Tips for Libertarians Who Insist on Discussing Libertarianism during Easter

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Luba Petrusha || Creative Commons

Libertarians should be exceptionally happy about Easter – after all, it is a chance to crawl out of their basements. It is likely that most of us will inevitably join in the discussions on politics held during family meetings. Together with our relatives we will present our views on the economy and the role of the state, as well as comment on the current events. This article offers five tips that you might find helpful if you want to talk about freedom during family gatherings and avoid being considered a lunatic.

  1. As all other holidays, Easter is usually viewed as an opportunity to contemplate the passage of time and the use that we make of the time we have. Before starting any conversation about liberty, free market, the benefits of the absence of redistribution etc., you better first ask yourself a few questions: do you practice what you preach? Can your own actions serve as an example of the points you make? Are you independent? Are you at least trying to be? Do you earn your own living? Or are you living off of the support of your family – the very people you are trying to convince to your point of view during holiday meetings? Remember that the best promotion libertarianism can have are libertarians who are well-off, those who manage to survive on the market without any help from the state and those whose actions serve as the evidence that what they are saying is true. Without that, it’s not worth even trying to convert a proverbial“average man.”

  2. Since we are on the topic of us vs. them, libertarians vs. non-libertarians, converted vs. common people – in the case of holiday meetings, this division usually includes our dear ones (parents, siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and the rest of our relatives). These types of relationships should help us fight the, in fact, only superficial boundary of us vs. them. It is really hard to find someone who is actually opposed to freedom, and who indeed, wishes to give up the right to make decisions concerning their own life and transfer it to somebody else. The truth is that many people want to be free, but at the expense of others. It is likely that most of your family members share this attitude. It might be the aunt who works at a public school or the uncle working as a taxi driver, who despises Uber. Our task is to show them that in the long run, nobody will benefit from such stances – and they are no exception. After all, everyone wants to have as many opportunities in life as possible. This is why you should talk to them as if you were talking to allies sharing a common enemy – the powerful state that messes with the citizens, limits them, lies to them and makes false promises. Us vs. them means the tax-payers vs. the politicians, not libertarians vs. all other people. Hence, just as Jeffrey A. Tucker suggests, you should assume that an average person is a potential freedom supporter.

  3. Discussions on politics and economy during family gatherings should occur spontaneously – there’s no need for you to initiate them and invite others to join in. If your family wishes to talk about something else, it’s probably for the best – it’s more likely that this time will be a bit more enjoyable for everyone. People don’t necessarily want to talk about the privatization of roads. That’s fine. Remember that a successful advocate for an idea should not be a nagging salesman, who pushes his way in the moment you open the door. He should rather be like a considerate advisor willing to help and explain everything to a client who seems to be interested in a given product.

  4. When you feel that the conversation is turning to topics which might be used to explain basic features of libertarianism to your relatives, remember what Robert Nozick wrote in the introduction to Anarchy, State, and Utopia: “I do not welcome the fact that most people I know and respect disagree with me, having outgrown the not wholly admirable pleasure of irritating or dumbfounding people by producing strong reasons to support positions they dislike or even detest”. In other words, try to present your views in a way that is digestible to people not sharing your ideo-polis. Don’t be iconoclastic and never talk to them as if there was some bloodthirsty audience expecting you to own the debate. There is no audience at the Easter feast table. There is only you and your relatives. You don’t have to try to startle them. In fact, you might be more convincing if you present your views in such a way that everyone understands them and does not consider them a product of your delusion. You should use examples that are understandable rather than talk about such abstract issues as the privatization of healthcare or road infrastructure – if you do that, you will be ridiculed and regarded as a lunatic before you know it. You might use examples from history, possibly the most recent one. You should emphasize how the competition on the computer, mobile phones, cars or airlines market has enhanced the standard of life. These are the products and services everyone uses on their daily basis, which makes it easier for us to show that our ideas really are reflected in reality. What makes your views even more difficult to refute is proving that same mechanisms that are efficient on the, e.g., smartphones market, are applicable to other markets as well.

  5. The quote from Nozick’s work mentioned above wasn’t anything new to you, was it? Since you are a libertarian who knows the sources of own beliefs, you know the book, right? And even if you don’t contribute academically, you know the theoretical foundation for the ideology you are promoting? I hope so. But if this is not the case, you need to remember that a well-prepared opponent in a discussion is not only more efficient in defending own stance on the basis of merit, but is also more self-confident, which is an extremely important factor in promoting ideas, even during a conversation with your family at a dinner table. Genuine self-confidence, not the fake one, is a result of having a firm worldview and as such, it comes with time and is hard to acquire overnight. This is why it’s not a bad idea to do a bit of reading from time to time. But not only libertarian authors are worth your attention – there are many different points of view that you should get acquainted with in order to improve your debate skills, since they are almost certain to pop up in some conversations sooner or later. And even if they don’t – is there anyone here who doesn’t appreciate the pleasure of reading for the sake of reading?

Remember that you shouldn’t think of Easter discussions in terms of a victory or defeat. Even if you were unable to convince everyone – that’s okay. The work performed by intellectual entrepreneurs is similar to that of farmers – the effects come with time. If you managed to sow a seed of liberty, you’ve done well. If by doing so you were able to avoid plowing the whole field and leaving a negative impression, you’ve done great. All you should do now is to come back in a year to check whether the seed is sprouting.

The article was originally published in Polish by Libertarianin.org

Marcin Chmielowski