Brian’s Column: Societism

A constructive worldview whose time has come?
by Brian Wright


Not long ago, someone who had been put on the mailing list for the Coffee Coaster newsletters commented that it would be better not to have them so looonnnnggggg:

Hey Brian, I wish your newsletters were brief. I never know where to start and because of that I don’t. Realistically, if you actually clicked on each part and read that part then the other part and links… I would take a solid day. Then again, If I just wanted to know when your next meeting was being held…. good grief! Try it yourself and see what I mean. It may be better to format the material more. No offense, it’s difficult being an entrepreneur! — Steve Zimberg

So I looked over what I was doing, and sure enough, the publications were overkilling on the amount of material sent out to my modest list of newsletter recipients. So I rearranged and condensed the material into a Sunday evening “Beaniegram” and a Thursday mid-day “Percolations.” And I asked this Steve Zimberg [many thanks, dude] where I knew him from, who was he? Back came the note:

I recreated Societism.
Last week the founder of Wikipedia said he didn’t like it.
But I know it has tremendous potential.
One day we will be working together!

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Then I looked over the site. The term seemed familiar to me somehow. And from the wayback machine, I remember some young libertarian intellectuals and scholarly types focused on the community aspect of liberty. I recall in particular this book, which was quite a sensation in the early 1970s when it was making the rounds, The Art of Community, by Spencer MacCallum. The 1970 book seems to have faded in popularity today, and there are a few copies available via Amazon. In the 1970s I did read reviews of the book, and it seemed to answer a common concern:

The idea of liberty as formulated or advanced by key writers of the day, particularly from the Randian perspective, was so analytic: i.e. it seemed to come from an abstraction, or breaking down of society into a bunch of isolated individuals, with everyone walking about like Dirty Harry with a a .44 Magnum and a “Don’t Tread on Me” sign hanging on him. Why did the hallowed concepts of the Rights of Man have to be so unsociable? MacCallum and others were trying to suggest a more synthetic, cohesive vision of society. Put people back together again.

In those days through the decade of the 1970s and into the early 1980s, the libertarian movement had an edge. It was exciting to be a part of it, whether you were a Libertarian Party-arch or an left-libertarian anarchist (along the lines of Samuel Edward Konkin III and his self-published—we were still using mimeograph machines then—New Libertarian Manifesto). The basic ideas were being hammered flat, is what was happening. But in the midst of a very few invigorating scintillating concepts and a very many instances of unhealthful compulsive intellectualism, the social purpose of our political personae was playing third or fourth fiddle.

A few tried to remedy such shortcomings. Here I want to send kudos especially to my former wife Rose, who, in that ideologically stimulating era for us as individuals, organized and led what was known as the Metro Detroit Libertarians—a supper club, a social club primarily, that arranged for well-known speakers[1] to address us. I remember attendance in the 50-100 range typically, boys and girls. Then following the presentation, we’d play Spin the Bottle. Just kidding. My point is such gatherings were a tonic because they brought out our social animal.

Further, the forward thinking-and-feeling ones weren’t only concerned about having a good time. Like MacCallum and several others—please read, and comment, on the Wikipedia article on Societism (that the founder of Wikipedia for some unfathomable reason is threatening to delete) where you will find a fascinating, well-researched history of the use of the term Societism—the more socially conscious l/Libertarians wanted to see a wide range of living participation by every individual… in his political system, in the many social organizations, in his community. Which is something MacCallum acknowledges in his book title as an “art.”

Yes, it is. But individualism in community also consists of a number of prosaic practices, often traditional, that the communitarian—this term is found in Wikipedia without any objection—accepts as his/her responsibility. Another term that seldom proceeded from the lips of the early Randian-Rothbardian libertarian set. [I think a large part of the social isolationism of many libertarians then had to do with the fact that a disproportionate number of them did not procreate. Children have a way of keeping you grounded in reality, so that instead of railing against, say, the government schools—then, as was my regular practice, heading down to the bar with chatter of self-satisfaction—one does what one can in one’s own milieu: whether working through the PTA[2] or creating private alternatives to state indoctrination by working with other local concerned parents.

Here is a statement of identity from the Societism Website:

Societism promotes the well being of the group without sacrificing the significance of the individual. Individual freedoms are not free—and the responsibility to limit government and other self-interest groups from excess liberties has been neglected. Societism allows individuals working collectively to maintain a higher level of influence, to keep these extremes in balance. The result being a higher level of personal liberty and a prolonged harmonic society. Our mission is to help empower you to regain influence over those in charge, thus restoring the opportunity to make the right choices for oneself.

And if you head over to the site, you’ll find several useful articles and columns that are practical, e.g.:

    • A column by By Philip Glass, national director of the National Precinct Alliance describing how to gain control of your precincts: “To regain control of your government, you must regain control of your local precincts and it is much easier than you think.”
    • A 2006 piece by Rebecca Hagelin, author of Home Invasion: Protecting Your Family in a Culture That’s Gone Stark Raving Mad: “Before we point the finger at Hollywood, the government, or the business community for what is happening to America’s youth, we must look at ourselves… Most of the solutions can be found in active, loving parenting. It doesn’t take an act of Congress to take back your home.”
    • From April of this year, a short article written by Ron Paul—and found on ronpaul.com—himself entitled Socialism vs. Corporatism: “Lately many have characterized the Obama admin as socialist…. But a closer examination of his policies and actions reveals that, much like the previous administration, he is very much a corporatist. This in many ways can be more insidious and worse than being an outright socialist.”

From my as yet brief exposure to Societism.org, I feel Zimberg’s heart is in the right place… and his mind, too. The site and recreated movement is about like the Coffee Coaster, three years young, and the kinks are still being worked out. In the grand scheme of the cosmos, Societism is—IMHO[3], down the road and after the substantial restoration of the Republic—a workable, perhaps the workable ideological framework for practical liberty-based political action. For example I can see Societists creating a scenario in which a Libertarian-Green-Constitutionalist merger presidential candidate, who could win, and destroy the toxic, sinister two-party duopoly once and for all.

My reservations on Societism all have to do with context and timing.

In the interests of brevity, I won’t go into detail. But the distinguishing characteristic of my reservations is that a) our social system is so sick it requires emergency care, and b) at root, the people of the West—real human beings in Western societies—are victims of a coordinated, stealthy, prolonged evisceration of the life force by a cabal of rich, powerful psychopathic men associated with the central ruling-monopoly money-and-banking institutions. Judged from my perspective, Societism provides good nursing care if the patient is relatively healthy already, but the actual patient, our political system, is going to die tomorrow without a new heart.

[1] We had Robert W. Ettinger, the founder of the Cryonics Movement, leaders of the L5 Society, ABATE (motorcycle rider freedom), the ACLU, Michael Betzold (reporter-author from the Detroit Free Press), tax freedom advocate Lynn Johnston, etc.

[2] parent-teachers association

[3] in my humble opinion

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