Real Dissent: A Libertarian Sets Fire to the Index Card of Allowable Opinion
© 2014 Tom Woods
In most presidential elections, 2016 being an obvious outlier, Americans are presented with that most exhilarating of choices: a career bureaucrat-politician wearing a red tie, and a career bureaucrat-politician wearing a blue tie. Coke or Pepsi, behold the variety! Tom Woods contends that the range of media-approved opinion available to Americans today is small enough to fit on an index card — one that should be set fire to. Real Dissent is written as the match. The book collects over a decade’s worth of Woods’ political debate and writing, organized into categories on war, markets, monetary policy, and other material, chosen with an eye for conversations and opinions that push the envelope — and addressed to Americans of all political stripes.
Although the political parties gamely put on a show every two years about social issues and spending, in practice little changes regardless of who is in power. Both parties reliably support military excursions abroad, resulting in a state pf permanent war and an omnipresent surveillance state. Both are enthusiastic proponents of regulating every facet of American lives, increasing costs and frustration, but despite their track record will still announce themselves champions of the people. The problem goes beyond politics, however, as the traditional media tends to walk hand in hand with DC. The wars which have permanently mired American lives and resources in the middle east were promoted by the media, and views outside the establishment are only mentioned to quickly dismissed so the grey-suited grownups and go back to whether DC should bomb the Iranians or just starve them.
Woods’ declared goal in destroying imposed restrictions on thought implies that he isn’t merely writing to libertarians. He frequently highlights books that transcend party lines, and gives special place to Bill Kauffman, whose screenplay of Copperhead saw a community stressed and destroyed by a feud between two good if disagreeable men. The tragedy of of Copperhead was born because those men placed ideology above their relationship to one another as neighbors. Woods’ section on the Federal Reserve includes many overtures to progressives, as do his writings on the problems of centralization in general. He also attempts to appeal to conservatives’ better angels, using the anti-war writings of the traditionalist godfather, Russell Kirk, to offer reproach..
Although the last American election saw two populist candidates challenge and — in Trump’s case, rout — the establishment candidates, neither of the populist figures is particularly promising for the future of American politics given the short-lived nature of populist movements. Personally, as much as I dislike the establishment, I don’t like its present challengers much better. In a culture flooded with toxic politics, the peaceful clarity of libertarianism, rooted in as sensible and humane a conviction as we can ask for — the golden rule — would be welcome.