Friday, August 10, 2007

LSS and non-libertarians

The Liberty Summer Seminar is coming up very soon. I always try to send out personal invitations to people who I think would enjoy the Seminar, and who might have a lot to gain from attending (both in terms of fun, and in the lively discussions that beer and politics tend to engender).

Many of my messages are to non-libertarians. While the Seminar features speakers who are either freedom-lovers, or will speak on topics where they happen to agree with a pro-liberty position, it has always benefited from the attendance of people who would call themselves "libertarian" only on those days that happen to coincide with wintry spells in hell. In fact, it has been sort of my mission to get more non-libertarians out each year than the year prior.

The reason? The Seminar is supposed to be intellectually stimulating! It is not supposed to be an echo-chamber. It is supposed to present the ideas of liberty to give people the context for a continuing debate.

"Hey y'all," says the speaker, "personal and/or economic liberty rocks, and here's why..."

To which the audience either says, "Hell yeah!" or "Hmmm, interesting... I'll have to think about it" or "Hell no!"

Then, Saturday night, when everyone is feeling groovy after another kick-ass concert and some Liberty Ale, people start chatting it up with the speakers, and with other attendees.

Conversations often begin like this, "You know... what you said up there was pretty neat. I had no idea that what was once considered waste is, through market mechanisms, converted into a resource." (think Pierre Desrochers, whose talk last year was phenomenal).

Even more often, they begin like this, "Not so fast Dr. Know-It-All, you haven't considered this fact that I will now explain, which will demonstrate the ludicracy (is that a word? Apparently not, let's try again)... ludicrousness... of your position." (Usually followed by a counter-refutation of the supposed, but mistaken, original refutation--since, well, libertarians are right about *everything*, ha!)

And then there are these beginners, "Tell me more about so-and-so and such-and-such." Or, "What say you about this-and-that?"

So I'm always surprised when some people resist attending because, they tell me, they're not libertarians. Well and... so what? I've attended more conferences and seminars hosted by non-libertarians, presenting positions fiercely critical of the market or of personal liberty than I can count on my fingers and toes. And I've enjoyed every single one of them. Every single one.

Here's why: Even if I come away thinking the same thing I did coming in, I've at least come to understand, or come closer to understanding, why people don't think like I do. Mostly, I've adjusted my positions after being persuaded here and there (admittedly, the changes are never giant ideological changes... they are usually changes in the reasons I have for supporting this or that. The most ground-breaking change was my abandonment of the natural rights tradition of libertarianism. Perhaps some will think this a failing in me. And maybe it is. But I have tried to keep an open mind). At any rate, at no point did I regret my attendance.

It is very much like reading a book. You don't demonstrate that you support, say, anarcho-syndicalism by reading Noam Chomsky. You demonstrate intellectual curiosity. Seminars like the LSS are very much like that. All they demonstrate is an interest, a curiosity, in discussing pro-liberty positions on a wide range of issues. You also demonstrate, by attending the LSS, an interest in having a good time with some kick-ass people, or an interest in some awesome Canadian, independent music ('cause, uhm, we have a concert).

So here's a shout-out to all the non-libertarians: Come out, come out, wherever you are!

No one will think you're a libertarian merely for being in attendance. And everyone will think, "man, this Seminar is so f*cking hot! Why didn't I come out before? Stupid, stupid."

What prompted this post? You'll see in a day or two, assuming I get permission to post a message I received from a friend of mine... so hold on to your hats, and come back later.


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