Posts tagged Competitive Enterprise Institute

The Crash

For a long time I had conflicting feelings about Bureaucrash. On the one hand, I was encouraged to see a well-funded, well-organized libertarian organization that had broken out of the electoralist trap, was no longer focusing on trying to persuade statist politicians to be less statist, or, even worse, to try to replace them with other statist politicians, and that instead was committed to bypassing that whole shell game in favor of a primary focus on culture jamming, street-level organizing, and other forms of activism directed at ordinary people rather than at the political apparatus and its hangers-on. And I know lots of awesome organizers and activists who have come out of Bureaucrash, I think precisely because of that focus.

On the other hand, Bureaucrash always presented itself as a wing mainly of the American libertarian movement; even while many or most Crashers were not only radicals but anarchists, they spent a great deal of their time hanging out with, and promoting the causes of, reformist minimal statists — a strategy I think to be fundamentally self-undermining. And part of the reason for all this was, of course, that there was always the Competitive Enterprise Institute hovering there, in the background. And besides the institutional ties, in site of the shift in focus and rhetoric, there were still the lingering cultural and rhetorical attachments to the old conservative think-tank-tarian world — notably, a lot of cap-doffing, even in supposedly irreverent culture-jamming, to Capitalism, President Thomas Jefferson, and other idols of libertarian respectability; also what seems to me to have been a lot of crude, or even willful, misunderstanding of the counter-globalization movement, and the critique of multi-statist neoliberalism.

However, as you may have noticed, in recent days CEI has taken some major steps towards relieving me of the burden of ambivalence. If you haven’t noticed, former Crasher Xaq Fixx lays out why in his resignation letter:

Hello Crashers,

I have had the pleasure of working with many of you during our time with Bureaucrash, and some of us have only recently discovered each other. Regardless of whether we are new friends or old allies, I thank you all for your commitment to liberty.

As you all know since the beginning of Bureaucrash the position of Crasher-in-Chief has always been held by very principled libertarians. All were welcomed to be members of the Bureaucrash community so long as they shared the desire to decrease the roll of the state in our lives. Passionate freedom fighters Ryan Oprea, Jason Talley, and Pete Eyre have guided the organization as members and not as top down masters by encouraging people to find their own path to liberty and offering assistance along the way. I had hoped to continue in this tradition if I was passed the sledgehammer. Jason and Pete were some of my earliest supporters, and I thank them for that. There were several other applicants for the crasher-in-chief (CiC) position that I would have gladly worked alongside as they followed the trails blazed by their CiC forerunners.

CEI has decided that tradition has no virtue, and crasher quantity is far more important than crasher quality. Over the past several years they have attempted to exert more control over BC, stifling several pro-liberty projects, hamstringing others, discouraging some issues and encouraging others that fit their narrow vision of liberty that coincides with the interests of their donors. Jason and Pete proved difficult to control, and I would be no better so they hired an outsider with no knowledge of our community. They chose someone that they wouldn’t have to fight with or attempt to mold. I cannot blame them for their hiring decision, because to them it makes sense. Bureaucrash became their brand several years ago and they can do with it what they wish.

Lee Doren to some extent is as much a victim as any of us. He was hired to turn Bureaucrash into a youth outreach organization by a conservatarian think tank. Having no prior knowledge of Bureaucrash tt was not unreasonable for him to expect a crowd that shared similar views. He was also not given help for feedback from CEI after being hired; he was given a site and a password and told to make it work. His views may not be in line with ours, but they are what his superiors were looking for. We could perhaps fault him for taking a job with an organization where he strongly disagrees with the majority of active members, or at least being woefully uninformed about the goals of views of that group but, most likely, he was brought in to reform those things anyway. He is just doing his job, and as this is a voluntary organization we should remember that every government employee is more deserving of scorn and ridicule than he.

Because of CEI’s clear disdain for Bureaucrash’s traditions, and complete lack of respect for all of us, the Crashers, I feel it is time to turn our backs on the Bureaucrash brand. I will no longer be hosting the Podcrash, and will be returning all the equipment to CEI. If they are to offer me the position of Crasher-in-Chief, I cannot in good conscious accept it knowing what they want to turn BC into. I cannot continue to contribute my time, labor, and money to what is becoming a front group for an organization that is aligning itself with the authoritarian right instead of those that love liberty the most.

I would be honored if you would join me in finding somewhere else to unite against the ever growing state. I have created a facebook group, ABC (After Bureaucrash) Action to share some alternatives, and discuss what you want out of them.

Yours in Liberty,
Xaq Fixx

For some excellent commentary, see Brad Spangler’s remarks, Misconception: Radicalism undermines reform efforts. I’d just want to stress, in addition to what Brad has to say, that the kind of co-optation and self-vitiation that Brad talks about aren’t just tendencies, and they aren’t just the work of some clever set of minimal-statist manipulators. I think that they are built in to the electoral-reformist project itself, necessarily and always — that they are structural limitations that you will always face if your politics is hitched primarily to influence the state or trying to gain a base of power within the state. The process itself only admits of certain outcomes, and the process itself also tends to consume those who put themselves into it. (For more on why, see GT 2008-11-14: So you are in favor of personal money holes? and GT 2008-02-25: I am shocked! shocked! to find that politics is going on in here.)

So, depending on how you want to look at things, and how you think of what Bureaucrash was, you might think of this as the dismantling of Bureaucrash by the CEI. Or you might think of it as the liberation of Bureaucrash from the CEI. It all depends on whether you’re interested in the brand or in the substance. If it’s the latter, then it doesn’t matter what kind of shit the CEI decides to call Bureaucrash. What’s matters is what’s going on among those who have come out, who have left the purges and the chickenshit co-optation behind them. And if you’re interested in that, then I think there’s good reason to hope that this particular cutting of strings will lead to a more radical politics of individualism, without the constraints imposed by the think-tank paradigm, and with better connections and stronger ties to their real allies (or ALLies) and conversation partners in the freedom movement — the radicals, not the reformists; the counter-economy, not the Establishment; the anarchists, not the minimal-statists concentrated around the imperial Metropole; that is, the left-libertarians, agorists, mutualists, social anarchists, and the rest of us on the anti-statist radical Left. Here’s hoping, anyway.

So let’s get started. The ex-Crashers are congregating around ABC Action:

ABC Action means After Bureaucrash Action - This group is dedicated to those liberty loving activists that have made BC great over the years but are exploring other options due to the new direction CEI and Lee Doren want to take the organization.

And, for those of you who have a radical sensibility and some rad geekery skills, I especially want to point to Mike Gogulski’s Activism opportunity for liberty-loving geeks, which was the main motivating factor in my putting up this post. Mike says:

I have been asked to start up a small sub-working-group, a task force, if you’ll pardon the term, of active people with the time, inclination, experience and knowledge necessary to provide and manage the technology infrastructure for this effort.

This will include, right away, setup and administration of a new ning.com social-networking site, and probably the same duties for a WordPress blog.

Longer-term, we need to create a new activist platform that goes beyond the capabilities of ning, and which could rival the reach and power of the online campaign management and fundraising systems used by groups like moveon.org, Campaign For Liberty, etc.

Anyone who would like to participate in this tech working group — or perhaps become its long-term leader — is invited to contact me directly, and right now!

Full contact info for me is at http://www.gogulski.com/contact.html

Yours in liberty,
Mike Gogulski

Bureaucrash has long been a focal point for libertarians who are young, focused, practical, radical, passionate, and creative. Now that CEI has made it clear that they want more boring professionalist politicos, the ex-Crasher networks are going to become a focal point for libertarians who are young, focused, practical, radical, passionate, creative, pissed off, and, for the moment at least, have become free of binding ties to gradualism, reformism, conservative small-government types, and their program of governmentalist futility-through-respectability.

A time, then, to strike, while the hammer is free to swing. We are going to dismantle the master’s house, and we are going to build our own damned tools to do it with.

Onward.