If you want to spread the message of liberty there are more efficient ways to do it besides waving Ron Paul signs on an overpass. On-the-ground grass roots activism is necessary and certainly has its place, but I would also say that the majority of it is pointless and wastes time, energy, and money.
Think about it, the goal of your activism should be to reach as many people as you can with as little effort as possible. If you work, go to school, or both, you’re probably already running on a low tank and don’t have a lot of time and energy left for spreading liberty — don’t waste what’s left by spending hours going door-to-door collecting signatures for some petition that your congressmen’s secretary is just going to use as a beverage coaster. Don’t spend hours trying to reason with some neocon cousin on facebook. None of this accomplishes anything except draining your batteries.
Writing articles and getting them published is the most efficient and effective activism a normal person can do. It takes little time, minimal physical energy, and requires no money, yet you can realistically reach hundreds of thousands of people with a single article.
When you write articles you’re also doing something that benefits you personally. Gradually developing your writing could possibly lead to a new career, or at least a really cool side job or hobby. Getting published a few times could lead to getting published often to eventually getting paid to write. As you develope a portfolio of accomplishments it will only get easier to market your work. Other people will respect your opinion more and listen to you. Getting published will boost your confidence to proceed further. And you’re getting full credit for your labor.
Personally benefitting and getting clear credit for your activism is essential to avoiding burn out in the long run. Getting paid for your effort is even better. Writing can accomplish these things.
You don’t have to have a long list of impressive credentials either. A little over a year ago I got an article published in the Orlando Sentinel (with a readership, I’ve heard, of almost 250,000 people) about why young people should be against socialized health care. That’s right, a pizza delivery guy with a lousy college attendance record and no academic credentials at all was able to pull that off.
I spent about three hours total writing and revising the article, submitted it, and two weeks later saw my face in the paper next to the article. The article was actually pretty controversial and led to about a week-long discussion of my views. The online version had about 100 debating comments under it. One of the Sentinel’s staff writers wrote an article soon after attacking me and then this guy Martin Kessler wrote a letter to the editor defending me against the attack. I later found out that Martin Kessler is an economist who used to work for Ronald Reagan. Pretty cool.
If I was successful in converting just 10% of readers, that’s 25,000 people. Even if it was just 1%, that’s still 2,500 people. Even if I didn’t reach anybody, it gave me something cool to put on my resume.
You could wake up more people by getting an article published in some kind of mainstream publication than you would have doing years’ worth of conventional grass-roots activism.
Follow these simple guidelines and you can get published too:
1 — STOP RANTING ON FACEBOOK.
Every single libertarian could easily crank out an article a week if they put their Facebook ranting energy into real writing. I’ve seen so many regular, average people post amazing philosophical statuses that could easily have been developed into essays.
When you post your deep libertarian thoughts on Facebook you’re basically flushing great writing material down the toilet. You have this witty thought explaining why taxation is evil, you have the urge to express it, but instead of opening up a word processor and fully fleshing the thought out you put in on Facebook.
The reason I say you’re wasting it is because by posting the thought on Facebook you’ve satisfied your urge to express the opinion and you’re less likely to do anything with it again. Your brain checks off that task and says “all done!” What could have been the opening paragraph in a ground breaking article is forgotten as just another Facebook status.
2 — WRITE ON A CONSISTENT BASIS
You’re better off sitting down and writing for thirty minutes a day every day than not writing anything for a month and then going on a two-day long writing binge. Writing takes practice just like any other skill and expecting to just jump in and be great at it will lead to discouragement. Think of all your writings as nothing more than practice and each article you write as nothing more than an exercise. If it gets published, great. If not, oh well it was just practice.
Consistency is key. Good musicians don’t go three weeks without practicing, then suddenly pull a twelve-hour practice day, and then take another two weeks off. They practice a little bit every day and discipline themselves to stick with their daily practice regimen no matter what.
For me, one hour a day is perfect. That’s just enough time to really get something done if I’m on a roll, but if I don’t have any juice it’s still a short enough amount of time that I can just power through anyway.
So try to set aside an hour or less of writing time everyday that’s free of distractions. Unplug the TV, turn off the internet (unless you’re looking for sources to put in your article), and turn off your phone.
If you follow Guideline #1 and stop ranting on Facebook you’ll be surprised to see how much free time you really have.
3 — KNOW YOUR TARGET
Figure out who the audience is for each article before you write it and think up publications you can send your work to that would best reach that audience. If you’re trying to inject some libertarianism into a mainstream newspaper you’ll probably have to tone down your rhetoric and not rant about abolishing the state. If you’re target audience with another article is anarchists then you won’t get very far with “we gotta get back to the Constitution!”
A lot typical newspapers have certain sections reserved for young people and regular middle-class adults to write for. Take advantage of these because you’ll have a lot less competition. The Orlando Sentinel section I wrote for was called New Voices for people under twenty-five. Most Americans under twenty-five are morons so get in there!
Find the submission email for the publication you’re trying to get into and email them once a week. If you’re not having any luck then try another publication and then another. As a last resort you can get your own blog going at Blogger.com for free and just publish yourself.
Smaller, newer websites that haven’t garnered a lot of attention yet are usually hungry for original content. Take advantage of them too.
Keep in mind, however, that some publishers demand exclusive first dibs on your article and don’t want material that you’ve already offered to others or put on your own website. Other websites don’t care a bit and will post anything.
4 — REMEMBER, IT’S JUST PRACTICE
At this moment I’ve now spent only three total hours on this article. People might like it or might not, but I don’t care because by writing it period I’ve increased my writing skills by 0.08% and my next article will be better.