How can we make change?
As libertarians, how do we win people over to our side? I’m confident and hopeful that every libertarian reading this strongly believes that we don’t accomplish this through the act of any kind of force. But then how does it come about?
Do we win people over through the use of statistics and by arguing facts? Is it going to be our own intellect and strong debating skills that will be the driving force behind someone’s mind being changed? What about the countless parables told and analogies used as a way of proving (and ultimately converting other’s over to) our point of view? Is that way more effective?
Libertarians utilize all of the above methods as a means of trying to win people over to our ideals and, to a certain extent, that’s perfectly reasonable and oftentimes needed.
We absolutely should defend as well as advocate for the ideas in which we strongly believe.
We should want others to know why we believe what we do, and we should use whatever is the most effective way in explaining it to them. But, should we at all times be trying to win people over to our side? Is it absolutely necessary for us to have a mindset of always wanting to convert others over to our ideals through our own abilities?
Don’t get me wrong, I want as many people as possible to convert over to libertarianism; I want this country to get back to the ideas of liberty.
I want government to go away and freedom to take its place. But as strange as it sounds, for this to happen I think we need to start arguing less.
I think we need to tone down some of the divisive rhetoric and the demonizing of people who don’t believe the same way we do. Yes, even those who we consider to be the most statist of statists.
I’m in no way asking for us to compromise on our values here; but I am asking that we listen to others’ points of view and, instead of ridiculing them, say “I see your point, and you make some good arguments, but here’s why I will continue to believe what I believe.”
It’s about being more respectful in the way we talk to people, because ultimately what we say isn’t going to win them over; it’s going to be based on how we act.
We only make a compromise when we change our actions. Changing the way we talk to people isn’t us changing our beliefs; it’s us being more respectful. We need less running our mouths for the sake of argument and more living out of the actual argument.
When talking with your conservative friends, try spending less time dwelling on the things you don’t agree on and spend more time on what you do agree on, such as smaller government, lower taxes, and deregulation.
And with your liberal friends spend more time on criminal justice reform, demilitarization of the police, and non-interventionism.
You’re not compromising, you’re finding common ground. If we can learn to have these kinds of conversations more effectively and have them in respective ways, I believe our friends will be more likely to look into libertarianism as a whole on their own as opposed to only hearing about it through our sometimes condescending and argumentative mouths.
I realize that I risk sounding “not very libertarian” by stressing about the way we talk with others about our ideals. Libertarians are supposed to be unafraid of speaking the truth, saying whatever we want, and not caring if people get offended by what is said. My point here isn’t over whether we should be able to say offensive things or not, though. My point is getting people to find out what libertarianism truly is. Getting them to want to find out on their own by being curious about what makes us tick and by doing their own homework.
Think about how you personally came to believe in the ideas of liberty.
It’s a safe bet that very few of us had parents with a majority of libertarian leanings and we were just following after what was taught to us by them.
I would also contend that we are most likely the outliers in our own personal circles; meaning we’re the “weird radicals” amongst our conservative, moderate, and liberal friends and family members.
If what I’m saying resonates with you in any way, then it’s also safe to assume that most of how you came to believe what you believe was through a lot of self-learning; it was through doing your own homework and being your own individual self.
You didn’t convert over to libertarianism because one of your libertarian friends out-debated you one day. It definitely wasn’t due to how well a professor of yours was able to convey their own libertarian (yeah right) opinion to you in a classroom.
You found it because you wanted to find something different. You wanted to believe that there was a better way to do this whole freedom thing; something that wasn’t conservatism, liberalism, or progressivism; something that was the opposite of statism.
You wanted to find an ideology that represented true freedom. And you found it. Sure, you had to be introduced to it in some way, but it was you that had to keep searching and learning and believing in what you were finding out.
So rather than trying to convert someone over to your way of thinking with all of your facts and wonderful debating skills, try instead to do your best at living out what you believe, introducing others to what it is, and then empowering them to find out more for themselves.
* Mark Metz lives in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He has worked at a residential home for 7-12 year old behaviorally challenged boys for four years. He is a former social conservative who has converted to libertarianism, and he is now looking to advance the ideas of liberty and freedom.
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