I think we libertarians frequently get in our own individual way more often than we realize. It’s hard enough for us to struggle against governments and society at large, do we have to fight ourselves and amongst ourselves, as well?
Inevitably, the answer is yes. The internal struggle for inner peace is one we must all engage in, whether we like it or not. But we can go a little easier on ourselves and, in the process, become more effective advocates for individual liberty.
1. Too Much Ego
We focus excessively on being right and winning arguments. We pride ourselves on having quick and easy answers. We don’t listen to our opponents but instead enjoy ridiculing them.
2. Focus on Liberty instead of Responsibility
We can talk about liberty all day long. We deserve this, we have a right to that. Don’t you dare try to take this away from me. It’s mine and me, me, me!
How often do we talk about the flip side of liberty? I’m talking about responsibility. Responsibility is what actually enables liberty to work. It’s what’s under the hood of liberty. Responsibility is a value that no one can reasonably reject. Conservatives hold responsibility for your actions sacrosanct. Liberals demand responsibility from business. Independents understand that responsibility is just about being accountable for what you say and do.
The people who are scared of more liberty are desperate for more responsibility. We can flip the narrative by being advocates for both complete liberty and complete responsibility.
3. Too Much Fundamentalist Rothbard
We love to quote Rothbard and blather on about Austrian Economics (I still don’t know why) but we’re lacking in human values like compassion, respect, fairness, courage, honesty, tolerance and integrity.
I think a lot of us don’t understand that basic human values are prerequisites for effective use of liberty. And you can be a perfect libertarian but a repugnant human being that no one wants to spend time with.
4. Too Much Theory, Too Little Practice
Many of us have libertarian theory down pat. Show us a news article and we can explain how the state caused or contributed to X or Y situation. We can go on about the Federal Reserve, fractional reserve banking, polycentric law, federal oppression, jury rights and other complex issues.
But when it comes time to talk about how to actually live libertarian principles now, how to solve people’s problems using libertarian principles now and how to replace government programs with free market institutions, we tend to either remain quiet or fall back onto cliches like, “The market will take care of it.”
Such simple answers satisfy no one but the choir. We need to develop concrete action plans. We need to get feedback from a wide range of people, including people who violently disagree with us. And we need to constantly improve our action plans until we’re ready to implement them.
Libertarians sabotage ourselves all the time. I am just as guilty as anyone else. But it’s time for that to change. We need to make concrete and measurable progress towards the voluntary society now.
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