President Bush was just elected to his fourth term, er, I mean President Obama was just elected to his second. After seeing the two major parties nominate presidential candidates who could hardly be called pro-liberty, and the Libertarian Party continue to fall flat, what’s a libertarian to do? Should we completely disengage from politics? Should we give up and just become party-line Republicans (or Democrats)? Should we bury our heads in the sand and insist that there’s nothing we can do?
On the contrary, I think we can be very active in shaping the future of the country. We should take a two-pronged approach: education and political involvement. Neither by itself will be enough to promote the ideas of liberty and make the world a better place. Neither is a quick fix, but rather a part of a long-term strategy.
We can educate others (and ourselves) about the ideas of liberty. We can read, write, talk to our friends, train to become teachers, professors, or journalists. We must each find our own advantage, and find a way to apply it to promoting liberty. As the economist and philosopher Friedrich Hayek explains in his essay “The Intellectuals and Socialism,” intellectuals such as academics and even journalists help shape public opinion. Consequently, they are “the governing force of politics.” We libertarians can help change the political landscape by changing public opinion.
Though education may change people’s minds, political involvement can help further push policies in the right direction. Political parties are tools, and at the local and state level, libertarians can have a large impact on the principles the parties represent. By taking an official position in a party, such as precinct committeeperson or higher up, we have a say in the platform of the party, help choose new party leaders, and nominate candidates. As distasteful as it is, we’re stuck with the political system we have, unless we work to change it. Disengagement with the system only means that we’ve resigned it to those who are most antithetical to the principles of liberty that we believe in.
We should remember that this is going to take a long time and a lot of effort. Welfare states aren’t established overnight, and they won’t be dismantled that way either. However, by putting pressure on intellectuals, politicians, and the public, we may be able to change the world for the better.