How do you guys keep going?

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    Pete: You’ve started a great thread, and have generated from your respondents much useful advice. Could I just add my two-cents’ worth?

    There is a tendency to assume that everyone who engages with you is arguing in good faith. I’m afraid that’s not so. You can waste a lot of time and energy dealing with correspondents who seem to be deaf to everything you say, and unwilling to do the real work of thinking, reading and reflecting that’s necessary to a genuine conversation.

    Michael McCloud’s Secrets of Libertarian Persuasion, and his More Secrets of Libertarian Persuasion have very useful hints and strategies.



    Lot’s of excellent suggestion herein.

    But, I submit that the advice is tactical in nature (think “actions”), responding to your implied request for actions. Although it is sound advice, and certainly valuable, without a broader context of what you wish to accomplish (i.e., your goal, your desired destination), the tactics will produce limited results, and only at the tactical level. (I.e., you may win actions.)

    I suggest that you establish a goal in this context – an explicit desired outcome or accomplishment; and once you do so, and clearly understand what it is that you wish to accomplish, that goal will help you take advantage of all the above advice in context, and apply it as needed in progress toward the goal. (Think of a goal as the place you want to get to – a chosen destination; and the tactics are the actions you take to get yourself further down the road to arrive at that destination.)

    For example, I sense that you wish to accomplish something more than win arguments (which is just winning isolated actions), although you sense that argumentation is a required method to get to your (not-yet articulated) goal.

    So here’s the question to ask yourself: “If I could visualize an outcome – a chosen destination in the context of interacting with my friends, ‘the end of the road’ in this context, what would that outcome look like?”

    Rough that out, turn it over and look at it from all sides, kick it about a bit, polish it up a bit, and you will have a solid goal that will help to (a) get you to your chosen destination and, (b) help you stay out of the weeds. It will also be something that you deem “worth it.”

    (As an aside: Although posting a blog is an excellent idea, without a clear and explicit goal framing all content, the blog will tend to wander; to become superfluous and not relevant; and you may come to question its worth, and your expenditure of time and effort.)

    If this approach interests you, and you’re comfortable doing so, then don’t be afraid to work through and vet possible/potential goals (i.e., desired outcomes) with this community of fellow travelers. There appears to be much experience and knowledge you could lean into.

    – Harry


    Great topic, Pete. The question I have sort of falls under this category. I was listening to a podcast called A Christian and an Athiest (no longer produced) and they were discussing what political persuasion Jesus would have been. The athiest suggested communist and the Christian suggested libertarian. Obviously, this boils down to a conversation in which both participants believe in helping his fellow man. The issue is force vs. coercion.

    The Ron Paul libertarian/Christian on the show could have done a better job making his case. Can those of us who are more liberty-minded reasonably expect there to be enough charitable donation in a free society to still be considered.humane? Did government only step in because there was a real need or did government produce a definciency in charitable contributions through overtaxation. How do we show that we are willing to voluntarily care for those in need?

    Sorry if there are typos. I’m posting from my phone in my carpool to work. I look forward to the responses and to reading Prof. Casey’s suggestions.


    MarkHTR; You raise some really core issues. How often have you had it urged against you in debate – “You libertarians care nothing for the poor and disadvantaged. Let ‘em starve! All you care about is grimly and mean-spiritedly hanging on to your money.” This is a powerful rhetorical claim very often used against libertarians. It’s not always easy to respond to this claim, especially in the heat of battle. Could I suggest the following rough points?

    When we talk about libertarianism and its social implications, we sometimes seem to be saying that our brave new world is just like the old not-so-brave world except that it doesn’t have (social) welfare. Do not allow this impression to form, not least because it isn’t (or shouldn’t) be true. Yes, we are opposed to welfare—all forms of it, corporate as well as social. But our key point should be this. Welfare programs and those who support them institutionalise poverty. It’s as if they were to say “You poor people stay in your ghettos and we’ll give you money, but don’t ever think that you have something to contribute to your family or community. Don’t ever think that you can make a life for yourself, develop and exercise your skills or grow in self-respect based on achievement. Just stay where you are and know your place.”

    But the libertarian vision is not just the status quo minus welfare. It’s about a world populated by people, families and communities that are free to take responsibility for themselves and their dependents. The libertarian vision isn’t only about the elimination of all forms of welfare—it’s about empowerment through liberty, so that anyone who has any skill at all can make some contribution and so become not only financially self-sustaining but also socially responsible.

    We cannot demonstrate the point but many libertarians believe that in a libertarian world, there would be very many fewer poor people. And yes, private uncoerced charity would be at least as good as current welfare programs at assisting those people, and very likely much better. (See Taylor 1984) We don’t reject voluntary ‘re-distribution’—we just reject the welfarist’s forcible redistribution of other people’s resources.

    Welfarists are like a doctor who would say to a man with a broken leg: “Just stay on crutches and we’ll give you pain medication to help you get around”: the libertarian is the doctor who tries to get the man back on his own two feet as quickly as he can.

    The writings of Charles Taylor are classics in their field. His Losing Ground: American Social Policy 1950–1980 was published in 1984, with a second edition sometime in the early 90s. It’s still relevant though obviously, examples, figures, and stats would need to be updated. In 2006, he published In Our Hands: A Plan to Replace the Welfare State. I haven’t read this yet so can’t vouch for it personally but it is surely worth a look.


    See also a book Tom has referenced from time to time; vollentary fraternal mutual aid associations at one time did exist – even though all the current “market failure/collective action problem” models say they couldn’t have.

    If these organizations did an imperfect job, 1) society as a whole was a lot poorer then; we could do much better now and 2) it is not as if the welfare state model, either here or in the U.S., is actually more effective at getting people out of poverty (quite the contrary in fact. Indeed there have been a recent flurry of statistics showing how it entraps people). The welfare state model is also, necessarily, “one-size-fits all” policy, while private mutual aid & charitable organizations can tailor things to the recipient. A still-existing example is: what’s the most effective and prominent institution that helps addicts in need of help? It’s not a government program, it’s AA.

    This is an old problem; Bastiat once wrote that “every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all” – a problem that extends beyond self-described socialists to…well, practically everyone, nowdays. Partly because people have confused ‘society’ with “state” – they’ll ask “don’t you want to live in a society where X?” (X being: the poor are helped, or health care is available to those who need it, and so on), and but then they either imply or directly assert that means the state does it.

    (I’ve concluded that, as an intellectual/philosophical problem, the origin of this failure to distinguish between society and state lays with social contract theory. Thus it is necessary for libertarians to make sure people understand the distinction between the two and keep it in mind at all times, because it’s all too easy in a society founded on the basis of classical liberal social contract theory to lose sight of this distinction).

    There are a couple other sources like the Beito book that Tom has mentioned, but they slip my mind now, which address how people were helped, and how they helped themselves, in the time before the welfare state crowded most of these institutions – the institutions of true civil society – out.* Hopefully he’ll post and mention some of them. A lot of these arguments for private provision of aid are in his book Rollback, which I recommend highly.

    *Not all of them disappeared, but some were utterly transformed; for example, the Bank of America was originally founded to help Italian immigrants. It still exist, of course, but now it’s just another member of the banking system.


    I think its important to realize that conversion doesn’t come over the course of one argument. It’s a slow process, and the reasoning has to happen within that persons own mind over an extended period of time. You’re asking someone to turn their world view upside down- be patient.

    All arguments are good, both altruistic and moral, both theoretical and emperical. Generally I think people will want to have an understanding of the entire picture before seriously considering it. I myself became a libertarian for altruistic reasons, but have gradually changed to a more moral stand point since.

    Most importantly: Be a role model. Always stay calm and civil, and never steam-roll anyone. Avoid putting people in a closed defensive position. Do what you can to live morally and to be sucessful. Peoples views are heavily effected by the people in their presence they look up too – do the best you can to be one of those people.

    I love to look at videos of Milton Friedman for his amazing charisma and persuasive argumentation. Although I know his views on money and altruism are a bit problematic, I think his style is very admireable.

    ps. I’m comitted to the long term project of turning my dad from a environmentalist, highly academical, social democrat into a libertarian. It’s a very slow process, but it moves steadily forward. I sent him a link the other day to a video of a speech by Dr. Woods himself. At first he shot it down as just shallow rethorics, but a week later he called me an said he had been thinking about it the whole week, and that he was considering ordering Meltdown. For every time I meet him and discuss these issues, he is willing to admit that a few more bad things about the government and a few more good things about the market.


    I agree with Tom. In fact, I long ago decided that the chief benefit of a Facebook discussion isn’t its effect on participants, but its effect on lurkers. Many people comment to me about things the saw me post days/weeks/months earlier in some dispute with an under-bright interlocutor.


    As much as I would like to see Libertarian ideas and viewpoints spread across the globe (at least to be understood, if not agreed upon), even more would I like to see the widespread of quality communication tools, like the classic book: “How to Win Friends and Influence People” by Dale Carnegie. That one is an old-fashioned but universal bag of goodies!

    Maybe check it out on youtube, multiple people posted its audiobook? You might learn a lot about how to approach people, just like I learned a bunch.

    A few illustrative quotes:

    “Criticism is futile because it puts a man on the defensive, and usually makes him strive to justify himself. Criticism is dangerous, because it wound’s a man’s pride, hurts his sense of importance, and arouses his resentment.”

    “If a man’s heart is rankling with discord and ill feeling toward you, you can’t win him to your way of thinking with all the logic in Christendom.”

    “Remember the other man may be totally wrong, but he doesn’t think so. Don’t condemn him, any fool can do that. Try to understand him.”

    It may seem I’m changing the subject, but the original post in this thread was not about ideas and logic and technical truth, but exactly about dealing with people. So I think my post is right on the topic.

    Here’s a fresh example of how the book helped me. Just the other day I started talking to a colleague at work (who thinks he knows everything and is always right) about fractional reserve banking, and to my great surprise he managed to make me unsure about what I thought I understood well (that it’s inflationary). That is one very intelligent, technical person, by the way. However, I used all the stuff I learned from Dale Carnegie book, and our discussion was pleasant and creative. So, next day, I ask a question here on this board, and Mr. Herbener answers it in a way to make it clear again. But in the process I got excellent shakeup, I realized I wasn’t as solid in my understanding as I thought I was, that in some aspects I was shaky.. and now I benefited with a new understanding. I’ll talk to that guy again and it’s likely he’ll see eye to eye with me now. So, you see, effort in keeping the communication friendly and flowing totally paid off.

    These things, especially when people already have set opinions, often require wisdom more then technical knowledge.



    “Criticism is futile because it puts a man on the defensive, and usually makes him strive to justify himself. Criticism is dangerous, because it wound’s a man’s pride, hurts his sense of importance, and arouses his resentment.”

    While that statement seems true enough, it is not clear to me why one would wish to avoid it. Without criticism what is a man left to reflect upon except his sense of self importance. It is true that certain methods of argument or discussion will lead to resentment and an extreme blockage of ones ears. The adversarial nature of differing opinions may lead to those feelings regardless of tact. A thoughtful and polite exchange of ideas can lead to reversal of ones opinions but more often than not the two parties walk away believing, erroneously, that they have made the other begin to “see the light”. A more combative discourse seldom leaves one with a happy feeling of accomplishment but the “win” may be achieved at a future date.

    “Remember the other man may be totally wrong, but he doesn’t think so. Don’t condemn him, any fool can do that. Try to understand him.”

    Again, that statement is true enough. People with loosely held beliefs or opinions can be easily swayed with a good dose of rhetoric and demagoguery but we deal with people, like us, who have firmly held convictions and require introspection to change. So, it is true that we tune out and strengthen our resolve to justify our beliefs when harshly criticized. It is due to this criticism that we push deeper and find fault or validity in our ideas at all. It is in my nature to want to be right and while I might loose a particular argument, it is the most heated exchanges that force me to test what I believe and provoke further study. If I turn out to be wrong at least I will know it. If I turn out to be right, I will be better prepared to challenge my interlocutor the next time around.

    I suspect, in the realm of ideas, the course of exchange is less relevant than the need to be correct.
    When you and your friend discussed fractional banking, whether or not the exchange was acrimonious was of less importance than the extent of your knowledge coming into question.

    I believe that criticism of any kind can lead one to have a greater understanding of their own beliefs and become self aware enough to decide whether or not it is all bugaboo. However, the world is full of inauthentic people and no amount of understanding, wisdom or criticism will dissuade them from their interminable haughtiness. I am not a religious man but I can’t help noting that in Revelation the lord doth not say come hither non believers that I may reason with you.

    In Liberty Classroom, I am truly the novice here. So I welcome anybody’s criticism otherwise I will just assume I am right and will have learned nothing.


    Hi osgood401,
    well, hmm… here’s another quote from that book, to kinda summarize what I meant to emphasize:

    “When dealing with people, let us remember we are not dealing with creatures of logic. We are dealing with creatures of emotions, creatures bristling with prejudices and motivated by pride and vanity.”

    And that’s that. People are not creatures of logic. And who would thought – neither are me or you. Not even the ones with very high IQ’s, and the very intellectual ones, and the very intelligent ones, and even the very intelligent intellectuals with very high IQ’s. So you try to live in a world like this one is! We need wisdom often even more then the power of the constructive critical analysis.

    Everything that you said about criticism stands in terms of technical truth. But that’s not enough.

    Or let me put it differently…

    “criticism when it feels needed” is infinitely better then “no criticism at all”
    “criticism when it feels needed + wisdom of its delivery” is infinitely better then “criticism when it feels needed”

    This is what, I think, the long term experience shows, no, screams at everyone: if one wants to learn the truth and then debate with people, it is foolish and wasteful (even extremely wasteful) not to take the “wisdom of delivery” part seriously. That’s a whole different subject that needs to be studied also.

    From yet another angle, if people are like this, why torture them with our own ways of thinking of how they should approach truth? Why not bring them closer to truth using their own ways of dealing with life? Lion eats meat, sheep eats cabbage… feed them with their own food and only then you’ll be able to lead them, otherwise they’ll starve and won’t be able to follow you even if they wanted to.

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