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Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Have you ever changed anyone’s mind?

Libertarians often like to tell their own “conversion story”, perhaps with just a touch of “humble-bragging” about their own open-mindedness. It seems impolite to boast of having changed someone else‘s mind. If the other person is present there is a distinct danger that they will purse their lips and announce they have jolly well changed back. In any case those who are good at changing people’s minds, as the late Brian Micklethwait was, do not think of it as winning a duel but more as clearing up any misconceptions that were stopping the other person from seeing the true situation and changing their own mind.

But naming no names, have you ever done it?

41 comments to Have you ever changed anyone’s mind?

  • I’d say I never did.

    The one attempt this year, was an abject failure with in three weeks.

    me: ‘mate, don’t get the vax, given your age and so on, it makes no sense, look at these stats..’

    npc friend: ‘ok, yeah, I was thinking of going get it but now you’ve convinced me’

    …… a few weeks later.

    me: ‘mate have you seen these new stats, it’s insane’

    npc friend: ‘I’ve had it up to here with you antivaxxer, my neighbour’s uncle’s brother’s nephew has been sick with covid for last week so we all got vaxxed yesterday’

    npc friend: ‘also you’re !!!racist!!! and I don’t associate with racists’

    me: ‘ok’

    and that’s pretty much how I left it.

    shades of yuri bezmenov, most (disillusioned) people can’t even form, let alone hold to opinions even when presented with true facts. true facts mean nothing to them, it’s manipulation that works, and so it shall be, forever.

  • Twice, I have. One was a liberal (but not insane) woman with an art degree. Sh argued that “Piss Christ” was a valid and valuable bit of Art!. I looked at her and said, “Piss Mohammed. Piss Buddha. Piss Indian. Piss Black” and watched as her face crumbled. “You got me there,” she said, and recanted her stance on Piss Christ.

    The other was a very reasonable woman, but quite younger than I. She didn’t think it was fair to judge people upon a certain characteristic. Being a physicist, I embarked on a thought experiment with her. Stripped of details, it was a long list of things she did allow herself to judge. Male or female? Young or old? Neat or scruffy? Did they seem angry, or peaceful? There was more, and she said “yes” to them all. Finally she said, “You’re going to ask me. And after all this, I’d be a hypocrite if I said no.” I smiled and said “yes”.

    There are people I treasure. They. Argue. Fair.

  • bobby b

    I don’t know that I’ve changed minds in the sense of causing a re-examination of values, but I’ve convinced people that their values were not being well served by their present affiliations, and that they were really libertarians and not progressives.

    (Mostly rural types whose families “have always been Democrats!” and who have been too busy with life to pay attention to what that party has become. )

  • Snorri Godhi

    Ellen and Bobby seem to have done an excellent job.

    A humble, very tentative suggestion to Sasha: perhaps the direct approach is unlikely to work.
    Unless, perhaps, you already “know” that you are talking to somebody who will listen, and can be persuaded by hard facts.
    But even that seems to me unlikely to work in changing someone’s fundamental principles.

    See also Thomas Kuhn’s Structure of Scientific Revolutions: perhaps the best way of thinking about why it is difficult to change minds.

  • JBP

    The more important question is ‘have you been able to get someone to stop arguing their viewpoint and think?’ You’ll know you have because they will give that ‘aha’ pause. It is not a matter of making people change their mind, it is a matter of helping them use their mind.

  • Ferox

    Minimum wage and ending Prohibition are the two issues upon which I always end up failing.

    I try explaining that the minimum wage is a ban on less-skilled labor, forcing less qualified workers to compete with more highly qualified ones at the same wage point – which drives them out of the labor market. And the answer I get is “yeah, but everybody deserves a living wage.” I point out the parallel between rising minimum wages and rising homelessness – “see, all those people need jobs at a good living wage, man.” No progress made.

    With Prohibition, people will agree that their particular intoxicant of choice should be legal, but not those other ones. And trying to elicit a general principle of individual autonomy just doesn’t get there. All those other drugs are so bad, you see ..

    Could be that I am just not very convincing. Also that I have become something of an accelerationist – I now want the Left to proceed unhindered, until people are fist-fighting in grocery stores for the last tin of beans or bag of flour. That will be a better argument than anything that could come out of my mouth.

  • Paul Marks

    Yes I have.

  • FraserOrr

    I think the question is a little unclear. Have I helped people change their mind about certain issues — yes, definitely (and I’ve even changed my mind about a few things too 😀). But you talk about a “conversion” by which I think you are meaning a more secular road to Damascus, and a turning completely politically. I’ve seen it a few times, and helped a little, but certainly wouldn’t claim a full conversion.

    I think though the question hides the real issue. People aren’t really all that logical. And I don’t mean “those people over there”, I really mean all of us including me. Some are more logical than others for sure, but most of what we do doesn’t come from logic. I used to be heavily involved in Christian evangelism (though I am an atheist now — apparently I do change my mind) and I have seem a lot of people “become” Christians. I have looked with some care at why they do so, and the simple fact is that it is never because they were convinced by argument or logic. It is always because that community offered them something important that they were missing — friendship, community, counseling, forgiveness. Because people are really more emotional beings than rational ones. So I really don’t think big, conversion (whether to Islam or to Libertarianism) comes about because of logical argument or convincing, but because it fills some sort of need in people’s lives.
    The desire to be free is a very powerful one in the human soul, and I would suggest that it is there that conversion takes place, insofar as it does. All the Randian theory or property rights arguments are really more intellectual backfill to a desire to be part of something, whether a community or a way of thinking, or a desire to find freedom for whatever oppresses you: that which fills what is missing.

    As some of you know I am a huge fan of Harry Browne, and especially his book “How I found freedom in an unfree world”. I think this is a vastly better introduction to libertarianism than some political tome, no matter how good, since it appeals, in a very practical way, as to how things can change to give people the freedom they desire. It is pretty out of date now I guess, but it serves the purpose. I didn’t know Brian, but I have listened to him, and I think that this is his style too.

    I think libertarians sometimes forget that we are apolitical by nature, and some spend their whole time debating politics rather than thinking about how to make individual lives better — which is almost never by politics.

  • More times than I can remember, sometimes single people, sometimes groups. Both in political caucuses and in managing meetings.

  • The last toryboy

    I’ve influenced people in that direction. Full blown conversion, no.

    And the Samizdatistas influenced me. I didn’t even know what libertarianism was before I found this blog decades ago.

  • WindyPants

    Blogs like this (and Tim Worstall’s) converted me. I started out as a Social Democrat and now describe myself as a laissez-faire, small state minarchist (or occasionally neo-whiggist if the mood takes me!)

    In turn, I opened a marxist friend’s eyes. He may not be full on Libertarian, but he’s definitely more one of us rather than one of them.

  • X Trapnel

    My own conversion, or the seeds of it, took place in The Salisbury Inn, a marvellously dingy pub frequented by under-employed prostitutes and beer-mats, located down a steep cobbled street behind Manchester Oxford Road train station, in the late 1980s, when I was about 18. I told my friend that I couldn’t stand Richard Branson, his teeth, his tieless-ness, his fake man-of-the-people demeanour generally; my friend, who’s now a successful investor, simply said “he employs lots of people”. It was that simple. The thrill of thinking the unthinkable and finding that the thought held fast felt like jumping on a broomstick and finding once sat astride it that you could fly.

    I’ve been a contrarian ever since. I argued in favour of the Poll Tax to my philosophy tutor at Oxford, unsuccessfully of course, as I failed to appreciate that a tax was still a demand for money with menaces, whomever it annoyed; I argued in 2002 against the Kyoto Protocol to a young Fast Stream 2nd Secretary at a British Embassy overseas, unsuccessfully, as I had failed to appreciate just how deep his snout was buried in the trough; in favour of voting Conservative in 1997 to a Scottish public sector worker, unsuccessfully, but I felt a seed had been sowed; in favour of unrestricted immigration to an appalled senior civil servant; and against Papal support of COP26 to my bishop, I suspect with similar results.

    I recall a recent encouraging piece, possibly by the late Brian Micklethwait, on this subject, gist of which was that winning an argument was less important than raising an unaired point politely. I do not inhabit sympathetic terrain, but the only potential successes I have had are with my teenaged children, currently being put through UK state education, who are likely the only members of their peer group ever to have heard the argument that healthcare could be better run privately. I expect a call from the police daily.

  • Jon Eds

    I’ve influenced my wife’s thinking. Pointing out the libertarian take on various flaws in our society for over a decade has influenced her in that direction. She’s fully onboard with Covid skepticism. She’s less convinced by my views on global warming although gets the economic argument and the China/India angle. I’ll never convince her about guns though.

    I think we should set our sights lower. Even if all we do is calmly and politely make the case for the non-standard view on things, that might at least help fight the tendency to group-think. Making people aware that dissent exists is the first step. Don’t try to convince. People don’t respond to dialectic. Libertarians tend to but we are not most people. Have a list of kick ass rhetoric memorised and drop them into conversations at the appropriate juncture (e.g. “the vaccine? Do you mean the one that doesn’t work, for the disease that isn’t dangerous, hasn’t been properly tested, but is making billions for Pfizer”).

    For myself, it was Rand. A cliche I know, but when you are young her stories about strong and competent individuals standing up to an assault by the collective is tremendously powerful.

  • Jon Eds

    And don’t make the mistake of trying to convince. The vast majority of people don’t respond to dialectic. Libertarians do, which is why we tend to make the mistake of trying to convince.

    Instead, drop some killer one liners into conversations and let the sentiments fester.

  • Once, recently, during the petrol shortages. A student was complaining about one garage near her that had put up prices (and how disgraceful it was profiteering at the expense of a crisis) and no one was queuing there, but the garage down the road had long queues. Ergo, price gouging was wrong and no one was paying the higher prices, so that would show them. So I asked her which she would prefer – to sit in the queue at the cheaper garage, or save time by paying a few pence a litre more and be on her way. There was that “Ah…” moment when the basics of supply and demand dropped into place. A small thing, but satisfying nonetheless.

  • I have also had my mind changed. This place started me on the road to thinking differently all those years ago. The more I read, the more the old shibboleths fell away.

  • BlokeInBrum

    Most people seem to be sheep – they follow the prevailing trends whatever they are, groupthink is a thing. cf. lemmings.

    It takes a great deal of self possesion, even courage to go against the prevailing trends. See those in Germany who were against Hitler and the Nazis prior to WW2. For many, it didn’t end well.

    Would I have been one of those to take a stand against totalitarianism and be counted? I’d like to think so, and maybe in my older years when I have less to lose, maybe. But were I younger, I think my courage would have been found lacking…

    People tend to ‘go along to get along’ unless their own personal situation is directly under threat. Which is why revolutions tend to take place only after everything has gone to pot and nobody has anything left to lose.

    When it comes to changing minds, a direct assault on someones viewpoint is doomed to fail as it’s essentially an attack on a persons character, and for most people their ego would rebel at that.

    Far better is subversion and mockery, nothing stings more than being made the subject of a joke. See the current meme of ‘Lets go Brandon!’ which is absolute diamond grade rhetoric.

    Which brings me eventually to my point (sorry folks for taking so long!) – you can’t change minds, least of all with dialectic. You can only help folks change their own, and even then, only if they’re willing. Which is why sites like this are absolutely invaluable in providing a forum for genuinely open discussion, often going against current orthodoxies.

    For those Scientists, politicians, lawyers, green activists etc. they are sufficiently well isolated from reality that their world view will never come under threat. Nor is it likely possible to change minds where their financial and social credibility is so intertwined with their world view.
    To change these folks minds would be like deprogramming a member of a cult.

  • John B

    Not possible to change somebody’s mind, only they can change their mind. In the same way it is not possible to motivate someone or make them aspire to something. All these things are internal to the individual according to their desires, maybe after consideration of external influences and experiences.

  • APL

    I don’t know if I have ever changed anyone’s mind.

    I know my position was changed, when I used to hang out online with a bunch of American advocates of OS/2. By my estimation few of them were Democrats.

  • Paul Marks

    Present the truth as best you can – the rest is up to the listener, if they are open to the truth they will change their opinion.

    But also be open to the truth yourself – I have changed my mind over many things (such as Corporations) and I wish I had been more open to argument and evidence on these matters, in the past.

    Sometimes the refusal to change one’s mind is wilful. I remember being quite irritated with people who told me the truth about Mr Alexander Johnson during the party leadership campaign.

    I suspect I was irritated because I knew it was the truth – and I did not WANT to hear the truth.

    I wish I could say “the Prime Minister is good at changing minds – every time he argues in support of more government spending, charges and regulations, he reduces support for these policies”, but we shall have to see.

  • You can think you changed someone’s mind when in fact someone or something quite different was a good deal more important.

    For me, the classic example of this is Natalie herself. For several years, I imagined that discussions with my good self and a few other mutual Oxford friends had played a key role in her evolution from arriving at university with a vague thoughts of voting LiberalDemocrat (even if “because they’re wimps and what this country needs is wimpish ineffectual government”) to her later opinions. Only quite some time after did a conversation make me realise that a key factor was rather the experience of living in the UK while moving from the girl described in the first few paragraphs of this old post

    As she told me later, if that accident hadn’t happened, she would have written them off in the unthinking way of many British people: “They like guns, guns are for killing people, so they must like the idea of killing people; I’ll not pursue their acquaintance.”

    to the one who wrote:

    A problem of etiquette not discussed at my finishing school, was how one can gracefully recommend a blog whose author professes to be in love with one. Improper motives might so easily be suspected. Perhaps one should let slip some casual mention of one’s husband, the Gun Nut? That was the course of action recommended by one’s husband, the Gun Nut, anyway.

    There is an NRA in the UK, but it does not have quite the cultural influence of the US one – which gives anyone with a foot in that camp opportunities to observe the ignorance of prejudice and the prejudice of ignorance, with some erasing of the nation’s historical memory thrown in, and periodic spectacles of bureaucrats making ill-considered laws.

  • Snorri Godhi

    After writing my comment above, i have been wondering in my idle moments if & when i changed people’s minds. I might have, but am not sure for how long.

    It occurred to me that a better question is: has anybody ever changed my mind, in a personal exchange? That is a question that i can answer with more confidence. It still depends on my recollection, of course.

    As far as i can remember, the closest was a Scottish friend who told us, at the pub, that he stopped drinking beer because he had symptoms of pre-diabetes, and proceeded to tell us what those symptoms were. I realized there and then that i had had all the symptoms at some point in my life, and that led me to embark on the journey to improve my diet, which is still ongoing. (Although it is now more oriented to improving brain function than physical health.)

    I have changed my mind about various issues more than once per decade, but mostly because of books and essays, when i stumble upon a solution to problems (intellectual or practical) that puzzle me.

    BTW my changing my mind makes me feel young, but does not make me feel proud, because i realize that i might change my mind about anything that i believe now.

  • bobby b

    “BTW my changing my mind makes me feel young, but does not make me feel proud, because i realize that i might change my mind about anything that i believe now.”

    I’d be worried if I found myself changing values, but I don’t see any merit in holding to flat-earth views once more information appears. I would think it would be a good thing – a prideful thing – to be open to the influence of new facts.

  • Tim Worstall

    I like Ken Hagler’s answer. That’s the much more difficult thing, to change one’s own mind in the face of evidence.

    On the other hand, yes. I once changed Nick Clegg’s mind and the result ended up in legislation. Wasn’t quite the mind I was expecting to change – it was through an intermediary too – and I didn’t expect to see the change either but it did happen.

  • the last toryboy

    I actually think simply ‘being a libertarian’ and being an example to others is enough to influence people around you at least a little. Libertarian principles are attractive – people do like freedom of speech, freedom of choice and personal autonomy, it’s where you scale things up to states, away from the personal level, that authoritarian instincts are exposed. On a personal level almost everybody is sympathetic to libertarianism. It’s simply the ‘its okay if the state does it’ mentality that stops it being more popular I think.

  • george m weinberg

    As far as I know, I’ve never changed anyone’s mind about anything nontrivial. But I think that may be too much to ask for. People do sometimes change their minds even after they are “made up”, but not often and not quickly and not purely on the basis of a clever argument.
    I have sometimes given people something new to think about. That something may have eventually led to them changing their own minds, or may not have.

  • Lee Moore

    I’ve never changed Mrs Moore’s mind, that’s for sure.

  • Fraser Orr

    Since the conclusion of this discussion here seems to be that we have never changed anyone’s mind, we might well ask the question — why bother trying? In a sense the whole premise of this blog is to “Change people’s mind”, though perhaps primarily between people who are moderately disposed to your point of view anyway. I think that arguing these points can be recreational, but it might be worth recognizing that that is the primary benefit.

    On a related topic — something I have often pondered is this: what is the difference between a correct argument and a convincing argument? I have come to the conclusion that the two are largely orthogonal. We spend a great deal of time making some set of arguments using logical tools from some set of assumptions, and think our argument is flawless. But the truth is that most discussions don’t resolve, not due to logical errors, but due to different underlying assumptions. One classic case of this is arguing over the meaning of a word (any argument that gets to the point of “but the dictionary says…” is time to quit.)

    However, one attribute of an argument that makes it more convincing than any other is that you already agree with the conclusion.

    I think there is this idea that we start with our assumptions and derive our conclusions, when in fact I think the opposite is usually true — we start with what we want to believe and backfill some sort of argument to support it.

  • llamas

    I can’t recall ever having changed anyone’s mind, in the sense that they had a Saul-Damascus moment and blurted out ‘ You are right, and I was Wrong!’ I hope I may have made some people reconsider their positions.

    However, I must allow that I have had my mind – well, maybe not changed, but perhaps refocussed and repositioned, and more than once, by interactions on this site. So it can and does happen.



  • Shlomo Maistre

    I have persuaded a hard right wing conservative that monarchy is superior to democracy for both moral and practical reasons.

    To be fair, I don’t think I could have done it without the enormous help of the Fake News Media – specifically, the Fake News Media’s Pravda style coverage of all things Trump.

    He should be King.

  • Snorri Godhi

    I have persuaded a hard right wing conservative that monarchy is superior to democracy for both moral and practical reasons.

    If he was not a monarchist, then he was not a hard right wing conservative as far as i am concerned.

  • the other rob

    I agree with those who who hold that the only mind that we’re capable of changing is our own.

    Along similar lines, whenever somebody says “I’m a teacher.” I must suppress the urge to retort “No, you’re not.”

  • I think Fraser Orr (November 6, 2021 at 10:26 pm) is being too negative – but there may be aspects of how we are taking the question that influence this perception of failure.

    1) Compare the marketplace of ideas to a commercial market in which free enterprise is menaced by regulation. Organised, targeted, state-power-enforced ‘achievements’ can look obvious in both – precisely because they are organised, targeted and enforced. If you go looking for those kinds of visible, quick success, in changing minds or wherever, you’ll underestimate other kinds.

    2) As in free enterprise, so in ideas, the relative long-term success of freedom relies much on the (ignored, then un-admitted, then denied) costs of the ‘successes’ of slavery. What argument of mine against Merrick Garland could possibly be as persuasive as his calling parents terrorists for speaking passionately against the propagandising of their children. What warning of a Samizdata post that parents’ rights would be taken from them could match McAuliffe’s “They don’t!” about whether the parents even had any rights to lose. (Mutatis mutandis for many another subject.)

    3) I’m not the first to notice that if you try explicitly to change minds, let alone to bully them, you may fail. Whereas,

    “if you argue fairly, the very man who shouted you down will sometimes prove, ten years later, to have been influenced by what you said”

    (C.S.Lewis, from memory).

    Some minds keep thinking and so sometimes gradually change. Others may reveal that, on a subject of declared importance to them, they had never thought (I suppose Cathy Newman’s interview with Jordan Peterson would be an extreme example of that), which may affect many minds, whether or not their own is among them. Our words are part of those minds’ environment.

  • bobby b

    Fraser Orr
    November 6, 2021 at 10:26 pm

    “Since the conclusion of this discussion here seems to be that we have never changed anyone’s mind, we might well ask the question — why bother trying?”

    I’m thinking – hoping – that we’ve merely forgotten that people can be divided into two groups: those with a strong interest in the current political environment (which is a relatively small group) and those who spend more time and interest on their own lives and only peripherally engage with politics (which is a much larger group.)

    Am we going to change the mind of a committed partisan of either side? Probably not.

    But can we change the mind – or at least inform the mind – of one of the much larger group of normal people who don’t spend their free time reading political blogs or demonstrating in the streets or working for some politician? Certainly we can.

    Most people don’t obsess over these topics like us. Most people have half-formed “philosophies” based upon what they happen to encounter while watching a bit of news, or talking to acquaintances. We can frequently change those minds, because they’ve not ossified into a partisan set.

    I’ve known many people who vote according to how “their” community has always voted, but who really couldn’t explain beyond that. Give those people some friendly and well-chosen knowledge, and you can change minds.

    Otherwise, wouldn’t marketing be a dead end?

  • Fraser Orr

    @Niall and @Bobby, I am by no means saying minds don’t change, but I think my point is that they rarely change because they hear a good argument, not macroscopically anyway. I think small things do change. For example, my mind changed about the usefulness of patents, and I have, I think convinced some libertarians to change their mind to my thinking on this too. However, that is a fairly small change, not a macroscopic change.

    I think Bobby is right about what “most people” are like — but the consequence of that is that they get their ideas as a package. Rare is the person who is both anti abortion and wants to soak the rich or both pro gun control but opposed to welfare for the idle. Belief systems tend to come in a package, and those “I don’t watch the news” people you refer to (God bless them, I wish I was one of them) often find that fiddling with the package leaves things in a mess, so they are resistant to change. As I said, this seems evidenced by the few examples of people here who seem to have made much headway convincing others.

    What does happen is that the circumstances in one’s life change and so we become susceptible to arguments we may have heard. Let me give you an example of a change that I wouldn’t favor. Imagine one is, as Bobby says, a fairly unpolitical person. You grew up in Arkansas so are most likely pro gun rights, because it is Arkansas and everyone you know is pro-gun rights. Someone makes an argument in favor of gun control that you largely dismiss, but it sort of sits in the back of your mind. However, one day you send your kid to school and some maniac breaks in and shoots up the place killing your child. In your horror all those arguments in favor of gun control start popping back up. You now WANT to think that if only AR-15s were banned your child would still be alive, and, because you have heard these arguments in the past, you start to backfill the belief you want to have now with those intellectual arguments you had previously dismissed.

    If I remember rightly, Jim Brady, whose eponymous gun control group is one of the most powerful anti gun lobbys in Washington, was pro gun until he got shot and paralyzed during the assassination attempt on Reagan.

    Of course there are many people who are pro-gun whose kid is murdered and remain pro-gun afterward. But I think that big radical change happens to people in these kind of ways when the circumstances change, and the intellectual arguments tend to backfill the new choices you make based on emotional and circumstantial decisions.

    I think someone mentioned above that they had persuaded their wife on some point. Again, I think this is a very classic way opinions change. Presumably the person’s wife loves him and wants to be aligned with him, so there is a strong circumstantial and emotional reason for her to change her mind. It does take overcoming whatever tangle of intellectual ideas she might have, but she will no doubt, because of this, be receptive to such an idea — since as I say, the attribute that makes an argument most convincing is that you want to believe it.

    Of course wives and husbands don’t always agree, but there is a strong motivation for them to move in each other’s direction, in a healthy marriage anyway.

  • dougg

    people have their mind changed when their emotions are engaged. the most likely to do this is when it comes from someone who impresses that person. i myself am a loser in every aspect of my life. it doesn’t matter how well is structure an argument. one look at me has made up people’s mind. not as a libertarian then, not as a alt righter afterward, and now finding myself on the side of the thought criminals of white nationalism, i don’t even bother. i read hundreds of books a year on a multitude of topics, on top of heavy amounts of internet reading at over three or four dozen sites. it does nothing. at the end of the day, i’m short, fat, unsightly, unimpressive in personal conduct, lifelong achievement, and even the basics of sociability. what good will it then do to utter some esoteric knowledge i’ve picked up when my interlocutor can simply brush it aside with skepticism about any fact i could present? will i bring over any libertarians to the side of derbyshire, steve sailer, taki, jim goad, etc, in spite of having once been a libertarian myself? not a f**king prayer. i still remember going to a county meet up of local libertarians back in 98 or 99. i remember a guy saying something to the effect that “we support liberty and that history is on our side”. i continued voting libertarian right up till johnson’s first run, but my first doubt was cast then. history on the side of liberty? did he have any idea about history? liberty is a rarified status always under threat. the status quo for history has always been slavery, oppression, ignorance, poverty, etc etc. sometimes i want to convert or feign conversion to lefftist politics in the hope that the stench of my support will push people the other way. my best hope is that the sooner i perish, the less of the unfolding disaster i’ll have to watch.

  • Shlomo Maistre

    dougg, it is true that the poor man’s wisdom is despised.

    By most people.

    But I see you.

  • Rob Fisher

    An old work colleague turned up at one of Brian’s Fridays once. (And several times since.)

    “What are you doing here?” I asked in surprise.

    A few years earlier I had been working in California. Our employer sent about ten of us young-ish men out there to work on some software. It was good times. There was a lot of banter. I could speak freely about my political and economic ideas. Nobody seemed to agree with me but it was the kind of group where that didn’t matter. We just all took the mickey out of each other or occasionally even had a serious friendly debate.

    One of my colleagues was Canadian. He’d clearly come across some flavour of libertarians before and was familiar with Rand. He made a game of predicting my responses to arguments. He didn’t agree with me but he was good at it. He did it in a funny voice and called it the iRob.

    Not everyone got involved in these conversations. It was one of the quiet ones who turned up a Brian’s Fridays years later.

    One of my favourite bits of Brian’s advice was: you don’t have to convince your interlocutor to convince bystanders who might be more open minded. At the time I hadn’t received this advice. It was just an accident. But it proved Brian right.

  • Fraser Orr

    @dougg a quick thought for you. A mistake a lot of libertarian activists make is to think that their problems are solved by “reducing the government”. But the truth is that the majority of things that oppress us are nothing to do with the government. It seems to me deeply ironic that “libertarians” spend so much of their time advocating political solutions, albeit “reducing government” solutions.

    The things that oppress us are our physical health, or toxic relationships, our own minds and attitudes, our choices and commitments, the way we organize our lives. You seem so very down on yourself, I wonder if you should switch some of that reading to address the things that really are oppressing you and make some changes to liberate yourself from some of those things. You are right, the story of history is the story of enslavement, and although we are heading back fast in that direction we are, at our present times, still historically at a point of being quite free from oppression compared to say, the Roman Empire, or Catholic Europe.

    So, as we seek to be free we need to start at the top, and, based on your self assessment “loser in every aspect of life”, I think that there are a few higher priorities for you and for all of us before we get too buried in the details of tax policy or vaccine mandates.

    No voting booth required. As the kids like to say, you only live once. Although as this thread has established, people don’t change their minds too often, I do hope that you change your mind about this and find some ways in which you are not a “loser” and build on them to make for a better life. Of course it is none of my damn business, and you sure as hell didn’t ask my stupid opinion or dumb advice. But, nonetheless, I wish you well and can assure you that better is definitely possible.

  • Graham

    Yes: my wife, over a period of 40 years, from Callaghan-style socialism to free-market libertarianism. But it wasn’t all me: she worked in banking, then in property letting, and saw the advantages of freedom.