When it comes to marketing, there are two integral factors that we must take into account: you need to have a knowledge of your product, and a knowledge of your consumers. In order to have a knowledge of your product, you must first know what it is that you are selling. And in order to have knowledge of your consumers, you must be aware of who is currently using your product, as well as who your target demographics are; aka who you want to sell your product to.
Although there are a few different flavors of libertarianism – ranging from Constitutionalism, to minarchism, and to anarcho-capitalism – the one principle that these all share in common is that they are premised around the idea that you own yourself, and no one has the right to dictate what you must do with your person or property. Self-ownership and decentralization are the core tenets of our philosophy.
Libertarianism is where morality meets economics. We believe that it is moral to leave people alone, and that the economy will prosper in doing so. When individuals are free to act on their own voluntary accord, they will only engage in an act if they find it beneficial to them. Therefore all voluntary transactions mutually benefit both parties involved, raising everyone’s level of utility. Capitalism is thereby the best economic philosophy for lifting people out of poverty and raising the standard of living.
Libertarians also believe that the government which is closest to home is easiest to control. This is why minarchists and Constitutionalists prefer small, limited governments, which will act in competition with one another, and anarcho-capitalists favor a radically decentralized society in which no one has a monopoly on force.
From this, we can discern that libertarians love property rights, capitalism, and decentralization. It is imperative to understand this, so that we may determine who the current consumers of our philosophy are, and who we should aim to sell it to. There is no point in selling binoculars to a blind man, which is why you need to know who is most apt to buy your product. If you’re selling iPhones for Apple, you know that not everyone is going to want to buy an iPhone, so you will instead sell to the people most inclined to buy your product.
Within libertarian circles, it is commonly believed that we ought to make an outreach to both people on the right and left. This flawed line of thought often puts libertarianism in the center, which is vastly untrue. A libertarian is not a moderate, but is rather a radical. Instead of being at the center of the right and left, we are in reality at the most extreme end of the spectrum.
This is why selling liberty has often been difficult, because libertarians are not always cognizant of who is most apt to purchase our product. Therefore, we must not put libertarianism between conservatism and liberalism, and must instead craft a more accurate political spectrum. This spectrum places total government on one end, and anarcho-capitalism on the other.
This updated political spectrum makes it significantly easier to sell liberty, because we can see who’s beliefs are closest to ours, as well as who we will have little to no chance of turning into libertarians. And as this updated spectrum shows, conservatives are closest to our philosophy, while liberals and democratic socialists are much further away.
Why are conservatives closest to us in thought, you may ask? Let’s start by answering a few important questions. Aside from libertarians, who says they love capitalism? Who says they love freedom? Who says they love property rights? Who says they believe in self-defense? Who supports states rights? Who reveres the founding fathers? Who besides libertarians are the only ones sharing ‘taxation is theft’ memes?
The answer to all of these questions is conservatives. Though they have not yet taken their logic to its rational conclusions, they love the same things libertarians do. Their beliefs are, for the most part, grounded in the same foundation as ours.
Conversely, modern day liberals do not say they love capitalism. They want to place a heavy tax burden on our country and do not have much of a veneration for property rights. Liberals also despise gun ownership, as well as the idea of decentralization.
When a conservative takes their logic to its rational conclusions, you get libertarianism. And when a leftist takes their logic to its rational conclusions, you get communism.
If libertarians want to successfully market the ideas of liberty, it is clear who our target demographics must be. Conservatives. As awful of a president as Ronald Reagan was, he was absolutely correct when he said, “I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism.”
Conservatives are just a short journey away from becoming libertarians. All they need to do is take their logic to its rational conclusions. The one big area of contention that tends to hold them back is war. Though even Tom Woods, who is more outspoken about his disdain for war than just about any other libertarian, readily admits in his book Real Dissent, “I have had vastly more success turning conservatives antiwar than I have getting leftists to read a single sentence I write.”
Now this isn’t to say that you shouldn’t try to sell the ideas of liberty to a leftist if given the opportunity, but rather that you should be aware that it will be exceedingly difficult to do so. Leftists favor state control and egalitarianism, ideas that are immensely contrary to ours. And when leftists join the ranks and call themselves libertarians, egalitarianism often remains at the center of their ideology, which only distorts the true philosophy of libertarianism.
So how should a libertarian go about converting a conservative to libertarianism? Introduce them to Ron Paul. Introduce them to Judge Andrew Napolitano. In fact, also introduce them to the non-interventionists of the Old Right, such as Russell Kirk and Robert Taft. Ask them to follow Austin Petersen and Julie Borowski on social media.
You can also learn to speak their language, without having to cede any principles. Ron Paul converted so many to libertarianism by speaking about the Bill of Rights, which is very much congruent with the non-aggression principle. Infringing upon another’s right to property and self-defense, whether initiated by the state or an ordinary individual, is equally wrong, and there’s no better way of teaching conservatives about the NAP than by talking to them about the Bill of Rights.
When it comes to the issue of war, libertarians see these interventions in the Middle East as wars of aggression. However conservatives see them as defensive wars, since it is self-evident that ISIS and other foreign threats are immeasurably evil. This is why it might be easier to make the utilitarian argument and show how these wars have left the world worse off and created a universe of unintended consequences, as Ron Paul was famous for noting. Teach them about blowback, and let them know that if security is something they value, then they should be against all these foreign wars since they make us less safe.
Ending the War on Drugs seems to be an issue that conservatives are already warming up to, and you can use this issue to teach them about radical decentralization. By leaving the matter to the states, as the federal government is supposed to do under the Constitution, it opens up a market place of ideas, in which the 50 states must directly compete with one another.
From there, introduce them to Ludwig von Mises and Murray Rothbard, as well as Tom Woods and Jason Stapleton. Introduce them to the ideas of state nullification, secession, and Austrian economics. Their love for capitalism will only continue to grow as they broaden their worldview.
Each conservative may require a different path, and not all will want to become libertarians. In the same sense, not all Android users will want to buy an iPhone. But if you work as a sales associate for Apple and are tasked with selling iPhones, you will have much more success selling to those who already use smartphones than you will to 70 year olds using flip-phones.
If at first you don’t have success, don’t be discouraged. Continue to work with them on the common ground we hold, and help them take their logic to its rational conclusions where there are areas of discord. There is nothing wrong with being critical of their beliefs and inviting them to debate, but attacking them will only make them more adverse to our philosophy. You’re not going to sell an Android user an iPhone by mocking them for owning a Samsung, but rather by showing them why the iPhone works better and will benefit them more than an Android. (If you’re wondering why I’m so critical of left libertarians, it’s because they’re slapping an Apple logo on a flip-phone and trying to call it an iPhone)
With that said, I wish you the best of luck bringing as many people to libertarianism as possible. I hope this article can help steer your efforts in the right direction, and will serve as a useful guide for those having trouble opening up people to our ideas.
Libertarians don’t have a problem with their message, but rather a problem with their marketing. All it takes is discovering our target demographics, and our efforts will finally start to pay off.