L. Neil Smith's
THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 87, August 28, 2000
I Am The Very Model
Lately, I've been reading messages about how we should or should not compromise with an other party in the hopes of getting 'some' reduction in taxation and 'some' reduction in restrictive legislation. Many of these messages point out that the average voter does not understand Libertarian philosophy and does not have the time or inclination to learn more. Some writers have even, sarcastically, referred to these non-Libertarian citizens as "beer-swilling masses." OK. I'll buy that. ... I like to swill beer from time to time myself. Not only that, I sometimes go 3-to-5 days between shaves and have been known to spend an entire weekend vegging in front of the boob tube! (I'd guess that's why I can relate so well to my non-Libertarian friends.)
Well, for all your complaints about not getting the message out to these people, you (the message writers) have forgotten one thing. These people watch TV! They not only watch it, they absorb current political and social values from watching it! If we in the Libertarian Party and Libertarians as a whole want to get our messages across to the general citizenry, the best way to do so is to get on TV! Now I live in Sacramento, CA and we've got a local access channel show that comes on once per week, but that is not what I'm advocating. I'm advocating getting TV scriptwriters to come up with good, quality, exciting TV scripts that support Libertarian values and degrade non-Libertarian values in each episode. We should and could target both African-American and non-AA viewers simply by targeting WB and BET shows for the former and the more mainstream channels for others.
I would envision that we could come up with two or three good dramatic series and four to six comedy series to spread over the weekly spectrum. Perhaps we could even toss in a mini-series based on the concept put forth in Kings of the High Frontier. This would be great to show why business in space is good for people down on Earth.
Furthermore, we should find a hostess or host/hostess team to go head to head with Rosie O'Donnell. That woman is a one-person fascism parade and had got to be counteracted! Sure, this would be a talk show just like any other, but, just as RosieO ham-fistedly promotes her socialist agenda, we would just as strongly put forth correcting views to offset.
Surely a really hot show would work like Law and Order, ripping the plots from current headline crimes. Only, this time, each episode would have a twist, whereupon it would be revealed that cops failed to protect the rights of an innocent suspect, prosecutors deliberately covered up the real facts or judges twisted the definition of the law to suit their own prejudices, only to be overturned and set right later by clearer-thinking Libertarian defense attorneys, judges, etc. Sure, you'd think that we don't need to get so heavy-handed, but it works for Law and Order and NYPD Blue so why mess with the presentation -- just change the message!
I think we can all point to one show or another that is popular and that constantly carries a pro-socialism or pro-"big brother should be watching you" message. I have recently gotten hooked on "West Wing" over the summer. (I'm a certified sci-fi nut so last regular season I was always watching "Voyager".) "West Wing" is an excellent TV series. It's also a highly-believable look at what a generic Democratic President and his staff might be, do and believe. I'm not saying I agree with the social and BoR issues, but this is quality TV. These episodes really make you think about the issues presented. Sure, they always come down on the side of Democrat liberalism, but you get involved with how the characters come to a decision as well as what the decision is.
My point is, people, ordinary, beer-swilling people, watch these shows and, in watching, absorb the beliefs presented to some degree. They tend to believe that this is how life works. Well, if we want to educate the average citizen, this is where we need to do it!
Derek A. Benner email@example.com
The exchange between Scott Graves and Jonathan Taylor in the recent TLE was a classic example of the sorts of misunderstandings that divide our movement. Like Mr Graves, I read Mr Taylor's original piece and thought he was skating close to the edge of calling for revolution. He was not, as he mades clear in the letters, but it is a misreading that I can understand.
Regarding Libertarianism as a political movement, what is difficult about it is that there are two very different libertarianisms. One is moral, a theory of justice; the other is a political, a political direction or movement.
The liberal (meaning libertarian) theory of justice is absolute; it makes no reference to any current political system. It assumes some things -- individual rights, absolute ownership of self, justice of acquisitions, justice of free trade -- and constructs moral and political implications based on those things. This is the libertarianism that Mr Taylor speaks of, and I think he is correct in observing that it accepts no compromise. To compromise it is to have another, different theory. The sort of compromises that can "generalize" it to make current government policies fit in as just would make it into socialism. Furthermore, the theory itself is no mere political theory: it applies to individuals. So to accept initiation of coercion as a political practicality is not distinguishable from doing it personally. If you can justify socialism in an individualist political theory, then you can also justify murder -- and that seems, to put it lightly, wrong.
Libertarianism as a political direction is mostly a function of the current state of affairs in the polity of concern. It is a political movement, away from restrictive regulations and laws, but not towards any specific endpoint beyond "less". A libertarian, an anarchocapitalist, a Republican, and even some Democrats can agree that there should be fewer laws and regulations, or that they should be less restrictive. They will not agree, however, on exactly which ones should go. Even if we throw out of consideration those who would increase the net amount of laws and/or their restrictiveness (cough Democrats cough), we are still left with the problem of evaluating changes that would make us freer (however we might define that), but which would not make us free. This is the question, in a nutshell, of compromise. Note, though, that regardless of exactly how we define political libertarianism, it has no moral implications for the individual.
The question for the LP stalwart is thus: should the LP be an education organization, concerned with teaching the public about the Libertarian theory of justice, or should they be a political organization concerned with the libertarian political movement?
What Mr Taylor is arguing, is that by upholding (both propounding and living) the libertarian theory of justice, we may (or may not) eventually get a just society. But if somebody doesn't, then how will it ever happen? Someone has to do it, and it seems reasonable that that someone should be us. This is true, but it creates a practical problem for education, namely, that gradualist, compromise steps cannot be propounded. If we believe that such measures can help the (political) libertarian movement (and many of us think they can), we are left in the somewhat strange position of hoping that others (Republicans, perhaps) will implement policies that we will not (cannot morally) support ourselves.
What Mr Graves is arguing, is that someone has to be a libertarian (politically) or we will never even get started. While it is true that a moral libertarian can be (in fact must be) a political libertarian on some issues, it also seems abundantly clear that this is not enough in this democracy -- our 1% or whatever for Vermont carry is just not enough to make any difference. But perhaps 4% or 10% for Must Issue laws is enough. So perhaps moral libertarians need to find some accommodation with political libertarians. Exactly what sort of support we might offer morally is a difficult question.
There is no clear answer, IMO, to the problem. If there were, I submit that we would not have the political system as it is right now. Right now I think our best hope is to hold out for better times, stall Leviathan, waiting as the intellectual climate moves in our direction (as it is), enough so to get a friendly supreme court. Then we shall see.
Meanwhile, I hate to see the sort of anger in the ranks suggested by Mr Taylor's response to Mr Graves. I have friends who are not libertarians even politically. Their political stands are hurting and killing people, for which they are (in a miniscule way) responsible. And yet I extend them the personal courtesy I do anyone else, including trying to see things as they do. They do not think that socialism divides people into cannibalistic factions; they think they are doing good in the world. I certainly hope that we might achieve better understanding within our movement; we should at least recognize that neither side of the moral vs practical debate has had much success in recent times.
Leonard Dickens firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks for a great round-robin discussion in TLE #86. You defended and supported your positions brilliantly (I expect no less).
However, (God no, not however) it brings to light a Achilles Heel in our party -- intolerance. I have seen, and been faced with resistance to my personal interpretation of the meaning of being Libertarian. A few of my past notes have generated some substantial E-Mail (blew my box once), because my idea of being free was different!
That's the name of the game here, free interpretation. I have spoken on this previously, but never has such a great example come to light. Healthy discussion is a good thing, but in my interpretation, there are few good laws. Not many outside of the Bill of Rights, that is. But that's my view.
It is doubtful any amount of compromise, or toadying up will make the LP popular to the public at large. The basic message of freedom will win out, peacefully. The idea that (by inferrence) that you would advocate agressive action against the USGOV, is absurd. Readers of this magazine with an I.Q. above 50 would know of this from your past writings.
I enjoyed the "excerpts" from your speech, and was able to overlook the attempt by Mr. Graves to paint you in a bad light. You were certainly out pounding the pulpit, unlike many armchair adventurers in our Party. Previously I wrote on the subject of actively discussing Libertarian views with people, and I implore your readers again to do so. Get in on a one-to-one conversation with friends and neighbors, turn them one at a time. It's a good message, and they'll do the same.
People have to be coaxed out of the box that government has built around them, but it can be done. The chief message, self-reliance and responsibility, has to get out. Make people take individual initiative and accountability for their lives and liberties. Let the Bill of Rights stand as the law of the land, and stop using laws to shift blame for actions or improper product use. For Christ's sake, I know that I can get hurt falling off a ladder! It's not some poor slob's fault for making it so I can fall off it. I also know the police will not take a bullet for me, they don't have to. They'll probably not be there, anyway.
In conclusion (if there can ever be one), the minutae of splitting hairs will continue to wear down this Parties' strength, so everybody get to work!
Jack Jerome email@example.com
Why I call myself a "Law and Order" Libertarian.
We in the Libertarian party often get the reputation of being extremists because we have not prioritized our goals.
One example is our party's endorsement of open immigration. Unfortunately, to most people in California that means unlimited "child only" welfare payments to the US born children of foreign nationals.
We need to set our priorities, and we need to clarify them in a meaningful way to the general population. For example, we need to make it clear that before we allow free immigration, we are going to abolish the welfare system. Then we need to show how we are going to abolish that welfare system without creating the bizarre and weird images of children dying in the streets that such a concept creates in the soft hearts of people who have watched way too much TV.
We also need to consider embracing some "game theory" ideas. Free trade horrifies many people who don't watch too much TV because they are afraid of the results if we allow free access to our markets for nations that are highly protectionist. A suggestion that we consider embracing the "tit for tat plus one more" game theory strategy will help them recognize that we are not a bunch of demented idealists like the socialists.
I refer to my strategy as "Law And Order" Libertarianism -- the goal being to repeal as many laws as possible in the correct order.
Nadja Adolf firstname.lastname@example.org