Smith, Hayek, Ron Paul and Things That Actually Matter

It was about a year ago that I became involved with the London Libertarian Rose & Crown group and, by association, LPUK and the wider Libertarian community.  And what fun, japes and enjoyable political discussions we’ve had.

Of course, Raccoongate put a bit of a dampener on my enthusiasm for LPUK, but the people at the Rose & Crown were (and still are) a nice bunch of people.  And it’s good to meet up with like-minded individuals once in a while and put the world to rights.

But, I am often left wondering; why is this not a mass movement, or even a recognisable minority movement?  If ever there was a general anti-government, anti-state mood in Britain, it can’t ever in recent decades been much higher than now.  Surely all that’s needed is a bit of PR, a bit of organisation, a bit or organic word-of-mouth, some viral vlogs & blogs and the country would wake up.  The arguments are compelling – why would anyone not be a libertarian?

But the more I talked to “activists”, the more I began to figure out one of the prime why the movement is sluggish at taking hold in the public’s consciousness: It’s not the economy stupid.  Or rather: It’s not economics stupid.

The libertarians talk about market theory, Austrian economics, Adam Smith, some bloke called Hayek, Ron Paul – the geriatric serial failure in US Presidential elections, and other things that are 110% irrelevant to anyone on the outside.  All of those people on the outside are potential supporters, champions and future recruiters to the cause of libertarianism in their communities and peer groups.

Libertarians also talk about some Never Never Utopialand that is 100% libertarian.  And people look at us as if all our screws are loose.  If we want others to come with us (assuming we are going somewhere), we need to listen to ourselves through the ears of others.  We must recognise that no electorate will ever take a huge leap of faith and put all their nest eggs in a fully libertarian basket in one fell swoop.  It’s a journey of a million small steps, not one giant leap. People don’t like jumping into the dark.

So the next time someone asks about your politics, or for your view on a social or economic matter, tell them you’re a libertarian.  Tell them we believe that the state has become too big and intrusive.  Suggest a little rolling back – but don’t say that all tax should be abolished, that people must fund their own healthcare and their kids’ education, and that the people should be armed.  Resist the temptation to invite them to a lecture at the Adam Smith Institute, or to regale them with your take on Austrian economics or some obscure book you read.

Tell them how a little change in the right direction, over time, with adequate interim safeguards, can make the world and their life a little better.  This last bit is crucial: It’s a sales technique; there must always be a benefit for the listener.  We are all salespeople for libertarianism. Explain the features and sell the benefits.  Not all will but it, but it only needs ten people to tell ten people…..

Let’s speak with the 61,999,600 people who are not yet engaged.  One by one if we have to.  Let’s speak to them in their language, in terms they can easily understand, in ways that sound do-able, and explain how it will make their daily lives better.  Let’s start a little snowball rolling.  What will you do to help?

(Does this sound a bit ranty?)

12 Comments

  1. You’re right James and I have a lot of sympathy for the ‘Fabian’ approach.

    But ideas take a long time to disseminate. I don’t expect Libertarianism to make any significant progress before I’m an old man. And I have confidence that as the State backed system continues to stagnate more people will take our views seriously.

    Also it’s difficult for us to compete with ‘Free’ money and healthcare…

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  2. Rob, you say: “I don’t expect Libertarianism to make any significant progress before I’m an old man.”. I say: you get what you wish for.

    Unless there is a smidgin of belief that something can be achieved, the resultant pessimism becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

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    1. I think I’m just trying to be realistic, it took socialism a long time to gain traction in the 19th century before it made its breakthrough in the 20th.

      But I’m confident if we keep pushing things we’ll get there in the end.

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  3. I think there is much to be gained by articulating the message in ways people can understand and not feel threatened by.

    Yes, we need to cross a deep chasm, and the way is not to shout “jump!”, but to build a bridge so people can walk across.

    However, I do not think it is a good idea to try and be “Fabian”, in as much as conceal the “end game”, which is what they do to great, yet disgraceful, effect.

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    1. I would dispute that. The struggle for liberty, which concerns libertarians, is the same struggle that was going on long before Karl Marx came along, although there are a few communist experiments, such as the Munster Anabaptists and such like, which predate Marx.

      How come you’re a Marxist? You know his economic theories have been shot to pieces, and there’s all kinds of contradictory stuff in his writing, like the iron law of wages versus the increasing impoverishment of the proletariat? Why not ditch that bearded buffoon and join the marginal revolution! (Carl Menger 1871 etc.)

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