Nichols: We Hold the Power – Building Grassroots Alternatives to State Control

by | Mar 4, 2024 | Opinion

Do we really need the government to solve all our problems? It’s a question I find myself returning to lately, as wave after wave of crises seem to be met with lackluster solutions or tight-fisted interventions from Washington, achieving little for most ordinary Americans.

Too often politicians and bureaucrats overpromise, underdeliver, and even make situations worse in their clamoring to expand relevance. Just look at the raging inflation, supply chain debacles, civil discord, and more we’re now facing after massive new spending and pandemic power grabs.

So how do we take back power? How do we rewrite the script being orchestrated by elites who have clearly lost touch with economic and social realities on the ground?

What if I told you some of the most promising answers are already being pioneered far from the halls of Congress by ordinary citizens and entrepreneurs? What if we could channel our frustrations productively by building alternative models rooted in localism and choice rather than coercion?

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The Biggest Form Of Protest

I recently had the pleasure of speaking with John Bush, co-founder of an organization called the Freedom Cell Network. It consists of small groups across the U.S. and beyond focused on increasing self-sufficiency and reducing reliance on centralized systems.

John related how he got his start in libertarian activism by lobbying politicians, attending conferences, starting a PAC, and trying to impact policy change from within the system.

But over time he found such avenues frustratingly limited for creating meaningful or lasting shifts in favor of liberty and abundance. He realized the biggest form of protest was to simply exit broken paradigms and build something better.

The Freedom Cell Network seeks to facilitate this through education, peer support, and by fostering local and decentralized alternatives in key areas like currency, food production, health, technology, and more.

Escaping the Rat Maze

In our conversation, John shared numerous real-world examples of the budding “parallel economy” Freedom Cell members are cultivating:

  • A Texas rancher now selling meat locally for cryptocurrency
  • Mutual aid groups exchanging goods and services outside official channels
  • People pooling funds to buy land & resources for home food production
  • Networks developing censorship-resistant communications
  • Entrepreneurs accessing private capital to bypass stifling regulations
  • Neighbors sharing equipment, swapping skills and building community in a way that governments can’t provide

He also discussed the immense sense of empowerment people feel as they unplug from monopolized and politicized systems designed to harvest our data, restrict our options, and track our every move.

“It’s about each and every one of us taking responsibility for turning the tide of history,” Bush commented. “I’m confident we could do that.”

Overcoming Limiting Beliefs

I’ll admit, upon first blush, phrases like “parallel economy” may seem radical or unrealistic to some. It’s easy to rattle off objections:

  • “I could never afford to buy land out of the city.”
  • “My family would never leave our community.”
  • “Building something independent like that isn’t legal.”

But what I found so refreshing in my chat with Bush was his solutions-focused approach aimed at dismantling assumptions and obstacles. None of the everyday people opting out started the journey with extensive resources, he convincingly argues. They simply got creative and helped each other achieve incremental steps over time.

Outdated regulations and licensing schemes certainly present challenges. Yet many Americans are deciding breathing free air is worth small civil disobedience – and cameras everywhere means authorities likely won’t stop peaceful enterprise.

The alluring offers of comfort and convenience that large systems provide clearly don’t outweigh intensifying pressures to comply with tyranny for a growing number.

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Finding Your “Why”

Bush issued an important reminder that meaning and inspiration are seeds for lasting change.

“Find your purpose, what keeps you up at night? What excites you? If you think about it and it makes you cry, something that you just care so deeply about – my kids are a big part of my why,” he urged.

Would you uproot your family, abandon amenities, and risk ridicule if sufficiently compelled by conscience? Many brave Americans in our founding era did exactly that in pursuit of religious tolerance, economic mobility, and political self-determination.

Perhaps it’s time for a new wave of principled pioneers to rediscover that defiant spark of liberty. Bush certainly convinced me the rewards for oneself and the nation could be profound.

The Collectivist Wrecking Ball

In recent years it seems institutional hostility toward individual autonomy, free expression, commerce, and association has escalated dramatically. The pandemic greatly accelerated the already creeping bureaucratic colonization of health choices, travel, employment, education, recreation, and even private gatherings.

Meanwhile, technology has enabled manipulation, surveillance, and social engineering maneuvers unimaginable to past generations. And the direction of travel is toward far more centralized control in service of vague collectivist and egalitarian goals.

But rarely do elites who volunteer others’ labor or confiscate their property achieve anything but entrenched corruption and wider misery. Look no further than the former Soviet Union or modern Venezuela to see the destructive end stage of bureaucrats mismanaging the economy.

Freedom: The Ultimate Public Good

The intellectual fathers of America studied mankind’s broad history deeply and endeavored to architect a system maximizing individual liberty while minimizing the concentration of power. They understood that governments predicated on freedom of thought, trade, and movement not only best served human dignity and happiness, but also fostered innovation and prosperity that collective planners could never replicate.

It wasn’t perfect then, and America today has strayed far from her founding ideals of constrained federal reach, decentralized political authority, and expansive private property protections.

Yet the Constitution and Bill of Rights remain extraordinary achievements that no other society has managed to codify in law. For all its present shortcomings, the U.S. still provides more functional freedom than most nations. And therein lies a tremendous opening.

We can continue attempting to persuade politicians to relinquish some amassed authority – or seize it for ourselves via bold voluntary action.

There are no guarantees, and plenty of obstacles lie ahead if we choose insurgency through entrepreneurship. But I’d argue reclaiming ownership of our food, health decisions, currency, technology, community, security, and beyond is an uphill battle well worth waging.

The independence generations past sacrificed so much for is still within our grasp if we muster the will. The promising visions groups like Freedom Cell Network are manifesting can spark imaginations and coalesce political will.

It’s easy to feel powerless observing the seeming juggernaut of unrestrained bureaucracy and institutional overreach. But there is a way out through reinventing alternatives rooted in consumer choice and market provision of what people need and desire.

The great paradox of liberty is that the more we express it, the more of it we’ll have. The responsibility is ours now to start building and exiting decaying systems in favor of those aligned with human dignity.

If not us, who – and if not now, when?

The possibilities are boundless once we shake off conditioned limitations and reclaim authority being steadily ceded.

I don’t know about you, but I’m choosing freedom.

Brian Nichols is host of the Brian Nichols Show – powered by Amp America. You can follow Brian on X at @bnicholsliberty.

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