Column by Jim Davies.
Exclusive to STR
I've tried, but have not been able to agree with Paul Bonneau's recent article Libertarians Are Nothing Special. Quite the contrary, I think libertarians are extraordinarily special.
Many of us begin by taking an interest in the political scene, and vote for a libertarian candidate in some election. That's a mistaken strategy, yes, but as a starting point, as a step up from the drab wilderness of Demopublican uniformity? Wow, that's special! Someone has noticed that there's a profound problem with politics as usual and has separated himself from the mindless sheep who can bleat only Rrrrr or Deeee. There are around half a million of them, sometimes more, and that makes each one voter in a hundred. That isn't one in a million, but surely it's special. It's a beginning!
Then, some of those join the Libertarian Party and take some part in the thankless task of collecting ballot signatures or helping arrange publicity. There might be 30,000 of them. These people are actually trying to do something about it! Again, we can critique their choice of activity and regret that they didn't pick one more likely to produce a free society, but each is one in ten thousand of the population, and if that doesn't make a person special, what does?
Libertarians, some of them, take the trouble to educate themselves by regularly visiting sites like STR and by reading some of the outstanding library of books, written mainly during the last half century, that clarify their understanding of liberty--while their neighbors are glued to the idiot box. This marks a perception that they have been mis-educated all their lives, and they're working to correct that. It makes them special.
Some, further, happen to enjoy speaking or writing and manage to get access to a public forum like a newspaper column or a regular “letter to the editor,” or contribute articles here like Paul and myself. This is really useful, because if it's done reasonably well, it can cause readers to think, who might otherwise not have thought, about liberty and government; and I'd call that special indeed. Some may post clumsily to online forums, as Paul complains, but one has to start somewhere, and even that is usually better than staying silent. Writing makes Paul special, for example, even though he and I disagree on quite a lot.
Lastly I'll name the libertarians who are systematically learning the underlying theory of liberty on sites like the Freedom Academy, and having learned, are drawing their friends to do the same, on a regular basis. They are particularly special because that process of individual replication is what will bring about a popular refusal to work for government, and thereby cause its demise. We're causing a Quiet Revolution. Those people number a few thousand today and so are very special people, though when the job is done, everyone else will have the same status and so, while society will have been radically transformed, it will no longer be numerically correct to call them “special.”
Libertarians are a curmudgeonly lot, and some are more likeable than others and some, more effective than others; but in my opinion it's a big mistake to say we're “nothing special.” Like it or not, we alone are trying to repair the damage done by ten millennia of government.
I'd say that makes us very special people.