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In Disney’s “Mary Poppins,” the title character, portrayed by Dame Julie Andrews, treats the children in her care to a musical, magical show of how to make a game of chores by adding an element of fun. I’ve always enjoyed Ms. Andrews’ performances, and the lyrics of the chorus in this song provide libertarians with an important message.
For a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down
The medicine go down, the medicine go down
Just a spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down
In a most delightful way
Often, libertarians find themselves as the bearers of “bad news” when it comes to policy discussions and decisions. We also encounter many misconceptions and popular talking points in casual conversations with friends and strangers alike. We often administer “policy medicine,” as we point out the flaws, unintended or unrevealed consequences, or damage to our rights in a proposal.
If you doctor were to give you a diagnosis that’s less than desirable, would you want him or her to do it with a bad attitude? What about with a great deal of condescension? Would you appreciate it if he or she were generally abrasive in that conversation? What if he or she insulted you or called you names, as they offer their diagnosis? I, like most, would not want bad news delivered with a sub-par attitude. As libertarians, we are a lot like that hypothetical doctor.
To many, we have bad news. Unfortunately, many libertarians deliver it with attitude, condescension, insults, or abrasiveness. In your experience, how is it received?
What I witness is a negative reaction to BOTH the news and the messenger. Once you make that negative impression, you are not as welcome to take part in the discussion. Whether held by a policymaker or your neighbor, how can your exclusion be a positive step for libertarianism.
After all, we want our libertarian solution to be heard, right?
When you offer such a “pill,” bringing your best manners, pleasantries, and attitude help you build a rapport with the others involved in the conversation. That is the “spoonful of sugar” to change an exclusionary reaction to the “medicine” you are offering. Some of the best discussions about policy and the libertarian solutions to issues faced today occur with those that know more than the divisive rhetoric within the limited discussion of a particular topic.
It is not our shared libertarian thoughts that make those discussions among the best. It is the way we approached the conversation. When we do so with a positive attitude, respect for their knowledge, or lack thereof, in a particular area, and kindness, we win. We may not persuade them on the issue at hand, but persuasion is usually not attainable in a single interaction.
We win by planting the seed that we offer a thoughtful, understanding perspective to issues of the day. Once we plant that seed, people will seek our opinion and thoughts on future issues where they may be persuaded, rather than an issue where they firmly hold a committed belief.
In the event that you are the only one exhibiting a pleasant demeanor, you can also win over those who witness the interaction. There is no downside to “killing them with kindness.”
So, why not offer a spoonful of sugar along with the medicine?