I have had several interesting conversations with very smart folks as I have been walking this path towards Libertarianism. I have also had to face my own doubts, fears and cynicism. One consistent theme has been a disbelief, almost guttural reaction, against the ideas presented to us by Libertarianism at first flush.
I have begun reading a free e-book, a work of fiction, that is fantastic (http://www.freedomsphoenix.com/Article/059017-2009-10-06-free-e-book-a-lodging-of-wayfaring-men.htm ). If you have read Daemon or Freedom by Daniel Suarez, it is very similar. One of the characters is a psychologist and explores why so many people feel so strongly against these ideas when they first run up on them. I found them very convincing. Here is how he presents them:
1. Fear of responsibility. Freedom is threatening because it eliminates the
possibility of shifting responsibility for your errors onto others. Freedom
puts you right out in the open, with no cloak for your mistakes. It also gives
you full credit for your successes, but that is seldom considered, as the
fear-based impulses are generally stronger.
2. Fear of separation. For a variety of reasons, most people have an
instinctual fear of being separate. The feeling is that separation means
death. This may be true in some rare situations, and was certainly true in
the distant past, but it is an impulse only, not reason.
3. Rulership as a force of nature. For the last several thousand years,
nearly all humans have lived and died under some form of rulership. So
many generations have come and gone under this arrangement that it now
seems to most people as a force of nature: That which was, is, and shall
be. When you mention something different, it causes them mental stress.
4. No mental image. Because none of us have ever lived in any situation
except subjection to state power, we have no mental images of anything
different. So, when we start talking about a truly free place with no rulers,
the listeners have no images to draw upon. It seems like we are proposing
a pointless journey into an unknown and dangerous place. Again, this is a
feeling, not reasoned thought.
5. Group conditioning. A central fact of modern social behavior is that
almost the entire populace has gone through 11-17 years of social
conditioning in the school systems. This conditioning shows up in a variety
of ways, especially in dealing with authority figures. The conditioned
responses are: Obey authority. Don’t cause a disruption. Accept the place
given to you. Conform. The real effect here is the installing of comfort
reactions and discomfort-reactions. Our system flies in the face of almost
all of this.
6. Lack of critical thinking skills. For a variety of reasons (which I have not
spent the time necessary to properly catalog), the 20th Century saw a
mass movement away from reason and toward a devotion to emotion.
Have you ever tried to reason with someone who lives by emotion? It is
essentially impossible. These people can be influenced by getting them to
identify with characters from movies and television, or with celebrities, but
seldom by reason. Most people aren’t fully that way, but modern critical
thinking skills are disastrous, and a great many people distrust reason, with
full faith in emotion. Many of them are beyond hope of recovery.
7. Cognitive dissonance. This is what happens to people when they have
accepted an idea, or series of complimentary ideas, then, an obviously
different idea is presented, and it makes some sort of sense to them. It
causes a conflict. This is properly called cognitive dissonance. People don’t
do well with these conflicts; their general reaction is to eliminate them as
quickly as possible. The easiest way to do this is to simply drown them out
by reciting their original ideas and trying not to think about the new idea.
Yes, this is dishonest, and yes, it requires denial, but most people prefer it
to critical analysis of their existing ideas, and, potentially, changing their
minds. Combine this with all the other items shown here, and the conflicts
arising from taking on a difficult new idea are too much for many people to
8. Fear of reprisal. This is the simplest one. Think of an IRS audit, an FBI
raid, or of Stalin. Obviously the rulers won’t like our free markets. It is not
unreasonable to expect that they will take reprisals against people who
displease them. A very reasonable concern.
9. Fear of the world falling apart. The central myth of the nation-state is that
it is necessary to hold civilization together; that without it, we would all
degenerate quickly into killers and thieves. This has been repeated so
frequently and so consistently that most people accept it as fact, even
though if asked to provide evidence, they have none. Actual analysis of this
idea leads to a contrary conclusion, but that does not stop the impulse of
fear. Very few people have ever questioned the nation-state myth at all.