I know I’m a little late with this, but Ann Coulter was on Stossel last week where she faced a hostile audience of libertarian students. Stossel brought her on the show to “defend conservatives” and she certainly did her best.
Although most are focusing on her rather dismissive critiques of libertarians, I’d actually like to give her some credit and suggest that she makes a good point in the midst of all this. Specifically, when she says:
“And you want to suck up to your little liberal friends and say, ‘Oh, but we want to legalize pot.’ You know, if you’re a little more manly you would tell them what your position on employment discrimination is. How about that? But it’s always ‘We want to legalize pot.’”
When it comes to politics, I think generally there are “easy issues” and “hard issues.” Easy issues are the issues that are commonly allowed to be debated in mainstream society: drugs, abortion, gun control, drone strikes, etc. Everyone is generally familiar with the arguments for and against, and libertarians are comfortable making convincing cases for a pro-freedom position. But then, there are the hard issues. Things that you are simply not allowed to suggest in polite company, or on CNN. Equating taxation to theft is a hard issue. Advocating for the abolition of public schooling is a hard issue. Suggesting that people should be entirely responsible for their own medical care is a hard issue. And, (as Ann Coulter correctly points out), challenging the government’s involvement in voluntary employment contracts is a hard issue.
Most libertarians, if you press them on it and if they believe they are among friends, would probably admit that they do not believe the government has any authority to prevent someone from engaging in discrimination, in terms of hiring or in terms of engaging in business. Rand Paul stirred up controversy during his Senate campaign by daring to mention this on the Rachel Maddow show, and quickly backed away from it once he realized that the American people at large are nowhere near ready for this sort of discussion. However, it was this moment that seemingly put him on the map with libertarians.
Don’t get me wrong, there is a time and a place for everything. Sometimes, you want to emphasize the common ground for the sake of building bridges. But there is also a time when you need to take a defiant stand for what is right, even if it is unpopular. This will both show people that you are serious, and challenge them to think an issue through in a way they might not have before. Don’t just argue that taxes should be lowered by five percentage points, argue that taxation is theft. Don’t just argue that marijuana should be legal for a doctor to prescribe for specific medical conditions, argue that you should be able to ingest any substance into your body that you please. Don’t just argue that government is inefficient, argue that it is evil.
I truly believe that challenging the mainstream on the hard issues is the true way to win. Right now, we’re zipping around out there on the periphery of the Death Star, trying to take out a few blaster turrets, when we need to get down in that trench, turn off our targeting computers, and fire some damn proton torpedoes into the exhaust port of statism.