Politics & Media
Dec 14, 2022, 05:55AM

The Neighborhood Bully

Local authority is still authoritarian.

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It makes such perfect sense that a weird-yet-moderate political figure such as Sen. Kyrsten Sinema—Burning Man-attending yet corporate, bisexual but hated by most of the left—is a newly-declared Independent. She declared it immediately after the outcome of the protracted Senate race in Georgia affirmed that her old party, the Democrats, will remain safely in charge of the Senate for the time being regardless of what she does. That makes her move less risky for the liberal establishment and thereby decreases some of the rage directed her way, though not the centrist wooing and donations during divisive legislative battles to come, most likely.

All this is a reminder that the U.S. should cease to be a country. It’s absurd for 330 million people to watch someone like Sinema dancing on a knife edge—or for that matter to hold their breaths during another presidential election—wondering what sweeping changes will transform their country and lives if the single national legislature tilts the tiniest bit this way or that.

The right and left, justifiably, now disagree with each other so much some political activists talk of a “National Divorce” in which the U.S. splits into at least two countries, their respective governments better matched to the desires of their constituents, ending these recurring all-or-nothing 50/50 down-to-the-wire face-offs. I’d suggest going farther and having something like a “National Annulment” in which we agree that a giant American superstate never should’ve been created in the first place, given the diversity of views and preferences that a large group of people inevitably possess.

As I’ve written before, we should shut down DC and let 50 states peacefully go their separate ways—but that’s just a start, and I think the “local is better than global” idea has gotten so much traction in the past few years that it’s important to add that the path to liberty does not end there. Local authorities are still a nuisance. If a corrupt sheriff punches you in the face, you won’t take much consolation from knowing he wasn’t a fed, though it should prove easier to flee his county than to flee the entire federal government, a fact that probably keeps him slightly—but only slightly—humbler than the feds most of the time.

One need only glance around the globe to see the horrors governments inflict within their own borders to be reminded that a global regime or continent-spanning superstate is not the only governmental threat humanity faces.

Rumors (apparently false) that sports YouTuber Astrid Wett might face execution threats from Qatar for porn-like videos and skimpy outfits should limit the apathetic “when in Rome” attitude of tourists and sports fans everywhere. Iran’s even worse, and any intellectually consistent defender of freedom has to hope recent signs of rebellion against their “virtue police” and the regime generally will increase, even if Western governments keep a safe distance from it all.

Russia, meanwhile, had no more business jailing an American pot smoker than America does. If that arms merchant the U.S. traded to Russia to get Griner back were only a bit more scrupulous about who he sold arms to, I’d be tempted to call the prisoner exchange that liberated them both a win/win. No government, big or small, should presume to tell people what they can smoke or how they can defend themselves. But Bout often sold weapons to assailants including governments, so his hands aren’t as clean as those of the ideal black market armorer or soldier.

The impulse to do business with everyone and treat all politics as transactional can take very decentralized forms—which, again, beats one big inescapable global government—but it can also lead to a cynical attitude such as Trump’s when he exulted of his diplomatic dealings with world leaders that “The ones I did the best with were the tyrants.” That frank admission should limit one’s enthusiasm for arguments that, say, Trump or Tucker Carlson rubbing elbows with autocratically-inclined Hungarian president Viktor Orban is a reliable route to liberty. Just as a bad man might justifiably hate local politicians but be a violent tyrant in his own home, nationalist politicians can (rightly) oppose the UN or other institutions of national governance while being menaces in their own right. Eternal vigilance in all directions, at all geographic levels, is needed.

Nonetheless, my respect for local, informal, non-institutionalized knowledge is increasing over the years, which is something of a humble retreat from my initial Enlightenment-style universalist desire to remake the world by ridding it of all idiocy (including bad, socialistic econ ideas). People like me, who’ve taken some of their pro-local, pro-humility cues from the libertarian economist Hayek, enemy of central planning, might even want to consider giving a new, more sympathetic listen to folklore and indigenous local wisdom—even the ancient Bigfoot and UFO tales from Native Americans that you can hear recounted this week in the new documentary Missing 411: The UFO Connection.

What are those neopagan-like Burning Man festivals that the newly-independent senator from Arizona attends, after all, if not an effort to mimic the weird, varied, radically decentralized, and unpredictable insights of the sorts of older local cultures over which the American superstate rode roughshod? Better to explore some strange little path through the desert or forest than to pave another highway to Rome, Berlin, or DC. That doesn’t mean you’re obliged to let Bigfoot beat the crap out of you if you stumble across him in the boonies, though.

—Todd Seavey is the author of Libertarianism for Beginners and is on Twitter at @ToddSeavey


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