“We cannot teach anyone anything, we can only make them think”-Socrates
Socrates was arguably the greatest teacher in the history of mankind. He understood you could not change someone’s mind by telling them something, you could only do it by causing them to question their beliefs.
I was lucky enough to attend the Indiana Libertarian Convention earlier this year. One of the speakers was Joe Hauptmann. Joe is an educator by trade and leader within the party. In his speech he said two things that struck a chord with me:
1) Even if every Libertarian in the state voted, Libertarian candidates would still lose.
2) He believed everyone was an organic libertarian.
I believe Joe is exactly right on both accounts.
There aren’t enough Libertarians to win elections. I think we can all agree with that statement, but that doesn’t mean we can’t pick off enough open minded independents, Republicans, and Democrats to win.
In order to win, we have to focus on the open-minded. You’ll never convince a Christian conservative that government should not have a role in shaping behavior and you’ll never convince a welfare liberal that social justice is theft. Instead you have to focus on economic conservatives, social liberals, and the millennial generation.
It’s just like Socrates said, “The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.”
Christian conservatives and welfare liberals are the old. They aren’t changing. We just have to wait them out. But everyone else is the new.
If Joe is right, and I believe he is, then each person is born an organic libertarian. Somewhere along the line they were conditioned into believing society couldn’t function without a large central government. Our mission should be in helping people discover their original mindset. Not through quoting philosophers, espousing the benefits of liberty, or scaring people about the dangers of big government. That is the work of Sophists. We will help them discover their true beliefs.
I’m not an educator like Joe or a philosopher like Socrates. I’m a salesman. My specialty may be in marketing and my title entrepreneur, but all I really do is sell. I sell solutions to problems. In this case, the problem is lack of self knowledge among the majority of citizens. The solution to that problem is self discovery. No one buys self discovery.
They may try to solve the problem by aligning with an organization, but that isn’t a solution. It’s a decision of convenience. It’s like buying the car on the lot with some of the features you want instead of waiting two months for the exact model to be delivered. Or buying a car because it is well thought of by your group of friends. More than likely, it isn’t your dream car.
Anyone who has ever been sold something knows how much that process sucks. Don’t you hate salesmen who come up to you, start rattling off all the technical aspects of a product, and then pressure you to buy or at a minimum test drive? Its all about them and their product.
Everyone hates those salesmen. So why do all political parties spout platforms and values down people’s throats? Convenience. Interacting with people at a person to person level is tedious and slow. Buying $5 million worth of ad space in various media outlets with tested messaging is easy.
If we want to win we can’t be convenient. We have to take the hard path.
Luckily, no one wants to be sold to. In fact, very few are. They have an idea of what they want, but they need to embark on a discovery process before they make a decision. Can pressure tactics work from time to time? Sure. But no one ever feels good after they buy a car because some salesman walked up and pressured them to buy. More than likely they bought because they needed a car and didn’t want to deal with anymore salesmen.
Great salesman know the key is in helping potential clients discover their needs. A client feels good about their decision after they’re sure their needs have been understood and met. Need development is the key to any sale and the only way to do that is through asking questions. Focus on helping the prospect develop their unmet needs.
Libertarians can’t compete in the game of political messaging with Democrats and Republicans. The resources just aren’t there. But, we can outsell them by honing our craft. A great salesman puts the potential clients needs before his product knowledge. The key is listening and learning.
What I’ve done is put together a guide to selling libertarianism. It’s not perfect and it isn’t comprehensive, but the goal isn’t a quick sale. It’s to help prospective clients (possible libertarians) rediscover their original beliefs by challenging current beliefs in a non threatening manner. What will our tool of choice be? The Socratic Method.
Let’s say you’re at a dinner party and you’re the person everyone knows as “The Libertarian.” Instead of answering questions about what the Libertarian party stands for, follow the series of questions below.
Questioner: “Greg, I hear you’re a Libertarian. I’ve heard of it, but what is a Libertarian? What do you guys believe?”
Me: “I could tell you all about the Libertarian platform, but wouldn’t that be boring? It’s funny, I meet so many people that have libertarian beliefs, but don’t know it. How about I ask you a couple questions and I’ll let you know which party you’re most like Libertarians or a different party? It will be like a game.”
Questioner: “Okay great. Ask away.”
The Ultimate Sales Guide To Libertarianism
What is government?
Why does it exist?
Is it necessary? Yes or No?
If yes, how is a government formed?
If no, congratulations. You just converted someone or they will buy soon.
If you could create your own government, how would you do it?
Would you reach out to like minded people who value and want the same things you do? Or would you force people to join? Why?
How would you get members to join?
What would you offer to get people to join? For example: freedom of speech? Religious freedom? Why?
Would you let members elect a leader? Group of leaders? King? Why or why not?
What assurances would you give potential members that your offer is valid? How?
Would you offer a contract? A contract offering incentives? Why or why not?
Would you offer a termination clause? Why or why not?
Would people voluntarily join if you didn’t? Why or why not?
Should the terms of the contract be explicitly laid out and subject to change only upon the agreement of both parties? Why or why not?
Would the contract be beneficial to members? Why or why not?
In what ways would it benefit members? Why?
Should your government protect members from harm? Why or why not?
To what extent? Why that much? (An indestructible prison comprised of solitary confinement cells would be very secure)
Should safety and protection be distributed equally among members unless otherwise agreed to? Why or why not?
If one member is given more protection than another, would the less protected be justified in ending the contract? Why or why not?
Should it provide for members financially? Why or why not?
If so, how would you provide for members financially (voluntary taxation, forced taxation, charitable contributions, etc..)?
To what extent? Why that much?
Should financial benefits be distributed equally among members unless otherwise agreed to? Why or why not?
Would you be able to recruit potential members if they benefited less financially than other members? Why or why not?
If you think you could, would you use force against a government competitor when they offered a different option for services? Why or why not?
Would you try to prevent your members from choosing a competing government through force? Why or why not?
If your government stopped providing for members, thus violating the terms of the contract, would they be justified in ending the agreement? Why or why not?
Would your government act as a mediator in settling contract violations? Why or why not?
What kind of contract violations? Behavioral (murder, battery, etc…)? Financial (theft, fraud, etc…)? Lifestyle (Drug use, Alcohol use, Homosexuality)?
Why those violations?
Are the previous examples only considered violations because members voluntarily select a government based on what they will tolerate?
For example, is murder only a violation because a group of individuals decides it wants protection from murderers? Or are there moral considerations? Why or why not?
Should laws stem from morality? Why or why not?
Should government promote morality? Why or why not?
Would your government promote morality? Why or why not?
Would your government seek to proactively prevent contract violations against members? Why or why not?
If so, what sort of preemptive mechanism would your government provide (ex. Police, NSA, etc…)? Why that type?
In the event violations can’t be prevented entirely, will your government offer a course of remedy for violated members? Why or why not?
For example let’s say one of your members stole from another. What sort of mechanism would your government provide for remedy (Member expellment, financial compensation, imprisonment, etc…)? Why that form?
If you didn’t offer a path for remedy would potential members voluntarily enter into the contract? Why or why not?
Should members be able to terminate the contract when a condition is violated? Why or why not?
Would members be able to opt out of the contract without cause? Why or why not?
I understand you may only have time for a few of these questions. Quite frankly, all you really need to do is help them figure out what they believe the proper role of government is (if any) and why. If they’re introspective at all they will start cracking their own foundations.
I just wanted to provide some examples for you to use in social situations. You will most likely come up with better ones and if you do please email them here: firstname.lastname@example.org.
We will continually update this guide.
Please share any success stories with us as well. We’d love to have you write an article about closing your first sale.
If we all work on becoming better salesman we can change minds and begin building the new just like Socrates said. Will this work 100% of the time? No, but nothing does. After all statists are gonna state, but we can do noble work in helping someone rediscover their organic libertarian.
Now get out there and sell some liberty. Put that coffee down. Coffee’s for closers!
*Special thanks to Joe Hauptmann and the Libertarian Party of Indiana