Recently, I saw an example that made me think about this piece I wrote a while back about how we test, punish, and exclude new people in our circles.
It is a new year, and like every January that I remember, many of us make resolutions to improve an aspect or two of our lives. Some of us want to spend more of our time and attention with loved ones. Others want to improve our health by kicking a bad habit, watching what we eat, or increasing the frequency with which we exercise.
I love seeing people make positive changes in their lives. It’s exciting. Lately though, I have noticed something of a trend among the more fitness-focused in my network. I do not mean the folks who joined a gym the last week of December or were “waiting until after the holidays” to start working on attaining a six-pack before swimsuit season. I mean the guys and gals who are pumping iron, taking a spin class, or running treadmill marathons every day (or so it seems).
The trend I see is a tendency to begrudge having all these new bodies at the gym. I see tweets complaining about full parking lots that will be “back to normal by February,” Instagram photos of a rookie misusing equipment, and Facebook posts poking fun at someone who just began their quest to be more fit than fat.
This trend is recent, but feels very familiar. The familiarity I feel comes from some within the libertarian movement, who challenge, ridicule, and belittle new and prospective libertarians. My hope is that this is not being done intentionally.
I am sure you have seen a “seasoned” libertarian speaking to someone whose interest in freedom is relatively young. They are pontificating about the fundamentals of natural rights and natural law, quoting long passages from Mises’ Human Action, or challenging a new libertarian’s view on a principle or issue of which they have yet to consider or examine the “proper” libertarian position. Perhaps you have seen another longtime libertarian list all of the “essential” books on their bookshelf, intimating that until they have been read, no ounce of libertarianism resides within this n00b. Possibly, you have borne witness to a game I like to call “The Biggest Libertarian in the Room,” where the “winner” is a jerk who made everyone else feel like they are not libertarian enough to even remain there. Noted libertarian communicator Michael Cloud would probably classify each of these as examples of the “Libertarian Macho Flash.”
If you identify as having done any of the above or variants thereof, I ask that you think back to the time when you first found that thirst for liberty. You may not have protested the Federal Reserve on the first day after you realized your newfound political lifestyle. You may not have committed the entire e-book collection of the Mises Institute to memory during your first month as a new libertarian. You may not have begun to look for the unintended consequences in every new governmental proposal or program.
I admit that I am probably guilty of some variation of those dastardly deeds outlined above in the past, and, for that, I ask forgiveness. Today, however, is a new day where I know better than to run off the newly-interested while flexing my libertarian muscles and showing off my libertarian bonafides. I hope this opened your eyes to some of these behaviors, and you will join me in welcoming these new eyes, ears, hearts, and minds to the beauty of our philosophy.