Sunday, April 8, 2012

Talking Politics to Worshippers of the State (Part 2)

There are a couple of things one might want to accomplish when talking to worshippers of the state. I think that first and foremost one wants is to turn the brain of the worshipper back on. One wants to get the state practitioner to think. That isn't to say that worshippers of the state don't think. It is simply that they have decided not to think about certain issues. They have been taught certain paradigms and have accepted them as truth. They simply don't want to think more deeply about those issues as they go about their lives. The difficulty is getting through their programming to get them to reconsider the paradigms which they learned at a young age and continue to be propagated in the life they observe around them.

If you read the first part of this article, then you will understand that the toughest part of cutting through the propaganda and turning on the subject's brain can be to simply get them to listen. If the person you're interested in influencing has started huffing and puffing or has resorted to immature shouting, I hope you have dropped the subject, walked away, or otherwise avoided further agitation and refused to lower yourself to that level. We are not a nation of Bill O'Reilly's all pounding our chests and trying to be the biggest bully on the playground. In fact, in a nation where the scourge of bullying has been highlighted as of late, I'm surprised his program still gets enough viewers to exist.

The freedom philosophy has the moral high ground. That is likely one of its most attractive aspects. It is, in fact, the stance I like to take most often when discussing politics. Those whose minds are entrapped in state worship will often shift gears into the real tough questions when they want to be validated and ask what about the roads, or the courts, or the military. How would these things be handled without government? These are services that quite honestly I don't know how they'd be handled without government. I do know this, however, I shouldn't be forced to pay for such services through a monopoly that gives me no choice in the matter.

One of my favorite things to try to do is to point out the proverbial gun in the room. I like to point out that government is force, pure and simple, and that force and the threat of force are the only tools government has to get people to behave the way government wants them to behave. That's a fear based method. For instance, if you didn't have to pay income taxes, if you weren't afraid of going to jail, would you pay? There are others besides government who use the same methods to get people to behave as they want. Slave owners and extortionists come to mind.

Many people are not going to accept this argument at the outset. They're going to make the claim that government is different because they were elected by a majority or because they're working for the greater good. They will seriously balk at the concept that taxes are theft. After all, how else would one get money to fund the roads? This is the point in many conversations where I stop, unless I can see whoever I'm talking to is able to accept the concept of free market opportunity and the idea that someone would figure it out. The important thing isn't to convince someone right then and there and win them over to your point of view, the important thing is that they've heard you and the gears inside their head have started to turn.

The morality approach has worked for me on people who were both left leaning and right leaning. It seems morality is something that people from all points of the political spectrum hold as important. Only the power brokers or power broker wannabes or authoritarian control freaks seem to disregard morality. Only the elite seem to throw it to the side and not care about it. It is not always going to be an effective approach, however, and has also failed for me with people that I considered both liberal and conservative. It seems people have a great capacity to make excuses and equivocate when their deeply held beliefs are challenged.

Another aspect of politics is economics. Politics is about money. It is about where wealth should and should not be spent. It's about the super wealthy figuring out how to protect their wealth, gain more power, and steal more money from the lower classes. It's about determining who can conduct business without fear of government agents and who can't. People think it's about helping other people, providing services at a fair price to all, or providing security. Those things are only true to the extent that economics is involved. Political systems are constantly growing because they strive to create monopolies in such services and use the power granted them to knock competitors out of the market. The political system wants all the money and power for itself.

When engaging in political discourse about the economy, it helps to know whether the person you're talking to leans to the left or the right of the political spectrum. People on the left have a tendency to worry about the poor and underprivileged and so want to spend money in the social services sector while people on the right have a tendency to worry about security and so want to spend money on the military and law enforcement. I'm not saying this is always the case, but it is a point of reference to start from.

I remember one gentleman who seemed to be leaning to the Democrat side of the spectrum as he harbored an intense hatred for Republicans, yet he expressed an appreciation for the wars we are currently engaged in and felt they were necessary for our protection. He told me with great fervor that he thought I was dangerous because of my political pro peace views. I was stumped on several fronts when trying to convince him of the superiority of freedom over tyranny, and I do still hold hope that he may someday see the value of my point of view, but I have given up on talking to him about politics.

I try to touch on something I think the person I'm conversing with would agree with. I will, for instance, discuss my pro peace stance with a liberal. If he shares my views, as most do with the exception of the man I mentioned above, then I will talk about how we could shrink government by ending the current occupations we are involved in. I will express sympathy for the downtrodden and empathize with the need to provide charity to those who have run into bad times for some reason or another and point out that billions can be saved by reining in the military. Only after this is digested and accepted by the person I'm talking to will I tackle trying to convince him that the private sector can handle charity better than the government.

When talking to someone who is right leaning, I approach this in the opposite way. I can start with discussing how cutting social programs can help society, and from there move on to discussing how cutting military costs is also an important step in scaling down the federal government. I think it is important to find something you can agree on to form a sympathetic bond with the other person before expressing disagreement. To disagree first immediately puts the two of you at odds.

One of the most difficult things to get by is other people's idea of what freedom is. If we are to try to frame the debate as a freedom versus tyranny discussion rather than a discussion as to which big government tyranny is better, it is important to define freedom. Some people believe that freedom means equality, that we are not free until everyone has the same stuff and is economically on the same level as everyone else. In other words, freedom is freedom from want. They would use government to accomplish this, to redistribute wealth especially from those they feel did not honestly earn the wealth they have to those who have nothing or next to nothing. This is not freedom, it is mommy government.

Others feel freedom means security, that we are not free until we can all walk down the streets anywhere and not have to worry about getting mugged, or board an airplane without having to worry about it getting blown up, or walk into a famous building without having to worry about planes flying into it, etc. In other words, freedom to these people is freedom from fear. This is not freedom, it is daddy government.

In both the above examples, it can usually be agreed upon that government has failed in providing the freedoms wanted. Again, if you run into someone who believes the government has done a good job providing for such things, chances are you have run into a government zealot whose mind will likely never change no matter what. Once you get the feel for what the other person believes freedom to be, you can present your idea of what freedom is. The idea here is not to tell them they're wrong, for that could turn their minds off instantly as they go into defense mode, but to get them to listen to a different point of view. Many times in order to achieve this goal it is important for you to listen to them first.

Most people that I know will agree that freedom means the condition of being left alone so long as you are not harming another. I've also had quite a bit of success getting people to agree that freedom is the condition of being allowed to do as you please so long as you are not infringing on the rights of others. A third approach is to state that freedom amounts to being able to determine for oneself where to spend the money one earns. That is sometimes a little more complicated to explain. Then there is the definition of being free to determine one's own destiny, or the search for happiness, or even property, but those can be a little ethereal for some people. In any case, the important thing about those freedoms is that it empowers the individual and takes the ability to be free away from government. Indeed, these conditions become achievable only when government intrusion is removed.

The question of what it means to be free is going to differ for nearly every person. That's at least partially because it's such a nebulous concept. It should be more thoroughly discussed and explained to young children. Instead, in many public schools, the young of this country are taught that freedom means the ability to elect representatives and that government is created to take care of all problems. This kind of thinking helps only to prevent true freedom from reining and keeps big government growing bigger. The younger the child is when a belief system is instilled, the harder it will be to dislodge that belief system when one becomes an adult.

In many cases, it will take a while for the ideas of freedom to sink in. If one tries to give another too much information too fast, it might overwhelm that person and lead him to never look into these matters. If, however, you work with the other slowly, before you know it people may be coming up to you and asking your opinion during political discourse. When this happens, you know the ideas of freedom are starting to make sense to others. You know you have gained their respect. It's a good feeling to have when you're sitting at a bar watching a sporting event and two people diametrically opposed in their political views ask you for your opinion on some issue they're arguing about. Give someone some food for thought and some time to chew on it, and eventually even the most zealous of state worshippers can come around to the freedom perspective.

This is just a small bit of advice from one who is not the most persuasive when it comes to verbally explaining or expressing these ideas. I have been helped greatly by those who have explored these philosophies before me. For more and better ideas on how to present the freedom perspective to worshippers of the state, check out Mary Ruwart's work. For this purpose, I think her book "Short Answers to the Tough Questions" is particularly relavent.

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