I have a follow-up essay at Cato Unbound, THE IMPORTANCE AND LIMITATIONS OF GROUNDWORK.
The implication of a “long, slow…slog” are a line that is slowly and steadily trending upwards. If someone has such a line for the libertarian movement, I would love to see it, but I do not believe it is an accurate assessment of our history.
With that said, here is a critical difference between an inchoate individualist mass and an organized, self-identified group. If our 10 percent of the population had no political party, no think tanks, no magazines, and no reputable academics, not only would we not have political impact, but it would be incredibly difficult for a new project to gain any traction. The Seasteading Institute has benefited enormously from the groundwork laid by libertarian organizations in the spirit of folk activism, and I should have mentioned this in my original essay. I may be skeptical that Cato will ever convert DC to a belief in markets, but I certainly appreciate having a sophisticated forum like Cato Unbound to be able to discuss and refine my ideas.
The Ron Paul campaign also exemplifies this distinction between impact and community. As a method for electoral success, it had zero chance to as many decimal places as you care to name. Yet I’ve met numerous libertarians who before Ron Paul had never heard of the philosophy or movement, and are now a valuable part of our community. Systemic change is required — but it takes an organized group to make a systemic change.
We need an organized group to reach the land of liberty, but we also need a map and a realistic plan to deal with the enormous geographic obstacles. Folk activism has given us the group, and economic theory the map — and we’ve learned that we cannot simply walk to our destination. We need the technologies Peter calls for to let us reach the heights to which we all aspire.
The groundwork has been laid, but it alone can’t get us off the ground. Let’s invent technologies that can.