How Not To Engage Non-Libertarians In A Political Discussion

There’s a video being shared by some libertarians that shows a libertarian activist, who identifies an affiliation with Students for Liberty, asking a progressive activist about his policies and ideology. After about a minute or so, the libertarian brings up that the progressive ideology requires a state and violence to implement it. The progressive then got angry and eventually walked away from the cameraman and the SFL guy.

Here’s the video:

The guy who made the video and the libertarian echo chamber that is pushing it are identifying as a progressive who got angry when he realized that violence was needed to promote his ideology. Meanwhile, I believe that the progressive got angry because he knew he was being ambushed as has become common.

Make no mistake, this video is defeat for the libertarians and a missed opportunity to promote libertarianism. Furthermore, it reinforces the negative stereotype that libertarians only care about eccentric things and not about practical solutions to real problems.

Here’s what I would’ve done in the same scenario.

  • The first 50 seconds or so were on the money. I would’ve let the progressive talk about himself.
  • When the progressive brought up his motivations: equality, justice for all, equal opportunity; I would’ve taken the opportunity to develop some common ground.
  • The common ground with this type of progressive is easy, start with cronyism and crony capitalism.
  • Once there was agreement established that crony capitalism is bad, start to bring up that it is because of government laws and regulations, which are well intended and be sure to emphasize that, that make it easy for corporations to rig the system. Then make an argument for free markets and less government.
  • The progressive is going to do one of three things: be persuaded, challenge your argument (which is just as good), or throw a fit and walk away. If they walk away in this instance, you clearly win because it shows they cannot handle a dissenting argument and there was no ambush, just a debate.

Notice what is never brought up, “violence” or “coercion”. The reason why those terms are never brought up is because no one cares about them outside of hardcore libertarians, voluntarists, and anarcho-capitalists. When reaching out to someone, you reach out to them by using their way of thinking, not yours.

Here’s the thing about progressives, they’re going to be very difficult for any libertarian to persuade to join team libertarian. This is because progressives have a different mindset than conservatives and libertarians in that they believe in the collective instead of the individual and in fact, they see individuality as the threat. This is why when liberaltarians urge outreach to progressives, they water down libertarianism.

To put it in linguistic terms, it’s easier for libertarians and conservatives to converse because libertarians speak French whereas conservatives speak Spanish. Both languages are in the same linguistic family (Romance) therefore there are major similiarities between the two. Both political ideologies, in the Anglosphere, stem from the same classical liberal tree. Progressives on the hand speak Chinese, which has no similiarities. Some on the left already realize that progressives and libertarians will never be on the same side. The two have different interests and that’s why, especially among the rank and file, most libertarians come from conservative ranks.

All in all, libertarians need to do better reaching out to non-libertarians and they way to do that is to get on the other person’s wavelength. When a person storms off and won’t engage you, you’ve already lost and that’s not a good thing if the goal is to win converts.

I’m one of the original co-founders of The Liberty Papers all the way back in 2005. Since then, I wound up doing this blogging thing professionally. Now I’m running the site now. You can find my other work at The Hayride.com and Rare. You can also find me over at the R Street Institute.
  • cbyrneiv

    Wow… that millennials and libertarianism piece and its followup were… idiotic is too weak a word. The presumptive bias and pretentions of it were staggering.

  • Kevin Boyd

    The writer of those piece is a self-described left-libertarian and cultural Marxist.

    Tells where she’s coming from.