Sincere advocates of liberty need to travel a tough and rugged path. Surrounded by the darkness of empire and its draconian reach into all aspects of our lives, champions of liberty must keep their eyes on the prize without becoming despondent.
This can be challenging in a society that has come to rely so heavily on the state. The ideas of liberty are hardly ever considered an option. Often they’re even frowned upon.
How does one deal with such a situation? Once you understand the principles of liberty, you can’t just give up on them and pretend they don’t exist. So how does one grapple with times that are so deleterious to liberty?
The easiest way is to contemplate the big picture. If there’s one thing about life, it’s that it hardly ever moves in one direction for very long. Pivots and reversals regularly occur and often when they’re least expected.
In fact, prior to the formation of the American empire, it was the warmongers themselves who were despondent. They were the ones who had to live with the reality that their ideas were not an option.
It’s hard to imagine, isn’t it?
We’re so used to militarism being a part of daily life that’s it’s tough to believe that the shoe was once on the other foot.
But it’s true.
Those who dreamed of converting the U.S. government from its original purpose of protecting the liberty of American citizens into a military empire struggled immensely. The fact was that the American people had absolutely no interest in it.
America was a land of unprecedented liberty from government. An empire is the exact opposite. It’s total reliance on government.
Let’s go back to the late 1800’s and consider Theodore Roosevelt’s story. Roosevelt was a passionate warmonger. He (and several others) were extremely determined to convert the United States into an empire.
But it wasn’t like flipping a switch. They had to deal with what was (in their eyes) a stubborn public fixated on peace.
In fact, in 1897, Roosevelt was quite discouraged. As Stephen Kinzer writes in his latest masterpiece:
Roosevelt wrote that he felt “a good deal disheartened at the queer lack of imperial instinct that our people show.”
If they did not change, he worried, “it will show that we either have lost, or else wholly lack, the masterful impulse which alone can make a race great.”
So what happened in 1898?
Well, that was the fateful year of the very brief (but world changing) Spanish-American war. In a few short months, the U.S. would gobble up Hawaii, Puerto Rico, Guam, Cuba & The Philippines in one fell swoop.
There were many warnings, prior to this dreadful step, by those who opposed this change of course. Here’s New England pastor Charles Ames in 1898:
“The policy of imperialism threatens to change the temper of our people, and to put us into a permanent attitude of arrogance, testiness, and defiance towards other nations…Once we enter the field of international conflict as a great military and naval power, we shall be one more bully among bullies. We shall only add one more to the list of oppressors of mankind…Poor Christian as I am, it grieves and shames me to see a generation instructed by the Prince of Peace proposing to set him on a dunce’s stool and to crown him with a fool’s cap.”
In the matter of one year, Roosevelt went from “disheartened” to a state of jubilation. Not only was the American empire birthed, but Roosevelt was immediately elected as Governor of New York.
A formerly “disheartened” man, with few political prospects, was on his way to the presidency. He said:
“I have played it with bull luck this summer. First, to get into the war; then to get out of it; then to get elected. I have worked hard all my life, and have never been particularly lucky, but this summer I was lucky, and I am enjoying it to the full.”
From that year onward, the U.S. government would not only come to dominate its own citizens, but much of the world as well. There are only a couple of countries left that refuse to play by the empire’s dictates.
And here we are, advocates of liberty, staring at the consequences.
So, what can be learned? What can Roosevelt’s experience teach us?
Well, the first is that ideas rule the world. Americans unfortunately latched onto a destructive idea back in 1898. It was something new and different. They were seduced by the prospect of global power.
Naturally, an all-powerful government would need a central bank to finance itself. Welfare as far as the eyes could see would naturally spring from that, and government would become the one and only solution to any problem.
Oh, and of course, there would be constant war. Andrew Carnegie, who was a fierce opponent of the budding empire warned that the country would be placed “within the zone of wars and rumors of wars.”
That sums it up right to this very day….a never-ending carousel of wars.
The second lesson is that things can change very rapidly. Roosevelt’s story is testament to that. Americans may believe something today, and can continue believing for awhile, but they can also change their minds on a dime.
That’s why military propaganda is so prevalent and is infused into every area of our lives. It has to be constantly reinforced, because people can change their beliefs in an instant.
Because we’re always free to think differently, the prospect of liberty is never lost, no matter how many times the propaganda is repeated.
Right now, the prospects of liberty look bleak, but that’s just part of the life scenario: twists and turns….dusk and dawn…darkness and light.
The job of the liberty advocate is to continually vocalize the ideas of peace, non-aggression and voluntary interactions no matter what the outside world may look like at the present moment.
Someday the warmongers will go back to being despondent again. Their success rate throughout history comes in at a solid 0%.
The pivot back to liberty will be a great time, whenever it occurs. Those who experience it will be “luckier” than Theodore Roosevelt back in 1898.