Be that Libertarian

by Nicholas Sarwark, Chair of the Libertarian National Committee (adapted from his speech at the 2018 Libertarian Party of Illinois Convention)

Politics is a contest for control.  It’s control over other people.  It’s government control over lives.  There’s an argument between the Republicans and Democrats over which one of them get to control your life and which part of your life they get to tell you to do something with.  Libertarian politics is fundamentally different from Republican and Democratic politics.  We are similar to how 7 UP is the uncola – we are the anti-politics.  We are about positions, not personalities.  We’re about people, not politics.

What is the opposite of individual freedom?  Government control.  Every time you increase individual freedom, you reduce government control.  Every time you pass a law and you add government control, you reduce individual freedom.

There is no other political party in this country that denies the entire Left-Right political spectrum.  It’s not about which part of the life of yours that I want to control.  It’s not moving Left or Right, it’s going up – more individual freedom, less government control.  Every issue.  Every time.

Libertarianism opens up the ability to connect with people on a level that old party politicians can’t connect with them on because they’re constantly thinking, “How will you help me get a job where I get to tell you how to live your life?”

Picture of Libertarian Party Chairman Nicholas Sarwark

Libertarian National Committee Party Chair
Nicholas Sarwark delivers the 2018
Libertarian Party of Illinois Keynote Address

We’re looking at people and saying, “How can I help you have more control over your life so you can find your own happiness?”  That’s a powerful message.  No, it’s not going to get you big lobbyist money, but your neighbors care about that, and they care about you going out there standing up for them, and it makes it so that we’re essentially unstoppable.  Once people understand what we’re trying to do, they really get it.  If you talk to them in language that they understand, they don’t go back.

Once you start thinking about human freedom in that way – that anything that is peaceful is okay, if you’re not hurting other people, it’s OK to live your life as crazy as you want to be – you can’t unlearn that idea.  You can’t go back.

When it comes to political spectra, we spend too much time in our party arguing over which side of the spectrum you are on.  Are you an anarchist who believes we should have no government at all?  Are you a minarchist who believes that we should have a small government?  Are you a radical who wants to abolish the state tomorrow and doesn’t want to hear anything about compromise?  Are you a pragmatist who wants to improve things one step at a time?

None of these spectra are not important.  Nobody cares.  You shouldn’t care.  There’s only one spectrum that’s important in the Libertarian Party, and that’s the spectrum between being a nice person and being a jerk.

I don’t care where you are Left or Right.  I don’t care where you are radical or pragmatist or minarchist or anarchist.  I care whether or not you’re nice, whether or not you’re kind, whether or not you treat other people with respect and dignity that we all deserve.

I can teach a nice person how to be a libertarian.  It’s really hard to teach a jerk to stop being a jerk.

When it comes to that, who is the most important libertarian?  The most important libertarian is you.  It’s not me.  It’s you.

For a lot of people, you’re the only libertarian your friends know.  You’re the only libertarian your family knows.  You’re the only libertarian your co-workers know.  You have more power over the success of the Libertarian Party than I do.

If you go out and set a good example for your co-workers or you go out and set a good example for your neighbors and you go to a community meeting and say, “You know what, somebody should do something about the taxes in this community and no one else is, so I’m going to take some time away from my life, to run for office to try to protect all of you”, if you go do that, you move the party so much farther down the field than any national political interview can ever do, that any LNC committee can ever do.  Because you changed somebody’s mind about what they think of a libertarian.

They think of a libertarian as a nice, kind, respectable, honest human being.  Everything else is easy.

Be that libertarian.

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