Making the Case for Liberty

Conor Friedersdorf (the Atlantic) has published the text of a talk he gave to students at Pepperdine (h/t John Moser). The brief talk is worth reading in its entirety. Much of the talk addresses the ongoing assault on civil liberties and frustration over how much of the Right is concerned over infringements on economic liberties but silent over the ongoing war on terror and the war on drugs.  For example:

But I grow frustrated with the faction on the right that treats very marginal changes in economic liberty as if tyranny itself will soon follow, but mostly ignores things like massive spying on everyone. Or flying robots we operate but don’t acknowledge when they kill children. Or government officials who strapped humans to a board, forced water into their lungs, and tried to terrify them into believing that any minute they were going to drown. And again, I don’t mean to suggest that war on terrorism abuses are the only urgent issue in America. Look into our juvenile-justice system, and the staggering number of kids who, while wards of the state, are sexually abused by guards. The point I want to drive home is that liberty isn’t just something that could be transgressed against at the end of some road to serfdom if we’re not careful. State-sponsored thuggery is happening now. It is prudent to worry about slippery slopes. But it shouldn’t blind us to abuses happening every day. Remedies are needed right now.

The piece ends with some good advice for those interested in making the case for liberty, and much of this involves ongoing participation in public discourse, looking for allies rather than heretics, and setting an example for others who may not agree with your positions. The final paragraph is worth quoting in full (Nick—mentioned earlier in the talk—is someone the speaker disagrees with on his Catholicism but nonetheless assumes that there must be  “nuggets of truth within it if it inspires people like Nick to be this good”).

How open will people be to libertarian ideas? That depends, in large part, on the libertarians they encounter. This is, of course, the hardest advice to follow. I’m telling you to be good. To show, by personal example, how your ideas can better the world in concrete ways. Well, not everyone can pull that off like my friend Nick. But to the degree that you can, there’s nothing more powerful. You’ll reach people that no liberty-minded politician or activist or journalist could possibly reach.

Civility, persuasion, and ongoing personal engagement: good advice for anyone hoping to make the case for liberty (or anything else).

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