10 Tips for Selling Libertarianism
by Ethan Glover, Sun, Dec 14, 2014 - (Edited) Sun, Sep 10, 2017
It's been over half a year since Christopher Cantwell published "Top 10 Reasons Libertarians Aren't Nice To You." But recently I've been thinking a lot about libertarians and the "thin yellow line" they've created. Libertarians too often believe they're better than everyone else, something that is present in any party, but not nearly as bad. Libertarians even try to pick sides and play against one another in their own ideology. This problem is why libertarianism is rejected by those who are smart enough to not want to deal with assholes on the internet who are more concerned about finding the right incantation that makes them "right" than moving forward important discussions and figuring out real actionable solutions.
Below are ten tips for talking about libertarianism with maturity and in a way that can increase its reputation. It's not to give you the perfect sentence to say when faced with a particular question, it's about how to represent the ideology, whether your right or wrong, in a way that will make people listen and consider.
1. Don't Ridicule People
So you discovered that it's wrong to support the "lesser of two evils." Good for you, I mean that. But it's not a license to be a dick. Some people are going to disagree. Some people think that as long as the most important issues are being done right, there's no point in worrying about the minor consequences. (i.e.,. Moving tax dollars from the military to education.) People make short cost/benefit analysis and make decisions. Just because you don't think they're looking at things in the right way, doesn't mean they don't use reason and evidence.
People think differently than you, they know different things than you do, and they have different perspectives than you do. That doesn't mean they're too dumb to see a different point of view; that means they're an individual with their own thoughts. This difference in thinking is why government can never work, and it's something to be in awe of, to be celebrated. I get it, you think this other person is stupid, but chances are if you're expressing that without speaking maturely, they probably think you're stupid, and they're probably right.
If someone treats you unfairly or insults you, that's not an excuse to act that way yourself. You have full responsibility for your childish demeanor. Blaming it on others doesn't make it OK.
2. Don't Refuse to Talk to Some People
It's OK to be friends with statists. I know Stefan Molyneux makes a good "against me" argument, but there's no benefit from living in a hole aside from hiding from the outside world. You don't have to assume that everyone who doesn't agree with you is a hopeless moron; they're just people. A belief in government doesn't imply an inability to think or be a good person, but the failure to communicate and adapt to those around you in a mature manner does imply a low level of intelligence.
I get it though, there's no convincing some people, but you can still have a civil discussion. Not every conversation with "statists" has to advance the cause of liberty, you're allowed to speak to people for fun and curiosity. At the very least, make sure the person you're talking to can reasonably say, "I have a libertarian friend, he's a good guy." Or, "Libertarians seem to be reasonable people to me, they're actually not all dicks."
3. Don't Ridicule Party Candidates
Politicians are criminals; I know. I still struggle with Ron Paul's running. But for those who support politicians from big parties, they don't see those candidates as criminals. Take the time to learn from those people and why they support who they support. Be honest and respectful about why you disagree and don't support voting. If you're a voting libertarian, calmly explain why you support who you support without losing your shit and making accusations.
Remember, just because you have no chance of winning, that doesn't mean you have to get jealous and speak spitefully. It's OK to lose, just recognize that this is the way the world is and use that information to change it. There's no point in wasting energy puffing up like an angry teenager.
4. Don't Be Afraid to Repeat Yourself
The person you're talking to hasn't read the same 100 books you have. [loud exaggerated sigh] "I have no time for people like you…" Don't be a brat, if someone is asking you a question, consider it a golden opportunity to use your voice, to sell a philosophy, and to have a good conversation. If someone is asking a seemingly simple question, either the subject isn't a part of their regular "googling" agenda, they never thought of it as a problem until considering something you brought up, or they just want to hear your unique perspective. Deal with it. Great teachers repeat themselves often and use that as an opportunity to refine their arguments.
You might think you're more informed because you spend all day on the internet arguing with different viewpoints, but not everyone is like you. Some people have lives. Recognize that and be patient with those who aren't as connected as you.
5. Empower Others
You might be a libertarian/anarchist because you want to make your own decisions about how to run your life. Yet, you're always ready to call someone else's ideas stupid and ignorant. Instead of calling people stupid, try telling them if you think one of their ideas is worth trying in an anarchistic world which just so happens to be flexible enough to give it a go.
Ask people how they would solve the problems they're concerned with if the government weren't an option. Make it a game, have some fun instead of trying to act like you're better than someone else. Give people credit for their good ideas and solutions, more than likely, they have a few.
Don't complain about people's first thoughts and priorities. If the first problem they want to consider is who would build the roads, take it in stride. Everyone has to take on the easy issues first. Help them through it, don't insult them when their first answer is "wrong."
6. Learn to Summarize
People have ADD; they are confronted with information overload at every second of the day. Do yourself a favor and learn how to market. You didn't pick up, "Man Economy and State" because someone explained the whole thing to you. You probably picked it up because of A) a good summary/review that was reasonably short or B) you heard it quickly mentioned and its points repeated a hundred times and finally decided to pick it up.
If no one is reading your 2,000-word article or listening to your two-hour podcast, don't throw a fit about how people are too dumb to do so. Share snippets where appropriate, you can only expect the fans who are already on your side to go through it all. There's no point in crying about things being otherwise. Using sound-bites doesn't make you any lesser a man. If the marketing world can use tag-lines, so can you. You have to get people interested before they'll start listening to you.
7. Don't Assume You're Smarter
You found a statistic on the internet that suggest libertarians might have higher IQs, and now you're on top of the world. Well, get down idiot, ego is the great equalizer here. Not only does acting like you're too good for everyone else tell people that you're not good enough for anyone, but some statistics online that may or may not be about a particular group doesn't make you smart.
Needless to say, there are different types of intelligences and IQ tests are bullshit. If someone pointed out a statistic that says liberals are smarter, you'd probably be saying this, probably complaining about the influence of ivy league liberals over such tests too.
8. It's Not Always About Ethics
Not everyone cares about your so-called "objective morals." Some people care about the so-called "greater good." The sooner you accept that not everyone thinks like you, the sooner you can stop acting like an asshole. You haven't accomplished anything by finding a person that hypocritically goes against their own proclaimed principles. How many libertarians do you think go to public universities, use grants, work in law enforcement, run for office or join the military? A lot. You haven't found a checkmate by pointing out hypocrisy; you've only set yourself up to look like a fool.
An adherence to the "non-aggression principle" doesn't mean you've found the secret to the universe, it just means you've simplified ethics and tied yourself to a single standing. There's nothing wrong with this, but not everyone agrees that it's plausible.
9. You're Asking for Too Much
Libertarian politicians are aiming to force everyone under the same system. A massively different system than the current, one that's unheard of in today's culture. Personal secession/anarchy with coexistence means people aren't protected from the things they fear from anarchists. It's kind of a big deal, and it's scary. Don't assume your position is simple just because you can break it down into three letters (NAP).
Government is normal, and anarchy isn't, like it or not. This is the world you live in, adapt. You can learn to work around it or learn to work against it in a way that isn't harmful to your position. Be respectful to that majority who controls the direction of the country/world. If not, you can always continue to be shunned as a brat who just wants his/her way and will scream about it until the end of time.
10. It's Not Violence to Them
You know how frustrated you get when you see the term, "greater good?" That's the same frustration other people feel when they see, "government is violence." In order to argue effectively with someone, you have to understand and sympathize with them. You have to be on the same page. If you're both whining over tag-lines and definitions, you're wasting your time. Act like an adult and don't tell everyone they're a violent criminal, you look like a nut. Be tactful. Be a teacher.
Libertarianism has an image problem. And there's a simple solution.