My inbox is flooded with emails from Liberty Me, the new endeavor by Jeffrey Tucker. I first heard of Tucker’s latest via an interview he did at Lions of Liberty.
Based on the interview, I took a look at the website. The frozen picture in the embedded video on the first page turned me off, without even watching it – I guess I am not such a fun-loving guy? Shortly thereafter, the emails began to arrive: endorsements from a few heavyweights in the Austrian / libertarian / gold community and the like. Also, an email from Mr. Tucker, with a linked essay: “TUCKER’s DO’s & DON’Ts for Talking Liberty.”
In it, Mr. Tucker offers five “don’ts” and five “dos”:
1. Don’t Be Belligerent
2. Don’t Presume Hatred of Liberty
3. Don’t Presume Different Goals
4. Don’t Presume Ignorance
5. Don’t Regard Anyone as an Enemy
6. Do Inspire
7. Do Look for Love of Liberty
8. Do Have Confidence in Your Beliefs
9. Do Speak the Language of Your Interlocutor
10. Do Suggest Great Literature
Throughout this essay, Mr. Tucker seems to believe in better intentions in the enemies of liberty than I do. Further, he approaches liberty from a pragmatic viewpoint: it works better than the alternatives. For me, the issue is moral although certainly this does not have to be so for everyone.
I applaud all efforts to reach out and expand the message of liberty. Mr. Tucker’s approach suggests the acceptance of a certain worldview, leading one to incorrect conclusions and therefore potentially less-than-optimal strategies. (But who am I to say? That’s why we have a market!)
Yet, I will say; I will walk through a few such examples from his article.
Don’t Be Belligerent
Righteous anger at the state of the world is a feature of the libertarian mind. It was probably the reason for the initial interest in the ideology. When a person makes the link between war, mass killing, lies, and government power, the result is overwhelming….Another example might be economics related. When a person discovers that the Fed is the reason for inflation, the business cycle, and the skyrocketing debt, the effect is shock and anger and the desire to make history right.
This is all completely understandable. The problem is to remember that others do not share in this anger because they have not been made aware of the cause and effect here.
I believe it is true that there are many who have not made the proper connection of cause and effect. The problem is, there are many who have – and they still favor continuing down the same path. When “cause” hits too close to home – be it for the recipient of welfare benefits, the executive at a large money-center bank, or someone with a privileged position within government, most choose to care not for the “effect.”
"It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!"
The issue is not “because they have not been made aware of the cause and effect here.” The issue is because the worst rise to the top, and too many are envious – wanting something for nothing. They do not care about the “effect” that their “cause” has on the rest of us, as long as they are getting theirs.
Don’t Presume Hatred of Liberty
Many libertarians start with conversations, online or offline, with the presumption that the interlocutor is against liberty. That is not usually the case.
A similar benevolent attitude was offered by Alexander McCobin in an interview at The Daily Bell. I offer his comments and my opinions on such views here:
McCobin: “It's contradictory to argue that the government is both generally incompetent and inefficient and then argue it's capable of pulling off the greatest cover-up in history. I also think that if you assume the enemies of liberty are doing evil intentionally your misrepresentation of them will lead you to improper solutions. We have to understand that the enemies of liberty do so with good intentions and require responses with good intentions.”
BM: This one statement is enough to dismiss Alexander as a critical thinker. First, he confuses “government” with those above government pulling the strings (as suggested in DB’s question). But even looking at those in “government” – I will avoid the non- U.S. enemies of freedom – the pickings are way too easy. Let’s stick to just the U.S. based enemies of just the last decade – do they really have good intentions: Hillary Clinton, Tim Geithner, Dick Cheney, Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Donald Rumsfeld.
The authors of the Patriot Act, NDAA, FATCA. Lying the people into war. Authorization of murder by drone. Killing Americans without trial or jury. Those building the spy center in Utah. Initiating several wars throughout the Middle East and Central Asia. Central banking. Public funding of education.
Returning to Tucker:
A person who says “every person has a right to a decent education” may not actually mean “people should be robbed to support bad schools” or “all children should be forced into a prison-like building for 12 years.”
As opposed to being robbed to support good schools? In any case, most people who speak in such terms do not consider taxation as robbery.
As to rights, from Ayn Rand:
The right to life is the source of all rights—and the right to property is their only implementation. Without property rights, no other rights are possible.
From Leonard Peikoff:
Observe that all legitimate rights have one thing in common: they are rights to action, not to rewards from other people. [Such] rights impose no obligations on other people, merely the negative obligation to leave you alone.
To speak of positive rights is to speak of forcing obligations on others. While it is likely true that not every time someone speaks in the language of positive rights they do not understand that there is inherently robbery and coercion behind the statement, there is, in fact, robbery and coercion behind the statement.
With that said, I find myself practicing Tucker’s approach when opening a conversation; if, however, after an attempt or two to convey this understanding, my counterpart remains unyielding, I conclude robbery and coercion are, in fact, intended. At that point, I occasionally utilize a virtual two-by-four. Sadly, my experience is often the case that my counterpart is against liberty.
The job of the liberty-minded rhetorician is to illustrate the connection, and to show how impositions on liberty lead to bad results.
I have never been a big fan of pragmatic defenses of liberty – liberty is good because the results are better. For too many people, violations toward my liberty lead to good results for them. How might one win a pragmatic discussion with such individuals?
I find liberty to be good because the alternative is coercion – it is immoral. This points to the root of the problem for those advocating liberty: society must have some moral basis – what do people around here believe? Until enough believe that the initiation of aggression is wrong – not that it is less efficient or efficacious, but wrong – there will be no change.
Most if not all major religions include some version of the Golden Rule as a pillar; its history is as ancient as recorded history. This seems to me a good foundation to build upon.
Don’t Presume Different Goals
Non-libertarians have a gigantic language apparatus they employ to push against the idea of liberty. They speak of the need for “social justice,” “equality,” “sustainability,” “solidarity,” “community,” “progress,” and a hundred other wonderful - sounding things that are really just covers for increasing government power.
It is very easy to presume that these people have completely different social goals than those of liberty advocates. That is usually not the case.
This is an interesting point, one that I have recently written about. Kshama Sawant, the new, socialist member of the Seattle city council, offers many of the same complaints that libertarians do. Even the Pope has similar complaints. However, I don’t expect ever to make an impression regarding solutions upon such as these. They plead forced intervention.
Most people share the goal of prosperity, peace, a clean environment, and widespread wealth — whatever words or phrases they use.
I suspect this is true as far as it goes. But for many, if they sense “injustice” (in their bastardized version of the term), they are more than willing to advocate the initiation of force to rectify the situation.
There is no point in getting hung up on words…. If you can change your vocabulary and introduce someone to a cause, it is worth the effort. There is no reason to get hung up on word choices.
This I cannot understand in any way – too many words associated with liberal society have been co-opted: liberal, freedom, liberty, capitalism, anarchy. I agree that often in conversation words must be specifically defined; however from this I cannot conclude that “[t]here is no point in getting hung up on words.”
Might as well say “there is no point to get hung up on communication.”
Don’t Presume Ignorance
Many opponents of the free society and free markets are among the most educated people on the planet.
I agree with this comment completely. This is one reason why I disagree with items 2, 3, and 5 from Tucker’s list above (Don’t Presume Hatred of Liberty; Don’t Presume Different Goals; Don’t Regard Anyone as an Enemy). These people are intelligent. They are not blind; they are not stupid.
They understand very well which side of their bread is buttered, and who does the buttering – the best and brightest are often co-opted by direct or indirect government largesse.
What entity funds the most research, offers tremendous subsidies for providers of higher education, entices the best and brightest business minds into the cartel of banking? This largesse to the intelligent isn’t done by accident. Call it hush money.
As they are not stupid, they knowingly choose to remain complicit.
Speaking of item 5…
Don’t Regard Anyone as an Enemy
In democracy, government specializes in dividing people into warring tribes and devolves all meaningful conversation into sectarian squabbles. This is what elections are all about.
What is the effect of this constant prattle? It causes us to think of each other as enemies. If you really believe that it is super - critical to the future of civilization that Joe and not Tom is elected, you naturally believe that anyone who supports Tom is the enemy.
Many supporters of liberty don’t think this way, in terms of elections being divisive. Many have come to the right conclusion that elections don’t matter and that there is no difference who gets elected – whether Joe or Tom is elected is irrelevant. This does not mean that supporters of liberty have no enemies.
There are countless enemies of liberty – either with full awareness or not, there are many who continuously not only advocate but take concrete action to thwart liberty. We read and write about them daily. I don’t concern myself with those who vote; it is those who control the politicians or advocate control through the politicians that are enemies. They view our productive capacity as prey and our lives as possible sacrifice; to not regard them as enemies is either foolish or naïve.
Do Speak the Language of Your Interlocutor
Earlier I wrote about the tendency of different political tribes to use completely different language. It is sometimes good to completely mix this up. Why not call yourself a progressive, for example? …Why not call yourself a liberal?
This makes no sense at all: introducing oneself as a progressive (for example), followed by stating libertarian positions will only lead to confusion followed by derision – deservedly so. It will next be followed by horrendous arguments.
It is a waste of time to argue about terminology.
Wait a minute…. Using terminology in a confusing manner will certainly lead to arguments about terminology, yet this is what Tucker is advocating?
Discussions that go places focus on concepts and ideas, not terminology.
There is no discussion without language. There is no language without mutually-agreed definition of terms.
“Hi, I’m a socialist. I believe the entrepreneur in a free market environment provides the best value for society. That is very social. There, see? I am a socialist!”
That will go far. Check with Kshama in Seattle.
We were born free, but at one point or another we all became, in some form or another, supporters of the state. You were once one of those people who needed convincing. Imagine that you are speaking to yourself, before you saw the light. How would you want to be convinced? Be understanding and compassionate, but also patient and persistent. The future of freedom and liberty depends on our ability to convey the immeasurable benefit of freedom.
Since you asked: a light bulb went off. Initiation of force is not justifiable. I view the issue as moral. For this reason, I am, perhaps, not as patient in dialogue as I might be. I don’t see two sides to this issue. I see those who advocate for immorality via violations of the NAP to be my enemies.
I was once asked my opinion about such-and-such politician, by someone who viewed that politician reasonably favorably. My reply: He is a murderer. My interlocutor initially looked stunned, then came back with “well, yeah…but…”
There is no “yeah, but” for me. If my approach opens a door for further dialogue, great. If not? Well, thank God there are individuals like Jeffrey Tucker – I recognize and embrace the reality that different people are reached in different ways. For this reason, I can only wish him well in attracting an audience.
Me? I will remain belligerent with my enemies.
Different strokes and all that.