Spreading the Liberty Message

In his tremendously enlightening essay The Voluntarist’s Role, written in 1974, Ridgway K. Foley Jr. writes the following:

Keep the Faith

First, we must keep the faith. Withdrawal admits defeat. It hides our light from the rest of the world, for the faithless exude poor candlepower. We must believe, truly believe, in our basic precepts and act upon that belief.

Second, each of us must improve his understanding of the nature and philosophy of the freedom doctrine. As noted at the outset, this never-ending task will consume our whole life and dominate our whole being, for no one of us can accomplish perfect freedom even with a lifetime of effort. Reading, thinking, conversing with others of both like and unlike minds will propel us on our way in this regard. Growth represents our goal, for man is a “becoming” creature.

Third, we must avoid the tendency to preach to others, for no one listens much to a “know-it‑all.”5 Like the converted sinner filled to the brim with the miracle of his conversion, the libertarian after long periods of study often appears so full of exuberance that he feels he must spray forth his beliefs or burst. Yet we know from common experience that the energetic young preacher detracts from his message when he intrudes so deeply into the conversation that he dominates all others. Each of us wants very much to be heard, to have other beings place value on his utterances. The libertarian must learn to listen as well as to speak, to offer his light in small bits, easy to assimilate. Electricity provides wonderful gifts, but none of our appliances can effectively use this source as it arrives from the powerhouse; the energy must be broken down into usable quantities and forces by means of a series of complicated distribution systems and transformers. The freedom devotee must provide his own transformer. Patience and perseverance represent ultimate values in this regard.

Compassion and Joy

Fourth, forget not the need for calmness, compassion and joy. Treat each human being as a human being, not as an object to be mauled and manipulated. Statists view mankind as so much putty to be molded by the social architect; libertarians conceive of man as possessed of a soul, of dignity, of intrinsic worth qua person. Far too often, gloom and darkness pervade the setting of the voluntarist and seem to follow him about like a dark cloud. Perhaps this state is caused by the gravity of the situation where statism seems to be winning on every side, or by the serious questions we constantly consider. But such an attitude ignores the solace of our own beliefs and the essential nature of our endeavor. The freedom philosophy offers a lilting rhapsody to man in this world; the tenets of our faith recognize that individuals, while imperfect, are capable of great creative and productive strides. Long faces have no place here, for life for the free man offers an exciting challenge and an exhilarating road to follow. Above all, we must retain a sense of humor ere we lose our stability and our effectiveness in the process. An ability to laugh, even at ourselves, in the face of overwhelming chaos, bodes well for the future success.

Fifth, we must live our lives consistently and in accordance with our philosophy. Consistency represents a major virtue. All too often purported believers in the freedom ethic act altogether irrationally when they move from their chosen discipline into a related arena. Nothing can quell a questing audience more quickly than an actor who belies his words by inconsistent deeds. The libertarian who accepts government subsidies or competitive advantages deviates as much from his beliefs as the hypocritical Christian who cheats his fellow man on Monday morning. No one will be attracted to voluntarism by cant or deceit. No one can truly express libertarian thought without living his life in harmony with those principles.

Signal Fires

Sixth, after all of the foregoing we must light a few brush fires along the way, to illuminate the path we call right and just. Libertarians assume a defensive posture in many instances: they are labeled “against” social security, wage and price and rent controls, the Federal Reserve System, criminalization of sexual conduct between consenting adults, and myriad other sanctions. Our role includes patient explanation of the fundamental principles underlying these positions: it also includes much more. Each of us must explain the affirmative of the individualist faith: belief in the dignity of individual man and his power to choose rationally between alternatives, in the right of each human being to live his life strictly, solely, and uniquely in accordance with the dictates of his own conscience without interference from others save in the event that he acts coercively or fraudulently.”

Read the entire essay here, http://www.thefreemanonline.org/features/the-voluntarists-role/.


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