Last year, President Obama’s administration issued guidance to public schools that said they must allow students to use the bathroom with the gender they identify with, regardless of their actual sex.
This year, the Trump administration reversed that order. Now states and localities will be deciding what their transgender bathroom policies will be.
For libertarians, this is a complicated issue. One the one hand, if there is to be a government, we’d like it to be as decentralized as possible. So there’s definitely an argument in favor of state’s rights. However, this particular issue deals with public property. Since it’s public property, partially funded with federal dollars and overseen by a federal department, there’s an argument that the federal government has a duty to accommodate the needs of transgender students.
What should be the libertarian solution? To paraphrase an old saying, “If you ask two libertarians their opinion on something, you’ll get three answers!” That quote couldn’t be more appropriate here. Libertarians may argue over what the public school transgender bathroom policy should be, but we ultimately agree that the real solution is to privatize all schools and let the owners and customers decide.
Instead of each state or district or the entire country having a one-size-fits all policy, any school could have their own policy since they’d be privately owned. That way no matter where you live, you’ll have options to choose from. Just like we have many choices in grocery stores, we should have just as many options in education.
Why We’re Losing
In the sales world there’s an effective selling technique known as the Alternative Choice Close. The idea is that you present your prospect with two choices, both of which end in them buying your product. If you’ve ever bought a car at a dealership you’ve seen this technique in action. When the salesperson is giving you an offer on a car, they’ll give you several different payment options and ask “Which option would you prefer?” This technique increases the chances of a sale compared to asking the prospect a “Yes/No” question. One where “No” is an easy option. I.e. “Would you like to buy it at these terms?”
Or to relate it to the dating world, if you want to ask a girl out on a date it’s much more effective to say “Where would you like me to take you: Applebee’s or Chili’s?” Instead of “Do you want to go on date with me?”
On the public school bathroom issue, and many other issues, libertarians are being had by slick salesmanship from those in charge of the government. Government presents us with a conservative and liberal choice on an issue, and we feel the need to pick the least bad side. No matter what choice we get sold on, we’re buying a government solution. The people in power don’t care what side ultimately wins out. So long as they keep their control over the topic in question. Same with the car salespeople. They don’t care which payment you choose, just so long as you pick a payment and they get the sale!
On this issue in particular, too many libertarians are choosing to side with either the right or the left. Perhaps some libertarians have bought into the fear-mongering involving transgender people. Perhaps some libertarians are trying to curry favor with one side of the isle in the hopes of being seen as tolerant. Perhaps some libertarians are just tired of being left out of the debate and want to feel like they’re being heard, even at the cost of choosing a lesser evil. Whatever the excuse, by siding with the left or right, we’re dooming our ideology to a life of existing just outside of the Overton Window.
Unapologetic, Consistent Freedom
The two greatest salespeople for libertarianism in the last 100 years were Ron Paul and Ayn Rand. No two people were responsible for more converts to our ideology in that span. In spite of their extreme differences in how they lived their lives, they had one important thing in common. They were unapologetic and consistent in their defense of human freedom. Even when it took them to unpopular places. Or in the case of Dr. Paul, even when it caused him to wallow in obscurity for decades before people started taking him seriously. Ron Paul is a perfect example of the concept that it usually takes years of hard work to become an overnight success!
When it comes to the ongoing battle over transgender bathrooms and public schools, we can’t fall victim to the false narrative that it has to be one or the other. Yes, I realize that eliminating public schools isn’t an option any time soon. It may not be an option ever, at least politically. Technology will most likely make public schools obsolete way before government gives up their control of education.
So why not pick a side if our solution isn’t even an option, you ask? I see two big reason why we should stick to our seemingly hopeless guns.
First, this is how we win converts. If we’re seen as nothing more than a centrist movement, where we take a little bit from the left and a little bit from the right, we’re not going to inspire anyone. If we have no clear ideology on issues, or if we’re seen as being easy to throw away our ideology in order to settle for the lesser evil, we’ll always be thought of as the nerdy kid trying desperately to get into the cool kid party.
Second, we’re not going to sway the people in charge anyway! Seriously, could you imagine a scenario where the government is deadlocked on an issue, so they come to the libertarians to make the call? The idea is laughable!
This tyranny train is roaring full steam ahead with or without us. Since we seem to be the only group of people on this train that can see we’re heading off a cliff, it’s our duty to ourselves and our fellow humans to do our best to point out the truth and offer the only moral solution. Instead of advocating the conservative or liberal “solution”, we need to present the libertarian solution. The fact that the libertarian solution isn’t even on the table for discussion isn’t an excuse to settle for the lesser evil. In fact, that’s all the more reason to be presenting our solution far and wide, if only to move the Overton Window toward libertarian ideas. In this case, unapologetic privatization of everything to do with education.
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