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To Give Up, or Fight?

Interesting conservation going on over at the Du Toit place.

I think the big difference between our points of view is that you haven’t given up the fight, while I have. -Tamara K.

I think that pretty much the issue in a nutshell.  Kim’s answer to that is classic Kim:

And I never will. This is the last place on Earth where freedom lives, no matter how much you think it’s become corrupted and not worth fighting for.

Throwing up your hands and surrendering just because the struggle might seem hopeless… sorry, that’s just not my style.

I’ll give up when the boot’s on my chest and the bayonet’s at my throat—and not one moment earlier.

And even then, I’ll spit on the boot.

I’m actually not that convinced it has to come to that.  Polls show that somewhere between 10 and 20% of voting age Americans have libertarian sentiments.   That’s nothing to sneeze at, and if you can tap that resource, you can have a big influence on political outcomes.  The problem here is twofold.   The first is with the voting public itself.  People won’t typically spontaneously organize for political action, and libertarian minded people are typically horses that don’t really want to be lead to water.  Their philosophy can best be summed up as “leave me the hell alone”, which makes organizing them a challenge compared to people who have something to gain through the political process.  The second fold of this problem is with the activists, because every political movement needs a dedicated core set of activists to organize people to action.

Over the years I’ve come to understand libertarianism as a philosophical movement and not a political one.  The people who would form this dedicated core of activists have more energy to argue with each other, and to attend to the philosophical purity of the movement, than they do for getting their ideas out into the political arena where they can start to make a difference.   But there is hope.

If you look at the gun rights movement, it’s one libertarianish issue that’s managed to work itself into the political mainstream and be astoundingly successful once it had sufficient momentum to affect outcomes.  I think this model could be easily replicated with other issues if more libertarian activists would pick some issues that are short term winnable, and push those out into the political arena.

But the difficulty for libertarians activists is that it will mean making alliance with people who don’t buy your whole philosophy.  We have many non-libertarians with us on the gun issue, and sometimes that friction comes to the surface.  But its only through coalition building that you can get anywhere.  A lot of libertarian activists seems to be OK with this on the gun issue, but talk about replicating that system with other issues, and they get difficult. Try to talk about which issues aren’t winnable right now, they don’t want to hear it.

Liberty is a never ending battle.  We will never win.  Like the game Whack-a-Mole, it’s frustrating, and sometimes it seems like you’re doing all you can to just hold the line.  But giving up is a sure way to lose at Whack-a-Mole, so to libertarians, I offer this: “Keep whacking!”  How’s that for a motto?

7 Responses to “To Give Up, or Fight?”

  1. Alcibiades McZombie says:

    I think it’s spelled “whack”.

  2. Cam says:

    A man could run for president with a slogan like that.

    He wouldn’t win, but he could run. :)

  3. guy says:

    I think the problem with replicating the RKBA success to other issues lies in the fact that guns go *BANG* and are a lot of fun to shoot. It’s instant gratification.

    Getting people jazzed about freedom of speech or religion usually only works when it’s their particular ox being gored – and it’s usually only a small group being directly affected at one time.

  4. Sebastian says:

    You have the same problem with shooters. You don’t know how many times I’ve heard guys say “Well, that’s those guns. They won’t ever come for mine.”

  5. Jim W says:

    Marijuana legalization is going to be the next big libertarian issue. The younger generations are completely tired of the war on drugs.

    Also I think that privatization of government functions is good for liberty.

  6. straightarrow says:

    “Also I think that privatization of government functions is good for liberty.”-Jim W.

    I think it depends on the function and at that, I am not sure of my opinion on this. Many functions that government performs should and could be performed by private enterprise more efficiently and effectively. On the other hand, some functions I would not like to see them do. For instance, I fear private enterprise prisons and private enterprise law enforcement. Both would and do have a vested interest in an increasingly restrictive society where profit is generated by the numbers of criminals created and incarcerated.

    Lobbying by such groups could be very deleterious to liberty and the concept of a free society. So , I have misgivings about privatization being the be-all answer. Though, I admit some functions could benefit from such an application and so could the country. As they say, the Devil is in the details.

  7. Mike W. says:

    Sebastian – you are much more optimistic than I am. I tend towards Tam’s view.

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