I’m not sure if anyone’s noticed, but it’s literally been years since the last issue of this newsletter. No, VLBS is not dead. It’s just been in hibernation. With this issue, we hope to awaken it, and get it a little more active. The need which spawned VLBS as an idea is as great as ever, and we hope to keep the plan alive.
In this issue we will try to explore and clarify some important points that haven’t gotten enough attention before. I think it’s important to bring this up. At this stage in its development, VLBS is my own personal project. I won’t pretend it’s a group effort. I invite help and feedback, but this is a proprietary project, not a democratic one. Libertarians should understand this. If you don’t, or you object, then VLBS may not be for you. Many people seem to embrace the vegan part and the service part, but not the libertarian part. Just thought I should make this clear. So, rather than the pretense of the “editorial we”, I will more often be more using the personal “I”. That may seem a bit autocrat to some of you, but I think it’s best to be honest about it.
Philosophy: Big Tent? Small Tent? Medium Tent?
Even though I’ve appointed myself CEO, it’s not in the interest of the VLBS ideal for me to try to impose some narrow, personal definition of libertarianism and veganism on the present or future membership. But on reflection, we have to have some initial working definition, and I will at least tentatively take some steps in that direction. If you’ve been around the broader libertarian ideological and cultural movement for a while, you’ll have learned that the libertarian label is claimed by a vast diversity of people and groups. Left-libertarians. Right-libertarians. Anarchocapitalists. Voluntaryists. Minarchists. Thick. Thin. Paleos. Libertines. Georgists. And that’s just for starters.
Vegans may not be quite as divided, but there’s no clear unity in definitions, emphasis, approach and personality in this community either. Vegetarian-welcoming. Vegetarian-hating. Perfectionists. Anti-perfectionists. Militants. Gradualists. The list could go on.
While I don’t want to exclude anyone from feedback and participation, I think I need to put forth some further clarification to the definitions I’ve already implied in the Principles. The libertarianism of VLBS is pretty much straightforward propertarianism, not Georgism or left-libertarian usufructarianism. If you own land you own it, and you have a right to do any non-aggressive thing you want to, on or with it. You can own unused land. Neither I nor VLBS claims to have a rigorous defense of this definition of property and we admit it might present troubling consequences, but so do all propertarian theories or models. We believe it holds the most potential for individuals to pursue and achieve happiness.
The VLBS cannot niggle about tiny amounts of possible animal-product in food at all times when offering meals, and it cannot ensure drugstore items are 100% cruelty-free at all times. The same with clothing donations, though it may make judgment calls when it feels the need. (No leather jackets or fur coats.) In our services we are there to “show” people veganism and libertarianism, NOT preach or lecture. So we’re against militant and moralistic attitudes. Patrons have a right to question and skeptically discuss our principles. VLBS spaces are free speech places, open and tolerant.
The synthesis of libertarianism with ethical veganism is very complex and very recent. Vegan libertarians probably have no consensus on how it should be done, and I see no need to rush one. Haste makes waste. I think we should take our time, in the course of many discussions, on-line, in-print and real-life meetings.
In short, we want to steer clear of a tent so big our message becomes meaningless, and one so small only a tiny number of ideological purists are allowed in. That isn’t an easy size to define. Perhaps it’s impossible. But it’s the best we can do for now. We need to get started in the real world.
I envision two structures. One would be more developed, more organized. The other would be more informal, more decentralized. Both could co-exist and complement each other. The first might be organized around state, country or city chapters and have registered numbers. The second may be more like Food Not Bombs, formed ad hoc. Different people, with different temperaments and circumstances may start or join one or the other. Obviously, the more structured one may be held to higher standards. But if someone forms an ad hoc chapter, and ignores the philosophy and practice of our working definition, they’ll be called out. We’re not going to make a big effort to deal with moles and saboteurs, but we will “ipso facto” deny association with them. Should we incorporate? I know little about the legalities of that. Would it compromise our libertarian principles? Would there be unintended consequences? These are questions we may explore over time, with the help of knowledgeable volunteers and members. I will be putting forth some possible structures, hopefully in the near future.
Mission: Providing Comfort, Encouraging Self-Knowledge, Metaphysical and Ideological Neutrality
I’ve come to the suspicion that having public feedings and clothing give-aways is pretty much applying an endless series of band-aids and fingers in the dyke. I’m not against them, and hope to incorporate them in our services, but steps toward a more effective strategy toward homelessness, poverty and political predation need to be taken. My mid-term goal is a community center—-a building with a kitchen, dining space, lounge area, lavatories, laundry, library (with real books), and if possible, grounds (essentially, a park). This will be a place for not just homeless people, but anyone, to get out of the cold, the wet, or the heat, and rest and get their head together without, as much as possible, the petty regulations and harassment of county or city governments.
VLBS will emphatically be “metaphysically neutral”. It will not be a place to proselytize any religion or ideology. Not Christianity. Not Buddhism. Not atheism. Not secularism. Not social justice. Not conservatism…. It will not be a place to preach or lecture. Now. If a guest or anybody else wants to discuss these things, it’s a free speech zone, so by all means they’re welcome to. But volunteers must always be mindful that many people don’t want a religion or ideology pushed on them. We must be very alert to this etiquette. If Donald Trump, Kamala Harris, Alex Jones, Barack Obama, a Proud Boy, or anybody else, pays a visit, they’re to be welcomed to our services and treated with courtesy and respect, just like anybody else. If this is impossible for you, maybe Food Not Bombs or Union Gospel Mission would be a better place for you.
Our mission is to show people—not preach, not lecture, not argue—the goodness, the kindness, peacefulness, productivity and creativity—of both veganism and libertarianism. In aiming toward this, we will be looking at the old friendly societies for ideas and inspiration.
It may be objected that VLBS is founded on the ideologies of veganism and libertarianism, and it’s rules place limitations on what may be done on its premises. Yes. That’s true. But we don’t demand assent to these philosophies. Criticism and questioning is welcomed, for those who want to. It’s true, we may be walking a fine line, but we don’t try to push our philosophy on our patrons like other organizations do.
If we succeed with this, I hope we can move even further to private cities founded on VLBS principles.
Brick and Mortar, P.O. Boxes, Postal Mail, Print and Paper Books….All Matter
I had a conversation with someone a few years ago who thought my idea of a community center library was unnecessary and outdated. That public libraries and the internet were far superior. I’m afraid I don’t agree. My thinking is pretty much along the same lines as Nicholas Carr, author of The Shallows. The internet is a distraction machine that encourages skimming and spot reading, of jumping from one stimulus to the next. VLBS may use the Net and social media, but not rely on it entirely. We need to break free of the cyberspace trap. Homelessness, poverty, and a dozen other malaises of society require self-knowledge, which requires slow, concentrated reflection. Real books and periodicals are much more effective for that purpose. We will not push these on people, but we definitely will offer these options for those who share our intuitions.
There’s an entire subject I hope to learn about and explore in the near future called “semiotics”. In a conversation with someone when I was involved in Food Not Bombs, he dismissed the necessity or importance of displaying the banner. I didn’t press the matter, but I disagreed. I don’t agree with Keith McHenry on many things, but I do agree that doing a feeding without the Food Not Bombs banner is not an FNB feeding. The same principle will apply to VLBS. I hope to have a symbol for VLBS at some point, but I don’t want to rush it. It’s something I will be working on. In the meantime, when and where VLBS offers its services, either the acronym or full name must be displayed. If you don’t agree with this, if you find it autocratic, by all means do your own thing, but don’t expect recognition from us.
I am going to try to add a donation button to my Facebook page. I am new to this. I will probably let the money accumulate a little while until I get some feedback on how to spend it. Should I save it for a larger product, rather than just buying relief material? A good case could be made for that, since, looking around, I see food and clothes already being offered in abundance. I welcome feedback on the matter.
I will also be creating a Meetup page for VLBS, and again, I hope to have a donation button for that as well. I would like to have some face-to-face meetings. The neurology behind the difference between Zoom and FTF is complex and not my forte, but intuitively, I think FTF may get things moving better. I know I’m not alone in that intuition.
Thank you very much for reading. With the corona virus hysteria, many animals, including cats and dogs, even primates, are going under the vivisectionists knife and needle, and the government is getting more and more draconian and freedom-denying. The need for VLBS is greater than ever. Libertarianism alone, nor veganism alone, can meet these needs. They must work together. I hope I can find some like-minded people, and we can get ourselves out into the real world, and make a difference for the marginalized, for animals, for freedom seekers, for different drummers.
James N. Dawson