Adam Kokesh, a veteran of the Iraq War, was recently convicted in a Virginia court for possessing drugs and guns. Kokesh has been an activist in the liberty movement, speaking out against war and speaking in favor of gun rights and other libertarian issues.
On July 4, 2013, Kokesh was videotaped with a gun in public in Washington DC. He posted the video online. He was purposely engaging in an act of civil disobedience. Ironically, he underestimated the power of the government. Days later, his house was raided for guns and drugs.
Originally, Kokesh was planning on getting a large group of people to walk from Virginia into Washington DC, openly carrying guns against the law on July 4, 2013. While he described it as a nonviolent demonstration, I think his followers found their better sense and decided not to participate.
I think Kokesh is a good guy. He has come strongly to believe in libertarian principles. Some people outside of pro-liberty circles will see stories about Kokesh and think he is some crazy guy who wants to commit violence. He may be a little crazy in the sense of being willing to take a stand, but his purpose is to take a stand against an out-of-control government. The thing that many people don’t realize is that it is the government initiating force. If you are minding your own business and not threatening to initiate force on anyone, then Kokesh is no threat to you. He stated in front of a judge, “the only time I was violent was when I was a Marine”, referring to his time in Iraq.
Where He Went Wrong
Kokesh is being convicted because of his well-known views against government. They really are trying to teach him a lesson. He faces a maximum of 15 years in prison, which is absolutely insane for someone who did not hurt or threaten to hurt anyone.
Kokesh’s conviction reminds me in a lot of ways of tax protesters who refuse to file a tax return. They come up with supposed legal reasons on why they are not legally required to pay income taxes to the federal government. Sometimes their logic is great in terms of dissecting the laws. The problem arrives when the judge and jury don’t see it the same way.
If I were sitting on a jury and someone was being prosecuted for tax avoidance, I would not vote to convict. It is a victimless crime. I know that everyone else is paying income taxes (although not really). Everyone else is following the law. But it still doesn’t make the law just.
I also understand that most other people do not see things the same way that I do. And for that reason, I would never recommend that someone avoid paying taxes, unless it is legal. Most judges and juries will convict someone if they violated the law. Most will not consider whether the law is just.
Adam Kokesh underestimated the power of the government in the same way that tax avoiders do. I think Kokesh understands this now, but unfortunately it is too late now.
I am all in favor of being an activist for liberty. But you really have to be careful when you resort to civil disobedience. When it comes to guns, you really have to be careful. The government likes its monopoly on guns and will come down especially hard on those who challenge it.
The answer to advancing liberty is almost never to challenge violence with any insinuation of violence of your own. It is through education.
There are over 300 million people living in the United States. There are only 535 people in Congress. The only way they can have power over the rest of us is if we consent to it. When a sizeable portion of the American population no longer grants its consent to big government, then that will be enough to stop big government. Civil disobedience can work when millions of people are doing it. It tends not to work as well with just one person.
Kokesh actually hosted a show on the internet and also recently wrote a book. He is very knowledgeable. He is a principled advocate of liberty. His interviews have been effective in helping others get educated about the benefits of liberty. Kokesh was doing a great deal for the cause of liberty, but he went astray in underestimating the power and ruthlessness of the government.
I hope for his sake that his prison sentence is not too long. I hope he learns from his mistakes. I hope he gets back into society at some point and makes a great contribution to the cause of liberty. It will be in the form of educating others.