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Where Will You Finish?

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Where Will You Finish?

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We’ve all seen the inspirational quote, “It isn’t where you start, it’s how you finish.”

While I think that it is important to finish well, I find that your starting point is important. For example, how will you know the route to your destination, if you don’t know where you’re starting. More important than either part of the quote though is THAT you finish and WHERE you finish.

Our destination is simply our goal. As many can attest, our journey can offer twists and turns along the way. If I’d not joined the Advocates 3 years ago, I would be ramping up my campaign for City Council in Marietta, GA, instead of writing this from my office in Indianapolis. I had a fully-formed plan of next steps in serving in elected office, and that can change.

As I look forward to my next endeavor, I’m reminded that we can often change course and re-define our path. For me, I’m looking to continue to share my love of liberty with others.

While I may no longer serve in elected office, I’ve been able to impact the lives of countless individuals through volunteering, activism, writing, and the outreach that my position allows.

I’ve seen many formerly active libertarians fade away, burn out, or turn their back on libertarianism completely, so I feel fortunate to still be involved in the movement, and I look forward to what the future holds.

finishI do know this: I intend to finish where I started, as an active, engaging lover of liberty, eager to share my views with others. I hope that I’ve inspired enough people to join me as such to make the world in which I live more libertarian than I found it. I also hope that they find themselves in the same place.

I’ve laid out my intent and my hope for you. Where will YOU finish?

 

 

Where Is Your Compassion And Understanding?

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Where Is Your Compassion And Understanding?

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How are we different?

For many, we have the understanding that nothing can be in the best interest of everyone, save the freedom to decide for ourselves. There is no “one size fits all” solution to any particular issue, because we all have different situations and needs.

At our core, we understand this, as we recognize individualism. Our belief in the individual leads us to point out a lack of compassion and understanding when we see solutions involving force. We understand why a person should not be forced to buy a product they do not wish to consume. We also share compassion for those who are wrongfully arrested for the crime of helping their fellow man.

understandingThis clarity on ACTUAL understanding and compassion is what sets us apart from other political ideologies, but what about when it comes to beliefs differing from our own?

Often, we fail to recognize any other belief’s legitimacy as an option for others, especially those who haven’t embraced libertarianism, to consider.

By going straight on an attack, we alienate our potential new libertarian. We put them in the defensive position, standing up for their beliefs, rather than allowing them to understand the ideas we wish to share.

By no means should we endorse a belief that doesn’t meet our own moral and ideological standards. We should simply offer our understanding that an opposing view exists and use questions to get a better understanding of their reasoning for holding such a belief.

When faced with a discussion surrounding the personal life decisions of an individual, we often sound “heartless” by pointing to prior decisions as the cause for situational strife. A touch of understanding can go a long way when discussing issues regarding those in lower socio-economic strata.

By showing compassion for the sequence of life events that brought them to their current situation, we can empathize and gain a better understanding of their lives, before judging and demonizing their decisions. That alone will garner their respect and make them more receptive to suggestions about how freedom to choose can lead to better outcomes for everyone.

When we approach these situations with understanding and compassion, our ability to empathize, and a willingness to learn, we broaden the conversation to more than us vs. them. We open ourselves up to a thoughtful dialogue that may actually lead them to the principles and beliefs that we hold dear.

Isn’t that better than fighting about our disagreements?

Dress the Part

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Dress the Part

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How many people would let someone who isn’t dressed in scrubs to perform surgery?

What about allowing an impeccably clean man in a suit work on your car?

Both examples above are unlikely, because

As we’ve discussed before, first impressions matter.

dress the partPart of that impression is “looking the part.” While there isn’t a uniforms for “knowledgeable libertarian” we can make a positive first impression by ensuring we offer ourselves as not only well-meaning, well-informed, but also well-dressed.

I’m not suggesting that we wear a top hat and tails everywhere we go, though we should put forth significant effort in our appearance. Keep in mind that many people view our outward appearance as an indicator of our knowledge, education, and general trustworthiness.

In my experience, these tips have served me well:

  • Wear clothes that fit. Whether too big or too small, ill-fitting clothing can be something that tarnishes your image immediately with a new person you wish to discuss ideas, solutions, or philosophy with. Cull the wardrobe to just the things that you wear well. This includes your accessories, even glasses.
  • Know your audience. Try to wear something on par with their likely attire. If you always see this person wearing a suit, you should probably try to match that level.
  • Keep your hair (especially facial) neat and trimmed. We all have a preferred style, whether our hair is long, short, or non-existent (my case). The key here is to keep it looking like you meant for it to look. This goes double for the gentlemen with facial hair. Our beards, mustaches, and sideburns should look purposeful, rather than suggesting that we don’t even own a razor or a comb.
  • Avoid bright colors and too much “flash.” Don’t let what you wear overpower what you say. If the only memorable thing about you is your clothing, has anyone remembered what you had to say?

Our individuality and style should never take a backseat to the opinions of others, however we are looking to influence those who may not yet understand individualism and its value. Not everyone is ready to go from where they are to fully embrace something they are just beginning to learn about, so introducing them slowly is likely to yield a better outcome than full, immediate immersion at first.

Who’s ready to win over some hearts and minds?

If You See Something, DO Something

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If You See Something, DO Something

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See Something DO SomethingThe Department of Homeland Security’s “If you see something, say something” campaign has become the unofficial slogan of post-9/11 America.

It’s been the butt of jokes by libertarians since its launch, and DHS re-launched the effort with new videos earlier this year.

This campaign is the epitome of Big Government “solutions.” It reinforces the idea that we should outsource responsibility to them, rather than looking out for ourselves. As libertarians, we understand that the price of individual liberty is the personal responsibility that comes with it.

While this slogan is directed to guide us to act when faced with suspicious terrorism-related activity, we can slightly alter it to direct our own lives away from Big Government and toward a free society.

When we see something that needs to be addressed, something should be DONE about it.

When we see an area of need, there is no reason to push that responsibility toward someone else, especially toward Big Government. Rather than outsourcing to them, we can address them ourselves by working with one another to solve the problems we face, without using the force of government.

We can strengthen our connections with our neighbors as we work together to reach the best solutions, instead of pushing one another away by bringing in a bully. Not only can we cut out the intrusion of Big Government, but we will likely find ourselves in a better situation than if we invited them in.

By taking charge of our own lives and working with those around us, rather than asking for action (and often permission), we can show others what a free society looks like. We can show how we would operate, and most importantly, show the lack of a need for government involvement in our lives.

We reduce the government’s influence over others when we don’t get the government involved in the first place.

Do What You Say You’ll Do

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Do What You Say You’ll Do

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There are many approaches to summarizing libertarian philosophy, whether it’s “The Golden Rule,”rugged individualism, or the complete works of Ayn Rand.

doPersonally, I embrace Richard Maybury’s approach most, when he introduces two laws in “Whatever Happened to Justice?“:

  1. Do all you have agreed to do, and
  2. Do not encroach on other persons or their property.

I find that most libertarians handle the second of those laws quite well, as most of us subscribe to the non-aggression principle. Where we can ALL, libertarian and non-libertarian alike, use a bit of help is with the first.

Carl Jung is quoted as saying, “You are what you do, not what you say you’ll do.”

What you do, or don’t do, is the foundation of your reputation to others. We’ve all heard that someone’s reputation precedes them, and a reputation can often tell others more about you that any words you may communicate. Keeping in mind that you might be the first libertarian someone has met, shouldn’t you be a shining example for who and what we are?

When we can’t live up to doing what we say we will do, we lose our credibility. Losing credibility is a deal breaker for someone trying to persuade others to examine libertarianism. It’s like putting a question mark at the end of every promise we make and every position we take. Would you really want to take a chance on losing that trust? We have many other things to overcome without having to rebuild credibility.

So, how can we make sure we live up to part of living a libertarian lifestyle and embracing #1 above?

First, don’t take on too much. Often, we see a void and we step up to fill it. As a former manager in the service industry, I realize that we often over promise and under deliver, but if we flip that, we can make sure we meet our commitments by setting reasonable expectations and wowing with our results. Switch to an “under promise, over deliver” approach and see the results of keeping things under control.

Next, honestly evaluate the level of effort or time necessary to do a good job meeting the commitments you make. Something may seem to be quick or easy on the surface, but it can really bite you when it’s more complex than you first thought. Being honest about what it will take, along with not taking on too much will help you to do what you say you’ll do.

Finally, when you can’t make things happen on the timeline you’ve set, make sure you you offer explanations, not excuses. Excuses are flimsy, and the real reason is often the better route, especially if it’s humbling.

Are you ready to do what you way you’ll do?

We Are Changing Lives

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We Are Changing Lives

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Not to exaggerate things, but life-changing moments happen every day. With every interaction, we act in a way that can change someone’s life. We have the potential to use this for a variety of outcomes, whether positive, negative, or neutral. The best part is WE influence the outcome.

When we consider that we might be the first libertarian those we encounter ever meet, we have an opportunity to make an awesome first impression.

ChangingAs libertarians, we should embrace the opportunity to change people’s lives for the better. We can open others’ eyes to a world where peace, prosperity, and liberty thrive, rather than living in the shadow of a government that dictates to us our lives and actions. Do you remember how your life changed when you embraced libertarianism?

So, how can we share that experience with everyone?

We can change lives by making a positive impact on everyone we meet, and this doesn’t happen strictly at outreach booths. It isn’t even hard to accomplish. The key is being aware that every interaction is potentially life-changing and acting accordingly to make each of them positive for others.

When we adopt a mindset that we are ambassadors to libertarianism with everyone we meet, we are always “on.” That mindset shift to make a positive impact attracts people to you, and you can be a shining example to them of what it means to be a libertarian.

This approach not only augments our outreach beyond scheduled events, we create other ambassadors for our actions as they are attracted to us. By building relationships with those we attract, we can also add the fun of fellowship to the mix. A fun-loving, positive group of people engage others and bring more into their circle. That growth breeds further growth, and a cohesive, attractive group of people will continue to grow in their size and influence.

As our peer groups grow in this manner, we’ll continue to add more libertarians to the fold. In turn, that means a more libertarian mindset as we continue toward the critical mass necessary to impact society as whole, going beyond our pockets here and there. We’ve built quite a movement, and we need to continue it’s growth, winning over hearts and minds to bring about a freer society.

As we’ve discussed before, libertarianism won’t suddenly catch on, taking hold all at once, with one election or one law being passed, like you might flip on a light switch. While the light of liberty shines bright for you and me, there are many for whom it’s quite dim.

Let’s turn up the dimmer switch to brighten their lives too.

Self-Government Goes To Those Who Show Up

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Self-Government Goes To Those Who Show Up

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As libertarians, we understand that personal responsibility is the price we are to pay for individual liberty.

Show UpWe discuss it at length when persuading others about how liberty works. We talk about how we (yes, you and I) will be responsible for one another in the absence of government programs that currently attempt to act as a safety net. We offer examples of our charity and entrepreneurship to prove that our fellow man will not go hungry, sleep in the streets, or be unable to read and write.

We know that our ideas and principles are the right ones to lead to a prosperous, peaceful, and harmonious society, so why aren’t we there yet?

Because, like those we’re trying to persuade, we’ve outsourced responsibility. Except that we have not outsourced responsibility to government. We’ve outsourced our responsibility to other libertarians.

We’ve outsourced that responsibility to libertarian candidates for office, their staff and volunteers, thinking that it’s their “turn” to spread the message, not ours.

We’ve outsourced that responsibility to libertarian think tanks, who work to deliver quality research, and statistics, and facts necessary to equip us with the right information.

We’ve outsourced that responsibility to libertarian activists, as they wave signs, work outreach booths, and persuade their friends, family, and neighbors about the beauty of a free society.

We’ve outsourced that responsibility to libertarian entrepreneurs, toiling to create the next Uber, AirBnB, or PayPal.

The price of personal responsibility is set, it’s non-negotiable, and it’s due every day. That price is showing up. Whether it is supporting candidates for office, sharing the mountains of data offered by our friends in think tanks and organizations in the libertarian sphere, attending an event, or using the goods and services that meet our needs, we need to pay the price daily.

If we don’t pay it, we fall behind. When we fall behind, we have to pay even more to catch up. Authoritarians count on us missing a payment, because they have their solution ready to go. They have the latest cure for society’s ills, and that intervention is government.

We ALL have busy lives, families, and hobbies calling for our time, attention, and effort, but we have to take responsibility for what we want in our lives. Much like the authoritarian way of outsourcing responsibility to government, we’ve outsourced it to other libertarians with the hope that their efforts will make up for a lack of them on our part.

Accept the call and take responsibility for a free society. You can’t wait for someone else to give you the freedom you deserve. You have to stop outsourcing responsibility and show yourself and others that we can do it.

If you aren’t going to show up to stake a claim for your life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, who will?

Augment Your Outreach With A Follow Up Event

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Augment Your Outreach With A Follow Up Event

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

How long is your typical interaction while tabling or at an outreach event? I’m hopeful that I will have 30 seconds… Just long enough to get in an elevator pitch.

outreachOne of the biggest challenges we have as libertarians is condensing our message into easy to digest bits, while still explaining what we believe. Here’s how you get over that hurdle AND show your prospective new libertarians that your group is their best way to get involved: Schedule a follow up event after your outreach event.

Here are key elements to making sure the outreach and follow-up events work well together:

  • The follow-up event should be social in nature. No one wants to attend a boring meeting the first time they show up, so don’t make them. Newly interested people want to engage with the leaders and members of the group in one-on-one and group conversations. Think “Meet & Greet” or “Open House.” Attendees aren’t expecting champagne and caviar, yet you should have available some food and drink options. Asking the bakers and cooks among you to provide something they do well will make it cheaper than catering.
  • Schedule the event two or three weeks after your outreach event. By scheduling something this far in advance, you give potential attendees an opportunity to put it on their calendar. We are all busy, and by giving your prospective attendees an opportunity to “fit you in,” you’ll likely increase attendance. Added bonus: You will have more experience with planning and executing events that aren’t hastily thrown together at the last minute.
  • It is important that you give your prospective attendees a “take away” to remind them. There is a reason that door-to-door salespeople leave something for you when they’ve visited. They don’t want you to forget them and what they are selling. At an outreach booth, you are in a similar situation. While not going door-to-door, you will be interacting with many people (hopefully) in a short time, and you will want them to remember that you invited them to a Pizza Night/Candidate Meet & Greet/Open House with your libertarian group. In this case, something simple works, and you can print the who, what, when, and where on a small handout that fits six to a page rather inexpensively.
  • Actively promote your follow-up event in conversation. Believe it or not, you or some of your volunteers will not include the follow-up event in their “elevator pitch” with interested, soon to be libertarians. A simple “and we’d love to talk with you more about [insert the issue by which you built rapport here] at our upcoming [insert event name here] on [date] at [location] at [time]” added to the end of each interaction, accompanied by handing them your “take away” will drastically improve the attendance at your follow-up event.

 

We have an amazing opportunity before us, as we share the ideals and principles of libertarianism. Let’s not blow it by missing out on an opportunity to have a REAL discussion about libertarian ideas at a follow up event after we’ve identified some potential new libertarians.

 

Tell More Stories

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Tell More Stories

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As we lead by example, we continue to demonstrate the principles we espouse.

By showing before we tell, we add credibility to our words.

When we listen, we understand the issues and outcomes important to those with whom we speak.

Now that we’ve demonstrated our principles, made ourselves credible, and understand the issues and outcomes, we can talk about our love of liberty.

It is very easy to jump to facts, figures, and studies to make the case for libertarianism. Reason, logic, and a philosophical principles are what likely grabbed our attention, but they are not particularly persuasive to those who are not yet libertarian in their thinking. So, how can we reach them?

telling storiesA very effective way to convey your message persuasively is to tell a story that offers a libertarian solution in action.

Telling stories helps connect the listener to details, important points, and outcomes that are not found in citing statistics and studies.

Think about the last time you went to an event where there was an in-depth Powerpoint presentation with lots of slides, filled with statistics, facts, and figures. You likely took copious notes to keep up with every last shred of data.

When you left the presentation, how much did you retain without those notes? And six months later? A year later? A decade later?

Very few adults are blessed with an eidetic memory, like Sheldon Cooper on The Big Bang Theory, so recalling these details does not come naturally.

What’s something we all remember?

The stories we learned at a young age. Fables from Aesop, movies by Disney, and silly rhyming books by Dr. Seuss. Why do we remember, sometimes in amazing detail, we heard, read, or watched last twenty, thirty, forty or more years ago?

When did you last read or hear the story, “The Tortoise and the Hare,” one of Aesop’s fables?

If asked for a synopsis, we could easily give an accurate retelling of how the hare was beyond confident in his abilities to defeat the tortoise in a foot race. He was so confident that he sped off to an early lead and took a nap. When he awoke and hopped to the finish line, he found that the tortoise had beaten him by staying the course.

The lesson that we can all recite in unison? “Slow and steady wins the race.”

It’s probably been twenty years or more since I’ve heard that fable, but I remember what occurred due to the structure of the plot, characters, climax, and resolution involved in storytelling.

Twenty years ago, I would likely have been sitting in Chemistry class, but I don’t know that I could tell you what Avogadro’s number is or why it’s important, despite its repeated use.

If you’re interested in the science behind why storytelling is effective, here is an article about how stories activate our brains.

So, how many stories are you going to have in your repertoire?

Show Before Tell

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Show Before Tell

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Show and tellIn my elementary school years, we participated in Show & Tell, an opportunity to share with the class something neat or unique and lead a discussion about it. The concept was a simple, yet effective way to prepare young people to speak in front of groups.

Even as adults, this provides us with a lesson in effective outreach to non-libertarians. We need to show that libertarians live their lives in a peaceful, voluntary way…The libertarian lifestyle.

What makes this outreach effective is that, when you live your life like you would in a libertarian society, it never turns off. There are no booths to shut down. There are no hours of operation. It’s a constant, effective outreach that can easily attract others to libertarianism.

How can you do it?

  1. Before you speak about Liberty, show it with how you live your life.
    Are you using force or fraud as a means to an end? Or are you someone who offers only honest, voluntary cooperation in your dealings in business and relationships? The latter is very libertarian, while the former is the antithesis of libertarian thought. In a situation where force or fraud is used, it’s unlikely that all parties will be better off. When every interaction is agreed to by all parties, everyone benefits. <– That’s a libertarian interaction. Let’s strive to live that way.
  2. Before you tell me how much libertarianism means to you, show me that you understand what it means.
    Are you constantly dictating to others how they “should” do things or live their life? Or are you setting a positive example and persuading those who seek your counsel? A positive example goes much further than unsolicited advice on a single area of concern. It also brings you to the forefront of those to ask when advice is necessary.
  3. Before you preach the principles of Liberty, teach me about it with your actions.
    Being a shining example of what a libertarian is gives those who have little to no exposure to libertarians a very positive impression of who we are. I know libertarians to be very caring, friendly, and generous, despite the societal meme depicting us as selfish, heartless loners. Let’s break that meme!

 

Are you ready to show what it means to be a libertarian? Once you’ve committed to that, your words about libertarianism will carry far more weight, and you will attract more people to the beauty that is Liberty.

A Spoonful of Sugar

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In Disney’s “Mary Poppins,” the title character, portrayed by Dame Julie Andrews, treats the children in her care to a musical, magical show of how to make a game of chores by adding an element of fun. I’ve always enjoyed Ms. Andrews’ performances, and the lyrics of the chorus in this song provide libertarians with an important message.

For a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down
The medicine go down, the medicine go down
Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down
In a most delightful way

Often, libertarians find themselves as the bearers of “bad news” when it comes to policy discussions and decisions. We also encounter many misconceptions and popular talking points in casual conversations with friends and strangers alike. We often administer “policy medicine,” as we point out the flaws, unintended or unrevealed consequences, or damage to our rights in a proposal.

If you doctor were to give you a diagnosis that’s less than desirable, would you want him or her to do it with a bad attitude? What about with a great deal of condescension? Would you appreciate it if he or she were generally abrasive in that conversation? What if he or she insulted you or called you names, as they offer their diagnosis? I, like most, would not want bad news delivered with a sub-par attitude. As libertarians, we are a lot like that hypothetical doctor.

To many, we have bad news. Unfortunately, many libertarians deliver it with attitude, condescension, insults, or abrasiveness. In your experience, how is it received?

What I witness is a negative reaction to BOTH the news and the messenger. Once you make that negative impression, you are not as welcome to take part in the discussion. Whether held by a policymaker or your neighbor, how can your exclusion be a positive step for libertarianism.

After all, we want our libertarian solution to be heard, right?

When you offer such a “pill,” bringing your best manners, pleasantries, and attitude help you build a rapport with the others involved in the conversation. That is the “spoonful of sugar” to change an exclusionary reaction to the “medicine” you are offering. Some of the best discussions about policy and the libertarian solutions to issues faced today occur with those that know more than the divisive rhetoric within the limited discussion of a particular topic.

It is not our shared libertarian thoughts that make those discussions among the best. It is the way we approached the conversation. When we do so with a positive attitude, respect for their knowledge, or lack thereof, in a particular area, and kindness, we win. We may not persuade them on the issue at hand, but persuasion is usually not attainable in a single interaction.

We win by planting the seed that we offer a thoughtful, understanding perspective to issues of the day. Once we plant that seed, people will seek our opinion and thoughts on future issues where they may be persuaded, rather than an issue where they firmly hold a committed belief.

In the event that you are the only one exhibiting a pleasant demeanor, you can also win over those who witness the interaction. There is no downside to “killing them with kindness.”

So, why not offer a spoonful of sugar along with the medicine?

More Fit Than Fat

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More Fit Than Fat

This article was featured in our weekly newsletter, the Liberator Online. To receive it in your inbox, sign up here.

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).

fitThe 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.

Would You Double Down on Big Government?

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Last month, after serving mid to low-income neighborhoods for nearly 60 years, Double 8 Foods made the decision to close all five of their Indianapolis locations following many years of declining revenues. Immediately, community leaders turned to city government for an answer, asking the Mayor to find a workable solution. The “food desert” in areas that could not support the chain’s five locations quickly became an issue for candidates in this fall’s mayoral election.

double downRather than waiting the couple weeks it took to begin “talks” with Indianapolis Mayor Greg Ballard, one prominent community leader took only a few days to mobilize a shuttle service to minimize the impact of the stores’ closures in the short-term. That leader is Senior Pastor of Barnes United Methodist Church on Indianapolis’ westside Charles R. Harrison.

Waiting for Big Government to come along to solve this problem is not an option for Harrison and the area churches in the communities that these stores served. They jumped into action by providing transportation with their church vans from the now-closed Double 8 stores to other grocery stores unreachable by foot and cumbersome to navigate by IndyGo, Indianapolis’ mass transit bus system.

Reverend Harrison also led by example, driving the shuttle himself while recruitment efforts for volunteers to handle the thrice-daily trips for the neighborhood bore fruit. Churches in the affected areas quickly followed suit, shuttling dozens of former Double 8 shoppers to Aldis, Safeways, and Wal-Mart Neighborhood Markets just a few miles away.

One candidate for Indianapolis mayor identified it as a problem, pledging “to work with state, federal and local leaders to explore bringing more food options to the city,” while the other wants to use “economic incentives” to attract grocery retailers to these areas and use the tax dollars collected to fund neighborhood improvements. Both mayoral candidates clearly favor a slow-moving Big Government solution, while residents seek to meet the immediate need of stocking their pantries and refrigerators.

While Harrison’s efforts are clearly an interim measure to minimize the pain felt by area residents, it provides a bridge to what happens next in the city, in a peaceful and voluntary way. This week, donations to defray the costs of the shuttle service began to appear at the church and at the shuttle stops, so it’s possible this initiative may become a full-fledged program until new or existing grocers, co-ops, or community gardens fill the void.

Isn’t it awesome when people come together without coercion or force to do some good?

Now that you see how immediately someone can act to help the most vulnerable among us without outsourcing responsibility to Big Government, what can you do in your neighborhood or city to address an issue before government can step in and likely make things worse, like they did recently?

Just two years ago, Midwest retailer Meijer showed interest in building a superstore that included full grocery options just a mile and a half south of the closed Double 8 where Reverend Harrison’s shuttle meets riders daily. The store’s planned footprint would have required Meijer to purchase 35 area homes for demolition, many of which were already abandoned by their owners, but “not in my backyard activists” swarmed to have the city stop the proposed build, pushing Meijer out of the project and across town by almost six miles or nearly an hour by city bus.

In past messages I’ve asked that you no longer outsource responsibility to government to help those in need. In just over a week, there is an example that I can reference that is local.

Can you imagine the positive response you could elicit if you took on the challenge of solving an issue in your neighborhood or city?

As a former school board member, I can tell you that access to books is an issue in many neighborhoods, and a small book drive for families in your area or a Little Free Library would make a world of difference.

As someone who lives in an urban area, I can attest to the lack of fresh fruits and vegetables in the “food deserts.” Some urban gardeners could teach valuable skills, while providing some fresh food alternatives to the processed and pre-packaged junk available in convenience stores and drive thrus.

As a firm believer in being a positive example for someone, I cannot begin to tell you how much just a couple hours a month as a mentor can change the life of someone who needs to know that there is more in their future than what they may have today.

Will you take a look and see how you can be a shining libertarian example and solve a problem without Big Government?

Are You Using Facebook to Advocate for Liberty?

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Are You Using Facebook to Advocate for Liberty?

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This week, a friend of mine blocked and unfriended someone they’ve known for years after years of arguing over issues that do not directly affect either of them, but get them fired up. I understand wanting to rid one’s self of negativity and people who drive that stress level up, UP, UP!, but what is accomplished by walling yourself off from someone with whom you disagree?

FacebookWhen you post political, economic, and social commentary on Facebook, you invite your “circle,” and possibly strangers (if your posts are public), to comment, debate, and engage in that topic. For me, this is an OPPORTUNITY to share libertarian ideas and possibly persuade others to join us in the libertarian movement.

Have you ever changed your mind about an issue or stance you hold after a major Facebook argument that ends a friendship, even one solely on a social network?

Me neither.

My views have only been changed when presented with newly-available information or by better understanding a principle that I had not previously. None of those would be possible if we shut the door on someone who holds a different opinion.

As an administrator of Facebook pages in addition to a personal profile, I have had the opportunity to share content and engage with millions of people. In just the last seven days, our Facebook page reached 1.1 million users.

Would that be possible if we walled ourselves off from those who disagree on some tenets of libertarian philosophy?

We continue to grow and reach more people with the seeds of Liberty we plant with each post, comment, and share. We also provide fellow libertarians with quality content to share with their networks to begin conversations about libertarian philosophy.

Will you do the same?

Happy Facebooking for Liberty!

Most Effective Outreach? Lead By Example

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Most Effective Outreach? Lead By Example

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I’m often asked what I find to be the most effective ways to share libertarian ideas.

My answer? Lead by example.

Don’t worry about word choice, which book to recommend, or how you will answer a tough question. Start by being a shining example of what a libertarian is.

lead by exampleWhen you live your life in a way that exemplifies your beliefs, your actions display to others what you believe. This means getting involved in your community, volunteering for charity activities, and networking. What does it say to you when someone constantly talks about gardening should be, but you never see their tomatoes or roses? Is your mind questioning those supposed skills? The same goes for libertarian ideas. If you talk ALL DAY LONG about the wonders of free markets, voluntary cooperation, and how private charity outperforms government welfare programs in every way, but if no one sees you “gardening,” how much weight do your words carry?

Finding activities like maintaining a notoriously littered part of your community, starting a neighborhood tool library, or keeping the lawn trimmed of an infirm, elderly neighbor, are ways to show how individuals can make a difference in the community. As you perform these tasks, you inspire others to join you or to also do something that will also benefit those around you without looking to the government to pay someone to pick up litter or to send scary notices to your neighbor when their grass exceeds the mandated height for the city or county. Additionally, you will become known for your efforts to improve the quality of life in your community, which opens the door for others to seek you out.

Now that your neighbors seek you out, you have an amazing opportunity. You will get to hear about their concerns and the issues that are important to them. The key to this activity is NOT to talk, but to LISTEN. The most important to be done is to hear what they have to say, letting them lead the conversation. This will help you to build rapport by finding common ground with which you begin to converse.

Because libertarianism is such a broad philosophy, you will likely find that you have similar concerns and desire the same outcomes, but the person to whom you are speaking may not be considering how libertarian principles and ideals could solve a problem. THIS is your opportunity to speak.

You listened, identified a problem, heard their desired outcome. Now, you can effectively offer a libertarian solution. Whether it is helping the homeless via shelters, soup kitchens, and health and employment services in the community or offering answers to the area’s poor education results by NOT relying on a government “solution,” you have credibility because you took it upon yourself to address a tangible issue that others noticed.

As you converse about the issue you both identified as an issue in need of a solution, keep the conversation in a friendly tone, using everyday language. The use of unnecessarily scholarly verbiage or political jargon and buzzwords may turn off your new friend. This is just a conversation between two people about everyday issues, not a debate. As tempting as it is, there is no “win” in making him or her feel like your intellectual inferior.

We libertarians are a diverse lot, and not everyone can bring new people around to the ideas and principles of libertarian philosophy, and that is OK.

By being a great example of libertarianism, you can be active and bring more people into the movement, but if you are uncomfortable with the whole “walk the walk” concept, please find another way you can help the libertarian movement. There are candidates, campaigns, and organizations who need your assistance in other ways. It may be that your lifestyle allows you to finance activities, your skills can bring a professional website to them, or your “best fit” is to be someone who can distribute hundreds of flyers that affect an electoral outcome. The key is to find and do what you do well.

Which Libertarian Are You?

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Which Libertarian Are You?

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As libertarian philosophy gains popularity in response to the repeated failures of government, we need to define which type of libertarians we want to be. Our numbers are growing, and as we reach critical mass, we need to start to specialize our activities. In my mind, there are three kinds of libertarians: the candidates, the leadership, and the activists.

division of laborLibertarians will likely recognize this specialization as division of labor. Previously, libertarians had to “wear many hats,” because of how few our numbers were. Today, that is not the case.

Have you ever waved signs at a rally or a busy intersection for your favorite candidate or issue? Have you ever made statements to the press, defining an organization’s position on an issue? Have you ever run for office?

Chances are, most libertarians can answer “yes” to the first two questions, with a smaller number answering affirmatively about the third one.

Activists

Our hard-working activists are recruiting new libertarians through their efforts “on the ground,” working outreach booths, attending rallies, going door to door, passing out literature, and writing op-eds and letters to the editor about libertarian issues. These are often thankless jobs that happen in extreme weather, on nights and weekends, and bring attention to our philosophy at the actual grassroots level.

Many who “get off the couch” and get involved in politics for the first time start here, but it is not just for beginners. There is an art (and a LOT of effort) to a successful event or outreach activity, and there are some who find their niche here.

Leadership

Real leaders are the fewest in number in our movement, because they really need to be able to manage a lot of “chiefs” and far fewer “braves.” They need a thick skin and the ability to build bridges in an environment wrought with the wreckage from many burned ones.

Their focus is to grow the cause, party, or organization they represent, while serving the needs of those already on board. The effective ones have a vision for the organization, a plan for achieving it, and the skills to sell that to existing and prospective members. These are not easy tasks, but a real leader will excel here.

Candidates/Elected Officials

If there is one area that I wish saw more development in the libertarian movement, it is this one. Standard bearers on the ballot might have the most difficult job among the three I outline here.

Candidates represent the platform and beliefs of their party, while trying to communicate a message that attracts those not necessarily supportive of those beliefs. They are also meeting thousands of people, raising money to fund their campaign efforts, and trying to stay “on message.” In the age of YouTube, smartphones with amazing features, and “gotcha” journalism, they also need to watch everything they say and do, no matter who is around.

All the while, they need to be real and genuine in every interaction. It really IS a tough job.

So, are you an activist, a leader, or a candidate (and for Liberty’s sake, an elected official)? Which one best fits your skill set and aspirations?

Focus your efforts on being just one, and be a great one of those.