Bet On It reader Bogusław Kołodziej recently sent me this thoughtful challenge. Reprinted with his permission. I’ll reply in a week or so.
Recently, I've been on a binge of your Econlib articles. I've got many thoughts on them, but one observation of mine seems particularly important.
Namely, your advice for libertarians was to just be friendly. Common sense, right? Knowing that you're, alongside Michael Huemer, a master of preaching true commonsensical thesis that are by no means common, I accepted it as a fact.
But then I reminded myself of every single conversation with a socialist that I had, heard or read. Socialism seems to be a pretty successful ideology, especially compared to libertarianism, right? What is an average socialist, especially nowadays? In the past (and I'm giving the socialists the benefits of the doubt by omitting the murderous psychopathic dictator, assuming that it is "just" a result of corrupting power of... well.. power), people like Marx were pretentious, angry, annoying losers and hypocrites. We don't really know whether they were smiling or not, or whether they had a good sense of humor, but based on their self-righteous tone in their writings, we might guess with high probability.
But nowadays, we might just talk to them or watch their Twitch/Youtube rants. I grant you that you'll never see such a humorless, humanity-hating, passionless a**hole like the most prominent leftist pundits.
After a debate with a female Christian socialist (actually a social democrat, but whatever, I guess being a socialist sounds edgier and cooler), you wrote an article about her just being nice. If a socialist just being nice, as every human pretty much should be (and most of them are, from my experience), is such an extreme situation, that you wrote an article on that, it just shows that your personal experience with leftists is similar.
You also gave an example of Mormons. We should be like them, you said. OK, but how popular is Mormonism, really? Not much more than libertarianism is. They have their own state of Utah, but can't the same be said about libertarians and New Hampshire?
OK, you might say, they are nice, but being the embodiment of love and friendliness cannot redeem the sheer absurdity and unlikeliness of their stupid dogmas. All right, a nice argument, but can't the same be said about the "no-fun-allowed" preachy and angry religions like Islam and Christianity that preach that the entire humanity is evil and that you'll burn for eternity in hell for rejecting their absurd claims and/or touching yourself? How was the absurdity of their dogmas not an obstacle in becoming the BIGGEST RELIGIONS IN HISTORY?
In my opinion these angry mean ideologies are the ways for people, who hide their personal insecurities and anger, that they cannot show in their everyday life, to project them onto the angry mean preachers. That's why there is such a counterintuitive reverse correlation between niceness and being a successful ideology.
My observation would hold water even in the microcosm of libertarianism. The nicest libertarians ever, Bryan Caplan, Bob Murphy, Walter Block, although still liked and popular, are much less beloved than funless pretentious people like Hoppe (with his nonsensical arguments), let alone the infamously full of angry hateful rants (no pun intended) Ayn Rand. And although there are examples of extremely nice popular libertarians, like Ron Paul, being a political figure, promoted by official political parties, is a huge advantage.
What's your opinion on that? Should libertarians become less nice, and more self-righteous, to gain popularity? (Even if that's an effective strategy, I'm not gonna sell my soul to the devil and do that, to be honest).
Milton Friedman might be a libertarian counterexample. Surely one of the most influential and popular libertarians and he seemed to be a charming and friendly guy.
I am a lifelong libertarian. I own an artist residency where we invite artists worldwide to live and work during the summer for free. I usually host around 16 artists a year. Almost without exception, they are politically left , many professing to be socialists (actually social democrats). I learned early on that if you want to have any influence on someone, they first have to like you. It starts with having something in common. In our case, it is art. Also, we all want the same things for everyone, like prosperity, good health, peace, etc., but we have different ideas on achieving these. I have not made many converts, but I have made many friends where there is mutual respect and tolerance of each other's views.