Salesmen for Liberty

Politicians, political activists, bloggers, and anyone else who intends to spread a philosophy must ultimately become a salesman. Like a salesman, we are convincing others that our product, liberty, is superior to what everyone else has to offer. We must also combat a general indifference in people and ignite an urge within them to desire our product. Anytime we discuss liberty with someone new to or curious about the philosophy, we must always deliver an effective sales pitch for our cause.

There is a tendency among libertarians to think that educational efforts alone are all that is necessary for growing the movement. While education plays a necessary, even powerful role in making someone passionate about liberty, the common person simply doesn’t want to be attacked with information on the methodological differences between Mises and Hayek. The common person probably doesn’t even want to talk about Mises and Hayek when first being introduced to liberty.

This isn’t to say that educational efforts have no opportunity to be employed. In fact, the salesman almost always educates his target to the many qualities of the product he is pushing. Conveying its special features, capabilities, and reasons why it is the wisest choice are vital components of any sales pitch that doesn’t get laughed at or ignored. So it isn’t that education should be foregone; it’s that introductory educational efforts should avoid boring, esoteric details and should always be a part of an appealing sales pitch.

Notice that I said appealing, not abrasive. To use an example, imagine you’re a young libertarian attending a prominent libertarian conference and an outsider curious to what is going on asks you about it. So you respond, “Yeah, it’s for different types of libertarians, we’ve got a lot of anarchists here, a lot of. . .” The quote continues, but the truth is that in the mind of the outsider, everything said after “anarchists” is ignored or discredited.

Unfortunately, that example isn’t from my imagination; it’s from observations made at a recent libertarian conference. Needless to say, the outsider walked off laughing at the young libertarian, and consequentially at the conference as a whole. A perfect opportunity to attract a stranger to the movement was blown because a salesman mentality was forgotten.

A much better response would have been something along the lines of “Yeah, this is a conference for libertarians. We have a wide range of views here but primarily we unite behind the idea that government should be limited and people should have social and economic freedom. We even have attendees from every continent.”

Both statements are equally true and equally educational, but only one ends with the inquirer walking off laughing at all of us as crazy people. This may seem like a specific, rare example but the unfortunate reality is that similar things happen more often than not. My time with YAL, as a chapter president and an intern, is constantly teaching me how to be a salesman for liberty, and right now that is the most important thing any libertarian could learn. 

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