In a romantic (and possibly fictional) past, the young people of the village would sit at the feet of the village elders – the older, wiser, and most respected members of the village – to receive guidance and instruction, and to learn to avoid the potential mistakes of the elders’ youths.
The image of this kind of thing is somewhat funny from the perspective of modern society. The youth have, in general, a mild or moderate disdain for their cultural elders. The youth view them as stuffy, out of touch, and irrelevant to society. These criticisms are not completely without merit. Many of the older generations are, in fact, stuffy and out of touch. They often fear youth culture and modern technology.
The people who are often considered the modern analogues to the archetypal village elders are politicians, religious leaders, teachers, and the like. These people, rather than being the wise and experienced icons of respect, are petty, domineering, and obsessed with wringing compliance out of the young and those who they believe are under their stewardship.
Societal leaders like these impose their wills upon the youth, often against their will, by a series of arbitrary and bizarre demands:
Go to school
Get up early
Don’t use these drugs
Do use these other drugs
Don’t express yourself
Don’t ask questions
Don’t spend your time as you would like to
Respect your elders
Ask permission to get a job, a driver’s license, an apartment, and to use the restroom
and on and on.
If, at any point, someone decides they do not wish to participate in this idiotic rehearsal, the alleged leaders of society campaign mightily for the dissenter to be sent to a cage.
Is it any wonder that there is so much disdain and mutual distrust between the young and the cultural elders?
Contrast this to the liberty movement – a loose political and social amalgamation of certain members of the broader culture. The movement has, in its relatively brief history, been led primarily by older people, people like Ludwig von Mises, Murray Rothbard, and Ron Paul. These older, wiser, and well-respected members form the intellectual core of the movement. Their writing, and the writing of others like them, is the primary means by which new members come to the movement. However, an increasing number of people in the liberty movement are the young. The message of liberty – that all humans are self-owners, and that human relationships should be based on the voluntary consent of all parties – contrasts heavily with the cultural mainstream. It provides a worldview that is in harmony with their experiences. Because of this, the bulk of the liberty movement is made up of the young.
Unlike mainstream modern society, however, there is no tension or conflict between the old and the young of the movement. The intellectual elders are looked to with respect, love, and admiration by their younger counterparts. This condition is no doubt the result of the structure of the movement – it is built on peaceful relationships, consent, and the rejection of the forceful imposition of one’s will upon others.
This can be seen manifesting itself in many different avenues of the movement. The young flock to the websites, podcasts, videos, classes, and seminars of the cultural elders. People like Lew Rockwell, Ben Stone, David Friedman, Walter Block, and Ron Paul have ‘rock star’ status among the liberty culture.
To see this modern version of the primitive model of society in action is absolutely humbling. It is the kind of thing that requires one to sit down to really fully contemplate it. It is, perhaps, one of the greatest validations of our message – society can be organized in this manner. The young can learn from their elders. We can arrange ourselves in a peaceful social order. We do not need to resort to force and threats.
The culmination of this realization was, to me, one year ago when Ron Paul spoke at a rally attended by 10,000 people – the majority of them young. They sat and listened to his wisdom, respectfully and with admiration. It was a perfect modern manifestation of the primitive gathering by the young around the village elders. Those who claim that the State must be used to provide social order do not see the structure of the liberty movement. It is too subtle, too fine, for the central-planner’s eye to see. We do not have to provide any kind of metaphysical or theoretical basis for our claims about societal structure – we have empirical data in the very organization of the liberty movement itself.
This kind of thing continuously reminds me that modern society is sick, and in need of the cure which we have been prescribing – complete liberty.