What initially attracted you to the liberty movement or to the ideas of liberty?
Whether it was a foundation in the principles of freedom learned from parents or in school, a desire to be rid of oppressive bureaucracy, or a speech (or set of speeches) from Ron Paul or some other advocate of liberty, most likely what attracted you were the ideas, or the picture of the change for good that liberty brings.
There is a movement, a tribe, gathering around these principles, because the ideals of liberty and what they offer to a person are attractive, they are desirable.
I truly believe, from what I’ve seen of libertarianism and the rise of the classical liberals and constitutional conservatives, that these ideals resonate with everyone; from Uganda to South Africa, from China to the United States, people have an inherent desire for personal freedom and individual liberty.
Even the leftists, in their misguided ways, often come from a place of desiring freedom, though they tend to pursue freedom for themselves and their ‘allies’ at the expense of everyone else’s freedom. The underlying reasons for why many of them do what they do and fight for the ideals they desire (e.g. equality of outcome), is to bring about what they perceive as greater freedom for the people they consider oppressed.
Liberty is an attractive platform; it’s an inherent human desire, it just needs to be channeled towards the things that will bring actual liberty.
But, what’s one thing that’s never influenced you to change for the better? What has the opposite effect, making you shut out an idea rather than causing you to introspect and search yourself, the opposite effect of convincing you to pursue an idea further?
For me, that one thing is someone using a non-argument or insults to tell me that I’m an idiot for my desire to make my world a better place. Let me explain.
Imagine you are a person who cares deeply for the poor and downtrodden, you’ve seen your single mother struggle to survive – yes, its not society’s fault – it’s circumstance, or your absentee father’s, etc.
But because of her struggle, you have a certain empathy for others who struggle.
You want to see society step in and fill the gap that your extended family and community did not. A part of America’s greatness, that De Tocqueville spoke of, was its community’s involvement with helping the people of the community, being involved in helping the poor, the widows, the orphans, etc.
Maybe you don’t understand either the economics nor the philosophical underpinnings behind the future you hope for, maybe you don’t understand the blow struck to your own liberty when you involve bureaucracy and power-hungry individuals in more and more of the individual’s everyday life. Maybe you’ve never seen the other side, or have only seen them as those who (because they are able to care for themselves) are too “greedy” to want to “share” with others.
So, you support government-run healthcare, you support greater welfare, free (or greatly subsidized) university, and higher minimum wages; you support the government’s importing of hundreds of thousands of immigrants and the illegal crossing of many, many, more, because you see them all as people who are struggling without realizing the effects this may have on society.
You look at policy through your lens of struggle and choose anything you think will help change that. You may not even realize how these very policies actually undermine your own goals: as higher taxes, minimum wage increases, and inflation drive prices ever higher, the over supply of labor makes jobs more difficult to find, and the “free” universities become bureaucratic nightmares, overcrowded and pushing whatever nonsense is expedient to what is politically correct or whatever supports more government intervention and bureaucracy.
You don’t realize this.
Rather you just want help for the people you know who are struggling day in and day out to survive, to feed their families, to pay their medical bills.
Then you come across a “libertarian,” and this embodiment of “liberty” rather than taking the time to explain to you how so many of the problems you’ve faced can be solved by introducing more liberty, by an acceptance of more freedom (individually and in the markets).
Rather than showing you what’s so amazing about liberty, and how this mindset could help change your life through personal responsibility to help you and those you love drive towards improving your skills and providing value to others; how less government bureaucracy would lessen the tax burden (felt by all) and make reaching that “middle-class” lifestyle much more attainable; how ideas like the NAP could help curb the incessant appetite for foreign intervention and the costs (of both life and treasure) that come with it, and how so many bad laws and ideas could be changed if they were judged through the lenses of cost to freedom vs improvement of the freedom of others; instead of showing you the reason why so many of us were drawn to liberty, the libertarian calls you a “statist” or a “Marxist” and mocks you and your lack of understanding. Or worse, they use a weak strawman argument to point out some fallacy in your ideas.
This libertarian calls you out for being a freeloader, for being a socialist, or just straight up calls you an idiot and then moves on to the next internet “debate” leaving you with nothing of substance, only a deepened perception of capitalists being assholes and socialists being the ones who care – driving you deeper into the arms of flawed logic.
I’m not saying it’s wrong to debate on the internet, and I’m not saying that every leftist online wants to objectively approach the ideas of liberty – but how many of us were won over from the left or the right, and what was it that won us over? Was it a witty remark, or a really good burn? Or was it a set of ideals that made sense, and that we saw some person or some group of people not only espousing but truly living that set of ideals that showed the true character of what a world with liberty as its core virtue could look like?
It’s not good enough to tell someone that their desire for “free” healthcare is akin to stealing from others to pay for yourself, it’s not enough to say that Canada’s (or Scandinavia’s) healthcare systems are in shambles, because an objective onlooker would say that they are just fine, and quite frankly cheaper than the convoluted and increasingly bureaucratic systems like Medicaid and Medicare and the slew of insurance companies and bureaucracies in the United States.
But there is an idea to strive for, one where the red tape and government favoritism, the bureaucracy and high tax burden would be done away with; where medicine would be like any other service, subject to the competition of the market that brings lower prices and better services.
We need to remember to promote the goals of liberty and the outcomes that arise from increased freedom.
We need to remember to be the example of what we want to see, and to show that there is an alternative, not just become yet another voice in the cacophony of political bickering.