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By Joshua Dietz
So, you want to be a libertarian? You’ve read Mises. You know Rothbard by heart. You have a picture of Lew Rockwell as your smartphone screensaver, and even bought your entire family a membership to Tom Woods’ Liberty Classroom. You preach the virtues of libertarianism with the enthusiasm and persistence of a Jehovah’s Witness. But is it getting you anywhere? No? that’s what I thought. Let us examine why.
See, people don’t listen to reason and evidence. When the average person’s belief is challenged, they grip it ever more tightly. Why? Because a belief is more than mere window dressing for the brain. Beliefs (and the actions informed by them) provide a framework for how we understand the world around us. They undergird our very grasp on reality. While you may have learned quite a bit from your summer in Vienna, studying at the Austrian Economics Center, few others will bow before your throne of empiricism. As we have seen, the facts and evidence you bring to political and social debate will drive others to further dig their heels in to the ground.
But let’s get back to the headline. Do you want to know what you can do that is guaranteed to produce positive interest in libertarian philosophy? Stop talking about it. Stop talking about it, and start living it. Are you living your life according to your principles? Do you use negotiation to mediate conflict? Have you accepted personal responsibility for your behavior, and acknowledge the agency of others? Because if you aren’t doing these things, and yet are always talking about your libertarianism, then you’re hindering the propagation of liberty. As Geddy Lee once screeched, show me don’t tell me.
In his seminal book Influence, Dr. Robert Cialdini talked about how people require ‘social proof’ before they will be convinced that something is true. An idea or attitude must be high in efficacy and visibility before it can gain acceptance. This means, if you want to convince other people of the virtue of libertarianism, you need to successfully demonstrate those principles in your life. Are your relationships and interactions voluntary? If so, then in the spirit of Easter, let your actions be your sermon. Through living your libertarianism, be funnier, more engaging, and better-informed. In short, go out and win! An integral part of social proof is the phenomenon of liking. If people like you, they will want to be like you. Few things are as contagious as success.
To be influential, you must be consistent in your philosophy of life. Even a single lapse in your judgment, and your life’s work may be jeopardized. Libertarianism isn’t exclusively about constitutional scholarliness or fact dispension, it instructs us to engage people in a free and fair manner. People will judge you first and foremost based on your actions, not your words. If you want libertarianism to succeed, then you must succeed first. Do your work in full, panoramic view of the public. Take chances. The farther your reach expands, so too does libertarianism extend in influence. Make the most money. Create the best art. Deliver the most eloquent prose. Have a beautiful partner and go full-on Mormon in the bedroom. These are the markers of success; the more successful you are, the more credibility libertarianism has. In doing so, you lend the philosophy a kind of backwards legitimacy. People will say, “Well, it must have worked for him so why not give it a try?”
Herein lies the hidden benefit of living your libertarianism. It is far easier to produce libertarians than convert them. How can you guarantee that your child will grow up libertarian? Raise them peacefully and with negotiation. Put the non-aggression principle into practice: don’t spank, but speak. Raise them to be autonomous, while encouraging their agency, and help them to develop strong negotiation skills. Their success personally and professionally will do more to spread the libertarian ethos than all the articles on the internet combined.