libertarianism

Home » libertarianism

“Rockin’ the Vote” — with the World’s Smallest Political Quiz

in Liberator Online Archives by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 19, No. 20 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

“Rockin’ the vote in Chadron” was the title of a November 11 news story in the Chadron Record newspaper of Chadron, Nebraska.

The story tells how high school teacher Craig Nobiling uses the Advocates’ World’s Smallest classroomPolitical Quiz and other innovative tools and teaching methods in his U.S. Government classes to “help students understand the political spectrum and clarify their own political thinking.”

Excerpt:

Using an online version of the ‘World’s Smallest Political Quiz,’ students get a feel for where their opinions on the broadest of issues may reside.

The Advocates for Self-Government, who created the Quiz and host it online today state, “The Quiz political map is based on the ‘Nolan Chart’ created in 1970 by David F. Nolan. In 1987 Advocates Founder Marshall Fritz created the World’s Smallest Political Quiz by adding ten questions to Nolan’s Chart, along with other refinements.”

The site goes on to state, “The Quiz challenges the dominant ‘Left versus Right’ political model. The Left versus Right model tries to categorize virtually all political opinion into either left and right. This model — still widely used today — is misleading and fatally flawed. It has no place for many millions of people who don’t fit neatly into some variant of liberal or conservative, left or right. In effect, it disenfranchises the tens of millions of Americans who don’t feel that ‘left,’ ‘right,’ ‘liberal,’ ‘conservative,’ etc. accurately describe their views.”

Teacher Nobiling stresses to his students the importance of keeping up with current events, learning the views of candidates, and understanding and exploring their own political views.

I love reading stories about dedicated and creative high school and college educators using the Advocates’ World’s Smallest Political Quiz in their classrooms. The acceptance of the Quiz as a valid educational tool is central to the mission of the Advocates. Among other things, the Quiz lets students know that there is more to politics than just left and right — that libertarianism is a vital and growing part of American politics.

The Quiz is used in classrooms across the country. We’ve shipped over 30,000 Quizzes to teachers who’ve requested paper copies.

Most teachers use the online Quiz, which has been described and recommended in more than two dozen textbooks (or their online resources) published by some of the world’s leading textbook companies.

Over the years educators have told us that the Quiz is wonderful for classroom use. It brings politics alive for students, and stimulates fantastic discussions.

Traveling around the country I’ve met more and more young people who, when encountering the Quiz, say: “Oh yes, I remember that from high school.”

And that’s great news for libertarians!

* * *

Educators: We are delighted to send you free Quiz cards for classroom use. Just email us about your classes and how many Quizzes you need.

What is the non-aggression principle?

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online Archives, Libertarian Answers on Issues, Libertarian Stances on Issues by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 19, No. 19 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

QUESTION: What is the libertarian non-aggression principle?

MY SHORT ANSWER: Libertarianism is based on a single ideal, the non-aggression Keep Calm And Be Non-Aggressiveprinciple.

Libertarians oppose the initiation of force to achieve social or political goals. They reject “first-strike” force, fraud or theft against others; they only use force in self-defense. Those who violate this “non-aggression principle” are expected to make their victims whole as much as possible, via restitution.

This “Good Neighbor Policy” is what most of us were taught as children. We were told not to lie, cheat, steal, or strike our playmates, except if they hit us first. If we broke a friend’s toy, we were expected to replace it.

Most of us still practice what we learned as children with other individuals, but we have grown accustomed to letting government aggress against others when we think we benefit. Consequently, our world is full of poverty and strife, instead of the harmony and abundance that freedom (i.e., freedom from aggression) brings.

Simply put, libertarians take the non-aggression principle that most people implicitly follow in their interactions with other individuals, and apply it to group actions, including government actions, as well.

* * *
Short Answers to Tough QuestionsGot questions?  Dr. Ruwart has answers! If you’d like answers to YOUR tough questions on libertarian issues, email Dr. Ruwart

Due to volume, Dr. Ruwart can’t personally acknowledge all emails. But we’ll run the best questions and answers in upcoming issues.

Dr. Ruwart’s previous Liberator Online answers are archived in searchable form.

Dr. Ruwart’s latest book Short Answers to the Tough Questions, Expanded Edition is available from the Advocates, as is her acclaimed classic Healing Our World.

Forbes Features Fascinating New Use of World’s Smallest Political Quiz

in Liberator Online Archives by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 19, No. 18 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

“Have You Significantly Changed Your Political Views Since Age 18? If So, How?”World's Smallest Political Quiz

That the title of a fascinating article at Forbes.com featuring the World’s Smallest Political Quiz.

In it, economist Michael F. Cannon describes his intellectual journey from Big Government “socially conservative social democrat” in high school to socially conservative/free market-oriented university student… and finally, a few years later, to where he is today: a full-fledged libertarian, solidly in favor of civil liberties, free markets, and a non-interventionist foreign policy.

Indeed, Cannon not only became a libertarian — he has become a remarkably influential one. He is director of health policy studies at the libertarian Cato Institute. Though not a Republican, he served as a domestic policy analyst for the U.S. Senate Republican Policy Committee, advising the Senate leadership on health, education, labor, welfare, and the Second Amendment. His work has been featured in many of America’s most influential newspapers and magazines, and he has appeared ABC, CBS, CNN, CNBC, C-SPAN, Fox News Channel and NPR.

To illustrate his personal ideological journey, Cannon uses… the World’s Smallest Political Quiz. He draws different Quiz scores on the Quiz to indicate how he would have scored at different times in his life, thus creating the striking visual map of his political awakening that I’ve reprinted in this column.

I’ve never seen this done before. But the Quiz is a perfect — and crystal-clear — way to document and illustrate this. Kudos to Cannon for thinking of this!

I know over the past few decades, as libertarian ideas have spread, many millions of people have made intellectual journeys very similar to Cannon’s. (And for millions of them, the Quiz itself has been an important part of their intellectual awakening.) Whether starting from the left or the right, more and more Americans are finding themselves drawn to the logic, consistency and compassion of libertarianism.

Check Cannon’s article out — and consider using the Quiz to document and share the story of your own journey.

Snarky or Sarcastic Put-downs Can Turn People Into Permanent Enemies

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online Archives by Michael Cloud Comments are off

(From the Persuasion Powerpoint section in Volume 19, No. 18 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Have you ever been in a political argument where the other person acted like you hadn’t made a single valid point?

Ever debated morality or economics with someone who ignored everything you said?

Frustrating, isn’t it?

Beware. This is the moment in many political conversations where you or I turn to put-downs: insults, rude remarks, or sarcasm. These remarks will stick and sting. They will hurt.

Instead of a forgettable political discussion, you will leave them with an unforgettable put-down. Perhaps one that’s unforgivable.

People remember rudeness. They remember those who inflict it on them. And they tell their friends all about it.

Is this the way you want libertarianism and you to be talked about?

So, instead of lashing out — smile, thank them for an interesting discussion, say goodbye, and walk away.

Talk politics with someone else. A person who is receptive and responsive to libertarian economics or politics.

That’s the way to win people to liberty.

* * * * * * * *
Unlocking More Secrets of Libertarian PersuasionMichael Cloud’s latest book Unlocking More Secrets of Libertarian Persuasion is available exclusively from the Advocates, along with his acclaimed earlier book Secrets of Libertarian Persuasion.

In 2000, Michael was honored with the Thomas Paine Award as the Most Persuasive Libertarian Communicator in America.

Is Liberty Doomed — or Inevitable?

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online Archives, Libertarianism by Sharon Harris Comments are off

(From the President’s Corner section in Volume 19, No. 15 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

I’ve heard both of these arguments for many years:

1.) “The libertarian cause is doomed. People will never understand liberty; even those who do understand it don’t want it. So why should I waste my time in such a futile cause?”

and:

2.) “Libertarianism is certain to succeed. The state cannot out-compete the marketplace. Given time, the superiority of the market will inevitably lead to a libertarian society. So why should I spend my time working on what will come about inevitably anyway?”

Ironically, both arguments lead many people to stop working for liberty, to stop supporting libertarian causes, to turn their back on the freedom movement.

I think both arguments are wrong.

I certainly believe that liberty is winning — in fact, our ideas are spreading at an incredible pace. I speak from experience. I’ve been in the libertarian movement since the early 1970s, when almost no one believed these ideas — when the joke used to be: “How many libertarians can fit into a phone booth? Answer: all of them.”

Today no one would even understand that joke. Libertarians are everywhere, and libertarianism is constantly discussed in the media. It’s nothing less than a sea change — a true rEVOLution.

Sure, I wish things were moving even faster. But the logic of our ideas is winning us converts daily, while the Big Government left and right are increasingly seen as bankrupt.

But liberty is NOT inevitable. Our ideas are fighting other powerful ideas and movements in the marketplace of ideas. There’s no guarantee those ideas won’t defeat our own. Their proponents are certainty trying hard to make that happen. Have you noticed the many attacks on libertarianism recently, by scholars, journalists, pundits, politicians, and other influential people?

A major reason libertarianism has seen such great success in recent years is because untold thousands of people have worked so hard, and contributed so much, to bring us to this point.

You yourself learned about liberty from someone. Maybe someone gave you a copy of the #libertyWorld’s Smallest Political Quiz.

Maybe you heard a libertarian candidate or speaker on television or radio.

Maybe you read a book or article written by a libertarian writer.

However you learned about libertarianism, it was because someone, in some way, reached out to you. That person, too, learned from someone else.

And that outreach was backed up by a network of libertarian organizations that have worked for decades to create a powerful movement ready with information and opportunities for people who want to make a difference in the world.

Those organizations didn’t spring up out of the ground by magic. They were only possible because someone — someone like you — years ago decided that this cause was so important they wanted to make sure these organizations existed, so that people like you could learn about liberty and the liberty movement.

For almost thirty years the Advocates has been a vital part of the libertarian movement. Our mission is a unique one. We help people encounter and learn about the ideas of liberty — and we provide them with the best methods and tools to help them, in turn, take those ideas to others.

The Advocates has helped millions of people encounter, evaluate and embrace the ideas of liberty. And we’ve helped countless libertarians become highly successful in convincing others to accept these ideas.

Our World’s Smallest Political Quiz has been taken online over 22 million times. Thousands of people take it each month, learning more about their political views and discovering libertarianism.

The Quiz has reached additional millions through newspapers, magazines, OPH booths, over 10 million card copies, textbooks, talk radio, and many other ways.

The Liberator Online — you’re reading it right now — takes information about liberty, the liberty movement, and the best ways to communicate libertarian ideas to over 30,000 subscribers.

We reach out in many other ways, too. New technology offers incredible opportunities. I recently did an online communication seminar from my office in Georgia with a group of libertarian students in Arizona. That would have been inconceivable just a few years ago.

But it still comes down to you. You — your activism, your donations, your outreach to friends, neighbors, families and others — make the work of the Advocates, and the growth of the liberty movement, possible.

Your participation is vital. The future of liberty — for yourself, your family, the world — will be shaped by the actions of the libertarians of today.

This is incredibly important. Liberty matters. The lives and well-being of millions of people are at stake.

Your efforts make a difference. Your participation in the struggle is essential.

As the great libertarian economist Ludwig von Mises said:

“No one can find a safe way out for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interests, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle. None can stand aside with unconcern; the interests of everyone hang on the result.”

Victory is NOT inevitable. But our ideas are moving forward, and there is great reason for optimism.

When you contribute to the work of the Advocates — or other worthy libertarian organizations — you are helping move the world in the right direction. You are making a real difference.

DonateJust as someone, once, did for you.

Click here to read the next article from this issue.

Click here to return to the newsletter.

Discovery BEFORE Persuasion

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online Archives by Michael Cloud Comments are off

(From the Persuasion Power Point section in Volume 19, No. 15 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

What’s the fastest and easiest way to bring people into the libertarian movement?  

“Help some of them see that they are already libertarians,” says Perry Willis, former Executive Director of the National Libertarian Party and current vice president of Downsize DC.

“Discovery before persuasion. Before you try to persuade NON-libertarians to become libertarians, first look for and talk with people who are already libertarians — or mostly libertarian.”

Such people are out there — by the tens of millions. Last year, a Freedomworks poll found that fully “78 percent of Republicans and GOP-leaning independents self-identify as fiscally conservative and socially moderate.”

Further: “Told that libertarians generally believe individuals should be free to do as they like as long as they don’t hurt others and that the government should keep out of people’s day-to-day lives, 58 percent of the full national sample said they agree.”

Such people are obviously sympathetic to libertarian ideas — but millions of them don’t know about libertarianism. The Freedomworks poll found that about 40 percent of 18-to-32-year-olds view the word “libertarian” favorably — but about a third didn’t know what it meant.

They are waiting to hear about libertarianism. How do you quickly discover these libertarian-leaning people?

A great way is by using the Advocates’ World’s Smallest Political Quiz. Available as a pocket-sized card or in its famous online version, it’s the quickest and easiest way to identify someone’s political leanings. To do this in large groups, use OPH (Operation Politically Homeless), which incorporates the Quiz into a crowd-drawing fun booth that identifies and recruits new supporters.

Perry Willis’s “discovery before persuasion” rule focuses us on those who are most receptive and responsive to libertarianism.

People who are glad to hear about liberty. Who are delighted to learn that they aren’t the only ones who believe what they believe and want what they want: freedom.

Warning: Mr. Willis is NOT saying “discovery INSTEAD OF persuasion.” He is saying “FIRST discovery, THEN persuasion.”

“Discovery before persuasion” is easy, enjoyable, fast, and effective.

For us and for those we speak with.

Click here to read the next article from this issue.

Click here to return to the newsletter.

* * * * * * * *
Unlocking More Secrets of Libertarian PersuasionMichael Cloud’s latest book Unlocking More Secrets of Libertarian Persuasion is available exclusively from the Advocates, along with his acclaimed earlier book Secrets of Libertarian Persuasion.In 2000, Michael was honored with the Thomas Paine Award as the Most Persuasive Libertarian Communicator in America.

“A Masterwork”: Rave Review for Libertarianism in One Lesson

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online Archives by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 13 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Libertarianism In One LessonDavid Bergland’s classic introduction to libertarianism, Libertarianism in One Lesson (published by the Advocates), has been given a rave review by longtime libertarian activist and writer Charlie Burris at LewRockwell.com.

Burris begins by complimenting “the brilliant strategic insight of 1984 Libertarian Party presidential candidate David Bergland which has guided all libertarian realists for three decades in adhering to the Non-Aggression Principle and the refusal to compromise that principle  — ‘Utopia Is Not One of the Options.’

“David wrote and elucidated upon this key concept in his wonderful volume, Libertarianism in One Lesson.”

Continues Burris:  “In 1984, I had the distinct honor and privilege of reading the manuscript copy of the first edition of this brilliantly executed work. In each subsequent edition, David has finely crafted and honed this masterwork into the most concise, understandable work of its kind.”

You can order single or multiple copies at a discount of Libertarianism in One Lesson from the Advocates.

“This brief book remains the best place to begin your exploration of the ideas of libertarianism,” Burris concludes.

Are You Having Libertarian Conversations?

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online Archives by Michael Cloud Comments are off

(From the Persuasion PowerPoint section in Volume 19, No. 12 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Libertarian persuasion usually takes place in conversation.Libertarian Conversation

Not speeches or seminars, books or white papers, important though they are.

Libertarian understanding usually grows out of talking and listening.

So start or join a libertarian conversation. One-on-one. Or with a small group.

In person. On Skype. Or on the telephone.

Conversation engages us. Draws us out. Brings into play more of our intelligence and attention.

Which makes it ideal for teaching and learning. For grasping and embracing libertarianism.

* * * * * * * *
Unlocking More Secrets of Libertarian PersuasionMichael Cloud’s latest book Unlocking More Secrets of Libertarian Persuasion is available exclusively from the Advocates, along with his acclaimed earlier book Secrets of Libertarian Persuasion.In 2000, Michael was honored with the Thomas Paine Award as the Most Persuasive Libertarian Communicator in America.

National Service: Should Young Americans Be Forced To Serve the Government?

in Liberator Online Archives, Libertarian Answers on Issues, Libertarian Stances on Issues by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 19, No. 12 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)
National Service

QUESTION: I believe we shouldn’t be forced to participate in some kind of national service. However, some of my friends say we owe some duty to our country for being born here and living here. What about a citizen’s duty to country?

MY SHORT ANSWER: If “doing our duty” is equated to providing “service,” who decides what is service and what is not? If young Steve Jobs had been forced into some type of national service instead of being left alone to tinker in his garage, he might never have invented the personal computer. The resulting increases in everyone’s standard of living would have been lost or delayed because of a bureaucrat’s uninformed decision about what was good for the country.

Freedom is what is good for a nation, especially one that wants to help its poor. More freedom means more wealth creation and less poverty. Government interference, even well-intended, backfires. (For some examples and more detail, see my book, “Healing Our World.” The 1992 edition is available as a free download at www.ruwart.com. The updated 2003 edition is available at the Advocates online bookstore.)

Most people give generously of their time and money if this is the voluntary custom. For example, tipping is not mandatory, but almost everyone does it. Before government got involved in social welfare, almost everyone helped a less fortunate neighbor individually or as part of a formal organization because that was the custom. You were either a charity case or a provider of charity; few people wanted to be in the former group.

To return to this way of charitable thinking, the government should stop forcing people to “give at the office” through taxation and resist the temptation to force people into service. Doing so will only create resentment towards those in need, leaving little sympathy for the poor when their “help” disappears in the shifting political tides.

LEARN MORE: Suggestions for further reading on this topic from Liberator Online editor James W. Harris:

* “Shhh… Don’t call Obama’s national service scheme a ‘draft‘” by Jerome Tuccille. National service is seemingly off the front burner, but don’t let down your guard; the idea continues to circulate. This article, written in 2008 when the idea was being more strongly pushed by both Democrats and Republicans, points out the insidious nature of the concept.

EXCERPT: “Under Barack Obama’s plan, a refusal to participate in a national service program touted at the federal level will be punished by the withholding of high school diplomas by the school district in your town. And without that diploma, few colleges or employers will even bother to look at your application.

“It’s a softer sort of authoritarianism which requires no draft boards, muddles the identity of the ‘bad guy’ and produces no martyrs in handcuffs for the evening news. You just can’t get a job if you don’t do as you’re told.”

* “National Service? Puh-lease“ by Michael Kinsley, TIME, Sept. 04, 2007. Liberal journalist Kinsley does a great job of gutting the whole “national service” notion. Ignore the couple of paragraphs in the middle about democracy and taxation; the rest is brilliant and marvelously written.

EXCERPT: “Problem number one with grand schemes for universal voluntary public service is that they can’t be both universal and voluntary. If everybody has to do it, then it’s not voluntary, is it? And if it’s truly up to the individual, then it won’t be universal. What advocates of this sort of thing generally have in mind is using the pressures of social conformity and the powers of the state indirectly to remove as much freedom of choice as possible, while still being able to claim that everyone who signs up is a ‘volunteer.’”

* * *
Short Answers to Tough QuestionsGot questions?  Dr. Ruwart has answers! If you’d like answers to YOUR tough questions on libertarian issues, email Dr. Ruwart

Due to volume, Dr. Ruwart can’t personally acknowledge all emails. But we’ll run the best questions and answers in upcoming issues.

Dr. Ruwart’s previous Liberator Online answers are archived in searchable form.

Dr. Ruwart’s latest book Short Answers to the Tough Questions, Expanded Edition is available from the Advocates, as is her acclaimed classic Healing Our World.

They Said It…

in Liberator Online Archives by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the They Said It… section in Volume 19, No. 7 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

THE MOST LIBERTARIAN GENERATION EVER: 

Alexander McCobin

“Today’s youth is the most libertarian generation that has ever existed. Today’s youth have grown up socially tolerant, but at the same time skeptical of government intervention in the economy. And we’re fed up with excessive military intervention in foreign affairs by the U.S. government, not to mention we’ve seen the failed presidential administration of both a big-government Republican and a big-government Democrat.” — Alexander McCobin, founder of Students for Liberty, at the Libertarian Party of Texas state convention, April 12, 2014.

LIBERTARIANISM “ON THE RISE”: Libertarianism [is] on the rise. There is,Chris Cillizza without question, an expanding libertarian streak within the Republican party — particularly among younger voters. The ideas of limiting foreign entanglements, spending less time cracking down on marijuana use and being OK with same-sex marriage are all growing in terms of their mindshare within the GOP. Need evidence? Six in ten young Republicans — defined as between 18-30 years of age — are in favor of same-sex marriage in new Pew data.” — award-winning journalist Chris Cillizza, “It’s time to start taking Rand Paul seriously,” Washington Post blogs, March 17, 2014.

NY TIMES EDITOR — OBAMA VS. JOURNALISM:

Jill Abramson

“The Obama years are a benchmark for a new level of secrecy and control. …Collectively [the Obama administration's criminal leak investigations] have really, I think, put a chill on reporting about national security issues in Washington. Sources who want to come forward with important stories that they feel the public needs to know are just scared to death that they’re going to be prosecuted. Reporters fear that they will find themselves subpoenaed in this atmosphere.” — Jill Abramson, executive editor of The New York Times, interviewed at The Takeaway.org, April 10, 2014.

RAND PAUL GOES FOR THE PRIVACY VOTE: “[Young voters] have all got a Senator Rand Paulcell phone and they all think the government shouldn’t be looking at their cell phone or listening to their cell phone without a warrant. We get to the young people with privacy. It’s not a conservative or Republican issue. It’s an area where we can connect with people who haven’t been connecting. Obama won the youth vote 3 to 1 but he’s losing them now. Hillary Clinton’s as bad or worse on all of these issues. It’s a way we can transform and make the party bigger or even win again, but we’ve got to be as proud of the Fourth Amendment as we are the Second Amendment.” —Rand Paul at an NH GOP rally at the Cottage by the Bay in Dover, N.H, April 11, 2014.


CAPTAIN AMERICA MEETS CAPTAIN CHINA:

Conan O'Brien

“‘Captain America’ is currently the No. 1 movie in China. The Chinese say their favorite part is when Captain America asks Captain China for a $17 trillion loan.” — Conan O’Brien, April 9, 2014.

THANKS A LOT, OBAMA: “The White House just releasedJimmy FallonPresident Obama’s tax returns, which show that he and Michelle paid $98,000 dollars in taxes last year. When he saw that, even Obama said, ‘Thanks, Obama.’” — Jimmy Fallon, April 11, 2014.

RE-QUOTED AND NOTED

AYN RAND ON RACISM:

Ayn Rand

“Racism is the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism. It is the notion of ascribing moral, social or political significance to a man’s genetic lineage — the notion that a man’s intellectual and characterological traits are produced and transmitted by his internal body chemistry. Which means, in practice, that a man is to be judged, not by his own character and actions, but by the characters and actions of a collective of ancestors.” — Ayn Rand, quoted by Sheldon Richman of the Future of Freedom Foundation in his article “In Praise of ‘Thick’ Libertarianism.” See Rand’s full quote here.

Will Libertarianism Only Work if People are Rational and Reasonable?

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online Archives, Libertarian Answers on Issues, Libertarian Stances on Issues, Libertarianism by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

(From the Ask Dr. Ruwart section in Volume 19, No. 5 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

QUESTION: I’m not sure libertarianism can work unless people are rational and reasonable. And I’ve encountered at least as many irrational, unreasonable folks in my life as I have rational and reasonable ones. I’d like to know: how does libertarian philosophy address that issue?

MY SHORT ANSWER: The ideal political system is one which teaches people to be rational and reasonable. Only libertarianism does this by rewarding responsibility and penalizing irresponsibility.

Conversely, our current system usually does just the opposite.

You’d probably have run into fewer irrational, unreasonable folks if the 20th century had been more libertarian!

LEARN MORE: Suggested additional reading on this topic from Liberator Online editor James W. Harris:

Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Sciences-winning libertarian economist Gary Becker addresses this question briefly in his essay “Libertarian Paternalism: A Critique.

The relevant excerpts:

“Libertarians believe that individuals should be allowed to pursue their own interests, unless their behavior impacts the interests of others, especially if it negatively impacts others. So individuals should be allowed, according to this view, to buy the food they want, whereas drunk drivers should be constrained because they harm others, and chemical producers should be prevented from polluting as much as they would choose because their pollution hurts children and adults. …

“Classical arguments for libertarianism do not assume that adults never make mistakes, always know their interests, or even are able always to act on their interests when they know them. Rather, it assumes that adults very typically know their own interests better than government officials, professors, or anyone else…

“In addition, the classical libertarian case partly rests on a presumption that being able to make mistakes through having the right to make one’s own choices leads in the long run to more self-reliant, competent, and independent individuals. It has been observed, for example, that prisoners often lose the ability to make choices for themselves after spending many years in prison where life is rigidly regulated.

“In effect, the libertarian claim is that the ‘process’ of making choices leads to individuals who are more capable of making good choices.”

* * * * * * * * * *
Short Answers to Tough QuestionsGot questions?  Dr. Ruwart has answers! If you’d like answers to YOUR tough questions on libertarian issues, email Dr. Ruwart

Due to volume, Dr. Ruwart can’t personally acknowledge all emails. But we’ll run the best questions and answers in upcoming issues.

Dr. Ruwart’s previous Liberator Online answers are archived in searchable form.

Dr. Ruwart’s latest book Short Answers to the Tough Questions, Expanded Edition is available from the Advocates, as is her acclaimed classic Healing Our World.

Questions to Open People’s Minds to Liberty

in Communicating Liberty, Liberator Online Archives by Michael Cloud Comments are off

(From the Persuasion Powerpoint section in Volume 19, No. 5 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

When you discuss politics or economics with others, do you ask thought-provoking libertarian questions?

Or do you make statements?

Do you invite them to consider new possibilities?

Or do you just argue?

What if certain provocative questions could get others to let down their mental defenses
and impartially consider libertarianism?

Would you be willing to experiment with several mind-opening libertarian questions — and see what results you get?

Try these.

“What if the situation is the opposite of what people in government say it is?”

“What if marijuana prohibition and the Drug War don’t contain or hold down drug use? What if they drive it up?”

“What if they have it backwards?”

“What if drug cartels and drug gangs don’t cause more drug use? What if drug prohibition and the War on Drugs promote and strengthen the cartels and gangs?”

“What if drive-by shootings are the result of drug prohibition, not drugs? How many drive-by shootings have we seen by alcohol distillers and brewers in the last 80 years?”

“What if the government ‘cure’ is worse than the disease?”

“What if the 2009 federal government bailout of Wall Street businesses caused more economic harm to taxpayers who footed the bill and other Wall Street businesses than liquidating the reckless, riverboat-gambling businesses would have?”

“What if tax-funded federal government propping-up of overpriced houses and inflated home loans made things worse for taxpayers and home buyers who were prudent and frugal and did NOT recklessly gamble their earnings and savings?”

“What if government non-involvement results in quick, efficient, inexpensive private-sector solutions?”

“What if, left alone by government, most social or economic problems were solved by private charity, private enterprise, and private ingenuity — at no cost to taxpayers?”

“What if, with NO government involvement, most social or economic problems were dramatically reduced or solved by the men and women and families in the private sector?”

Want the people you talk with to examine and embrace libertarian answers?

Why not ask them thought-provoking libertarian questions like those above?

* * * * * * * *
Unlocking More Secrets of Libertarian PersuasionMichael Cloud’s latest book Unlocking More Secrets of Libertarian Persuasion is available exclusively from the Advocates, along with his acclaimed earlier book Secrets of Libertarian Persuasion.In 2000, Michael was honored with the Thomas Paine Award as the Most Persuasive Libertarian Communicator in America.

Campaign Expert: A Libertarian President — Sooner Than You Think

in Elections and Politics, Liberator Online Archives, Libertarianism by James W. Harris Comments are off

(From the Intellectual Ammunition section in Volume 19, No. 4 of the Liberator Online. Subscribe here!)

Good news! Libertarianism is spreading fast, especially among the young. As a result, we may see a libertarian president — a lot sooner than we might think.

That’s the startling but fact-based opinion of highly-respected Democratic presidential campaign expert Joe Trippi. Trippi has long been a leading figure in Democratic presidential politics, He was manager of the innovative, Internet-savvy 2004 presidential campaign of Vermont governor Howard Dean, and he has worked on the campaigns of Edward Kennedy, Walter Mondale, Gary Hart, Dick Gephardt, Jerry Brown and most recently John Edwards. He has also worked on numerous other campaigns both in America and abroad.

Trippi made his startling prediction in an interview with Reason TV’s Todd Krainin.

“The younger generation is probably the most libertarian and sort of tolerant, and has more libertarian values, I’d say, than any generation in American history,” Trippi told Reason TV.

Trippi notes that libertarians are strongly aligned with young voters on issues that liberals and conservatives in the major parties won’t address — such as legalizing marijuana and other drugs, and opposing NSA spying, drone killings, and other constitutionally-questionable policies.

This creates a golden opportunity for a savvy libertarian. Trippi thinks a candidate such as Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) could run — and win — the Republican Party nomination, in a move that could revolutionize the GOP’s ideological identify.

“[Rand Paul] is so far the likely embodiment of who’s going to raise the flag and take the hill,” says Trippi. “And I think [he] has a real shot at taking [the GOP nomination].”

Winning the general election as a libertarian Republican would be difficult, Trippi acknowledges, though not impossible. However, there is another newly-viable route. Trippi says it is virtually inevitable that we will soon see a candidate running as an independent, outside the party system entirely, with a significant chance to win.

Independent campaigns have more potential power for success than ever before, he says. The Internet, Trippi notes, is increasingly making political parties and traditional fundraising methods obsolete. Further, surveys indicate that voters are disgusted with both parties.

Libertarians are poised more than any other political group to take advantage of this new post-party political world, and by running as an independent such a candidate could appeal to voters of both parties who might prefer libertarian ideas to those being offered by Establishment Democrats and Republicans. He also predicts we will soon see more independent candidates in Congress.

Read Reason’s summary of their interview with Trippi here. At that same site you can see a video of the entire 22-minute interview with Trippi.

What’s Stopping the Private Sector from Offering Better and Cheaper Education than the Government?

in Communicating Liberty, Education, Liberator Online Archives, Libertarian Answers on Issues by Mary Ruwart Comments are off

Dr. Mary Ruwart is a leading expert in libertarian communication. In this column she offers short answers to real questions about libertarianism. To submit questions to Dr. Ruwart, see end of column.

The Old SchoolhouseQUESTION: If the private sector can provide education better and cheaper than the government, why aren’t they doing it? Nothing is stopping private industry from providing better service than government schools to poor children. They can do this right now and it is 100% legal. So why don’t they?

MY SHORT ANSWER: Actually, providing education to poor or even middle-class children is NOT 100% legal. Parents who send their children to school are required by law to utilize schools that meet specific requirements, such as certified teachers, accreditation, and specific types of curricula.

Even home-schoolers must abide by regulations, which differ from state to state. If parents don’t follow these regulations, their children can be taken from them by Social Services, even if the children can ace every standardized test.

In spite of these hurdles, the private sector already does provides better education for many poor and disadvantaged. The typical Catholic inner-city school takes 88% of all applicants, many of whom are not even Catholic. About 20% of Catholic schools accept students expelled from public schools. Even after adjusting for race, family background, and social class, the average Catholic high school student gained three years of learning above that of the average public school student. The educational gap between minorities and whites narrows for minorities in Catholic schools.

Ombudsman Educational Services, specializing in drop-outs, boasts an 85% graduation rate. Students advance one grade level for each 20 hours in this program, while spending half as much as the public schools. A quarter of the students at the renowned Marva Collins Preparatory School in Chicago (recently closed) had learning disabilities, yet almost all students read one level above their grade. Tuition was less than a third of what public schools in the area received per pupil.

Of course, pre-schoolers are unaffected by educational regulations. Consequently, the private sector can provide advertiser-sponsored Sesame Street and other educational programs that are essentially free for the user. Likewise, the Internet provides educational resources for just about anyone, for low or no cost, including virtually everything taught in K-12. However, even if a child had the equivalent of a college degree from such a learning experience, they still would be required by law to attend a government-regulated school or regulated home school.

There is hope. The innovative private sector may eventually overcome all of these government-created obstacles. Today many experts say we are on the verge of a revolution in cheap or free online education. One explosive new example of this is Khan Academy, which describes itself as “a not-for-profit with the goal of changing education for the better by providing a free world-class education for anyone anywhere.”

References:
Catholic Schools and the Common Good by A.S. Bryk, V.E. Lee, and P.B. Holland (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1993), pp. 246-247; 262-263; 286.

Educational Choice for Michigan by L. Reed and H. Hutchinson, (Midland, MI: Mackinac Center for Public Policy, 1991), p. 49.

J.G. Cibulka, T.J. O’Brien, and D. Zewe, Inner-City Private Elementary Schools: A Study (Milwaukee, WI: Marquette University Press, 1982), p. 137.

Do Private Schools Serve Difficult-to-Educate Students?” by J.R. Beales and T.F. Bertonneau, Mackinac Center for Public Policy, October 1997.

C. Lochhead, “A Lesson from Private Practitioners,” Insight, December 24, 1990, pp. 34-36;

Choice, Charters, and Privatizations” by D.W. Kirkpatrick, schoolreport.com, September 1996.

“A Canadian’s Perspective on Milwaukee’s Choice Program,” School Reform News, June 1999, p. 7.

T. Hetland, “Learning Thrives at Westside Prep,” Heartland Perspective, January 15, 1993, p. 2.

LEARN MORE: Suggestions by Liberator Online editor James W. Harris for further reading and viewing on this topic:

* “The Education Visionary: Khan Academy founder Salman Khan on the future of learning,” interview by Nick Gillespie, Reason magazine, February 2013 issue

Excerpt: “[T]he nonprofit Khan Academy [offers] free online lectures and tutorials that are now used by more than 6 million students each month. More than 3,000 individual videos, covering mathematics, physics, history, economics, and other subjects, have drawn more than 200 million views, generating significant funding from both the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and Google. Khan Academy is one of the best-known names in online education and has grown to include not just tutorials but complete course syllabi and a platform to track student progress.”

VIDEO: “Khan Academy Founder Talks Radical Education Reform and The One World Schoolhouse,” interview by Nick Gillespie & Joshua Swain, Reason TV, November 9, 2012. Reason TV’s Nick Gillespie talks with Khan about how to radically transform American education, why technology is never the solution reformers expect, and how massive amounts of money go missing every day in conventional public schools. About 14 minutes.

The Alliance for the Separation of School & State: This website offers a wealth of information and arguments concerning private alternatives to government education, and how this will especially benefit the poor and disadvantaged. The organization was formed by Marshall Fritz, a pioneer in the field of freedom in education (and also founder of the Advocates for Self-Government).

* * * * * * * * * *
Got questions?  Dr. Ruwart has answers! If you’d like answers to YOUR “tough questions” on libertarian issues, email Dr. Ruwart

Due to volume, Dr. Ruwart can’t personally acknowledge all emails. But we’ll run the best questions and answers in upcoming issues.

Dr. Ruwart’s previous Liberator Online answers are archived in searchable form.

Dr. Ruwart’s brand new book Short Answers to the Tough Questions, Expanded Edition is available from the Advocates, as is her acclaimed classic Healing Our World.

A Libertarian Dozen of the Best Ways to Discover and Create More Libertarians

in Communicating Liberty by Sharon Harris Comments are off

You’ve heard of a “baker’s dozen,” which is 13 instead of 12. Since libertarians always deliver more for the buck, here are 19 tips and techniques you can put to use immediately to discover and create more libertarians!

Enjoy these tips – and put them to use for liberty. Please let me know about your successes! Thank you!

1. Be aware of the “curse of knowledge.”

When you know a lot about something, it can be frustrating trying to explain it to someone who doesn’t have the knowledge you have. It can also be frustrating to your listener. Remember, it took you time to learn about all these ideas, so be patient. And don’t try to talk about too much at a time.

Always treat your listener like YOU would like to be treated.

2. The First Rule of Libertarian Communication?

This may be The First Rule of Libertarian Communication: Don’t turn people off to libertarianism. Don’t ruin a potential recruit. Don’t leave him or her with a distaste for libertarians and libertarianism.

It usually takes people several exposures to a new idea before they are willing to seriously consider it and embrace it. (In fact, if they adopt it too quickly, without reflection, they may abandon it just as quickly when the next new idea comes along.)

So when you meet people new to libertarianism, it’s not your job to convert them in one session. Though it could happen, it probably won’t. Resist the temptation to browbeat them, to argue, to grab them by the lapels and convince them of every detail of your views. (I know, it’s hard to resist sometimes! But try.)

Your goal as a libertarian communicator in most of these situations is simply to make a good impression and provide some useful and intriguing information. Smile. Listen to their concerns. Offer some good ideas. Find what issues are important to your listeners, and agree with them whenever you honestly can. Show them you’re a good person who shares their concerns (remember the Ransberger Pivot). Leave them with a few of those pocket-sized copies of the World’s Smallest Political Quiz that you always carry with you. (Quiz cards are designed so each is a self-contained outreach kit, and they’re available online from the Advocates Liberty Store.

Then, the next time this person encounters libertarian ideas — in a letter to the editor, on TV or radio, or in person — he will remember his first encounter pleasantly, and will be better prepared to explore these ideas further.

You want him to think along these lines: “That libertarian guy I met last month was pleasant and interesting, and his ideas were intriguing. I agreed with a lot of what he had to say. And now here’s another good idea from a libertarian. I need to look more deeply into libertarianism.”

This may sound like a simple tip. But believe me: it is crucial. When you identify yourself to someone as a libertarian, you instantly become, for that person, the public face of the whole libertarian movement.

Many, many people have been permanently turned off to libertarian ideas simply because the first libertarian they encountered acted in a way they found offensive, or presented the ideas in ways they found objectionable or obnoxious. And that’s a tragedy.

First, Do No Harm. That’s great advice for doctors – and libertarian communicators, too.

Instead of an argument

Alas, some libertarians consider arguing their favorite sport. It certainly can be fun, but often it is self-defeating.

Next time you find yourself tempted to argue, put yourself in the other person’s shoes: how many times have YOU changed your mind about something because someone attacked your position or told you your ideas were stupid?

Libertarian humorist Dave Barry says about himself (hopefully he’s joking!): “I argue very well. Ask any of my remaining friends. I can win an argument on any topic, against any opponent. People know this, and steer clear of me at parties. Often – as a sign of their great respect – they don’t even invite me.” Ouch!

Productive alternatives to arguing include: actually listening to the other person, developing rapport, asking questions to discover his or her concerns, finding common ground, and sharing stories of how free-market alternatives have solved problems in the past.

These techniques and many more are described in detail in past “Liberty Minute” columns, in the Liberator Online‘s “Persuasion Power Points” columns, in Michael Cloud’s book Secrets of Libertarian Persuasion, in Cloud’s audio program Essence of Libertarian Persuasion, and at the Advocates’ Communication Center.

Arguing is the Little League of communication. Persuasion is the World Series. It takes longer to master, but it’s a far better game and the pay-off is well worth it.

Don’t Begin with an Apology

Suppose you had a really nice house you wanted to sell. When a prospective buyer came by, would your opening line be, “You may have heard about houses like this falling down, but that’s not true about this house.”

If you owned a restaurant, would you advertise, “Our burgers aren’t the kind that make people sick – honest!”

Of course you wouldn’t. But that’s exactly what I’ve heard many libertarians do when they’re introducing others to libertarian ideas.

They begin with, “There are lots of misconceptions about libertarianism.” Or, “I know you’ve heard that libertarians don’t care about the poor, but I’m not like that.” Or, “Despite what you may have heard, it’s not true that Lyndon LaRouche is a libertarian.”

While it’s important to correct misunderstandings and falsehoods about libertarianism (when they come up), it’s even more important to start your discussion of libertarianism in a positive way.

Opening with a negative or apologetic statement immediately plants seeds of doubt in the mind of your listeners. Most people believe that, where there’s smoke, there’s quite possibly a fire.

It also invites attack and argument, since you start by putting yourself on the defensive.

But most importantly, many people – if not most – have a very positive overall impression of libertarianism. It’s self-defeating to begin by apologizing for some misconception or falsehood they may not even be concerned about.

Once you’ve given them an honest, positive description of libertarianism they’ll be able to clearly see the benefits of liberty. And if they hear negative things about libertarianism, or have concerns, they can ask you – or, even better, they’ll correct the misconceptions themselves!

3. A “Good Neighbor Policy” for Libertarians

One of the best ways to win others to libertarian ideas is simply to be a nice person – a nice person who also happens to be a libertarian.

This is one of the things that the late, great Karl Hess – one of the most influential libertarians of the past century – often talked about: the importance of being a “good neighbor.” In his West Virginia rural community, Hess pitched in and helped his neighbors build barns and do other chores. As a result, they liked this friendly, helpful neighbor – and they respected his out-of-mainstream libertarian ideas.

Libertarian philosopher Tibor Machan puts another spin on the same notion: “People tend to be more interested in what you have to say if they already know what kind of wine you like.”

It’s common knowledge that people will be more likely to try a new product, or a new idea, if someone they know and respect suggests it. That’s as true of political ideas as it is of restaurants or jogging shoes.

So one of the best ways to help people become open to our ideas is to first let them get to know you as friendly, nice, interesting, interested, and helpful. Then, when they find out you are also a libertarian, they’ll be interested in learning more. The ideas will be “vetted” because they already respect you.

Yes, it’s simple, it seems obvious – but how many of us practice this as often as we might? Be a good friend, relative, neighbor, co-worker – and your ideas will carry far more weight.

4. Listen. Listen. Listen.

One of the most important – and frequently overlooked, and surprisingly difficult – secrets of truly successful communication is LISTENING.

In our eagerness to tell people about the ideas of liberty, we may miss out on the big benefits of simply stopping and listening.

Here are some of those benefits:

1. You learn what the other person’s primary concerns and interests are. This gives you a chance to address those concerns, instead of talking about something the other person doesn’t care about.

2. You find out about any misconceptions they may have about libertarianism. This gives you a chance to clear those up.

3. You can discover areas of agreement, thus creating invaluable rapport.

4. You show the other person that you are interested in them. People tend to be reciprocal, and therefore will be more interested in you.

To be a good listener, you must REALLY listen – not just pretend. Breathe and focus on what the other person is saying.

While this is SIMPLE, it’s certainly not EASY. (If you think it is… try it.) But trust me, this is powerful.

So be sure to listen up! The benefits make it well worth the effort.

* * *

In a recent Dilbert cartoon, the obnoxious Dogbert character told a communication seminar: “There’s really no point in listening to other people. They’re either going to be agreeing with you or saying stupid stuff.”

Thank goodness Dogbert isn’t a libertarian! The fact is, every successful persuasion conversation starts with listening. Attentive listening assures the other person that you care about what they think, and allows you to effectively address their concerns.

But how do you know you’re really hearing what they’re saying? It’s simple: Repeat what the other person said. Then ask: “Is that right?” This technique is called “echoing.” It lets someone know you heard and understood.

Example: They say, “In a libertarian society, wouldn’t poor people starve without government welfare?” You say, “You’re concerned that poor people wouldn’t get the help they need in a libertarian society, and would starve. Is that correct?”

Wait for the response (and listen to it!). Then you can talk about how liberty helps the poor. Echoing lets the other person know you’re listening. It’s a technique that builds the respect and rapport that’s necessary to change somebody’s mind.

Is there an exception to this rule? Only one: Don’t listen to Dogbert!

5. Learn about sales and learn about psychology.

[Info to follow. Please check back soon.]

6. K.I.S.S. (Keep it short, silly).

Few people like to hear a lecture from another person, so keep your answers short. Here are some good tips on doing this.

Success with Soundbites

As a libertarian, you are automatically a spokesperson for libertarianism. How well you answer questions about liberty may well determine whether or not your listeners decide to become libertarians.

So you should always be prepared to answer, in a quick, clear and memorable way, common questions about libertarianism.

Take a lesson from some of the world’s best communicators: don’t leave it to chance!

Don’t hope that inspiration will strike you at the moment you’re unexpectedly asked a question. Don’t risk the frustration of stumbling around, answering badly, and then kicking yourself a day or two later when the right answer suddenly pops into your head.

Instead, work on your answers in advance. Create soundbites – short, pithy, memorable answers – to those questions.

You can probably make a list of questions you are most likely to be asked about libertarianism. (The most common: “What is libertarianism, anyway?”)

For each of those questions, create one or more soundbites. They should be about thirty seconds long. Less is better. Write them down. Refine them. Commit them to memory. And practice saying them until they come quickly and easily, and sound natural and fresh.

Former Libertarian Party presidential candidates Ed Clark, David Bergland, and Harry Browne each did this. The seemingly off-the-cuff eloquence they showed during their campaigns was actually the result of their advance work preparing and practicing soundbites.

Happily, you don’t have to reinvent the soundbite wheel. The Advocates collected the best of Harry Browne’s campaign soundbites into his wonderful book Liberty A to Z: 872 Libertarian Soundbites You Can Use Right Now. Dr. Mary Ruwart is a pioneer in the creation of soundbites. Many answers from her “Ask Dr. Ruwart” column are archived in searchable form at the Advocates Web site. Mary also has an outstanding book, Short Answers to the Tough Questions, a treasure of soundbites, available from the Advocates.

There are also some great short soundbite-sized answers to common questions at Libertarianism.com.

Take these sources as your starting point. Pick the soundbites you like. Personalize them. Rewrite them and make them your own. Learn them.

You’ll be a far more comfortable and polished spokesperson for liberty. And you’ll enjoy your casual conversations about libertarianism a lot more.

“Hey, What’s a Libertarian?”

One day, you’re going to be asked: “Just what is a libertarian, anyway?”

It may happen while you’re calling into a talk radio show. “So tell us,”, the host may ask you. “What do libertarians believe, anyway?”

Or you may be running for office and a reporter gives you the opportunity to “define yourself” for his story.

Your answer could be very important. It might reach thousands. Or it might reach just one person who is very important to you.

Don’t hope for inspiration. Instead, be prepared.

Have a clear, short, persuasive and easy-to-understand definition on the tip of your tongue.

I strongly suggest you *memorize* your favorite definition – and practice delivering it – so you don’t have to even think about it when asked.

That’s what two of America’s most successful libertarian communicators — presidential candidates Harry Browne and David Bergland – both told me they did.

You can write your own definition. You can also use someone else’s, or modify someone else’s to fit your own style.

Here are some definitions to try on for size:

The American Heritage Dictionary: “One who advocates maximizing individual rights and minimizing the role of the state

Here’s what I usually say: “Libertarianism is, as the name implies, the belief in liberty. Libertarians believe that you own your own life and property, and you have the right to make your own choices as to how you live your life — as long as you simply respect the same right of others to do the same. We believe in individual liberty and limited government.”

And here’s a great one from David Bergland: “Libertarianism is what you probably already believe. Libertarian values are American values. Libertarianism is America’s heritage of liberty, patriotism and honest work to build a future for your family. It’s the idea that being free and independent is a great way to live. That each of us is a unique individual, with great potential. That you own yourself, and that you have the right to decide what’s best for you. Americans of all races and creeds built a great and prosperous country with these libertarian ideals. Let’s use them to build America’s future.”

Find more great short definitions.

Speaking of our libertarianism.com site, keep that URL in mind! It’s very useful to be able to add, after your definition: “If you want to learn more about libertarianism, there’s a Web site that can answer your questions: www.Libertarianism.com .”

7. Importance of branding libertarianism.

McDonald’s doesn’t sell hamburgers. It sells Big Macs. Coca-Cola doesn’t sell cola drinks. It sells Cokes.

These companies want you to think of *their* stores and *their* products when you are ready to buy. And they want you to come back. Again and again.

For the same reason, when you are talking or writing about libertarian ideas, use the words “libertarian” or “libertarianism.”

This accomplishes two vital things.

1) It helps people become aware of those words. It helps them understand that libertarianism is a distinctive political philosophy – a political “brand.”

2) Unless you brand your idea as libertarian, your letter to the editor or your conversation may become an “ad” for conservatism or liberalism instead of libertarianism.

For example, a letter to the editor against gun control that fails to mention the word “libertarian” will, by default, be seen by virtually all readers as a conservative letter. Similarly, a speech opposing the War on Drugs will be understood by many listeners to be a liberal speech – unless the word “libertarian” is used in it.

When you get hungry for a burger, McDonald’s wants you to think of them. When people get hungry for solutions to political problems, we want them to think of libertarians. A letter or conversation that brands solutions as “libertarian” will send customers to the libertarian “store” – where they can sample our other “products,” that is, other libertarian positions and the libertarian ideology.

Unless you brand your ideas as libertarian, people will miss the opportunity to learn about our movement that is devoted to liberty on every issue – and to become a part of it!

8. Using questions.

The Power of Questions

Libertarians have lots of great answers to political questions.

Sometimes, however, it’s better to ask questions instead of giving answers. Asking the right question, or asking a question in the right way, can stimulate mind-opening insights.

Here’s one example of a great question, from Wall Street Journal editor John Fund.

Suppose someone is talking about the need for a major government role in providing for the poor. Instead of lecturing the person (which could start an argument and put the person on the defensive), try asking this question:

“Imagine you won the lottery or otherwise came into a large sum of money, and you wanted to help the poor. You could give $100,000 to a private charity of your choice. Or you could write your check to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Which would you choose – and why?”

Virtually no one chooses government! And in answering the question, people convince themselves of the advantages of charity over government.

Questions make people think. It’s amazing how often people will come up with the libertarian answer to a problem, if you give them a chance. And if they do so, they are more likely to accept that answer.

Flipping the Question

In this issue, we have excerpts from a new TIME magazine interview with Ron Paul.

One of the questions TIME asked Paul was this:

“Why do you support the decriminalization of marijuana?”

Now that sounds like a perfectly normal, fair and innocent question. And, in fact, it is.

But think about the wording. The question creates a “frame” in a listener’s mind. Asked in this way, the question implies, and assumes, and implicitly announces, that the position being questioned is unusual, out-of-mainstream, radical, weird, or even dangerous.

The result: No matter how you answer it, that initial impression remains. And you sound out-of-mainstream, on the fringe, or worse.

Please note: I’m not saying that someone who asks a question worded like that is trying to paint you in a negative manner. They may, in fact, agree 100% with you. But the wording of the question puts you at a major communication disadvantage, and undercuts your answer no matter how brilliant and logical it might be.

But you can reverse that, and turn it to your advantage – by using a technique I call “Flipping the Question,” or, for short, the Flip.

The Flip restates and reverses the question. When that happens, YOUR point becomes the reasonable, moderate, normal, safe view. Just like that! And the Flip is so subtle and effective that your questioner is likely to agree with you.

Ron Paul’s response to that TIME question is the perfect Flip.

He answered: “Why support the criminalization of marijuana is the better question.”

He then went on to give a strong, short argument for legalization of marijuana.

See what he did? He simply restated the question. Supporting marijuana prohibition was presented as the odd position. His position was presented as the normal, moderate, responsible, commonsense one.

It happened instantly.

You can use the Flip to great advantage in many libertarian conversations. Examples:

QUESTION: Why do you want to end government schools?

FLIP: A better question would be, “After so many decades of failure, why does anyone still think the government is competent to educate our children?”

QUESTION: Why do you defend gun ownership so strongly?

FLIP: A better question might be, “Why would anyone want to deprive people of the ability to defend themselves and their loved ones from vicious criminals?”

When you Flip the Question, you, in essence, become the questioner. The original questioner (or the implicit assumption in the question) is suddenly put on the defensive.

Note, too, that the Flip isn’t necessarily a rebuttal or an argument. Many questions worded this way aren’t coming from people hostile to your views. You will find that the Flip persuades many of these people to agree with you.

Flipping the Question is not something that comes naturally. You have to memorize the response, practice it, get comfortable and fluid with it. And of course you must have good answers about the subject being discussed.

But it is worth the effort. Because the Flip can turn your answer into a victory for your ideas.

9. Take YES for an answer.

As libertarians, we’re always anxious to persuade others to come around to our point of view about every issue.

So in our first conversation with someone, it’s easy to fall into the trap of not taking YES for an answer.

All too often we anxiously wait for – or even rush the conversation toward – a hot-button topic on which we *disagree* with the person, so we can begin the persuasion process!

But when we do this, we skip one very important step in a discussion: building rapport. Without rapport, persuasion is very difficult, if not impossible.

One wonderful thing about libertarianism is that EVERYONE agrees with us on some – even many – issues. So try starting the conversation with areas of agreement. Linger on those issues, enjoy the conversation, and let the other person know how smart you think they are! Be sure to tell them that you – and other libertarians – strongly agree with them on those issues.

Hold off on steering the conversation toward disagreement until later in the conversation – or even until a future conversation.

Learn to take YES for an answer, first, and you’ll find it much easier to get to agreement on those controversial topics.

10. Use the Ransberger Pivot.

Ouch! Libertarians sometimes get hit with hostile questions from people who don’t understand the ideas of liberty and free markets.

Mention free markets, ending the War on Drugs, or replacing government schools with private alternatives, for example, and some people will go ballistic. They will think you’re crazy, or have evil intentions, or both – and they’ll let you know it.

“End government welfare? Do you hate the poor?”

“Make drugs legal? Do you want our streets filled with crazed addicts and criminals?”

“No government schools? Do you want a nation of illiterates? Don’t you care about our children?”

Sound familiar? It’s easy for a conversation to quickly degenerate from here into a shouting match, or a meaningless exchange of slogans and rhetoric.

But there’s a far better way to respond. Use the Ransberger Pivot!

The Ransberger Pivot is one of the most effective communication tools I know. Invented in 1982 by Ray Ransberger and Advocates Founder Marshall Fritz, the Pivot is a great way to defuse hostility and get your questioner on *your* side.

The Ransberger Pivot is quite simple – but it doesn’t come naturally. It takes some practice. But the payoff makes it well worth the effort.

There are three steps to the Pivot:

Step 1: Stay calm and *listen* to what the questioner is asking.

Step 2: Ask yourself what the person is really concerned about. What does he really want? Make an intelligent guess.

Step 3: If you want the same thing (and 99% of the time you will), strongly express your desire for that same outcome. Show your questioner you share the same core values on this issue.

Let’s look at the Ransberger Pivot in action.

Your questioner asks: “You libertarians want to get rid of public schools, don’t you? What about our children?”

You ask yourself: What is this person *really* concerned about? What does he want?

Obviously, he wants children to be educated. A great goal! You want this, too, right?

So you respond something like this: “Like you, I too want to live in a world where all children are educated. In fact, where children have access to a far better education than they have now.”

Bingo! That’s the Pivot. You’ve bypassed a potential argument, and instead established a strong common ground with your questioner. Instead of immediately launching into a disagreement, you’ve found agreement and shared values.

Now you can go on to a constructive discussion of the best ways to achieve the end you both agree is worthwhile.

Of course, you then must have a good answer to that question. You need to know the facts – in this case, a persuasive case for why the private sector offers the best opportunity to dramatically improve education.

But The Ransberger Pivot is a vital transition, or prelude, to that answer. It plays a crucial role by defusing hostility, and thus making your questioner, and other listeners, more ready to hear your answer with an open mind.

Remember: when people ask hostile questions, they often are questioning your motives. They assume you disagree with their concerns, they think you have different values, and they may even believe you have bad intentions.

The Ransberger Pivot is a kind of verbal judo or aikido. It takes the steam out of the hostility by demonstrating that you share the questioner’s concerns. This in turn offers the opportunity for rapport. Your listeners are then more likely to pay attention to your answer, and you increase your chance of persuading them to your point of view.

Now that you know what the Ransberger Pivot is, let’s try it out.

Your questioner asks you: “You want to end welfare? What about the poor? Are you really that cold and heartless?”

Remember the Ransberger Pivot steps. Stay calm and don’t fall into a knee-jerk retort. Think: What’s the underlying concern here? Obviously, your questioner is against poverty, and wants to help those in need. That’s admirable, isn’t it? It’s actually a great ideal, and one you share.

So use the Ransberger Pivot to establish that common ground. Try a response along these lines:

“Like you, I am saddened and outraged by poverty. I want the poor and needy to have more aid, more effective aid, and far more opportunities than they do now. I want a world of abundance and opportunity for all people.”

Now, you can go on to have a fruitful discussion of the best way to achieve that goal. Again, you’ll need the facts for your argument. The Ransberger Pivot doesn’t give you that. But it does give you a more friendly, harmonious chance to convey those facts.

Some other Ransberger Pivot responses to typical questions:

“Like you, I want to live in a society where the streets are safe for our children…”

“Like you, I want clean air and water…”

“Like you, I want to know that the food and products I buy are safe…”

Here are a few more tips for using the Pivot.

1) It helps to memorize a specific phrase to kick it off. Notice above I used: “Like you, I want…” That’s a proven favorite. One advantage of memorizing an effective phrase like this is that it will always be there for you to use. Don’t rely on improvisation.

2) The Ransberger Pivot should be short. Just a sentence or two. It’s just a way to turn the discussion around. You need time for the follow-up answer, the meat of your discussion.

3) Use the first person (whenever it is appropriate). Instead of “libertarians want…” say “I want.” This more personal response helps establish rapport.

4) The Ransberger Pivot should only be used when you really agree with the listener’s concerns (and most of the time, you will). It’s the *opposite* of a trick or deception. It’s a way of clarification.

5) It takes practice! It is NOT as easy as it sounds. Using the Ransberger Pivot does not come naturally – especially when you’re in the midst of a discussion. So prepare now. Make a list of difficult questions. Ask them to yourself, or even better, get someone to ask them to you. Practice Ransberger Pivot responses until it becomes a reflex.

6) Start your soundbites with the Ransberger Pivot! In the past, I’ve discussed the importance of preparing and memorizing soundbite responses to the common questions every libertarian is inevitably asked. Use the Ransberger Pivot at the start of your soundbites, when appropriate. It’s a powerful combination!

Many libertarian communicators swear by the Ransberger Pivot. Give it a try!

11. Take NO for an answer.

Do you have someone with whom you’ve argued endlessly about politics and have never gotten an agreement?

Or is there someone in your life who gets mad (or gets quiet, or changes the subject) every time you bring up a political issue?

Suggestion: Unless you just enjoy arguing for the sake of arguing, don’t talk about politics with those individuals.

Unfortunately, not everyone is in the market for our ideas. Some people really believe in Big Government and limited individual liberty.

On the other hand, there are plenty of folks who are not only open to our ideas, but are eager to hear about them and take action! They’re HUNGRY for the solutions that liberty provides.

There’s a limited amount of time available to find and meet these people, share the ideas of liberty with them, and get them active in bringing libertarian ideas to still more people.

Ask any good salesman and he or she will tell you that the secret to making a sale is to talk to enough good prospects. To do that, we must learn to take “NO” for an answer, move on – and get a “YES!”

12. Do your homework.

13. Don’t hesitate to say “I don’t know.”

Are you an expert on politics, economics, world history, philosophy, geography, the environment, science, biology, current events, and half a dozen other major subjects?

Probably not. So, at some point in your conversations about liberty with friends, or in speeches about freedom to the public, you’re probably going to be asked a question you don’t know the answer to.

Be ready for it, because it happens to everyone. And relax – the answer is easy!

First, know what NOT to do. Don’t fall prey to the temptation to bluff your way through it or pretend to have knowledge you don’t have. This can really make you look bad.

Instead, first compliment the questioner: “That’s a very good question.” Then, just be honest: “And it’s one that I don’t know the answer to.”

How refreshing this will be to your audience! It’s not often that people encounter this kind of honesty – and they appreciate and respect it.

You now have the opportunity to let your audience know there is a large libertarian movement, where such questions have been discussed and answered. Tell them there are dozens of libertarian think tanks and organizations, and thousands of publications from libertarians on every conceivable topic – including this one. Let them know you will find the answer and get back to them right away.

If you don’t already have it, be sure to get contact information for the questioner and follow up promptly.

You’ve turned a difficult situation into an opportunity for further contact, and you’ve shown yourself to be human, honest, and reliable. Congratulations!

14. Have intellectual integrity.

15. Use “you” instead of “I.”

When talking about the benefits of liberty, we frequently use the word “I”. For example:

“Why should I have to give half of my income to the government?”

“Why should I have to pay for the education of other people’s children?”

“I would be far better off if I could invest the money that’s taken from me in Social Security taxes.”

By replacing “I” with “you,” we bring our listeners into the discussion. They are able to more clearly see that they — not just you — are victims of bad government policies. They can picture themselves benefiting from libertarian policies. And it sounds less selfish, less self-centered, as well.

“Why should you have to give half of your income to the government?”

“Why should you have to pay for the education of other people’s children?

“You would be far better off if you could invest the money that’s taken from you in Social Security taxes.”

A simple but effective shift in perspective. Try it!

16. Word choice: use the right words.

Mark Twain once siad the difference between the right word and the wrong word is the difference between “lightning” and “lightning bug.” I can’t stress too much how important it is to choose your words carefully.

[List to follow. Please check back soon.]

17. Be optimistic, passionate, enthusiastic.

18. Use the World’s Smallest Political Quiz and OPH.

19. Use the Libertarian Denominator.

Here is a great way to define libertarianism – particularly if someone asks you how libertarianism compares to liberalism and/or conservativism.

Libertarians often answer such questions with: “Libertarians are conservative on economic issues and liberal on social issues.”

Try using “The Libertarian Denominator” instead. Answer: “Conservatives who favor the free market tend to be libertarian on economic issues. Liberals who favor civil liberties tend to be libertarian on social issues.”

This answer makes libertarianism the common denominator – the measuring stick, if you will.

The Libertarian Denominator shows libertarianism to be the consistent philosophy, the one that favors liberty across the board.

An added bonus is instant rapport: just about everyone sees that they agree with libertarians – at least half the time!