This article is for the individual who is serious about promoting liberty in their own lives and in the world. If this is you, then you should want to take action in pursuit of this promotion, and you should want these actions to actually be effective.
Of course, we should first ask: what does it mean to promote liberty? While the answer to that question could be an article in itself, it will be sufficient for now to say that promoting liberty involves making the world and those in it more suited for and more receptive to freedom. Some examples of this are: reducing dependence on the state, countering statist actions, and providing an example for others to observe.
With this in mind, I will now present 10 things that you can—and should—do right now to promote liberty. I encourage everyone reading this to actually perform these things. After going through each item, I will close by discussing how you might go about performing and making a habit out of these actions.
1. Go for a walk
What you should do: The idea here is: fitness and health. If you’re not in good shape, start your fitness improvement now by simply taking a walk—down the street, around the block, as long as you care to go. If you’re already in good shape, going for a walk still has another benefit: it gets you out into the locality around you, which is important for the next item on this list.
How this promotes liberty: At the root of all property is self-ownership, meaning that your body is the most fundamental thing you own, so you’d better take good care of it. The state wants you to be unhealthy, because unhealthy citizens are dependent citizens. Deny them this leverage over you. Maintaining a fit lifestyle also opens innumerable doors for you to pursue liberty in other ways—most truly enriching activities require a healthy body.
2. Talk to your neighbor
What you should do: Do you know who your neighbors are? Do they know you? If not, find introduce yourself to them at the earliest opportunity. Write them a letter, if you can’t find a way to meet them in person. Make a local connection with them. Talking to a neighbor is the first step to creating a community of place. Note that I’m not telling you to proselytize to them about liberty. To begin with, just introduce yourself.
How this promotes liberty: If this step seems particularly difficult, it’s no surprise, since government has been particularly successful in training us to fear our neighbors. One of the most fundamental sources of state power is divisions between people. Historically states have played up these divisions against other states, but in our globalized world governments are increasingly dividing up their own populaces. The ultimate goal is an atomized, lonely population and to a large degree they have already succeeded.
By talking to a neighbor you are taking a step towards the reversal of this trend. If you build a friendship, you have also laid the first brick in the construction of a local organic community. These will be critical in the ultimate movement towards stage shrinkage/withering.
3. Say no to something
What you should do: this is a simple one—simple, but not necessarily easy. Every day we encounter many situations in which we are asked to assent against our will. Simply refuse that assent. Tell the telemarketer whose call you unintentionally answered that you are not interested and to remove you from their list. Turn away an obnoxious coworker who wants to distract you. If you’re feeling rebellious, tell the state itself “no” by engaging in a small act of civil disobedience: travel at a comfortable speed regardless of the limit, or use your own property outside of the approved, regulated way. Do so without pain or fear or guilt.
How this promotes liberty: It has been claimed that all rights are ultimately the power to say “no.” “No, I will not submit to you.” “No, I will not follow your directions.” “No, I will not give you my property.” Given this, it is no surprise that we are trained to never say “no.” Yet, you’ll be amazed how many statist intrusions can be avoided without serious consequence simply by refusing to comply. So, practice this, and get good at it.
4. Say yes to something and stick to it
What you should do: we stated above that we encounter daily several intrusions and pressures that we would rather not be involved in, but each day also contains boundless opportunities that could improve our lives. Many of these come from other people: offers to participate in something, invitations to events, and so on. Many more come from inside yourself: ideas or things you feel you’d like to do. Simply agree to pursue one of these opportunities and commit to it. This is important. Agreeing and then flaking is worse than never agreeing at all.
How this promotes liberty: just as the state trains us to never refuse its commands, it also deconditions our natural desire to cooperate with one another and to pursue opportunities. In this way it encourages dependence. How can we imagine life without state-provided services if we can’t even build our own lives and coordinate with other people? Regain this ability by learning to take the plunge, and to commit once you’ve taken it.
5. Turn off the news
What you should do: go for a day without watching the news, reading a newspaper, talking about politics, and preferably blocking out all information about current events. Observe that the world does not end due to your disengagement. Continue to the next day, and the day after that. Ideally, replace your previous media consumption with things more genuine and eternal; but ultimately, stop listening to the talking heads of the world. Note that you will receive freakouts from friends and coworkers who observe you exiting the 24-hour news cycle. Ignore them.
How this promotes liberty: what do we get from modern media? Primarily, the message that we should be afraid. Fear is the health of the state. It wants terrified citizens, and its sycophants in the media are only too happy to oblige them this. If you doubt that there is a concerted, intentional effort to keep people engaged and afraid, consider how widely engagement has been pushed as a political virtue by the organs of the state—by the media itself, naturally, but also by public education. It is inconceivable that the state would push this so hard unless it directly benefitted them, which can only mean, in turn, that refusing to engage directly harms them.
6. Learn first aid
What you should do: learn to take care of yourself and others. Attend a first aid class. Ideally, start with one focused on emergency trauma medicine (handling life-threatening situations/stopping the bleeding/restarting the breathing) and follow it up with a class on general first aid (handling non-life-threatening situations). Learn the basic skills to keep yourself and those around you alive in an emergency. Build and carry a first aid kit. Practice what you learned.
How this promotes liberty: you can’t very well promote liberty if you’re dead. If that’s not sufficient, consider that emergency medical services are considered to be one of the major justifications for the existence of the state. Yet after taking these classes you will begin to realize that in a true emergency, no first responder will arrive in time to save you. Certainly not the notoriously slow and expensive state ambulance services. Learning first aid promotes independence and explodes the myth that only the state can take care of our health.
7. Shoot a gun:
What you should do: The title says it all: fire a gun. Take your gun to the shooting range, or if you don’t own a gun, go with a friend who does. Rent one if you have to. Note that the idea here is to shoot a gun. Just owning one is not enough. Far too many gun owners rarely or never train with their weapon, but don’t be like them. Put some lead downrange in the name of freedom.
How this promotes liberty: there is no sharper expression of liberty than the use of a firearm, full stop. Firearms are not the greatest threat to the state, but they are the most straightforward and immediate method of resisting state actors. Furthermore, the very act of owning and firing a gun without fear is a statement of liberty, so engage in it. Consider also that if emergency medical services are one pillar of state action, then police and military are others (and much more deeply rooted), and if we’re going to take care of ourselves medically, we must also protect ourselves physically. Become a skilled marksman and show the world that you don’t need protection from a tyrant and his gang.
8. Start reading a classic book:
What you should do: when was the last time you read a book? If you’re like most people, it’s been quite a while. Get started on one today and read at least a few pages every day from here on out. There is an additional proviso here: the book you read must be a classic, defined here as something at least 50 years old. Why? It’s certainly not that all old books are good, or that there are no good modern books, but classics are the result of a society-wide process of selection for high value, one that modern books have not yet had time to go through yet. This means you’ll be much more likely to find valuable content in a randomly selected classic than a randomly selected contemporary. Plus, the different prose and different styles of thought will challenge and expand your mind.
How this promotes liberty: ideas are valuable. Engagement with ideas is valuable. Debating ideas is valuable. Reading involves and promotes these things and will make you a sharper and more intelligent individual. This is so self-evident as to require no further justification.
9. Contribute to a Roth IRA
What you should do: it doesn’t matter whether you are eight or eighty, you need to be saving money now. There are several vehicles for saving, and the Roth is not necessarily the best, but it likely is the best that can be easily set up and regularly contributed to. If you don’t know what a Roth IRA is, Google it. Then go set one up. Not sure where to put your money in the Roth? Use index funds. Once again, just having one isn’t enough. Contribute to it regularly—every paycheck, ideally. If you are already contributing, increase your contribution, even if only by a little bit.
How this promotes liberty: we are currently in the welfare-warfare paradigm of the state. Taking responsibility for your own financial health directly attacks the welfare aspect. Once you have a regular savings program, you have taken a significant step towards independence from state welfare; and as with many other items on this list, you are also making the strong statement that you don’t need or want government handouts.
10. Do something you enjoy:
What you should do: this last item is a very simple one: find some time today to do something you enjoy, just because you enjoy it. Read a book. Play a game. Go for a walk. Build something. Take a nap. Eat a nice meal. Watch a movie. Do your activity with friends, or by yourself. Just do something that makes you happy, and revel in that happiness.
How this promotes liberty: we’ve talked a lot about what the state wants you to be: dependent, afraid, and resentful. Primarily, it wants you to be unhappy. Unhappiness is what’s ultimately at the root of all statist psychologies.
Life isn’t about being unhappy. A fulfilling life is a happy one. The good news is that we all have the capacity to experience happiness, no matter who we are, where we are or how oppressive the state is. We can liberate ourselves, if only briefly, and be happy – and ultimately, that’s what this is all about. Fighting the state shouldn’t be a miserable experience, and if it was, then it wouldn’t be worth it. Whatever else you do, make time to enjoy your life.
This concludes the list. None of these items are difficult to accomplish, and in fact, all of them can be performed in a single day. I encourage you to schedule a day in the next week dedicated towards performing all of these items.
That said, the goal isn’t simply to do them once and never again. Incorporating them into your life will make you a better, happier, and more effective person, so you should create habits out of these. Consider making a weekly or biweekly schedule for the inculcation of these habits. Focus on one for each time period, then return to the beginning of the list once you’ve gone through them all.
You may ask: why are all of these items related to self-improvement? Can’t we also promote liberty through politics and activism? My answer to this is: no. Politics and activism are inherently realms of the state, and the state will not be defeated by them. By engaging in them, you are playing their game – and the object is not to play the game, but to end it.
Self-improvement, on the other hand, allows you to flourish outside of the game. This is why all the activities on this list—and all other activities worth pursuing—are related to building and creating happiness and improvement for yourself.
If you disagree, then let us conclude with a special bonus activity:
Write an article describing a single political activity which will legitimately contribute towards ending the state. Not modifying it—ending it.
Garret is a software developer based in the Phoenix metropolitan area whose interests include programming, design, and philosophy. He is a charter member of Phoenix Liberty Society.