Last week I found myself in the middle of Washington D.C. for the Koch Summer Fellowship Program. By some feat of magic and luck, I managed to convince some very wealthy people that I was part of the future of changing the world for the better. It was quite embarrassing then, to find myself completely lost in the tunnels of the Washington D.C. Metro System.
“Hello . . .? Can anybody help me . . .?” I called out in an echo which reverberated down the long dark twisting tunnels of a government transportation system gone awry. I must’ve been lost for hours, trying to escape the underground labyrinth.
When I finally emerged, blinded by the sun, I was so happy to be free that I didn’t realize how close I was to the White House. I looked at the throngs of tourists taking pictures of the president’s castle and wondered why it was so difficult to clean up the scariest transportation system in the world, which was right in the president’s back yard.
Jeffrey Tucker called the Koch Summer Fellowship Program, “The Ivy League of Libertarianism.” There at James Madison University, I met 114 of the best and brightest minds from the liberty movement, all passionate, young, and eager to help change the world. We sat through a week’s worth of lectures and discussion groups from dawn ‘til dusk about almost every single problem and solution in the world today. Most of the problems were caused by government, and most of the solutions came from individual freedom.
At the final seminar, Dr. Nigel Ashford, of the Institute for Humane Studies asked us a very important question, “How do you change the world?”
Some people thought that we needed more economists. Others thought we needed more honest politicians. Still others thought that we should scrap the whole idea of working in the system entirely, and just try to live our lives around the system, as if the government didn’t exist at all.
There were many more strategies and plans for how to change society. Let’s do everything! Let’s focus on one thing! Let’s delegitimize the intellectuals! Let’s get our own intellectual movement going. The room was brimming with a spirit of inspiration and creativity.
But it made me stop and think . . . how do I want to change the world?
Gaetano Venezia, an attendee at the summer program, said that he wasn’t sure what the best strategy for him would be, but that we should look at all the ideas and see which worked best. Daniel Rothschild agreed, calling this the “Libertarian Slut” approach — or being open to any and all ideas.
As for me, I like Hayek, who said that the world needs more second hand dealers of ideas. These are people who don’t necessarily invent the ideas or win Nobel prizes, but people who are really good at knowing people, and communicating the ideas of liberty to the public in a way that normal folks can understand. I think of journalists, or maybe musicians, artists, and film makers; the people with a creative vision for communicating ideas in an accessible way.
I certainly see myself as this kind of person. A person who can explain things openly and honestly in such a way so that even a child could understand it.
As an example, my documentary called “The Price of Paradise” about high rent in Hawaii resonated with thousands of people across Maui. Maui folks were amazed to learn that the free market offered so many solutions to the price of their rent. The documentary (maulibertynetwork.com) went viral on Maui, being shared thousands of times, which tells me that there must be a lot of people who are curious about solutions.
I want to knock down the ivory tower of research and development that the think tank world is so prone to building, and I want to bring all those great ideas out into the real world. The Hawaii rail system, for example, may have much to learn from the D.C. Metro system (hopefully a lesson in the dangers of government run transportation). Education in the state is experiencing a new uprising of teachers who are all turning libertarian when it comes to the idea of big government in the classroom. Rent, water, food, cost of living . . . we have so much to think about, but also so much work to do in bringing these ideas to the real world.
I do hope that I can be a useful second hand dealer in ideas, as Hayek puts it. Then, we as a state, and as a nation, and as a world, can use the ideas of liberty to help each other exit the government labyrinth of regulation and big government control, and be blinded by the light of a society of freedom and prosperity.
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I think too many people are too prone to propose or to attempt to “change the world” by getting OTHER people to “do right” – an approach which almost inevitably leads to counter-productive actions, policies, laws, and regulations.
I believe that consistent with the underlying theme articulated in Joe’s post above, the “try it all and repeat what works” approach needs an important corollary – Lead By Example.
Walk the walk. LIVE the principles you espouse in your OWN life, and within your own circles of influence no matter how small. Be the heroic example of one who expects no more of others than what you demand and adhere to yourself – even if there are (as there will be) repercussions and consequences to holding firm to your principles.
Too many practice the “do as I say” magic bullet approach to changing the world for the better, which almost invariably requires others to do the doing – ultimately by hook, crook, or coercion if necessary to fulfill the vision of utopia – methods contrary to the principles they are often intended to advance.
While there is a need for principled public leadership who can clearly articulate and inspire others with a deep understanding of the principles and practice of liberty, not all of us have such talents. And too many with such talent lack the deep understanding.
There is a lot to be said as well for personally living an inspiring life of quiet example, and integrity.
Ken, will be posting your link at in two weeks at https://www.facebook.com/LibertarianInternationalOrganization LIO Friends if you would like to join up there and like it, or pre-post it. Thanks!