We’ve all heard the phrase “The pen is mightier than the sword.” The reason for this is that the pen directs where the sword is pointed. Beyond my own amusement, the primary reason I write this blog is to be another voice of liberty. Today libertarian ideas are generally considered fringe, kooky, and unworkable. This is the reason, as Henry Hazlitt explained, libertarians need to propagate their ideals:
From time to time over the last 30 years, after I have talked or written about some new restriction on human liberty in the economic field, some new attack on private enterprise, I have been asked in person or received a letter asking, “What can I do” — to fight the inflationist or socialist trend? Other writers or lecturers, I find, are often asked the same question.
The answer is seldom an easy one. For it depends on the circumstances and ability of the questioner — who may be a businessman, a housewife, a student, informed or not, intelligent or not, articulate or not. And the answer must vary with these presumed circumstances.
The general answer is easier than the particular answer. So here I want to write about the task now confronting all libertarians considered collectively.
We libertarians cannot content ourselves merely with repeating pious generalities about liberty, free enterprise, and limited government. To assert and repeat these general principles is absolutely necessary, of course, either as prologue or conclusion. But if we hope to be individually or collectively effective, we must individually master a great deal of detailed knowledge, and make ourselves specialists in one or two lines, so that we can show how our libertarian principles apply in special fields, and so that we can convincingly dispute the proponents of statist schemes for public housing, farm subsidies, increased relief, bigger Social Security benefits, bigger Medicare, guaranteed incomes, bigger government spending, bigger taxation, especially more progressive income taxation, higher tariffs or import quotas, restrictions or penalties on foreign investment and foreign travel, price controls, wage controls, rent controls, interest rate controls, more laws for so-called consumer protection, and still tighter regulations and restrictions on business everywhere.
We must become knowledgeable and use that knowledge to combat the falsities spread by collectivists. As Hazlitt said, there are simply too many areas where specific knowledge is needed and thus we must each choose areas of focus. My focus was first on gun rights and self-defense and is now on the fallacy of the state, economics, and environmentalism. Environmentalism was one I chose because there simply aren’t enough libertarians focusing on the subject. I’ve seen people join the libertarian camp in all aspects besides environmentalism, they still feel the state is necessary to regulate environmental issues. The reason for this is because most libertarians fail to explain how free markets can actually protect the environment better than statism.
I dabble in other areas but do not consider myself anywhere near an expert. What about yourself? Do you feel you have an understanding of libertarianism? Can you articulate practical libertarian solutions and/or libertarian philosophy? Perhaps you could start a blog of your own, write a book, give speeches, or work in some other manner to propagate libertarianism.
We have our work cut out for us.
2 thoughts on “The Task at Hand”
Amen, brother. I just finished up one of Rothbard’s lectures from the Mises Institute (available for free!) on microeconomics. I downloaded it because I recognized that it was a subject about which I knew very little, at least in the way of specifics. While I am still no expect in any manner on this subject, it’s helpful to know enough to argue more than just “free market” and other lovely terms.
Rothbard was a great economist and you certainly did yourself a favor by listening to those lectures.
You absolutely nailed it. Many people realized the free market is the mechanism of achieving liberty but don’t truly understand how. Without knowing the how it’s impossible to articulate to others. Socialist talking points are effective because they tug at the heartstrings of individuals. It’s easy to make people angry by talking about the exploitive nature of markets and unless you truly understand free markets you’ll have little hope of winning any debate in the eyes of others. On the other hand those who truly understand the free market and can articulate why it’s an effective means of achieving liberty can win the debate. That’s what reading Murray Rothbard, Ludwig von Mises, Henry Hazlitt, Walter Block, Jeffery Tucker, Tom Woods Jr. and so many others does, it give you a real understanding of libertarian philosophy.
If you’re interesting in some further reading, some economics, some libertarian philosophy, there is a 30 day reading list that contains some great libertarian works.
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