Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Libertarian Party members: read this before November 27th!

(from the Libertarian Review, August 1978)

Libertarians have given considerable thought to refining their basic principles and their vision of a libertarian society. But they have given virtually no thought to a vitally important question, that of strategy: now that we know the nature of our social goal, how in the world do we get there?

To the extent that libertarians have thought at all about strategy, it has simply been to adopt what I have called "educationism": namely, that actions rest upon ideas, and therefore that libertarians must try to convert people to their ideas by issuing books, pamphlets, articles, lectures, etc. Now, it is certainly true that actions depend upon ideas, and that education in libertarian ideas is an important and necessary part in converting people to liberty and in effecting social change. But such an insight is only the beginning of arriving at a libertarian strategy; there is a great deal more that needs to be said.

In the first place, ideas do not spread and advance by themselves in a social vacuum; they must be adopted and spread by people, people who must be convinced of and committed to the progress of liberty. But this means that liberty can advance only by means of a developing libertarian movement. We must therefore be concerned not only with the ideology, but also with developing the people to carry the principles forward. Webster's defines "movement" in a way clearly relevant to our concerns:


Some libertarians have criticized the very concept of "movement" as "collectivist", as somehow violating the principles of individualism. But it should be clear that there is nothing in the least collectivist in individuals voluntarily joining together for the advancement of common goals. A libertarian movement is no more "collectivist" than a corporation, a bridge club, or any other organization; it is curious that some libertarians, while conceding the merits of all other such "collective" organizations, balk only at one that would advance the cause of liberty itself.

Neither does joining a movement mean that the joiner must in some way submerge his individual sovereignty to the movement or the organization, any more than the bridge club member must submerge his individuality in order to advance the playing of bridge. The individual libertarian, who places the triumph of liberty high on his value scale, decides to join a movement that is requisite to the achievement of his goal, just as does the member of a bridge club or the investor in a steel-manufacturing corporation.

If the advancement of liberty requires a movement as well as a body of ideas, it is our contention that the overriding goal of a libertarian movement must be the victory of liberty in the real world, the bringing of the ideal into actuality. This may seem a truism, but unfortunately many libertarians have failed to see the importance of victory as the ultimate and overriding goal...

Read the article at Mises

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