The Mises Institute monthly, free with membership
Volume 16, Number 5
by Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr.
When the three top dogs of the U.S. global empire went to Ohio University,
hoping to explain why we needed to drop bombs on Iraq, they were met with fierce
resistance. This event, broadcast worldwide, caused the Clinton administration to rethink
its bombs-away strategy. A war was averted and untold numbers of lives were saved.
The resistance in Ohio took three forms:
Tacit: the arena was only half full, a signal that Americans
don't automatically show up when government convenes a meeting. There's a reason
despots insist on a full house: it creates the illusion of mass obedience. In the same
way, a partially empty house suggests a lack of consensus and even disobedience.
Active: 200 protestors disoriented the empire's spokesmen
and brought them down to a human level. This also sends an important signal. In
Washington, these people may have roses thrown at their feet, but in the real America,
they are treated as agents of the state and enemies of our liberty.
Intellectual: This was the most effective resistance tactic used
that night. Many of the people who went to the microphone to ask questions were
surprisingly articulate and well-informed about foreign policy. They cited cases of moral
hypocrisy, demanded answers on specific matters relating to the politics of the Persian
Gulf region, and applied the lessons of history. Their questions were met with evasions
This three-pronged attack left Clinton administration officials in a daze.
They couldn't believe that they, the masters of the world's "indispensable" government, were
challenged at all, especially by average citizens whose only role is to pay up, and shut
The Clinton administration governs by poll, and the polls said people
would support an attack on Iraq. Where was this resistance coming from? Unbeknownst to the
Clinton administration, our times have raised up a hard core of citizens determined to
resist the encroachment of government in a host of crucial areas, including warfare, gun
control, taxes, Internet freedom, home schooling, land rights, and religious rights. This
frustrates the designs of the power elites to envelop all aspects of our lives in their
Does this resistance movement have a moral right to exist? Of course, and
the politically astute Clinton praised (with clenched teeth) the Ohio resistors for
expressing their opinion. But he wasn't serious. Government by its very nature hates
resistance, and schemes to get unquestioning obedience to all its dictates.
But what if those dictates are unjust? Are they to be agreed to merely
because they come from a government? The usual response is that we can only express
political dissatisfaction at the ballot box. Hillary, for example, calls any criticism of
her husband an effort to "overturn the results of the 1996 election--as if a phonied-up plebiscite
confers immunity from oversight.
Democracy no longer means self rule or self government, since neither law
nor the threat of secession provides a limit to tyranny. Democracy now means menacing and
violating the rights of individuals, families, communities, and businesses to be left
alone. Bill Gates startled Washington by refusing to submit to Justice Department orders
that he make Microsoft technology conform to his competitors' demands. What's
more, he told government judges and lawyers that they didn't know what they were
talking about, and demanded the freedom to innovate according to the consumers'--not the
Not every act of resistance needs to be public. The explosive growth of
the Internet economy is due not only to the convenience of the medium; it is a means of
avoiding oppressive sales taxes. The key to its growth is the unwillingness to obey the
terms government establishes for us. The same is true of the American sport of tax revolt.
Resistance must take many forms if liberty is to have a future. It reminds the holders of
power that they cannot expect unquestioning obedience, that they are not exempt from the
demands of justice, and that they cannot ride roughshod over people's lives and
property. With every act of resistance comes the message: the state is not a god; my
allegiance is conditional.
If the Clinton administration doesn't like resistance, it should
consider Mises's warning: Do not make the dissenting citizen feel that "his only choice is either
perish or to destroy the machinery of the state."
Llewellyn H. Rockwell, Jr., is president of the Mises Institute in Auburn, Alabama.
FURTHER READING: Etienne De La Boetie, The Politics of Obedience: The
Discourse of Voluntary Servitude (Black Rose Press, 1998 ); Murray N. Rothbard,
Thought Before Adam Smith (Cheltenham, U.K.: Edward Elgar, 1995), pp. 167-74; Ludwig
von Mises, Liberalism
(Irvington-on-Hudson, N.Y.: FEE, 1985), p. 59.