The Importance of Losing

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Recently by Robert Wenzel: Politician Math

     

Occasionally, I will receive an email from an EPJ reader, who will inform me of some U.S. congressional race, or some other race, where a "libertarian" is doing quite well and might win.

I have written before, that the number of people in the United States, who understand liberty, and want liberty, is under 10%, so I find it hard to believe that "libertarians" are very close to being elected in all these races.

I don’t think the emailers understand the essence of the Ron Paul presidential campaign: He lost.

He lost, BUT he got an important message out. Millions more now understand that there is a very well thought out liberty philosophy, but let me again emphasize, Ron Paul is not going to be president and he lost in 2008, also. He is a big time political loser. Yet, as an educational tool to advance the liberty message, his presidential campaign has to be ranked as one of the greatest marketing success stories ever.

Where he was a political success, as a member of the House of Representatives, he really didn’t accomplish much, if anything. How could he amongst a bunch of statists?

Where he was a political failure, he accomplished much, very much: he launched a movement.

And that’s what libertarians need to know about running for office. It’s not about compromising your principles to gain more votes, its not about hiding your true views on taxes and minimum wage laws to gain more votes, it’s about running to get the hardcore libertarian message out.

It’s about hoping that after you give a speech where you denounce minimum wage laws, all taxes and the local public fire department, that at least one person, maybe two, wander over to you after your speech and tell you that what you said sounded interesting.

It’s about losing the election, but at the same time advancing the libertarian cause.

In other words, it’s okay for a libertarian to run for office, if it’s the Ron Paul way. If it’s about losing the election but spreading the word. If it’s about writing op-eds, appearing in debates and being interviewed on radio about hardcore libertarianism.

Libertarians aren’t close to getting elected in most places with just a libertarian message. But the message can be spread. Ron Paul has proved that. If this is done in enough places, enough times, the message can be spread even more, and more people will catch on. Then some day, perhaps five years from now, perhaps ten, we may hear of people sticking completely to libertarian principle and winning here and winning there. That will be the signal that large numbers of people at that time want liberty and understand what liberty is.

As for now, though, don’t email me to tell me how close you are to victory. Email me to tell me you were on a radio show and explained to the host the dangers of government charity and the dangers of government healthcare. Write to tell me that you most assuredly are going to lose the election, but as you get better and better about spreading the word about libertarianism that instead of one person coming up to you after every other speech you give, five and six people are coming up to you after every speech and are curious about libertarianism.

The real test, of course, will be to see if the black hole of power doesn’t suck you in and make you a sell-out.

Reprinted with permission from Economic Policy Journal.

2012 Economic Policy Journal

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