Written by Crystal Byrd
Libertarians profess to want to bring freedom and liberty to the people. That sounds great and noble, but we’re also really great at shooting ourselves in the foot when it comes to that effort.
We are often overly vocal about those philosophical stances that will be most difficult for people to absorb, let alone endorse.
Here are five contentious points of Libertarian philosophy that, if not introduced gently and with tact, will send those who are just learning about Libertarianism back to the major party they were hoping to get away from.
Some Libertarians will then glibly profess that we don’t need them anyhow, we’re not here to please others, if they don’t like it they can move to Somalia, or even better we don’t need them anyway. Unfortunately, that’s not true. We do need more people. We do have a vested interest in patiently teaching Americans our philosophy in such a way that they will embrace and advocate for those ideas we hold so dear.
If we ever intend to be serious about bringing liberty to the people, we need the people to be on board. If all we plan to do is sit around online and congratulate each on our philosophical purity, then by all means, screw ’em.
1) Advocate for open borders
If the 2016 election has shown us anything, it’s that America has a fearful and complicated relationship with immigrants. The second you tell most folks you think open borders are a great idea, you have instantly lost them. We would probably better serve the expansion of liberty by beginning the discussion with an acknowledgment of the problems with the welfare state. If we begin where we agree, those we are speaking to are far more likely to walk with us to the next steps of discussion including opening borders and truly free trade on a global scale. Let’s just remember before we begin the mental image in the minds of many Americans elicited by the phrase “open borders.”
2. Explain how children fare in a Libertarian society
Wanna get rid of an annoying friend real fast? Start a conversation about politics, ask if they’ve ever heard of Libertarianism, then…BAM! Proclaim that parents should not be compelled by law to feed, clothe, or care for their children as long as the parents are not initiating aggression against the child. Just like that, friend- GONE. Mission: Accomplished. Child welfare is a contentious point among Libertarians across the spectrum and while those who ascribe to Rothbard’s school of thought on children may have some principle to stand on, people in the real world are far more likely to dismiss their suggestions outright and take offense. We will find far more enemies than friends arguing against protecting and nurturing the kiddos or placing parental freedoms above their obligations to their offspring.
3. Try to explain how people have no obligation to help those less fortunate than themselves
Go on. Give it a try. See how long the average person sticks with you before the start to slowly back away in repugnance. You see, while libertarians may see themselves as voluntarily charitable and compassionate… they’ll be the first ones to argue that they’re only charitable to please themselves, and that if caring for another places them under any sort of burden, those poor folks are on their own.
Let’s bypass the frequent assertion by libertarians that once we remove government programs currently providing a social safety net, that private charities and organizations will certainly step up to ensure that people don’t actually starve, die of hypothermia, or expire from easily treatable diseases en masse. Let’s focus on the real issue here: If you say “moral obligation” so help me I will never help another person…
4. Suggest that we abolish the Department of Education
This will immediately be heard as, “I don’t believe kids should have access to education” or “close down all the schools.” This isn’t what libertarians are actually suggesting, in fact quite the opposite; but this is what people will hear if we have no better plan to present. As suggested by former Libertarian vice presidential candidate Larry Sharpe, perhaps once we ask people if the government is the best at educating our children, they will realize that it is not. This then opens the door for us to suggest that we want the best education for our children and perhaps that looks like something completely different than the model we currently have. Once we find a place of agreement, real productive conversations about alternatives can be had.
5. Tell folks that legalizing drugs will be good for America
They will immediately assume you mean marijuana, and then warily ask if you really mean all drugs. Without backstory, to the average person, this idea sounds a whole lot like turning America into one endless replay of the movie Trainspotting or Requiem For a Dream. The negative and lasting impacts of the war on drugs and the complete failure of prohibition laws are most certainly worthy of discussion. In fact, this topic alone could alter the course of America profoundly if we could change the cultural perception of drug use. We lose the battle instantaneously when we start with the endgame. People need to be gently walked to legalization and decriminalization of drugs, not punched in the face with the idea if we ever hope to gain their support.
If you’re feeling extra spicy and wanna alienate even more potential voters, let them know that laws against drunk driving aren’t very libertarian. Then enjoy the rustle. Just remember, sometimes common sense > philosophy.