Sheldon Richman on How to Talk to Nonlibertarians



If libertarians want to change how nonlibertarians think about government, they will need to understand how nonlibertarians think about government. Politically disengaged and uninformed nonlibertarians may focus at times on particular government programs and actions, or on proposals for new programs, but rarely about government as an institution. This is not hard to understand. For most people, the welfare, or social-service, state is a natural, ever-present part of the landscape. This is reinforced through their "education" in government schools. Few ever question its necessity, much less wonder what life would be like without it. Some people may think the government goes too far (or not far enough) in this matter or that, but the social-service state itself never comes under examination. Its morality is implicitly assumed on the basis of how commonplace it is. So how can libertarians speak to these people in a way they will understand? How do we get them to question deeply held beliefs that may never have been articulated? By trying to see government as they see it writes Sheldon Richman. This may be distasteful, but if you want to persuade people, what else are you going to do?