The final installment in this series will tackle the liberty movement’s most prominent and grandest value: reason and logic. Placed on a high pedestal may not be a majestic enough descriptor for how important being considered the only logical movement is to many libertarians.
Germany is home to a group dedicated to Austrian economics and a minimal state titled the Party Of Reason (Partei der Vernunft); the Libertarian Party in the United Kingdom claims to be the “only party that really understands” multiple times in their bio; the US Libertarian Party’s current slogan is “the Party of Principle”, a term that cannot be separated from reason. Worldwide, it is apparent that being logical and presenting an aura of unique deduction is cherished, but the drawbacks of this focus may be harming more than would be admitted.
Reality demonstrates that people tend to connect more with ideas for emotional reasons than logical ones. As previously stated in Part 2 of this series, sitting and perusing a body of facts to deduct the most sensical course is not typical behavior for adopting values or reinforcing them. Emotions are treated like a boon, unique to those left-leaning voters in most libertarian circles and it is simply not true.
Placing these concepts at the center of libertarian dialogue has the unfortunate effect of appearing cold and detached from what the general populace identifies as their struggles. Libertarians are accused of focusing too much on the abstract and not on reality, of being a “rich man’s ideal” that ignores the plight of the poor, and not acknowledging that some people are dealt a different deck of cards in life. A solely logical focus only reinforces the detractors and turns people away from what can be a compassionate movement.
The Toastmasters, an organization dedicated to teaching leadership and public speaking skills, believes in their Laws of Persuasion that one needs a balance of logic and emotion to sell an idea. Focusing too much one or the other will make their effects “short-term and unbalanced” when the ideal approach is to use emotion to “create movement and action”, and then further cement it with reason. Toastmasters states that “several studies conclude that up to 90 percent of the decisions we make are based on emotion” and compares this to a child being afraid of the dark, which any parent could explain that logic has little to no effect.
Libertarians must then beg the question of how to tap into emotions without reason being absent. My first encounter with this type of messaging came when I participated in Washington Libertarian and author C. Michael Pickens’s Libertarian Leadership Academy. The Foundational Libertarian Leadership course has the student write out why they care about liberty to hit people right in the heart.
My own coming to libertarianism story was definitely an emotional journey. Like many high school students in the late 2000s, I was urged and pushed that college immediately after graduation was essential and that my future would look bleak without it. I took out a large amount of student loans because my teachers had made debt seem like a normal part of one’s coming of age at university.
My last few years were extremely stressful. I had my first child with my to be wife, and I had reached the maximum amount of loans I was allowed to draw meaning I had to work nearly 30 hours a week at Subway while a full-time student. Sleep was a luxury, and my final semester I would average about 4 hours of sleep a night as I made sandwiches until 2:00AM and had to be up by 6:30AM if I had any hope of making my morning classes.
It was at the beginning of my financial strife that I began to get involved politically, and originally I supported Bernie Sanders for the presidency. His platform wasn’t necessarily what attracted me; the main aspect that I identified with was his talk of the deplorable state of students and debt, and how it was crushing them. Being a struggling student, I was swept up in hopeful fervor, which was dashed when Sanders lost the California primary.
Gary Johnson’s campaign had been on my radar, as I voted for him in 2012 at the suggestion of a friend, so I began to reintroduce myself with the libertarian. His ideas seemed to match very closely with my own and he sided with Senator Sanders on about 70% of issues; I had found my new candidate. The former governor’s book Seven Principles of Good Government solidified that I was a libertarian and I joined the party shortly after.
Libertarianism gave me hope for a better world where perhaps college would be more affordable and students wouldn’t have to acquire massive debt like I had. It was a world where my daughter would have more choices and could support herself better whenever she reached adulthood.
This is the frontier libertarians need to conquer. Evidence and logic are great at justifying ideas and developing a platform, but it is the heartfelt rhetoric that infuses people with a desire to learn. The reason this was to be the concluding part of this series is because I feel it’s what will create larger gains than any rebranding and development of ideas. Libertarians must begin wearing their hearts on their sleeves and creating a better balance between emotion and logic.