I was first inspired to begin writing this post over a year ago when I read the blog post entitled Libertarians: the problems of purity. It is over a year in the making, not because of its depth or greatness (hardly), but because of the challenge for the author of expressing my beliefs in a way that is comprehensible to others.
My plea is this – Libertarians (note uppercase L which indicates party affiliation) need to stop putting purity tests on libertarians (note lowercase l which indicates philosophical affiliation). My primary source for this plea is the World’s Smallest Political Quiz (aka the Advocate’s Quiz, aka the Nolan Chart).
Let’s take the above as an example. Ms. Apple is a school teacher who is intensely against adult possession and use of drugs including marijuana and even alcohol. She thinks that prostitution should remain illegal, but has no problem with homosexual marriage. She also is intensely pro First Amendment, against a draft and detests the idea of a National ID card.
In addition, Ms. Apple thinks the government safety net should definitely remain in place. To do this she believes spending and tax could be cut, but not drastically. She favors ending all forms of welfare, save the safety net and is a proponent of free trade.
According to the Nolan Chart Ms. Apple scores as a libertarian, falling just above the centrist line at a score of 70/70.
Now the problem.
Mr. Myself is an apex libertarian scoring 100/100 on the Nolan Chart. He is very proud of his "credentials," but the truth is he has gotten to his positions over time. In fact, he started out very near where Ms. Apple is today.
The problem as I see it is when Mr. Myself encounters Ms. Apple online during a Facebook debate on marijuana legalization. It is likely Mr. Myself will attempt to persuade Ms. Apple to see it his way, citing innumerable statistics and Reason Magazine articles. After some time, it is likely reductio ad hitlerum will lead to Mr. Myself to believe that Ms. Apple is Dr. Mengele reincarnate and Ms. Apple will view Myself as Bill Murray’s groundskeeper character of Carl Spackler in Caddy Shack.
I have seen this played out (yes, even played my part in) countless conversations both online and in person and it always leads to one fewer Libertarian. We need to stop the madness.
My suggested remedy comes from Edwin Friedman, author of one of my all-time favorite books, A Failure of Nerve. In the preface is this gem, Friedman writes, "The colossal misunderstanding of our time is the assumption that insight will work with people who are unmotivated to change." For more on this visit a previous post about this quote.
Friedman’s prescription is simply this – If you care about the relationship and want to advance your cause, figure out how to remain connected to the other person and let them know you are there to support them.
Yep, that is it. No cajoling, no more statistics, no more Reason.com posts. Just remain available in what he calls in a non anxious presence mode.
If the Libertarian Party is to advance we need more leaders who embrace this mode of thinking. We have to stop ostracizing people, especially those with whom we agree on so much.
Who will join me?