By Rob Tyler
Perhaps the defining feature of David Cameron’s leadership has been his rebranding the Conservative Party. It will certainly be what he will be remembered for, for good or ill, but it was in light of this that I started to think about the image that people have of libertarianism and the liberty movement. It struck me that the way we try to sell ideas of liberty could also do with a rebranding.
The first thing to point out is the problem with the image that we, as libertarians, have at the moment. We look like academics that talk about economics and policy and things that tend to make most ordinary people say “Well that goes well over my head.” And, its true, we never point out to ordinary people how libertarianism affects them.
The other image that people have of us is that we look like, what I call, “Tin Foil Hat” libertarians. The ones who tend to listen to people like Max Keiser or Alex Jones. The ones who go on about how 9/11 was an inside job and how everything is controlled from the Bilderburg group. They are extremely damaging for the public image of libertarianism and tend to make people want to avoid the movement.
The best way to get around this is probably to start by explaining to people how they can benefit in their daily lives from things like the free market system, democratic participation and renewed civil liberties. If we tell people that, by privatizing certain elements of the government, it will mean they have to pay less tax, giving them more money to spend, they are more likely to support the idea as opposed to handing them a copy of The Road to Serfdom or Atlas Shrugged.
Which leads me on to another thing. The literature that pro-liberty groups hand out aren’t the easiest reads. They tend to be long and bogged down in economic theory rather than easy to read pamphlets. Yes, most existing libertarians are from the well-educated middle class, but we still have to reach out. And that can only be achieved by simplifying what we produce.
Libertarianism needs to become a friendlier movement in order for it to grow. It also needs to become a bit more vocal as it seems at the moment that the big government left and right are winning the battle for air time.