belongs to the politicians, and how dare we ask for some of it back?
I have suggested to a couple people that there is no legal minimum to the amount they can pay above and beyond their stated tax bill, but this hasn't gone over well. One lady called me a "smart ass," though my point was obvious and intended seriously. Such a reply suggests the tax-increasers primarily want to force other people to pay higher taxes. This is true even though Bruce's tax cut would help the poor the most, and it even makes the state income tax more progressive (by reducing taxes on lower incomes). Leftists hate tax cuts for the rich, but apparently they also hate tax cuts for the poor and middle-class.
I'm sure Colorado is more free than Wyoming is in some ways, but what's going to happen in the next decade? By all accounts, Colorado will continue to attract suburbanites from both East and West. Thus, the Denver-Boulder corridor will continue to gain power over the rest of the state (even though the rest of the state will likely also grow). Yes, the Republicans hold a strong advantage state-wide, but few Colorado Republicans care much about free markets or the right to bear arms. Sure, many want marginally freer markets and government permits for guns, but they often vote for welfare (social and corporate), market restrictions, and "reasonable, common sense" victim disarmament laws.
Is there any hope in Colorado of eventually eliminating property taxes? Of restoring control over education to parents rather than politicians? Of eliminating the state income tax? Of allowing concealed carry or sales at gun shows without government registration? Of eliminating restrictions on building and other market transactions? Of lifting drug prohibition laws? There's some hope, but it's offset by justified fear of losing ground on any or all of these issues. We have to fight like hell to get registered carry and modest restrictions on property forfeiture and eminent domain.
I don't expect things are much better in Wyoming -- yet. However, if even a few thousand libertarian-minded people moved to Wyoming to join the strong minority there who already favor freedom, some real gains could be made.
Wyoming is nearly as large as Colorado, yet its population is only about 10% of Colorado's. Thus, the same amount of political effort will go much farther. Thus, a libertarian will have more success, with more support, than is ever likely in Colorado. If we look at political work as an investment, efforts in Colorado don't even guarantee a positive return, whereas efforts in Wyoming are likely to be positive, with some chance of quite large gains.
However, those who look to Wyoming as a "get free quick" scheme are in for sore disappointment. The "liberty market" will ride its ups and downs, and of course there are no guarantees. John Thomas points out some of the potential problems with the idea.
When I first heard of the "Free State Project," I was severely skeptical. Another hair-brained, silver-bullet, Galt's-Gulch libertopia that would never get off the ground, I thought. It took me some months to take the idea seriously at all. But Boston's Open Letter, along with his follow-up letter and now his novel, convinced me that a libertarian movement in Wyoming is quite possible. Even if the far-reaching gains Boston hopes for are never achieved, even a relatively small movement (which seems to be inevitable at this point) could achieve marginal gains easier perhaps than in any other location.
Boston has also persuaded me that the official Free State Project (FSP) will get nowhere in its choice of New Hampshire, mostly because of the relatively high population there. Indeed, I think Boston is overly generous in his analysis, for he assumes the move to New Hampshire will actually take place. By agreement, those who sign on to the FSP don't have to move until 20,000 people sign on. I would be amazed if that ever happened. (I would be amazed if even 10,000 total signed up in the next five years.) The organization's web page reports 5,477 people have signed on as of February 17, 2004. That's up from 5,441 on February 9. Go ahead and do the math assuming that rate of growth remains constant. One might argue that at some point the number of signers will mushroom, though of course we hear about such pyramid schemes daily in our spam boxes. I think it's more likely that the level of new signers will drop off over time, rather than pick up momentum. Presumably, the most interested people have already signed up, meaning every additional person will require more resources to persuade.
The FSP suffers from a free-rider problem. Even if there were 20,000 people interested in joining, the incentive is to let everybody else join and move first, then see how it's working out. Plus, it's hard to anticipate one's personal situation some years down the road, so it's easier to let other people make the commitment now. The Wyoming effort, on the other hand, does not suffer this problem. There is going to be an effort in Wyoming; the only questions are how many libertarians will move there and how much can they accomplish. There's no trigger number, so people will just move when it suits them. Even limited success, such as electing one sheriff or state representative, would encourage more movers. Indeed, even if libertarians are unable to make significant political gains, simply the fact that they're enjoying more freedom in Wyoming would attract some additional movers. My prediction is that the FSP will never gain 20,000 signers, and eventually most of the serious FSP members will go to Wyoming. Of course, any libertarian movement of any size and in any location is to be welcomed and encouraged.
Two residual issues should be confronted. First, is it really a good idea to abandon our various states and move to Wyoming? Our new home might get better, but what will happen to our old homes? Our first responsibility is to ourselves and our families, not to the residents of states in which we currently reside. In addition, I think one relatively free state would do more to persuade others than anything we can do in isolation. All we can do now is preach. How much better it is to show. If we're right, carry without registration will lead to less crime and a more polite society. If we're right, education run by parents rather than politicians and bureaucrats will lead to brighter, better-adjusted children. If we're right, liberalized drug laws will not result in an addicted populace, but will instead ratchet down violence and the abusive police state. There is simply nothing we can say to most people that will convince them that government education, property taxes, gun registration, zoning codes, drug laws, etc. are unnecessary and even evil. But if we could demonstrate success in returning to limited government, private property, and individual rights, we wouldn't have to say a word. Actions speak louder than words, and success is more persuasive than theory.
If you want to be a missionary of liberty, then go out, disarmed and lubed up for the anal probes, to the socialist states in two-year stints, like the Mormons. But if you want to live free, and show the rest of the world that liberty brings out the best in people, then move to where that's possible. Or so I'm increasingly persuaded.
The second issue to be confronted is the notion described forcefully by Jeff Wright that, if you can't live free right now, where you are, you'll never live free somewhere else. There is a large grain of truth to this argument. However, it can quickly be exaggerated beyond reason. Surely the external polity makes a difference. The police can and do regularly raid people's homes, and the court systems can and do regularly throw people in steel cages, for daring to live free. The nature of the police, the courts, and the rest of the structures of governance do make a very real difference in our every-day lives, and no mere mindset or personal behavior will change that. Yes, freedom largely is a state of mind, but it is also very much a state of governance.
An Overview of Molôn Labé!
Boston's novel takes us from 1995 through 2020, a time during which James Preston, a Wyoming rancher, takes the Free Wyoming project from an idea he describes in a letter to his father, to state-wide success that challenges the overreaching power of the federal government.
Molôn Labé! is about half novel, half political tract. Indeed, following "The End" of the story, pages 373-454 include the "Wyoming Report;" a fictionalized interview with Preston; and discussions about voting, ballots, and encryption. The rest of the story is peppered with political writings, news updates, and even footnotes. It's more like a fictional documentary.
While I grew to respect and appreciate some of the characters, rarely did they feel like friends. Much of the dialogue consists of discussions about technical matters. I found a court scene from 1995 the most riveting in terms of story and characterization. Unfortunately, my favorite character, Juliette Kramer, the defense lawyer in that early scene, mostly fades into the background after that. In the acknowledgments, Boston writes, "Thanks, Fran, for often urging me to 'show it' versus 'tell it'! (Not that I still don't need gobs of work on that...)" I doubt many people re-read the book merely to spend more time with its characters or prose.
But few people will read Molôn Labé! (ML) because they want to discuss it in their reading club or creative writing class. The book is a practical blue-print for a libertarian revival in Wyoming. Boston wants the reader to take action -- the specific action of moving with the goal of propelling politics toward freer markets and better-protected rights. ML is a somewhat peculiar work, but one well suited for its goal. Indeed, I can't imagine why any libertarian who cares about "liberty in our lifetime" would skip this book.
Even if one has no interest in moving to Wyoming, the book is still fascinating for its views on a host of topics, including voir dire, the concept of mala prohibita, jury rights, technical aspects of firearms, encryption, modern American police agencies, gold, and numerous points of history.
The novel does a fine job building suspense. Will the jury send an innocent man to prison in 1995? Will the victims of an unjustified FBI raid survive? Will Preston win his election? Will he be able to achieve the separation of school and state? Will he be able to assert state rights over federal control?
The greater suspense, though, is that of real life. Can such a project actually work? Can we be a part of it? Can "Liberty in My Lifetime" be something more than a far-away dream or an e-mail tag line? These are the questions that cannot be answered by fiction, but only by our actions, and the great unknowable future. I am hopeful. However, I have some nits to pick in the short-run, as might be expected.
A Secretive, Organized Movement?
The first page of the story describes characters who use PGP encryption to notify fellow members of the Wyoming organization. One FBI researcher describes the New Hampshire initiative: "[T]hey're trying to do it with far less organization and absolutely zero operational security. They chat freely online and over the phone about their people, plans, problems, etc." (page 182-3). Further, the coordinators of the "Wyoming newcomers... are treating the state like an archipelago nation to be conquered island by island, and they're doing it" (183). The movement into Wyoming is strictly planned, such that the right numbers of people move to the right counties and legislative districts, and in the right chronological order, to eventually take over state government (85-6). What is to encourage people to move in a coordinated way, rather than on their own? Independent movers "would be outside the 'fraternity' and thus not privy to the many co-ops and business opportunities available to those within the project" (86).
But is either the secrecy or the careful planning likely to succeed? I rather think not. As for secrecy, I think that by publishing a book outlining the plan, Boston has pretty much let the cat out of the bag, died its fur neon pink, and lit a fireworks display around it. No ambitious plan involving thousands of people can be kept secret for long. Especially among libertarians, who love to argue as loudly as possible about absolutely everything. No, if the Wyoming plan is to succeed, it will be with the full knowledge of local residents and government officials. Hopefully that can be turned into a benefit rather than a hindrance.
I'm also skeptical of the coordinated move. Again, these are libertarians we're talking about. Every mover will think a coordinated move is a great idea, for every mover except him- or herself. The self-appointed planners, which I assume will include Boston, will undoubtedly make suggestions, and some movers are likely to take those suggestions seriously. But I would be surprised if even a third of the movers acted according to a centralized plan. (The easy way out is to move now, before the planners have made specific recommendations. Then you can claim you're already a local.)
I suspect that many movers will relocate to the less-populated counties, simply because those areas are most open to political change. But some will undoubtedly move to Cheyenne simply because that's the only place they can find a job, even though the "official" plan disallows this. Some low-population counties will end up with "too many" libertarians, while others will end up with too few. And nobody will be able to accurately track this with any precision.
What about the carrot of the "fraternity?" Libertarians are going to deal with whomever is around that can offer useful trades or amicable friendships. There might be some benefits to moving according to the official plan, but these will be relatively minor. Of course, the financially independent will be motivated more by the excitement of the project, and thus will be more likely to move to where they're needed.
So will this breakdown of centralized order damage the project? Well, it will certainly make the progressive libertarian "take over" of the state more difficult. I expect less ambitious political achievements than what Boston envisions, at least during the time-frame he lays out.
To be completely successful, more people than Boston hopes for will have to move to the state, or more locals will have to go along with the proposed changes. I think either or both of these things are possible. But there are simply too many variables to be able to predict what will happen with any accuracy. It's chaos in the butterfly-wing sense.
Here are some of the unknowns. How many people are truly interested in moving to a freer state? (My guess is somewhere between 5,000 and 100,000 -- not very helpful.) How many early successes will libertarians have in Wyoming? How much will the newcomers enjoy their new lives? How many new business opportunities will become available? What will happen to the economics and politics of other states? There is simply no way of telling in advance what might happen. All we can say is that something like what Boston describes is a realistic possibility within Wyoming. By analogy, it's a realistic possibility that it will snow in Denver within the next month. There is no guarantee it will snow, and it might snow anywhere from an eighth of an inch to three feet, but it's a good bet that, if you want to see snow within the next month, you should stay in Colorado rather than go to Phoenix.
I do think Boston places too much emphasis on the numbers. True, running as a Democrat or Libertarian in a Republican-dominated legislative district is an uphill battle. However, a good candidate trusted by the community can be elected even with less-than-perfect numbers, as Ron Paul has demonstrated. Most people vote for personality over ideology. Thus, it's possible that significant changes could be made even with lower numbers of movers. Politics matters.
Christians, Conservatives, and Libertarians
Boston is self-consciously part of the religious right -- he is a conservative Christian. He recognizes this creates certain tensions among the broad libertarian community. Having been strongly influenced by Ayn Rand's Objectivism and a general scientific orientation, libertarians are more likely to be atheists relative to the general population.
Boston hopes a Christian-libertarian coalition can be maintained. In a 2015 interview, James Preston is asked whether both camps, Christians and libertarians, might be upset over his views. He replies, "Actually, neither camp is all that displeased. Although I didn't consciously try to design a workable synthesis of Christian and libertarian beliefs, my views have apparently helped to form a coalition" (430).
I agree such a coalition is possible. However, the more troublesome coalition is the one between conservatives and libertarians. Boston often writes as if the two camps were first cousins and opposed to "liberalism," but that's not really the case. In 1960, Hayek wrote an essay titled, "Why I'm Not a Conservative." (Hayek of course was influenced by Mises, who, along with Rand, created the foundations of the modern libertarian movement.) David Boaz and Ed Crane of the Cato Institute edited a book titled Market Liberalism. Generally libertarians consider themselves to be the heirs to the "classical liberal" tradition. If "liberalism" means a respect for individual rights, autonomy, and restrained government, then modern libertarians are the true liberals, while most self-described (American) "liberals" are in fact reactionaries.
Early in his introduction, Boston describes as "politically conservative" people including "Christian, Republican, Libertarian, Independent, etc." (xi). In a letter to his father, Preston readily links the libertarian and Christian viewpoints in his description of a worthy youth (45-6). Clearly, Boston sees these views as of a cloth. Boston supports the position "that the physical world was designed and created, versus the cumulation of accidental and beneficial mutation" (a view that's "utterly unscientific") (46). Champions of the massive state regularly are described as "liberals" (e.g., 154).
Is this a problem? Will the tensions between Christians and non-Christian libertarians ruin any chance at a coalition and long-term amicable coexistence? I think not. The sort of Christians who tend to be interested in free markets and individual rights tend to be an enlightened lot with a "live and let live" attitude. In a speech, Preston says, "Here in Wyoming, we don't care where you came from. Nor do we care about your skin or your religion" (237).
In his 2015 interview, Preston spends seven pages explaining his views on abortion, describing it as "murder" that "has gotten us flirting with genocide" (421). Actually, Boston makes about as good a case as is possible against abortion. But still there is no inherent conflict with libertarianism, for Preston adds, "Although I believe abortion, as convenient postcoital birth control, to be morally wrong, I would not seek to apply criminal penalties" because "the enforcement apparatus eventually required would be monstrous" (423).
A more worrisome issue is that of homosexuality. Preston describes homosexuality as antithetical to "decency and wholesomeness" and values generally (291, 427). Preston lists some of the virtues he admires: love, humility, kindness, forgiveness, chastity, honor, mercy, propriety, integrity, decency, cheerfulness, thrift, cleanliness, helpfulness, bravery, and reverence (290-1). However, as I have pointed out, gay libertarians are an important part of the broad freedom movement. Moreover, I personally know gay libertarians who are decent, loving, humble, kind, forgiving, and so on, and in general excellent friends and wonderful people. Unfortunately, while Preston explicitly welcomes those of different races and religions than his own, he does not extend the welcome to gay libertarians. Let us not forget the local history: Matthew Shepard was murdered in Laramie because he was gay.
Preston wisely recognizes, "Being a libertarian is not internally sufficient for good citizenship," and he "would not live among" depraved libertarians "even though it were a society free of fraud and violence" (290). Of course, Preston (and Boston) would not tolerate violence against homosexuals, nor would they seek to use the force of government against them. However, even a society that ostracized or otherwise socially mistreated homosexuals would be bad. Of course, Christians must be free to criticize homosexuality, and churches must be free to condemn it. At the same time, a healthy culture will generally welcome good people who happen to be gay. Thankfully, I don't think this will be much of a problem. Libertarians as a lot are tolerant of diverse lifestyles, willing to trade value for value, and not keen on tracking their neighbors' personal lives. Thus, to the extent that a Free Wyoming project succeeds, Wyoming culture will only become more hospitable for gay libertarians.
Ironically, while Preston criticizes Rand for her personal indiscretions and philosophical paucity concerning the virtues (290), he actually agrees with her core criticism of libertarianism: it lacks a moral foundation. Libertarianism isn't enough. It ably coordinates peaceful social interactions, but it does not provide a foundation for personal ethics. Of course, Boston and Rand differ substantially over the nature of the proper moral foundation. However, Preston gives Rand's theory of virtues short shrift. I personally know many Objectivists who work hard to live virtuously (just as I personally know many Christians who live a generally unvirtuous lifestyle).
Just as Christian and Objectivist libertarians often reach surprisingly similar moral conclusions, so they share epistemological ground. Preston gives a lengthy defense of his religion (411-5) in which he offers physical and historical evidence that supports Christianity. This basically pro-reason (Enlightenment) variant of Christianity is largely compatible with Objectivist epistemology, though of course there are vast differences in how the evidence is interpreted.
The upshot is that if bickering is more important to Christian and atheist libertarians than creating a free society in which both camps can reclaim their liberties, then we will end up with animosity rather than liberty. I don't mean to understate the philosophical differences, which can be dramatic. But neither do I want to see differences exaggerated to the detriment of common goals.
A Coming Crisis?
Boston humorously describes a previous book, "Even though Y2K was Y2¿Qué? this title [Boston on Surviving Y2K] remains highly useful for all preparedness planning." I have even less confidence in Gary North's ability to predict the future (xiii). Nevertheless, only a fool fails to prepare for emergencies. While a particular emergency at a particular time is impossible to predict, that some emergency will happen at some time is quite likely.
In his introduction (xi-xiii), Boston lists four potential problems of the near future. First, the federal government will overreach in the "war on terror" and continue to evolve into a police state. Second, the federal reserve system will crash. Third, American culture will (continue to) unravel. Fourth, the federal government will react badly against the freedom movements of the "inland West."
Few libertarians will argue that the state of American governance is headed in a good direction. However, I have hoped that the current statist trends will soon be reversed. While many current trends are frightening, some of them are positive, and current trends don't help much in predicting the future. Yet surely this is a dangerous time in America, and it is far better to err on the side of spending too much energy fighting to reclaim our liberties.
What about the cultural tensions? The red map, blue map is now seared into American consciousness. Boston and many other libertarians have pointed out the fundamental division between net tax takers and net tax payers. One minority of Americans wants vastly expanded government (including socialized health care), while another minority wants power to be decentralized to the people. Taking the Buchanan line, Boston thinks mass immigration from Mexico will profoundly shape American culture (91), but I think such claims are exaggerated. However, it's clear that there are (at least) "two Americas." The sheer hatred directed by the losing parties toward both Clinton and Bush help demonstrate this.
There's good reason to fear a financial crisis. Alan Greenspan is a relatively benign money lord, but he's getting up there in years, and nobody knows who his replacement will be or what he or she will do. An obvious problem is that the Baby Boom will soon result in the Baby Bust of Socialized Insecurity, and this may well encourage the fed to inflate the money supply (328-9).
Obviously, the worse things get, the more it makes sense to move to a place like Wyoming, and the more people will do just that. In a way, moving to Wyoming is an insurance policy against possible future calamities. In the end, though, my take is that the simple short-run, cost-benefit analysis of the move -- "Will I be more free and more satisfied with life in Wyoming than where I am now?" -- should itself cause every libertarian to seriously consider making the change.
How we evaluate risks, however, does influence our efforts to minimize them. If the United States are in real danger of major social turmoil, then becoming a "rifleman," as Boston urges each of us to do, takes on an extra urgency. On the other hand, if we expect a relatively calm future during which we can reclaim liberty through the political process, then the skills of what "Whisk E." derisively calls the "Egghead Libertarians" (53) become more important. Rand and Hayek argued philosophy ultimately drives the culture, so the most important thing we can do is get the philosophy right.
It occurred to me that people naturally think those skills that interest them are the most important skills. Boston likes guns, so he places a lot of emphasis on the importance of an armed society. The Objectivists like philosophy, so that's what they think is more important. Not surprisingly, economists tend to think economic education is paramount. The obvious solution is to become "Renaissance People," though of course specialization is necessary. A quote from Thucydides (53) struck me as poignant: "The state that separates its scholars from its warriors will have its thinking done by cowards, and its fighting done by fools."
Preston takes the enormous complexity of life as evidence of a creator. He fails to find "any evolutionary reason" for many complex biological systems to have formed, and he believes "we can deduce the invisible through the visible, the metaphysical from the physical..." (414)
Thus, where Boston finds order, he looks for a conscious design to that order. I, on the other hand, see "spontaneous order" at work. Just as nobody controls the market, yet it beautifully coordinates human activity, so, I think, nobody controls the grand sweeps of history, including the history of life.
These basic outlooks carry over into how often we tend to find conspiracies at work. Boston thinks evil often is the result of a nefarious plan, while I think it's usually the net result of a vast number of individual bad choices in conjunction with chance.
People conspire to commit crimes every day, as a visit to any court house in America will demonstrate. At the same time, some things that might seem like conspiracies are really just unplanned historical events. For example, in What Has Government Done to Our Money? Murray Rothbard writes, "We have seen that, over the centuries, government has, step by step, invaded the free market and seized complete control over the monetary system. We have seen that each new control, sometimes seemingly innocuous, has begotten new and further controls" and that "government meddling with money has... brought untold tyranny into the world..." (88) Yes, the monetary system is the product of human decisions, but it is mostly the product of uncoordinated decisions not aimed toward a "final" goal.
Just as there are criminal conspiracies, so too are there sometimes government conspiracies to do bad things. Mostly these conspiracies are out in the open and easily verified by commonly accepted historical record. To take a relatively bland example, Denver police conspired to enter me and various other libertarians into their "spy files."
"Whisk E. Rebellion" does raise some troublesome questions about the Oklahoma City Bombing -- though only after gaining new evidence in 2008. This part of Boston's story, though, is also quite troublesome.
A fellow named Harold Krassney kidnaps a nasty U.S. Senator and a "globalist" (107), gets damning information from them, then kills them. His actions inspire numerous copy-cat actions.
I'll start with the easiest criticism first. What does this have to do with Wyoming? Most of the useful information and bits of story could have been worked in by some other means. This story line is kept going parallel to the main plot, and as far as I can see to no purpose.
The next criticism is this seems to be bad strategy. Surely Boston realizes his book will be read by all the authorities interested in Wyoming. Why needlessly alarm them (not to mention potential fellow movers) with fictionalized accounts of killing? Also, this killing is done with no further purpose, but merely as a form of revenge.
The final and most important criticism is these killings are immoral. Now, this is a novel, so we shouldn't rush to judgment about the intended meaning of a story. However, if somebody did in real life what Krassney does in the story, I would condemn the action. If the killings by some stretch can be counted as self-defense, then it is the indirect form of self-defense for which we pass laws. The trouble with the blood-feud is that it is capricious and often unjust. Nor can the killings be considered a form of civil war, for no objective is stated (i.e., there's nothing the potential victims can apparently do to create peace).
Let us assume that the victims all did something very bad that warrants reprisal. Where does culpability end? Senators are elected, judges are appointed by elected officials (or elected), and legislation is passed by a democratically elected body. If a judge is culpable for imposing a criminal sentence based on a flawed law, then surely the legislators who voted for the law are also culpable, and so are the voters who voted for the legislators (as Boston recognizes in the section, "No More Secret Ballot" (439-43)). The purpose of the law is to establish peace, not perfect justice, which is impossible. We should vote the bastards out, and possibly charge some of them criminally if the situation warrants that, but then some of that Christian mercy and forgiveness must be the order of the day.
I suspect that Boston included these stories, whereas I would have edited all of them out, precisely because he is more likely than I am to look for conspiracy theories. If people are truly evil in a self-conscious and malicious way (rather than in a banal way of gross error and irresponsibility), then a more severe punishment seems warranted.
The silliest section of the book involves a grand conspiracy that involves top government officials intent on a "Transformation" and who are -- of course -- in league with Lucifer, the devil (250-1).
Boston thus fundamentally misdiagnoses the problem. The massive state is not the result of some grand conspiracy (supernatural or otherwise). Instead, it is the result of millions of petty, greedy decisions. Decisions to take by force rather than earn through effort. Decisions to act on unchecked theories. Often such decisions are even made in honest error. The abusive state is the sum of millions of petty conspiracies, perhaps, but not some overarching one. Thus, where Boston sees intended destruction, I see mostly unintended consequences.
To be sure, some specific officials, and some specific enforcers, act with malice. Ruby Ridge. Waco. The federal agents who raid the homes of sick people for growing medical marijuana. Still, if we could achieve political reform, I would be quite satisfied. At some point, there's got to be a peace treaty, an end to the blood-feud. In the worst cases, of course, I'm all for criminal penalties when possible. Non-sanctioned killing can be part only of a civil war, with clearly defined objectives, and such may not be entered into lightly. Modern America, despite her flaws, is still a long, long way from justified, general armed insurrection. (None of this speaks to specific acts of self-defense in response to the direct use of force.) The whole point of the Wyoming project, after all, is to achieve a peaceful, political resolution that enables at least one small part of the country to reclaim the fundamental human rights of its citizens.
A Free Wyoming?
While I disagree with Boston on a number of issues, and while I dislike some elements of his story, I'm on board with his general project. It's high time to create a place where people who care about free markets and individual liberties can set their ideas in motion. If we libertarians are right, and if we give ourselves a chance, we should be able to demonstrate to the world that the ideas of liberty are most compatible with human flourishing.
If the rest of Americans want socialized medicine, high taxes, victim disarmament, and the other "benefits" of the massive state, then let them have those things. All we ask in return is to be left alone. If we can actually create a place where property rights are respected and voluntary social arrangements guide the culture, then, to my mind, any American who wants those things can pick up and move. I'm not going to feel very sorry for those who refuse to do so.
A lot of libertarians have simply given up and decided to get what they can while the getting is good, and then get out. Vin Suprynowicz has suggested we are "the remnant," destined to keep alive the ember of liberty until some future generation is ready to warm up to a roaring fire. But for many of us, that's just not good enough. I want to live without the fear that the police will raid my home because some paid informant gets his addresses mixed up and accuses me of growing the "wrong" herb or storing the "wrong" tool. I want to live in a place where I can earn my keep, and keep my earnings. Where I can choose the education for my children that my family thinks is best, without having to pay twice or fork over protection money every year to the state just so I can keep "my" property. Where I can choose my own doctor and my own medicine. Where the laws are few in number, obviously fair, and easy to understand. Where I can discuss politics in the forum of my choice without fear of breaking some damned state regulation.
The Free Wyoming project, as far as I can tell, is the best hope for a (largely) libertarian society within our lifetimes. Boston makes an excellent case that, if there's any sense at all to claiming a libertarian heritage, this is an opportunity we simply must pursue. Our children deserve their birthright of freedom, and we deserve ours as well.
[Direct citations From Molôn Labé! by Boston T. Party (Common Law Copyright 1997-2004, Javelin Press. All Rights Reserved. www.javelinpress.com).]