Monday, July 20, 2009

Let my people go!

(Update, 12/11/09: My political thinking was very much in flux when I wrote this; I am not anti-state, primarily, anymore. But a lot of what I said here, I still believe and feel.)

Almost ten years ago, I stopped seeing "the City of Philadelphia" and "the suburbs around the City of Philadelphia"-- I now only see "the Philadelphia region" or "the Delaware Valley". I won't try to give an introduction to the ideas of "regionalism" right here and right now, but suffice it to say that clearsighted people are now operating under the premise that the old city/suburb distinctions are no longer meaningful or relevant, when discussing "what must be done" in our era.

I certainly am nothing even approaching an expert on the subject of American regionalism, but my limited exposure has led to me to the belief that the field is utterly dominated by people who start from the assumption that the State must always play the primary role in coordinating all the actors who can solve the problems of a metropolitan region. (As opposed to the assumption that the State is the primary culprit for starting, and continually entangling and enlarging, the problems of metropolitan regions.) And that, basically, a new kind of State organization must arise out of the "dysfunctional" tangle of municipal, county, and state governments that we currently have to deal with, to wit: Regional Government.

I can hardly believe that I'm the only voluntaryist (free-market anarchist) who has a vision for the liberation of whole American metro regions from the thievery and violence of the State, but as of this writing I do not know of any others. I am very, very eager to meet others who understand regionalism and who reject the State. If they are residents of the Philadelphia region and plan to stay a long time, I am even more eager to meet them.

So, anyway-- until someone convinces me that I should give it up, here is my idea. Look up at the image in this blog's masthead. There is a darkened area, sort of like a big splotch of spilled ink, showing an area of significant population centered (roughly) around the City of Philadelphia. That continuous gray splotch has, according to a 2006 estimate given by the U.S. Census Bureau, roughly 5.8 million people living in it. This group of souls is (*mainly*- I don't see that we need to include every single speck of population in this image) "governed" by the following coercive organizations, in the hierarchy shown:

- the United States federal government
- the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
- the City and County of Philadelphia
- the County of Montgomery
- the County of Delaware
- the County of Bucks
- the County of Chester
- the State of New Jersey
- the County of Burlington
- the County of Gloucester
- the County of Camden
- the City of Camden
- the State of Delaware
- the County of New Castle
- the City of Wilmington

... plus a mind-numbing array of municipal governments, inside the counties. I would like to see the large majority of our 5.8 million people, free from all forced payments (aka taxes) to any of the above organizations. And yeah-- by "see" I mean in my lifetime. I'm 38.

How is this going to be done? I don't know-- my crystal ball is in the shop at the moment, and the dude keeps on telling me it'll be fixed any day now. In the meantime, I feel the need to assemble a vast amount of knowledge about just what the heck all these coercive organizations are up to at the moment, the history of their activities for the last two hundred years or so, and what kind of schemes they are currently cooking up for the foreseeable future. Also, I want to get a much better understanding of the voluntary associations (religious groups, private educational institutions, businesses, etc.) that are currently owned and/or operated by those 5.8 million people.

So, we figure out what services all these organizations purport to offer to the people of our region, and we form voluntary associations to take care of all necessary social services ("public safety", roads, schools, etc.), ourselves. Presto! The metropolitan Philadelphia region is free.

How do we get the gang in Washington to let this region that is so important to America in so many ways, and which is such a critical symbolic fixture in the civic mythology (propaganda) promoted by all the coercive groups, go free? Good question. I am open to suggestions. I personally think we should follow Moses' basic strategy for getting the Egyptians to let the Israelites go, a long, long time ago: make it so bothersome for the Feds to try to control us, that they eventually give up.

I have low-tech wiki software currently installed on my personal webspace, and I hope to soon start a wiki dedicated to this project. When it is underway, and properly secured, I will let folks know. I really need collaborators for this project, because (shh, don't tell anyone!) I occasionally get a little dispirited about the enormity of the challenge.

Oh, and just in case you think this is just a huge "master debater" exercise, I fully intend to run one or more venture capital or banking companies, some day, to help make all this stuff a reality.


  1. A good start. :)

    That is a massive undertaking. How about chopping it up into more manageable goals. For example, Montgomery County. Or Norristown. Or a township. Et cetera.

    The Free Keene guys kind of have a similar goal but don't state it explicitly.

    I don't know if I'll still be in the area or not next year. But I'm interested in this project as well.

    I think some components can be started on now, such as jury rights education and general public liberty education.

  2. I think those "political" efforts (FIJA, general education about liberty, etc.) are fine, and necessary, but I am not personally that interested in them. I am more interested in developing the businesses that must exist (even if only in our imaginations, for a while) in order to bolster the "sale" of no-State to this particular pile of people.

    Or to put it another way-- we have to start placing "facts on the ground", and I'm not convinced that those facts must all be full-on counter-economics.

    And while, yes, we can't always talk about the "whole region", my business planning strategy is going to be explicitly regional, meaning that I believe that the thing that will upend this currently unfair playing table, is going to be organizations (like a regional network of private schools) that outstrip the muddle of squabbling gangs, just as statist regionalists yearn for regional governance that will supersede the irrational patchwork of governments currently in place.

    But thanks for the comments, because you are giving me thoughts about what some of my upcoming posts should focus on.

  3. Different interests are good ... necessary even.

    Clearly we have different ideas, priorities and whatnot. The most important thing IMHO is to build a platform on which people with shared values can work in alignment towards common goals.

    I think it just needs to be defined what falls inside the project and what falls outside of it.

    Here are some comments I made on facebook:

    I am leaning towards the idea that one Free State Project or Free City [Keene] project is not enough. We need to replicate that nationwide. And your idea fits into my thinking on that. So I'm looking forward to seeing how we can make this thing work.

    How about this .... we break it down by govt level: federal, state, county, city/borough/township and keep the activism local.

    And each of us can work at whatever levels we choose and with other interested folks in an open source kind of way.

    Each group could have regular meetings. So the Norristown group might meet Thursdays at 6PM in Norristown. And they can also attend a MontCo meeting at a regular spot in Montco every 3rd Wednesday. And all the PA level groups could meet 2x a year. And then one big get together for all the groups per year. Et cetera.

    At each level each group/individual is autonomous, things happen anarchically, by personal initiative and organic leadership selection. In an open source, 4th generation warfare kinda way.

    The bigger get togethers could be like conferences (Liberty Forum) or just fun stuff (PorcFest).

    If we have a strong group in Philly or MontCo but nothing in say Wilmington, we can roadtrip down to Wilmington, do some consciousness-raising and motivate some allies to work with us.

  4. I like your basic idea, of how to "organize" the region. For my part, I want to get to know the region a little better, by starting at the top ("Delaware Valley Region"), then creating shell state wiki pages, with lists of counties, then shell pages for the counties, then shells for the townships. Then, like a recursive program, once you get down to a "leaf", you back up a level, and decide what to do next (i.e., go down to a different leaf from that same branch/node, do something at that branch/node, or back up again to the next parent branch/node).

    This is just my busy work, to make me feel like I "know" something about the "region", until I feel ready to do something that entails getting in contact with another human being. I guess I'd like to see how much detailed knowledge about the region I can accumulate just from the web (i.e., cheaply), before I hit a point where I need to start spending time talking to others (more expensive).