<>< Josh Rule : : 2008 MCPP Intern
Recently, I have had a number of frustrating conversations about liberty and the role of government. It can be difficult to communicate exactly how something will get done when nobody is being forced to do it. How will the poor be taken care of when no one is forced to give to welfare? How will aid make it to foreign nations if the U.S. government does not forcefully take money from its people? In short, how can a system built on people’s self-interest provide for generosity?
The answers to these questions are difficult but not impossible. I know that, and I know the answers to these questions. So, why are the conversations frustrating? Why don’t they end with glee every time as my friend and I realize, yet again, the beauty of liberty and limited government? I was not thinking or speaking clearly. I was just rushing through a torrent of classical liberal ideas, without connecting them, without stating their underlying principles, and without thinking through my words before speaking. Therein lies the problem. It becomes impossible to convince people that classical liberalism benefits people when you lay out your ideas sloppily. If I simply assume that my classical liberalism is so brilliantly simple that a half-baked attempt to communicate it will be overwhelmingly successful, I am grossly mistaken.
Yesterday, I was watching a clip online about public speaking, and the something the presenter said in that clip came back to me this morning as I was contemplating how to stop the frustration and help someone gain a new understanding of liberty. Be Ruthless! Not in your conversations with other people, but in your deliberations with yourself to logically outline the case for liberty, one has to be ruthless. The logic should be fatally clear, devestatingly easy to follow. Complex ideas should be broken down into smaller ideas and tied closely with helpful analogies. The answer to a difficult question should begin with basic classical liberal premises, not halfway into the body of the argument. Confusing or badgering people until they agree with You is no success. It is the grandest of failures.
So, Be Ruthless! Strip down your arguments to their most basic outlines and address additional issues as needed. Then, strip that argument down again, even further, until just the core is present. Do not cripple the argument, but do not overload it either. Then, carefully present a tight, well-articulated argument, starting from agreed-upon premises and working, one step at a time, toward the conclusion. Answer objections. Do not brush them off as simple-minded. Classical liberal ideals are powerful, but they are also difficult to understand, initially. If we forget this fact, and expect people to pick them up without honest intellectual conversations, we are sorely mistaken.