Before I tell you about where Shield Mutual is going, let’s take a quick look at where it comes from.
The founding concept behind Shield Mutual is that governments hurt people and we who understand the nature of governments have an obligation as well as an opportunity to step up and defend its victims.
No one else but libertarian anarchists have the intellectual clarity required to consistently recognize the brutal nature of governments and the centrality of individual liberty. No one else but us has the courage to stand up for the victims of governments — all of them, all the time. In fact, we find ourselves too frequently among those victims.
Defending People Advances Liberty
Defending those whose faces are currently under the boots of governments can pay off for us in many ways.
- We genuinely help people in desperate situations. Mutual aid, by definition, flows both ways. The more people you help, the more people will help you.
- We bring greater awareness to the ways in which governments hurt people. Governments’ raison d’être is to help and protect people. Exposing the less pleasant truth behind the public relations campaign erodes confidence in governments over the long term while opening opportunities in people’s minds for competing institutions.
- We can bring new people into the libertarian communities, especially people who have had a firsthand, face-to-face encounter with prison and the courts, something which will cause anyone to question their assumptions.
- Implicit in this is organization, which means the massing of many kinds of power. This power can be put to other constructive uses such as building alternatives to governments and influencing state agents to back down at critical moments. All of these are foundational prerequisites for building just, compassionate and free societies.
Stepping up to defend people from governments helps us build our communities while eroding support for governments. This is a win-win for us.
It’s not easy work though. It requires getting your hands dirty. Frustration is your constant companion. Your best friend will not be SEK3 or Rothbard but your own inner fortitude and stick-to-itiveness.
How I’ve Done it
I’ve employed a couple different models to advance the mission of Shield Mutual. None of them met with the kind of success we need.
The latest evolution, number 3, was an inexpensive service to assist you with public relations and leadership services in case a government attacks you. This included such services as:
- putting your narrative into the hands of the media so that your public relations (not legal) defense was mounted from day one;
- creation of a central point of contact (a website) where media and supporters could find the latest information and ways to help you;
- email updates and action requests to your supporters;
- legal fundraising;
- help in the selection of an attorney and negotiation for better rates;
- the organization and support of direct protest, such as call floods;
- ongoing efforts to raise awareness about your situation such as blog posts, videos, tweets and special projects.
This was the most successful evolution to date. It kicked off in 2012. About a hundred customers signed up and paid the annual fee. The renewal rate was excellent, as well. And we ran some innovative and effective aid efforts.
Why Evolution 3 Failed
But it was ultimately a failure for the following reasons:
- Only high-profile activists have a significant use for the public relations, or “hell-raising,” services I offered. Others are too scared to make a fuss, are hopelessly indecisive or follow their lawyers’ recommendations to the letter. No lawyer will ever recommend that you do what I do because lawyers prefer to keep what they do inside a black box. The idea of pressuring your way into the right legal decision is anathema to them. Still others religiously avoid contact with the law. Their risk level is effectively nil.
- The requirement of constant vigilance on my part was exhausting. I had to be at the ready at any moment to assist customers, day, night, weekend or holiday, whether I was sick or in the midst of another project. This is stressful and it interfered with my other projects. (With only five times more customers — 500 instead of 100 — I could have done this full-time and/or hired employees to assist me.)
- I was a single point of failure for the organization because the customer base was not large enough to support employees. If I had been unable to respond, everything would have fallen apart. Luckily, I was always ready.
- I was hampered in my attempts to express myself personally because when I wrote or said something outside of Shield Mutual that a customer disagreed with, more than once customers sent me scathing communications, canceled their accounts, attacked Shield Mutual’s brand publicly and/or attempted to sabotage my business infrastructure.
- In the end, the commercial response was muted. Only 100 people were willing to pay me $50 per year for this service.
Shield Mutual has been a very challenging project for me. But I am still very optimistic about the concept of social defense. I am certain that we can use social defense to advance the new libertarian societies and roll back government oppression, if not at the ballot box or in Congress, then at least in a de facto way on the streets and in the jury boxes.
What’s Social Defense?
Social Defense is non-military, nonviolent action taken by a group of civil society actors to protect themselves and/or other vulnerable groups from aggression, be it military or paramilitary attack or government oppression.
There are only two alternatives to engaging in social defense.
- Apathy/Pacifism. Do nothing. Do not defend yourself or others. Receive the aggression without responding.
- Defensive Violence. Use firearms, sabotage, assassinations, militias, random shootings and other violent means to defend oneself and others.
The first is repugnant to free people. The second is currently not just impractical but also carries with it a large number of counterproductive and self-destructive complications.
Thus we are left with social defense as the lone viable strategy for defensive action towards greater liberty.
Examples of social defense include:
- educating people about their rights and options when threatened or attacked by governments;
- videotaping government employees as a deterrent to their violence;
- creating and distributing/selling tools that help people defend themselves, such as Peacekeeper;
- jury rights activism, which can set people free from the courts system;
- advocacy for people being persecuted by governments, such as what Shield Mutual does;
- single issue campaigns in defense of groups of people being harmed by governments, such as the air traveler pro-dignity effort We Won’t Fly or marijuana legalization organizations and initiatives;
- mutual aid societies;
Other strategies for advancing liberty include:
- running for office and voting. This can be used as a form of social defense if, for example, you advocate/vote for ending war, decriminalizing controlled substances and similar government rollbacks.
- creating for-profit businesses, especially as part of a strategy like agorism. But we will need social defense to protect agorist businesses until such time as we can open a space for armed private defense agencies.
- concentration — where like-minded folks live in geographical proximity to each other. This can be a springboard for all forms of activism. An example of this is the Free State Project.
As you can see, you may already be engaging in some social defense. My point is to recognize it as a highly effective category of libertarian activism, and to expand it.
Peer-to-Peer Social Defense
Evolution 4 of Shield Mutual will create a more dynamic and polycentric organization where anyone can request whatever kind of help they want. Some of the characteristics include:
- No cost to join.
- The only information required to join is your email address.
- Requests for help will require a small payment, which can be waived under certain circumstances.
- A training course and book. I will share everything I have learned about this kind of work over the last 6 years so that anyone with the requisite drive and dedication can execute successful social defense projects.
- Peer-to-peer. I’m not on the hook to help you. But now there can be others who can effectively render assistance.
I’m honoring all current customers’ contracts until they expire. At this time, there are only one or two customers whose contracts have not expired. I’m not accepting new customers or renewals under the old arrangement.
That said, if you run into trouble, email [email protected] and I will see what I can do. Whenever someone contacts me with a request for help, I do what I can.
Thank you to those of you who supported my efforts by signing up. I have doubted myself constantly while launching and maintaining Shield Mutual. You validated my belief in this project.
Sign up now to get an update when the new Shield Mutual is live. Use the form at top right that mentions free updates.
What to Expect in 2015
Here are some of the things I’ll be working on for Shield Mutual in 2015.
- I’ll be blogging about social defense so that we can have a regular conversation about these topics.
- I’ll create a training course where you can learn how to use social defense in all the same ways I have.
- I’ll take the Jury Rights Project to the next level because the jury box is our last, and very effective, line of defense before the ammunition box.
- I’ll be selling Shield Mutual merchandise so you can display your support for the project and inform potential aggressors that you aren’t easy prey for them — Shield Mutual has got your back.
- I’ll be available under certain conditions to work on ad hoc defense efforts for activists who are in trouble.
I can not make Shield Mutual a success all by myself. I will do my part but you must do your part. I need:
- subscribers, to get email updates;
- feedback and comments on my emails and blog posts;
- students for the training course;
- activists, donors, writers and other help with the Jury Rights Project;
- customers for Shield Mutual merchandise.
If you share my desire for radical individual liberty then you must become an active participant in this project. The time for bystanders has passed. Together, we can build a powerhouse for defending and advancing individual liberty.
Thanks for your continued support and participation. Subscribe now to get an update when the next Shield Mutual evolution is available. I’m happy to answer any questions you might have, too.
If you’d like to show your support for Shield Mutual and play a greater role in evolution 4, make a donation. A donation sends a market signal that there is a demand for what I propose here. It enables me to spend more time on Shield Mutual. It also puts food in my son’s mouth, something for which I am personally very grateful.