The libertarian movement has an attitude problem. Too many libertarians have centered their focus on the misdeeds of the state and not upon the amazing aspects of a free society. They have failed to provide others with a vision of love and optimism around what a free society would entail.
When we harp on the abuses of our renegade government, we bestow upon ourselves an image of gloom and negativity. That’s not to say we shouldn’t point out state abuse; to the contrary it is important to highlight the evils that the powerful commit.
However, complaining about the President, the TSA, and the welfare-state cannot be our only message. We must have a positive message to complement our concerns.
Lessons from teaching children
By being optimistic, we enable others to perceive the beauty and inherent loveliness of liberty. We will be far more effective as a movement if we can focus on the positive traits of liberty because human beings respond much better to positive visions than negative ones.
I remember I used to have a summer job at a daycare where I was a teacher to about fifteen children whose ages ranged from six to eight years old. Whenever I would attempt to get the children to stop running in the hallway, I would scream “Don’t run!” at them but they would ignore me and my commands.
It wasn’t until I noticed another teacher interacting with her students who were running in the hallway that I realized I had been completely wrong in how I handled the situation. Instead of screaming “don’t run” at her misbehaving children, she calmly chided them to “walk, please.”
The children immediately slowed down to walk. I reasoned this must be because these kids are blasted with negative commands from adults so often (“don’t run” “don’t yell” “don’t cry” etc.) that they eventually tune them out.
I think the same phenomenon is occurring in the liberty movement; people are so tired of the negativity, that when a libertarian comes to them with a negative concern, no matter how much merit it might have, they very likely will tune it out.
Love is greater than hate
Think about how revolutionary it is to be hopeful. We live in a society that is saturated with stories about murder, war, and injustice. Our news media provides us with the most gruesome portrayal of humanity and constantly bombards us with images of brutality and destruction.
Our two-party system deeply divides us as a people and tries to convince us that the “other side” is imbecilic, unfeeling, and evil. All of these forces leave us feeling isolated and alone in our violent world.
As a culture, we have largely accepted that violence, war and prejudice are inevitable factors in our lives. We have reasoned that we are too small to change the ever growing abuse of state power. But we must not anguish because there is a force greater than absolute despair, and that force is love.
A libertarian society should be made up of peace, love, & liberty
A libertarian society can only exist through love. Love is the most powerful force in the universe. Its ability to unite others is immeasurable. Its ability to foster peace in our hearts is unquantifiable.
It is the only force in the world strong enough to combat war and famine and death. Its ability to make us empathize with our fellow human beings is what makes us yearn for justice. While our critics posit that our hatred of taxation and economic central planning is born from selfish desires, for most libertarians, this hatred is actually fueled by love.
We love voluntary association so much that we respect the wealth of individuals and would not wish or expect to have any of it distributed to us through the force of government.
Love is also why we despise war. War destroys homes, ravages entire countries, replaces once-glorious landscapes with craters formed through bombardment; it poisons our culture and gives rise to nationalism, xenophobia, racism and fear; it kills indiscriminately and leaves us yearning for that illustrious ideal known as peace.
Individual rights for all people
Love provides hope through the most unimaginable circumstances and gives us a reason to seek peace and justice. When we realize that the victims of American foreign policy (some 10-17 million innocent civilians killed in U.S. wars since WWII) are not ogres or “dirty Arabs” hell-bent on destroying America because it has an illusion of freedom, we enable ourselves to understand that these victims, whom our government decided were undeserving of life, are actually just people.
They have dreams, hopes, and desires. They are sons and daughters; fathers and mothers. They are loved by others and they suffer for the enrichment of a cherished few (Halliburton, Lockheed-Martin, etc.). They are our brothers and sisters. They, like us, share love with each other.
With all this in mind, we, as libertarians, must remember what our message really is. It is not a message of corporate elitism, racial prejudice, right-wing conservatism, or left-wing progressivism.
It is not a paranoid negative entity which solely focuses on the misgivings of the previous administrations. It is an optimistic and beautiful philosophy which asserts individual rights for all people.
So let us recall this lesson as we go forth in our activism. And let us always remember that the only way to heal this broken world is to recognize the awesome force that is love, and to unleash its power in order to bring forth peace.
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Written by Lucas Lostoski
This piece solely expresses the opinion of the author and not necessarily the organization as a whole. Students For Liberty is committed to facilitating a broad dialogue for liberty, representing a variety of opinions.