The Libertarian Movement and Its Propaganda
SEPTEMBER 01, 1965 by ALEXANDER EVANOFF
The average American is not likely to have heard of the Libertarian movement or what it represents and seeks to achieve. But, it seems to be clearly out of its embryo stage, prepared to exert an increasing influence. Though more quiet and less noticed than the earlier Fabian movement, its approach is also educational.
The Libertarians and the Fabians are distinctly opposed philosophically but their appeal, methods, and slow growth, as well as possible historical significance, may be said to bear certain similarity.
The Libertarian name was chosen when it became clear to serious students of liberty that authoritarian movements and ideas had pre-empted and perverted the freedom ideals for which the term liberal once stood. However, we are here concerned not so much with the theories or ideas of Libertarians as with the propaganda or educational methods they use, particularly as outlined in a 183-page guidebook by Leonard E. Read entitled Elements of Libertarian Leadership, with the subtitle, "Notes on the Theory, Methods, and Practice of Freedom" (Foundation for Economic Education, Irvington-on-Hudson, New York, 1962. $2.00).
The Elements of Libertarian Leadership is intended to furnish a method and a guide toward "propagandizing" free market ideas. It is perhaps the most unexpected and most unlikely book on techniques of propaganda ever concocted. The book is a kind of philosophy and rationale for avoiding indoctrination. Low-grade purposes and goals may be served by indoctrination, but not the goal of freedom.
Self-Improvement Comes First
The first lesson for the embryo leader is that he seek to perfect himself rather than others. He who has gained a considerable knowledge of freedom will naturally and magnetically draw those seeking a better understanding.
The Libertarian point of view teaches that each individual is an end in himself and is a precious creation of God. A man’s individuality must always be respected, and the very condition of individuality is difference or variation. What the Libertarian most abhors is the attempt of authoritarians to make every one of their fellow citizens over into their own image of virtue and righteousness. The Libertarian believes that education has a proper place in the nurture of freedom. But, even here, the chief emphasis is placed on educating the one each of us has the best chance of educating, that is: one’s self.
"Why," asks the author, "do so many regard as hopeless the broadening of the single consciousness over which the individual has some control while not even questioning their ability to stretch the consciousness of others over which they have no control at all." (p. 129) The answer, he believes, is as complex as the psychoanalysis of a dictator or the explanation of why so many people dote on playing God. The nation (as well as the world) must be saved by the salvaging of private selves. The Libertarian leader must keep his eye on his own perfection, never on repairing the shortcomings of others.
Freedom has to do with the "becoming," the evolution of the individual human being. "All that retards the development of the human potential is antifreedom. All that advances the individual’s wholeness or completeness as a spiritual, moral, and wise human being is freedom in action." (p. 113ff.) Furthermore, the Libertarian cannot use bad means to achieve good ends: "The more destructive the end in view, the more fitting are compulsive means, disintegrative methods; the more creative the end in view, the more antagonistic to a solution are compulsive methods and the more must reliance be placed on attractive, integrative forces." (p. 115) Education, or advancing other people’s understanding, cannot utilize the methods for selling soaps, drugs, alcohol, tobacco, autos, houses, or the something-for-nothing ideas of current politics. Creative objectives, such as those of education, must resort to methods of "attraction" rather than compulsion. But creative objectives are also in a series of levels. "The higher the level, that is, the more creative, the more must reliance be placed on the power of attraction." (p. 116) "Freedom is as high in the hierarchy of values as is the emergence of the individual human spirit and must be so evaluated by those who would advance an understanding of it." (p.117)
Helping Others Help Themselves
If we concede that advancing an understanding of freedom belongs to a high scale of values, the problem for the Libertarian "is nothing less than influencing others to expand their consciousness, to increase their perceptions, to enlarge their cognitive powers." (p. 117ff.) You will note the emphasis here is to help others to expand their consciousness, to increase their perceptions, to enlarge their cognitive powers: their powers and not anyone else’s. Each individual must do the job for himself; the job of expansion, increase, and enlargement of powers. What matters most is the expansion of consciousness.
At the core, no Libertarian should feel that he knows all the answers to all the problems—or that any group or person has them. The Libertarian trusts in a Divine Wisdom which aims at some good evolutionary end. He trusts in the essential goodness and worth of the individual who must be encouraged to be himself by realizing his own potential most completely. The Libertarian believes that his own championing of the free market ideas and the necessity of spontaneous individual action, individual choice, and individual decision is most worthwhile and necessary; but he is willing to permit spontaneous choice and decision to operate even if the choice should go against him.
Now if one agrees that the Libertarian can best influence others by serving as an "exemplar," from what source must the expanding individual consciousness which would serve as exemplar derive its new acquisitions regarding truth and freedom? Through revelation, through intuition, and through attunement with Infinite Consciousness, which draws man into its infinite orbit. While there is never any relaxation of the magnetic power of "Infinite Consciousness," it does encounter human resistances such as arrogance, willfulness, know-it-allness. Some among us are less encrusted with such obstacles to the magnetic pull of Infinite Consciousness than others. "More susceptible to this force, they experience with relative ease such of its rewards as insights and inspiration." These persons are referred to as "intuitive" or "creative." The Libertarian leader must develop intuitive powers; and yet, "for the most of us the expanding of consciousness, the increasing of perception, the developing of intuitive powers, takes a lot of doing." (p. 120)
The Source of Wisdom
The understanding of freedom, we are then led to believe, is of the same high level of quality, as well as of technique, as the mystic’s search for enlightenment from the Source. "First, there is The Source which the individual in the loneliness of his own soul can decide to heed and, to the extent of his ability, harmonize with." (p. 123) The selling or marketing method does not fit the freedom objective because the means would be destructive of the ends. "No," says the author, "the gaining of wisdom or the understanding of freedom is not to be imposed by man upon man, nor can it be. It is not marketed or sold." (p. 124) Whatever the Libertarian scholar has made his own is distinguished by its attracting quality. Truth is inherently attractive, regardless of where it exists on our earth level or in Infinite Consciousness. "The power of attraction is not outgoing but ingathering. It draws to itself whatever is susceptible to its force. That is at once its merit and its limitation." (p. 125)
The Libertarian must "everlastingly concentrate on getting the ideas, making them available to those who seek, and let it go at that." But note again that the ideas are made available to those who seek. The initial response for the ideas must come from those seeking enlightenment. Those who need, want, and are ready for Libertarian teachings will seek them out, as well as be drawn to them magnetically, so to speak. "Ideas have a built-in communication system of their own, which works very well unless short-circuited by offensive methods of propagandizing for them." The concept of keeping the Libertarian philosophy secret unless others ask for it, is an important safeguard against aggressive or obtrusive behavior. The paradox is this: "Secrets are rarely kept, and ideas whose time has come can never be contained." Furthermore, "Ideas on liberty cannot be kept secret; we’ll tell about them or burst. But we can hold in reserve the ideas we possess until other minds invite them in, invitations that are certain to come if the ideas be worthy." Only the seeker for truth and freedom can know when he is ready to sample what Libertarians champion. But they hold themselves in readiness. This is reminiscent of
Five Booby Traps
In the first chapter of Libertarian Leadership are listed five erroneous approaches toward the objective of freedom which Libertarians must avoid:
1. The belief that freedom can be obtained by uncovering card-carrying communists. This position seems to hold that our ills originate in
2. There are those who believe that loss of freedom stems from what is called "the ignorant masses" and that the solution is simply to teach the man in the street that there is no such thing as "free lunch or some other such simplicity that can be grasped as he passes a bulletin board or drowsily reads baby-talk literature in a barber chair."
3. There is a considerable number who would offer political action as their highest bid for freedom. Organize "right down to the precinct level" and elect "the right people" to public office. This is futile under present circumstances, as if freedom could be had by activating the present absence of understanding, so as to shift existing ignorance into high gear!
4. Another group believe that the price of freedom need not be much higher than the cost of beaming radio reports behind the iron curtain, and telling those slave peoples how luxuriously and splendidly we live in our freedom, our gadgetry, and our affluence.
5. Then there are those who feel that a "free world" can be assured if we tax our own people heavily enough to give to foreign governments and thus purchase friendship in exchange for cash. It is as if subsidized relationships were the basis for freedom.
High-Level Goals Cannot Be Attained by Low-Level Means
Man’s essential task is self-improvement. The improvement of self, in a very real sense, is not really for the ultimate purpose of selfish-self-improvement so as to shine above others, or to have powers above others. Indeed, self-improvement would be impossible if this were the aim. High-level goals cannot be attained by low level means. The perfection of self is a matter of perfection for use—making of one’s self a more perfect channel (vessel is the medieval or religious term usually employed) through which the evolutionary purpose of the Creator of men may function.
The leadership problem is not a mass reformation problem. If we had no way of remedying the present socialistic drift except as the "millions come to master the complexities of economic, social, political, and moral philosophy, we would not be warranted in spending a moment of our lives in this undertaking—it would be like expecting the majority of Americans to compose symphonies." (p. 89) It is the nature of politics and political leadership that it can only reflect influential opinion. "There is no way to improve the quality of political leadership except as we lift the level of influential opinion—and this is an educational task."
Above all, implies Mr. Read, the educational methods of Libertarian propaganda should be consistent with the voluntary exchange of the market place.
The Individual Mind
Acts and ideas that lead to progress are born out of the womb of the individual mind, not out of the mind of the crowd. The crowd only feels: it has no mind of its own which can plan. The crowd is credulous, it destroys, it consumes, it hates, and it dreams—but it never builds. It is one of the most profound and important of exact psychological truths that man in the mass does not think but only feels. The mob functions only in a world of emotion. The demagogue feeds on mob emotions and his leadership is the leadership of emotion, not the leadership of intellect and progress. Popular desires are no criteria to the real need; they can be determined only by deliberative consideration, by education, by constructive leadership.
Herbert Hoover, American Individualism