As I’ve said before simple chatter and our regular tactics are not enough. The liberty movement needs to step up our game. We change the way we approach the public debate about liberty. What we’ve been doing hasn’t been working, and truly is not enough. We need to get mad. We need to reassess and refocus our energies, and we most definitely need to change.
Go On the Offense
First and foremost we need to stop playing the defensive. In many debates or conversations, we aren’t making the initial points from a position of value. When we are we come under attack from our political opposites and never push to turn the tables. This ends now. Consider this article a call to arms. The ask is simple: Stop playing the defensive. Let me explain what I mean.
When you suggest that we don’t need the government you have made an initial claim. After that its all defensive work. “Who will build the roads?” “How do we fix X?” “Who stops Y” “How do we prevent Z?” etc. etc. Why is it we never hear the conversation start with “Who let the state take the right to manage that yourself away from you?” Or how about “Why are they taking your money to do something you could?”
If they say “I believe universal health care is a right” don’t just start to prattle on about private options and the stats that go with them being superior. The liberty movement needs to be better than that. You want to reply with “Robbing people for things you want isn’t a right.” Not a question, not some background research you’ve done, not some easily dismissible relation to something else. Hit them with the flat statement that they’re wrong, and make them work to justify it from there.
Somewhere along the line, the liberty movement forgot a two key notion of political discussion. You don’t need to justify inaction. You do need to justify action. Libertarianism fights to remove state interference in our lives. We are fighting for the state to not act. Unlike the progressives, the socialists, the neocons, and all the rest fight for, we are the ones asking for the state to do the easiest thing of all: nothing. They are the ones that need to justify their actions. We need to start entering discussions with that top of mind.
Stop walking into conversations with just your principles. They aren’t enough. Before you get excited and run off to go fight for liberty you need to be prepared. First off apply your critical thinking skills. If you don’t criticize your views beforehand you’ll look rather foolish, and lose on image alone. Think of the kinds of questions your stance could face and be ready for them. You’ll need the following items in your kit before you venture off for debate or other forms of activism:
- A fair understanding of the opposed view
- Prepared counter-arguments for obvious questions
- Prepared arguments against the opposed views
- Ideological consistency with the rest of your stances
- Researched, verifiable facts
- A careful review of the strategy you’ll be using
- The ability to stay on topic and focused on the matter at hand
In my years of watching and participating in debate and the political sphere, I find these are the things that make a side lose. Even people fighting for bad ideas can win the debate if they’re more prepared and better armed than you. If being right was enough then the debate would be over and the liberty movement would have won. Which brings us to the most important item on the list:
- Know why you’re acting.
As I said earlier, it’s action that one needs to justify. I already know some of you are mad and are saying “I don’t need to justify myself to anyone” and that’s a fair point, but completely misses what I’m saying here. If you are acting, for example, by entering a debate or starting a fundraiser for a cause, you need to know and be ready to speak about why you are doing it. Are you sure the course of action and cause you’ve taken on are the right ones? Can you explain why it’s right to others? Can you convince others to join you? This is what I mean when I say you need to be prepared and apply critical thinking to even your most core beliefs and principles.
Know Thy Enemy
Point one on my list is number one for a reason. There is no easier way to look like an idiot than to argue against something you don’t understand. Understanding your opponent’s views is key to being able to accomplish your goals. You need to understand it not just in a glossed-over way, but understand it and see it the way that your opponent does. The goal of debate and political activism is to create change. To make change happen you need to win the hearts and minds of those you encounter.
When those people are your political opponents or their audiences, it’s important to start from a place of good faith. In the excitement of everything, don’t forget your goals. You don’t want a petty win in a pointless internet debate; you want a new ally. You want the audience to understand and take your message away with them. Aside from giving yourself imaginary internet points, you need to be able to get something out of the debate. See point 8 on the list.
Knowing your opponent’s views thoroughly also helps you greatly. Perhaps it will have what your stances are. Perhaps diving into their theories will clarify misconceptions you’ve had for years. At absolute least, you will walk away better equipped to discuss, attack, and defend against those opposed views. When someone tries the whole “Rent is theft” spiel you will be ready. It will also help you understand why some of the arguments you used against them before were plain old wrong.
The fight for the liberty movement is an important one. You don’t want to allow the ongoing wars to continue. You don’t want someone taking a massive chunk of your earnings, then taking more every time you try to use what’s left. You don’t want to be fined or jailed for things as simple as collecting rainwater or fishing. Simply saying you don’t want that isn’t enough! There will and always have been those that wish to encroach on the liberties and freedoms you hold dear.
You cannot allow someone to take the fight on for you. One of the key notions in the liberty movement is the concept that you are responsible for your actions and that you should be able to decide what those actions are. As such it is your responsibility to fight for your own liberties, and liberty itself.
Consider this a call to action. Take the time to let these notions sink in. It’s time to stop just thinking liberty: It’s time to act on it.
Read more articles from Killian on Think Liberty here.