Why libertarians are not good at organizing

I’m a passionate libertarian organizer who works for at least three liberty non-profits, and sometimes I get frustrated at how difficult it is to help libertarian movements.

Part of the problem is that libertarians are highly independent and intelligent, so it’s a bit like herding cats at times.

But another part of the problem is that many libertarians have an old socialist idea rattling around inside, especially when it comes to changing the world.

Socialists thought that one day, a “socialist man” would evolve. That man would be completely altruistic, sacrificing his entire life doing back breaking work simply to better the world for others.

Of course, now we know that this is a fairy tale. Human beings are self-interested. In general, people care more about their own lives first before they care about the lives of others.

But what about libertarian movements?

Plucky libertarian organizations across the world are often run by one person doing all the work and everybody else chipping in occasionally.

Many libertarians wait for the world to, “wake up”, and suddenly become enlightened. Perhaps they think that a new “libertarian man” will evolve to lead everyone on the road to freedom.

Many Libertarian political parties are run by an all volunteer staff, usually of one or two people carrying the brunt of the weight fueled by their passion for liberty.

Granted, libertarians like voluntary action, but does that mean their organizations have to be run by an all volunteer staff?

Libertarian non-profit think tanks are often run through a donation model, which also assumes that people will be altruistic enough to chip in some money. But few people ever want to pay for the cost of the staff — most people would rather have their money going towards a project instead of payroll.

This leaves little money for the staff, who are often underpaid. The best workers are constantly offered higher salaries in the private sector, which they forego because they are fueled by their passion for liberty.

And sure, that might be honorable. Somebody has to do it. Somebody has to punch in every day to help organize a movement.

There are thousands of people who do this; outposts at the lighthouse keeping the flame alive. There are bright lights all over the world who work long hours as their family and friends shake their heads and wonder why they do it.

Maybe you are one of these, “libertarian men or women”, working hard to advance the liberty movement. But my question is: should we continue to rely on these people to work hard for very little pay, if any?

Or perhaps it’s time for someone to crack the code of broken incentives in the non-profit think tank world and find a better way to funnel more money towards quality libertarian workers and causes.

Perhaps a new app or paradigm will more efficiently create a profit feedback loop to rain money on good liberty projects and staff.

Apps like Uber and Airbnb have connected unlikely people together with aligned incentives. And new sites like Patreon have allowed artists, musicians and youtube creators to get paid for all kinds of unlikely jobs. More and more people today are discovering better ways to generate an audience and clever ways to inspire donations and subscriptions.

Does this mean that one day we will find a better way to fund liberty movements? Perhaps, but the code hasn’t been cracked yet.

Until someone finds a way to inspire more money and talent in the liberty movement, libertarians will continue to run mostly volunteer organizations.

But let’s not to fall into the trap of relying on a new, “libertarian man,” to change the world for free. Instead, let’s see how we can think more like free market capitalists and entrepreneurs, always striving to create more profit and hire great talent for a worthy cause.