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Democracy sucks, so what can we do instead?

The proceeding posts about democracy and its shortcomings were quite negative in tone and content. This was necessary to highlight the fake dichotomy that is the modern democratic process in the West.

This does rather pose the obvious question “Well what can one person do?” If we are not very careful, this can easily become a philosophy of acquiescence, despair and slothful compliance. It hardly bears repeating, but I’ll say it anyway, I reject the initiation of force, so actions have to be peaceful.

So what can we do?

First, change what you can change, not what you can’t. Protest marches against the Iraq war changed little or nothing, we really can’t affect that. It’s a day out for the marchers, they feel self-righteous showing how much they ‘care’ but it achieves nothing. We can however, control our own lives and impact on our sphere of influence.

So for my part, I try not to interact with statists at all. Boycott is a highly effective weapon, just ask Rosa Parks. As far as you can, don’t use their courts* or their council ‘services’ or their education or health systems. Trade only with non-state entities. Personally, with great regret, I do pay their taxes. It seems to me you are inviting violence if you don’t and it’s one of the laws they take seriously. Also, ignore all their edicts about smoking or boozing or salt or recycling etc and think the issues through for yourself. When you have to interact, keep it utterly minimal and don’t give them any more than they specifically demand with the force of law.

I include boycotting people who work for the state. I know this is not easy, but as far as you can, do not deal with state employees in your personal life. Ultimately, the state is just a group of individuals in various guises who choose to act through state institutions and perpetuate them. Without these individuals there would be no institutions, no state.

Second, talk to people about the government. I am not saying it should be all you talk about, but we must try to normailse the currently unthinkable, i.e. that one can manage quite well without the state in any number of areas. My own favourite question (in the UK) relates to something as mundane as dentistry. People often moan about not being able to get an NHS dentist** I say “Why do you think you can’t look after your own teeth without the government?” It’s challenging and some people will become quite aggressive when you do this, but we must normalise the concept of doing without the state.

Third, reject the initiation of violence, or the threat thereof (including shouting), in all your personal affairs, act and live peacefully, save for extremities of self-defence. Thus don’t smack (i.e. hit) your kids, don’t shout at your spouse or other motorists. Treat with people voluntarily or not at all.

Fourth, don’t define your life by what you reject, what you are against. Live free and joyous as far as you can. Vaclav Havel when under a communist tyranny (from which there was seemingly no hope of escape) suggested thus. Live as if you are free. It’s surprisingly liberating.

Social change doesn’t come from government. It sure as hell doesn’t come from voting in a new and identical sociopath politician. It comes from people. So let’s all play our part and change what we can change.

* obviously, if you are the defendant, turn up, otherwise you invite violence from them
** because, shock, horror, state supplied goods and services are rationed!


  1. None of what is suggested in this post will lead to less taxation, credit expansion or regulations.

    However, the things that are suggested in the post might help build up productive networks of people independent of statism.

    And if de facto bankruptcy and breakdown really is going to come (and the chances for real reform seem slim indeed) what SAT suggests may be the rational approach.

  2. By the way “social change” often does come from government – for example the breakdown of traditional families in many nations in the Western world (and the rise in the dependent welfare class) is the direct result of government policy – the general decline of civil society (one of the most important social changes in history) is the direct result of government policy.

    Nor is bad intentions really the problem, Most politicians and officials have good intentions and are kindly people – this is actually the problem.

    If politicians and officials were just interested in putting their feet up on the desk all day – the Welfare States would never have been created.

    They were created by “men of good intentions and zeal – but without understanding”.

  3. NickM says:

    Whilst I grok where you are coming from in general there are are a few points…

    1. The best argument contra NHS dentistry is that it charges almost as much on the nail as private. I know because I’ve had both. So why not stay private Nick? Because it was the same dentist! I had to be registered for a year before NHS rates (tax-payer subbed) kicked in. Weirdly they were only slightly lower charges. Having said that SAoT your general argument here is very sound.

    2.”First, change what you can change, not what you can’t” – excellent stuff. That is a QOTD.

    3. “Without these individuals there would be no institutions, no state”. Institutions and the state are not one and the same. This is an institution I am proud of. The Newcastle Lit and Phil. It is the largest independent library in the country outside London. Basic membership costs GBP105 a year which is hardly onerous. And it is cheaper for kids and students and they also do a family deal.

    Now that is an institution I am proud of! We need institutions – not state ones but genuinely sustainable ones.

    4. I can’t afford to live “off state”. I simply can’t afford the likes of BUPA and if I had kids I could not afford to have them privately educated. I am far from alone here.

    5. I utterly fail to see how boycotting “free” services works. The NHS or the DfE simply don’t work like that. You are not going to topple the monoliths by opting out.

    6. Iraq war. “No blood for oil”. That was never the issue which is why the protests failed. If you are gonna march then march for the correct reason.

  4. Sam Duncan says:

    “The best argument contra NHS dentistry is that it charges almost as much on the nail as private.”

    Yep. I only discovered this recently, and was pleasantly surprised. In these straightened times, I was on the point of saying, “Bugger principle” and signing up. It hardly seems worth the bother now. The surprise for the friend who was telling me how “cheap” his NHS dentist is wasn’t so pleasant.

    Nick’s 2,3,4, & 6 I totally agree with, too, although a great deal of 4 is because we have all the “free” state stuff. 5, yes, I see what you’re getting at, but I think Paul hit the money in his first comment: it may not bring down the leviathan in itself, but could help build an alternative.

    Also, this report by Michael J. Totten from Havana seems faintly relevant. Faintly; I hasten to point out that we’re nowhere near to being Cuba. For us, Cuban-ness is still an iceberg on the horizon, barely visible in the fog, a distant danger that me might run into but can still avoid. Cuba is a hell we can barely imagine. However, the idea expressed here by an artist he visited is, I think, more understandable to “first world” of 2013 than it would have been in, well, 1975:

    “You should go to the art museum,” she said, “the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes. Everyone who goes there is struck by a Flavio Garciandia painting from 1975. You have to realize that everything was political then. Cuban art was required to serve socialist principles. The Beatles were banned. Yet Garciandia painted a picture of a pretty girl laying in a field of grass and called it ‘All You Need is Love’ after the Beatles song. The museum immediately bought the painting for a small sum and prominently displayed it. Things started to change after that.”

    So Garciandia the painter and the art museum curators mounted a protest. Not only did they get away with it, it had the desired effect.

    Only in a communist country or an Islamist theocracy would such acts be considered rebellious. Few in Europe or the United States would even notice that painting. It certainly wouldn’t be a political lightning bolt. Only in a totalitarian country where every damn thing under the sun has to be ideological can such a blatantly apolitical painting be considered political.

    They hate being ignored even more than being opposed.

  5. CountingCats says:


    The State will not care if you boycott it, it is not going to boycott you.

  6. “I think it’s unlikely the legislative leaders will step down from their incredibly lucrative positions where they don’t have to disclose their outside income. Although I agree with Carl Paladino, they certainly should be forced to do that,” said Stone.

  7. Nick – I agree with that (with the tax and regulation messed up economy – and with the credit bubble financial system) a lot of people can not afford X, Y, Z.

    I also agree that boycotting the state is not going to make it go away. I think I pointed this out in my first comment.

    However, the present state is unsustainable – it can not (can not) carry on as it is.

    Which means that a lot of things that are taken for granted now are going to pass away – quite possibly in very nasty ways.

    So SAoT idea of encouraging networks of people to do what they can without the state should not be dismissed out of hand.

    It may not achieve much – but achieving anything is a real gain.

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