Conceptual accuracy will not persuade ostriches

Libertarianism is a set of accurate political ideas, and objectivism a set of compatible accurate philosophical ones. Like many I was drawn to both by the fact that they made sense and were consistent. Arguments for libertarianism, and austrian economics in particular, would use day to day examples of individual human decisions that I could relate to and use to build up a logical conceptual model of the world at large, and make predictions about that world. A lot of philosophy rejects this kind of jump from the real into the conceptual, but since I had somwhow already rejected the analytic synthetic dichotomy (even before I knew what it was) I very quickly knew I had found some real answers in libertarian ideas. Suddenly, I knew why the world is as messed up as it seems.

If those examples and those arguments were nonsensical or fanciful, or if they held between them logical inconsistencies then I would not have been persuaded by libertarian arguments just as I was not persuaded by 22 years of left-biased media and statist assumptions. Yet the road to libertarianism was a long one, nagging doubts and idle thoughts had to build up over time.

This journey-to-libertarianism isn’t uncommon, it tallies with the experiences of libertarians I have spoken to. What worries me is precisely that this gradual and lengthy process of being drawn into libertarianism is as common as it is, because it seems to me that the French and Greek voters are using a different process entirely.

Sam Bowman produces a graph of rising (real terms flat) spending and writes:

What European voters have rejected is the idea of austerity. The very suggestion that their governments should live within their means is, apparently, unacceptable to the majority of voters in France, Greece and, as seems likely, the Netherlands.


If these voters had been through years of hard cuts and belt-tightening, a backlash would be understandable. But these voters haven’t lived through that yet.

Libertarian have spent time, on this blog and others, thinking about how to trigger emotional reactions that lead to more rational thought. That cause people to stop and think, or to contemplate stronger memes hidden in slogans. That can help campaign against emotive thinking, or help to inform, and might lead to more rational longtermist voting, but if the reason for voting against auserity is because they don’t want to face up to the challenge then that is actually evasion – a desire to avoid thinking about the lack of money – and it’s not obvious to me what could be effective in the face of that.

Voters unwilling to vote with common sense when reality is biting them on the arse are not going to pause and comtemplate nagging theoretical inconsistencies. We need a better strategy.