Since part of my job at the Cato Institute is to persuade skeptics to support a free society, I’m always trying to figure out how best to convince people to favor liberty over statism.
I start with the premise that most statists are misguided rather than evil and I try to understand how they see the world. If I know what makes them tick, after all, then perhaps I can explain to them how freedom is preferable to big government.
In my efforts to win people’s hearts and minds, I run into the same obstacles over and over again.
- Many people equate Republicans with limited government, so you have to explain that there’s a giant difference between the views of the Cato Institute and the decisions of statists like Richard Nixon or George W. Bush.
- Some folks think capitalism and cronyism are the same thing. I try to show them that there is no role for corrupt favoritism in a genuine free market, which is why it is doubly counterproductive when Republicans support policies and programs such as TARP, the Export-Import Bank, agriculture subsidies, and Fannie Mae/Freddie Mac handouts.
- Lots of people mistakenly believe the economy is a fixed pie, so they think if someone such as Steve Jobs becomes wealthy, then other people necessarily have less money.
I have ways of dealing with all these myths. I don’t pretend to be successful in all or even most cases, but I think I’ve helped lead some people out of the darkness.
One of the other challenges I face is that some people believe in equality of outcomes. It’s hard to reason with these folks. I try to explain to them that this system requires massive redistribution, which cripples incentives for productive behavior by both rich and poor.