It was a cold, yet snowless, winter night in California (yes, be jealous), as the stars drew at a slow moving pace around the clear mountain skies as I lied on my bed at the inter-YAL chapter Winter Retreat I helped organize.
Here, I had a light bulb moment to start a new blog series called, “Consider the Otherwise” where I play devil’s advocate for the sake of keeping an open mind on things and to gain empathy for the other side. But let me give you some back story first!
So a couple weeks ago on Facebook, while idly browsing and procrastinating my time away from assignments, I was invited to like a satire page named “The Libertarian Purist.” There, emblazoned with a high-nosed, self-righteous looking, pompous, collared gentleman as the page’s mascot with a cover picture laying out, “I am elitist” loudly and proudly. The page surely does fit the description of “So you think you’re a libertarian, huh? Not without my blessing. I am the decider, I am the anointed one, I am…The Libertarian Purist!” The whole thing satirically pokes fun at the stereotypical libertarian purist.
I liked the page because I know too well actual purists, some of whom are not helpful to the liberty movement, to be blunt, when they refuse to work with others. Then, it dawned on me: Why is it that we must delineate ourselves back to obscurity? As fellow YALer Elijah O’Kelley noted previously his blog post, “The Road to Obscurity,” throwing potential allies and friends under the bus as some purists have done makes us an easy target for our political enemies and dooms us to obscurity (like, dare I say, Murray Rothbard or Lysander Spooner? Or, even more so, Josiah Warren — though they were all alright guys).
It’s fine to engage in debate, but if we pettily denounce too quickly and broadly, we make our movement look as if its main concern is nitpicking and maintaining internal purity. To the extent that we do this, is it any wonder our opponents stereotype us as impractical utopians? If one understands the Leesburg Grid (also known as the Four Boxes) and Saul Alinsky’s tactics, you know what I mean. We must go beyond intra-movement arguments — and of course use moral indignation when necessary (shout-out to all the Leadership Institute’s YLS grads!).
Don’t get me wrong, it’s healthy to have some purism in any movement. We need that accountability for integrity. But having intellectual purism, though a necessary condition, is alone not enough. Integrity and political victory should go hand in hand, but we need good marketing and sociability too. Sometimes, it’s enough to say, “eh, it’s not worth arguing over this — let’s be friends instead”. After all, always be making allies, not enemies!
And yes, there will be some compromising! Compromising isn’t itself bad if you’re aiming high and settling for something you already want. As wise friends have said, “Don’t let perfect be the enemy of good,” and “Even if we only agree 2% of the time, we should still work together on that 2%.”
But to even begin with trying to win hearts and minds with pragmatism, I believe we must have some empathy for other people’s different points of views. It’s easy to be quick to the draw and yell “STATIST!” but it isn’t very productive or convincing. It’s easy to cry Benedict Arnold or create an enemies list for McCathyesque purging, but that isn’t how to grow a movement.
So that’s why I’ve decided to start a blog series, “Consider the Following…”, where I’ll examine the reasoning behind non-liberty arguments on issues like foreign policy, intervention, sound money, spending, the Federal Reserve, social issues, and more — a Devil’s Advocacy, if you will.
Be prepared to hear from me again! I’ll start with foreign policy…next time, of course.
Feel free to comment and make future suggestions! What I’ll blog about doesn’t necessarily reflect on what I believe, of course! And let me be clear, I’m doing this not because I wan’t to be a troll/agitate, but because I want us to improve our own arguments and keep an open mind.Published in