White Pills generally take the form of cultural or political trends. But they are especially satisfying when they take human form. Today’s liberty movement is fortunate to have a host of important White Pill influencers. They are solidly grounded in anarcho-libertarian principles; they know how to communicate; they relentlessly work to undercut the legitimacy of the State.
Keith Knight is one of them, and he has dispensed a White Pill of his own, in his latest book, Domestic Imperialism: Nine Reasons I Left Progressivism.
The title tells us a lot. Keith reveals that he came out of the progressive side of the political spectrum. He makes clear he had numerous reasons for abandoning it. He unmasks the term “progressivism” (which itself steals the positive-sounding concept of “progress”), and puts its true meaning in plain terms: domestic imperialism. And in doing so, he previews his writing style: brutal honesty.
And all that comes from the title alone.
Hard Hitting Chapters
Keith takes us through nine chapters that cover the full range of progressive positions, assumptions, misconceptions and contradictions.
It is fortunate he focuses on progressivism. This happens to have been the dominant political ideology for more than 100 years. In this book he takes a sledge hammer to this political philosophy.
His style is indicative of a new generation of libertarian/ancaps: a style that does not sugar-coat the message. It is straightforward, honest, principled, and when necessary, mocking.
Rich and Poor
A great example is how he tackles the commonly held myth that under free markets, the rich get richer, while the poor get poorer. We’ve all heard this cliche repeated everywhere, and never questioned, thanks to progressive indoctrination.
Keith demonstrates how and why this is patently false. Under conditions of true freedom, the poor actually have the best chance to move up the economic ladder. In fact most who start off poor do not remain so over the course of time. Conversely (and something no progressive would want you to know), the wealth, size and prestige of many big businesses and rich families diminish with time. Indeed, they are replaced by none other than those who worked their way up the economic ladder, offering products and services more favored by the public. And often these achievers started off poor.
The expression would more accurately suggest that the poor get richer, and the rich get poorer.
Keith shows the importance of a key moral view of libertarianism: free association (the idea that a free person has the right to interact with, or not interact with, anyone he pleases). A particular example of free association, one in which the progressive aligns neatly with libertarianism, is gay relationships. We recognize that people ought to be free to form relationships with, and even marry, whomever they choose.
Keith then shows how progressives are inconsistent with the idea of free association. They wish to deny people this right in the economic sphere. In human productivity and trade, the best standard of living and flourishing happen under free association…the freedom to: offer products and services to whomever we wish; purchase products and services from whomever we wish; work for whomever we wish; hire whomever we wish. In essence, free association is both moral and practical, if human progress is our goal. The progressive, on the other hand, stands firmly against economic free association; which means he is against progress itself.
A favorite of the progressive is the assumption that “equality” is a desirable goal, simply because the word sounds nice. Forgotten is the reason it sounds nice: it appeals to our humanity—our sense of justice—that we are all human beings whose individual consent matters.
It is rarely analyzed any deeper than that; it is rarely understood fundamentally: our “self-ownership” is the same for each one of us (equal, in a sense). The same goes for our right to decide what happens with our property.
But the progressive takes this simple understanding, and advocates that our actions have to result in equal outcomes. He wants us to behave the same way; to interact the same way; to think the same way. Any differences imply unfairness. So we can’t have differences.
The progressive would seem at home in a twilight zone world populated by cookie-cutter clones.
Keith gives example after example of progressive positions on equality and inequality. He then takes them on, one by one, with well-documented proof.
And So On…
Keith addresses many more popular progressive positions, such as race, minimum wage, and “universal” government services. In each case he shows how the progressive positions are inconsistent, fallacious, and often self-contradictory.
His Afterword section is a brilliant summary of the problem, and what is needed to fix it. Among other points, he encapsulates the essential hypocrisy of progressivism: under the guise of opposing injustice, the progressive enthusiastically advocates war, racism, sexism and other morally offensive positions.
The White Pill
The book itself is a solid White Pill. But there is a higher-level White Pill in its author.
Keith Knight well represents the next generation of anarchists. The previous generations set the stage: an enormous body of scholarly work, a focus on philosophical principles, and experimentation with strategy. A great many of them continue the work to this day.
But the best of the new generation provide the hope that youth uniquely inspires:
- They have the energy to take on a formidable edifice: the near-universal myth of State authority
- They show clarity of thinking about the problem itself, and the intellect to form strategies to deal with it
- They remain principled and consistent
- They are comfortable with technology, so as to leverage it strategically
Unfortunately the enthusiasm of youth often causes it to fall short in the deeper area of scholarly study. But this is not a deficiency that is evident in Keith Knight’s work. He shows a broad understanding of the interconnected principles of libertarian legal theory, economic principles, and history.
There is an extra element to enjoying the work of human versions of White Pills such as Keith Knight: the anticipation of what they might be coming up with next.
This article was originally featured at Mark Maresca’s Substack and is republished with permission.