Brett Bittner serves as the Executive Director of the Advocates for Self-Government. Originally from Georgia, Brett has lived in South Carolina, Texas, Alabama, and Indiana. The Indianapolis resident was Marketing Director for The Advocates before becoming the Executive Director in April 2015. Prior, he served in multiple roles for the Libertarian Party, including Executive Director of the Libertarian Party of Georgia, Chairman of the Libertarian State Leadership Alliance (LSLA), and Chairman of the largest county affiliate in Georgia. In addition to his Libertarian Party credentials, Brett also served as a member of the Marietta City School Board, being elected in a special election to fulfill an unexpired term and re-elected the following year to a full term. He also served on the Steering Committee for Get A Move On ATL, a project of the Civic League of Regional Atlanta. Currently, he also serves as founder, and on the board, of the the Indianapolis chapter of America’s Future Foundation. He addresses civic and leadership groups throughout on current issues and free-market solutions. He is a frequent contributor to newspapers and radio programs around the country and spent two years providing free-market perspectives as a commentator on a daily Liberty Express radio program.
If we don’t have freedom of movement, do we really have freedom at all? If you or I can’t escape war, poverty, and oppression in search of a better life or more opportunity for ourselves, our families, our children and our grandchildren, what good are the freedoms that remain?
Does it really matter if you’re free to spend the money you earn as you wish? Does it really matter if you’re free to grow the food that would provide your family sustenance? Does it really matter if you’re free to live your life as you see fit, if you aren’t able to escape some of the worst atrocities known to man?
What we see today is a political divide that is the essence of politics as usual. We’re seeing how easy it is to divide us over one or two issues, as we fight about nuance and detail, justifying actions because this person did it previously and a precedent has been set, or by looking back at everything that’s occurred in this country, there is this tiny thing that does make what’s happening now okay.
But when we focus on the politics, nuance, and detail, we ignore the larger question.
We ignore what’s right.
We ignore what’s wrong.
Unfortunately, it also means that we ignore what really matters. It means that we ignore freedom.
Frequently, I hear from libertarians about some of the issues they face when performing outreach activities or communicating libertarian ideas. Often, they come to roadblocks that they can’t seem to get past.
In the marketplace, you and I both know what happens when you face an obstacle or a tough situation. We innovate. We bypass the roadblocks that we find.
Take a look at what Uber did to revolutionize the transportation industry. Or how Airbnb transformed how we travel and find accommodations. Bitcoin is doing something similar in the currency space, just as PayPal did with digital currency decades before. Amazon has completely changed retail shopping, as we order things online or from our phone instead of going to a brick and mortar store, having it delivered to our doorstep just a few days after placing the order.
We have the opportunity to exemplify our beliefs and show that we can back up our rhetoric, by innovating in the marketplace of ideas. Exemplifying those beliefs is going to give us credibility with others, as we can show that no only can we talk the talk, but we can also walk the walk.
When we’re innovative, it gives us an advantage, as we’re the “first to market” by utilizing the ideas that we put forth. We’re going about things in a different way and we’re revolutionizing the way we communicate libertarian ideas.
For many, we have the understanding that nothing can be in the best interest of everyone, save the freedom to decide for ourselves. There is no “one size fits all” solution to any particular issue, because we all have different situations and needs.
This clarity on ACTUAL understanding and compassion is what sets us apart from other political ideologies, but what about when it comes to beliefs differing from our own?
Often, we fail to recognize any other belief’s legitimacy as an option for others, especially those who haven’t embraced libertarianism, to consider.
By going straight on an attack, we alienate our potential new libertarian. We put them in the defensive position, standing up for their beliefs, rather than allowing them to understand the ideas we wish to share.
By no means should we endorse a belief that doesn’t meet our own moral and ideological standards. We should simply offer our understanding that an opposing view exists and use questions to get a better understanding of their reasoning for holding such a belief.
When faced with a discussion surrounding the personal life decisions of an individual, we often sound “heartless” by pointing to prior decisions as the cause for situational strife. A touch of understanding can go a long way when discussing issues regarding those in lower socio-economic strata.
By showing compassion for the sequence of life events that brought them to their current situation, we can empathize and gain a better understanding of their lives, before judging and demonizing their decisions. That alone will garner their respect and make them more receptive to suggestions about how freedom to choose can lead to better outcomes for everyone.
When we approach these situations with understanding and compassion, our ability to empathize, and a willingness to learn, we broaden the conversation to more than us vs. them. We open ourselves up to a thoughtful dialogue that may actually lead them to the principles and beliefs that we hold dear.
Isn’t that better than fighting about our disagreements?
When I say the word discipline, what is the first thing to comes to mind? For many of us, it has to do with punishment.
Unfortunately, those in favor of Big Government are certainly in favor of discipline to regulate the way that you and I live our lives, whether economically or personally.
Today, we’re focusing on discipline and when you have it and not when it’s given to you.
When you have discipline, what does that look like? To me, it’s acting with a purpose and focusing on just that action. You don’t things distracting you, like construction noise ongoing outside, taking your mind off what you’re actually focused. You are fully committed and engaged to the purpose that you have right then and there.
As libertarians, I see us frequently just “going through the motions” when we’re talking about libertarianism, or when we’re performing outreach activities.
If you take a look at some of the things we discussed in our Facebook Live series on effective outreach, you’ll see that we focused more on planning, setting goals, and follow-up, rather than the actual outreach conversations and activities themselves. You and I can have conversations with many people and have successful outcomes, if we know what our goals are, what we’ve planned to reach, and how to follow up afterward. All of those things make our outreach better.
My question for you is, are you a disciplined libertarian?
So much of what we’ve seen lately in the news has been classified as “fake news,” when, in actuality, that’s not what it is. It’s a distraction from what’s actually happening.
Distractions are just that. They are the things that keep us from looking at what’s really happening and focusing on real things with real people. At the end of the day, neither your life nor mine will be affected by these distractions.
When we talk about libertarianism, we don’t need to focus on distractions. We need to focus on what’s real, what’s affecting your life, and what’s affecting the lives of the people around you. Those are the things that will make non-libertarians more amenable to the ideas we present, because they actually see the ideas we hold in action, and they see how we would handle a situation that is based in reality and that affects them.
Take, for example, the Michigan man who received a $128 citation for leaving his car running in his own driveway. He was simply warming it up on a cold day. Trust me, there are many mornings here in Indianapolis where I want to warm my car before I get in to make sure that it’s nice and warm before driving to work in the morning. Those are things that the state finds to be wrong and requiring revenue from you to recompense.
This man’s ticket is a real story affecting a real person that nearly everyone can relate to. This is something that we need to make sure we talk about, and we need to talk about it with authenticity.
One of the key reasons that Donald Trump won the election was the perceived authenticity that he presented in his politically incorrect style. It set him apart from Hillary Clinton, and because no one believed what she was saying, due to her lack of authenticity, they thought his loose style, like going on 3 AM Twitter rants, was something that was authentic. In actuality, it’s just more of the same packaged for the American voter for that election.
So. let’s stop focusing on distractions, and focus on things that are real.
Since the Christmas holiday, the phrase I have heard over and over again is “New Year, New You.”
Today, I’m going to talk about the new new year, and the new opportunity that 2017 presents. It is a new year. In a few days, we’re going to have a new president. That means a new administration with new priorities, a lot of new projects, a new Congress, and we’re going to see our opportunity as libertarians.
2016 opened a lot of hearts and minds to the possibilities of libertarianism. 2017 means that it’s time to meet them with our solutions.
At the end of last year, I talked about learning more, so that we are better prepared to speak on libertarian issues and the ideals of liberty. When it comes to the conversations that we lead, we’ll be better informed, better equipped, and better prepared to talk about what it means to be a libertarian, and how we focus on the issues as we see them.
We’re also going to be listening more. That will allow us to be better prepared to answer the questions that are brought to us. The questions will arise in the conversations we lead, but also in everyday, casual conversation. We are going to be asked, “What is the libertarian view on this?” when we make it known that we are a libertarian authority.
We’re also going to need to take advantage of this new opportunity by welcoming inquiry to nurture those who are new to libertarianism, or who just found out about us in the last year or eighteen months. They’ll still have plenty of questions. At the beginning of last year, I wrote More Fit Than Fat, talking about how we tend to push away new libertarians, by showing them that they are not “libertarian enough.”
Will you take advantage of 2017? This new year? This new opportunity?
Obviously, there are differences between markets and politics. Today, I want to talk with you a little bit about why markets are vastly superior to politics.
In politics, there is only one winner. It’s the guy or gal that got the most votes. Everyone else was just an “also ran.” In markets, you can be #’s 2, 3, 6, or even 10 and still be successful. Not only that, your customers will also win, because they have a lot more choices than are available in the “winner take all” scenario of politics.
Politics also sets specific terms that are time-based, rather than performance-based. In politics, you’re stuck with someone for 2, 4, 6, or a lifetime of years. In markets however, you are able to end that relationship at will. You can end it at any time. This also means that those with whom you interact have to cater to your wants and needs. Otherwise, you can simply terminate the relationship. Politics doesn’t allow you to do that.
We also see that politics tends to prioritize and favor the preservation of the status quo. So many things stay the same, because without them doing so, there wouldn’t be a need for more and more “reform.” In markets, we’re always looking for (and receiving) advancements. Take a look at the razor blade industry. There are razors with 3, 4, 5, or more blades being advertised and sold. We also see people undercutting the traditional market like Dollar Shave Club, who makes things cheaper and more convenient than going to the grocery store or Wal-Mart for razors. Advancements, even as small as razors, in markets are vastly superior, because we are always improving on what was, rather than maintaining what is.
We also see in politics the influence of the will of the few. Those few are the ones who buy their politician and the politicians that are willing to be bought to advance the ideas that others have paid for. Markets represent the will of many. You and I are able to easily influence what happens in the marketplace by using our dollars, our ability to walk away from a bad deal, and our wants and needs to really drive what happens in the marketplace.
Those are just four ways in which markets are better than politics. I’d love to hear from you about other ways in which markets are better than politics.
As 2016 comes to a close, we’re looking at what our New Year’s Resolutions are going to be for 2017 and beyond.
I’d like to offer something to you that may make you a better communicator of libertarian ideas and someone who better understands the ideas of liberty, and that is to learn more. Make an effort to educate yourself as you work to persuade others. You can do that in three ways:
Read more. Did you know that the average book length is 12-20 chapters, and if you read just ten minutes a day, you would end up reading about a book per month? That would mean reading twelve new books a year that you’ve never even cracked? Wouldn’t that be a fantastic way to learn more about the ideas of libertarianism and how to communicate them?
Listen more. The average podcast length is 40 minutes. The average American commute time is about 25 minutes each way. That means you could listen to one podcast episode per day on your way to and from work.
Watch more. Incorporate more documentaries, documentary series, and other non-fiction works into what you’re watching. Just replace a sitcom with something that offers you an opportunity to learn, rather than letting television rot your brain.
More important than the option(s) you choose is to seek out things that offer a different perspective. If you read, listen, and watch things that are different from what you already believe, you’re going to gain a better understanding of how other people think, and how they’ve reached the conclusions and opinions that they hold. Knowing their positions and how they came to them is going to make you a better communicator in how you talk with them about why the libertarian solution is the best.
These are a few things I hope that you consider as we move into 2017. Maybe adopt one for 2017, one for 2018, and one for 2019 to truly make yourself a more learned, well-listened, well-read, knowledgeable libertarian?
Part of that impression is “looking the part.” While there isn’t a uniforms for “knowledgeable libertarian” we can make a positive first impression by ensuring we offer ourselves as not only well-meaning, well-informed, but also well-dressed.
I’m not suggesting that we wear a top hat and tails everywhere we go, though we should put forth significant effort in our appearance. Keep in mind that many people view our outward appearance as an indicator of our knowledge, education, and general trustworthiness.
In my experience, these tips have served me well:
Wear clothes that fit. Whether too big or too small, ill-fitting clothing can be something that tarnishes your image immediately with a new person you wish to discuss ideas, solutions, or philosophy with. Cull the wardrobe to just the things that you wear well. This includes your accessories, even glasses.
Know your audience. Try to wear something on par with their likely attire. If you always see this person wearing a suit, you should probably try to match that level.
Keep your hair (especially facial) neat and trimmed. We all have a preferred style, whether our hair is long, short, or non-existent (my case). The key here is to keep it looking like you meant for it to look. This goes double for the gentlemen with facial hair. Our beards, mustaches, and sideburns should look purposeful, rather than suggesting that we don’t even own a razor or a comb.
Avoid bright colors and too much “flash.” Don’t let what you wear overpower what you say. If the only memorable thing about you is your clothing, has anyone remembered what you had to say?
Our individuality and style should never take a backseat to the opinions of others, however we are looking to influence those who may not yet understand individualism and its value. Not everyone is ready to go from where they are to fully embrace something they are just beginning to learn about, so introducing them slowly is likely to yield a better outcome than full, immediate immersion at first.
Recently, I was having a conversation with a friend about her life growing up, and how her family structure and her faith played into the life that she’s created for herself. Despite growing up in a different part of the country, with a different faith, and a different family structure, we actually want the same things, and we hold similar beliefs.
Our conversation then expanded beyond the two of us to our varied networks to look at things on a more “macro level,” where we began to talk about how people of the Jewish faith, Muslim faith, Christian faith, or even no faith at all, actually want a lot of the same things.
We want to be happy. We want to be healthy. We want to have friends and family that love us. Essentially, we want to live a good life, being “good people.” Regardless of our faiths or backgrounds, that can be achieved by living something that many of us know as “The Golden Rule,” where we treat others as we wish to be treated.
As libertarians, I believe that is the foundation of our philosophy and principles, making sure that those with whom we interact are treated by us as we want to be treated. As a libertarian, I believe in the good in others, and I want that to flourish as we focus on the freedom to live as though we wish, without the impediment of what someone else views as the “right thing.”
Regardless of your faith, family upbringing, or regional geographic culture, we still believe in the same basic principles in life. As libertarians, we have an opportunity, regardless of those things to use that commonality to be fantastic examples of what it is to be a good person.
AND a good libertarian.
I think that’s going to be one of the best ways to attract people to the ideas that we have to bring others to a hold a libertarian perspective.