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Marketing A Free Society: Education, Persuasion, and Conversion
We need to market our ideas. To do this, we need accessible, interesting, and exciting works presenting the case for freedom and against collectivism. Our goals are to strengthen and hearten those who already accept the freedom philosophy, to convert collectivists and advocates of interventionism (who apparently hold mixed premises) to the principles of individual freedom, and to teach the intellectual and moral principles underlying a free society to those in upcoming generations who will become our future intellectual leaders and masses.
As change agents, we must convert people’s political and economic philosophies to the philosophy of freedom. Movement toward a free society must be preceded by an educational campaign. To recruit others to the philosophy of freedom, we must educate, persuade, and convert. We need to convince a sufficient number of people of the rightness of our ideas. When we are communicating our ideas to others, we must be able to apply abstract principles to concrete situations, to recognize principles in particular cases, and to apply and support consistent courses of actions across various issues.
Building a free society is an intellectual adventure requiring a great deal of courage. We must be dedicated to preserving and strengthening the ideological and moral foundations of a free society. We must engage a large number of people who understand that free enterprise must be defended on moral and conceptual grounds and who are dedicated to doing so. We need to be willing to work for an ideal, adhere to the principles of a free society, and fight for their full realization. Capitalism needs its teachers, defenders, champions, and exemplars.
What We Can Do
What can we do to move toward our destination? First of all, each of us has to order and integrate his own thoughts and make certain that they are consistent to the best of our ability and intelligence. We must be able to explain what capitalism is and the reasons why any rational person should respect it and support it. We must fight apathy and affection for the state. In addition, we must be able to recognize and refute collectivist errors so thoroughly that even collectivists themselves are able to recognize and acknowledge them, and perhaps even abandon their beliefs. We must also be able to assault intellectual obstacles to a free society such as public education, antitrust laws, regulations, social security, the welfare state, communitarianism, cultural relativism, environmentalism, and so on. And certainly, we must not take actions to seek out government protection and subsidies for our own businesses and industries nor spend time and effort in order to obtain personal favors from the government.
The effective marketing of the freedom philosophy involves the positive case for choice and individual responsibility. It requires the power of attraction and cannot depend on coercion. While making a lucid and compelling case for liberty, one must maintain a respectful tolerance for the contrary beliefs and opinions of others. In a free society, the only appropriate means of attempting to change other people’s minds and actions are reason, persuasion, and example. One cannot force his subjective value structure upon a resistant recipient without taking away that person’s freedom of choice and action.
Each of us needs to be an unceasing student who never stops learning about the philosophy and practice of freedom. This will enable us to improve our abilities to communicate ideas and to persuade others. Because a free society will not exist unless a sufficient number of people believe in a free society, we must learn both theory and facts and attempt to convince others of the correctness of the freedom philosophy. We need to make libertarianism relevant to people in the real world. We must be able to convincingly make the case for liberty and motivate people to embrace it. The first priority of each friend of freedom is thus to educate himself.
To foster freedom, each of us must read and study in order to be prepared when we find the occasion to defend liberty verbally or in writing. By refining our ideas and arguments, we will be able to argue honestly and convincingly for a system that both works and that is appropriate for human beings. It is personally rewarding to improve one’s understanding of free enterprise and his ability to explain its principles to others. Seriously advancing the cause of liberty can be a great source of joy and self-fulfillment.
We have numerous interactions with individuals during our everyday lives. It is especially through these interactions that we can transmit the freedom philosophy to the general public. In this way, we can make progress toward changing the fundamental beliefs that are held by members of our society. Foundational ideas usually change slowly, but the fact remains that they can and do change. Our goal is to bring about an evolution (or preferably a revolution) in the way people view the proper role of government.
When we engage in discussions regarding the ideas of liberty with friends, colleagues, and acquaintances, we must use precise language and communicate our ideas persuasively and effectively. We must be able to predict the objections and reactions of others and must not attribute sinister motives to those who disagree with us. Most are reasonable and civil people who are simply mistaken in their beliefs. Consequently, we should approach them with a good will, explain our ideas calmly and without exaggeration, avoid the use of offensive or forceful exposition, refrain from the use of personal attacks, and never be antagonistic.
Those of us who are educators can teach the philosophy of freedom implicitly by communicating and defending the preeminence of reason and the fundamentality of natural law with our students. We can teach them that if the foundation is not solid, then neither will anything else be. We can emphasize the essential role of abstract principles and systematic theory. If we can get students to apply their reason to the real world, then they will have the ability to perceive the moral bankruptcy of collectivism and to discover and espouse the intellectual and moral foundations of freedom.
It is of no use fighting other proponents of a free society when trying to spread the philosophy of freedom. Theoretical attacks and nit-picking should be avoided in our efforts to popularize the freedom philosophy. Although genuine theoretical differences may exist between various brands of Objectivists, Austrians, classical liberals, anarcho-capitalists, and so on, these disputes are certainly of little or no relevance to potential converts and newcomers to the philosophy of freedom. We need to be knowledgeable, dedicated, and nonparochial in our efforts to spread our message.
We must call people’s attention to the conceptual and moral principles of a free society and convince individuals to support these principles. We can talk to our friends and associates, write articles and books, take part in conferences and seminars, give lectures, organize campus youth, donate free-market books to public and college libraries, arrange nonviolent demonstrations against governmental injustices, write book reviews, write letters to the editor, and take part in other peaceful activities that have a libertarian society as their ultimate goal.
A Matter of Individual Rational Discernment
We can teach through our actions when we consistently practice the principles we advocate and defend. It takes moral courage to apply principles consistently. Because discernment is necessary for a moral life, each of us needs to use our rationality to distinguish between measures we should take and those we should not take and government products that are appropriate for us to use and those that are not proper for us to use. To do this, we must apply general principles to highly diverse, concrete contexts. We must do our best to adhere to consistent tenets of liberty. We must attempt to live our lives consistently with the principles and beliefs we profess. By doing so, we can positively attract people interested in our actions and in the rationale underlying our actions. Through our conduct and our ability to explain our conduct and how it is based on the philosophy of freedom, we can become persuasive for freedom both in word and in deed. We can thereby encourage others to “do freedom.”
The particular actions chosen by any one of us to advance the idea of freedom depends upon each individual’s circumstances, value structure, perception of reality, and rationality. Most of us will certainly choose to drive on state-funded roads. Of course, we are free to concurrently offer our preference and perspective on the desirability and practicality of the adoption of a system of private roads in the future. We can certainly articulate our preferences regarding prevailing norms. What about the state’s postal services? Perhaps we should use E-mail, fax machines, and private mail services, whenever practicable, instead of submitting to the governmental system. Should we vacation at a national park, go to a concert or sporting event at a tax-subsidized auditorium or arena, or attend (or teach at) a state university? With respect to positive actions we might decide to home school, buy over the Internet or at garage sales, thus avoiding sales taxes, and so on. Whatever our specific choices, we need to commit to doing specific things. When we practice the freedom philosophy, we will help to spread the concept to liberty to others.
As long as there are people interested in truth, we will be able to make a difference. There is great reward in seeking and expressing truth and principle. Our goal of a durable free society is realistic and could be achieved if enough people supported the freedom philosophy. Every believer and practitioner of this life-promoting theory is a marketer for that system of beliefs. We must work in and through other people in order to get them excited about and dedicated to furthering the prospects of a free society. We have tremendous opportunities because each of us simultaneously participates in numerous associations with others. We can master and clearly present abstract systematic free-market theory in a readily accessible manner, advocate specific measures moving America in the right direction, discern ways in our daily lives in which we can practice the freedom philosophy, and create attention-creating devices such as slogans through which we can attract potential new believers. We must each use our rationality to select the actions that will consistently and constantly bring us toward the future free society in which we would want to live. In a sense, if we fight for that future, we live in that future.
The dissemination of knowledge to a wide audience is essential for the success of the free-market movement. Today, there are numerous high-quality free-market-oriented organizations and think tanks that encourage people to embrace the ideas of liberty and that deserve our support. In addition to the availability of a great number of libertarian books and organizations, there is also a large selection of outstanding free-market journals and magazines. On top of these, we have several world-class libertarian newspaper columnists such as Walter Williams and Thomas Sowell. On television, however, we currently have only one reporter who objectively, consistently, and convincingly defends capitalism—ABC’s John Stossel. There is a clear need for a new generation of television reporters who champion free enterprise or who, at least, are not prejudiced toward business.
Perhaps the real future of libertarianism is in cyberspace. Web publications suit the freedom philosophy. When a person publishes on the Internet anyone in the world can read his ideas. Not only is it easy to link from one Web page to another, each of us can communicate directly with our targeted audience through email, chat rooms, and so on. The unregulated Internet permits a diversity of views and cannot be easily controlled by politicians and governments. The electronic environment does not lend itself to the purposes and methods of the state. Web sites are accessible to the general public and can be used by dedicated and knowledgeable libertarians to spread their message. The Internet can be an excellent tool to diffuse libertarian ideas throughout society, both among opinion leaders and average citizens alike. Many freedom-oriented organizations and individuals have their own Web sites. Some publications appear both in tangible and Internet versions. Other journals and magazines exist solely in the electronic frontier. In addition, large numbers of new libertarian communities and nations are being developed in cyberspace.
Toward a Culture of Liberty
We must work to create a culture of liberty that would serve as the foundation for a free society. Attitudinal and behavioral changes are a function of culture. Because the required cultural changes cannot be legislated, we need to study the cultural and nonrational factors that affect people’s attitudes toward political, economic, and moral-cultural freedom. It is essential for us to be culturally aware, acknowledge the importance of culture, and appreciate insights from a diversity of disciplines.
There is a crucial need for cultural intellectuals who can help spread the philosophy of freedom to the general public. There are currently very few libertarians in the media and academia who we can depend upon to advocate a free society. We must work to lessen the prevalent bias against capitalism in newspapers, magazines, novels, plays, television programs, philosophy and history books, and so on. For years, the media have consistently and persistently attacked capitalism, commerce, and the premises of classical liberalism. We must cultivate a new generation of artists and reporters who will help to disseminate the ideas of liberty. Currently ABC reporter, John Stossel, stands above all others as an objective and staunch defender of the free market and critic of the failings of government. His specials, Greed and John Stossel Goes to Washington, are excellent vehicles for evangelizing people to believe in freedom. His works present the essential case for political and economic liberty in an interesting and highly accessible form.
In Total Freedom, Chris Matthew Sciabarra cautions us not to reduce the study and defense of freedom to economics or politics with an inadequate understanding of the interconnections between the philosophical, the historical, the personal, and so forth. Sciabarra’s message is that libertarians need an effective strategy that recognizes the dynamic relationships between the personal, political, historical, psychological, ethical, cultural, economic, and so on, if they are to be successful in their quest for a free society. He explains that attempts to define and defend a nonaggression axiom in the absence of a broader philosophical and cultural context are doomed to fail. Typical libertarian opposition to state intervention is not enough. Libertarians must pay greater attention to the broader context within which their goals and values can be realized. The battle against statism is simultaneously structural (political and economic), cultural (with implications for education, race, sex, language, and art) and personal (with connections to individuals’ tacit moral beliefs, and to their psychoepistemological processes). The crusade for freedom is multidimensional and takes place on a variety of levels with each level influencing and having reciprocal effects on the other levels.
It is possible to analyze society from different vantage points and on different levels of generality in order to develop an enriched picture of the many relationships between the various areas involved. Change must occur on many different levels and in many different areas. It cannot just be dictated from the political realm, but must filter through all of the various levels and areas. Any attempt to understand or change society must entail an analysis of its interrelations from the perspective of any single aspect.
People need to understand both the necessity for objective conceptual foundations and the need for cultural prerequisites in the fight for the free society because some cultures promote, and others undermine, freedom. Freedom cannot be defended successfully when severed from its broader requisite conditions. We must attempt to grasp and address all of freedom’s prerequisites and implications.
Although we need to always keep our ultimate goal in mind, realism is required. Even though we should urge the immediate eradication of most government activities, their gradual elimination is more likely. Short-run or intermediate goals (e.g., tax cuts or tax reforms such as a flat or sales tax that reduces tax revenue) that have a good chance of near-term adoption are acceptable as long as we realize that they are only transitional steps toward our final goal. A compromise such as funding schooling through vouchers or tax credits would at least be an incremental step away from totally publicly run schools. Likewise, we should welcome the piecemeal privatization of any of the government’s operating activities except, of course, for defense against both external and internal aggression.
The gradual breakdown and crises of the reigning welfare-state paradigm enhance our future prospects for a free society. Only a free society is compatible with the true nature of man and the world. Capitalism works because it is in accordance with reality. Capitalism is the only moral social system because it protects a man’s mind, his primary means of survival and flourishing. Truth and morality are on our side. Our battle is intellectual, moral, and cultural. Our message should appeal to all individuals and groups across the public spectrum. Let us hasten the demise of statism and the establishment of a free society by working individually and in concert with others to educate, persuade, and convert people to a just and proper political and economic order that is a true reflection of the nature of man and the world properly understood.
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