Tom Knapp is Managing Editor of Free-Market.Net and publisher of Rational Review.
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A Year of the Long
The Libertarian critique has generally run toward the apocalyptic: America is crumbling. America has adopted over time, but cannot ultimately adapt to, a political system ruinous of individual rights and contrary to the notions that moved its founders to bring it into being. And this can only go on for so long. Something's got to give, and the longer it takes to do so, the uglier things are going to get.
In the darkest hours of the ongoing drama that is America, I find myself hoping that this analysis is true -- not because I find decline and fall attractive, but because the alternative is even worse.
That alternative is one in which our nation continues its long, slow slide down into totalitarianism and then stays there for some indeterminate amount of time. Seven years or seven hundred; who's counting?
For those who believe this impossible, I offer as evidence the thousand-year period we now call the Middle Ages; the seventy years of the Soviet Union (preceded by a feudal totalitarianism that was just as awful if not as technologically well-endowed for doing evil); more than half a century of the People's Republic of China, also preceded by a dark age in which oppression carried different titles. Or twelve years of the Third Reich. Or forty years of Franco. Or two decades of Mussolini.
When George Orwell wrote 1984, he wasn't really departing from humanity's previous experience in any great way. Mankind's history is a sea of slavery punctuated by waves of liberty that have crested and then descended back into the vast pool below.
Is America different? I don't know. Only time will tell -- and right now, the situation isn't looking too sunny.
The Libertarian critique certainly holds up with respect to the trend: As we've long predicted, handing the levers of government over to the Republicans has already proven to be a mistaken of epic proportions.
The GOP didn't even wait for the election returns to be certified before abandoning everything worthwhile in its supposed agenda. A promise worth making is a promise worth breaking, it seems, so tax and budget cuts are pushed back somewhere into John Maynard Keynes's long run while the Busheviks concentrate on more important things.
Things like hiring 170,000 new bureaucrats to man the telescreens, piling on more victim disarmament legislation and pursuing the kind of foreign policy that resulted in two world wars and nearly 200 million dead at the hands of government in the last century, a record against which the worst terrorist attack on American soil since the days of Sherman -- 9/11 -- is a statistical blip.
Yeah, we got the trend right. But do we really know what we're talking about when we predict a breaking point in that trend? A place in history where the American people will summon up the cojones to say "no more" and be able to make it stick?
I don't believe in historical inevitability. I can't say for certain whether the American experiment will survive or join other failures in the dustbin of history.
What I do believe in is the merit of the effort. Rational Review's first year is drawing to a close. At the beginning of this site's run, I wrote the following:
Quixotic? Perhaps. But worthwhile nonetheless.
I'm proud of Rational Review's first year. In our first eleven months, we've brought you 55 original articles and 13 cartoons, almost all of them exclusive to this publication. By the time the December issue wraps up, that number will have exceeded 70 articles and cartoons. We reach about 6,000 readers each month, and that "circulation" is in continuous growth. We've published one historical anti-statist reprint and one original e-booklet for activists.
In its second year, I expect Rational Review to continue to grow on all fronts: more articles. More cartoons. More e-publishing projects. More readers.
After all, someone has to do it.
With Thanksgiving just past and Christmas on the way, I'd like to thank my fellow travelers on the Long March. Scott Bieser, L. Neil Smith, Steve Trinward and R. Lee Wrights have put in long and often thankless hours on this publication and the freedom movement has benefited from their work. It is my hope that they will someday receive the acknowledgement they are due.
And to you, the reader: thank you for slogging along with us, even when the mud is over your boots and the rain is pouring down and the journey's end is nowhere in sight and the enemy cavalry is nipping at our heels. In those dark hours mentioned above, it is the indomitable spirit of people like Rational Review's writers and readers that gives me hope.