If You Don’t Have Choice, You Don’t Have Liberty

If you are a libertarian who openly advocates for liberty, you’re almost certainly familiar with this scenario. You’re in a conversation with someone about a random political point, you advocate for expanded freedoms in relation to the subject, and get hit with, “But, we’re the freest country in the world.” If you contradict their statement you hear, “Well, if you don’t like it, leave!” This raises the question as to whether the United States is the “freest country in the world?”

This isn’t about dragging out statistics about how Chile is higher on the Economic Freedom index than we are, or how The Netherlands has 69 people in prison per 100,000 compared to the America’s 716. No, this is about scenarios that are easily witnessed by anyone willing to open their eyes to the reality around them.

Recently, I was at an event that held a contest to see who could deliver the best “elevator pitch” for libertarianism. It had to be under 60 seconds. I watched as young people (nowhere near as experienced in performing such a task as I am) went up on stage and gave it their all (I only wish I had their knowledge when I was college-aged). They all did very well. I had about 15 minutes to decide what I wanted to say but it all came to me at once. I grabbed the microphone and spoke: I was reading an article by a guy named Will Grigg in which he gave the account of an Idaho man who had been imprisoned for six months for resisting arrest. The man had committed no crime but matched the description of a suspect in a mugging. A police officer approached him from behind without warning and grabbed his arm. He instinctively pulled away at which time the cop took him to the ground, handcuffed and arrested him. Will Grigg asked at the end of the article, “How can anyone think we live in a free country if your only crime is not submitting to authority, the very foundation this country was built upon?” What do you think?

In my opinion, as long as you’re not talking to law enforcement, or their families (that’s a topic for another day but woo boy are they unreasonable), a scenario as such should get the person, who is ready to hear it, thinking.

Let’s get into “who is ready to hear it.” Anyone who has spent any time in an evangelical Christian church should be familiar with the concept. “Go forth and preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ to everyone because you don’t know whose heart will be ready to hear it, and accept it.” As far as sharing the message of true liberty goes, there is a lot we can learn from this.

I’ve talked about my entrance into the liberty movement many times. (The usual Ron Paul confronts Rudy Giuliani on the debate stage in 2007 about “blowback”). For years I had been struggling with my politics, especially on foreign policy, and in less than 60 seconds (see my elevator pitch above) this humble man from Texas helped the scales to “fall from my eyes.” I was all in from there. Here’s the thing; I can’t be sure that if I heard Ron’s message in 2004 that I wouldn’t have been one of the people in the crowd who booed him. The time was right, my “heart” was ready, and the “preacher” was there to deliver. This is the approach we should take when delivering the message of true liberty. You never know who is listening or reading so “make it count.”

But, not only “make it count,” also remember who your potential audience is. The majority of Americans consider themselves Christians, or religious. Alienating them by trumpeting “God is dead” on social media is just as damaging as The Westboro Baptist Church’s techniques. In fact, deriding folks of any cultural norm they hold onto, something that may be family related and generational, is not productive. Even someone who is ready to hear the message will be taken aback if they are a “proud Texan” and you start spewing about “imaginary boundaries” or “tradition shouldn’t matter as we’re all individuals.” As ready as I was to receive the message of anti-interventionism in 2007, if that message had been peppered with intimations that my family heritage is all made up or isn’t real, I doubt I would’ve embraced it as my family, and where we’ve come from, is still important to me.

What are the essentials? Self-ownership, private property, anti-war, abolish the Federal Reserve. How about, “you leave me alone, I’ll leave you alone, if you need help, ask?” The non-aggression principle, something every churchgoer can at least mentally ascent to. Other than that, come as you are.

I started this by talking about individual liberty, and specifically, the hold the police have over us, as an example. The most important part of the “liberty message,” in my opinion, is the individual being able to secede from his relationship with the State, whose claim to our lives is as illegitimate as if Walmart demanded your loyalty and wealth. It’s simple, your ties to your family, and community, are yours.  The State, and its enforcers, are to be ridiculed and thrown off. After that, we will have an abundance of choices, the exact opposite of what we have now.

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Peter R. Quinones
Peter R. Quinones is managing editor of the Libertarian Institute and hosts the Free Man Beyond the Wall podcast. He released his first book, Freedom Through Memedom – The 31-day Guide to Waking Up to Liberty in November 2017. It reached #4 in the Libertarian Section on Amazon. He has spoken at Liberty Forum in Manchester, New Hampshire and is currently co-producing a documentary entitled, “The Monopoly on Violence,” which is scheduled for a 2020 release. It will feature the most prominent figures in libertarianism explaining how nations states came into existence, the atrocities they commit and what a truly open libertarian society would look like. Contact him at pete@libertarianinstitute.org