One of the issues we Samizdatistas come up against a lot is how to sell the libertarian product in an often hostile climate. Chatting to some pleasant and mildly leftist characters recently, it struck me that one of the biggest hurdles we face is simply this – fear.
How many times have you tried to make the sales pitch only to get a reply on lines like this – “Yes, but what about if poor people starve if there is no Welfare State?” or “What happens if every adult can have a gun?” or “What happens if we let anyone buy hard drugs?”
Very soon it becomes apparent that a lot of decent, pretty smart people are put off the libertarian credo because it seems, well, downright scary. There are several reasons for this. Decades of socialism in the West have, I think, left people deeply ingrained with the idea that the only thing preventing the world from going to utter hell is those nice folk in the government. Our state-run education system plays a part in this, as does much of our popular culture: watch any soap opera or hospital drama and see what I mean.
There are several ways we can get over the ‘fear hurdle’. Notwithstanding the recent stock market rout after the dotcom bubble went pop, I am certain that the rise of a shareholding culture and the growing wealth of the middle class is helping to foster a less fearful, more individualistic culture. I also reckon that things like home schooling can have the same effect in encouraging kids to grow up as independent-minded adults. And the sheer bloody awfulness of much of our state-run services, such as the British National Health Services, must surely reach a point where people no longer grip on to the state like a Nanny but appreciate things can be run differently away from the State.
Maybe I am a naive optimist, but if there is any point to being a libertarian activist, then breaking the fear barrier is surely a worthwhile goal.