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Monday, November 10, 2008

Drunk on liberty

Encouragement to those who want to spread the message

Most people value liberty.  At their core, most people prefer freedom to coercion, choice to mandates, and peace to violence.  Many people just don’t know it.

Libertarians often lament the difficulty of convincing the world that freedom is the most moral and practical choice.  But understanding the nature of the struggle is key to overcoming it.  As tough as it seems, convincing people of libertarian ideas is seldom like pulling teeth.  It’s more like introducing someone to alcohol for the first time.

It’s unfamiliar, a bit too strong and kind of weird.  The first taste doesn’t sit well.  The second isn’t much better.  A little more time and a few more tries and it’s tolerable, but certainly nothing to write home about.  Before long life is enhanced by it's frequent enjoyment and the initiated find that they do things under its influence they couldn’t have imagined before.  (Inevitably, some pictures of those things end up on Facebook, but before long they go from embarrassing to brag-worthy)

With drink and liberty, you must start sweet, without much potency.  Starting with Ludwig von Mises’s Human Action is like introducing an abstainer to alcohol with a keg-stand.  The uninitiated typically respond to “foo foo” very well.  At first they’ll tell you it’s the sweetness they like, and that they could do without the potent ingredients.  Keep serving them.  Soon, the sweetness will be an unnecessary afterthought, and they will imbibe to get the good stuff and get it fast.

There’s something in human beings that almost universally reacts to alcohol.  It’s nearly always an acquired taste, yet throughout history the peoples and societies that have tried it have fallen in love with it, created new versions of it and even invented elaborate games and festivities around it.  It is enjoyed by people of every race, religion, language and custom.  So it is with liberty.

If someone coughs and winces a bit when you offer them their first taste of liberty, don’t be discouraged.  Sweeten it up, serve it again and wait for the results.  Soon they’ll be a “social” libertarian; next they’ll brag about how much liberty they can handle, and finally, if the substance works its magic, they’ll be consuming Human Action even when alone.


Note: Don't get carried away. Like all analogies, it obviously breaks down at some point. Too much alcohol is very, very bad.  Freedom on the other hand, like truth and justice, is not something that can be had in excess, as it is itself the mean between vices.  If you're in a huff about this claim, read this.

Posted by Isaac Morehouse on November 10, 2008 in Libertarianism | Permalink


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Isaac, I wish it were true but I doubt that most people value (truly value) liberty and freedom. Look at human nature throughout history and you will find most people claiming to value freedom and liberty while their behaviour indicates the opposite. It seems most do not want the responsibility which comes with the package and prefer to have someone in authority decide for them. Little by little they lose their liberty and freedom until they finally wake up to the reality of their situation and revolt big time. This pattern has repeated itself over and over across the world, which is why I am not convinced that people truly value liberty and freedom. Liberty and freedom come with a cost; they require constant vigilance or you lose them one at a time.

Posted by: Alain | 2008-11-10 6:17:17 PM

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