February 17, 2014 by Liberty
If you’ve spent any time making libertarian arguments then I’m sure you’ve had this pleasant experience. You were making your side of the case and your opponent starts to mildly agree but then… out of nowhere… they dig themselves deeper by mentioning a small fraction of the cases.
Welfare can show some of the most obvious examples of this. You may make the statement, “Welfare offers an incentive for people not to move up in the world.”
Then they respond, “Some people… but what about the single mothers?”
You might respond with an elongated speech on how everyone should have responsibility for their decisions. Maybe you’ll even mention the correlation of single mothers and welfare increases.
Then they’ll respond, “Not all of them made their decision. Some women were raped!”
WAIT…. WAIT A SECOND… Did this person really just make the argument for welfare about women getting pregnant from rape? Yes… This is based on a true story. So, we should have welfare for people because a small percentage of the population gets pregnant after being raped? Naturally, that makes no sense but it’s the hole that they just dragged you down.
No matter what you say after this, anyone involved in this argument will assume you’re a rape-loving lunatic (even if not explicitly.) Point out how obvious their ridiculous argument is and, in most circles, you’ll be buried alive.
Arguing on The Exception
Statism thrives on the exceptions to the rule. Libertarian and anarchist
arguments are generally based on economic data and logic. Statism is, typically, argued through emotional pleas. I don’t know about you but I haven’t shed too many tears reading historic economic data. Logical arguments are also rather dead in the emotions department.
Statist arguments love to drag you down to an individual. Not down to just any individual though. If you want to find the average individual then statistics are the key. That’s the route that libertarians take. Statists pull you down to the exception. Statists want you to think about the child that happens to be born with no arms or legs. This is where the emotional arguments can be made. They might exclaim, “Would you really let the child die!?”
Naturally, these arguments don’t have legs (or arms) with their logic but they stick in peoples minds because they’re emotional. Compare that to saying, “The average middle class family would make $150 dollars less (or more) a year without x program.” Sure, the middle class person might feel a little upset but does the argument stick in your mind? They’re just numbers.
The Other Way Down
Libertarian’s can make the emotional pleas as well though. In fact, libertarians can take the moral high ground on (virtually) every argument. While statists need to argue about how much the exception suffers, the libertarian can argue about the rule or the exceptions.
Let’s say the statist brought up that single mother again.
Instead of making the argument “Everyone should take responsibility” or “Welfare costs the average family x dollars,” make this argument:
What about the other single mother that is working two jobs to feed her children? Are you really willing to steal x dollars worth of food from her children’s plates?
Suddenly, the rabbit hole of statism doesn’t look so attractive. Sure, this bears virtually no intellectual weight but it pulls the emotional argument back in the direction you want it to go. If the statist brings up rape then you add it to your own argument. If the statist says one leg then chop off an arm and a leg of your example. With every ridiculous emotional plea, you can counter it with another.
After doing this once or twice, try knocking them back out of the emotional pleas and mention how silly arguing about these ridiculous cases is. You may be able to pull them back out of the rabbit hole.
No… I’m sorry to tell you that this will probably not change any mind arguing
against you. Where it is valuable is with anyone watching the debate. When you match the statists emotional pleas, anyone watching can’t dismiss you as selfish.
The behavior of anyone debating this way makes it pretty obvious that they’re trapped in their belief. There is only so much digging you can do and, in most cases, when they start making stuff up to argue with you, the argument might as well be over.
Science has repeatedly shown that people do not change their minds based on evidence. In fact, their more likely to dig themselves into their beliefs deeper.
I understand that you want to make this person understand but, odds are, your continued argument is just going to make them more resilient to freedom based arguments.
Arguing is not the route you should be taking in spreading libertarianism. People are pulled into libertarianism through actions more than words.
Saying, “You can live better in a libertarian world,” means absolutely nothing. Living better while being a libertarian says it all.
Libertarian Money is all about finding ways to live with liberty today (not whenever the rest of the world catches up.) Please share this message. Have you remembered to follow using the buttons in the sidebar?