How to Be a Libertarian

iraq war protestorOne problem that seems to vex libertarianism is its inability to accomplish much. We have been advocating for various reforms and repeals for decades. The Libertarian Party was advocating for marijuana legalization and expanding government marriage licenses since the 1970s. Both issues are taking root in American society, but who is getting all the credit? Socialists/Progressives/Leftists/whatever. Ron Paul was a major candidate in 2012 and a loyal Republican who went as far as advocating the legalization of heroin on a South Carolina debate stage. Yet, more recently Bernie Sanders supporters (who apparently have no memory of anything) claim that the independent turned Democrat was the first candidate to advocate legalizing marijuana. In a sense, we should at least be pleased that our ideas are starting to be accepted and implemented, but that isnt enough. As much as most of us oppose intellectual property, its frustrating to get no credit for anything.

I think the reason for a lot of this is that we are too broad. Libertarianism is an all-encompassing philosophy, and so is socialism, however we try to do everything at once, and thats a recipe for disaster. I personally have this problem too. I have three or four blog posts started just in open tabs, not to mention another dozen in drafts, 48 tabs open total (its a good day when Im below 50), and then the dozens of stories, screenplays, and assorted other projects started, but nowhere finished. When you try to do too many things, you end up accomplishing nothing. If you focus on one thing, and do a little bit every day, at the end of a month, a year, you can look back and say wow!

The left is a bit different. Yes, they all broadly agree, bicker constantly, and work together like good hive minds, but they all specialize in one thing. One may be for environmental rights, another may support racial justice, another may want free stuff for students, and yet another may want to impose more regulations. Each focuses on their goal and they manage to ironically divide their labor and exchange it a lot better than other ideologies. Ive been to their meetings where disparate groups will sign each other up for support and cross promoting. No surprise that all of their schemes get accomplished like clockwork.

What made me think about this is reading a great report I posted awhile ago about how the bottom rung housing options have been regulated out of existence in many places. It used to be you could pay a nickel ($1-2 today) and get a piece of floor with a roof and hopefully heat. That was called a flophouse. It was a leg up from the cold outdoors and was an incentive to at least work a little bit. Such places are illegal today. I wanted to repost this article and share it around, but what will that do. Maybe some of us will send it to a leftist friend who might open their mind a bit. Will anyone go to a zoning board meeting or housing code meeting? I know I probably wont, but maybe I should.

This is the problem. I have equal passion about this and other issues. I could probably rank them a bit. I want drugs legalized, but I would rather regulations and taxes cut first. And so on. Perhaps I need to pick one or two specific issues and dedicate myself to liberalizing that in my area. Often there are willing nonlibertarian allies who may not even question your other views. They want the same thing you want on this issue. While I am somewhat ambivalent about bringing leftists into libertarianism and working with them, sometimes its good to make use of others.

Pick an issue you really want to see fixed or implemented. Figure out what solution you want. Dont worry about other issues. Push them out of your head. Share what you need to on Facebook, but keep your eyes on the prize. Find local allies to get that change you want. Organize or join the organizers and get it done. Once its done, you may find yourself looking for a new issue to jump on. Congrats! You managed to improve liberty in one little area. There are thousands and millions of us. If we all focused on specific things, we would get a lot more done separately together. In New Hampshire, a libertarian mover who became a legislator pushed really hard for legalization of Narcan, which counteracts overdoses, and immunity for those who call 911 for an overdose. She succeeded, albeit with a few bumps in the road and not getting full credit, but now she is able to move on to another goal. She broadly believes in liberty, but she dedicated herself to getting one thing done. And it happened. Thats what we need to see more of. Not just in New Hampshire, but all over.

I, too, need to pick out an issue and work on it. Perhaps housing is it. I dont think its fair to ban affordable housing. I dont like that zoning regulations have made for miserable looking settlements (cf. the Old World). I dont like that property tax systems exist and disincentivize a lot of things like better looking buildings. I dont like that someone cant just buy land and build whatever on it as long as they dont pollute or bother their neighbors too much. All of these issues tie together well and affect other things I support like mass transit and stronger communities. There are a lot of other things I want like police reform, drug legalization, and school privatization/choice, but again, I cant do everything at once. We all need to pick something and work on it, chip away at it, and before long, there will be a great success.

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