We’ve Got to DO SOMETHING!
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It’s almost formulaic at this point.
Something tragic or disastrous occurs, emotions run high, policymakers see an opportunity to raise their profile, and BOOM! WE HAVE TO DO SOMETHING!
As libertarians, we are slow to embrace the populist messaging in the wake of a disaster or tragedy. Statistically, these events have a occurrence frequency near zero. With natural disasters like hurricanes, there is even be a significant warning ahead of the disaster. Yet the call for action, to DO SOMETHING, to do ANYTHING grows louder with occurrence.
Libertarians tend to examine potential outcomes rather than the intent of an action. With the initial “feel good” sentiment, an idea floated to address the recent tragedy or disaster gains traction among the masses, despite no real evidence of need or effectiveness.
So, how do we combat the desire to DO SOMETHING?
What I do:
- Keep calm. In my experience, the worst time to act is in an immediate response to something that does not pose an immediate threat. By calmly and rationally examining a situation, its effects, the likely consequences (intended and unintended) of proposals, and the actual outcomes of similar actions elsewhere and in other facets of humanity. Usually, cooler heads prevail, so it’s in our best interest to remain the coolest and calmest in a discussion.
- Focus on the facts. Despite the efforts of others to make an issue or proposed action emotional, keep your focus on the rarity of the situation, the likely consequences of a proposed solution, and that laws and ordinances only affect the rational and law-abiding.
- Listen to the concerns of others. If you aren’t listening, how can you really address the concerns of those interested in the topic?
- Talk WITH others. This is a accompaniment to #3, as we are often quick to give our ideas without having an actual discussion to reach consensus.
- Have a solution. In last week’s column, I pointed to the importance of having a solution. In short, I discussed how having a solution or alternative will remind others that your continued inclusion in the conversation is vital to solving the issue at hand. You don’t need an immediate reaction to solve a problem. In fact, patience and focusing on root causes will earn your seat at the table. One key here is to keep your comments within the Overton Window for the issue at hand.
So, when those who are motivated for someone to DO SOMETHING, you have a few things to help you mitigate that emotional response to drive the conversation toward your libertarian solution.