On a Sunday night in October, David Olson, local musician and libertarian, came to the open mic night at the Ames Progressive and told me that a group of traveling activists were on their way to Ames. He intended to bring them by the Ames Progressive to show them the space.
And maybe I’d like to interview them?
The travelers are engaged in a project called The Motorhome Diaries, which is a documentary film project of three men who are driving across the country in a motorhome collecting footage of individuals and organizations that advocate freedom from government.
“We’re just pointing the camera and doing interviews with people advancing the broad freedom movement,” said Pete Eyre, one of the filmmakers. The footage from the road trip is daily uploaded onto their website and to YouTube, where they have collected more than 150 videos. The project will culminate in a documentary about their travels and the people they’ve encountered.
The broad freedom movement, as described by the filmmakers, is a nationwide network of activists, organizers and politicians who disavow the state. The broadness of this network ranges from people who believe in limiting the scope of the government – reducing it to a provider of only very basic services – to individuals and organizations that work toward abolishing the state altogether.
The men making the film are on the abolitionist side of this spectrum. “We think taxation is theft, we don’t pay taxes, we advocate that people don’t vote,” Pete said.
“We find the government to be a violent institution,” said Jason Talley, another one of the filmmakers. “They do a lot of things in my name that I don’t appreciate, such as war, such as the escalation of the police state. They spend my money on these things but they steal it from me to do so. So I think that in order for me to live a principled life that I can live with my own conscience, I have to deny the state as much money as possible.”
In this way, modern-day anarchists are aligned with the 19th-century American abolitionists, who advocated the nonpayment of taxes as a way of denying funding for a government that was enslaving people and engaging in wars. The travelers who visited the Ames Progressive have temporarily created an itinerant lifestyle that requires only minimum payments of taxes (they, for instance, must pay state sales taxes any time they make a purchase).
The Motorhome Diaries made a stop in Ames because of their connections to the libertarian scene in Ames. David Olson is a prominent local libertarian and lives at the Liberty House. David is connected to the Motorhome Diaries through his acquaintance with Jason. The men met in 2005 when David traveled with his brother to Washington, D.C., for a meeting of the Conservative Political Action Committee (CPAC).
“We were young and in high school and more on the Republican side of things at that point in time, but didn’t really agree with a lot of what was going on there,” David said. Feeling partially alienated by the messages promoted at CPAC, the Olson brothers had a chance encounter with Jason, who ran a D.C.-based organization called Bureaucrash. David identified strongly with the stateless message of the organization and their meeting contributed to David’s adoption of libertarianism.
Both Jason and Pete served as directors of Bureaucrash, but after Pete’s tenure the organization became increasingly supportive of the state and both men have since moved on. The Motorhome Diaries is their current contribution to anti-state activism. A motorhome, a videocamera, and online media outlets have combined to create a lifestyle for the men that is, in its way, external to and against the state.
“The internet is destroying geographical boundaries and the government can’t censor these things,” Pete said.