The Psychology of Libertarianism

This was post #125 by “Gains” in the Oregon Convention thread. It was interesting and thought provoking enough that I thought it deserved its own thread. Pay particular attention to the link to this article in Reason.

We can win elections as Libertarians.
We can make significant and cumulative strides in social change.
We can grow our party.


We have some significant social barriers to success in the Party that I think that we would benefit from addressing. I have no right to demand agreement from anyone, so take all of this as a helpful suggestion based on experience and success.

The first issue is that we are extremely exclusive. The other is that we spend far too much time with destructive in-fighting with no purpose nor benefit derived.

These two issues also converge into a larger theme: Meanness; that is to say a significant deficiency of empathy and an irresponsible lacking of forethought in consequence. An interesting paper was brought to my attention. It is cited in a article “The Science of Libertarian Morality”:

The non-peer reviewed draft “Understanding Libertarian Morality: The Psychological Roots of an Individualist Ideology” can be found here:

The non-scientific study took a bunch of people, asked them to self identify their political philosophy and then ran them through a battery of several personality trait spectrum tests. The results are not too surprising if you are involved with the Party. Those who self identified as libertarian had some strong biases. On a scale that measured systemic analysis over empathy for moral decisions, libertarians scored very high toward systemic analysis. Much in the same way that high spectrum autistic people score. This is a problem. It is not that people with high systemic analysis are a problem, but a society that is mired in an incapacity for empathy definitely is.

The libertarian principles are very attractive to everyone in my experience. When the beautiful logic that is our ethical and moral foundation is expressed to them in terms that are understandable, just about everyone I know moves toward self identifying as libertarian. So what is the problem? Why are we stuck?

When I travel afield into different county and state organizations, I find that we have a lot of organizations that are either tiny, or now non-existent except as an empty shell meet-up group; whole counties that almost never meet; regions in metropolitan areas that have 2 or 3 people showing up for monthly meetings. Those that do show up seem to be locked in a bitter struggle to ensure that no one ever comes back. How? They insult the living crap out of people because they do not tolerate anyone who does not have this extreme personality. Not that they are not libertarian. In my experience most people are libertarian and the thing stopping them from identifying thus is always some irrational fear. Hyper rationality does NOT address their fears, it heightens them.

The majority of people do not live in a psychological state that is a hairs breath from sociopathy. We will not go above our 30 year history of 0.5% of the registered voters as long as we fail to accept that our fellow humans often feel out solutions and not rationalize them down to first order consequence problems. Our failing, it seems to me, is that we have turned consequence and cause upside down. We seem to think that libertarianism is caused by this lack of empathy, and that empathy in itself is the weakness that must be crushed to form a libertarian society. Instead of welcoming people and addressing them with persuasive argument, appropriate peer influence, and setting social examples, we beat on them.

We act as if we can change the foundational personality traits in people, and we seem to think that somehow we have a “duty” to do so. Instead of finding and practicing the art of persuasion, we chop at people with axes of unflinching rationality and kill anyone who is unlucky enough to wander in and fits a personality profile not in the 2% immune to the emotional appeals. Over and over again I have seen a good motivated newbie come in contact with Libertarians and get mashed for being “normal” in their approach. Here is a generalized typical example:

Mr. Newman comes to his first libertarian meeting. He likes what he sees in our literature. He is tired of the hypocrisy and machinations of the “X Party” he no longer identifies with and he wants to find out what Libertarians are all about. Mr. Newman along with everyone in our American society has been bombarded with fear from the state. it may be that he has a decent understanding of libertarian approaches to ethics and morality, it is attractive to him, but in his gut, he is stuck on one issue: Lets say drugs in this illustration.

The conversation drifts to the drug war and he says something like: “I can see pot being ok but no way should we ever let cocaine or heroin be legal!” In many cases, our social gestalt would result in a intellectual ass-kicking of Mr. Newman or at least an ostracization. Mr. Newman, having formed no connections with the group leaves bewildered, and never returns. Why should he, he has free will, and what sort of moron would will himself to dip into a vat of social acid every month?

We would benefit greatly if we wove into our social mores, a recognition that even people who are “wrong” have a right to be that way. That we have no authority to demand perfection from each other. What we do have authority to do is to persuade people to reconsider positions. That takes time, it takes forethought and it takes empathy.

There are a few Libertarian organizations out there that do appeal to the masses. The county I associate with is full of “non-rationals” that are good 100/100 libertarians. I >>KNOW<< that the personality traits identified in the study above are not the cause of libertarian thought, the study instead illustrates a stratification we have fallen into because we will not allow people to self identify as libertarians unless they are somehow emotionally bankrupt. It is not that the masses cannot be libertarian, it is that libertarians will not accept the masses.

In my local county party and several others that have formed with similar social structure, Mr. Newman would be welcomed with open arms. We would not engage him on the drug war or any other deviation from our core philosophy. He would first be socialized into the group. He would feel that he IS one of us. It would not be until after he has invested his social identity into the group by his own free will that anyone would dare to start addressing his deviations from our ideal path. Because until he has invested in us, we have no authority to ask for, much less demand that he reexamine his views; and Mr. Newman has no motivation to listen until we have established a positive and an appealing connection with him.

In a healthy libertarian social structure, Mr. Newman, safe and comfortable with his new friends, finds that no one calls anyone a dirty birdie while talking about freedom. He finds very quickly that to say shocking things like “all drugs should be decriminalized,” is not met with guns and shackles and a trip to the looney bin. It takes him a little while to acclimate perhaps but constant exposure to friendly debate and forensic examination of the ethical issues makes him feel at ease. He is not crazy when he yearns to be free, and that self actualized realization will stay with him a very long time. The violent programming that he received in public school about never questioning authority, quickly melts away when he emotionally realizes that he is secure in expressing his own thoughts on liberty that are natural to all men.

I doubt if any well steeped libertarian would question whether that violent authoritarian programming exists in public schools or in pop culture. What I think many of us do not realize is that when we berate new people or when we engage in divisive and destructive internal politicking, we are emulating and reinforcing that violence. To understand what I mean by that I have to ask you to stretch your rational dissection of my points a little bit to understand secondary effects and emotional memories.

The violent programming of authority is rarely direct and this makes it sometimes hard for people to perceive. We know this and see it all the time when we ask people to see the violence in taxes for instance. An argument I often hear from the uninitiated is that there is no gun being held to your head. As libertarians, the gun is obvious, it is thinly veiled threat hidden behind bureaucrats and paperwork. No doubt though, if you don’t pay, the shackles come out and the gun shortly after them. The game played by the statists is to create the emotional feeling of threat any time authority is questioned. They cajole at first, ridicule, freeze assets, speak sternly, and then hit you with a mountain of atrocious lies that if you dare resist will be taken to court and turned to documented “truth” and used to destroy you through imprisonment and worse.

Libertarians are guilty in a large scale of the exact violent display.

“What!?!” you may ask.

I assert that libertarians when they simply demand that their rationale is to be accepted because of it’s internal consistency and obvious truth, take on the same presumptuous tone and manner that the bureaucrats do. Forget the topic or the truth, listen to the approach and the tone. Listen to libertarians around you with that filter and I think you will see what I mean. Then take the plunge and listen to yourself when you debate with someone who “just doesn’t get it.” By rationalizing their fears, or ridiculing them, and demanding we are in effect playing the same scripts that the authoritarians use to illicit a fear response. When we ostracize; when we needle; when we poke… we hurt people. We seemingly do the very proxy violence that the state does; we engage in the very thing we muster against.

We have a socially institutionalized culture of violence that lives within the Libertarian Party. It is incipient. We are plagued by purges, Machiavellian mischief, and factional skullduggery. We lack in our society an understanding of where healthy ends, and destructive begins. We fail to see when our competition internally dives headlong into violence, most often through inference but way too often in actuality. These games have spilled over into the obscene and stopped far too late into the process to have been anything less than negligent. Some instances have been simply callous and cruel. Some have been nearly if not actually criminal.

Because most people live most of the time in a mindset reacting emotionally to the world, their reaction to our culturally ingrained behavior is pain and fear. For us to grow, this venom must stop being the accepted norm. Coalition organizations exist on trust. And doing violence to each other, makes trust a difficult thing to build. It is just simple.

So, for the typical libertarian identified in the personality study as having a longing for understanding of the rules of the game, here is what I would suggest you consider:

Be kind to people. It is not your job to tell them where they are wrong. You will, touch on an authoritarian trigger, and you will be doing violence to the person without even knowing it.

Be kind to people. You do have the authority to set an example of what a healthy society looks like and make them feel at home in that. You will assuage their irrational fears and arm them with the arguments and empower them with the courage to engage issues with rationality.

Resolve conflicts. Actively seek peace in your community. If the context of the conflict is simply personal, keep it there. First go person to person with your rival and deescalate when things go too far. If you cannot get peace and the conflict is in the context of others, go to people who have a stake in both of your sakes and ask for them to help negotiating a peace. Lastly resolve the conflict within the body if the scope of the issue is in that context. Be straight forward and do not seek capitulation from de facto allies within any of those spheres. Seek peace.

Resolve conflicts. Actively encourage peace in your community. If there is a personal conflict and someone seeks peace, grant it and berate yourself for not having sought it first. Let it go, whatever it is it is probably not worth it. If you are approached by someone who is a friend and seeks to help negotiate peace with another, either with you as the go between or the respondent; know that people are trying to stop things as they go too far. You have a responsibility within your friends to seek peace. If there is a society or party aspect to a conflict, ensure that you have elected leadership that will approach the conflict with fairness and the necessary good disposition and skill to deescalate it. You have a responsibility not to escalate other peoples’ conflicts and you have a responsibility not to bring them into higher spheres of community than they really exist.

By-laws are evil. They are where the Party meets the force of government. Any time you create a by-law, you create another grip for evil people to bring the force of government down upon it.

Social mores are beautiful. Creating a socially constructed framework of in-bounds and out-of-bounds rules that are enforced by peers is the very fabric of libertarian actualization. Human beings are too naturally mean to not have rules. The trick is creating rules that do not require guns (or their second order extension: by laws) to be followed. If you really want to be free you have to be ready to actively encourage justice and peace without violence, fraud or threat
whenever, and wherever possible.

Destructive games are wrong. If you destroy, with fraud or the application of violence (even proxy threats) the work of another, you have broken the non-aggression principle. Don’t be mean, and be smart: Don’t crap where you eat.

Competition is brilliant. If you have what it takes to outshine your rival, you earn every kudo in the books and more. If you cant keep it in bounds or pull back when you stray, you are a loser.

Cooperation is smart. There is no zero sum to political capital, share freely because it spreads thicker the more it goes around. The more wins you can find for the people around you, the more wins there are for everyone. If you win a campaign, is there any less glory if there are fifteen people working on it than if there are two? There is more.

Be kind to people; especially the ones you despise. Their poor disposition will bear them out, in the end, for the losers that they are.

29 thoughts on “The Psychology of Libertarianism

  1. Best We Can Do? [Lake]

    libertarians when they simply demand that their rationale is to be accepted because of it’s internal consistency and obvious truth, take on the same presumptuous tone and manner that the bureaucrats do.

    Forget the topic or the truth, listen to the approach and the tone. Listen to libertarians around you with that filter and I think you will see what I mean ………….

    [Lake: you have no idea how this ‘holier than thou’ attitude, especially when mixed with the dishonesty, and general lack of ethics, hurts the message. Look no further than ‘Hammer of Truth’ ………..]

  2. Keith R Deschler

    If it hadn’t been for the kindness and openness shown to me by two longtime Libertarians at a Toastmaster convention 12 years ago, I would not be a Libertarian today. I answered 70/70 on the Nolan Quiz ( the older version used in 1998: I would be 90/100 today….only differing on immigration). I was a borderline libertarian, and yet I was treated as a brother -in -arms by these two fine advocates of liberty. The article is true for good sections of the Party and movement, but not for our chapter (SE WI), or for our state party (LPWI). Good advice on being libertarians “not only in word and speech, but in deed and truth” (fromthe Biblical letter of I John, chapter 3, verse 18).

  3. Gains

    Keith @3

    The truth of the matter is that we are a society that seeks to spread an ethical framework. Religion and faith are also things that we would do better to embrace. Yeah, people acting in faith is scary to some ardently rational people; it is certainly the bane of the Objectivist point of view.

    We sometimes loose sight of the fact that we often seem very religious and faithful ourselves. That all the secular trappings and foibles of religion that some of us criticize, exist within our Party also amongst some of the most die-hard rationalists. When spirituality and faith scare us, it seems to me that what really scares us is humanity itself.

  4. Matt Cholko

    This is a great “article”, and I agree almost completely. Personally, I believe that I’ve come a long way in discussing libertarianism with people who aren’t hardcore Ls, but I know I have a VERY long way to go.

    Most of the progress that I’ve made, I attribute to my campaign for the VA House of Delegates last year. If you’re running an active campaign, interacting with voters, you’re forced to be polite and non-combative. I’ve also noticed that in the year since my campaign ended, I’ve regressed. I’ve started to drift back into the a$$hole realm. At least I’m more aware of it now, and I’m actively trying to do a better job.

    I’ve seen at least one other LP member change from an arguer to a discusser in just a few months – through his run for Congress this year.

    My point is; there is much to be gained from campaigns. Its not just political victory that counts. There is lots of personal improvement too.

  5. paulie

    @4 good point again. And I said so on the thread on which it first appeared as a comment, but good points in what is now this article, too.

  6. Gains

    Michael @8
    I might put it:

    I cannot expect respect until all those around me that I might expect it from, have learned to expect it also.

  7. Robert Capozzi

    mhw, YES! Respect is gained by giving it!

    As an aside, I believe L psychologist Peter Breggin suggested that there are psychological profiles that were useful. Liberals are motivated by guilt. Conservatives by shame. Ls by anxiety.

    This makes sense to me. Ls are often anxiety-ridden and fearful. Our brothers are prone to buying conspiracy theories and often catastrophize. We’re a fearful lot, expecting doom and gloom, and acting out of that expected outcome by often grandstanding on public policy regardless of their relevancy to the here and now.

    Anxiety, unfortunately, is paralyzing, and misery loves company.

  8. Robert Capozzi

    gains: Yeah, people acting in faith is scary to some ardently rational people; it is certainly the bane of the Objectivist point of view.

    me: Rather than just the Objectivist POV, I’d broaden that to the deontological absolutist POV. That captures the Rothbardians and the Randians.

    Interestingly, people act of “faith” nearly every day. When we leave the house, we have a certain amount of faith that the physical world still works as we recall, that a driver won’t drive on the left, that the food we’re eating isn’t laced with poison, etc. etc.

    Some Ls advocate a position that everyone should “drive in the left” — i.e., adopt in one fell swoop a radically different paradigm — even though most would say things work pretty well driving on the right. When dysfunction arises (e.g. traffic accident rates increase to broadly agreed to unacceptable levels), many Ls think this means that the time is ripe for cutting over to an entirely new paradigm. I’d suggest that ain’t necessarily so. Most of the time, a tweak to the speed limit may well be indicated, to carry the analogy forward.

    In the UK, driving on the left works, too, since the convention is broadly acceptable. Move to the UK from the US if you prefer left-side driving; don’t expect that your arguments for the left-side driving convention to be adopted in the US, for odds are VERY low that you’ll convince more than a few; recognize that left-side driving might be “objectively” superior, but it’s quixotic to believe it will be adopted; right-side driving and the rules of the road are always open to adjustment.

  9. AroundtheblockAFT

    Random thoughts: Big frogs in tiny ponds. We can’t win public elections but sure can win internal disputes. Incivility should have departed with Rothbard in 1989 but it didn’t.
    New attendees aren’t berated, they are largely ignored, with same result. New comers have no projects to be immediately plugged into so they don’t get to bond with longer-term members; many LP groups have nothing on their plate between elections. Every state convention needs an Emerling/Cloud-type persuasion clinic, teach Ransberger pivot, and other methods of getting one’s point across without alienating the vast majority of people who aren’t libertarian. Some LPers are too nice – they will nominate a candidate or vote for an officer just because no one else wants the job, not because the person has any suitability for the job.
    The enemy of libertarianism is usually not in the room – go look for them instead of engaging in a “whose is bigger” punch up with your allies.

  10. Charlie Earl

    It’s the honey vs. vinegar argument. Libertarians are often addicted to vinegar. We should remember that the primary reason for our existence as a party is to save the nation from its excesses. This goal can never be achieved with a tiny motley collection of acerbic know-it-all’s. We should refocus from the purely partisan to the restoring liberty approach. To do this requires forging alliances with those who may share our goals, but who may not embrace ALL of our principles. If my journey is for a mile, and you help me to advance a yard, then come along as far as you can.

  11. Robert Capozzi

    ce, yes, that makes sense, although I don’t find the term “restoring liberty” to be quite accurate, since “liberty” has never been tried and can mean different things to different people. I prefer “advance” or “maximize” liberty.

    Who is in alliance with me and fellow Ls may be a matter for disagreement. Many abolitionist Ls, I assume, believe that someone like Root is not in alliance with them, since they disagree strongly with his views. Through vinegary, acerbic means, perhaps they think that Root will adopt their positions…I dunno.

    They seem to get especially angry when a L candidate, like Barr, deviates from what they believe to be the plumb line. (Interestingly, they don’t when Ron Paul does, in part because he’s an R, not a L.)

    I’d suggest that everyone nets out whether a candidate or even a position advances liberty or not. It’s very difficult not to, since no two people agree with one another 100% of the time.

    Abolitionists also seem to want public pronouncements to suggest dramatic changes to the current state of affairs. The desire for holding high the banner seems more important than mere direction. This is why abolitionist Ls seem to vociferously disagree with a moderate L (one who advocates for incremental change across the board in the direction of less government) as much or more than a deviationist L (who at times will advocate increases in government, e.g., support the Iraq War).

  12. Gains

    RC @13

    Extremism can be counterproductive especially when it is turned inwards. I personally have a great deal of respect for the hardcore radical activist. If it were not for the shenanigans of people like Abbie Hoffman et al in the 60s much of the social change we saw might not have happened. There is value in shock education, but that kind of action is a bit like throwing psychological genades. If you are a radical and you engage in using “heavy weapons”, you really need to be cognizant of the blast radius of your technique and be responsible about how you use it.

    BlockAFT @14

    You noted that in your experience that newcomers are often ignored. I think your insight is valid and valuable. One aspect of the friendly Libertarian social conventions I have seen as successful is the convention of welcoming newcomers.

    Members feel that it is their duty to engage new people and welcome them. When people arrive at a meeting they traditionally make their rounds of the tables, greeting the familiar with hugs and chuckles, and introducing themselves to new people and welcoming them. At the end of the meeting, there is a lot of linger longer conversation and people make a point of asking the new people, “what do you think?”; “Did you have a good time?” and “Will I see you next month (or at X event)?”

    In terms of leadership choices, a stable and productive coalition environment seems to be best established by selecting a chair who does not have a personal agenda or promises to put it completely away while in office. The chair’s job is to act as referee to those that may have conflicting opinions and to maintain peace in doing so. It is an easy job to do when the community has a standard that expects respect for individual effort and expects that conflicts get resolved. It does not take long for only two or three people out of 20 have the presence of mind to actively and vocally set the expectation.

  13. Be Rational

    Robert Capozzi // Nov 9, 2010 at 11:35 am

    ce, yes, that makes sense, although I don’t find the term “restoring liberty” to be quite accurate, since “liberty” has never been tried and can mean different things to different people. I prefer “advance” or “maximize” liberty.



    Please take this as a friendly point.

    You see what you have done, nitpicking over a word. This is one of the things that holds Ls back. Why do we all have to do this?

    So, the man said “restoring liberty” instead of some other phrase you prefer. If you largely agree with him, just praise and thank him. Be nice.

    This is just a discussion page. Why whine or fight over a word?

    Now, if a team is developing an ad campaign, a 30 second spot that will be run thousands of times and reach millions of viewers, then the people making the spot, a small, professional team, will work carefully over every frame of video and every syllable of spoken or printed language.

    However, in the LP, every one wants to assert their correct “libertarian” principles and strategy and control the product. But, the volunteers, donors and supporters should just work, donate, follow, and join the team. They shouldn’t waste time quibbling.

    After choosing our leaders, we need to learn to follow them. Leaders too need to learn to recognize and follow the best ideas and plans, no matter who they come from.

    Why in a group working for liberty do so many aspire to be the king?

  14. Robert Capozzi

    gains, yes, being mindful of the “blast radius” is key. If the situation seemed ripe for extremism, I might be an extremist. I don’t, so I’m not.

    Context follows content. One surveys one’s world, taking in as much data as possible, and one assesses that data based on one’s values. Then one assesses the context of one’s conclusions, and takes action (or a position) based on all the available information.

    Deontological absolutists tend to skip steps, IMO. They envision what they believe to be an ideal world, they survey the conditions on the ground, pronounce them dysfunctional, and proceed to hold high their construct as the “solution.” Further, and importantly, those who don’t adopt their construct are viewed as the enemy. Context is a very small factor in how they view the world and their role in it.

    Doherty identified the intra-L dysfunction as the narcissism of small differences. It goes something like: I am right; they are wrong; they are my enemy.

    I agree with him that on some levels, the difference between abolitionist L and non-abolitionist Ls is “small,” since both want less (at least) government. I’d suggest, though, that at another level, the difference is massive. The thought system of deontological absolutism leaves little-to-no room for agreeing to disagree.

    At that point, we’ve left the world of politics and entered the cerebral world of pure ethics.

    That is IMO what ails us.

  15. Robert Capozzi

    br19, nitpicking? Thanks for the input, but I can’t say I agree. I’d vote for someone who said “restoring liberty,” I simply find it sub-optimal and I respectfully share my ideas on the wording with a fellow L.

    IMO, I generally think Ls are better positioned as forward-looking and progressive over backward-looking and reactionary. Others may not. It’s all good.

  16. Gains

    Rational @19

    I disagree on your advice to RC.

    While he did take a word and talk about his preferences for how to phrase things for effect, he did not demand obedience. He respecfully framed his thoughts in “…can mean…” and “I prefer…”

    In my experience this is exactly the correct framing for productive and cooperative creative discussion. It is sometimes hard to hear it that way because when we work hard on something we become very invested in it and we want so much for people to join us in the venture.

    This is where the idea of the role of leaders comes into play in the social structure I feel is a healthy and productive one for Libertarians to strive for.

    Leaders are not chosen by the few and followed by all. Real leaders do not get elected to offices. Party offices in a coalition setting are position of trust and administration. Centralized authority cannot address disparate groups. There can be no expectation of “falling in line with X tactic.” Because there is no authority to enforce it.

    Socially we do have authority to say “Do not harm your fellow.” The threat of violence or application of fraud to one of us is a clear and present threat to any and all of us.

    When it comes to individual action and leadership, this is not a function of the party. Any one organization will have a multitude of leaders, some actively working, some looking for help but not finding any. The marketplace of ideas extends to the marketplace of action.

    Any attempt to channel people into following the ideas of someone they do not will themselves to follow will neccessarily involve either force or fraud. The greatest danger is that that application of evil is hidden from those who do it. That they are blinded by the desire to succeed (which is good) but unless the urge to want to force everyone into one course of action is checked socially, they will invariably do harm.

    I think that the paradigm that leads to success is one in which leaders emerge and inspire people to do action. That these leaders avoid positions of feduciary responsibility in the administration of the party. Finally, the social mores of the group should actively correct people when they assume that there is “one way” or “one thing” that we all must do.

    The only thing that I think we “all must do” is show active respect for each others efforts. The rest falls into place as the market for the Party’s success is freed from authoritarian bonds.

  17. Robert Capozzi

    br19: They shouldn’t waste time quibbling. After choosing our leaders, we need to learn to follow them. Leaders too need to learn to recognize and follow the best ideas and plans, no matter who they come from.

    me: Bridging on Gains, I’d suggest that you may be confusing “quibbling” with “feedback.” Respectful feedback is something that is healthy for an organization; quibbling…not so much.

    As for following leaders, our current Chair apparently believes that “taxation is theft.” Technically, I do not. That he believes that is his business, not mine. If I chose to run for office and he called and said, “Your campaign should focus on the ‘taxation is theft” issue, I’m your Chair, you must comply,” my response might be, “Thanks for your feedback, I’ll take that under advisement,” or, “Well, Mr. Chair, I don’t happen to believe that concept so I can’t in good conscience make that my campaign theme. I appreciate your interest in my campaign, and I welcome your constructive ideas in the future.”

  18. Be Rational


    The chair of the party is the leader of the party. However, when you are a candidate (and you should try it by the way), then you are the leader of your campaign.

    So, when your campaign puts out its campaign literature which has been written, designed etc. either by you directly or by those you designated to do so and checked and approved by you, then that is your material. It is done.

    Your campaign workers, donors etc. while it may be OK to make certain helpful suggestions, especially in the early stages when it is timely and invited, (and such participation should be welcomed and encouraged at appropriate times) should not spend time quibbling and parsing when the product is finished, the candidate has a message and is busy working hard to deliver it.

    If you use the words “restoring liberty” or “maximizing liberty” or “increasing liberty” or “building a free society” or whatever seems to suit your taste, then that is what it is. It would be petty, wrong and distracting to attempt, after the fact, or uninvited during production, for other LP members, leaders or volunteers to put their own oar in. It would be counter productive. It would be your campaign and their turn to be followers.

    The problem with the LP is that once the candidates have been selected, the materials produced and printed or the ads are being run, the hypercritical element comes in and starts their quibbles and attacks and slows, impedes and often prevents any forward progress that could have come. The best leaders have to know when and how to follow.

    The case of the candidate (you) being told what to do by the chair would be an example of a bad leader. As I said, the chair (party leaders) must know when and how to follow others who have their own good ideas.

    Likewise, when the party leaders have a project and message and have created, invested and produced it, then it is the time to help with the funding and disemination of that message and material, and put your own quibbles and comments aside. The time to bring those forward is in the selection of the next group of leaders.

  19. Robert Capozzi

    br: The problem with the LP is that once the candidates have been selected, the materials produced and printed or the ads are being run, the hypercritical element comes in and starts their quibbles and attacks and slows, impedes and often prevents any forward progress that could have come.

    me: Agree…in spades. @19, you offered me feedback on my feedback to a non-candidate after the elections. Yes?

    On occasion, I will comment about candidates during the campaign. I sometimes commented, for instance, on the Irvine campaign, which I praised generally though I did also make some comments about the generally well-done campaign videos, noting some audio problems or less-impactful offerings. They were hardly (in my mind, at least) blistering critiques; they were offered as helpful suggestions. Perhaps the campaign saw my comments…dunno. Perhaps they took my observations into consideration…doesn’t matter. I doubt they viewed them as anything other than ideas for areas for potential improvement.

    MNR set an intra-LP precedent in 1980 of vicious criticism of the Clark campaign. If your feedback to me is your attempt to heal that unfortunate precedent and continuing propensity to tear down fellow Ls, know that we are on the same side. Our approaches to healing may well appear as different to you.

  20. Robert Capozzi

    br19: If you largely agree with him, just praise and thank him. Be nice.

    me: Oh, yes, I happen to believe it’s “nice” to offer others another way to phrase things. I’d want others to do that for me when they believe I’ve phrased things in a sub-optimal manner. Indeed, I’d go so far as to say that NOT offering feedback is the “not nice” approach; we learn from each other’s candor and good willed feedback.

    This comment thread would be of little use if we didn’t share ideas and just said, “way to go”!

  21. Be Rational

    Yes, RC, I think we are on the same side. I agree with you that we need a big tent LP. That we need to be more accepting of the differences in our views, since we will never all agree on all of the issues, but we may all be able to work together to move in the same general direction.

    We should IMO help our fellow libertarians as much as possible in advancing the cause of liberty and remember that we are for the most part on the same team and that each of us is doing what we can.

    Feedback is useful and so is providing information and observations that may have been missed. But even these things should be done in a way that sounds positive and helpful and not critical. And sometimes it’s better to say nothing at all. Even helpful advice, useful information or brilliant observations can be presented in a negative, harmful or hurtful manner and it is often unintentional when it happens, so we have to be as careful, gentile and sincere as possible. I’ve failed to live up to this advice far too often myself, so I’m well aware of the negative results that are possible.

  22. Charlie Earl

    I take no offense with the quibble re:” restoring liberty.” Puritanical radicalism doesn’t annoy me. What does tend to disgust me are those who believe that internal division supercedes the effort to establish liberty. We need not all be reading from the same page. The same book or perhaps the same library is sufficient if we make progress toward a more free nation. I truly enjoy many of the people who have some philosophical disagreement with me, and find some with whom I concur to be insufferable. Nevertheless, I consider all of them my allies as we labor.

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