As we witnessed the rise of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez after her primary upset over then-Democratic Caucus House Chairman Joe Crowley, we saw many well-publicized (and many more unnoticed) gaffes, as well as generally short-sighted and economically-illiterate ideas. The right (defined here as opposed to the Democrats) pounced on this wealth of material to mock from the left, but some objected to the platforming of Ocasio-Cortez. While the idea of someone like her occupying a single House seat, let alone a leadership position, is scary, the necessity to air and debate bad ideas outweighs such a scenario.
Ocasio-Cortez’s most frequently discussed idea is the Green New Deal. The idea isn’t new (it had been pushed by the Green Party and Jill Stein for years), but thanks to AOC, it has been introduced as a bill for the first time, with some notable cosponsors. While the bill is flawed throughout, on diagnosis and prescription, the thing about it that bothers me the most are statements by Ocasio-Cortez about it. She boldly proclaimed that until someone else proposes something as bold and idealistic, she’s “the boss.” I don’t agree entirely, but she has a point: If libertarians are to be taken serious on this issue, they must avoid the mistake already made by conservatives and buckle down on the issue. Propose solutions, even if you don’t believe in climate change, because you might be wrong. We cannot continue to deflect, deny, or attempt to silence leftist climate alarmists. We have to counter with better ideas, because they are not just going to go away.
Another person who some libertarians seem content to ignore is presidential candidate Andrew Yang. If you haven’t heard of Yang, the center of his platform is universal basic income. While he has no chance at winning the Democratic nomination, Yang has made the first debate stage, and he will bring his interesting-but-fringe ideas to a mainstream audience. That means libertarians have to be ready to debate them. UBI has merits and flaws, and supporters and detractors in libertarian circles, because it has a lot more nuance than it initially may seem. One thing is certain, though, we can’t ignore Andrew Yang because his views on guns suck. They do suck, but they’re not the central focus of his campaign, so they’re not often what people are talking about when they’re talking about Yang.
Ultimately, we have to talk about the principles of free speech and the existence (and dangers) of echo-chambers. Free speech exists so that we can debate dangerous, stupid, and radical things, along with the sensible and ethical. To stifle that debate, even in our own little circles, contributes to a society that doesn’t value free speech at all. Further, a lack of debate and the creation of echo chambers creates a complacency within our movement that weakens us to the rest of the political world, destining us to the same fate that many on the left have found, which has left them arguing on emotional response rather than logical or ethical points. A robust debate, however, can strengthen and hone both our viewpoints on the given issue but also our skill as debaters and, ideally, persuaders.
So the next time Ocasio-Cortez says something remarkably stupid, or a fringe radical proposes something from out of left field, don’t dismiss it. Find where they’re coming from, evaluate the problem they want to address, and find a better answer than the inevitable tax and regulate they always seem to come to. If we have the right ideas, then we can do no wrong by getting better at expressing them.
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