Adam Kokesh has announced plans to coordinate an armed march on DC on the 4th of July, and if nothing else, he’s managed to cause quite a stir both inside and outside of the liberty movement.

For me, there’s only one question to consider concerning the march: What is the definition of success?

The answer, I believe, reveals a great deal about the state of the liberty movement.

Definition of Success #1: Show “them” that we are a free that can not be bullied into submission.

In Adam’s own words:

We are truly saying in the SUBTLEST way possible that we would rather die on our feet than live on our knees.

Assuming that this is what the march will convey, it’s a strong liberty message.  But, who is supposed to be listening to this message, and why should they care what we have to say?

The politicians and high level bureaucrats of note are already well aware of the liberty movement and have been making plans to respond to us for quite some time.  This is why the threat of “homegrown” right-wing terrorism has been raised over and over again in recent years.  In fact, an armed march on DC by “fringe elements on the right” would fit perfectly into the narrative that they have been trying to promote.  They neither need to hear the message that Adam is trying to send, nor will it have any effect on them.

Perhaps the message is instead intended for law enforcement officers who might be tasked with carrying out gun confiscations or other significant rights violations.  After all, if police officers refuse to enforce bad laws, then those laws will have no effect on anyone.

Unfortunately, police departments across the country have gotten the memo that the general public is the enemy, and they have been stock piling weapons fit for house to house combat in urban environments.  This is not the kind of equipment that Officer Trigger Happy needs to conduct a traffic stop, or even to catch a dangerous criminal.  The reality is that these police officers are preparing for war, both mentally and physically.  For them, Adam’s message is an invitation to a confrontation, and that is exactly how the chief of police in DC took it.

Another potential recipient of Adam’s message is the general public.  Perhaps they might be inspired by people exercising their natural liberties.  The only problem with that theory is that the general public is more worried about right wing terrorism than Islamic terrorism.  Far from turning heart’s and minds towards liberty, the march is more likely to make people who have never touched a gun in their lives, (i.e. the vast majority of people), anxious, and they might even cheer the further reduction of gun rights to help prevent similar events from taking place in the future.

So, the only people who are likely to get the message, and care about it, are the people who already agree with it and don’t need a march on DC to demonstrate it.

Definition of Success #2: Getting Bad Gun Laws Repealed.

In an interview shortly after he announced the march, Adam suggested that the “criminals” in government need to follow the Constitution, at the very least.  In other words, the various laws that have restricted gun ownership need to be repealed.

Clearly though, one march will not accomplish this.  Getting the government to make such wholesale changes in legislation would require a sustained political movement.  It should be noted, however, that the largest political movements in recent history – the Tea Party and Occupy Wall Street – have had little legislative success despite ongoing attempts to lobby the government for their particular brands of “change”.  To say that success in this regard is unlikely is putting it mildly.

Definition of Success #3: Starting The Revolution.

While Adam has been very careful to bill this as a peaceful event – going so far as to say that he would “choreograph” the whole event with law enforcement officers – it has been abundantly clear to me that the people who are most excited about this march see it as the potential start of a bloody libertarian revolution.  For example, in a recent article on LRC, Jim Karger explained:

While it would be nice to believe that on one special day the Statists will simply give up, recognize the errors of their ways and capitulate, such a belief is Pollyannaish at best and dangerous at worst. Sea change does not come as the result of intellectual debate. It is never a matter of semantics. And, regrettably, it never comes peacefully. And, to that end, a voluntary society will result from nothing less than a revolution, most likely several. And, for that reason, many anarchists are optimistically naive.

If I am right, then under what circumstances might people rise up and throw off their chains? I do not know, but I see more incidents in modernity that evidence there are some who are ready, not necessarily to overthrow a government, but to defend themselves against government aggression.

The makings of an armed conflict (at least in the case of the Kokesh march) are in place.

There are several problems with this notion – not the least of which is the fact that gathering a bunch of revolutionaries in one place is strategically mortifying given that the State excels at killing people in large numbers – but I will focus on only one.

Despite the emphasis on armed confrontation and bloodshed, revolutions are primarily about winning the hearts and minds of the people.  No revolution can be successful that does not win the broad support of the general population.  This is especially true of any kind of “libertarian revolution” since the goal is not to impose a new top down authoritarian rule but to topple that kind of social order altogether.

Well, how does one impose a stateless society, or even a minarchist one, on a people who yearn for strong political leaders and central management of their lives?  How do you force voluntaryism?

The reality is that winning a revolution is very much like winning a political contest.  It involves organizing a movement, strategic planning and centralized coordination.  Otherwise, it’s just random violence.  In fact, a great test of one’s revolutionary strength is to engage the political process and to demonstrate some measurable electoral or legislative gains.

Of course, if you’ve been paying attention, you would rightly scoff at the idea of advancing liberty through politics.  After all, the establishment has a stranglehold on the process, gets all the favorable press, and is considered the only legitimate avenue for political progress.  But, that’s exactly the point!  How much harder would it be to win a shooting match against the establishment when they have the full apparatus of the State behind them and the perceived legitimacy from the general public?

Simply put, the liberty movement does not have the political clout to carry out a successful revolution.

So, what do we do?

To put it bluntly, we need to stop wasting time trying to engage the State in some kind of liberty death match.  James Howe put it this way:

But what hope is there for ever achieving a voluntary society if it can’t operate in the presence of bad things or bad people?

Under the best of conditions, there will still be criminal gangs, demagogic and violent dictator wannabes, and lots of people who just don’t have the self-discipline to be voluntaryists. Under any realistic conditions, a voluntaryist society will be composed of only those who voluntarily participate, and a voluntaryist community will be faced with many external challenges.

We have those conditions today.

Now, the Government will violently interfere with voluntary interactions within our society. And, the Government will require, at gunpoint, that people in our voluntary society do things that they do not want to do. But why should that stop us from conducting ourselves, in all other ways, in a completely voluntary manner?

If those of us who have the desire and will to form a voluntary society begin to build up the basic structures and mechanisms of a voluntary, free-market society today, we will be, at the same time, creating a better world for ourselves and demonstrating to the non-believing masses that our ‘utopian’ ideas actually do have real-world value.

As Gary North likes to say, you can’t beat something with nothing.  It is true that we can’t sit around and theorize about what a voluntary society might look like forever.  At some point, we need to put it in practice.  To that end, the greatest need right now in the liberty movement is for people to start building alternatives to the State.  To some degree, this has already started with services like Bitcoin, Silk Road, and even a private police company, but we need lots more of it.  We need liberty-minded entrepreneurs, inventors, developers, investors, consumers in a wide variety of areas, and we need to build up these products and services to the point where they are robust enough to withstand attacks from the State.  If we are able to do that, then defeating the State won’t be a matter of trying to convince people intellectually.  The benefits of voluntaryism will be evident, and the State will become more and more irrelevant.

That, more than any march on DC, will ultimately bring success to the liberty movement.

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14 comments

  1. Another really well written blog, Shawn! You do a great job of cutting through the rhetoric from all sides and clarifying these complex issues. Thanks!

  2. Honestly, I plan on citing this every time someone proposes an excessive means of making a point in the name of liberty.

    The definitions of success you have in this post are pretty useful distinctions. The more I think about what Kokesh wants to do, the more I think it might achieve little while being a pretty costly thing in terms of legal punishments.

  3. certainquirk @ 2013-05-15 09:58

    Getting back to you Shawn on my hit and run comment on Twitter to this post. This is still a hit and run because I’m working feverishly to get it out to you LOL.

    I disagree with your post because I see the march as a success (already).

    “They neither need to hear the message that Adam is trying to send, nor will it have any effect on them.” But you yourself just said, “[they] are already well aware of the liberty movement and have been making plans to respond to us for quite some time.” I’d say that is proof they have been effected by the movement. Success.

    “For them, Adam’s message is an invitation to a confrontation, and that is exactly how the chief of police in DC took it.” However, if one solitary officer hears a different msg and is ecouraged to blow the whistle or speak out, that a win for us. Success.

    “Far from turning heart’s and minds towards liberty, the march is more likely to make people who have never touched a gun in their lives, (i.e. the vast majority of people), anxious…” Many people have voiced similar fears regarding Ron Paul and his foreign, drug, and tax (and more) policies. In reality, it’s that bold honesty that helps people past their fears. Ron Paul has been a success in this way and I’d say Kokesh could be too.

    You say a measure of Kokesh’s success would be “..the various laws that have restricted gun ownership..[being] repealed. This is happening already in the states w/o an open carry march. Should this march embolden more people in more states (as I believe it will) then it’s a success.

    “Simply put, the liberty movement does not have the political clout to carry out a successful revolution.” Again, Ron Paul stands out. What clout does he have/or has he ever had? None. Yet, witness what he’s done with nothing but bold statements of a philosophically sound idea; the same idea +/- that Kokesh will bring to the Arlington bridge.

    Sorry, done in an extreme hurry. I appreciate your blogs and other resources immensely. Shawn (certainquirk).

  4. certainquirk @ 2013-05-15 09:59

    Sorry, my paragraphs disappeared in the paste. Uh!

  5. Shawn Gregory @ 2013-05-15 22:00

    Thanks, RJ!

  6. Shawn Gregory @ 2013-05-15 22:12

    Certainquirk,

    I just want to clarify that I think the overall liberty movement is a success and will ultimately win. I just think that our focus should be on building up a voluntary society much more so than petitioning the State to restrain itself. For example, I never vote anymore, because the whole election process consumes a lot of time, money, and energy with very little return in the end. I’m glad that there are people out there making political stands against the growing onsluaght of the State, but I think that we are getting past the point of diminishing returns.

    In the end, my biggest concern with the march are the people who are hoping for a shooting match. There’s absolutely no “win” in that. When I said that the liberty movement doesn’t have the political clout to win a revolution, I meant the bloody kind,(i.e. an armed revolt against the government). It would be crushed just as easily as Ron Paul’s presidential bid.

  7. OK, here’s my reasoning on Kokesh. (Still hurried, but hopefully more coherent).

    Yes, there’s been explosive growth in the liberty movement, and I too believe it’s been successfull. There is still a great deal of misinformation out there though, especially with Big Gov, Big Corp, MSM and so many others on the offensive.

    I too am committed to no longer participating in any government. Intellectually, I conscientiously and consistently disavow any relationship between it and myself. I attempt to avoid any needless physical contact with it (including voting), and I absolutely condone breaking unjust laws–victimless crimes–in which the state/authority hasn’t a hint of justification attempting to control).

    I do worry, like you, about incidents with unstable people (seems they inevitably damage the good standing of our voluntary, non-violent, liberty focused movement). I worry about the people who may print 3D guns with the worst of intentions, and other REAL would-be terrorists. It worries me that the government could crush people at the opencarry march. Yes.

    That list goes on and on though, and that’s the point: How do you stop on a slippery-slope when you know it isn’t logically possible? Where is the line where you’d break with principle and say, this is where I’ll justify force against someone peaceful?

    It seems Adam’s intent is to stress this moral failure by marching peacefully to DC. So, who am I (or any other) to stop him? To do so is to infringe on his liberty, and to justify government force (or the threat of force) against him. Am I going to disavow my own moral foundations? No, I can’t.

    Just as a personal aside, I first heard of him sometime in ‘7 or ‘8 (likely through FreeTalkLive or Rockwell). I haven’t followed his career, except, of course, for some of the highlights that he’s known for, such as his congressional run, the dancing arrest at the Jefferson Memorial, his show on RT (which I don’t recall ever watching) and more. (His attempted Eric Holder interview was tense a tense moment).

    I personally wish he would consider a different place. At the very least, somewhere that would be more accommodating, say perhaps Jefferson City, Missouri or Topeka, Kansas. He would still be propelling the message and be supporting those capitals with their recent gun nullification laws at the same time.

  8. Shawn Gregory @ 2013-05-16 19:52

    I certainly wouldn’t want to stop Adam from doing anything. It’s just my 2 cents on where I think the liberty movement should be focused. As long as there is a State there will be a need for civil disobedience. I just think that some acts make more strategic sense than others, and I struggle to see the upside to the march. I’d love to hear Adam’s lose/lose (for the government) rationale. I don’t see it myself.

  9. […] writers have blogged about it. One of the earliest blogs to mention THS was WeebulTree Blog. In this post, Shawn used a long quote from THS in his concluding […]

  10. […] Recently, I wrote an article that was critical of Adam Kokesh’s planned march on Washington, DC – a march where he planned for all of the participants to be armed.  As it turns out, Adam has canceled his original plans in favor of a more “open and decentralized” march for revolution: […]

  11. […] The recent calls, by libertarian activist Adam Kokesh, for armed marches on Washington and on the fifty State Capitals elicited multiple responses from Shawn on his WeebulTree Blog. […]

  12. […] about it. One of the earliest blogs to mention Concurrent Voluntaryism was WeebulTree Blog. In this post, Shawn used a long quote from the Veresapiens blog in his concluding […]

  13. […] Last summer’s calls by libertarian activist Adam Kokesh for armed marches on Washington and on the fifty State Capitals elicited multiple responses from Shawn Gregory on his WeebulTree Blog. […]

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