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Guitars and liberty

May 20, 2019

I’ve written recently of the nature of authoritarians (here, here, and here, for instance). Specifically, I observed that authoritarians know only one basic approach. That is, they use force (and/or its threat) as a way of getting others to do what they want. It’s important to understand that authoritarians are not inherently bad people. In many, perhaps even most, cases they truly believe that their goal is worthwhile or even laudable. Quite often, it is. The problem, of course, is how they choose to achieve their goal(s). As I noted in yesterday’s post, those who refuse to comply become the nail to the authoritarian’s hammer.

Like the guitar player who knows only three chords, and only the basic fingerings of those three chords, the authoritarian’s repertoire is limited. Again, the authoritarian knows only the threat of force and the actual application of force. There aren’t many songs that can be played, that way. Thus, when someone “just doesn’t get it” and refuses to “get with the program,” authoritarians double down on force. If that doesn’t work, they double down, yet again. It’s a poor guitar player who plays the same song over and over, louder each time, in an effort to generate applause when the audience just doesn’t appreciate his efforts.

Appropriate “musical” interlude:



But what of the audience? What of those who will not applaud the non-musician with a guitar? What of those who will not comply with the backed-by-the-threat-of-government-force demands of the authoritarian? Depending on where they live, their repertoire need not be quite so limited.

There is frequent reference in the writings of present-day proponents of individual liberty to the “four boxes of liberty.”* Those are, in something approaching desired order of use:

  1. the soap box – for speaking out, protesting, assembling, petitioning for redress of greivances
  2. the ballot box – for the rather obvious purpose of voting out those who either infringe upon or will not defend liberty
  3. the jury box – for the purpose of the jury sitting in judgement of not just the facts of the case, but of the law itself, likely up to and including jury nullification
  4. the ammo box – for use as part of what Judge Kozinski termed the Constitution’s “doomsday provision” Silveira v. Lockyer, 328 F.3d 567 (2003)

Each of these has its place. While there are some who, unfortunately I believe, seem to frequently and enthusiastically call for using the ammo box,** I submit we are nowhere near that profoundly unfortunate necessity. We are, however, desperately in need of using the first three far more than we currently do. Still, each of them serves to illustrate the approaches available to those who will not give in to injustice, or sit silently while liberty is under attack.

The audience, then, has far more tools at hand than does the authoritarian. They have multiple ways of finding another guitarist, another genre of music, a different venue. The challenge, of course, is using them in a way that protects liberty rather using them to impose our will on others. Wanting to be left alone, when rightly conceived, means I will also leave you alone to live your life as you choose – even if I think your way of living life sucks.


*Wikipedia, of all things, actually gives a decent though brief treatment of this concept, including its likely origins.

**It’s worth noting that it’s not typically current or former law enforcement or military folks who are sounding the call for armed rebellion. No, that distinction falls largely to the keyboard commando, whether he lives in his mom’s basement or not. If that’s you, I lack the words to tell you just how much you (and I) don’t want things to ever reach that point. To avoid that, let’s use the first three boxes a lot, okay?

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