When Everyone Around You Wants to Restrict Freedom

How Does One Live Free in an Age of Force?

There are common sentiments which befall those who attempt to inform others of the excesses and abuses of government force.

Despite campaigning on the virtues of personal liberty in the political realm, recommending books, literature, and videos in social settings, and bringing forward economic data, historical comparisons, and empirically-tested principles in academia, advocates for a less aggressive state often find themselves outnumbered, outclassed, and outplayed.

What then, are skeptics of centralized power and control to do?

The plain fact is that people tend to want to move away from a society that restricts freedom and toward one that embraces personal sovereignty. Beyond migration, though, if one is looking to live beyond the constraints imposed by society and government, there are some things one can do in the current system to help freedom evolve and expand.

Long Live the Market

If one is truly ready to live beyond the restrictions imposed by the state, the easiest way to personally achieve this is by rewarding positive actions in the marketplace which shun government control.

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In Austria, laws mandate that stores keep their doors shut at certain times, including all-day Sunday.

In Austria, where I live now, Ladenschlussgesetz laws oblige stores to open and close at certain times. This includes a near blackout of commercial activity on Sunday, leading to a government-mandated “day of rest.”

I make it a point to patronize the select stores which remain open, thanks to legal loopholes, including one which allows shops to decide their own hours if they’re “necessary for tourism.” Not surprisingly, cinemas, coffee shops, and even McDonald’s invoke these loopholes to excuse themselves from such burdensome regulation. That’s according to the Austria Export-Import Trade and Business Directory, a trade guide for potential investors.

I’d like to think I’m rewarding these businesses with my money for getting around the stupid rules which put thousands of other stores at an economic disadvantage.

To that end, closing-hour restrictions have been liberalized immensely over the years in Austria because of businesses and consumer demands. It’s a small bit of economic freedom, but it’s worth a lot to the entrepreneurs who actually create wealth and sustainable jobs in the private market.

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Bitcoin worries government institutions like the ECB and FBI because of its threat to “traditional financial systems.”

Another way to use actions in the market to free yourself and society is to shun the traditional fiat currencies for inflation-proof currencies. Bitcoin, for example, is climbing in value and increasing in popularity for regular transactions.

A European Central Bank report released in Nov. 2012 called Bitcoin a “threat to financial stability,” and warned it could challenge the “monopoly of central banks” around the world as well as “undermine” the legitimacy of nation states.

More notably, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation released an earlier report in April 2012 deriding Bitcoin as a “haven” for “money launderers, drug traffickers, and terrorists.”

They claimed it would become the new vehicle for “various illegal activities beyond the cyber realm,” and warned users of the potential for large numbers of people to avoid “traditional financial systems.”

Obviously, if it’s a threat to the central bank monopoly and it’s driving the FBI crazy, it must be an awesome tool that activists should use.

Forever the Activist

For the majority of people who have been raised on state rhetoric, there is total disbelief that the government, the “only thing we all belong to,” could actually be doing more to harm wealth, creativity, and freedom than help them.

In order to counter these ideas, live more freely, and release the frustration one may hold, there is nothing like refusing to play along, engaging others, and providing an example for them to follow.

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Bringing drone messages to Barack Obama supporters in Seminole, Florida.

I undertook this most noble experiment by demonstrating a message about using armed drones on American citizens overseas at a Barack Obama campaign rally in Seminole, Florida during the 2012 campaign.

(Listen here, 12 minutes, as I discuss the use of predator drones on my show Liberty In Exile with guest Alan Holmes.)

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Surely, I received constant stares, threats, and water bottles thrown my way, but for every three angry Obama supporters was at least one person curious about what drones were and how the president was using them.

I’m certain they went home that evening and did some research that blew them away.

Similarly, I attended and participated in lectures and talks with groups at Occupy Philadelphia and Occupy Tampa throughout 2011 and 2012. That provided an opportunity for me to explain the perils of the Federal Reserve and the welfare/warfare state.

If framed correctly, the Occupy audience is actually a very receptive place for liberty-loving ideas. And these efforts even got me a spot in the local Philadelphia Inquirer paper.

It’s clear that protesting is not for everyone, but it often provokes sympathizers into learning about your message and understanding why skepticism toward government power is warranted.

Branch Out
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Walden Pond, near Concord, Massachusetts.

When poet and author Henry David Thoreau committed himself to a solitary lifestyle at Waldon Pond, it was his own way of finding his own freedom.

He disagreed immensely with the institution of slavery and the imperialist Mexican-American war, refusing to pay taxes as a measure of protest and spending time in jail for it.

This was the basis for his famous essay “On the Duty of Civil Disobedience.”

Though for Thoreau it might have been his self-built cabin in the woods surrounded by nature, for others finding freedom could mean a host of different things.

Consider learning a new language and exploring a new culture, as James Altucher recommended during a Stateless Man episode on alternatives to higher education. (Listen here, 18 minutes.) Individuals who are more open to the outside world will be able to quickly learn new skills in new environments and societies.

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High up in the Austrian mountains. Photo by Melanie Pfeffer.

In my own life, I’ve attempted to learn my grandfather’s language of German, my fourth adopted language which I employ everyday in my newly chosen city of Vienna.

By being in this new place, I’m adapting to different cultural customs and learning to become more versatile, more skilled, and hopefully more amenable to work and social environments where I may not be comfortable.

Depending on one’s interests, the ways to find individual freedom are vastly infinite.

Start a business and learn the importance of entrepreneurship and how to be self-sustainable. Undertake the selling of small goods and services to see exactly how the market functions. Use your networking to start partnerships with individuals who share similar passions and desires.

New projects and connections will not only broaden your experiences but also increase your ability to succeed despite the culture of force promoted by the government.

It’s something that anyone with passion will be able to pursue.

Fergus Hodgson, the Stateless Man himself, discussed these issues in the context of author Henry Browne’s bestselling book, How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World, at length on the premiere broadcast in January 2012 with Glenn Cripe, director of the Language of Liberty Institute.

Click here to listen (41 minutes).

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Yaël Ossowski About Yaël Ossowski

Journalist, writer, and host of Liberty In Exile, broadcast on the Liberty Radio Network and the No Agenda Stream. Follow him on Twitter @YaelOss and Yael.ca.