Be A Minister For Liberty

People who truly care about liberty tend to be very passionate. They want everybody to know that freedom is the solution to many of the world’s problems. Anybody who will listen gets an earful. Down with the government! Down with war! Up with the free market! Up with Civil Liberties! No More bailouts! And on and on. You get the picture.

All too often, lovers of liberty rely on emotional arguments to get their point across. Such and such is good because it just is! The forefathers made it that way. God made it that way. We get worked up when any person rejects our beliefs. Conversations and debates turn into a struggle between good and evil; and the evil doer must be made to repent and believe.

There are many problems with resorting to emotional arguments.

First, even if you do convince a person, their conviction may be fleeting. Many of us get enthusiastic about ideas because of the way that they are presented at a particular time and in a particular environment. Once the stimulus dies down, so does our passion. Think of a political rally. People yell and scream and cry over their candidate. The very next day they wouldn’t say peep if somebody dragged their man’s name through the mud.

Second, they leave you exhausted. When you get your feelings all tied up in an argument, you end up either elated with success or crushed with defeat. This is unhealthy. Passion is admirable, and essential for changing people’s minds. However, it must be harnessed in a way that doesn’t leave you burned out and desperate.

Third, emotional arguments make you look like an intellectual lightweight. When you come across very intelligent people they will cringe at purely sentimental arguments. Really smart people must be reasoned with. You must present them with well thought out positions. Intelligent people tend to be well respected and if you can win them over, they’ll go on to influence many others.

Fourth, you’ll be easily talked out of your positions. If you haven’t taken the time to really deeply think about your beliefs, you’ll be like the proverbial house built on sand. The aesthetics of your arguments may be pleasing, but the foundation is weak. A strong gust will blow you over. When the challenge comes, you’ll have nothing to fall back on but superficial platitudes.

Beyond relying too much on emotional appeals, I must also warn about becoming a personality cultist. It is sad when people whose belief system is tied up with some particular person, have their hopes dashed when a scandal surfaces. We all have writers and thinkers who we deeply respect and admire. But it must be their ideas and the strength of their arguments that stir us to action, not their personality.

So, what does this have to do with being a minister for liberty?

I recently read something interesting about the word minister. The word’s origin dates back to between the years 1250-1300. The Middle English word ministre or minister meant servant. The Latin verb ministrāre means to act as a servant or to attend. It was in this sense, for example, that Jesus ministered to his apostles. He humbled himself to the point of washing the feet of his students.

Think of the word servant, what comes to mind? I think of a person who is there to take care of your every need. The servant is prepared to fulfill desires. The good servant does so with a smile and a pleasant attitude.

When you go to a restaurant, the waiter says “My name is so and so and I’ll be serving you today.” What does that mean to you? To me it means that I’ll be taken care of. I’ll be attended to. For the duration of my visit, this person will put my best interests first.

Likewise when discussing liberty. We must put the other person first. It must be understood that your interest in liberty is not your own selfish desires. You are primarily concerned with the good of your listener, and their family, and your family, and people around the world, and future generations.

And like any good servant you must be prepared to minister to the needs of your fellow man. This takes the form of being prepared to give well thought out, logical answers to difficult questions. If a person desires more information or further explanation and you cannot provide them with that, you a poor minister, a poor servant.

Therefore, the primary concern of the minister of liberty is study. It is contemplation. You must prepare yourself to provide the answers to life’s most difficult questions. Only in this way can you fulfill people’s desire for knowledge. This path leads to changing minds and lives for the better, permanently.

Your task, should you choose to accept it, is to put down the remote and pick up a book. Close the laptop and open your mind. Find the answers to the questions that your fellow man is asking. Figure out how to present them with the information they lack in a way that is pleasurable. It takes time and effort, but it is worth. You will be contributing to bringing about a better world.

When your beliefs are based on cold, hard reasoning but your motivation is born of love, you are a force to be reckoned with.

I admonish you to take some time off from arguing. Spend some time listening and observing. Think about who you are and what you’re about. Figure out why you think the way you think; why you feel the way you feel. Were you brought up a certain way? Did some charismatic person convince you and you haven’t looked back since? Or, have you settled upon your conclusions after a substantial amount of sober reasoning.

If you are a minister for liberty, I salute you. Keep up the important work and always make sure that you are doing it for the right reasons and in the right way.


4 Responses to Be A Minister For Liberty

  1. galudwig says:

    While I do agree with you on most points, I actually think that we libertarians, purely from a strategic viewpoint, should be making more emotional arguments instead of less. Reflection, study and debate on the fundamental issues are of course necessary to a degree (and the more the better). But we should take care to do more than just preach to the choir. We should be drawing the great masses who stand to benefit from our ideas, but who, sadly, don’t tend to be interested in deep arguments, but think in terms of “left” and “right” and “good guys” and “bad guys”. I think it all depends on one’s conception of how ideas influence society. Hayek talked at length of the need to convince the intellectuals, who in turn would change the intellectual climate. But, how much of a chance do we ordinary folk really have to get the Krugmans of this world to reconsider their opinion, especially when they don’t want to listen. Instead, arguments that speak to the heart hits the interventionists and socialists where it hurts. That is their domain, and we should invade it. But how? I don’t know 😦
    just some musing on my part, great post friend 🙂

    • Wow! Great feedback. Thank you as always for the kind words. By intellectuals, I meant the intellectuals among us, not the Paul Krugman’s of the world. We all know somebody whose opinions we respect because they are so damn smart. Maybe you’re that person for your friends :).

      After thinking about it over the long weekend and watching some of the footage from Iowa, what I realized is that anybody can make an emotional appeal. Romney uses the same words as Ron Paul to preach a very different message. Anybody who you haven’t spoken to in depth will think its all the same.

      I use to sell newspaper subscriptions. We would give new customers the first month for free. Every newspaper subscription I sold earned me $25. The easiest way to make a sell was, “Hey just try out the paper for a month, its free.” There was a catch though. If the person canceled within the first three months, you lost the commission. If you didn’t do a good job making a really persuasive, in depth pitch, you’d lose the sale 75% of the time.

      On Gary North’s site there is a book by a man who used to be one of the top Communists in Britain. His name was Douglas Arnold Hyde. Later in life he became a Catholic priest. As a priest he gave a series of lectures to higher ups in the Church. The topic was: As a tiny minority of the population, how do communists have such an huge impact on public debate? The answer: an intentional focus on recruiting and grooming hardcore communists. They didn’t waste time on people who would only make a shallow commitment. Its a very interesting read.

      Obviously I’m not for turning the libertarian movement into anything like the communist party. But I will say this. I would much rather have one deep and meaningful conversation with a person who accepts completely the logic of libertarianism than 20 where I simply appeal to a person’s emotions and a day later they forget what we talked about. An emotional appeal might be good for piquing interest but it must be followed up with heady, substantive, study and explanation.

      After they’ve been converted, they can start writing blogs and talking to more people, like you and me :).

      Unfortunately, that means that getting the word out to the masses is a long and painstaking effort. And when you’re undertaking something so difficult, it must be a labor of love. You have to feel like you’re working for some higher good.

      I always appreciate your insightful comments. You are a super smart dude. Keep it up my friend.


  2. Pingback: Comments on being a Minister For Liberty « Unhampered Market

  3. Pingback: Be A Minister For Liberty Part 2 « POLITICAL ECONOMY FOR REGULAR JOES

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