Changing the Way We Talk About Libertarianism

FEE's Jeffrey Tucker reflects on how the organization's past is inspiring its current mission.

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"Are we a chosen marginalized group that is going to be forever hanging around together? Is this just our social gang?," asks Jeffrey Tucker, director of content for the Foundation of Economic Education (FEE). "I think that is a problem."

When FEE was first founded in 1946 by Leonard Read, libertarianism was a little known concept. Thanks to regularly featured works by noted scholars like Ludwig von Mises, Milton Friedman, Henry Hazlitt, and George Stigler, the ideas of human liberty and freedom became more accessible and familiar to a larger audience.

The growing distaste for the current two-party system (both major party candidates set historic records for negative ratings in 2016) has increased the appeal of the libertarian perspective and the ideology has grown into a movement with real political momentum. Gallup Poll's 2015 Politcal Governance survey found that 27 percent of respondents could be ideologically classified as libertarian—the highest number recorded to date.

But Tucker warns that the growing popularity of libertarianism presents new challenges: "Because we have become a movement… it does give rise to—I think—certain temptations to speak in our own vernacular or our own really high liturgical language with each other. Then normal people can't understand."

Tucker states he has looked to the past as inspiration for revitalizing FEE's current mission.

"There weren't a lot of what we call libertarians around at the time," Tucker explains. "They had to speak in a way to everybody or to anyone who would listen. And I think that affected the way they thought and the way they wrote. Every piece had to make sense for anybody who happened to pick it up."

To reach a larger audience, Tucker has expanded FEE's editorial scope by including entertainment reviews of popular shows like HBO's The Young Pope and Netflix's The Crown in addition to policy and political coverage.

Reason's Nick Gillespie sat down with Tucker at the International Students for Liberty Conference to discuss the history of FEE and how popular culture can be used by libertarians to spread their ideas to a mainstream audience.

Edited by Alexis Garcia. Cameras by Mark McDaniel and Todd Krainin. Music by Podington Bear.

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  1. The best strategy to market libertarianism to younger, more malleable people is to talk less about efficiency and more about why socialism is so unfair to individuals. Successfully making the argument that libertarianism’s system of consent is the more moral system than socialism’s system of theft and redistribution will go a long way to getting more people on your team.

    1. In other words, join the GOP, and tout Rand Paul as a libertarian.

      Hey, free market of ideas, right? Can’t sell libertarianism to young impressionable minds? Beat up on socialism.

      WHY NOT SHOW THAT IT WORKS! It is the simplest way to get people to buy it.

      1. How do you “show how it works”, without the power to change the State to a Libertarian one?

        Arguments are what people have, here and now.

        1. MarconiDarwin is a disingenuous goober who is not looking for actual reasoned discussion, Sigi.

  2. “Are we a chosen marginalized group that is going to be forever hanging around together?”

    I’ve never felt so Jewish!

    1. If we Lib-Tardarians want to be less marginalized, we have to start appealing to the self-righteousness of all the pepples…

      Liberals are sooo self-righteous, they feel perfectly entitled to use the force and power (guns and jails) of the pigs, to FORCE people to make the charity choices that THEY support!

      Conservatives? Ditto, except they want to use Government Almighty to make your abortion choices for you, which bathroom you must use if you are trans-gender, and punish you for using non-approved mind-bending drugs.

      The REAL libertarians want NONE of the above self-righteousness! … But propose to the two flavors of self-righteous assholes, that they should both give up their self-righteousness, so that we could have a smaller Government Almighty, and a WEE tad of personal freedom, and watch them prepare the tar and feathers…

      We can humor the self-righteousness bastards and become self-righteousness ourselves, or we can stay Libertarian, and stay marginalized… Being correct , sucks!!!!

  3. Do we have to wear bowties? Because that’s a dealbreaker for me.

    1. Not since your college days, Captain Bowtie?

    2. You don’t have to wear it in a place that shows.

      1. Hmm, gonna need a bigger bowtie.

        1. To tie around that stick up yer….. Hey now! 😀

    3. Also, how about a buddy cop show called The Bowtie and The Jacket?

      1. I wouldn’t watch that unless i was really, really high.

        1. Is there another way to watch things?

    4. His bowties are iconic. Bow down to the bowtie.

  4. “Because we have become a movement… it does give rise to?I think?certain temptations to speak in our own vernacular or our own really high liturgical language with each other. Then normal people can’t understand.”

    Quick tip for you: it’s not the words you’re using that people don’t understand.

    1. If more people started feeling that socialism and social justice/hate speech was less fair than libertarian alternatives and free speech, more would consider leaving the left and becoming classical liberals. Don’t go for the voter’s brain but rather for their gut instinct.

    2. I think it often is the words. People have different meaning for the same words. For example, when a libertarian says “aggression,” a liberal hears something entirely different. If we ever hope to reach these folk, we have to actually try to communicate.

      1. Even just getting people to accept the obvious fact that government action always comes down to coercive force is tough.
        Which seems funny to me because that’s what really sold me on the whole thing.
        Though in principle, I’m really more of an anarchist. I guess people who believe that good government is a real thing really need to believe it’s something other than one group of people using force to get people to pay them to use more force against people.

  5. Tacker’s right. For economic arguments, I try to crib from this book.

  6. it does give rise to?I think?certain temptations to speak in our own vernacular or our own really high liturgical language with each other. Then normal people can’t understand.

    Yeah. Quit spooking the norms, you assholes.

    1. Fuck you. If i want to go out in public wearing t-shirts with illustrations from SugarFree’s stories printed on them, that’s my right as an American.

      1. I doubt those shirts would pass the “three prong obscenity test,” which coincidentally sounds like something that might be featured on said shirts.

        1. Yes. Also, “Three Prong Obscenity Test” is the name of the s-corp i founded to avoid personal liability for printing them.

          1. That won’t save you when they decide to “pierce the corporate veil”, which also sounds a bit like something from a SugarFree story.

          2. I have always felt that a Three Hole Obscenity Test would have been more useful.

            1. I wood dearly LOVE to obscenely penetrate three holes at once! I haven’t enough peckers to do it with, though… Can I borrow one from Hinh and one from the original American Socialist? ‘Cause if those 2 aren’t peckers, I don’t know who is…

      2. Your right? Sure.

        I thought we were discussing good ways to convince people, though?

  7. Will you stop telling people that trade with a Communist Dictatorship has something to do with free trade or a free market?

    List of government-owned companies of China

    https://tinyurl.com/zfrzxys

    1. Free Trade between nations doesn’t depend on them being internally free, last I checked.

      And it has to do with free markets only tangentially.

      Would you prefer nobody promote those two as long as any nation on earth interferes with a market or owns an industry?

    2. Free trade, yes, free market, no.

      “Free trade” means what it says. People are free to trade with whomever they choose. Even if it is the government of China.

  8. It would be cool if the Libertarian Party would nominate actual Libertarians so when you appeal to the younger generations you can argue that the LP platform is ideologically consistent.

    Both of the other parties talk out of both sides of their mouths, and (most) kids aren’t stupid. They know when older people are lying to them. The biggest appeal libertarians could present would be a consistent and solid message of defending individual liberty and shrinking the government so that people have greater opportunities to succeed.

    Nominating someone like Weld just made libertarians look like the other parties, inconsistent.

    1. The biggest appeal libertarians could present would be a consistent and solid message of defending individual liberty and shrinking the government so that people have greater opportunities to succeed.

      You are right. Kids are not stupid, and they won’t buy that vapid, hollow rhetoric.

      SHOW THAT IT WORKS! That’s all you have to do. The reason you can’t? Too stupid to make it work?

    2. Yeah, but nominating Brown or Badnarik isn’t exactly bringing ’em in by the busload either. Both are great guys, and have extremely solid libertarian chops, and were absolutely abysmal in their respective elections. (I voted for both of them when they ran)

  9. Cucker could always ghostwrite some racialist newsletters, again.

    1. SIV ghost wrote what he hoped was going to be the next (first?) bestseller out of Georgia, by adopting this Canadian tale to his personal experience. His efforts amounted to doing a search and replace for “bear” with “Orpington rooster.”

      1. Jesus Christ, Canada.

  10. Reason’s Nick Gillespie sat down with Tucker at the International Students for Liberty Conference to discuss the history of FEE and how popular culture can be used by libertarians to spread their ideas to a mainstream audience.

    Jeezuz fellas, let each other finish a sentence, FFS!
    This was very difficult to listen to.

    1. It’s Kennedys all the way down!

  11. You mean the current strategy of alienating anyone that isn’t 100% open borders all the time, selectively supporting freedom of association when it’s easy and not icky, and ending every sentence critical of Team Blue with “But Team Red does this too” isn’t working?

    Maybe they should try scaring off half the commentariat and see how that works.

    1. That’s different. That’s healthy in-fighting. It’s not a movement if you are not spending 90% of the time fighting with a sub-group.

    2. Scaring off?

      I might leave in disgust, eventually (like I did with my subscription years ago), but scare? Hah!

    3. Maybe they should try scaring off half the commentariat and see how that works.

      Splitters!

    4. Maybe they should try scaring off half the commentariat and see how that works.

      If they’d scared off your half years ago, perhaps — perhaps — the libertarian brand would not be rejected by 91% of libertarians. But 91% says “lost cause.”

      On the hard facts, Cato’s survey, libertarians are winning, but libertarianism is dead as a door nail.

      Who has been advancing support for supposedly libertarian ideas?
      a) 53% of Americans who are Nolan libertarians, 40,000-50,000 in elected office and active in their communities, with another 150,000-250,000 also active supporters?

      b) 2% of Americans who REFUSE to be involved (which would be ‘conspiring with statists’), and piss all over libertarian principles, like Ron Paul’s co-founding of the alt-right.

      Hmmm. I need to ponder that.

      Nick Gillespie spent most of 2014 proclaiming the greatest year ever for libertarians. But two weeks into 2015 he apologized (“Yeah, yeah”) and admitted it had been one of the worst years for libertarianism … but still a libertarian moment. The goobers swallowed it all … eager to be brainwashed … just like dumbass proggie and extreme socon puppets.

      Create a free society. HELL NO! MOVE some place that we create or can outnumber other voters … like the Moonies moving to Oregon … the Davidians to Waco …. and the People’s Temple to Jonestown …. but they’re NOT a cult! (haha)

      How long until the Kool-Aid?

    5. Muh purity!

  12. “Unless you’re an absolutist on open-borders immigration and care more about international trade-policy than how your own government respects individual liberty… then you must be demonized and declared unworthy”

    /2017 Editorial Strategy

  13. I know it’s terribly unpopular among certain people here…

    But emphasizing that we were effectively first to the table in the “black lives matter” campaign, the critiques of corporate welfare and privilege, the legalization of marijuana, the reliance on the scientific method to address issues related to science, and the promotion of school choice (in its various forms) has gained a lot of traction. Especially with millennials.

    1. we were effectively first to the table in the “black lives matter” campaign

      WTF?

      1. ^ Upvote

      2. What that means is that there were lots and lots of libertarians decades ago noting the racial injustices and motivations associated with the US criminal justice system. And that they didn’t all go away after CRA.

    1. Well, somebody is Hopped up on goofballs.

  14. You done found a libertarian! Congrats!

  15. Yes, the “masses” need more comedy in their lives.

  16. Reason – please get the name of the group right. It is Foundation FOR Economic Education.

    Decent interview. I agree that when talking about libertarian ideals to people who know little to nothing about libertarian philosophy, I have a tendency to get into the meat of it too quickly. I usually get that look of WTF or the glazing over of “economics and politics is so boring.” I need to get better at relating libertarian ideas to stuff they are already familiar with then bring them along.

  17. The Libertarian Book Club was also founded in 1946 IIRC. But they’re anarchists, of various kinds, so they may not count as “libertarian” nowadays.

    1. Gallup Poll … found that 27 percent of respondents could be ideologically classified as libertarian?the highest number recorded to date

      Shameful bullshit. Gallup neither mentions nor surveys libertarian. Cato’s survey (conducted by Zogby polling) DID survey libertarianism and found 59% — the 60% cited by Johnson and Weld. Why does Nick ignore that? David Boaz described the embarrassing part.

      The survey is still online, under the boldface How Libertarians See Themselves

      Source
      “In our Zogby survey we found that only 9 percent of voters with libertarian views identify themselves that way.” -David Boaz and David Kirby

      Translation: the libertarian label is rejected by 91% of libertarians. The libertarian ethos rejects the libertarian ideology. Oooops.

      That’s why ” libertarian ideas” — without a single policy solution — suffered a massive defeat at the polls.

      Do the math. How many votes were available? Start with Cato’s 5.3% self-identified libertarians ? plus massive protest votes (against both majors) = 3.2%. Oooops.

      Gary ran THEIR campaign ? anti-gummint soundbites, but NO solutions, for anything. Can libertarians do ANYTHING better? Did YOU ear even one?

      Anti-gummint libs got their asses kicked. Back to pro-liberty or Lady Liberty stays dead..

      1. That was NOT a response to Robert’s thoughtful comment.. It was intended as a new thread. (????)

  18. Libertarian Moment, take 55!

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  20. Since most libertarians are basically democrats that want to get high, shoot guns, and deny biological reality, libertarians will forever and always be marginal. Democrats reject libertarians for not wanting to constantly interfere in how people choose to live and work. Republicans reject libertarians because libertarians don’t accept the basic biology that a fetus is a human, with the right to life, that sex isn’t a choice, but a biological reality, meaning that a rejection of this is a sign of a mental illness, not an “alternative lifestyle” libertarians reject this basic science the same way democrats do. Worse, most libertarians reject the idea of borders and reject pride in culture and the desire to maintain that culture as racist and xenophobic; this is the typical democrat position on Anglo-Saxon culture that gave us the modern world and is rejected as racist by democrats and libertarians as racist. This ridiculous belief means that libertarians are one of the primary drivers behind the ridiculous snowflake culture.

    1. That would depend on the libertarian you ask. There is a sort left-right divide within libertarianism itself. You may need to read more on the subject.

    2. (babbling deleted) libertarians will forever and always be marginal

      (lol) 59% of Americans would self-describe as fiscally conservative and socially liberal, per a top pollster. Ten years ago and now OBVIOUSLY higher. That makes YOU marginal (technically, obsolete for 40 years)

      libertarians are one of the primary drivers behind the ridiculous snowflake culture.

      (laughing harder) “Snowflakes” want SMALLER government!

      Pay attention as i expose your moral hypocrisy. Our core founding principle is a commitment to unalienable rights. (You’ve just lost)

      What does “unalienable” mean? Cannot be denied for ANY purpose. What are those rights? Ummm, Life, Liberty, the Pursuit of Happiness and several others.

      Since none can be denied, they are all precisely equal … to each other!!!

      YOU say a fetus has full rights at conception, but so did the woman! DUH. So you’re a hypocrite.

      NO fundamental right can be absolute … because none outranks the other, “What does that mean?” asks the uneducated.

      Conflicting rights can ONLY be resolved by the Judiciary — BECAUSE the conflict can only be CREATED by laws (the other two branches). And the Judiciary is obliged to resolve the conflict in a way that BEST protects BOTH rights. Both Life and Liberty.

      So your “science” is … bullshit … the issue is individual liberty. Disagee? Take it up with Jefferson and the Founders.
      Anything else?

      1. http://www.fauquier.com/news/l…..7e258.html

        Oh, Jefferson was a slave lover. More slaves, and love the female ones.

        “individual Liberty” LOL

        1. I never mentioned Jefferson, Sparky.
          What does your babbling have to do with the meaning of unalienable?
          (smirk)

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  23. Here is another way:

    http://www.fauquier.com/news/l…..7e258.html

    1. You should have read it before making a fool of yourself.
      Twice.

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