Lead By Example, Not With A Label
“I’m not sure how active I can be in the liberty movement while I’m building my business.”
That is pretty close to what I recall from a conversation over dinner last week, where I was having my brain picked by someone who is “dipping their toe” in the world of politics after previously being fairly apathetic.
The response to my guest was probably not what he expected, but it led us into a great conversation. I told him, “Lead by example, not with a label.”
While that may sound simplistic, I know many in the liberty movement who may as well wear a sign around their neck that says “I’M A LIBERTARIAN. HOW CAN I PISS YOU OFF TODAY?” Typically, these are the same people who cannot stop talking about the evils they perceive in government, pausing only to breathe and possibly to find their original point after they take the conversation off course. Unfortunately, these are the first and only conversations some hold with a libertarian.
Often, these libertarians are so consumed with “spreading the message” that they forgot conversations involve both talking AND, the more important aspect, listening. They have an agenda to push that will not be deterred by their conversation partner’s interests (or lack thereof), concerns, or beliefs. In my experience, this results in a very few follow-up conversations and even fewer converts.
I am guilty of doing this myself, but I sought a better way to build my own team for liberty. What I found was an easier path that is also a better way. By “walking the walk” conveyed in the talking points prepared for conversations, I found by being a positive example of libertarianism, people sought out to talk to me, instead of my constant searching for the next potential target/victim.
By living your life in a way that exemplifies your beliefs, your actions display what you believe. This means getting involved in your community, volunteering for charity activities, and networking. What does it say to you when someone constantly talks about their amazing gardening skills, but you never see their tomatoes or roses? Is your mind questioning those supposed skills? The same thing goes for libertarian ideals. You can talk ALL DAY LONG about the wonders of free markets, voluntary cooperation, and how private charity outperforms government welfare programs in every way, but if no one sees you “gardening,” how much weight do your words carry?
Your efforts to maintain a notoriously littered part of your neighborhood, to start a neighborhood tool library, or to keep the lawn trimmed of an infirm, elderly neighbor will not go unnoticed. These activities are a way to show how individuals can make a difference in the community. As you perform these tasks, you inspire others to join you or to do something that will also better your quality of life without looking to the government to pay someone to pick up litter or to send scary notices to your neighbor when their grass exceeds the mandated height for the city or county. Additionally, you will become known for your efforts to improve the quality of life in your community, which opens the door for others to seek you out.
Now that your subtle “outreach” efforts have neighbors seeking you out, you have an opportunity to hear their concerns and issues that are important to them. The key to this activity is to LISTEN. I cannot stress how important it is to not only hear what they have to say and be able to respond, but you should let them lead the conversation, so that you can find common ground with them. You will likely have a similar concern and desire the same outcome, but they may not be considering how libertarian principles and ideals could solve a problem. THIS is your opportunity to speak.
You listened, identified a problem, heard their desired outcome. Now, you can effectively offer a libertarian solution. Whether it is helping the homeless via shelters, soup kitchens, and health and employment services in the community or offering answers to the area’s poor education results by NOT relying on a government “solution,” you have credibility because you took it upon yourself to address a tangible issue that others noticed.
Not everyone can bring new people around to the ideas, ideals, and principles of libertarian philosophy, and that is OK. If you are uncomfortable with the whole “walk the walk” concept, please find another way you can help. There are candidates, campaigns, and organizations who need your assistance in other ways. It may be that your lifestyle allows you to finance activities, your skills can bring a professional website to them, or your “best fit” is to be someone who can distribute hundreds of flyers that affect an electoral outcome. The key is to find and do what you do well.
To sum up, by being a great example of libertarian philosophy, you can be active and bring more people into the movement than if you were to wear that sign.