by Jeff Wood
I was born a rebel. It wasn’t a long slow process, I’ve known since I was a young child that those who impose their authority upon me do so illegitimately. It wasn’t something I learned, it’s something I felt. It wasn’t something I was taught, it runs deeper than that, it’s instinctual.
My father was a minarchist. I was 11 years old the day he described to me the difference between a libertarian minarchist and a libertarian anarchist. As soon as he finished defining anarchy, I responded: “That! That’s what I am!” I didn’t become an anarchist that day though, I had always been one. The only thing that changed that day was that I now had a new word to describe myself.
Not all libertarians are like me, I realize that. For many, embracing our philosophy comes very gradually and over a long period of time. There are many like me though, the hardcore feel-it-in-your-bones type. My question is, how many of these people are out there, and just don’t know it yet? How many of them haven’t yet been exposed to that pure libertarian philosophy? How many more rebels without a cause are out there, just waiting for their “That’s Me!” moment?
Have you heard the term Libertarian Macho Flash? It was coined by Michael Cloud, a consultant of the lackluster Marrou presidential campaign. In his 1978 paper on the subject, he described the practice as “exposing one’s political beliefs in a shocking way.” Saying that nuclear weapons should be privatized, or that heroin should be legalized, these are prime examples of flashing. Cloud argued that it was an ineffective strategy because the people that are inspired by it are “an embarrassment to the libertarian movement.” I’m afraid I have to disagree. I find those who appreciate an audacious libertarian message to be the most passionate, honest and hard-working people involved, they are the true diehards of libertarianism.
So let’s talk strategy. You can work for years trying to convert the unconvinced. We all know someone who has every reason to be libertarian, but still isn’t. If you’re lucky, sometimes you can sway these people, but they make for fairweather libertarians at best, they’re not committed to the cause. The simple fact is that the libertarian movement is too small, we don’t have the personnel to hold the hand of every obstinate rejecter of our principles. We are a small minority, and we’re a generation away, at least, from being anything but a minority. If we want to grow faster, we need to learn to take the low hanging fruit and move on. We can circle back for the skeptics once we’ve gained some momentum.
Enter Libertarian Macho Flash, the fastest strategy out there for separating the wheat from the chaff. If I can inspire 2% of the crowd to become hardcore lifelong libertarians, I don’t mind if I offend the other 98%. Did I set them back on their journey to liberty? Probably, but if they were unlikely to ever complete the journey in the first place, it’s no great loss.
What libertarianism needs more than anything, if it ever wants to earn popular appeal, is an elite cadre of libertarian macho flashers, a vanguard of hardcore freedom crusaders, whipping up trouble and fomenting controversy. We need people who will keep our name in the papers, we need to be either loved or hated by everybody, we cannot allow ourselves to remain an unknown. The only viable future for libertarianism is an ever escalating series of Libertarian Macho Flashes.