Students For Liberty programs intern Bradley Hunt gives his thoughts on what options are available to the Russian people in light of Vladimir Putin’s invasion of Ukraine.
Russia produces a lot of good things. Besides Ayn Rand, vodka, and sunflower seeds, Russia created my beautiful fiancée who is the mother of my child. Besides, who doesn’t absolutely love Russian hardbass? I feel really bad for most Russians. If they aren’t being forced to fight and die in service to Putin’s brand of tyranny, it seems they are being discriminated against by most of the West.
I hear a lot from the establishment about how we should all boycott Russian products, that Russian foreign exchange students should be sent back to their oppressors, and that Russians should lose access to their Wi-Fi and their cryptocurrency wallets. If this conflict is going to be anything like the Iraq War from my childhood, I worry that Russians will be discriminated against just like Muslims and others perceived as Middle Eastern were back then.
While it is true that Putin and his loyalists are evil and tyrannical, it does not mean that Russia needs to be the next North Korea. Isolating Russians will only galvanize anti-Western sentiment and prevent the Russian people from discovering truth and liberty. This will in turn strengthen Putin’s oppression in the same way North Koreans are isolated and unaware that their dictator is not a god. It will make it easier for Russians to conform to the side of tyranny because they will eventually become unable to see another way, a better way.
We shouldn’t boycott the Russian people
I understand why boycotting Russian products sounds like a good idea. If Russian businesses lose revenue, the particular government that is in charge of oppressing that select part of the map will lose out on tax revenue. Sounds like a good idea, right?
It is seen as a good strategy in the fight against tyranny even though it will cause “necessary” collateral damage to the innocent Russian people. However, do the Russian people have a choice to pay those taxes? No. So why should they be held responsible for the crimes of the Russian state? The Russian people are also victims in this war.
Unfortunately, I don’t have the ability to prevent the U.S. government from cutting off trade with the Russian people, just like how the Russian people don’t have the ability to prevent the Russian government from invading more regions. In reality, we can only control the things that are under our control and state interests are not one of those things. But there remain things we can do in service to liberty to fight the Russian state and indeed, all states that oppress this otherwise beautiful world.
Taxation enables imperialism
Reduce your tax impact wherever possible. Taxation is the only reason mass war is possible. States oppress because people allow them to. They allow oppression because they are worried about the consequences that will happen if they don’t comply. However, if the Russian people are forced to be victims of the West simply because they contribute funds to an oppressor, then we are all guilty; we all pay taxes to oppressors that wage wars on innocent people and outright control people they have conquered.
Russians: if you don’t want to be liable for what the Russian state does, then do your part to avoid paying taxes to Putin and his cronies. Those taxes will fund the death of innocents. Take a stand even though you may become inconvenienced for your bravery.
To the rest of you: if you think it’s okay to punish the Russian people for paying taxes to an oppressive regime then take a look at your own contributions and the regime you financially support. Lastly, to the Western establishment: don’t try to stop Russians from accessing cryptocurrency, because it is their best shot to avoid paying taxes to the Russian state.
Vote with your feet
Leave. I’m sorry. I’m sure Russia is a beautiful place and I know it is hard for people to leave their families behind. All I know is that if I were a Russian, I wouldn’t want to live in Russia while Putin is allowed to be a dictator there.
To be honest, I don’t even want to be in Michigan while the U.S. government controls it. I want to live in a truly free country, but thank God that I was born in a relatively free country. There aren’t many options for me to move to a freer place. But there are plenty of options for Russians to move to freer places whether it’s by living off the grid within Russia or moving to a freer country.
Besides, if you leave it will also encourage your family to flee tyranny as well. Trust me, it would be good for them! The best way to weaken the Russian state is by leaving them with fewer victims to conscript into invasions and to coerce tax revenue from. Boycott bad governments.
This applies to more than just Russians. If there is a freer country that you can move to, do it. It may be hard, but if you take a stand then more people will follow. To the Western establishment: defeat the Russian state by taking away their citizens; allow Russian immigrants to flee their oppressors.
Support your local black markets (agorism)
Do business without Putin’s permission. Yes, support your local black and gray markets. This is true freedom. Nothing is freer than doing business without state permission. States only exist as parasites of voluntary exchange. Without your creative and productive energy to suck dry, vampiric states would cease to exist.
No, I don’t mean buy drugs (unless you want to I guess), I just mean stop following laws and regulations that restrict your freedom to exchange goods or services. Do it anyway! You don’t need permission to be human.
Cryptocurrency and the internet both make it much easier to do business freely. If you don’t already know how to use cryptocurrency or the dark web, then it’s your time to learn. This applies to all of you and can even be a good way to avoid unjust sanctions.
To the Western establishment: leave their internet and cryptocurrency alone. Target the Russian state specifically with cyber warfare or sanctions, but leave the Russian people alone. In fact, if you don’t want taxes going to the Russian state, then offer asylum to Russians that get caught avoiding them.
Give us all liberty… or death. Both are preferable to tyranny
Right now is the best chance the Russian people have ever had. Not only are their oppressors distracted in a foreign occupation, they also have the rest of the world against them. If there was ever a time for a revolution in Russia, it is now.
Putin has proven again and again that he is not fit to govern a free people. I mean, how many times did he rig his elections? Is it justifiable to throw people in prison for exercising free speech or for their sexual orientation? Russians would understand their oppression better than I do, but enslaving their soldiers, taking them from their families, and tricking them into killing innocent Ukrainian men, women, and children should be the last straw.
If he has enslaved you to be a soldier, then use your training for something good. If you are not willing to potentially sacrifice your life to liberty, at least sow disruption wherever possible. To everyone else, it is up to you to decide how much tyranny is acceptable; but in all cases, the nation states of this world are oppressing otherwise free and creative people.
All nation states are aggressors to the people they oppress. While some are better than others, all nation states threaten death to those who would live freely and defend themselves from the state. They’re all guilty and it is morally justifiable to resist. To the Western establishment: just stop being hypocrites. If it is wrong for Putin to be a tyrant then it is also wrong for you to be tyrants. We have one life. Let us live it!
If you would like to help the people of Ukraine, you can make a donation by clicking on the button below and checking the “Ukraine Crisis Emergency Campaign” box.
This piece solely expresses the opinion of the author and not necessarily the organization as a whole. Students For Liberty is committed to facilitating a broad dialogue for liberty, representing a variety of opinions. If you’re a student interested in presenting your perspective on this blog, send your piece to [email protected], and mention SFL Blog in the email subject line for your chance to be published and be seen!