Notes: International Students for Liberty Conference, Matt Zwolinski, How to Talk About Liberty Without Sounding Like a Jerk

Matt runs the Bleeding Heart Libertarians blog. He started off with An Argument:

premise: Libertarianism is True
observation: most people don’t belive that.
conclude: They are either wrong and evil, or they have never heard of it.
given people have heard of it.
conclude: Most people are wrong. They either don’t know (stupid) or don’t care (evil).
therefore: We don’t have to listen to them.

But it pays off (socially) to listen to those that disagree with you. Disagreement is reasonable and we still desire to reach the truth.
— empirical issues are complex and difficult (ex: minimum wage law, or ObamaCare)
— beliefs subject to psychological bias in analysis (ex: motivated reasoning, non-objectivity)
— moral values are plural and conflicting

Language of Politics, Jonathan Haidt’s Moral Foundations.
People have different weights on the following spectra:
1. Care/Harm
2. Fairness/Cheating
3. Liberty/Oppression
4. Loyalty/Betrayal
6. Sanctity/Degradation
— liberals value 1,2,3 highly
— conservatives use all 6, but differ in nuances (ex: fairness in outcome vs effort). 4,5,6 can override 1,2,3.
— libertarians focus almost exclusively on 3 [Understanding Libertarian Morality: The Psychological Dispositions of Self-Identified Libertarians]. So they have THE TRUTH, and NEVER have to worry about moral conflict. They ask “who owns the trolley?”, and bring out the property rights. To others this looks like they’ve lost focus (not everything is a nail) or an appreciation of life’s complexity.

Arnold Kling’s The Three Languages of Politics.
1. Oppressor/Oppressed (the liberal’s focus)
2. Barbarism/Civilization (the conservative’s focus)
3. Coercion/Freedom (the libertarian’s focus)

To persuade others, libertarians need to be multi-lingual.
– A person doesn’t communicate well if they only speak in their own language. Others won’t hear you, you won’t hear them. “seek first to understand, then to be understood”.
– If only see coercion/liberty then you will fail to appreciate other moral values. Oppression, fairness, care, loyalty aren’t mistakes. They aren’t reducible to the ONE TRUE VALUE (coercion). “There are no solutions, only trade-offs”

Consider the sweatshop debate.
Libertarian: It’s OK as long as it’s not coercive.
Option 1: Government determination of wages/safety is coercive.
Option 2: Government interference will harm those it tries to help.
The second option is more persuasive. Also more philosophically sound. It’s far from obvious that coercion is absolutely bad. How confident is the libertarian that “coercion == bad” is correct, and their debate opponent is mistaken?

1. It’s complicated. Be forgiving.
2. Conversation is not conversion (that takes many conversations over time).
3. Look for areas of common ground, and build on them. Find areas with lots of overlap. (good heuristic).