Liberty is one of our unalienable rights, enshrined in the Declaration of Independence. Yet there doesn’t seem to be much demand for it these days.
In politics, the Libertarian Party, which supposedly stands for more liberty and less government, gets very few votes. Virtually all of the votes go to the two wings of the Ever-Bigger Government Party, the Democrats and Republicans.
In Economics – the essence of civilization and of man’s human existence, according to Ludwig von Mises – we also seem to reject liberty. There is a well-established science of the role of free markets in raising the quality of everyone’s lives, and of the role of creative and ethical entrepreneurship in promoting justice and well-being. Yet we hamper free markets and shackle our entrepreneurs in regulations and legislative interference.
Where Are The Heroes Of Liberty?
It’s hard for most people to identify heroes of liberty today. Ron Paul made a strong splash but now ploughs a lone furrow. Inspiring individuals like Tom Woods have a following, but it’s small compared to mainstream media and late-night comedians. There are magnificent institutions like Mises Institute and the Foundation For Economic Education; they do great work for liberty and free markets and individual freedom, but they are hardly prominent in the grand scheme of Americans’ awareness.
If we look at this situation through a marketing lens, we would conclude that the product, liberty, lacks demand. It’s not persuasive. It doesn’t meet a compelling need on the part of target consumers.
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Let’s Use Language That Reflects What People Want.
So what do these target consumers want? A 2013 Pew Research Center report told us (among other things) that “Polls show they just want a better chance of achieving success themselves – they do not want redistributive government policies, they want ones that give everyone a fair shot at success, reflecting bedrock American belief in the individual’s ability to succeed through hard work.”
This is a highly revealing and encouraging insight from one of America’s truly non-partisan think tanks. It is highly consistent with our Hayekian bent at Center For Individualism, favoring rules of just conduct that provide inducements for all to try to identify their chance at success and work, through trial and error and long term effort, to seize the opportunity they are able to identify. There are no guaranteed outcomes, but there is the assurance that everyone has an equal likelihood to benefit from their own hard work. Skill and luck also play a part, and so there is no sense in calling the outcome either just or unjust. It’s the equal opportunity to try. The fact that Americans embrace this idea, making it a “bedrock belief”, is what makes America great.
What Americans are able to achieve via this bedrock belief is a spontaneous order that delivers the best result to the most people via the fairest shot at success, as opposed to the destructive and vindictive central planning wars that politicians promote. Should we place the word “liberty” on this system of social order? It might have had that meaning in 1776, when linked to the pursuit of happiness, but the word seems to have lost its attraction for people.
Our Word Is Individualism.
We prefer the term Individualism – “Individualism True” as Hayek wrote – to capture the idea of the individual’s ability to succeed through hard work. You can check out our manifesto for Individualism here. We hope you will join us.