There were plenty of big names speaking at FreedomFest in Las Vegas last July. There were TV talking heads like Steve Forbes and Andrew Napolitano. Famous entrepreneurs like John Mackay came. Tea Party star Rand Paul attracted vast attention.
But it was an unassuming woman, a brilliant author who rarely leaves her rural home in Canada, who stole the show.
Wendy McElroy has been part of the freedom movement for decades. She is — quite simply — libertarian royalty. Many recognized her and her status, including event organizer Mark Skousen. At the final ball, to which she humbly thought she was not invited, she was swept up, put at the head table, and given rounds of applause.
Ms. McElroy spends her time thinking and writing, leaving the yakking to others. But as she delivered her speech as part of Laissez Faire Club Day at FreedomFest, you could have heard a pin drop. The audience could feel her passion and sincerity. Liberty for Wendy McElroy is not theory, but real life. It is a state of mind and heart.
For McElroy, everything in life begins with the individual. If a person has control of his or her person and property, that’s freedom; if not, it’s slavery. Hers is a clear and sophisticated voice for liberty that will thrill you in her outstanding new book, The Art of Being Free: Politics Versus the Everyman and Woman.
This is not a book about stirring up the Tea Party or political strategy. As the title denotes, politics is the enemy of the people. Real liberty lovers don’t play political games. The games will imprison you.
“I am not into electoral politics as a way to change society, so I don’t think in terms of competing with Republicans or Democrats,” McElroy told an interviewer. “I believe that lasting change comes from transforming the hearts and minds of people — freedom comes one person at a time — and the pulling of a lever every four years doesn’t have much to do with that process. I believe in grass-roots activism to improve the daily realities of people, not in electing politicians to positions of power. A politician has never improved my life, has never made me freer.”
After reading Ayn Rand’s We the Living at age 15, a year later, McElroy escaped to the relative safety of the streets and was immediately confronted with a harsh Canadian winter. She was able to secure a low-wage job and began building a life for herself.
This book is not the musings of a sheltered, out-of-touch academic. McElory’s clear and sparkling prose pushes the reader along at a furious pace — from theory to everyday issues to a discussion of the people who embody freedom and finally to a discussion about moving from an unfree world to a freer one — always with an eye for the rights of the individual.
While government seeks to protect children from exploitation with child labor laws, McElroy explains that these laws relegate some children to lives of homelessness and crime.
Those on the “left” and the “right” claim that public schools are required to educate the masses. They do no such thing. At best, children receive training that leaves them unmotivated and unquestioning. At worst, they are impoverished by the lies and hypocrisies they are told.
As government wages a destructive war on the drugs it deems illegal, it partners with the American Medical Association to form the therapeutic state. Some view a passport a symbol of freedom; McElroy sees these documents as total government control.
The author is likely the only feminist speaking out for the rights of fathers and ex-husbands. She considers the payment of alimony slavery. She makes the trenchant point that fathers owing child support payments are denied due process and are essentially relegated to debtors’ prison.
What America has come to is that the average American is likely breaking three federal laws a day, leading the “land of the free and home of the brave” to resemble a police state.
What McElroy’s heroes have in common is their bravery in standing up to the state. Thoreau chose jail over war taxes. La Boetie said “no” to the state. Voltaire’s words created a backlash. Garrison fought slavery to the end, and R.C. Hoiles never abandoned his principles, while still owning and operating a successful newspaper empire. For example, the heroic Orange County Register owner was one of the rare few who championed the cause of Japanese-Americans who were oppressed during World War II.
Ms. McElroy challenges the reader to examine when and how he or she will withdraw consent from the state. For example, “Would you steal from or harm an innocent person if a state agent commanded you?” she asks. We know how Thoreau would answer, as well as McElroy’s other freedom fighters. What would you do?
Ms. McElroy believes we all should search our souls and determine where we will draw the line. She urges us to plan for a further heightening of the police state. Think through your limits, so you can act accordingly when confronted face to face with state terror, and “you should pay a price as soon as possible because it costs less overall,” McElroy writes. “It will never be easier for you to consider this question than right now, in privacy and comfort.”
We must plan not just for our safety, but also for our self-respect. At what point do we allow the state to strip us of our consciences so that we will willingly do the state’s bidding and aggress against our neighbors? Will we all be institutionalized by state power and bureaucracy? Our learned behavior being to obey and conform, with the end result a deadening of the human soul.
Can you say “no”? Will you say “no”? Let Wendy McElroy show you how.
Photo Credit: marsmet 541 (Creative Commons)