We each must first put our own house of ideas in order
by Dan Sanchez
The liberty movement is not prevailing because it has primarily been a political movement. To succeed, it must transform into a movement centered on self-improvement: or more specifically, self-study.
The liberty movement (defined broadly to include libertarians, liberty-leaning conservatives, and principled antiwar and civil libertarian leftists) as a political movement is preoccuped with the following types of measures:
- Winning elections and legislative battles
- Advancing a pro-liberty narrative through points of fact, like policy failures and successes
- Pro-liberty sloganeering, meme-making, and other forms of “marketing”
- Humiliating “culture war” enemies by exposing their depravity, mocking, or otherwise rhetorically “owning” them
- Harming the interests of political enemies through government policy and economic maneuvers
Some of these measures can do some good if they are not overdone or over-prioritized. Others are worthless and counter-productive.
In general, the liberty movement’s preoccupation with these political and culture-war methods generates a lot of sound and fury, accomplishing little to nothing.
The liberty movement is too fixated on “correcting” others directly, which winds up being self-defeating. Pro-liberty individuals pay too little attention to improving themselves: particularly to improving their own understanding, consistent adherence to, and ability to explain the philosophy of liberty.
Many liberty advocates will rail against violations of rights. But precious few (even among professional liberty advocates) spend any significant time developing a thorough and consistent understanding of what rights even are and how they apply to our lives, much less the ability to articulate that understanding to others.
Many defenders of the free market will recommend works like I, Pencil and Economics in One Lesson. But precious few have studied them enough to be able to effectively relate their basic arguments and messages to newcomers.
Liberty is not merely a slate of policies or a “side” in a culture war. Liberty is a philosophy: a system of ideas. Ideas must be comprehended to be adopted. And to make ideas comprehensible to others, we must first fully comprehend them ourselves.
As Leonard Read taught, if liberty is losing, it is because those with the potential to be liberty leaders are neglecting to “do their homework,” i.e., to first put their own house of ideas in order.
For liberty to meaningfully win, we must become a movement centered around contagious self-improvement and self-study.