Reply To: How do you guys keep going?


A lot of times particular participants in a discussion, especially an internet discussion, aren’t going to be willing to change their mind, be convinced by evidence/argument, or debate. Possibly because once they get into such a discussion, it becomes a matter of not wanting to be seen as “wrong.”

It’s often a matter of finding the right approach, to illustrate the point you’re trying to make with an example that appeals to them or that, given their own goals, they cannot refuse to accept. But I wonder if you’ve ever experienced this: sometimes in a discussion, especially a discussion with friends, you can get them to finally agree that you have a point, understand, and the discussion seems to end with them accepting that your position is correct. But then the next day, it’s as if it never happened. They’re right back to parroting the same, canned, statist arguments they picked up in a column somewhere.

So wat you’ve got to keep in mind is some wise words from Strother Martin. Wise words indeed.

I think a big part of it ends up being 1) even (especially!) the “brave” “dissenters” who see themselves as “speaking truth to power” really don’t want to go against fashionable opinion. And despite wanting to see themselves as, and be seen as, transgressive rebel outsiders, there’s no disguising what views are fashionable. . .
2) a desire, however hidden, to be part of the movement with power over others. Now, what power over others does Austrian Economics or Libertarianism offer? Virtually none. Note that this #2 is usually not overtly admitted to be a quest for power over others. Because its adherents – sincerely – believe they good motives. The best of motives. They want to “change the world,” “transform society,” “make the world a better place,” “make a difference,” and the like. They see as the “optimistic view of human nature,” for example, is that it is socially determined and can be changed. Now, reframed, this “optimistic” view means “manipulated by those in power” who nudge and goad us along. This “optimistic” view they think means that “we” can, through using political institutions the right way, fix things – push the right buttons to fix the economy, say. They don’t want to believe that the best course is to let people make their own choices (and their own mistakes); they want to believe they can “help others” (which means “take some decisions from them and make them ‘democratically,’ which just means through civil service institutions managed by technical experts who know better, and thus will organize communities for the community members, because the community can’t organize itself!)

Belief in, say, spontaneous order, means giving up on all that as an illusion; as the dog in aesop’s fable who goes after the bone in the lake. This they tend to see as “giving up.”

Now, in the larger sense, it is true that Austrian Economics, and Libertarianism, is the real radicalism; and will really produce benevolent social transformations. Will really liberate people. All the goals they claim to have. And it will take the kind of mobilization and participation/activism they want to be a part of. But it’s very difficult to get people to see that. So they end up *wanting* to believe that, at minimum, Keynsianism is true, for example (of not Marxism or other forms of interventionism).

People can be persuaded. But it takes not just the right approach, but it takes a willingness on their part, an openness to persuasion. Sometimes the best approach isn’t direct, but rather to ask them questions, why they believe this or that, pursuing a line of questioning. Sometimes also it means planting little seeds of doubt in their mind, or illustrating how what they advocate actually hurts real people, seeds that may take years to grow. It also may take disprooving the canards they’re often fed; – showing them that while Krugman (or whomever) claims that “libertarians only care about themselves, while good people care about others as well,” it is not true: libertarians believe in human wellbeing, but just believe a gun in the ribs is not the best way to achieve that.

In any case, no easy task much of the time, and persuasion has to be on all levels.