If Reason Was the Answer, We’d Have Already Won by Now
“A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.” ~ Maxwell Planck
These wise words by the father of quantum physics teach us much about the reality of scientific advancement. After years of legal and scholastic activism, nearly all the opponents of evolution are finally relegated to the fringe, even if Flat Earth is making a comeback.
Seriously, people. What’s wrong with you?
As libertarians, however, we can and should adopt a similar mentality when it comes to effecting political change. Let’s face it, as advocates for free market and limited government, we’ve been at this a long time and yet we still have people who insist on worshiping at the altar of documented liars like Hillary Clinton.
Wait, what’s that? You say it’s totally happening right now?
But no, really. That’s what you sound like to the average statist. Either that or you hate the poor who are currently living on the non-existent streets and want to murder the elderly while the rich eat our children. I’m sure you’ve heard it all before.
The thing is, we know ours is the rationally and morally consistent position – the party of principles – so why do we still have so much trouble convincing people to adopt libertarianism? If you ask me, I’d say there’s a compelling case to be made that people just aren’t as receptive to reason and evidence as we’d like to believe. People’s emotions get in the way. Whether it be by nature or by nurture, by self-interest or uncaring, they simply cannot, or will not, be driven to libertarianism.
Depicted: Political discourse.
All hope is not lost, however. There is another way. A better way! And it comes by playing to our strengths.
It’s not enough to simply show how bad one side is and how good the other is, we have to demonstrate that one is actually better and to do it in a visceral way. Not through competing ideas, but through competing results. For all our talk of faith in the free market, we libertarians aren’t taking advantage of it nearly enough.
Think about the Post Office. You can sit there and argue all day long about the moral ills of using stolen money to push paper and how some abstract, untested, hypothetical system will somehow be the answer. No one will be swayed by your moral or logical superiority. They might be persuaded as a practical matter by the fact the post office is presently bankrupt and failing miserably; but more likely what they will call for is reform, not abolition.
On the other hand, you can point to private companies like UPS, DHL, FedEx, and so forth – private companies that actually exist, provide better quality service for far less cost, make a lot of money, create a lot of jobs, and have the benefit of moral consistency! In such a case, no argument is necessary. You just let market competition do precisely what it was designed for and the invisible hand will pull them towards the libertarian side eventually.
Same thing with education. How many of you reading this right now have gotten into an argument with a progressive about free education? About public schools? About administrative costs? About the fact that degrees will become as worthless as high school diplomas, etc. etc.? How did that work out? Not terribly well, I’d imagine. Their greed and their idealism likely got in the way of their ability to think, which is why they wound up in gender studies in the first place.
What if I were to tell you I could win the debate in only two words: Khan Academy. As with the post office, we have a private institution that provides all the same benefits without any of the downsides. Khan Academy is free, like actually free, not “paid for by someone else’s taxes” free. Having taken a few of their courses myself, I can honestly say the quality is a lot better than what the average school is getting, and they teach a lot more subjects, like economics, engineering, and art history as well.
Even if you’re not a fan of Khan Academy specifically, there are tons of similar sites that provide free, or nominally-priced, education from counting numbers all the way to college level courses, as well as professional and trade skills. Lynda, Udemy, Lumosity, YouTube, Wikipedia, Coursera, TED, Crash Course… those are just the ones I can think of off the top of my head. The list goes on and on. So when the statists ask how people will be educated in a free society, that should be your go-to argument.
Bitcoin is a good example of free market currency that doesn’t require central government (which is one reason it’s so despised).
We can take this same approach with most political issues, some more than others. Want a world in which IP doesn’t exist? Start a publishing house that doesn’t deal in copyright and see how well you do. If you can’t put it into practice, or point to someone who has, you have no business talking about it as an abstract hypothetical principle.
Elon Musk had the balls to release his patents in the hopes of furthering the technology of electric cars. A big fat middle finger to government protection and Big Oil. Granted, he only did it after he became top dog and had made enough go-to-hell money to feel comfortable about it, but the gesture did have a persuasive effect on the market.
Cars aren’t the only open-source technology. Just look at all that’s been done with Blender. It’s industry standard and it’s free!
Private roads and courts and defense contractors do exist, but these are still at the fringes of society – one of the main reasons I’m still a minarchist and not an ancap. In terms of standard of living, technology is helping to make scarcity a thing of the past. And as far as prejudice and bigotry, we have the power of boycotting on our side.
One of these things has more computing power than the Apollo Lunar Module. The other was built by NASA.
The point I’m getting at is that, for all our talk about the market, many of us don’t seem to be using it enough. Rather than try to persuade people with statistics, it’s far more effective to appeal to their sense of self-interest and love of shiny things. The rotary phone and Blockbuster went the way of the dinosaur, not because of government intervention or compelling moral arguments, but because something qualitatively better came along to replace them in the real world; and that is ultimately how the State itself will fade into obscurity.
If you build it, they will come. So instead of telling people about a better world, why not show them? Get out there and start that private business, design that widget, or craft that site that will put a government bureaucrat out of work.
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