Drinking For Liberty

Dave Killion — March 20, 2011

A favourite topic between libertarians is the means by which the cause of liberty can be advanced, and when the Victoria Libertarian Book Club last met, we touched on the matter again. My fellow club member and co-blogger David C reminded us that just about 80 years ago this month, Gandhi began the Dandi March, initiating a non-violent campaign against the British salt monopoly in India. The campaign was known as the Salt Satyagraha. In brief, protestors spent three and a half weeks walking to the sea, and then made salt without paying the salt tax. End result, India 1 – Britain 0.

Crazy as it sounds, I have always thought that Team Gandhi had it easy in some ways. The Indian independence movement had a nice, big, fat, juicy colonial oppressor for a target. Who do we have? Ourselves! And who wouldn’t be vexed at a tax on salt? The British might as well have taxed air, or water. If you tax something that fundamental, you’re sticking your chin out. At any rate, inspirational as the story is, it didn’t appear to me that there was anything practical libertarians could take from it. Then I thought about it a little more…

The thing is, Gandhi didn’t start making salt and saying, “Hey, I’m being civilly disobedient over here!” No. What Gandhi did was announce weeks in advance that he was going to walk to a certain place and then break the law. He took his sweet time, allowing the movement to build up interest and support, and committed a victimless crime that cheated the government out of pennies. Upon reflection, I think this could be done to good effect in the US and Canada. Imagine a group starting from Thunder Bay with the announcement that they will walk to Ottawa with the intention setting up their camp stoves and distilling a shot or two of alcohol on Parliament Hill. Throw a little Facebook, Twitter, and other social media in there, and it might be something meaningful.

I wonder what activities other than distilling might be worth considering?

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