"Cheshire-Puss," said Alice…"Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?"
"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," said the Cat.
"I don't much care where—" said Alice.
"Then it doesn't matter which way you go," said the Cat.
"—so long as I get somewhere," Alice added as an explanation.
"Oh, you're sure to do that," said the Cat, "if you only walk long enough."
—from ALICE'S ADVENTURES IN WONDERLAND by Lewis Carroll,
first published in 1865.
Why "social change"? It may not be immediately obvious why the editors of REASON have decided to devote an entire issue to this subject. Some readers, in fact, may be bothered by the notion of social change, preferring to fall back on remembrances of how nice things were before the "liberals" took over, or before Roosevelt, or before the Federal Reserve System, or before antitrust laws…Yet as we have endeavored to point out in these pages, there never was a golden age of laissez-faire and no amount of wishful thinking is going to carry us to one.
Often accompanying the good-old-days concept is the feeling that things aren't really so bad, that all we need do is elect a few honest men to office and the good old American free enterprise system will save the day. Again, we disagree. The libertarian perspective is a truly radical one which has never approached being fully realized in a social context. It rests on the premise that each individual is absolutely sovereign—the sole owner of his life, property, and the products of his efforts. This view stands in fundamental opposition to both conservatives who would force their moral values (sexual restraint, opposition to drugs, duty to country) on others and to liberals who would take certain people's income and property for the use of certain others. A fully laissez-faire society, in other words, would represent a radical change in human institutions and behavior.
To get from where we are now to a society of laissez-faire calls for the utmost in careful thinking, planning, and working to achieve the necessary kinds and degrees of social change. This issue of REASON explores some aspects of the problem of moving from NOW to THEN. Lynn Kinsky leads off with a broad look at what society is all about, and she suggests that specific intellectual disciplines have much to tell us about how to change society. Robert Poole proposes a specific means for libertarians to multiply their effectiveness by finding society's points of leverage. Turning to the future, Dick Pierce explores the implications of Alvin Toffler's book FUTURE SHOCK for social change; and Stan Abraham points up the work being done by futurists in coming to grips with questions of values, a development of potentially major significance for libertarians.
Will we achieve freedom in our time? There is no consensus among our authors, but. in general and for various reasons, their outlooks are optimistic. Reader feedback on this issue is especially solicited.