Alberto Benegas-Lynch Jr. has an interesting article in this month’s The Freeman, one in which he contends that lovers of liberty have something of a catch-22 on their hands when it comes to “selling” the ideas of liberty/classical liberalism. The thrust of Benegas-Lynch Jr’s post is that the catch-22 arises in the fact that lovers of liberty can’t sell their end product, essentially. The act of selling itself implies being able to anticipate/describe the end result for the consumer. For liberty lovers, be they strict (US) Constitutionalists to minarchists to anarchists, telling people how things will be if we get our way is difficult, especially for the schools of thought that theoretically do away with the State in their visions for the future order of society.
And while it’s a salient point, I think Benegas-Lynch Jr might be off the mark a bit.
To continue with the sales pitch, I think liberty/classical liberalism, if properly presented, sells itself, irregardless of what the final product may be. The reason I say this is fairly simple. Just think of the wildly disparate groups that one might be able to group under what I like to call “The Liberty Movement.” From mainstream conservatives to Tea Partiers to libertarians to minarchists to anarcho-capitalists to Austrian economists, there is a *wide* swath of people who all agree that, as conservative media guru Andrew Breitbart once said, “liberty is sexy.” So obviously, the ideas of liberty/classical liberalism can take root in widely disparate groups who typically would rather troll each other on social media or elsewhere than agree on any given subject.
In fact, it was former Soviet economist and current professor of economics at Carthage College, Dr. Yuri Maltsev, who inspired this particular angle, with a talk he gave in 2012 to the Pike’s Peak Economics Club. In it, he spoke of the Tea Party, and how he saw them as analogous to the White Army during the Russian Civil War of the early 20th Century. On the one hand, he said, you had the Reds, the fanatical socialists. On the other hand, you had the Whites, which was pretty much everyone else who knew they didn’t want what the Reds wanted. Broaden Maltsev’s comparison out to all the groups in the Liberty Movement, and I think it’s an even more apt comparison than his using the Tea Party only.
(Also, I’d say the fact that a member of the Soviet government and an economic advisor to Gorbachev learned to love liberty, and now tells his story to his supposed “enemies” from the Cold War, and that we’re so receptive to his message, is yet more proof that the ideas of liberty/classical liberalism can be “sold”.)
It’s also important that there are such professors as Dr. Maltsev and Professor Peter Leeson present and active in academia, and that they too, in their own way, sell the ideas of liberty/classical liberalism merely by teaching their subject matter.
Stitch all of the above with the fact that there are left-leaning libertarians and anarchists, and again, it’s a fair contention that the ideas of liberty/classical liberalism are already being sold, bought and consumed by many.
Is it possible to sell liberty/classical liberalism in the stricter context of Benegas-Lynch Jr’s article? No, he’s absolutely right about that. We can’t give potential buyers a clear picture of what happens if we get what we want, whether it’s from any of the various schools of thoughts already mentioned, or not.
But, as illustrated above, liberty/classical liberalism is seemingly being sold on a grand scale, to wildly disparate groups of people who usually fight like cats in a bag otherwise. Pulling again from the inestimable Mr Breitbart, I’ll close with one of my favorite quotes of his:
“If you can’t sell liberty, you suck. And by suck, I mean you suck, profoundly.”