Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Seeking Liberty in the Second Realm

 "Second Realm" describes a strategy for achieving liberty. The authors (pseudonomously known as smuggler and XYZ) want freedom very soon, and because only a small minority of society currently loves liberty, they concentrate on approaches that small groups can use. They want to find or create a territory (similar to Hakim Bey's TAZ) where they're hard to harass or spy upon, so that the so-called authorities may decide to tolerate them.
It's hard to summarize what I liked about this small free online book. Books on "how to get there" rarely show up on my radar, and I liked their focus on small groups in the near future, before the ancap rapture turns on the light for all the Statists. They describe the first steps we could take toward a more open society, willing to learn from experiments rather than impose solutions from the top down. If something can start small and grow, without asking any one's permission, that seems more doable than grand political visions.
Unfortunately, I can easily think of weaknesses in the book. Their strategy depends on obscurity to evade interference from the so-called authorities, but obscurity brings costs of its own. Transparency enables  accountability, so secrecy provides fertile soil where corruption can grow. Obscurity may cause problems among group members, or between members and neighbors, or P.R. problems.
Despite the focus on immediate, small scale action, the book provides no practical examples of a group that has succeeded with this approach (perhaps one exists, but succeeded in remaining obscure). The authors mention the mafia and biker gangs as examples of separate cultures that sometimes succeed in this approach. While those sorts of groups indeed manage to establish a second realm for themselves where they can impose their own rules, they hardly seem like good candidates for emulation. Even ignoring their reputations for violence, the mafia centers on operating related businesses, and bikers center on biking. What analogous unifying characteristic could liberty lovers find that would unite them? Everyone knows that organizing individualists makes cat herding look easy.
What about drug users, prostitutes, gamblers, black market sellers, and black market customers? The dominance system has forced them to adopt obscurity. Do they have safe places, a second realm? Could they live their lives there if they chose to do so? Could we just infiltrate these existing groups? Radicalize them? Organize them? Their social potency derives from their lack of any sort of organization, unification, or connection as a group. They seem mostly to accept the culture's moralistic judgement against them, and do not see their own marginal status as evidence of the illegitimacy of the dominance system. What has happened to them as the cost of surveillance dropped and it's pervasiveness increased?
Perhaps the Quakers, or the Amish provide a better prototype. Libertarians could form a philosophical gypsy goth Quaker tribe. They might embrace radical openness, sacrificing privacy for transparency. Instead of hiding in obscurity, they could fight corruption with sousveillance.

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