We try to be prepared to survive any situation we find ourselves in, and for most of us one of the scenarios we plan for is life under a tyrannical government. That speaks to a strong American tradition of resisting tyranny – but we need to be realistic here. When our nation’s founders wrote the Second Amendment it wasn’t actually all that hard for an armed populace to defeat the government. Most fighting was done with swords, muskets and cannon, and an organized citizens’ militia could bring a lot more of those to the battlefield than the government could.
Now the game has changed. The government has an array of incredibly powerful weapons at its disposal that an armed citizenry can’t hope to match. Tanks, attack helicopters and combat aircraft can’t be defeated with the sort of weapons available to the public. We often hear people say “Well, the Taliban are doing pretty well with old rifles,” but this isn’t really true. First, the Taliban have much heavier weapons than that – they’re well supplied with machineguns, RPGs, rockets and even light artillery. Secondly, they’re still not doing all that well. They can murder American soldiers, but the US-backed government still rules Afghanistan and our soldiers dominate the country.
That’s with the incredibly restrictive rules of engagement imposed by a democratic US government, too. Do you really think a tyrant will share our president’s concern with avoiding needless civilian deaths? I don’t. The truth is, if America descends into tyranny we can – we must – resist the tyrant, but we’ll struggle to defeat him.
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Winning before the war
Don’t give up just yet, though. There’s an even better way to fight a dictatorship in the USA, and that’s to start fighting before that dictatorship even exists – in fact, start right now.
If a tyrant takes power in this country it’s going to be a tyrant we elected. No foreign nation is powerful enough to invade us and impose a dictator. No coup launched from within our military or government is going to succeed in the face of our loyal soldiers and Marines. The idea that the UN has a secret military force powerful enough to overthrow us is a laughable fantasy. The only way a tyrant can sit in the White House is to be voted into it.
Of course, we’re not going to deliberately elect one, and the chances are we won’t elect one who’s pretending to be a normal politician either. What’s most likely is that we elect a president who genuinely means well, then drifts into tyranny when their ideas don’t work out. Because here’s the really scary thing about tyrants – most of them really believe what they’re doing is in their country’s best interests. Yes, even socialists think they’re helping the people, or would be if the stupid people would sit still and let themselves be helped.
So the way to fight tyranny is to look for the sort of political ideas that can lead to it, then use our votes and our powers as citizens to keep them out of power.
What sort of political ideas do you need to look out for? In a word, collectivism. The US political tradition is individualist and capitalist. The founders’ vision was of a federal government that could protect the people from threats they couldn’t counter themselves, like foreign invasion. Welfare and most other government functions were to be left to states or lower levels.
The USA was never meant to be an anarchistic, every man for himself nation, but it wasn’t supposed to be collectivist either. Welfare should be a safety net for people who need some temporary help. Instead we now have politicians whose main goal is to take money from the people who earn it and give it to people who don’t. The same people also keep trying to restrict our freedoms, “for our own good.”
Spotting potential tyrants
Potential tyrants aren’t going to say openly authoritarian things; people who do that are cranks and they’re never going to get elected. Remember, future tyrants don’t see themselves that way. They have a bunch of ideas they believe will help people, but once in office they’ll get frustrated we don’t seem to want to be helped, and they’ll try to force us to go along with them.
So watch out for politicians with big plans. The “Green New Deal”? That’s exactly the sort of thing that can lead to despotism when its architects give in to frustration. If a politician wants to do something radical there’s always a risk of it morphing into tyranny. Look for politicians that make sensible, moderate proposals. Someone who want to fix things that used to work but don’t now, or make gradual changes, is probably going to be fine. Someone who wants radical chance could be fine, but the more radical ideas the more vulnerable they are to becoming a tyrant.
Be ready to cross party lines. Our two main political parties are big tents and there’s a surprising amount of overlap between them. In recent years things have become more partisan and that overlap is smaller than it used to be, but it’s still significant. When elections at any level come round, read what the candidates say they want to do (and compare it with their past voting records, if they have one). Then vote for the candidate who values freedom over the one who wants more bans, laws and restrictions – even if they’re from the party you don’t usually vote for.
Make libertarianism your political baseline. What other people do is none of our business, unless it harms us. If we stand by while the government bans things other people like, who’s going to help when they ban things that matter to us? Whenever politicians at any level suggest a new restriction or ban, do some research. Is there a good reason for the ban? If not, oppose it. Write to your town council, state politicians or congressman to oppose it.
Do this even if it’s not something that matters to you personally. For example, right now many states and cities are banning or restricting vaping. That makes no difference to you if you don’t vape – but if you support the vapers now, they’ll remember that. When politicians try to ban ham radio, or keeping chickens in a residential area, or “high capacity” magazines, some of those vapers will support you. Even if you personally disapprove of something, unless it’s actually causing you harm you should fight to keep it legal. By doing this you’re maintaining the habit of freedom.
Writing letters, joining protests and even voting aren’t the most exciting ways to fight oppression, but they’re definitely the most effective. If it gets to the point where the only way to defend your freedom is to pick up a rifle, your freedom has already gone – and the government has the firepower to stop you getting it back. Let’s win the fight now, when we can do it bloodlessly.
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