I will first say that this book is fantastic. Having said that, this is going to be a hard entry to write. Ben Stone is a man that I greatly admire. I got turned onto his podcast a few years ago when I was kind of going through a rough patch. I was working an absolutely horrible job that I will not go into detail on. Every week though, he’d put out a new episode, and the drive into work would be just a little more bearable. You see, the guy has an absolutely enlightened understanding of Liberty, and states it most eloquently. Some episodes were dark, highlighting the evil existing in the world. But, in listening to him, I was always given the hope that, even if good didn’t prevail, that at least goodness was correct and worthwhile for its own sake. This book, while very readable, is incredibly thought provoking. It will be very difficult to do it justice within the confines of a blog post. As I hold the man in high regard, I’m going to try my absolute best to not misrepresent any of the thoughts or ideals he’s expressed. Here goes.
To give you an idea of the guy, the best analogy I can come up with is Glen Beck on acid. Now, this is a horribly flawed analogy. Glen Beck now calls himself a Libertarian, holding hope toward limited government and the Constitution. Ben Stone is alternately an outright Anarchist, adhering to the Non-Aggression Principle, or the Zero Aggression Principle, as he calls it. Glen Beck is intense, with his passion and ADHD. Ben Stone is, on the other hand, more calm and grandfatherly like. Listening to him is a downright soothing. Glen Beck is indignant. Ben Stone is matter of fact. I guess I draw the analogy from the fact that both are liberty adherents, Ben Stone is more thorough and consistent, and that both of their ideals tie closely to their religion. Beck is a Mormon. Ben Stone arrived to Quakerism. So, take an individual like Beck, who is firmly grounded in his faith and passionate in his belief in liberty, and turn those up a few notches. I guess that that’s my take on Ben Stone.
His moniker as the Bad Quaker also deserves some explanation. Having arrived to the faith by following the philosophy of non-aggression to its logical conclusion, Mr. Stone is a Quaker. He’s a clergyman and has performed weddings. However, while most Quakers are strict pacifists, Mr. Stone more correctly adheres to the Non-Aggression Principle. In defense of life or property, he will make allowances for violence. He’s also stated that, while most Quakers go to meetings, he has no interest in them. Still, he follows a doctrine of simplicity in his life by, among other things, speaking truth to evil, he doesn’t take oaths, and doesn’t address people using titles. So, he’s a Quaker, but he’s a bad one. Get it?
As his health is now failing and he is no longer able to complete a weekly podcast, he’s written this book, titled Sedition, Subversion, and Sabotage Field Manual No 1. Claiming to be a parody of the 1944 OSS publication Simple Sabotage Field Manual, the book lays out the theory of how an overthrow of the state should be conducted, arguing that such an undertaken should be done ethically, in a calculated manner, and with adherence to the Non-Aggression Principle. He criticizes popular movements attempted in the past, noting that every violent revolution in history has still left the people with a government, and how many stunts conducted by popular celebrity libertarians have been woefully ineffective and counterproductive. Thank you, Adam Kokesh. He furthermore looks dimly upon operating within the system by voting or through civil disobedience. To his viewpoint, government is the embodiment of evil, and the goal of activism needs to always be no government. All authority is illegitimate and the ultimate aim must be a stateless society.
To help bring this about, he describes a three pronged attack, likening his theory to a scorpion. The first chapter deals with peaceful activism. Adherents should live productive and moral lives, care for their families while striving to be independent, prepare for society’s inevitable collapse, all the while advocating for liberty to those who will listen. The idea is to live as an example and advance the idea that coercion is wrong, that systems relying on it are doomed, and that society can indeed function peacefully as an alternative. The second chapter, the second pincer of the scorpion, deals with sabotage. As one of Mr. Stone’s arguments against the state is its inherent and woeful inefficiency, a little nudge, surreptitiously conducted at the opportune moment, can help broadcast that fact. This is justified in that, as the state doesn’t legitimately own anything, physical acts against it are justified. Since everything the state has was stolen, nobody’s legitimate property is being damaged. Meanwhile, it’s hard to argue that the state is necessary to build the roads if those roads are always falling apart and full of potholes. Never mind the little bit of help from a pick axe. Sabotage helps expose the man behind the curtain. Done well, it discredits the state. It is a tool, and it is available to use. The third chapter, the stinger, is irregular warfare.
This book talks about violent insurgency. It’s in the third chapter, the shortest chapter. It doesn’t necessary advocate it. Mr. Stone never says it’s an Anarchist’s duty to take up arms. He even argues that such acts should be measured and always undertaken with costs and benefits in mind. He talks about how poorly conducted violent operations, such as Chris Dorner’s rampage through Los Angeles, were fruitless and ultimately pointless. He was written off as a crazy man and his message was silenced. However, Mr. Stone does make the case that such acts can be conducted morally, with adherence to the Non-Aggression Principle, and can indeed further the cause for a stateless society. If such an idea is completely offensive to you, this isn’t your book.
This book is not so much of an instruction booklet. It’s not The Anarchist’s Cookbook or Steal This Book, although there is some of that in there. In the chapter on sabotage, there’s a paragraph on making German Aluminum Powder. This book is more about the theory. It’s about the philosophy and the big picture. Not so much a schematic, it’s more of a portrait, if you will, of what a revolution should look like. It’s about your frame of mind.
The book can be purchased here
and downloaded for free here
While you’re there, you might check out some of his other writings and old podcasts. They’re well worth listening to. Give this book a read. It’s fun.