[Surmounting Barriers to Freedom, written by the mysterious Rayo, aka El Ray, first appeared in the August 1969 issue of Innovator, one of several mimeographed newsletters published at the dawn of the modern libertarian movement. Before Rayo fully disappeared from the movement and public life in 1974, he wrote his pieces on freedom theory and strategy from his camper and campsites, socked away in the mountains and woods. Many of Rayo’s suggestions for “opting out” may strike some modern libertarians as too fringe and too retreatist. But I think what makes this article important is attitude, and the truth in what he says about our shackles being as much psychological as political.]


The continuation and growth of any authoritarian State depends far less on overt coercion than on the credulity, inertia, short-sightedness, and capacity for rationalization of its victims. Even many of those who criticize the State remain caged by their habits and continue to be bled. If you have been a libertarian for several years and still aren’t free, unless you reside in a maximum-security prison or are bed-ridden, your shackles are not political-economic so much as psychologic. How can you smash your chains? Here are some tips:

Liberate your home first, then work for vocational freedom, rather than trying for financial independence before opting out. You might, for example, move into a camper and squat away from the subpeople, while commuting weekly to your present employment. Since only a fraction of time is spent at work (about one-quarter for a single person; one-sixteenth for a family of four with one member employed), away-from-work living logically has priority. And a liberated home should be much less expensive, bringing financial independence that much closer. Also, with less vulnerability to the extorters, you can use tax-cutting tricks you would otherwise fear to employ. And coming-of-school-age children are removed from populated areas before the real-life bogeymen get them. Finally, actually living in freedom, you may discover alternatives to the eight-to-five regime which might never occur to you in suburbia.

Distinguish comforts and conveniences from status games. Some claim they enjoy the “comforts of civilization” too much to opt out. But almost all the free men of whom I have knowledge — land nomads, yachtsmen, and backwoodsmen — have shelter from the rain and cold, nutricious and tasty food, bathing facilities, comfortable bed, books and records, and leisure to enjoy these. Some chores may take more time; cooking with wood instead of gas, for example, but time saved on outside employment more than compensates. What a free man probably DOESN’T have is a house which would impress non-libertarian relatives.

Take pride in your ability to live free, not in your productiveness as a semi-slave. If your present occupation depends on the Servile State, avoid ego involvement. Instead, base your self-esteem on active interests which can accompany you wherever and however you go.

Judge success by your enjoyment of life as a whole, not by the money you earn. In the irrational-coercivist society, there is less and less correlation between income and happiness; there are “impoverished rich” as well as “affluent poor.” Many an “upper-middle-classer” not only spends a substantial part of his waking life at tasks he detests, but finds that most of his supposedly-high income (what is left after taxes) goes for ostentatious home, “nice” car, dress clothes and other prestige expenses needed for “getting ahead” in his occupation. He may envy not only the “poor” free man’s lifestyle but his camper, boat, or wilderness cabin as well; things many a “salary-slave” literally can’t afford. I’m not urging avoidance of money altogether; with a financial reserve or income more freedom life-ways are available. But money is only a useful tool, not an end in itself.

Estimate low on your money requirements. Most not-yet-liberated libertarians, extrapolating from present expenses, over-estimate liberated-living costs. The free man not only avoids status games and cuts down on marginal luxuries, but saves on necessities. Time and energy formerly expended earning money for Big Brother and to salve his work-induced neuroses can now be applied learning to live better and better on less and less. …

Maximize your per-hour income, but not to the point of reducing your freedom. If you must “export” labor, sell at that price which minimizes TOTAL time spent in the Servile Society. If your lifestyle is nomadic or remote, seek temporary jobs rather than institutionalized employment. If you are presently a student or changing occupations, stay out of professions which involve years of “career building.” …

Think of yourself as a pioneer as you achieve freedom; you are. Synthesizing a new way of life is what any pioneer does. (Rarely does anyone truly settle new land; European migrants to America, for example, developed new lifestyles in an already-inhabited land.) As a pioneer, you must learn new approaches and skills — sometimes you must invent them. If you prefer the routine, self-liberation is not for you.

Honestly recognize your servile traits and treat these as bad habits to be broken. Don’t alibi. As Dr. George Boardman has said: “The most emphatic problem facing people who are trying to find the road to freedom, today, involves habits created by too many years of donothingness. Except for a few persons who have been in business for themselves, most of the people dissatisfied with the status quo have spent most of their time taking orders. The remarkable hesitancy displayed is only mildly disguised by jumping up and down, rather wildly, in one place, proclaiming, waving arms, arguing and generally wasting time.” For overcoming servilism, different techniques work for different individuals: writing personal “scenarios,” long meditations, solitary wilderness trips, or psychedelics may help.

Be confident, don’t overestimate difficulties. Many stories of wilderness and ocean, written for the titillation of armchair adventurers, exaggerate the dangers. In reality, almost any liberated lifestyle is safer than existence within the Grave Society. Of course, ignorance or carelessness can be fatal in the wilderness, but no more so than on a freeway. The biggest hazard for most people is not storms, wild animals, nor even the predators of the State, but, as mentioned before, their psychological dependence on others — their inability to direct their own lives — to motivate and entertain themselves.

Change your interrelations, not your values. Avoid psychotherapy, group therapy, dianetics, and the other kinds of “treatment” which focus on YOUR neuroses, seeking to change your drives and attitudes — to “adjust” YOU to “society.” Instead, “adjust” SOCIETY to you, by changing your pattern of interactions with it. While you may have hang-ups which reduce your effectiveness (most people do), these are predominantly secondary — the result of living in a very sick culture. Once you are free, most of your neuroses will go away. And you can better handle any which remain. By analogy: if you wake up in a house on fire, don’t stop to put salve on your burns; get out! The only hang-ups to concern yourself with immediately are any which keep you from becoming free.

Seek associates going your way. Cultivate long-term relations only with libertarians achieving compatible objectives. Cut your ties with tied people, be they long-time friends, relatives, husband, wife, or whoever. Some libertarians are held by a mistaken sense of contractual obligation. I consider a State marriage contract to be morally invalid on several grounds: it is entered under duress; its terms are not objective; a criminal organization is a third-party to it and abrogates to itself the resolution of any disputes. But even if a traditional marriage is considered valid, it doesn’t give someone moral license to hold you in servitude. Since you cannot properly care for a spouse and children within THAT society, obligation, if any, is not for you to remain with them, but for them to accompany you.

Emphasize the positive — enjoyment of freedom living, rather than survival of some future catastrophe. While coercive States always have been and continue to be prone to wars, depressions, plagues, witch-hunts, and other “emergencies,” the time, place, and circumstances are not so predictable that you can afford to wait until just before a disaster occurs. And there may not be a single apocalypse but, as in the Roman Empire, stagnation and decay lasting for centuries, punctuated by various calamities and partial recoveries. Someone who hopes to get out of that society just before a disaster will tend to spend much time keeping posted on “affairs of State,” which is psychologically destructive. He will be reacting to the statists instead of taking the initiative. Some have decided that “things aren’t bad enough yet” to opt out, but they are apt to find that if/when conditions get worse, their resources will be correspondingly less and freedom options within their means not so attractive. This is not to deny the value of “survival insurance” — preparation for some of the more likely dangers, but this should be in addition to, not in place of freedom now.

Look before you leap. Especially if you are new to the freedom scene, be sure you understand what you need freedom FROM before you commit yourself. Some young people — without benefit of experience, capital, or philosophy courses — have dropped out and STAYED OUT, building free lives. But many more drop out only to drip back in. Don’t react, for example, merely to the superficial ills of megapolis, such as smog and congestion, and invest much time and money in a conventional farm, only to discover later that you have less real liberty than ever. If your humanities studies have been limited to courses in State schools plus “left-wing” and “right-wing” political tracts, spend a few months broadening them. Read some books on libertarian philosophy, free-market economics, and revisionist history. With the last, include some horror stories on the American government’s treatment of Indians in the 19th century, incarceration of Japanese-Americans in the ’40s, incineration of innocent civilians in enemy-controlled cities during World War II and since, and forced repatriation of refugees from communist countries after World War II. When you no longer dislike just the draft, taxes, “welfare” programs, Vietnam War, anti-psychedelic laws or other specific depredations, but detest coercive government per se; when you realize that the American Empire and other major powers are utterly without redeeming social value, you are ready to become free.