Changing Society Through Communities rather than Politics: An essay on Strategy and Approach

We’ve all been there when the die hard political guy gets up and preaches that we should all endorse his political views because anything else is tantamount to hating poor people or ruining the country. But, what if I told you that many people think the same of libertarians? That you can just as easily replace hating poor people or destroying the country with tyranny.

The fact is, when someone starts talking about politics, any politics, more than half the room is shutting down and the other half probably won’t do anything with what you’re saying. Politics is not persuasive enough to change the majority of people, and a lot of folks just find it offensive. If you would like to check this out, try going out and speaking to people about politics. Odds are, you will either find someone who disagrees with you, does not want to talk about it, or they agree with you but are still too busy to help out with your group or project.

I believe that the reason for this is because politics is almost always about politics. Saul Alinksy said it best, “the issue is not the issue. The issue is power.” Politics is about taking control and persuading people. Politics is inherently a conversion process where you either win or lose. In short, politics is ugly. And if people today have learned anything from the Bush and Obama administrations, it is that politics does not give you what you want.

So, what can we do? Are we stuck trying to persuade people to try politics in another way? Fighting for each and every convert we make, spending countless hours hammering away at their beliefs until they look right? No, in fact there is another way. One in which we are not converting people away from their own values and lifestyles. We can empower people with the values of liberty.

Any libertarian worth his salt will tell you that being free means being able to live your life how you want. If the libertarian in question is astute, they will follow up by saying that you will then be free to meet yours and your friends needs in the best way possible. What if instead of having a libertarian explain this idea, we had people within a given community actually using these span spangled ideas of liberty to empower and improve their communities?

Now, this may seem like a game of semantics, and in some ways it is an issue of word play. Words, however, matter. We need fewer libertarians preaching about libertarianism and more people actively reaching out to communities showing them how liberty principles are better than the mainstream strategy of asking the government to fix our problems with regulations, laws, and licensing.

What I am talking about is placing less emphasis on libertarian rhetoric and more emphasis on libertarian principles. In other words, less libertarian politicians and more communities working with the concepts of liberty.

Imagine this, you are a farmer, and your business is falling on hard times. Who is going to be able to influence you more, the politician who talks about how the government needs less laws so farmers can be free, or the farmer who shares with you how your life’s work can benefit from being free to adapt to your communities needs? We are placing too much emphasis on politics.

A Libertarian talking about libertarian politics as means of changing the world is only putting more fuel into the machine that rules us.

Now,  am I saying that having a Libertarian party is the wrong way to go? No, having a Libertarian Party is not a bad idea. Most people still believe that solutions come from the government. What I am saying is that we libertarians are all too focused on convincing people to change their titles and rhetoric.

Rather than making everyone into libertarians, we should try to empower social communities with liberty to achieve their own ends. What would that look like? It would mean fewer political meetings where the same people come and talk about the same issues week after week. Instead, it would mean libertarians going out, finding, and empowering people within communities who can appreciate the value of liberty and creativity. These people could then take liberty concepts and approaches and apply them to their given interests. In short, these people would carry the message of liberty and change their communities directly.

We would see fewer “libertarians” it is true, and we would also see more communities espousing the same values that we libertarians cherish. The concept of tolerance, appreciation for the spirit of innovation, creative destruction, and most importantly the simple idea that people are capable of changing their own lives for the better.

In a libertarian utopia, no one would have to label themselves as libertarians, because everyone would already live by the concepts of liberty; voluntary association, and the non-aggression principle. Rather than preaching about what the world ought to be, why don’t we show them?

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