Non-Cooperation as a One-on-One Strategy

December 2nd, 2013   Submitted by Wendy McElroy

nonviolenceNon-cooperation is most often associated with social movements but it can function on the individual level to preserve personal freedom. A person is as free as his ability to say “no.” But criminals who would compel compliance often respond with punishment backed up by force. It is far from clear how an individual should react to the threat of force because circumstances vary from person to person. A bachelor might be willing to say “no” and be imprisoned for doing so; a family man might not be willing to deprive his children of his income. For the family man, a better alternative might be a display of consent that is backed by the reality of non-cooperation.

This display is not “deceit” in the normal sense of the word. Murray Rothbard explained in Ethics of Liberty, “Lying to the State…becomes a fortiori morally legitimate. Just as no one is morally required to answer a robber truthfully when he asks if there are any valuables in one’s house, so no one can be morally required to answer truthfully similar questions asked by the State, e.g., when filling out income tax returns.” If you were a Jew in Nazi Germany, would honesty compel you to tell the Gestapo where your family was hiding? Lie in words or in deeds to whomever is using force against you; they have forfeited the moral ‘right’ to the truth. Beside which, no one has a right to demand information from you.

But try to lie in a manner that prevents the criminal from discovering your duplicity. The goal of non-cooperation is to deprive the state of the benefits of aggressing while experiencing as little backlash as possible. Some forms of non-cooperation can be as almost effective as saying “no” and yet they carry far less risk of punishment. Other forms involve altogether avoiding situations that demand obedience and so avoiding the need to say “no.”

One-on-one non-cooperation with the state

The following tactics are a sampling of how to non-cooperate with agents of the state who knock on your door.

Slow and obstructive obedience. This is the act of obeying a law or a demand as slowly as possible and with an utter lack of thoroughness. For example, paperwork can be submitted at the last moment or later (depending on the penalty), and necessary information can be omitted or filled into the wrong blank. If the paperwork has a hard deadline, then use the system against itself to apply for as many extensions as possible. Be as unhelpful as possible. Purposefully but plausibly misunderstand an authority’s explanation of what is expected of you. Or politely ask to see the legal authority upon which a demand is being made; state your reason as a desire to be absolutely certain that you are in 100% compliance.

Withhold information. Never offer information over and above what is necessary to avoid punishment. There is or should be no positive obligation to give information to anyone but, if penalties are threatened, various strategies could be useful. For example, you should officially forget the answers you know to many of the questions you are asked. If an authority wants to know about your neighbor’s habits, then simply do not recall the information. Or give misleading answers along the lines of “I’m not sure but I think X lives in the next town over” when you know X lives 5 blocks away. Act confused. Be ignorant. Appear stupid.

Provide inadequate obedience. If the state requires you to perform a service, then do so in a manner that does not rise to the state’s standards. For example, if you are drafted into jury duty and don’t want to refuse outright, then give ‘wrong’ replies to the screening questions that will be asked by lawyers on both sides. If the witnesses in a case are likely to be police officers, then explain the difficulty you have in believing anything the police say because there are so many news stories of officers lying, being brutal and fabricating evidence. If the case revolves around psychiatric testimony, then explain your belief that psychiatry is junk science.

Render only supervised obedience. When an authority figure is present, obey. When he is absent, then you do as you peacefully please. A common example of “supervised obedience” occurs in occupied countries in which the native population obeys the orders of a foreign occupier only as long as soldiers are present. Today, the American state is occupying power in its own land. Another example, one with which most people are familiar, is obeying the speed limit. Drivers slow down to the legal limit when they see a police car poised on the side of the road; a mile or so later, drivers resume the higher speed.

Display false obedience. This occurs when a person pretends to obey but acts in a manner that constitutes thinly veiled disobedience. An example is a newspaper that the state declares to be seditious. An editor may may obediently close his doors only to reopen them to publish a newly-named paper with an altered appearance but with the same content.

Non-cooperate by avoiding the state

The following tactics are a sampling of how to non-cooperate with the state by avoiding the need to confront the issue of obedience.

Withdraw from activities for which obedience is required. There are certain activities that you know beforehand will require your active obedience. Airplane travel is one of them. Buying a plane ticket notifies the TSA to do a prescreening of public records on your personal and professional life. Walking into an airport invites questioning and screening by law enforcement. It involves lining up like cattle to obediently have your rights violated, and a prudent person with submit without raising a complaint or expressing a ‘bad’ attitude. If it is feasible for you to travel by an alternate means, then do so.

Withdraw from voluntary government institutions. Participating in many government institutions is optional in that there is no legal penalty for refusing to do so. A classic example is the public school system. If you enroll your children in the public schools rather than home schooling them, then you are subjecting not only your children but yourself to the rules of that system. Parents are subject to a wide range of sanctions for issues ranging from truancy to packing peanut butter sandwiches for lunch. Indeed, a child’s truancy can lead to the parent being imprisoned. Eschew government ‘services’ if possible.

Try to avoid the mechanisms of the state in your daily life. By mechanism, I mean an established process by which something takes place. The use of money is an example; it is the established state process by which goods are acquired. An effective form of non-cooperation is to minimize the use of state-issued money in preference to barter, alternate currencies or other forms of counter-eonomic trade. This minimizes the myriad intrusions of the state that revolve around the use of money, banks and officially sanctioned investments. There can be no better place to start learning the art of such avoidance than Samuel E. Konkin III’s presentation of counter-economics in his work New Libertarian Manifesto.

Non-cooperation is a vital aspect of active non-violent resistance. This is a vast, dynamic and evolving field. For people who wish to live as state-free as possible with as little risk as feasible, passive non-cooperation offers one of the best methods to avoid the wrath of the state while embracing personal freedom.

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90 Responses to “Non-Cooperation as a One-on-One Strategy”

  1. Seth KingNo Gravatar says:

    This is probably one of the most important articles Daily Anarchist has published in a long time.

    Libertarians often pride themselves on their imaginations, dreaming of how things could be done sans government regulations.

    But when it comes to fighting the state, we generally suffer from impoverished imaginations.

    There are soooooooo many ways to gum up the works of the state and to fight it using guerrilla style tactics. The problem with libertarians, in general, however is that we believe that our moral and logical superiority trumps all. We are right and that should be enough. But it’s not enough. It’s FAR from enough. It should be the foundation on which we live our lives, but not the tactic we rely on to fight the walking dead.

    We are fighting immoral and illogical “people.” They are not interested in right or wrong. They do not care about logical fallacies.

    The only way we are going to “win” is to outperform them on the battlefield. We have to make every interaction with them more expensive for the state than it’s worth. We have to starve the beast by making it eat its own feet.

    Gosh. Books could be written on modern tactics to gum up the state. We libertarians need to get creative.

    Thank you for this article. Hopefully it will inspire many.

    • Wendy McElroyNo Gravatar says:

      Thank you, Seth. I am planning to do a series of articles for the Daily Anarchist on how to live free despite the state. That’s why the last two articles have been on the Strategy of Small Houses and on Secret Radio. I want to explore hands-on freedom for the individual as opposed to strategies for broad social change. Of course, if enough individuals (I’m thinking 3%-10% of the population) adopt personal freedom strategies, then social change will have been accomplished as a happy side-effect.

  2. ShawnNo Gravatar says:

    I agree with Seth, but if I have one small disagreement, it’s with this:

    “If the witnesses in a case are likely to be police officers, then explain the difficulty you have in believing anything the police say because there are so many news stories of officers lying, being brutal and fabricating evidence.”

    It’s been my experience that the police have a tendency to consider distrust of them to mean a person is a criminal who just hasn’t been caught yet. Making statements like this could lead to heighten scrutiny by the thugs, which is what one is trying to avoid…

    But overall, these are some great examples of what can be done non-violently to resist the state. I think what will be huge in the years to come is the development of a true agora, which can be a real possibility with the advent of crypto currency.

    • Wendy McElroyNo Gravatar says:

      Hello Shawn. Good to see you again at the Daily Anarchist. I think you may be correct in your reservations about the jury strategy re: police officer witnesses. If the sole goal is to avoid jury duty, as I postulate it is in the article, then the person should do so in the least confrontational and controversial manner possible. Perhaps he/she could espouse a difficulty in dealing with police due to a fear of them. Or perhaps there could be an entirely unrelated reason that makes him/her “unqualified” to serve. Good observation.

      • AnnaNo Gravatar says:

        With regard to mistrust of police, a factual approach might be best. Cite articles you have read and even better (!) NPR reports about police fabricating crimes as a rational foundation for your mistrust. A teaching moment shall we say.

        • ShawnNo Gravatar says:

          I would be more inclined to find other ways to get out of jury duty, methinks. But yes, if you ARE going to bring up distrust of police, it would be a good idea to have as many facts available as possible, rather than come off sounding like a paranoid (and most likely, criminal) nutcase.

          • RichardNo Gravatar says:

            As to provoking the police to increase their attention to you (or, if I read the point correctly – avoiding the fear you might feel by doing so, or even thinking you might have done so), I suggest that that fear is unwarranted.

            I do not fear the police and I try to let them know that, but I am not advocating that you push it into their faces (like I would), but if you are just attempting to avoid jury duty (and I don’t know why you would – when this gives you an opportunity to exercise you rights in the jury and to explain some of this ‘rights’ stuff to people who never hear it anywhere else), then just quietly and timidly (convince them that you are already living in fear) explain that you don’t trust them – for whatever reason (maybe the color blue makes you wilt into a puddle on the floor). It is not very likely that they will conspire to ‘get’ you because you didn’t support them in court – there is no scarcity of people who will (nose right into the anus as they say) and they are3 not required to put any effort into it.

            Perhaps they already know about me because I have lived here for almost 40 years and they never invite me into a jury.

            Don’t be so afraid. If you are peaceful and well informed, it will frustrate the emotional slugs but they won’t send their elite hunting teams after you, they will just want to avoid contact with you.

            my 2 cents.


            • Fritz KneseNo Gravatar says:

              I athink not being afraid of an adversary who has all the power, money, lawyers, and assorted hired thugs willing to shoot you is pretty asinine.

              • RichardNo Gravatar says:

                “Don’t be so afraid. If you are peaceful and well informed, it will frustrate the emotional slugs but they won’t send their elite hunting teams after you, they will just want to avoid contact with you.”

                What does being afraid get you? It gives them more time and more power.
                That is more asinine because your time here is limited.

                • Fritz KneseNo Gravatar says:

                  Being afraid helps keep one alive. My dad used to say that one should not go walking through the jungle whistling for the tiger.

                  • RichardNo Gravatar says:


                    It’s not right or wrong to be afraid. It’s a shame to let fear have power over you. I have been afraid more times than I can remember.

                    In my most memorable moments of fear, times when either my life (not just my reputation or honor or property) or my freedom was at stake, I was able to face it down. I am not bragging about this when I say that the reason I survived multiple physical confrontations where I was in danger of serious injury or death, was that my automatic or (lizard brain) fight/flight decision turned successfully in the direction that proved effective.

                    These were not conscious choices at the time. My thinking at those moments was not ‘verbal’. I am not claiming that I could not have survived by running away, but that I did not.

                    In instances where my freedom was at risk, my response was to ‘fight’ on the only terms available – which was to defend myself legally (as myself, with the help of friends and without ceding rights or submitting to fear and intimidation).

                    The fact that I am still here – and still willing to fight is not entirely due to my attitude or ability, but both serve me well.

                    I live peacefully, with very few confrontations. I just will not tolerate intimidation in any form, from anybody. People tend to leave me alone when they happen to learn that accidentally. And that is exactly what I want from them.

                    So maybe that doesn’t work for you, I don’t know. Thanks for giving me a chance to explain, although I never thought an explanation necessary. It could be that I have missed an opportunity (or many of them) to contribute something of value to these discussions by virtue of my ‘confrontational’ attitude. (I would not argue that point), but I’m sharing this because I think we can ‘kill two birds with one stone’ by not acquiescing to intimidation.

                    That’s what I think,

                    I would be happy to have a glass of wine with you and talk more about peace and fear.


                    • Fritz KneseNo Gravatar says:

                      Rich, my point is that fear is a natural emotion with a lot of positives for survival. If one has enough time it is best to try to rationally evaluate a fearful situation and make choices accordingly. But fear of death or pain is rational since it promotes avoidance of both. People will usually be controllable by government thugs with credible potential violence. Without credible violence to keep these thugs in check, developing a free society is a practical impossibility.
                      As to sharing wine and talk with you, I would probably enjoy the talk and leave the wine for I do not drink alcohol or use recreational drugs of any kind. Thank you for your comment.

            • Don DuncanNo Gravatar says:

              When my life, freedom, or property is in grave danger I automatically suppress fear and go into hyper-allert, i.e., let the fear (adrenaline?) fuel the thinking process. This has saved me numerous times in my non-conformist life. I did not take classes to teach this or get instruction of any kind. I think it comes from a deep seated early belief in the efficacy of thinking.

              When someone tries to frighten me into compliance or paralyze me with fear it does not work. It only stimulates my mental awareness. If you are not like that, e.g., you get emotional and the emotion takes over, I suggest you find a way to overcome that habit. It is life endangering.

              An excellent strategy for resistance is silence. Unfortunately, it is not intuitive. The first impulse is to speak. A long pause should be used before each verbal response, if you are sure speaking is best. Often it is not. For example, over 90% of criminal convictions are the direct result of people cooperating with police, but innocence was later proven for some. The conviction would not have occurred without cooperation. Two common lies are: 1. Innocent people have nothing to fear. 2. The guilty are better off cooperating. They are based on two false assumptions: 1. Truth is a goal. 2. Justice is a goal.

              The justice system does not promote justice. It promotes/rewards convictions. The law is the law. Meaning: justice is irrelevant, control is relevant.

              • RichardNo Gravatar says:

                here here Don!

                Illegitimi Non Carborundum (spelling amy be off…)
                ‘Don’t let the bastards wear you down’.

    • Michael LustNo Gravatar says:

      Joshua is quite right about the inferences some officers will draw from any suggestion that an ordinary citizen doesn’t trust them. However, I think it is a mistake to tailor our conduct and speech to curry favor with these folks. Part of the problem of abusive cops is that few ever call them out on it… policemen tend to live in a bubble, where practically their only positive social interactions are with other officers, and their families. They get an entirely false impression about how “loved and respected” they are by the general populace, in part because people are generally reluctant to say anything remotely negative to them… people reporting for jury duty are in a unique position to send such a message. I rather agree with Joshua’s suggestion that avoiding jury duty might not be the best approach… mostly because that abandons the accused to those who worship the state. On the other hand, to participate in such a process is, in some sense, to endorse it. Anyway, Wendy was just giving examples about HOW one might avoid cooperation with the state… whether or not it is useful to do that in a given situation is really a case-by-case judgment call for each of us to make.

      • ShawnNo Gravatar says:

        I’m sorry…who’s Joshua?

        • Hi again Shawn: Scroll down to the end and you will find a posts by Joshua Taylor in which he argues for the strategy of jury nullification, of which I am not fond. I understand why it appeals to some libertarians tho’.

        • Michael LustNo Gravatar says:

          I think “Joshua” must have been a figment of my imagination, to whom I misattributed something you posted, Shawn. So sorry… was probably getting late when I posted that.

      • RichardNo Gravatar says:

        This reminds me of some old movies about NAZI Germany and how people on teh street showed deference and subservience to them, while harboring plans to kill them.

        This would be encouraging…


    • Fritz KneseNo Gravatar says:

      Shawn, many years ago my girlfriend was being questioned for jury duty and was asked if she would accept a cops word over someone else’s. She just laughed. They excused her.

  3. AnnaNo Gravatar says:

    I agree that this article is crucial. As an historian, it is also interesting that the African slaves and later African American slaves evolved these same methods to work against their slave masters. By the way: I currently work at a large corporation that is actually pretty amazing. We are of course underpaid but as a corp they give entrepreneurial people a creative chance to advance. Anyway: some of the employees at my store are avowed anarchists and several are certainly libertarian. Fascinating.

    • Wendy McElroyNo Gravatar says:

      Anna, you are intriguing. An historian who works for a corporation? And the example of how slaves used passive resistance — which is anything but truly passive — against slave masters is classic. As an historian, do you know of any work that addresses or documents the non-violent resistance of plantation slaves in the antebellum? Gene Sharp’s “The Politics of Non-Violent Resistance” makes quite a few passing references to it but there is nothing in detail.

  4. Jim KargerNo Gravatar says:

    Wendy hits another home run.

    Best tactic when contacted by government: “I don’t have anything to say. If you disagree, what is the basis? You will need to talk with my attorney.”

    • AnnaNo Gravatar says:

      And, of course, have your cell phone to record all interactions with the state. And be polite, of course.

      • RichardNo Gravatar says:

        why be polite? Why not be impolite? Why not call a snake a snake instead of calling it a grand paternal benefactor?

        • Wendy McElroyNo Gravatar says:

          Are you trying to provoke the snake or to avoid it so as to continue on your way and live your life in peace? If you want to fight with the snake, then not much of the non-violent advice in this column will be useful to you because it is all geared toward minimizing contact with the state and making whatever contact is necessary as brief and conflict-free as possible. This does not reflect on the “bravery” or “honesty” of the person adopting that strategy. Confronting the state or not is a strategy, a personal choice, and not a moral principle. Clearly, you prefer the confrontation. And, with no sarcasm, I wish you luck with that choice.

          • RichardNo Gravatar says:

            Oh no, I take the non-violent aspect of this site and others very seriously.

            Maybe you read violent intent in my advocating confrontation.

            A lot of people disagree with this and it is legitimate, in my opinion to consider avoidance, but the price to pay for meekly avoiding confrontation is – and always will be – that the tyrant takes this as license to push further in and, I hate to say it but, if you find yourself waiting with hundreds or thousands of others for transportation to your new (state-provided) residency camp, it will be too late to write a letter to the editor …

            Confrontation is a very valuable tool and you may (as I have) teach some of the less committed tyrants that they are doing wrong and to consider ‘live and let live’ a superior option to their current engagement in tyranny.

            You don’t think you can just ignore them and they’ll go away – do you?

            If I were in a confrontational state of mind now, I would say that that is very foolish.

            Sorry to be blunt. You won’t get thge conversation started if you are afraid to face them down. The truck will run right over you and they probably won’t even feel the bump.

            My 2 cents.


            • Wendy McElroyNo Gravatar says:

              You write: “Confrontation is a very valuable tool and you may (as I have) teach some of the less committed tyrants that they are doing wrong and to consider ‘live and let live’ a superior option to their current engagement in tyranny.”

              Actually the strategy I’ve sketched in the article is not aimed at teaching tyrants anything at all. As I state, it is not a strategy for social change but one aimed at increasing the personal freedom of individuals. If you and Fritz disagree on the value of confrontation, then it probably is merely a reflection of being different human beings with unique psychologies and experiences. Of course, you would make different choices in the subjective area of personal strategy. If non-violent resistance is not of value to you or of lesser value…then I have no argument with you because I am not presenting moral imperatives or principles. It is a strategy…a strategy I value and the article explains why. Live free, Richard, whatever freedom means to you.

              • RichardNo Gravatar says:

                Probably, we disagree on less than you think. You seem to think (from reading my post) that when I say ‘confront’ that I mean to incite violence. That would be completely wrong.

                My reasons for engaging with them, when I choose to do so, or when it is forced on me, are these:
                * protect myself
                * show whoever among them is curious or at least a little concerned, that they are wrong and should join the non-aggresive, non-violent but thinking team.

                I don’t think I am doing anything for so lofty a goal as social change (as you put it) but for self-preservation, self-education, and to add a tool for those of us who do not wish to flail around stupidly when force is applied against us.

                You really do read me wrong. But I understand how that can happen.

                You have no argument with me. You just don’t understand my position.

                “Live free, Richard, whatever freedom means to you.”

                That’s snide remark and doesn’t even merit a response.

                • Wendy McElroyNo Gravatar says:

                  Actually, Richard, the last comment in my post was not snide at all. It was sincere. When I said “whatever freedom means to you,” I meant it literally. Freedom to me is being left in peace and to my own devices in a home with my husband, where I am able to write and read for the vast majority of the day; cooking three meals a day figures in because cooking is a hobby and passion. I doubt if what I describe means freedom to you. If it means, instead, testing yourself at sports to be “the best you can be,” then I wish you well. If it means being more confrontational with the state, well good luck on that front as well. That’s the entire meaning of my remark.

                  I am quite willing to believe I misread you although I did not take “confrontation” to refer to a physical contact. I was responding to your 1st reply to Fritz and I note your 2nd one clarifies your meaning. I would have written a different post had I read both.

                  • RichardNo Gravatar says:

                    The I apologize for misunderstanding you and for reacting as I did.

                    Peace to you and everyone who may have sensed or read aggression in my words. That is not my way or my intention.

            • Fritz KneseNo Gravatar says:

              I am not so much anti-confrontation as pro-survival. I try to avoid confronting seriously anything that has a huge amount of power and no ethics as is tyupical of statist thugs. I have written many letters to the editor and even these posts have some danger to them. I think it is a minimal danger or I would not wrlite. Survival is the first imperitive.

        • Fritz KneseNo Gravatar says:

          My girlfriend’s daughter tried your approach. She was cuffed and taken to jail while a room full of kids were just sent home because they did not actlively confront the cops. since many inmates are killed by the cops and passed off as suicide or being killed by other inmates, those of us who value survival stay out of jail!

          • RichardNo Gravatar says:

            Well, maybe she learned that there are consequences for her actions. Have you considered the possibility that there are different ways of confronting them?

            Perhaps you assume when I say ‘confront them’ that I mean to advide you to thrash stupidly without knowing what you’re doing. A lot of us try that approach first, the do the necessary ‘due diligence’ (understanding the law and he rules of court before we undertake to ‘confront’ again.

            I didn’t advocate anything like what I suspect your well-meaning girlfriend’s daughter did. And I don’t think you can honestly construe anything I’ve said or written to suggest that.

            Why did she have to learn her lesson the hard way? Why could you not have helped her to understand the rules or principles of presenting your argument in court?

            Is it because it’s a mystery to you and your girlfriend?

            I guess, given the fact that there my be consequences for resisting – peacefully, intelligently, or otherwise, that we should all give in to it without an argument?

            That sounds like a winner to me ,,, wait, that’s how we got here.

            • Fritz KneseNo Gravatar says:

              The point is that one needs to pick battles one can have a chance of winning. It is nearly impossible to beat the state in a state court so you avoid situations where you end up in court. When dealing with cops you are polite and subservient for they have a gun and you do not usually. I knew a guy who used to drive without a liscense plate claiming it was his right to do so.
              The cops kept taking him in and fining him bigtime. He went from moderately wealthy to poor over a few years in large part because of his refusal to back down against superior firepower. I don’t pull tiger’s tails or irritate cops.

  5. AnnaNo Gravatar says:

    Well, I am, shall we say, reconfiguring my life: lost my business as commercial artist to the furniture industry since 1978. Went back to college for BA in history to get official. Need the MA next, but my college apprenticed me well. I need the credentials next. Meantime, no Big Corp experience, thought it would be educational. Sure has been! As for history, and slave survival, C. Vann Woodard and John Pope Franklin come to mind. Also an amazing couple of historical fiction works but I cannot recall then at this moment. I will rummage through my library.

  6. Single Acts of TyrannyNo Gravatar says:

    When you get one of these crappy computer scanned forms, where it says “Do not write below this line” make sure you don’t write

    “Okay, I won’t”

    because that would make it harder to scan. Similarly, if you reply on paper rather than online, where it says “could you have replied online” you may enjoy writing


    and then cheerfully continuing on paper.

    Personally I enjoy (as far as you can enjoy paying taxes) paying the local property tax £10 short every year. The local government here in England writes it off as uneconomic to pursue.

    • Brilliant. On both the “withholding” and on the abuse of forms. Sometimes the best strategy is to simply take the state *literally* in everything it tells you to do.

  7. Mike HaggardNo Gravatar says:

    In hindsight, this is all kind of funny, so I thought I’d share.

    I thought the article was very interesting because it reminded me of some training I’d attended in the military (which I’ll talk about in a moment). Toward the end of the article, I was struck with the thought that it would’ve been nice to have a link to Konkin’s NLM.

    I haven’t read it yet, but I had recalled seeing it somewhere, so I thought I’d find it and post a link to it in the comments section. It took me a few tries, but I finally found the bookmark I had set linking back to where I had seen the publication.

    The funny thing was, it was on the Molinari Institute web page, which not only has a link to the Daily Anarchist, but also lists Wendy McElroy on its Home page as an advisor to the Center for a Stateless Society.

    So anyway, here’s the link to Konkin’s manifesto ( apparently cannot leave a hyperlink). I thought it was a comical coincidence to come back to the article itself to leave a comment, only to discover that the author seemed to have close ties to the site that I was going to link back to.

    As to the training I had attended, while I was reading I was thinking, “this is very similar to S.E.R.E school.” SERE school is the military’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape training, which it provides to various members with a supposed “high risk” of capture (pilots and specop types).

    Your article Wendy is right on par with the teachings of the resistance phase of this program. The military component of the government understands these techniques and also finds them very useful and/or appropriate.

    Also, law enforcement (or anyone trained in interview/interrogation techniques) will recognize when resistance techniques are being used against them if the “actor” is not consistent. In other words, one cannot spout ethical and moral principles one moment, and play dumb the next, so be careful (i.e. consistent) when applying these techniques.

    • Seth KingNo Gravatar says:

      Care to write an article for Daily Anarchist on SERE techniques for anarchists?

      • Mike HaggardNo Gravatar says:

        I should’ve stuck to being a quiet lurker (more my style), but I’ll see what I can put together.

        • I’m very pleased you edged out of the shadows, Mike. The S.E.R.E. article is one that I’d like to read as well. I thought your post was fascinating…and something I’d heard nothing whatsoever about.

      • Mike HaggardNo Gravatar says:


        My article is ready for your perusal. How do you want me to forward it? If it’s convenient, feel free to email me directly.

        • Seth KingNo Gravatar says:

          Cool! Contact Davi here:

          He’s the editor in charge of submission.

          Good luck!

          • Mike HaggardNo Gravatar says:


            I’m unable to utilize the contact function. I initially suspected this was due to some security plug-in on my browser, however I got the same results when I attempted to contact Davi utilizing a virtually virgin computer that I recently installed gnewsense with iceweasel as the browser and no added plug-ins. Two different computers, same results.

            Perhaps there is something not working with the Fast Secure Contact Form plug-in? Maybe at your convenience you could attempt to utilize the contact function to see if it operates correctly for you?


            • JoshNo Gravatar says:

              Mrs. McElroy left her e-mail address in one of the comments on this page. Might I suggest you mail it to her, and she can forward it to the dailyanarchist?
              You could even use hushmail or something.

            • Wendy McElroyNo Gravatar says:

              Mike…if worse comes to worse, you can send it to me and I’ll forward it on to Seth.

              • Mike HaggardNo Gravatar says:

                Thank you very much for the offer Wendy, but I sent the article to Davi about two days ago.

                I presume he’s received it, but I haven’t heard anything back so I’m just assuming it’s being reviewed.


    • ZuluNo Gravatar says:

      Yep. I was actually reminded vividly of SERE and isoprep training when reading this article. A lot of the things that Wendy is describing could have bees culled straight from training literature.

      • I am definitely going to have to look into SERE. Is there a manual or a site that you recommend to which you can post a link? It looks like the military has scooped up non-violent resistance techniques and adapted the ones that are valuable to its purpose. And, yes, the techniques would be very valuable to captured prisoners.

        • ZuluNo Gravatar says:

          If you google “SERE Manual” you’ll get some resources like this one (, but most of the links I’m seeing fixate on the more sensational aspects of training. You’ve covered a lot of what I remember; speaking in idioms, playing dumb, speaking slowly, and repeating yourself, deliberate misinterpretation, etc. Some of this, though, is more difficult to pull off when you’re dealing with a native speaker of your own language, for obvious reasons.

          • Mike HaggardNo Gravatar says:


            I just checked-out your link (and downloaded the manual…thanks), but found it (like everything else I’ve searched so far), to be missing the pertinent info regarding resistance.

            I did find a link here that at least makes it clear why there’s no info on resistance techniques.

            I guess I’m going to just have to write this from memory, although I don’t have much to add to what you’ve already discussed, other than complaining (stalling) and an awareness of cadence (which you kind of address through “speaking slowly”).

        • ShawnNo Gravatar says:

          I didn’t take a SERE course while I was in the “service,” but I did hear much about it. It’s a relatively short course and focuses more on the physical aspects of a survival and capture situation; that is, say, you’re separated from your unit and have to survive on your own in the wilderness, and then find yourself captured by a brutal enemy willing to use torture techniques to extract information from you. Ultimately, you’re goal is to escape your captors and be rescued by your cohorts. I think yes, it can be useful to the every day joe, but by the same token, I’m not 100% sure it ties into the long, drawn out sort of resistance we’re looking at with overall resistance to the state. Just my opinion, and I likewise look forward to a good, inside article from Mike on the subject.

        • Mike HaggardNo Gravatar says:

          Wendy, you’ll want to take a look at this link m to see how in-depth this goes.

          There are several different levels of SERE school training. SV-91 to my knowledge was the highest.

          I need to refresh my memory a bit and investigate where the terms I do recall (such as SV-91 – a civilian would doubtfully even know to search such a term) lead me.

          I look forward to seeing what I come up with and hope everyone will find it interesting/enlightening.

        • Mike HaggardNo Gravatar says:

          Here’s another bit of pertinent info

          This provides some insight into what happens at Ft Bragg’s mock POW camp.

        • KeithNo Gravatar says:

          Hi Wendy
          For one or two ideas on SERE search for the name “Joseph P Martino” on your favourite mail order book sites

          although its subject matter is largely for less-than-passive resistance, there are some humorous passive ideas in there too.

          There is also the amusing Heller: catch 22, and H R Clinton’s inspiration: Saul Alinsky

          • KeithNo Gravatar says:

            Martino suggested reading Matthew Alexander’s “How to break a ….” to get some ideas of the techniques which are used for interrogation. I’ve just checked on amazon and the book is going for the equivalent of about $5 including postage second hand

  8. Very good article Wendy. I only have one thing I would like to say, and that is concerning the Jury.
    I don’t believe we should opt out of being on a Jury, rather, I think we should do whatever we can do, say whatever we have to say, and get on the Jury.
    This is a non-violent way to fight the State, it is active resistance to the State.
    While the State has done it’s best to pervert the trial by one’s peers, it does not mean we have to allow them to dominate it.
    The Jury has a history of defeating tyrants. Why did King George kidnap colonist and take them to Nova Scotia to have a trial in front of a military tribunal? Because the crown could not get a guilty verdict in the colonies.
    How many slaves lives were saved by Northern Juries who refused to uphold the “law”.
    Get on the Jury, and tell the State, NOT GUILTY.
    Save a life, keep a non violent “criminal” out of a State cage.
    You may wish one day that someone of like mind was on a Jury deciding your fate.

    • Joshua…you may well consider me a heretic after this post…but I am not a fan of jury nullification. I wrote an article for the Daily Anarchist some while ago entitled “Judging the Jury” in which I laid out some of my fundamental concerns with and objections to the strategy. See Trial by jury was an topic of intense debate (albeit brief) within Benjamin Tucker’s periodical Liberty, and I found the contra position to be far more compelling than the advocacy. Ah, well, yet another departure for me from Spooner. Thanks for the post, Joshua.

    • RichardNo Gravatar says:

      You need to be invited by them to participate on a jury. I would love it but I don’t think I can wait another 40 years for my invitation. That, and the fact that there are very few jury trials (for the number of ‘trials’) is what I think makes the jury nullification method all but moot.

      I do appreciate the intention and the effort that FIJA and others put into it. Some of my most favorite freedom fighters are jury nullification -ists’ or practitioners.


      • Wendy McElroyNo Gravatar says:

        Hello again, Richard. Jury duty is more like being drafted than being invited. You and I clearly disagree on whether jury duty is a right and the wisdom of using it as a freedom strategy. But I’ve expressed those reservations elsewhere in an article on the Daily Anarchist so I will not be so tedious as to repeat myself. I also have respect for many of the people who espouse jury nullification — including not just those in FIJA but in the new jury nullification effort called “Just Us” — and I count some of them as friends. That has nothing to do, however, with my disagreeing on a matter of strategy.

        • RichardNo Gravatar says:

          I don’t even think we disagree on this point, but I seem to have convinced you that I am a disagreeable character and your reply is more disagreeable to me because it is without substance.

          There! I’m sure that whatever number of people read this will like me even less because I have committed heresy.

          Sorry all, I am disagreeable, but I think this thread has triggered a reaction to having had so many (intelligent and seemingly rational people) laugh off the warnings that this police state was slowly integrating itself (‘stealhy encroachment’ as Learned Had described it).

          So if that’s what bugs you about my little speech, so be it. I have always been there to learn, teach and engage but not many people woke up in time – not enough.

  9. FritzKneseNo Gravatar says:

    Wendy, my girlfriend got out of jury duty when they asked if she would believe a cop over a suspect. She laughed out loud. No jury duty for her!
    Many years ago my kids were taken away from me for home schooling. I got them back eventually and quietly left that state when we could. However, most “homeschooling” today is so controlled with curricula and school superintendant rules as to be nearly as bad as public school. We had a similar problem with a planned homebirth whereagovernment minions told us our home was not adequate for a homebirth. I was enraged and nearly beat up two government punks. Later the cops showed up and also messed with me. Seeing the handwriting on the wall we eventually left that state after receiving notice that we were to be investigated for possible child neglect. The point here is that one must be very careful in being non-cooperative for authority figures will punish you despite the legality of your actions. After all they get paid to go to court.

  10. Wendy:

    “Of course, if enough individuals (I’m thinking 3%-10% of the population) adopt personal freedom strategies, then social change will have been accomplished as a happy side-effect.”

    This essay of mine was also featured in VOLUNTARY VOICE, Volume 1, edited by Eric Bigelow (



    • Fritz KneseNo Gravatar says:

      I think 10% is wildly optimistic! We may have that today, but no one ever hears about it for when it gets serious enough an example is made by putting folks in jail or even shooting them (remember Ruiby Ridge or Waco) and radicals tone down. I am all for civil disobedience. I just have no thought that it is more than an inconvenience to the ruling elite at best. Rulers respect power not rights. So long as government has swat type cops and a military no longer chained by posse commitas, they have the power and we freedom lovers end up scurrying like roaches trying to survive and find a little freedom in our mostly slavelike existence.

      • You may be correct. But the 10% figure is not meant to suggest that 10% of the population is self-consciously and ideologically anti-statist. Merely that 10% refuse to obey the law or a specific law, such as Obamacare, and perhaps out of nothing more than self-interest. Even then 10% may be unrealistic. I don’t know.

        There are two way to approach non-violent resistance, however. The more traditional way is to view it as a vehicle of social change…in which case the % of the population that is sympathetic to a cause or issue is important. The second way — and the one I adopt in the article — is to view it as a means of expanding personal, individual liberty. The number of other people doing so is far less important when non-violent resistance is adopted individually.

        • Fritz KneseNo Gravatar says:

          Yes, but the price of non-violent (or violent) resistence is so high if you do not have lots of power on your side. Yes, we sneak and do all kinds of things, but is that being free? I think you may be a better person than I am for I feel nearly uncontrolable rage at the constant interference in our lives by government in even the most trivial of things. By the way, to me at least self defense includes the use of lethal force against those who steal your freedoms. I realize that the consequences of such defense would be very bad for me so I do not defend myself. But I do think that one does not have to wait for deadly force to be initiated against you to legitimately use lethal force as self defense even from a libertarian standpoint. There is a classic thought problem on these lines from self defense courses. Two people are in a closed room prepared to fight. One has an automatic weapon. The other has a single shot rifle. Who wins? Whoever shoots first. I am sure you would prefer to not be fighting, but since the government is already stealing our freedom and thus our lives, they have already started the fight and the consequences are on them.

    • Nice piece, Alex. I like the point that the 10%+ miniarchists would be doomed by a slippery slope to return to big government by the inevitability of “state spread.” It is odd how the 10% figure keeps cropping up. I was reading an article last week on immigration and the resentment felt by indigenous populations toward the change wrought by an influx of people who differ culturally. The article speculated on 10% being a threshold at which a society tends to welcome culturally-different newcomers because they are not viewed as a threat; they are viewed as colorful or enriching the diversity. The % is arbitrary, of course, but there seems to be some impetus behind the figure. Common sense…a sense of history? Who knows?

  11. I definitely don’t consider people who merely disagree with a point of view I have to automatically be a heretic. 🙂
    These issues need to be discussed and thought out, and hearing thought out, reasoned opinions to the issues we face as Voluntarist are good.
    In what we face today with the State continually making positive law that is creating criminals from thin air, I see the Juror as a tool, or rather maybe a “non violent weapon” against the State. While I don’t agree with the State being able to force someone to be a Juror, I don’t think it is something Libertarians or Anarchist should shy away from or be afraid of.
    As a Juror, you have the Right, and I mean in the negative sense, to tell the State to get bent. We all have this right anyway, it just isn’t always good for your health to do so.
    We talk about the evils of the war on drugs, how the State has no right to cage this person for this or that person for that. As a Juror, you can actually stop the State from doing these things, even if only case by case. If the State can’t get a conviction on a particular crime, it will not be cost effective for it to continue to prosecute. At the very least, you cost the State a bunch of money prosecuting folks who the State won’t get any revenue back from under a not guilty verdict for lack of fines or penalties.
    I don’t like the idea of “professional Jury’s”. And I don’t think even in a Voluntary society there would be a need for one.
    If you look back at the original jury, it wasn’t picking some random people from society, it was specifically a trial by ones peers. This is a key misunderstanding of the Jury that I think would change folks thought of the Jury.
    Your “Peers” are your neighbors, friends, and those who are of like circumstance in their daily life. Those who know your character. They actually know you, not the perverted way the State has it where if a prospective juror knows the so called defendant then he is automatically thrown out of the pool.
    And since a friend is more than likely to come to you in time of need, there would be no coercion or pay needed. This also tends to make good neighbors, if your neighbor may someday be needed to consider a dispute that has been brought against you, you would tend to be a good neighbor, because if not, you may be SOL.


    • Fritz KneseNo Gravatar says:

      Years ago a woman hung a jury using the old concept that the jury should judge not only the guilt or innocence of the accused but also juge the law itself. The authorities were considering prosecuiting her for not following the judge’s instructions to only judge the facts, that it was his job to determine what was legal or not. I do not know what happened to her, but that would scare me off from trying to nullify a jury! In some places I hear that it no longer requires all of the jurors voting guilty to get a guilty virdict. You can have two or three who vote innocent and still get a guilty verdict. No way I am going to put myself in danger for a system like that.

  12. Brian CantinNo Gravatar says:

    I was called for jury duty a while back. When the judge asked whether anybody had any reason why they could not impartially assay the evidence in the case, I told him that I could not believe the testimony of cops. I then started talking about the prevalence of testilying, etc. At that point, the judge seemed mainly interested in getting me out of there before I infected the rest of the jury pool.
    Note that I was not necessarily trying to get out of jury duty. On the contrary, the judge asked a question, and I answered honestly. I have found that consistently telling the truth tends to exclude me from polite society.

    • Fritz KneseNo Gravatar says:

      Very true. It is usually nice to be excluded from “polite society” though we are not always aware of this until later.

  13. Intriguing.

    As a thought-experiment only: is it possible this strategy, done together, will actually extent one’s contact with the State – and/or put one on a watch list of truculent, unhelpful deviants?

    • Argh. Hasty typing, inexcusably so.

      That should read:


      As a thought-experiment only: is it possible that these strategies, especially if done all together, would actually extend/increase one’s contact with the State – and/or put one on a watch list of truculent, unhelpful deviants?

      • Seth KingNo Gravatar says:

        I think the goal is still to avoid, or route, the state as much as possible. But when one must come into contact with state officials, to make the process as laborious as possible, thus gumming up the machinations of the state.

        • Right. But there may be unintended consequences.

          It makes me think of when Goethe was walking with Beethoven in a park. An aristocratic or even royal procession approached. Goethe stepped aside and bowed, while Beethoven plowed through with his hands behind his back.

          As they rejoined, Goethe said “render unto Caesar” Typical of the worldly sage.

          • Wendy McElroyNo Gravatar says:

            Hello Michael: There are always unintended consequences to an action and if that possibility prevents you from taking a specific action then, logically, it should prevent you from taking any action at all. Nothing is risk free. The best you can do is weigh your options and assess which one you think provides the benefits you seek with the least risk or other bad consequences. Of course, you can never know all the consequences — good or bad — because of the factor you name: unintended consequences. For me, minimal contact with the state is likely to result in minimal contact with the state. If you judge this strategy differently, then it makes sense for you to bump up your contact with the state in order to protect your freedom. Seems odd to me but, then, it is not my life. In short, there is no right or wrong in adopting a peaceful strategy. There is only the individual’s judgment, needs and circumstances.

      • Fritz KneseNo Gravatar says:

        More than possible, likely. It is well known that militias have been infiltrated all over the US by agovernment agents. I am sure any freedom lover would be suspect if they find out about you. I imagine anyone who reads this site is checked out routinely. After all, Bush labeled all anarchists as terrorists.

  14. HReardenNo Gravatar says:

    You did not mention Gandhi. One might use free market arbitration to settle disputes
    as an alternative to the using the state courts.

    An example of a Free Market DRO in a tv series.

    • Wendy McElroyNo Gravatar says:

      Good to see you posting, HR. You’ve been missed. I think you know that Gandhi was a huge and formative influence in the development of my “philosophy of strategy” and on my personal life. I prefer to springboard off Gene Sharp, however, because he doesn’t have the same stumbling blocks that invoking Gandhi often raises. For example, you don’t get into arguments re: did Gandhi cause the violence surrounding the India-Pakistan schism, or what about his religious or strange hygiene habits, or….you name it. I’ve heard it. And, really, I’d just to discuss the ideas.

      Invoking Sharp rarely leads to side trips down distracting roads. Moreover, Sharp’s credentials are impressive. He was a lieutenant of Martin Luther King and the one who acted as the theorist/historian of the strategies of the civil rights movement. I do not agree with all of his political stands but my admiration for him is immense.

  15. Shivank MehraNo Gravatar says:

    I love this website! I’m from India, and there seems to be a drought of libertarians here 🙁 I hate my corrupt government, we can do so much better without it. I am a recent ‘convert’ into anarchist. I like the idea of anarcho-capitalism, because free market is the best government in itself. It tackles the problem of evil the way nature intended it – by making it expensive.

    I praise this article for encouraging libertarians to finally take some action. I’ll surely try little ways in my everyday life to dodge state authority.

    • HReardenNo Gravatar says:

      The governments in former British colonies today are generally more oppressive today than the British government was when they were ruled by the British government.

  16. Socrates WildeNo Gravatar says:

    Another great article, Wendy. It underscores and clearly explains everything I’ve attempting to do in my real life. Thanx!

  17. evie smallNo Gravatar says:

    I don’t recommend this but it worked. many yrs ago I was summoned for jury duty, I knew what the envelope was. I marked the envelope “deceased”, I have not been bothered since as I do not vote ( it only encourages them,), I am not on official rolls!!

  18. absoluterightsNo Gravatar says:

    End the demand for government by innovating and implementing attractive alternatives.

    We are in the super minority of people. Easy to forget sometimes, that the great majority of people clamor for government. It is this demand that sustains the occupation. It cannot be fought head on. However, we can end government in our own lives by innovating and implementing alternative models, and if we thrive, our brothers and sisters will join us.

    Harm no one and let no one harm you.

    • Wendy McElroyNo Gravatar says:

      I have come to the same conclusion you have, absoluterights. I will never give up on education as a strategy but the creation of alternatives is the key to achieving liberty. And you are correct about another thing as well. It is not the principles of liberty that will attract the majority of people. It will be the success and prosperity that comes with liberty that does so.