Question: how to convert high school teachers to libertarianism
Walter E. Block
Walter, I am a public high school history teacher who up until 7 years ago was a lifelong Democratic Party voting liberal. Sad to say, I even voted for Obama in 08. It was around that time I accidentally caught Ron Paul on C-Span giving a speech in the House of Representatives opposing Bush’s foreign policy in the Middle East. I was blown away. I couldn’t believe there were politicians like him out there. Over the next few years I read several of Ron’s books, got turned on to Lew Rockwell’s site and the rest is history. I am now a full blown anarcho-capitalist. I am also now known as the “crazy conspiracy theory” history teacher as well. I have reevaluated and rewritten my classroom lessons and presentations on all things related to US history, economics and government to flavor them with what I have learned these past few years. I think my tenth graders are the only kids their age in the state of Connecticut who understand how the Federal Reserve actually works. All this in defiance to the demands being placed on us by forced government mandated curriculum and evaluations that punish one for practicing teacher centered learning.
My question to you is what can I do to help win over some of my teaching colleagues to libertarianism? I have become versed enough to begin to hold my own in heated debates about the non-aggression theory and the concepts of limited government but nothing seems to get through to most of these folks. I know it took me until I was 53 to have the scales removed from my eyes, but you must have a few tricks up your sleeve to share with a fellow educator that I can use to open some minds to be more receptive to the only philosophy that will bring back our liberties. Thanks for your time, W
Dear W: Thanks for your very important question. In my view, there is no one guaranteed right way to convert the heathen to the one true faith. As an Austrian economist, I take a subjectivist stance: in this case, people are very different, and what will work for some, will not work for others. And, also, we libertarians are also very different. My thought is that the best technique for you might not be the same for me. I am very struck by an analysis of the techniques used by the two people most successful in converting masses of people to liberty: Ron Paul and Ayn Rand stand head and shoulders above anyone else, in my opinion. (Murray Rothbard, Mr. Libertarian, undoubtedly converted many more top intellectuals to the anarcho-capitalist banner, but, probably, most of your colleagues do not fit that bill.) And yet Ron’s and Ayn’s techniques were very different. I think we can characterize the latter as a “take no prisoners” kind of mentor, whereas the former, in Murray Rothbard’s oft-used expression, is a “sweetie-pie.”
So far, I realize, I have given you exactly zero in the form of any specific suggestions. Let metry to rectify matters. One technique is sometimes called “cross-dressing.” When trying to convert a leftie to libertarianism, emphasize, lead with, examples where we and they more or less agree: legalizing drugs, sexual acts between consenting adults, anti-imperialism, corporate welfare, etc. When targeting a conservative, go front and center with economics, where we are closer to them. For example, free trade, minimum wage, rent control, unions, welfare. Another technique: try to grow to about 6’4”, weigh about, oh, 190, and work out in gyms. Or, for women, try to become more beautiful. I’m only half kidding here. Attractiveness of the person doing this sort of thing cannot but help in the process. Another is, join Toastmasters, and practice, practice, practice interacting with people. Then there is the ability to memorize lots of jokes.
As you can see, I’m “reaching” here. There might be some benefit for some people in these musings of mine, since your self-appointed task is surely a crucial one. We have to win the “hearts and minds” of the people, and, bless you, for trying this on a retail basis in your high school. By the way, off the point, please do consider sending some of your students to study with me at Loyola. We’ve got lots of free enterprise professors, well, relatively.
One more suggestion. Give them something to read. It would have to be short. Not Human Action nor Man, Economy and State (on the other hand, the two books that started my own conversion were the Hazlitt and the Rand; the latter is not a short book). Try these:
Hazlitt, Henry. 2008 . Economics in One Lesson. Auburn, AL: Mises Institute;
Rothbard, Murray N. 1963, 1985, 1990 What Has Government Done to Our Money? Auburn, AL.: Mises Institute
Rothbard, Murray N. 1996. “Economic Depressions: Their Cause and Cure.”
Rothbard, Murray N. 1994. The Case Against the Fed. Auburn, AL: The Ludwig von Mises Institute
Intro to libertarianism:
Albright, Logan. 2013. “Libertarianism in One Sentence.” November 22;
Block, Walter E. 2008 . Defending the Undefendable. Auburn, AL: The Mises Institute;
Huebert, Jacob. 2010. Libertarianism Today. Santa Barbara, CA: Praeger;
Rand, Ayn. 1957. Atlas Shrugged, New York: Random House.
Rockwell, Jr., Llewellyn H. 2014A. Against the State: An Anarcho-Capitalist Manifesto.
Rockwell, Jr., Llewellyn H. 2014B. “What Libertarianism Is, and Isn’t.” March 31;
Rothbard, Murray N. 1998  The Ethics of Liberty, New York: New York University Press. http://www.mises.org/rothbard/ethics/ethics.asp
Rothbard, Murray N. 1973. For a New Liberty, Macmillan, New York;
By the way, I supported my man Barack Obama in 2008. I thought McCain was way more likely to nuke some innocent people than our present President. Even now, I can’t say that I regret this decision of mine.
10:43 pm on July 14, 2015