Libertarians’ Image Problem (Being an asshole is actually ineffective.)Submitted by Allegory on Sat, 07/19/2014 - 11:49
18 July 2014 · by Jon L. Persson
The so-called marketplace of ideas might be the only market that has been left relatively untouched by governments around the world. This rings especially true in the West. People can freely exchange thoughts and ideas with each other without the State interfering. Granted, of course, some ideas are directly and indirectly subsidized by the government, but on the whole, people are free to “buy” and “sell” ideas as they please. In this sense, ideas are much like any other type of product. And much like any other type of product, ideas, no matter how good, need to be marketed. They need to be packaged neatly, in a way that appeals to as many as possible.
This, somewhat ironically, seems to be completely lost on most libertarians. I say “ironically,” because one would expect free-marketeers to understand how markets work in practice. By expressing sentiments such as the desire to “just be left alone, man,” and that accepting welfare makes you subhuman, libertarians have created an image of being selfish, greedy, and hating the poor. However valid your arguments may be, if everyone thinks you are an asshole, no one will listen. If libertarianism is to enter the mainstream anytime soon, it is imperative that its image is not stained by tactless don’t-tread-on-me rhetoric.
In a series of columns for Libertarianism.org, Cato researcher Jonathan Blanks offers some thoughtful reflections on why so few blacks are libertarians. And while his prescriptions to remedy this are somewhat alarming, albeit perhaps not surprising for someone who works at Cato, Blanks does raise an important question. The answer, though Blanks would have you believe otherwise, I believe, is in fact not to compromise on principles (if this is the answer, you are probably asking the wrong question), but to acknowledge the situation in which many blacks—and other minorities too, for that matter—find themselves. While Jim Crow might be gone in the U.S., institutional racism is still alive and well. To find an example of this, one has to look no further than the criminal justice system, which disproportionately targets blacks. African-Americans represent 14% of regular drug users, but comprise 35% of those arrested for drug offenses.1 People of color are far more likely than whites to be stopped, searched, arrested, prosecuted, convicted, and imprisoned for drug offenses.2 Of course, the criminal justice system and drug war are not the only instances of institutional racism; Thomas Sowell argues that affirmative action in fact hurts blacks.