THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 389, October 15, 2006
Genuine libertarianism is the opposite of an ideology.
It's the absence of ideology.
Credit The Libertarian Enterprise
It is easy for libertarians to become frustrated, depressed, and angered when our efforts seem to do nothing to stop the advancing state. Activism in general has a tendency to frustrate when it doesn't change things quickly enough. This is only natural. When you care deeply about something it is easy to get so caught up in it that you lose sight of what is most importantliving a good life. After all, isn't the point of being free to live better?
This doesn't mean that we should just give up on activism. Instead, we should learn to have more fun with it.
The Rutgers Libertarians had a lot of fun at our anti-drugwar brownie giveaway. We got 120 individually-wrapped brownies from a wholesale club. To each of them we attached a pro-liberty message:
You own yourself.
We then set up a table at a major public area of the school and gave out the brownies. But that's not all. These were anti-drugwar brownies after all, so we had another gimmick up our sleeve. We put them all in a large pot, and one of our members made a huge sign that said "FREE POT of BROWNIES." As you'll notice if you look at the pictures in the link, the letters in "pot" and "brownies" were at least a foot tall while the "of" was a few inches. This made the event a lot more fun! You could see "POT BROWNIES" from inside the student center across the street.
This got people's attention! Although most laughed and complimented us, some were seriously disappointed when they saw the "of." A few complained that we got their hopes up just to crush them. One guy even picked up a brownie, looked it over, and asked "Does this really have pot in it?" When we said no, he threw it back into the pot, said "Fuck that!" and left.
Some people didn't understand what was happening. One group of students kept asking "How can you just do that?" as they walked by us. We didn't know what to say to them, but it was funny. Another guy looked at us suspiciously as he walked up to our table. AJ Bozenmayer, the genius who made the sign, held a brownie out to him and said "Would you like a brownie?" The guy looked around cautiously and asked, "Are you guys cops?" We told him that we weren't and that the brownies contained nothing illegal. He carefully took one and slowly walked away.
Although it was funny to be asked if we were cops, I think that the encounter was a sad commentary on the War on Drugs. Is it really that out of hand to think that the drug warriors would sink so low? And isn't it sad that people could be so suspicious about peaceably acquiring marijuana?
And speaking of cops, none harassed us even though the typical multitude of them were patrolling the area. Being harassed by the cops would have probably made a better story, especially since all of our flyers for the event said the brownies were prepackaged and contained no illegal substances.
Did our event give libertarians a bad image? I don't think so. For one thing, I have a feeling that marijuana use is pretty acceptable behavior at Rutgers. What could be wrong with showing students that libertarians are realistic enough to legalize it?
Self-ownership was the message we championed; pretend pot was the medium. We gave libertarian reasons for ending the War on Drugs to anyone who would listen. We also told people several reasons why drug laws are a greater public hazard than drug use, hopefully showing them that what is right and what is practical are really the same thing. We mentioned that all drugs used to be legal. When I was asked, I made sure to tell people that yes, all drugs should be re-legalized. (This way the LRC won't sound radical when they talk about decriminalizing marijuana! We all win!)
We gave out all 120 liberty brownies and a good amount of literature. About 20 people signed up for our email list, putting them in communication with the only people who talk about libertarianism at Rutgers. The club even got a little money from donations. Minor progress, sure, but progress nonetheless. Almost everyone I saw take a brownie at least looked at the message. This was probably the first time most of them read the words "You own yourself." Most of them had probably never read anything from a libertarian organization before.
This probably made better outreach than if we did a standard Operation Politically Homeless booth. The World's Smallest Political Quiz is a good tool (and we did have quiz cards on our table), but it did not seem to be the best tool for this job. I think that a lot of Rutgers students would score liberal and then not be very interested in what libertarians say. Better that they find some common ground with us, think our ideas are worth another look, and later come to agree with us about things they currently do not.
Funtavism that we are planning for the future includes a possible street theater event on Halloween. We were thinking of something involving police costumes and a battering ram. Maybe part of this or another event will be declaring eminent domain on something at Rutgers. I'll let you know what happens.
Politics without fun is for soulless collectivists who love power. By having fun with activism, we showed more Rutgers students that libertarians exist and that we aren't everyday politicians. Liberty is a better message to give to voters than promises to deliver on the Republicans' promises (just like Republicans do). If people want to vote for statist losers, they'll vote for statist losers with a better chance of winning an election than the Libertarian candidate. Differentiating ourselves from the big two is crucial.
The fun we had at the Pot of Brownies event was important for the quality of our lives and for the future of the libertarian movement. Most people who saw us will not forget the day that pot brownies were given out on Brower Commons.
As recommended by Kent McManigal