MOVING DAY – PART 1 of 2
By Professor Steven Yates
The day was Tuesday, May 29, 2012. I watched from my third-floor front porch as a 40-foot container on a flatbed trailer pulled up in front of my apartment building. Four guys from the moving company I’d hired, plus a few friends who’d come to help out, had already hauled the bulk of my belongings down to the ground floor breezeway. With the container open, everyone (myself included) began to load: furniture; clothing; pet supplies; library—boxes filled with books, academic journals, ring binders of Internet articles organized by author; originals and copies of my writings (books, articles, correspondence); boxes containing myriad other belongings including mementos of my deceased parents and their belongings (photograph books, financial records, Veterans awards, my mother’s cross-stitchery, and more); boxes packed with collectable vinyl records from the remote past; etc.
There were a few items I’d gathered that belonged to others and which I was having shipped for them (they were paying me, in one case quite well). Over the next four hours, it all found its way onto the container. I’d arranged payment (a hefty sum!) for the shipper several days before. I did the paperwork; we closed and locked the container. The truck started, and off went a substantial portion of my life.
The container’s point of departure: Greenville County, South Carolina. Its destination: Santiago de Chile. It would take almost exactly one month to arrive.
What was left: a duffel bag and three large suitcases packed as tightly as possible; another ring binder containing all the papers related to this move and which I would need upon my own arrival in Santiago; several large envelopes of financial records, personal information and emergency contacts; and some cash; all in what I called the portable filing cabinet (a large backpack which would also contain my passport); two cats to be secured in carriers with bottles of water and packages of food attached.
On Thursday afternoon, May 31, these items were loaded on an American Airlines flight bound for Dallas-Ft. Worth, where they would be placed on an international overnight flight bound for Santiago. Surprisingly, no one in the TSA hassled me. There were flight delays, however. My flight finally left Dallas Friday morning and arrived late that evening, June 1, ten hours later.
“Welcome home!” said a longstanding associate who had relocated in 2008 and arranged to meet me at Aeropuerto de Santiago. The phrase left me with a sense of unreality which persisted as we arrived in my new comuna of high rises and shopping mercados. I was going to be living in a foreign country for the first time in my life. Within two hours of arriving in Santiago, I was back online. The facilities here are as good as they were in South Carolina.
I’d moved over a dozen times, struggling to keep employed as a philosophy instructor with politically incorrect ideas (not the least of which was being a Christian—a presuppositionalist, to be precise—in a profession where agnostics and atheists predominate). I knew there were people back in South Carolina who thought I’d taken leave of my senses, especially as I didn’t have a permanent job lined up and knew only a few lines of Spanish (Chile, for those who don’t know, is a Spanish-speaking country). There were people who had done their best to talk me out of leaving. A few, doubtless, saw (and still see) my act as cowardly—instead of Staying and Fighting I had Cut and Run.
Time will tell who is right. In any event, here I was. By the end of the next working day—lunes, as Monday is called here—I’d submitted my application for the temporary residency visa that would allow me to work and be paid legally here. Some countries, after all, enforce their immigration laws. This process concluded with my receipt of a small brown card, about the size of a driver’s license, with my name, photo, and RUT number with República de Chile emblazoned across the top, identifying me as an extranjero—a foreigner—from the U.S.
Why this gargantuan (and expensive!) move?
The first essay I encountered online promoting the idea that those with liberty philosophies need to begin thinking about expatriating was entitled, “Why Americans Should Be Packing Their Bags Now.” It appeared in 2005, and was authored by someone calling himself Ezekiel. Back then, the idea seemed completely over the top. Americans who believe in liberty—or in defending the Constitution of the United States from all enemies foreign and domestic—packing up and going elsewhere? You’re joking, right? If liberty falls in America, it falls everywhere! Period. Or so we reasoned at the time.
That year gave us the Real ID Act and the Military Commissions Act. I was blogging for a while about such matters. I was getting a select handful of serious comments and numerous “troll” posts. (Troll, in Internet-speak, means a person who posts anonymously on a blog or forum for the sole purpose of being insulting and disruptive.) It seemed clear that the post-9/11 U.S. government was ignoring the Constitution as it consolidated power, foreign and domestic. America’s masses were buying houses. By the truckloads. The housing market was soaring. A few of us saw storm clouds on the economic horizon.
I was one of them, who made note when the Federal Reserve stopped reporting its M3 aggregate (March 2006). I kept returning to that Ezekiel article, finally adding it to a collection of what I call Keepers: most (not all) Internet-published items that said something essential or fundamental. This collection contained old essays like “Isaiah’s Job” and “I, Pencil” and also newer pieces that I believed deserved a wider audience such as Robert Locke’s brilliant “What Is American Corporatism?” or Fred Reed’s dismaying “The Suicide of Marlboro Man” or perhaps “The Earth Plus 5%,” the best and certainly the most colorful short introduction to fractional reserve banking I’ve run across.
The Stay and Fight crowd, as I call them, had access to an impressive array of arguments for liberty—the case for free markets and moral responsibility, against government schools and Constitution-violating police state tactics, and against ill-advised foreign wars such as the one the U.S. started against Iraq in 2003. The various arguments have been around for eons. Some, admittedly, are difficult academic treatises. Think of Ludwig von Mises’s Human Action: A Treatise on Economics. Others were more accessible to the general reader: Rose Wilder Lane’s The Discovery of Freedom or Isabel Paterson’s The God of the Machine.
Somewhere in between are Friedrich A. Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom. These all appeared before 1960. Then there were blockbuster novels such as Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged which found millions of readers, as did her essays to come later. Through these authors, whatever their sometimes considerable differences from one another, one could discern common themes: arguments for liberty and free market capitalism—to be distinguished carefully from the crony-capitalism (Robert Locke’s corporatism) that is rightly denounced from various quarters—a defense of the rights of the individual to retain the fruits of his labors and to have his property rights respected against the claims of the collective or herd, and deep concern that Western civilization as a whole was going down the wrong path.
Miss Rand had escaped the Soviet Union at age 21. Whether one buys her “Objectivism” or not, one thing is undeniable: she’d seen first-hand where collectivism led. Others on our list above had seen the rise of Nazi Germany and wisely fled the scene.
The Libertarian movement appeared on U.S. soil in the early 1970s. Libertarians were an eclectic bunch—probably the one characterization no one in the movement would argue with. Their writers and scholars, many of them incredibly prolific, included the economist Murray N. Rothbard (student of Mises, author of For a New Liberty: A Libertarian Manifesto among numerous treatises); philosophers John Hospers (Libertarianism), Robert Nozick (Anarchy, State and Utopia), and Tibor R. Machan (Human Rights and Human Liberties, The Libertarian Alternative, Individuals and Their Rights, and many others; Professor Machan, it is worth noting, had also fled a Communist country, Hungary, as a teenager), and the occasional Roger MacBride (A New Dawn for America: the Libertarian Challenge).
An obstetrician based in Texas would immerse himself in these ideas, run for Congress as a Republican, and get elected: the then-unknown Dr. Ron Paul. One of his aides would study Mises, realize that a huge body of work was in danger of going out of print, and set about to rescue the Austrian school of economics from what would have been certain oblivion: Llewellyn H. (“Lew”) Rockwell. Rockwell would found the Ludwig von Mises Institute and grow it into one of the most impressive exemplars of educational entrepreneurship to be found anywhere in the world. The Mises Institute has now introduced hundreds of younger scholars to the economics of the Austrian school with, occasionally, some philosophy along with it.
These various authors, scholars, and entrepreneurs would disagree over many fundamentals. Some, for example, see atheism as necessary for a rational view of the world; others believe (in my opinion, correctly) that absent the morality only Christianity can supply, liberty on any large scale is unsustainable. Some see Constitutionally limited government as an essential bulwark of liberty (“minarchists”); others see the state itself as a leviathan-sized mistake and declare themselves philosophical anarchists or anarcho-capitalists (the leading living exponent of this latter view is probably Hans-Herman Hoppe; see his Democracy: The God That Failed). It is unfortunate that the various groups were never able to pool their resources and really work together, because in the end they wanted the same thing: to oppose collectivism and repeal the prevailing and growing idea that larger and more powerful centralized government can cure every social ill and take care of everyone.
They all wanted to lay the groundwork for a society in which human beings would act and deal with one another freely, instead of through coercion. They did not agree on the primary source of coercion, although nearly everyone spoke of the state’s “legal monopoly on the use of force.” Some saw the truths of what I call directed history—manipulation of events by a behind-the-scenes superelite (here and here); others seemed not to. Most promoted sound money, which by definition is backed by precious metals (gold and silver). They rejected the entitlement mindset, brought about through Fabian socialism’s incursions into American institutions and institutionalized during Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s administration, and even more so through the left-liberalism of Johnson, Nixon, and beyond.
Those who leaned towards libertarianism correctly perceived this mindset as leading one into an undesirable dependency, and into an unrealism where everyone believes he can live beyond his means indefinitely, because the government can bail us all out with its printing presses!
It was necessary to target central bankers / fractional reserve banking as the real villains of history and monetary policy. Their policies, usually conducted behind the scenes, had destroyed the value of the dollar, diminished Americans’ incentives to save, and were about to lower the American standard of living when the bubbles created by massive credit expansion burst. The banksters were the ones hijacking governments over long periods of time—at least since the rise of the Rothschild banking dynasty in the late 1700s. It should have been clear that the country—indeed, Western civilization itself—was on the wrong trajectory as governments and central banks, working in tandem, severed ties between their currencies and precious metals, allowing massive credit expansion to run rampant and the national debt to skyrocket—making, e.g., the pseudo-prosperity of the roaring 1990s possible.
Nixon had “closed the gold window” on August 15, 1971; our national debt was around $400 billion. Slightly over ten years later, the debt crossed the $1 trillion threshold. Ten years after that, it reached $6 trillion. When George W. Bush left office having been the biggest spending Republican in U.S. history, it had risen to over $11 trillion. Today, under the watch of the catastrophic Obama presidency, by the time this reaches print the national debt might have surmounted $16 trillion with no end in sight.
Why this excursion into what is almost certainly not news?
Just as background for examining a singular, ugly fact: the best, clearest, and most cogent arguments in the world have failed to stop the march of what Mises sarcastically called the Omnipotent State, and of those in the Corporate Sector who have used the Omnipotent State to thwart genuine free markets and advance their own standing with the superelites of the latter’s hoped-for World Government. Or in Ayn Rand terms: Atlas has not shrugged. No John Galts or Hank Reardens have appeared. Contrary to the Ayn-Randians and those Libertarians who made CEOs and Businessmen into heroes, many of the latter never wanted genuine free markets, they wanted advantages and privileges only the Omnipotent State could provide. They wanted Corporatism, not Free Enterprise. The Omnipotent State, of course, preferred Big Business to Small Business because it is easier to impose, e.g., “diversity,” on a handful of corporate leviathans who can absorb the costs than on 50,000 mom-and-pop stores.
Thus did Libertarian arguments fall on deaf ears. Corporations, who some thought would be their strongest supporters, did not respond (with rare exceptions such as Koch). The scholarly world, immersed in Fabian-inspired collectivism, did not respond; rather, proponents of libertarian and Austrian ideas were often dismissed as cranks and consigned to the academic oblivion of “bottom-tier” institutions. Some never found academic jobs at all and ended up in “think tanks” or were forced out of intellectual professions altogether. The American public did not respond, of course. The political and media Establishments—still the sources of most of the “news” that reaches the American public and which obviously answer to money and power—could align much of this work alongside “conspiracy theory,” a label which became a kiss of death.
Thus immediately after 9/11, we got Homeland Security and the TSA. Six weeks later came the USA Patriot Act (not to mention the war in Afghanistan, allegedly because the Taliban were protecting Osama bin Laden). Soon we were hearing of “free speech zones.” Wait a minute: isn’t the U.S. itself a “free speech zone” where free speech was protected by the First Amendment? Not any more, for if a person refused to stay in his “free speech zone” when he criticized former president Bush, he was arrested. In 2003 came the Domestic Security Enhancement Act, whose detractors called it Patriot Act II. It allowed federal authorities to engage in warrantless wiretapping to eavesdrop on private conversations by U.S. citizens also in obvious violation of the Constitution.
The U.S. military had invaded Iraq, a country (1) not associated with 9/11 in any way, shape or form, (2) which had not attacked us or even threatened us, and (3) which would turn into the next quagmire into which well over a trillion in U.S. taxpayer dollars would be sunk over the next nine years.
We would get the already-mentioned Military Commissions Act and the Real ID Act in 2005—the latter folded into a larger bill because its stand-alone version from the preceding year had died in committee. Since Real ID was to go into effect in May 2008, many of us would get involved in the struggle to prevent the federal government from forcing us to obtain national ID cards which the Constitution did not authorize the federal government to do (the essence of Real ID, whether an increasingly powerful Homeland Security admitted this or not). The date for implementing Real ID was pushed back repeatedly. Unfortunately, almost no one except Patriot groups discussed Real ID in light of the need for Constitutional controls on government. Many affected state agencies either complained that they lacked the technology and the manpower to implement it, or, incongruously, said that state level actions were already doing everything Real ID purported to do, making it redundant (this was the case in South Carolina).
Over the ensuing five years, government-empowering police-state legislation would grow worse. The most recent abomination was the bill Obama signed on New Year’s Eve 2011, the National Defense Authorization Act which critics allege opens the door for the detainment of U.S. citizens on U.S. soil in military facilities without charges, legal counsel or prospects of a trial for the duration of hostilities, which in the case of the “war on terror” could be indefinitely. (Arguably, this had already been done in the case of José Padilla, a U.S. citizen who had been incarcerated in solitary confinement under conditions easily classifiable as torture beginning early in 2002 and continuing for several years; credible allegations had long since surfaced of the torture of prisoners in Iraq and elsewhere by U.S. military personnel or their surrogates in Middle Eastern countries.) It should have been clear that changes of parties in control of Congress or the White House meant nothing.
The war machine remained in place as the Obama regime replaced the Bush II regime. Abusive acts by TSA personnel and police would get worse—to the point where the latter were attacking and murdering civilians who were not resisting and had not been accused of a crime. There are now many such cases. Patriots—holding meetings during which they study the Constitution or the foundations of Constitutional government, speak out against political correctness or on Second Amendment issues or the latest federal outrage—are increasingly demonized in mainstream media and by government agencies. The hard-leftist Southern Poverty Law Center has compiled its lists of “extremists” or potential “domestic terrorists”: all are critics of expansionist, out-of-control government (domestic or global). These efforts are so exaggerated as to be caricatures of themselves. But they have the ear of law enforcement and Homeland Security; this makes them dangerous.
One would think it would be easy for supporters of liberty—whether they called themselves libertarians or not—to make a unified public case that something has gone seriously wrong in America—that left to itself, the U.S. is on a trajectory that can only end with the establishing of a dictatorship.
Over the past year or so, Americans have been arrested and jailed for the “crime” of selling raw milk. The Amish—easily the most peaceful people in the U.S.—have found themselves under unprecedented assault. Earlier this year, a man who lived in Roswell Ga. watched his livelihood and home be destroyed by city and county bureaucrats whose vendetta began with his fighting an accusation that he had too many chickens on his property. He ended up committing suicide in his exploding house. Just the other day as I write, a man in Jackson County, Oregon was jailed for 30 days and fined $1,500 for the “crime” of collecting rainwater on his property!
Steven Yates, Ph.D., now lives in Santiago, Chile. His most recent book is entitled Four Cardinal Errors: Reasons for the Decline of the American Republic (Spartanburg, SC: Brush Fire Press of America, 2011).