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Building the infrastructure of creative freedom

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At the National Convention of Young Americans for Liberty this year, I once again debated the topic of whether and to what extent people need to be engaged in politics, as versus focusing on education, culture, and other forms of change.

By Jeffrey Tucker, Courtesy of Foundation for Economic Education

My answer is that political engagement is fine. Voting is fine. Cheering is fine. But there is a constant temptation to go too far in the direction of partisan agitation.

“Putting your hopes in party and power will always disappoint: it is a god that will fail.”

Politics, as conventionally understood, I argued, is not an effective way to change the world. Your victories will be pyrrhic if there is not
underlying ideological change. More seriously, politics can drain you of ideals, hope, and even be morally corrupting. For young people hoping to end injustice, build a better freedom, and change the world for the better, there are better ways.

My Five Main Points:

1. Politics is not true. Most books on world history, and most  political science classes, wildly exaggerate the role that political leadership and institutions play in shaping history. It’s too easy to tell a story of a people in a way that blames or credits powerful personal forces – as if leadership designs and dictates social results – but much more difficult to tell the real story of history in terms of ideas, culture, and technology. Societies can succeed without brilliant leaders in government, and often do so precisely because of their absence. Even in American history, the highest period of innovation and wealth creation occurred under presidents whose names are now largely forgotten.

2. Politics is ineffective. People want to rely on the political process  for all sorts of things: creating jobs, fixing infrastructure, securing the country, bringing justice, boosting education. But it’s the wrong means. These things can happen despite the state, and not because of it. No politician or party has achieved anything comparable to Amazon, YouTube, Apple, Uber, or a million other enterprises. The best way for a state to promote the good of society is to decline to interfere in people’s life, liberty, and property. The only real good that can come of political activism is to limit the state’s power as much as possible, but it so happens that everything in politics conspires to break those limits.

3. Politics crushes ideals. You begin your political activism  thinking that this is the way you make a difference but it turns out to be a ruse: your views do not matter and your vote counts  for little. You are trying to control a machine that is out of your control. Now, you face a choice: keep playing the game even though it is failing your ideals or move on to a sector of life in which you can keep your principles and make genuine change happen, sectors such as education, culture, technology, faith, and enterprise. The main (and maybe only) thing you can really control is yourself, so here is your primary obligation: gaining more skills, knowledge, wisdom, strength of character, and mastery of your domain.

4. Politics can make you immoral. The state sector produces nothing on its own; it lives off the rest of the society, and thrives on deception. There is no large state not guilty of doing terrible things to people, things that if we did to each other we would be regarded as criminals. Moreover, everyone who has ever been there can tell you there is no such thing as an efficient bureaucracy, “clean” politics, or programs built solely by public- spirited activists. The truth is grittier and uglier than anyone from the outside can ever believe. Discovering this, what do you do? Some people are drawn to it precisely for the moral nihilism it unleashes: if nothing else, the machinery can be used to crush my enemies. It’s like low-grade war in this way.

5. There is a better way. In fact, there are a million better ways. You can still be a libertarian (or whatever you think of yourself) and do other things with your life besides political agitation. Regimes come and go but technology and ideas last. They are also more powerful than tanks, armies, and bombs: ideas are bulletproof. Make beautiful art, write great prose, compose music, establish productive businesses, save lives in medicine or therapy, or be a great spouse, parent, and friend. They are all better uses of our time on this earth. Understanding the way human liberty works helps you see this. These pursuits need not sacrifice your ideals.

The Other Path
Several young people in the audience came to me after and said my message came as a surprise. It has been the intense political environment of the last several years that got them interested in ideas in the first place. They had come to believe that partisan politics, with the goal of running for office, was the only way they can act on what believe about ourselves in society.

I was so pleased when people thanked me for the message they had never heard before.  Why are people drawn to political solutions?

F.A. Hayek hinted at the answer.

The only basis on which people believe it is good to impose systems by force of law – which is to say, through violence and the threat of violence – is if they have certainty that they have all the right answers. It is people’s impatience with the gradual unfolding of knowledge through iterative experimentation that leads them to demand government solutions.

What does it take to come to trust freedom as the way forward? We need to come to love the opportunity for discovery that it creates. The most beautiful feature of the world is that we will never discover it all. We’ll never know all things. We’ll never unwrap all its mysteries. We’ll never fully come to love all lovely things.

There is romance in not knowing now what might be known in the future, and a thrill that comes with an awareness that this process will never end. That constant, daily, unending search for the new, the wonderful, the true, the beautiful, and being surprised to discover each of those features in the smallest things, is what gives our personal history its forward motion, and makes the dawn of every day an invitation to embrace life with ever more anticipation and vigor.

By comparison to that, an overly politicized life – hoping against hope that Congress, the president, or courts will build a future for us – is a dreary and pointless prospect. Truth wrapped in a political solution  is ephemeral and probably not true; political solutions interfere with the discovery process that is the very essence of life.

The point of discovering the ideas of liberty is fully to realize what liberty (not the state) can do to give us, our families, and communities, indeed the entire world, the opportunity for a better life. And then act on that discovery.

None of which means that we don’t have an obligation to come to the defense of freedom at times when it is relentlessly under assault. But there can be no lasting victory without first building the infrastructure of freedom. That can be, in part, about electing good people and preventing bad people from getting power. Much more, however, it is about changing ideas and cultures so that freedom enjoys protection no matter who holds power.

Source: Federation for Economic Education

About the Author
Jeffrey Tucker is an American economics writer of the Austrian School, an advocate of anarcho-capitalism and Bitcoin, a publisher of libertarian books, a conference speaker, and an internet entrepreneur.

As of 2018, he is Editorial Director of the American Institute for Economic Researchand Chief Liberty Officer of Liberty.me.  Tucker is also an adjunct scholar with the Mackinac Center for Public Policy,a research affiliate of RMIT University’s Blockchain Innovation Hub, and an Acton Institute associate.

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Right to Repair Bill Introduced in Congress

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Hot on the heels of last week’s victory in the New York state senate, the fight for Right to Repair comes to the US Congress. Today, Congressman Joe Morelle (D-NY) introduced the first broad federal Right to Repair bill: the Fair Repair Act.

“As electronics become integrated into more and more products in our lives, Right to Repair is increasingly important to all Americans,” said Kyle Wiens, iFixit CEO. Lawmakers everywhere are realizing the need to protect our Right to Repair—along with progress in the EU and Australia, 27 US states introduced Right to Repair legislation this year, a record number.

“Every year I’ve worked on Right to Repair, it’s gotten bigger, as more and more people want to see independent repair protected,” said Gay Gordon-Byrne, Executive Director of Repair.org. Rep. Joe Morelle has been a champion for much of that journey, sponsoring legislation while in the Statehouse in Albany starting in 2015. Everywhere you go, people just want to be able to choose for themselves how to fix their stuff. You’d think manufacturers would wise up.”

Congressman Joe Morelle’s federal bill would require manufacturers to provide device owners and independent repair businesses with access to the parts, tools, and information they need to fix electronic devices.

“For too long, large corporations have hindered the progress of small business owners and everyday Americans by preventing them from the right to repair their own equipment,” said Congressman Morelle. “It’s long past time to level the playing field, which is why I’m so proud to introduce the Fair Repair Act and put the power back in the hands of consumers. This common-sense legislation will help make technology repairs more accessible and affordable for items from cell phones to laptops to farm equipment, finally giving individuals the autonomy they deserve.”

“Right to Repair just makes sense,” said Nathan Proctor, U.S. PIRG Senior Right to Repair Campaign Director. “It saves money and it keeps electronics in use and off the scrap heap. It helps farmers keep equipment in the field and out of the dealership. No matter how many lobbyists Apple, Microsoft or John Deere and the rest of the manufacturers throw at us, Right to Repair keeps pushing ahead, thanks to champions like Rep. Joe Morelle.”

“At iFixit, we believe that big tech companies shouldn’t get to dictate how we use the things we own or keep us from fixing our stuff.” said iFixit’s US Policy Lead, Kerry Maeve Sheehan. “We applaud Congressman Morelle for taking the fight for Right to Repair to Congress and standing up for farmers, independent repair shops, and consumers nationwide.”

We’re pleased to see Congress taking these problems seriously. In addition to supporting Congressman Morelle’s Fair Repair Act, we urge Congress to pass much-needed reforms to Section 1201 of the Copyright Act, to clarify that circumventing software locks to repair devices is always legal, and to expressly support the Federal Trade Commission’s authority to tackle unfair, deceptive, and anti-competitive repair restrictions.

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For a healthier planet, management must change

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Our environment sustains all life. Both human and wildlife. When habitat degrades, the lives of all that depend on it also deteriorate: poor land = poor people and social breakdown.By Sarah Savory, Zimbabwe

In Zimbabwe (like many other countries in arid areas with seasonal rainfall) we are facing the many symptoms and signs of our country’s advancing desertification: ever-increasing droughts, floods, wildfires, poverty, poaching, social breakdown, violence, mass emigration to cities, biodiversity loss and climate change. No economy can survive if we destroy our soil – the only economy that can ultimately sustain any community, or nation, is based on the photosynthetic process — green plants growing on regenerating soil.


So, if we wanted to find out the optimum way to manage our wildlife, people and economy, logically, shouldn’t we be looking at our National Parks for the best examples of what we can do for our environment? Because in national parks, we not only have the best management the world knows, we don’t have any of the issues that are normally blamed for causing desertification: ignorance, greed, corruption, corporations, livestock, coal, oil, etc. Let’s do that now…the following are all photos taken in our national parks (the first 3 were taken in May right after the rainy season when they should still be looking their best!)

As you can see from those photos, some of the worst biodiversity loss and land degradation we have in Zimbabwe is occurring IN our National Parks. But, as I pointed out, those have been run using the best management known to us and have been protected and conserved for decades. We’ve clearly been missing something…

The above 8 pictures are a mixture of National Parks and Communal Land…can you tell which is which?

We are seeing this land degradation both inside and out of our Parks because there is an over-arching and common cause of desertification that nobody has understood, or been able to successfully address, until recently.

We spend our lives blaming resources for causing the damage (coal, oil, livestock, elephants, etc) but resources are natural, so how could they possibly be to blame? Only our management of them can be causing the problem.

ALL tool using animals (including humans) automatically use a genetically embedded management framework…and every single management decision made is in order to meet an objective, a need, or to address a problem. And those decisions are made with exactly the same framework, or thought process and for exactly the same reasons, whether it is an animal or a human.

For example, a hungry otter has an objective: he wants to break open a clamshell because he needs to eat. He uses a simple tool (technology, in the form of a stone) to do so. He does this based on past experience or what he learned from his mother.

Or, the president of the United States has an objective: to put a man on the moon within a decade. He and his team use the same tool (technology, but various and more sophisticated forms of it) and base their choices on past experience, research, expert advice, and so on. It’s the same process, or framework, in both cases, only the degree of sophistication has varied.

A screen shot taken from a short video clip we took with a film crew last month, of 4 different areas, all near to each other: you will clearly see the terrible desertification in both National Parks and nearby Communal Land. In comparison, you will see a vast difference on Dibangombe, the Africa Centre For Holistic Management (our learning centre, which is only 30km from Victoria Falls.) This habitat is being regenerated for all life by simply managing holistically. Every year on this land, despite the worsening droughts, the biodiversity increases and the land and wildlife flourish.
All this footage was taken in the same area, at the same time, with the same climate, the same soils, the same wildlife and the same humans.
But different management.

To this day, this decision making process works just fine for the otter. But imagine that one day, the otter invents a machine that can crack open 1,000 clam shells a day and that all the other otters suddenly stop doing what otters are designed to do and just come to him to get their clams. They still use the decision making process but everything else has changed…that tiny advance in technology would have inadvertently set off a complex chain reaction through the whole ecosystem and there would soon be catastrophic environmental knock-on effects because the balance of the ecosystem has been upset. The ecosystem will keep trying to adjust to this change but eventually it will start to collapse. Imagine the otter started charging for the clams. Now, with every decision the otters make, in order to make sure their ecosystem didn’t collapse, they would need to be simultaneously addressing the social, environmental and economic aspects of their actions. Their management would have to evolve with the change.

This is exactly what happened to humans…As soon as our technology advanced, our management should have evolved to accommodate for it. But it didn’t.

Our natural world is rapidly collapsing all around us and we have ended up constantly chasing our tails and dealing with the symptoms and complications we’ve created. While there have been thousands of books written over the years on different types of management, if you dig a little deeper and ‘peel the onion’ the same genetically embedded framework is still inadvertently being used.

In the last 400 years, our technology has advanced faster than in all of the two hundred thousand or so years of modern human existence. Over those same few centuries, you can now see why the health of our planet has entered a breathtaking decline.  We now have the knowledge to change that…

No matter what we are managing, we cannot ever escape an inevitable web of social, economic and environmental complexity, so, in order to truly address any issue, the people and the finances have to be addressed simultaneously, not just the land itself. Isolating one particular part of the problem, or singling out a species and trying to manage it successfully, is no different from trying to isolate and manage the hydrogen in water.

With this knowledge, the Holistic Management Framework was developed. And, incredibly, it all started here in Zimbabwe, by my father, Allan Savory, an independent Zimbabwean scientist. This new decision making process ensures that no matter what we are managing, we focus on the root cause of any problem. It also makes sure that all our decisions are socially or culturally sound, economically viable and ecologically regenerative by using 7 simple filtering checks. And, it introduces us to a new, biological tool: animal impact and movement, that can be used to help us reverse desertification and regenerate our land and rivers.

This framework has received world-wide acclaim and is now being mirrored in forty three Holistic Management hubs on six continents, including the first university-led hub in the USA.

Now we can begin to understand that most of the problems we are facing in Zimbabwe today are simply symptoms of reductionist management.

Imagine that one day, someone starts to beat you really hard over the head, once a day, every day, with a cricket bat. It really hurts, and instead of trying to take the bat away from them, you just take a dispirin to deal with the headache it’s caused and carry on.

After a week, the pain will be getting much worse and the dispirin will no longer be strong enough, so you’d need a new painkiller. The stopain comes out. After a while, stopain won’t be enough, so you turn to Brufen. And so it goes on. Yet the blows continue.

Eventually, your organs will be struggling from all the medication and you’ll end up in hospital with very serious complications. The best doctors and specialists in the world are called in at great expense and they rush around treating all your worsening, and now life-threatening, symptoms. None of them can understand why you aren’t getting better – they’ve used the best medicines and procedures known. It’s because everyone is so focused on your symptoms, that nobody has looked up and seen the person standing behind you with the cricket bat.

It sounds silly when I put it like that, doesn’t it? But that is exactly what we are doing.

Our planet is in that hospital with life threatening complications, with Governments, Organisations and individuals doing their best, spending millions of dollars, often using expert advice, to find out how to treat the patient, but nobody has realised that they are only treating symptoms. Nobody has noticed the guy standing there with the bat.

The holistic management framework stops the blows to the head. As soon as we do that and the cause is being treated, all the symptoms will automatically begin to heal and fall away.

I am going to show you a screen shot taken from a short video clip we took with a film crew last month, of 4 different areas, all near to each other: you will clearly see the terrible desertification in both National Parks and nearby Communal Land. In comparison, you will see a vast difference on Dibangombe, the Africa Centre For Holistic Management (our learning centre, which is only 30km from Victoria Falls.) This habitat is being regenerated for all life by simply managing holistically. Every year on this land, despite the worsening droughts, the biodiversity increases and the land and wildlife flourish.

All this footage was taken in the same area, at the same time, with the same climate, the same soils, the same wildlife and the same humans.

But different management.

These pictures were taken on the same day on land only 30km apart in February 2018, The 2 photos on the left are Zambezi National Park and the photo on the right is Africa Centre for Holistic Management (Dibangombe)

The great news is that we can turn it all around and we don’t have the thousands of different problems we all think we do. We only have to adjust one thing. Our management.

It’s time for us to evolve from using our outdated, reductionist management framework. We need to adapt to a new way of thinking and  apply this paradigm-shifting decision  making framework so that we can all work together towards regenerating our Zimbabwe.

Culturally. Socially. Economically. Environmentally. For for our people and for our wildlife.

Let’s start by stopping the blows to the head!

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Free to Download Fight the Fire: Green New Deals and Global Climate Jobs

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Fight the Fire

Fight The Fire Book Cover

OUT NOW!

“The most compelling and concise guide to averting climate breakdown.” – Brendan Montague, editor, The Ecologist.

Download Jonathan Neale’s Fight the Fire from The Ecologist for free now.

The Ecologist has published Fight the Fire for free so that it is accessible to all.

We would like to thank our readers for donating £1,000 to cover some of the costs of publishing and promoting this book.

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