Stop Arguing with Statists! (Part 2)
They’re Better at Whining Than You Are
“The first time I changed the world, I was hailed as a visionary. The second time I was asked politely to retire. The world only tolerates one change at a time. And so here I am. Enjoying my ‘retirement’.” ~ Nikola Tesla (The Prestige)
In Part 1 I made the case that we should favor private enterprise and technology as a way to out-compete the government, making it obsolete, rather than relying on rhetoric when talking to statists. That’s well and good, but even if you lead a horse to water, it still might refuse to drink. So what do we do with the crybabies and the spoiled brats and the ideologues?
Bill Whittle often talks about the need to make conservatism more appealing. That it’s not enough to say that people can’t have free stuff, we need to show them that they can have better stuff than what the government promises:
The analogy he provides of liberals handing out free candy and conservatives selling vegetables is exactly correct. Of course, for our purposes, it’s statists versus libertarians, but I think if you’re on this site, you’re probably smart enough that you could have figured that out for yourself.
Anyways, too many of us focus on telling statists that the government is evil rather than simply up-selling the virtues of the market. The world is a reflection of what you project, so if you’re only focused on the negative, that’s what you can expect to get back. We take the candy from the baby without giving anything in return, and worse yet, we often do it without even explaining ourselves. This is little better than the type of moral posturing we’ve come to expect from progressives and cuckservatives. Not a winning strategy for the party of principles.
Pictured: Entitlements reform.
You may have noticed in your dealings with statists that at some point the argument devolves into shouting and screaming, with each side speaking passed each other and no one really listening. Instead of working to reach a mutual understanding (because even we don’t have all the answers sometimes), both parties get hyper-defensive and cling tighter to their positions, becoming resistant to any and all rational discourse.
Like that line about hearing to reply, rather than hearing to understand.
With the deeply inured people who follow parties and specific candidates, I often find it helpful to reframe the discussion to ask them to state affirmatively their principles; and then, if they’re inconsistent (like in the case of entitlements, for instance), I target those and get them to change one principle at a time until they figure out for themselves that they and the candidates are hypocrites.
However, the key here is to use a combination of positive reinforcement and deliberately leading questions to guide them to the truth. People generally are more willing to take the path of least resistance and to do what feels good, rather than what is good. So if something comes along that both feels good and is good, then that’s a double whammy. They’ll latch onto it like Chris Christie to a hamburger and create a self-reinforcing pattern of behavior. (One that hopefully results in them gaining 300 lbs of principles.)
At that point, your work is done. Time to move on to the next issue.
Something else that’s helpful is to draw from personal experience and past mistakes. For instance, I used to be a communist, back before I learned about history and economics, or even had a job earning my own money.
“Back when I was young and stupid.”
Flip-flopping and pandering are certainly a thing in politics, but people can and do change based on new information. The key is not to hide from it, but to acknowledge it. Change is hard and, as the opening quote states, people can only suffer one great change at a time. So it becomes a lot easier to do something if they know it’s possible because other people have already done it.
In getting my adversary to give me a list of their principles in an affirmative sense, I can now tell where they stand and what to target. I can also rely on my own experience of when exactly it was that I stopped believing such retarded things and why. If those same factors broke me from bad principles, perhaps they can work on others for much the same reason. Or not. Maybe their circumstances are slightly different, but it’s a starting point and I can adjust from there.
Right, so you probably want an example.
Let’s take the case of how I used to be in favor of universal healthcare. This was back around the time that Sicko! first came out.
I remember being moved by the visceral horror of people being thrown on the streets. I remember feeling ashamed of the American system over the idea of Cuba producing $5 medicine for those people Michael Moore brought to the island, ostensibly because he speaks whale. And I remember laughing at the idea of the big, bad boogeyman known as socialized medicine, as presented by Ronald Reagan.
“As I said, I was young and stupid.”
These are the most vivid memories I have of the film, but what do you notice about them? What do they all have in common? They’re all emotional appeals, not rational ones. For the life of me, I can’t even recall a single one of Moore’s arguments, if he even made one at all; and that in itself should tell you something.
I eventually got over my former position by recognizing that healthcare’s not a right, but a commodity; by understanding the economic and political factors in play that drive costs up, resulting in the need for such a centralized system in the first place; and by focusing on preventing diseases cheaply rather than curing them at great expense.
I ultimately changed my position based on new information, reason, and evidence, because in the end you have to do it that way; but before any of that could take place, I had to calm down and release myself from the emotional attachments I had regarding the issue. Once I did, I was driven to self-study; the cold logic and statistics kept me calm, but it wasn’t the place I got started, and I doubt it’s a good starting point for anyone else.
As I said in my last article, emotion is the weapon of our enemies while reason is ours and that’s why we’re losing. Dinesh D’Souza correctly pointed this out in his interview with Stefan Molyneux while promoting his own film, Hillary’s America, of which he says he tried to focus as much on telling a good story as presenting the facts. Something we desperately need more of if we’re to win the war of ideas.
So when the statists whine and cry about us taking away their entitlements and throwing their grandmothers out on the streets, they actually believe that this is our intention and we’re not doing anything to allay them of those concerns. We’re not demonstrating how private enterprise is more compassionate and how having more money in your pocket right now means you don’t have to worry about whether you’ll be able to take care of yourself and your family. We mock them about the roads cliché, but don’t point out how the fact that they’re comfortable with openly proclaiming themselves to be socialists and communists is no laughing matter.
Private roads? Y’all can’t even put me behind bars, and I’m already wearing orange!
We libertarians know all this intuitively, but we forget that not everyone does. We don’t frame the questions in the right way (if we’re asking questions at all). We don’t calm the screaming children. We don’t trade them the constructive foam building blocks for the dangerous power drill, we just take the power drill away and tell them “No!” and then act surprised when they throw a fit and call us the scum of the Earth.
The other problem is that, those few times we do appeal to emotion, it usually comes in the form of us sounding completely insane. Like Alex Jones shouting down Piers Morgan about how “1776 will commence again!” when debating gun control. Actually, I do kind of like that he didn’t let Piers railroad him in that interview, but unfortunately that’s not what most people saw when they watched it. Just like how when most people see Trump, they tend to focus on his tone, rather than the content of what he’s actually saying.
And let’s be honest. This doesn’t just apply to our debates against statists either. Libertarians are such a fragmented, individualized group. It’s our greatest strength, but also our biggest weakness. While everyone is off doing their own thing, fighting amongst each other over petty issues like the morality of the Post Office, our common enemies are amassing huge collectivist armies to launch major assaults on personal, political, and economic liberties.
It’s time to smarten up and Vulcanize our approach. Recognize that our adversaries have strong emotions, but don’t succumb to them ourselves. Ask leading questions that turn their own arguments and feelings against them until they can’t help but realize the inconsistency of their position. Once they have that moment of cognitive dissonance, you can hit them with all the facts and statistics you want, but not before.
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