Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Second Thoughts about That 'Libertarian Moment' Thing

Only 57% of people who say they are libertarians know what the word means.

I particularly enjoy that 7% think that “someone whose political views emphasize individual freedom by limiting the role of government” is the definition of a Unitarian.

It seems that saying one is a libertarian has become mildly fashionable* among some – there is currently a bit of a debate among the political cognoscenti about whether we are currently in a 'libertarian moment'. The cool thing about totally vague terms like that is that one can argue either way with equal validity.

In any case, it's not all that fashionable – only 14% of Americans say they are libertarians. Of course, I guess it still could be fashionable if those 14% were the coolest 14% of people in the country. Unfortunately, based on myself and the other libertarians I know, I think that's probably not the case.

Of those who say they are libertarians, 6% think the above definition means Authoritarian, 6% Communist, and 20% Progressive, in addition to those who chose Unitarian, which I guess was thrown in by the pollsters for laughs (though the other answers are also pretty giggle-worthy), or didn't answer.

Besides what this says about peoples' knowledge of politics (we can deride them for this, but we should also be aware that most people simply feel, with some justification, that there are more important things to worry about – like their jobs, or their families, or at which bar they are most likely to find the best-looking members of the opposite sex), this also might offer some lessons for those, of whatever political viewpoint, who are interested in persuading those folks who don't give a damn about politics.

In a newsletter I receive, Jim Geraghty makes the point quite well. The example he chooses is school choice:
Which argument is likely to be most effective? 
A) School choice is a good idea because it is consistent with the conservative principles that the government that is closest to the people is most likely to make the best decisions, is most accountable for those decisions, and is easiest to correct those decisions [sic]. 
B) School choice is a good idea because it is consistent with the libertarian principles that the power of the state should be limited and the power of the individual should be maximized. 
C) School choice is a good idea because it puts decisions in the hands of parents, who know what is best for their children.
As a supporter of school choice, I would agree with all three arguments. But, whatever one might believe on this particular issue, I think it is undeniable that C is the one that would motivate the most people.

* For the record, and stealing shamelessly from Barbara Mandrell, I was libertarian before libertarianism was cool.

No comments:

Post a Comment