I read Garnett Genuis’s letter to young libertarians with interest. There is not much to argue with in the letter. It is sound advice if you are interested in working with the Conservative Party of Canada. It may read to some “Mad Max” supporters like “kiss the ring and know your place” but I don’t think that’s the sentiment at all. I think it is solid advice about working in any organization you believe in and I wish more libertarians took it to heart.
I spend a lot of time talking to libertarian audiences across North America about things that are challenging for many of us libertarians to accept. I make the case that working in a team can help you achieve your goals as an individual even if the team leader is sub-optimal or incompetent. I implore libertarians to recognize that organizational hierarchy is necessary for the division of labour (even in political parties) and serves the needs of the individuals working in the organization.
So I echo Garnett’s advice. I would further advise you, oh young libertarian, to work with an organization that your values and goals align with. If “not Trudeau” is your goal then it may make perfect sense to work in the Conservative Party and try and oust him. If your goal is a more restrained government and liberty, then it may make more sense to join the Libertarian Party of Canada (LPoC).
I can hear the objections. The LPoC has no chance of forming government so why would I waste time with it. This seems like it would be a strong argument, especially if you think that liberty emerges from government. It would be an even stronger argument if it was made by a conservative working within the Liberal Party since they are the party that will most likely form government in the next election.
Imagine if a cohort of conservatives looking to make change within the Liberal Party were to receive Garnett’s advice from a Liberal parliamentarian.
“Build some infrastructure. Other groups such as oil & gas liberals and pro-life liberals have built institutions designed to influence the direction of the Liberal Party. Conservatives could do the same.”
“Broaden your agenda. Don’t just focus on cannabis prohibition; identify half a dozen other policy changes you’d like to see.”
“Cultivate your position within the party through cooperation with other kinds of liberals.”
Do you find that funny? Why? If we think that influencing from within the establishment or government is the best way to advance a political agenda why don’t conservatives join the Liberal Party?
Whatever answer a conservative might give to that question is a reason why a libertarian might not want to join the Conservative Party. Conservatives aren’t liberals, and libertarians aren’t conservatives or liberals.
Johnathan Haidt’s work on political personalities makes it pretty clear that these 3 political groups are correlated with different personalities. Liberals are high in empathy. Conservatives are high in disgust. Libertarians are low in both (note – as Paul Bloom points out in his book there is a big difference between empathy and rational compassion). Haidt also describes the cognitive style of libertarians as the most “masculine”. We value reason above emotion more than both liberals and conservatives. We value liberty as the ultimate end unto itself and we are more individualistic and less collectivistic than both liberals and conservatives.
We have different goals and values than conservatives and we also have a different psychological disposition. Conservatives are concerned about things like barbarism, degeneracy, degradation of tradition and therefore want rule by dad. Liberals are concerned about things like oppression, suffering, and environmental degradation and want rule by mom. Libertarians are primarily concerned about being ruled by anybody and think that all the problems that conservatives and liberals worry about are made worse by an unrestrained state.
There is another reason why I have avoided the temptation to join mainstream conservative parties that Jordan B. Peterson sums up nicely: “Nothing brings a better world into being than the stated truth. You’re going to have to pay a price for that, but that’s fine. You’re going to pay the price for every bloody thing you do and don’t do. You don’t get to choose not to pay a price, you get to choose which poison you’re going to take. So if you’re going to stand up for something, stand up for your truth, it’ll shape you.”
I have found this to be true. On one hand you can look at what I’ve done as foolish or borderline insane. I quit my career at the top of my game. I cashed in my retirement fund and sentenced myself to work until I die. I put myself through incredible stress and financial hardship all to obtain around 1-3% of the vote in ridings where we had candidates. And I knew this would be the result when I made these sacrifices.
Yet I have zero regrets. Why? Because the risk of not finding the courage to stand up for my truth on that political stage, with my knees knocking and voice shaking, was far greater than the risk of playing it safe and living out a comfortable life.
It turns out there were a myriad of positive unintended consequences that I could never have predicted by refusing to play small and by standing up for my truth. I have become incredibly resilient and confident that I can contend with anything life throws at me. I have become a much better communicator and have been invited to speak all over the world. We have influenced the political landscape in Canada. Maxime Bernier’s popularity is due in no small part to the work we have done. The libertarian message and the culture of liberty are growing stronger than I could have ever imagined.
So, young libertarian, speak your truth come what may. Don’t let people convince you to say or do things that make you weak. Surround yourself with people that strengthen your voice and share your goals and values. Don’t let the allure of power distract you. You don’t profit (neither does anybody else) if you gain the world and lose your soul. You can’t possibly know the positive ways standing up for your truth will shape you as a person and send ripples out into the world, but won’t it be exciting to find out?
The only way to defeat bad ideas is with better ideas.
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