Well, it is time to turn the tables and admit at least some of the dumb things that we Libertarians do. I say “some” because I doubt I have the bandwidth to list them all. As with my posts on Democrats and Republicans, much of these dumb things aren’t really about what we, as Libertarians believe, but about the tactical mistakes we make.
As is common with any genuinely radical and ideological political party, Libertarians have a tendency to expend too much energy fighting among themselves over who is pure enough and consistent enough to be a real libertarian. Unlike Democrats and Republicans who mostly welcome a wide spectrum of different views, we seem determined to alienate as many potential voters as possible, even if they generally support our views. Fighting that tendency is, after all, the mission of this blog.
Curiously enough, the same people who threaten to purge one another because they aren’t the right sort of libertarian are often all too willing to kiss up to Democrats and Republicans who smile in our direction. And I am not talking about the likes of Ron or Rand Paul who, whether you agree with them on every issue or not, have certainly earned the right to be called libertarian. No, I refer to those among us who, at various times, have decided that people like Ronald Reagan, George W. Bush, Ted Cruz or even Donald Trump are worthy of Libertarian support. We seem especially fond of certain Republicans who pay lip service to the principles of limited government. Sadly, it is usually little more than that. Building coalitions of like minded people is always worthwhile. Selling out to the right (or left) wing is not.
Another mistake we Libertarians make is to assume that everyone will agree with us if only we share our airtight arguments with them. It isn’t about having a dialogue with people but about imparting our special wisdom. Is it any wonder that we are sometimes just about as welcome as the Jehovah’s Witnesses? While there is nothing wrong with sharing your beliefs and helping others to understand why you believe what you do, believing that the best way to deal with a conflicting point of view is to “educate” your opponent is just this side of stupid. No one wants to be treated that way.
Another habit that we have that leaves a bad taste in people’s mouth is what appears to be relentless negativity. While we are absolutely correct to point out the ways in which government action distorts the market, violates individual rights and fails to achieve its stated purpose, simply saying “no” over and over without offering any alternative will get us nowhere. In addition to opposing compulsory (government) solutions to a problem, we need to focus more energy on finding voluntary (private) solutions that people can support. This is an enormous opportunity for future students of liberty.
Finally, in much the same way that we simply dismiss our political opponents or their legitimate concerns, many of us are more than happy to be back seat drivers and Monday morning quarterbacks (and, apparently, excessive users of metaphors.) What I mean is that many of the most capable and articulate among us are hesitant to invest the time and energy it takes to effect change. Organizing, communicating and getting involved at the local level are probably the best way to create change but too many of us simply don’t have the time and patience to do those things. We want to run before we have even learned to crawl. No wonder people don’t take us seriously.
As I mentioned at the start, this list only scratches the surface of all the dumb things we Libertarians (and libertarians) do. When you are starting from the bottom, you don’t have the luxury of making stupid mistakes. Hopefully we can all do a better job avoiding some of the most egregious ones.
Still not sure if I am ready to start my series on the nature of property just yet as I am still working out some of the details of how I am going to pull it together, so we may still be a few weeks off. I do want to thank all you have taken the time to read this. We have had a number of new readers lately and I appreciate you. Please continue to follow along and I will do my best to provide insights into the world of politics. Have a great week!