When you love freedom with a passion and hate oppression with a perhaps even greater passion, then it is only natural that you want to persuade others of your point of view. After all, since we are fundamentally opposed to aggression, this is one of the few means at our disposal in trying to bring about a better world.
Like me you probably have friends, coworkers, even family, who believe that we need the state to organize society. That taxation is the price we pay for civilized society. That without government, there would surely be chaos. If you could persuade them out of these false and harmful beliefs, you – and they – would have taken a small step towards a more free society. There would be cause for rejoicing.
So here are 4 keys to getting there through civilized persuasion:
In the following I will use the term ‘friend’ for the person you are trying to persuade, though it might be any human misguided being.
Key 1: Listen
You can never hope to persuade anyone if all you do is throw your arguments in their face – no matter how good those arguments might be. You need to start by listening.
Remember: the person you are trying to persuade is already convinced that his view is the correct one and that you are misguided. The reasons for this conviction can be a great number of things. but they are mainly a variation or combination of the following:
- Indoctrination – through many years of public schooling with endless worship of the wonderful benefits of democracy
- Fear – you are “attacking” the very foundation of society and it can be very scary to experience the ground shaking under your feet
- Personal involvement – your friend may work for the state or his close friends or family do
- A belief that the state or democracy is the morally best way to organize society
- A belief that, while democracy may be hard to defend on moral principles alone, the terrible consequences of not having a state justify its existence
- Disinterest – too busy with “life” to discuss “politics”
Each of these requires a different approach. For example, if your friend is simply indoctrinated it may be enough to just get him to verbalize his beliefs and his reasons for holding them – he may then come to realize that he actually has no good reasons for holding them, or the reasons are flimsy at best. It may be a great relief for someone like that to suddenly start thinking for himself, even a form of re-birth – and you get to be the midwife.
If your friend has no interest in “politics”, you need to arouse his interest by demonstrating how the state steals from him and his children through taxation and debt, for example. How the state engages in wars that result in the death of innocent children, and so on. Unless your friend is a die-hard cynic or egoist, you should be able to get through to him somehow.
And so on.
By listening to your friend you not only understand which arguments will be the most effective, but you also open him up to your arguments. When you understand that another human being truly cares about your opinions and why you hold them, a great barrier to persuasion is removed. Ask yourself: would you be persuaded by someone who never listened to your own views and your reasons for holding them?
Key 2: Logic
Once you understand you friend’s reason for opposing freedom, you can start to apply the second key: logic. Logic is like the force in Star Wars – it can move the seemingly unmovable. In fact, in this context it’s even better, because it can unlock false beliefs. Use the force – I mean the logic – Luke.
There are several types of logical arguments:
- By analogy
- Reductio ad absurdum
For an introduction to how these work, check out this great video.
To give an example of one of these, you might compare your friend to a wife who is married to an abusive husband. If the husband beats up the wife, she ought to leave him immediately. If she rather said: “Oh well, he only beats me senseless once a month, so he’s ok and I should stay married to him,” then she would be holding a false view of her marriage. In the same way, if the state’s henchmen, such as the police, kill innocent people from time to time – even though there was no threat to the killer’s life, that is not ok – we should “divorce” the state.
As you argue back and forth, also train yourself to detect logical fallacies so that your friend does not end up keeping his false beliefs for no good reason, and you waste time with the endless rabbit-holes that these fallacies can create.
Key 3: Morals
This key is about arguing for the fact that the state is immoral. Every government operates by creating laws, which if you think about it are just like agreements, except agreements always have at least two parties – like an employer and an employee or a buyer and a seller. But with a law, one party gets to write the whole thing, and the other party doesn’t even get to sign it. And yet, if the other party refuses to comply with the rules that the government thought was a great idea – probably inspired by some big corporation – well then they are more than happy to persuade you through the use of threats or actual violence. Without the state, what we know as the “police” today would be viewed as no different from any other criminal gang.
Make sure you check out Ethics of Liberty by Murray Rothbard. I know of no other book that will give you a more solid foundation for demonstrating the evils of the state.
Key 4: Consequences
The final key is the fact that statism – including democracy – produces terrible results.
Take economic growth as an example. It lifts the poor out of poverty, increases our quality of life and our lifespans. There is no doubt that economic freedom leads to economic growth. See for example this detailed analysis by the Heritage Foundation. How do you get the most possible economic freedom? Why, freedom of course – anarchy, no rulers. Government can never contribute to production – it can only reduce production by stealing, redistributing and wasting resources in the process of enforcing and administrating all of this coercion. Without rulers, entrepreneurs and startups are free to bring new and improved solutions and products to the market without artificial barriers put up by big corporations manipulating big governments. Without rulers, companies can no longer lobby and grease the rulers to enact special subsidies or put up barriers for smaller competitors. They will have to compete in a free market, on an even playing field. Without rulers, the only sensible way to gain wealth is by providing something that other people value.
By creating monopolies for big business and increasing inflation and debt, the state is stopping human progress. This is a strong reason for getting rid of it.
So there you have it – 4 keys to persuading your friend to reject the state and all its evils. Don’t get yourself into an argument without them! You may just succeed in winning your friend over to the cause of freedom. Now wouldn’t that be something?
What do you think – is there a 5th key that should have been included?