Skip to comments.NH libertarians push limits of law (Concord Monitor article)
Posted on 06/05/2005 3:20:54 PM PDT by Dada Orwell
From Concord Monitor 6/5/05 http://www.seacoastonline.com/news/06052005/news/46059.htm
Libertarians push limits of law
By Daniel Barrick Concord Monitor
CONCORD - This Saturday, Russell Kanning will attempt to board a flight from Manchester to Philadelphia, carrying nothing but a Bible and a copy of the Declaration of Independence. He doesnt expect to get very far. In what he calls an act of civil disobedience, Kanning, a 35-year-old accountant from Keene and a staunch libertarian, will refuse to show identification to airline officials or submit to a security search. But even if hes barred from his flight, Kanning hopes his actions will highlight what he considers overly burdensome state intrusion.
"Theyre not going to be happy Im doing this," Kanning said. "But people shouldnt have to go through all the hassles we have to go through. They just want to control us."
Kannings performance at Manchester Airport will be the latest in a series of public protests that libertarians here and elsewhere are using to promote their belief in individual freedom and limited government.
Last month, a Newmarket man spent a night in jail after he filed a friends fingernails without a license from the state cosmetology board. The man, Mike Fisher, made sure to reap maximum publicity for the stunt, telling police, state officials, and local news outlets about his plans ahead of time. Unlicensed manicuring is a misdemeanor in New Hampshire.
"Normally, we would like to handle this kind of situation with a warning," said Lt. Jay Brown of the Concord Police Department, which handled Fishers arrest. "But this individual was asked to stop and when he did not stop, we arrested him."
Other planned demonstrations include starting a private mail service, to call attention to the federal governments monopoly on first-class mail delivery, and selling bottles of liquor, in defiance of state liquor laws. A crew of libertarians in Kentucky plans to serve alcohol to an underage military veteran next month, letting local police know ahead of time for maximum exposure.
"Libertarians have spent so much time complaining about government, but civil disobedience is a path to actually fixing things," Kanning said. "Who knows what this might inspire?"
But enthusiasm for such public displays isnt shared throughout New Hampshires libertarian community. Some libertarians dismiss protesters like Kanning and Fisher as publicity hounds who risk turning people off with their stunts.
"This kind of protesting is non-productive, counter-productive, and in my opinion is quite sophomoric and egotistical in its approach," said Don Gorman, a former libertarian state representative from Deerfield. "Individuals can pursue the cause of liberty as they see fit, but the way to accomplish those goals is by working with the establishment."
Increasingly visible protests come as libertarians of all stripes seek a more prominent platform in New Hampshire. The Free State Project earned national headlines last year when its members settled on New Hampshire as the setting for its experiment in coordinated pro-liberty living. The projects leaders hope to move 20,000 like-minded libertarians to the state in the next few years, fostering an environment of limited government. They say hundreds have already made the move.
New Hampshire "is really where its happening," said Fisher, who moved to the state a year ago as part of the Free State Project. "Weve all come here to take part in this. More and more, we are starting to translate our ideas into reality, and people arent going to be able to ignore it anymore."
John Babiarz, chairman of the New Hampshire Libertarian Party, said such an approach represented a generational shift in libertarian thinking.
"A decade ago, we tried to make changes by lobbying politicians and talking to people, and we got nowhere," Babiarz said. "The newer breed of younger people are making the same arguments, but instead of through the State House, theyre doing it in public by creating a public spectacle. As long as its done peacefully, it makes for great political theater and it brings the issue into the news."
Like all political parties, Babiarz said, the Libertarian Party includes both purists and pragmatists. The two sides may disagree over tactics while still sharing the same goals.
Critics in the movement say libertarians can have a bigger impact by working with the existing power structures. Gorman, for example, leads tours of the State House for libertarians who want to see government from the inside. He encourages his students to meet their local representatives, observe the lobbying process and submit their own legislation. He said hes already grooming potential candidates for next years elections.
Staged protests might make sense in oppressive police states, Gorman said. But in New Hampshire, the relatively relaxed political environment make such displays unnecessary.
"This is not a closed society where its difficult to reach your elected official, as it is in a lot of states," Gorman said. "If you want to talk to the governor, walk into the chamber at the next council meeting and do it."
His advice for frustrated libertarians: "Your first job is to be a good citizen. Get involved in the Boy Scouts, in local boards and committees, in the volunteer fire department. Seek political office, if you like, and bring your philosophy into the realm of government."
Such advice holds little attraction for Kanning. He claims not to have paid federal income tax since 1998 and drives without a valid drivers license because he thinks its a nuisance. Hes considering burning his Social Security card. The idea of speaking before the Legislature disgusts him.
"I wish there werent things like government because they just get in the way of us living our lives," he said. "I dont want to have to deal with it at all."
He's not a Libertarian, whatever he says.
He is some kind of Performance-Artist/Anarchist.
Best idea I've heard out of libertarians in a long time. If there is single issue that libertarians could get a lot of milage on, lowering the drinking age is it. This single issue has the potential to reach out to a younger generation like no other issue has. Three cheers to the Kentucky crew.
"A decade ago, we tried to make changes by lobbying politicians and talking to people, and we got nowhere," Babiarz said.
Barbiarz may not be aware of it, but during the period of greatest libertarian growth, that is the period that ended 2 decades ago, libertarians were regularly involved in publicity stunts and didn't bother much with lobbying politicians. Its about time libertarians return to direct action, and leave all the political bull to the republicans and democrats.
Libertarians such as Don Gorman want to build the Libertarian Party into an unprincipled pretend real political party which at best might replace one of the other two major parties while becoming useless authoritarian carbon copy of them. But more than likely, the LP will just grow enough to be a spoiler for the other two major parties. In either case, there is no good that will come out of it. Libertarian Party members need to think in terms of movement building and not at playing pretend politics.
An anarchist for sure. Seriously though, civil disobedience is good for getting the public's attention, but make sure it's what the public wants to see.
The fingernail bit is Civil Disobedience in a Libertarian mode, as that is typical occupational protectionist legislation that needs to be repealed, but a Libertarian recognizes that Airlines are private and can have any rules they wish. If homeland security stopped him from boarding his own airplane without a search, that would be a different story.
I never saw any poll taken that said that 20 year old army combat veteran sergeants shouldn't be able to legally drink a beer. Do you have a source for "most people"? If they've risked their lives, been wounded fighting for our country, they ought to be able to drink beer.
The FBI just came by his place to question him today. Details unfolding at
If under-21 drinking is only a misdemeanor, How hard should it be to get a dozen sergeants (and non-sergeants) for a "civil disobedience" direct action protest? ...in Kentucky!! I can see the district attorney spending time on just ONE underage military veteran, but not more than three.
Hell, bring in the shot glasses. A little tequila at this table...the whiskey at that table. Why just beer... Let the Libertarians try That for "maximum exposure."
Acts of civil disobedience are never palatable to the public. Palatability only exists in targeted populations. If it is "bang for the buck" that is sought out, then the public likes and dislikes should be completely disregarded.
My feeling is that a much larger portion of the public opposes underage drinking than supports cosmetology licensing requirements.
No doubt about it. The fact that the public opposes it, gives it a single check mark on the positive side with regard to reaching out to targeted potential activist populations. Targeting the general public usually turns off such populations and thereby works against bringing activists into unpopular movements. The general public will not give an unpopular movement even a second thought until it has developed enough to appear popular. The only people that can build that kind of appearance of popularity are those who do not live in fear of being unpopular to the general publicly.
Taking a public stand against the authorities by serving under age soldiers alcohol is a "big bang" activity in favor of lowering the drinking age which has almost unlimited outreach potential for reaching a new generation of Americans with the ideals of the free enterprise economics and the philosophy of libertarianism. For this reason it is a highly pragmatic activity.
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