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How to win the libertarian argument

The converting-Libertarian-Alliance-pamphlets-to-HTML phase of the Brian Micklethwait Archive project continues.

When I add something new, I also add a news update post about it. These usually briefly describe what the update is with, perhaps, a quote. Today’s update about How to Win the Libertarian Argument contains some of Brian’s most important and useful wisdom: how to spread libertarianism by arguing (and not necessarily by winning arguments). I could not choose which quote to use, so there are a lot of them. I’ll repost them here.

When was the last time you *won* an argument, right there in front of you? When was the last time someone said to you: “By heavens! You’re right about this, and I’ve been wrong about it all of my life, until you took the trouble to straighten me out. How can I possibly thank you? Let me, as a pitifully small token of my infinite gratitude, kiss your shoes.”? Not recently, I would guess.

The article covers the importance of politeness:

The *right* way to be an extremist is to say what you think and why, while absolutely *not* assuming that the person you are talking to has any sort of obligation to think likewise, and if anything while making it clear that you rather expect him not to. You think what you think, and he thinks what he thinks. And if he hasn’t told you already what he does think, then an obviously polite next step would be to ask him to talk about that. The two of you can then try to pin down more precisely how you disagree, assuming you do. It is possible to be an extremist without deviating from good manners, and that is how.

By merely proving that libertarianism and decency can cohere in the same personality, you will be a walking advertisement for the cause, as I might not be.

And it covers how to sell your ideas:

First announce your product, and try to spin out the conversation about it. You do this by finding out what your audience wants, and you try to explain, if you can, why your product will supply this. In the case of El Salvador, find out what the man thinks is now wrong with El Salvador and explain how your ideas might improve things, and why his ideas might only be making things worse.

It offers the sort of wisdom that people on Twitter could do with hearing:

No matter how “extreme” is the opinion I may read in a pamphlet or magazine, I am never, so to speak, at its mercy. I can stop reading it at any moment, and so in the meantime I need not feel threatened or even discomforted by it.

The world is full of people with wildly different views about the philosophical foundations of life, of the universe and of everything, yet on the whole they get along peacefully enough. Where there are major breaches of the peace, these are just as likely to be between peoples with near identical views on “the fundamentals” as between people without such philosophical affinities.

And there are descriptions of the ways in which people change their minds.

The notion that one can “convince” somebody of the truth of libertarianism with one mere “argument” is rooted in a false model of how people think about political matters. Political thought is rooted not merely in “facts” but in contrasting “world views” or “models” of how the world is and how it ought to be improved.

For some anti-libertarians it comes as a shattering revelation to learn that there actually are real live libertarians, and that we mean what we say. Until then they had assumed that people only believed in capitalism for the sake of their dividends. The mere *existence* of a sincere libertarian might for such a person be the decisive, conversion-inducing “fact”.

Do keep an eye on the updates, or follow the Twitter feed if you are so minded. I have been managing about two per week so far.

10 comments to How to win the libertarian argument

  • Flubber

    I’ve become a grudging libertarian simply because all governments seem to be inevitably corrupt and incompetent.

    I just want to be left the hell alone.

  • Paul Marks

    It is going to get increasingly difficult to have political discussions – due to the falsification of basic information.

    Whether it is historic temperature data in the United States, or the damage that fires do now compared to the past. First data before 1960 is changed or is just no longer available, then it is data before 1983.

    How can one have a polite conversation about that? The natural response is for a “normie” to say “you are crazy” and the conversation will go down hill from there. I suppose one just has to either carry around leather bound old record books – or, at least, hope the “Internet Archive” is not compromised.

    It is the same with the vaccines (or whatever they should be called) – “I have not grown two heads yet” – no one is suggesting that these substances make people grow two heads, but there are concerns that they may lead to the immune system not working correctly in the long term – say one or two years down the line when another coronavirus is encountered. We just do not know.

    It seems a high risk policy to inject the almost the entire population with substances which lead to changes in the body that may (may – or may not) lead to very serious immune system problems in a year or two years, but if one is going to just get the response “you are saying the vaccine will make me grow two heads” then a conversation can not even take place.

    And why has Early Treatment been SMEARED? How can one have a polite conversation with people who have been taught to say “you want me to drink gold fish bowl disinfectant” or just to chant “THERE IS NO EARLY TREATMENT” and to disregard all evidence.

    Why should the falsification stop with “climate” issues and Covid 19?

    Why should not such things as poverty data not also be falsified? Or crime figures?

    Presently we are able to say that (for example) Progressive Big Government policies have had terrible effects in California – turning what was the most prosperous society in history, to a place of terrible levels of poverty – but what if the data is CHANGED?

    We have seen astonishing things – “two weeks to flatten the curve” turned into a year of madness.

    We now live a world where getting a haircut or opening a book shop, or visiting people, are all “crimes”.

    The media have been no help at all – they act as cheerleaders for the establishment, whether it is on climate, or Covid 19, or the rigged (obviously rigged) American election, or anything else.

    So how is a polite conversation, on anything, even possible under current conditions?

  • Paul Marks

    Flubber points out that governments are corrupt – i.e. dishonest, but that dishonesty is sadly not a weakness. It is their strength – they will say and do anything (as 2020, especially in the United States, has shown us).

    As for giving people a different “world view” for them to contemplate in their own time – rather than try and “win an argument”.

    I AGREE with what Brian Micklethwait says about that – but there is a massive problem.

    People have been taught to think that we should be CENSORED – they will never hear what we have to say.

    Most people will now not encounter “world views” that are different from the Collectivists.

    The modern view is not that pro liberty opinions should be PUNISHED.

    Who would entertain a “world view” that they have been taught is evil (even in its self – not just that evil people hold this view of the world) and which they will be PUNISHED for entertaining?

    The West is “transitioning” – it used to be a series of Big Government societies where pro liberty opinions were ridiculed but tolerated. But now – pro liberty opinions are not tolerated, they lead to punishment.

    The future may well be totalitarian.

  • Ferox

    The way to win the Libertarian argument, in the long term, is to stop saving Progressive fascists from their own folly.

    Let them run with the ball … right off the goddamn cliff. And then watch them fall.

  • Flubber

    The future may well be totalitarian.

    The present is totalitarian. The future will be worse.

  • My sister and I are both in our seventies. For all that time, we have been able to talk without friction. But when I said this latest election was stolen, she wanted data. When I gave some to her, she went into the “that’s crazy talk” routine without a hitch. Now we can’t talk politics (and I’m avoiding weather).

    At least we can still talk religion. We don’t agree about it, but when I theologied a pair of Jehovah’s Witnesses out of her parlor, she knows I’m not ignorant. She’s leans towards the evangelistic side, and I worship the Great Spider, but she’s gotten used to that.

  • […] again, I am saying a big thank you to Rob Fisher, for doing his bit to make my life and libertarianising echo in eternity. (Commenters, what movie am I quoting there? I liked that phrase the moment I […]

  • george m weinberg

    Nobody ever convinces his opponent in an argument. The best one can do is persuade the audience, if such a thing exists. Usually it doesn’t.

  • Lloyd Martin Hendaye

    We of the Depression and post-WWII “Silent Generation” (born 1920 – ’44, fl. through 1978) have always felt like dormice, retreating to the wainscot rather than ramping-and-rutting in clamorous agora spheres.

    Alas for civilized tradition, “good men did nothing” while radical collectivist/Statists mounted their Gramscian coup d’oeuvre (“artful subversion” over time) over global cultures from Boomers wastrel profligates on down.

    As Earth’s 12,550-year Holocene Interglacial Epoch ended with a 500-year Little Ice Age in AD 1350, following a 140-year “amplitude compression” rebound through 2030 an 88-year Super-Grand Solar Minimum looms large.

    Alas for willfully pork-ignorant, slavish and sordid Gen-Xers and Millennials, reality is due to bite down very hard. Most probably, Pareto’s functional “sparsity quintile” will remove off-planet to intrasolar terrafugia, escaping cyclical Pleistocene ice-sheets two miles thick… but for the hive-mind 80% residue: Cold kills.

  • Paul Marks

    Reading Milton Friedman’s “Tyranny of the Status Que” led to me rethinking my position on drugs – so argument and evidence can work.

    Also someone can be prepared for evidence to have an impact LATER.

    Think of the fierce arguments I had with Dr Gabb and others over both American government institutions and Corporations.

    My opponents did not convince me at the time – but when the evidence became overwhelming (the evidence of the actual EVIL, not just incompetence, of American government agencies and Corporations) I remembered the arguments of my opponents.

    Now I admit that they were correct and I was WRONG.