The most common questions I receive when first talking about this film is, “How did you find these people?” So these two blog entries are here to answer that question and help everyone understand where I am coming from.
Stateless, is not an advocacy film. While I don’t think there even is a completely unifying ideology which encompasses the people who appear in this movie, I want to make it clear that I am not espousing any specific worldview. My intention here is to cast a light on and humanize a movement which is frequently underrepresented or misunderstood.
And as with any film I make, I want the people I feature to not simply be elevated, but also put in a position to defend their decisions and positions.
All that being said, I sincerely value the lineage which brought all of these people together, as it overlaps with so much of my early intellectual development. I admire anyone who is willing to question institutions on an existential level, and especially those who are willing to change their lives based on the analyses.
THE VERY BEGINNING
Like most people, my first political influences came from my parents. In my home, this was mostly shaped by my father. This took the form of a sort of Bill Buckley/National Review conservatism.
My father was the first to present me the notion that taxation is a form a theft. To him, it was a necessary evil which should be minimized. And this was understandable from his perspective. He was born into poverty, the youngest of eleven kids in a Michigan farm town. After relocating to the small city of Saginaw at age five, he spent most of his life from then on working his way into the middle class, allowing him to raise a family more comfortably.
We were never wealthy by most Americans’ standards. While my family’s income may have gone pretty far in depressed Saginaw, it placed us only in the middle-middle class of New Jersey where I grew up. It was understandable that my father felt exploited with more than half of his money going to fund the various levels of government, while getting very little in return for that.
My father’s main political concern was on taxation, with a minor post-Catholic emphasis on social opposition to things like abortion and drug-legalization.
I passively agreed with his stances on these things until in middle school when I fell into the world of punk rock. My favorite bands, like Rise Against and NOFX, seemed completely opposed to my dad’s opinions, taking persistent protests against against the G.W. Bush era G.O.P.
This put my in a state of liminality in which I abandoned all concern for politics. One of the first song lyrics I wrote for my band at age 14:
I don’t care about politics
I don’t care who’s a hypocrite
I don’t care, I can’t even vote
My mind won’t change by a song you wrote
Every day I hear the same old shit
Every song, they’re all about it
Our world sucks, I can see
But whatever happened to “Fuck Authority?”
By my teenage years, I hated everything about school. It felt like a prison or an indoctrination camp — a sentiment I would regularly share with my peers whom never really seemed to care.
While I still respected my father’s anti-government inclinations, his Republican conclusion didn’t seem all too rational to me. And though I respected the anti-Bush messages of my punk rock heroes, their conclusion to get out and vote Democrat still seemed like an all too authoritarian solution.
So, I was nothing.
THE SENSE OF BELONGING
That feeling lasted until the 2008 presidential election when the character, Ron Paul, showed up along with my first exposure to the idea of libertarianism. This was the most consistently anti-authoritarian movement I had seen, and it finally felt like I had a political home.
From there I followed a pretty common path. I read Ayn Rand, and then the Austrian economists. I debated with my left-leaning peers in college feeling like I had the answers to everything. I had basically taken what my father had taught me, and applied it to what I saw as the most conclusive application of his principles.
The following year, I downloaded an .mp3 after searching “libertarian podcast.” The first episode of the first search result was titled, “The Stateless Society – An Examination of Alternatives.” In it, a man with an ambiguous accent, maybe Irish or English, outlined in less than 30 minutes a series of ideas in which all of the functions of the government — military, police, contracts, social security, firefighting — could be provided without taxation or “the initiation of force.”
My mind had never been so suddenly changed. I was an anarchist.
And while the vision of anarchy that converted me was of a rather different flavor than the teenage anarcho-punk ideologies I was exposed to, the word in itself felt right. It was sort of familiar. The same distaste my father felt against taxes, and the same distaste my musical influences felt toward authority could finally be consolidated.
The podcast was called Freedomain Radio, and it was hosted by Stefan Molyneux, an Irish-born former software entrepreneur who lived in Toronto. Fans of the show, or “Freedomainers” as I they called themselves, would simply refer to him as “Stef.”
He started recording the episodes in 2005. His earliest episodes were recorded while driving in his car during his commute. They included a range of topics around anarcho-capitalism, atheism, and philosophy. Though what was most captivating about his rants and writings were not his criticisms, but his call to action.
Behind Stef’s messages there was no call to arms. His listeners were not encouraged to take to the streets, and voting was laughed at or even framed as a form of state-aggression in itself. The community — through Stef’s words — instead saw the task of eliminating the state to be most likely impossible within our lifetime. So instead, the necessary work was to focus on future generations.
So, I became a broke 20-year-old musician, who read books about peaceful parenting.
The government, according to Stef, would only ever cease to exist if enough humans no longer perceived violence as an appropriate measure for solving social problems.
The reason most citizens so willingly support taxation and other forms of law based outside of property rights (e.g. drug control laws) is because most people are raised as children through authoritarian parenting and education structures.
Almost all mainstream child-rearing systems were scrutinized, from infancy through adolescence. Bottle-feeding or early breast milk weaning were viewed as some of the earliest forms of trauma, along with the “cry it out” conditioning tactics often associated with bedroom-separation.
Toddlers and small children were seen as the most brutal victims of statist parenting. Stef argued that children were the only category of humans against whom physical assault was not only legal, but encouraged, spanking being the most common form of this.
Schooling was of course a popular subject, one on which I was especially easy to sway considering my miserable experience in a government-run school system.
Yet simply talking about a paradigm-shift in child-rearing was not enough, nor was it enough to simply assume that once people were exposed to these ideas they would be willing to completely adopt them. And even committed devoted Freedomainers were not likely to be capable of immediate change. It was more or less believed that we were all victims of childhood trauma, which could only be resolved through therapy.
This is where I first noticed things were problematic.