Opinion: What is a Libertarian?

Today I listened to Jason Stapleton talk for 44 minutes on the topic, “What is a Libertarian?” Like Tom Woods during one of his recent podcasts, Jason agreed that a Libertarian “Is not ‘fiscally conservative and socially liberal,’ like Gary Johnson suggests. Rather, Libertarians have their own philosophy and operate on a standard of core libertarian principles. We are not a little of this party, a little of that party.” He then when on (for the next 40 minutes) to explain what a libertarian is/is not. Woods did something similar on his show (and at a luncheon during the Libertarian Party’s national convention).

But here’s my thing (whether it’s popular or not): If it takes 30-40 minutes to explain what a Libertarian is, then no Libertarian Party candidate for President will ever stand a chance at mass recruitment and/or a majority of votes.

People best absorb new ideas in bite sized portions.

While it might not be 100% accurate, Gary’s branding of the libertarian message works in only four words (fiscally conservative/socially liberal). It’s consumer friendly. It’s bite-sized. Non-libertarians can easily wrap their minds around it.

If I were pitching a movie to a Hollywood executive who hears (mostly bad) ideas all day and has minimal time in her schedule, I wouldn’t waste our time explaining every part of my script. She’d kick me out of her office before the second act. I would take two movies that she was already familiar with and use them to paint a picture. For instance, if I was pitching the ever-campy Sharknado series, I might say, “It’s Jaws meets Twister.” Or, if the film’s title was self-explanatory (Snakes on a Plane) I would use that. This level of brevity offers enough of the idea to generate interest and create understanding.

For libertarianism, the only other person I’ve heard make a succinct enough description is Matt Kibbe when he says, “Don’t hurt people and don’t take their stuff.” But even that implies our beloved “taxation is theft” argument, which likely requires further explanation to people that don’t understand why government is bad for them.

So, because I want to win and see the Libertarian Party grow (with professionals, not naked dancing men)…

When I’m confronted with the opportunity to offer the Tom Woods/Jason Stapleton explanation of liberty vs. the Gary Johnson explanation, I’ll take Gary Johnson’s all day long.

If that’s what it takes to bring people in and make them comfortable digging deeper (perhaps getting to Woods/Stapleton), then by all means, I’m fiscally conservative, and socially liberal.

Update: I’ve also heard “social acceptance/fiscal responsibility.” That works for me too.

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Joe Ruiz

Joe Ruiz is a writer, political aficionado, pop culture enthusiast, pro-wrestling smark, MBA graduate, former US Congressional candidate, ukulele tinkerer, Puerto Rican / American, Freemason, marketing guy, podcaster, and family man. He currently hosts The CAP (Culture & Arts Podcast) and is the Managing Editor at We Are Libertarians.

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