If there is one thing that the Libertarian Party is known for its in-fighting. Whether it be Minarchists vs. Anarcho-Capitalists, Classical Liberals vs. Pro-Liberty Conservatives, or LibSocs vs Actual Libertarians, there is always some form of contention to be found. There’s also the poor results the LP experiences during elections to consider as well. Throw in the vastly larger support that concepts like Democratic Socialism have been gaining and it seems like the future is rather bleak. A good chunk of this comes from personal ignorance to a topic.
The truth is that it’s not the message that is the issue here; it’s the messenger. We need to go full “Six Million Dollar Man” and build a better libertarian. The question is how? Well
If You Don’t Know, Stop Talking & Start Asking
I can’t stress this one enough. One of the biggest issues I see when I watch libertarians engage with others about their ideology, whether other libertarians or those they might aim to convert, they tend to double down in unfamiliar territory. Rather than admitting ignorance to a particular topic or piece of information libertarians feel the need to push the conversation regardless. Let’s say we’re discussing labor supply for instance and you are preaching continuous growth models. I counter with the existence of backward supply models showing workers won’t necessarily take on more and more work as it arises. Now if you were unaware of this being possible you have two choices: you can either admit you weren’t aware of that and look for more information (perhaps even dissect the information with the person you’re debating to see where it fits with the rest of your viewpoints), or you can keep arguing without addressing it. Guess which option is usually taken? If you guessed the one that’s likely to make a person look ignorant and turn people away you’re (sadly) right!
The steps we need to take here are twofold. The first is self-education. As Ernest Hemingway once said, “true nobility is being superior to your former self.” In this sense, we need to be noble. We are meant to be the better choice for liberty, the economy, and people at large. If we haven’t bothered to better ourselves by learning the deeper arguments, facts, counters, etc to what we espouse then we have only weakened our side and shows ignorance. Take your time to actually read Das Kapital and the bread book rather than just calling it BS. Take a swing at learning the mathematic modeling that goes into the Austrian economics you claim to support. Keep up on the news from multiple sources to learn different angles, and always try to get to the source information rather than just an article that summarized the idea. It’s a corny ass line but “knowledge is power” is never truer than in the world of messaging and debate.
The second is losing the ego. We need to toss away our desire to win the battle and instead focus on the war. “Winning” a debate turned shouting match on the internet while alienating potential allies is as lame as it sounds. Ask yourself why you chose to enter the public forum to discuss your ideas. Was it solely to run around trouncing your opposition, or something more meaningful? Hopefully the latter. The goal of a good debate in public forum isn’t to beat your opponent; it’s to win your audience. In a public forum, whether actually in public or online, there are tons of people that have the ability to see your exchange with your opponents. If it talks like an ass, and walks like an ass, its an ass, and people will see that. While few might, the general public doesn’t care if you’re right if you look like an ass or generally ignorant trying to prove it. They’ll remember the ignorance and attitude over the arguments you made.
Let’s work towards being better and ensure that we are always improving ourselves. It’s how we make a stronger case for liberty, and in the end that should be our goal.
You can read more from Killian Hobbs on Think Liberty here.