What is the most effective method of spreading the ideas of freedom? Many ideas have been put forward but few have met with much success. I won’t go so far as to claim that I know the answer but I will submit an idea for consideration. Before I being I wholly admit that this idea isn’t entirely fleshed out in this blog post. There’s a lot to it and I’ve only been considering it in depth in the last few months. Nevertheless, it’s always good to get public input on an idea earlier rather than later. Therefore, this is as much a request for comment as it is a proposal.
The primary tool of libertarians has been logical deduction (I know a bunch of statists are laughing about this but in this case logical is in the eyes of libertarians, not you guys). Libertarians, myself included, have tried to point out the bloody history of statism, economic consequences of central banking, terrible toll of the drug wars, and other pitfalls of centralized power. What has this gotten us? Jack shit.
I would submit that logical deduction doesn’t work, at least not initially, to spread the message of freedom. Why? Since I cannot read another person’s mind I cannot provide a definitive answer. However, I can offer speculation based on experience and observation. In my experience, the biggest thing statism has going for it is that it preys on fear. Fear is a powerful tool. If you can wield it successfully you can influence people’s actions.
Therefore, I would submit that the first step in spreading the message of freedom is helping people overcome their fears. The first step in accomplish this, in my experience, is cultivating the ego.
If you look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs, which I feel is a good general model to work from (note, I said general model, not a perfectly accurate account of human behavior), there are a lot of requirements before one can begin to address self-actualization. In fact, if you look at the lower layers you’ll notice that they’re all things that statist try to drum up fear of. Access to food, water, and shelter are all necessary for survival and, coincidentally, are all things that statists claim the State is necessary for. They tell us that the State distributes food in times of shortage so that everybody has enough, ensures we have clean drinking water, and provides shelter for the homeless. None of these things are actually true but they don’t need to be. The only thing that’s necessary is tying people’s fear of not being able to meet their physiological needs with the idea that the State can guarantee plenty.
Safety, the next layer of the hierarchy, is another prime example. How many times have you heard a statist claim that without the State the strong would prey upon the weak and that the person with the most guns would rule the roost? Again, if we look at the history of stateless societies, of which there is much since the Westphalian supremacy that we understand to be statism is a fairly new concept in human history, we see that this isn’t the case. In fact, even a bad analysis of statism would lead one to realize that the State is the person with the most guns ruling the roost. But statists have convinced a great many people that their safety is provided by the State.
Where does the ego come into play here? I’m glad you asked! People with big egos, such as yours truly, are confident in themselves (or people who are confident in themselves have big egos, either way works). I know that I can provide for my own needs. I can provide my own food, water, shelter, and personal protection even in emergency situations. I’m not in a state of constant worry for my lower order needs, which means I can address my higher order need of self-actualization.
I believe that is the trick. We must first help people overcome their fears before they’ll become open to the message of freedom. In order to do that we must teach people to be confident in their own abilities. This doesn’t necessarily mean teaching them how to store food for long periods of time, use a firearm defensively, or survive in the wilderness for weeks on end. Accomplishing anything can boost a person’s ego, which in turn can increase their self-confidence.
I’ve explored this idea through practice. Namely, when people have asked me for advice I have given advice that I felt would be most empowering to them. I’ve been encouraging friends to seek new jobs when they’ve expressed dissatisfaction with their current job. That encouragement included both helping them understand that they were more skilled than they believed (and therefore qualified for a better job) and that life is too short to spend 40 or more hours per week at a place they hated. When my friends have followed my advice the results have been great. Not only did they end up making more money and being happier overall but they also became more confident in themselves and through that confidence seemingly less fearful of uncertainties.
In addition to provide empowering advice I’ve also been encouraging people to develop new skills. I’ve started and am currently still running a workout group (to admittedly minor success but I’ve encouraged at least two individuals to take better care of themselves and it has boosted their egos just as working out has boosted my ego) and have been encouraging people to learn another language as I continue my language studies. While working out and languages may not seem useful in regards to spreading the message of liberty they do require individuals to pursue and attain goals, which gives a huge confidence boost when accomplished. The few who have pursued these goals have come out being more confident in themselves and less susceptible to fear based manipulation.
In my experience my friends who have bolstered their egos didn’t need to hear the message of freedom, they started developing an understanding of freedom themselves. There was less talk about somebody needing to do something and far more talk about their capacity for accomplishing things. Although it may seem minor on the surface it seems to have gotten their brains working in a more independent fashion, which is really what freedom is all about.
So my proposal is this: if you wish to spread the message of freedom start by encouraging your friends to improve their self-confidence and ego. If you have a skill that a friend expresses interest in then teach it to them or at least act as a guide. Pick up a new goal based hobby with some of your friends to encourage them to pursue and attain goals. Encourage your friends to pursue any goals they’ve expressed interest in. As their skills improve and their confidence increases you may find that their susceptibility to fear based manipulation decreases. If that doesn’t seem to be the case then let me know so I can establish some kind of trend and decide whether my proposal is misguided or not.