Guest article by Jacob Hornberger, Libertarian candidate for President of the United States
At one of the state conventions I have attended since I announced my candidacy for the Libertarian Party presidential nomination, I heard a libertarian speaker tell the audience that while he agreed with the libertarian position on healthcare — a separation of healthcare and the state — he said the American people were simply not ready to hear that message. Therefore, rather than make the case for a genuine free society to people, he said, we should settle for keeping the status quo intact and making the case for simply reforming it. In the case of healthcare, he said that health savings accounts were the reform that libertarians should settle on. He then proceeded to spend the rest of his talk showing libertarians how to make the case for health savings accounts.
When I discovered libertarianism more than 40 years ago, there were libertarians who were saying the same thing — that people simply weren’t ready for freedom and, therefore, we needed to settle for making the case for reforming infringements on liberty rather than the case for dismantling them.
My questions are: When do libertarians ever get to the point that people are ready for freedom so that libertarians can start making the case for liberty rather than the case for reform? How do we know when people are ready for freedom so that we can start making the case for freedom to them? Isn’t it possible that people might never be ready for freedom, in which case we libertarians will never be able to make the case for liberty to them?
I say that all this reform business is pure nonsense. So what if people aren’t ready for freedom? Why should that stop us libertarians from making the case for liberty? And isn’t it possible that this “not ready for freedom” excuse is just a lazy person’s way to avoid having to make the case for genuine freedom to people?
After all, there are tens or hundreds of thousands of libertarians, most of whom didn’t know they were libertarians before they realized it. Were they ready for freedom when they first encountered libertarianism? How do we know that? How would we have known it in advance?
Take me, for instance. Before I discovered libertarianism, I was an ardent leftist and Democrat. I believed that it was the role of government to take care of people. I was a firm believer in such socialist programs as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. I could’t understand why anyone would object to government helping out the poor, needy, elderly, and disadvantaged.
Was I ready for freedom? If someone had described my statist mindset to our libertarian speaker described above, he would have said, “That guy is clearly not ready for freedom. We need to make the case for health savings accounts to him.”
But if I had heard the case for health savings accounts — or school vouchers — or Social Security “privatization” — or immigration reform — or any other reform position, I would never have become a libertarian. Hearing those conservative, Republican-lite positions would have done nothing for me. I would have yawned. The reason I became a libertarian is that I was exposed to pure, no-compromise libertarianism, including the repeal, not reform, of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other socialist infringements on liberty. It was hearing the case for liberty — genuine liberty — that enabled me to achieve a “breakthrough” to libertarianism and accept and embrace it.
Now, if I was read to appreciate and embrace the case for liberty — indeed, since our speaker described above has accepted and embraced the case for liberty — why should we presume that no else can? He and I are no smarter than anyone else. If we could hear or read the case for liberty and recognize its virtues and benefits, why should we assume that others are unable to do so?
Indeed, if libertarians never make the case for liberty and forever make the case for reforming infringements on liberty, then how are people ever to get ready for liberty? Isn’t it possible that seeds of liberty planted within receptive minds will begin to germinate down the line, thereby helping people to become ready for freedom? If people never hear the case for liberty, how are they expected to ever become ready for liberty?
I say that we libertarians should make the case for liberty regardless of whether people are ready for liberty or not.
Imagine that you’re living in 1850 America. People are saying, “We cannot make the case for freedom for the slaves. People here in America, especially slaveowners, are simply not ready to hear that message. indeed, neither are many of the slaves. They have been dependent on their slave masters all their lives. It would be cruel to free them all at once. We need to make the case for reforming slavery and gradually reducing it over a period of 40 years.”
I would have said,“Balderdash on that! Reject that message. Slavery is morally wrong. End it now!”
And that’s the case that every libertarian should be making with respect to the welfare-state, warfare-state serfdom under which we live.
The question every libertarian — indeed, every American — must ask himself is: Do I want to be free or not? if so, then don’t settle for making the case for reforming welfare-warfare state serfdom to others. Make the case for freedom — genuine freedom — even if you think that people aren’t ready for it. That’s the only chance we have to achieve a free society.