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10 Mistakes Libertarians Make

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When speaking to “Undiscovered Libertarians” 


1. Replying to a concern, “The market will handle it.” This tired phrase is like a crutch for free marketeers. For many of us, it’s like our last line of defense when we expect to deal a winning blow and have no backup when it fails. The only time you should say this is as a joke to your libertarian friends.


2. Blurting, “XYZ doesn’t matter.” Just because we don’t think government should do a thing doesn’t mean we don’t think that thing doesn’t need to be done. We should never give them impression someone’s concern is unimportant. Mind your words carefully.


3. Using jargon. Most people have never thought conceptually about spontaneous order. Quoting passages from The Fatal Conceit in a casual political conversation won’t plant the seeds of a true believer.


4. Being cliquey. We tend to hang out with people who “get” us and who “get” what we’re talking about. The problem is we sometimes make libertarianism seem like an exclusive club that only certain people can join. Welcome the newbies. We need them.


5. Acting holier-than-thou. Libertarians are overly convinced that our consistency and principle are superior. Truthfully, we each have many things to learn and we’re each inconsistent in our beliefs and actions. Libertarianism may be better than any alternative political philosophy, but it’s not perfect, so speak humbly.


6. Telling people not to vote. This is an important question, but telling a Republican or Democrat activist that their vote doesn’t matter is like telling someone their work at the homeless shelter is worthless. People put time into causes in which they believe and don’t appreciate you implying their efforts don’t matter.


7. Raising your voice. Someone said the reason we shout during arguments is because we lack confidence in what we’re saying. Avoid saying things you only just heard and didn’t take the time to verify. You’ll find your tone of voice becomes a lot friendlier and your arguments become a lot stronger.


8. Thinking you’ve heard it all. U of I professor Deirdre McCloskey explains: “Over the front door of the late-medieval city hall in the Dutch city of Gouda is the motto of the first modern economy, the first large society in which commerce and innovation instead of state regulation and social status were honored. It says, Audite et alteram partem—Listen even to the other side. It’s good advice for a society of the bourgeoisie, and for a classroom for students of philosophy.” And it’s good advice for libertarians.


9. Calling anyone a statist. Few people know what that means, and unless you’re arguing with a Stalinist, nothing constructive ever comes from using the term. Most people will walk away believing you insulted them. Use “statist” at your own peril.


10. Digging in. Stay loose. Politics is the art of the possible. If you want to play, prepare to negotiate the things you value least for those you value the most.


Richard Lorenc, National Chapter Coordinator, America’s Future Foundation, Chicago
August 21, 2012

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