The Short Sell for Libertarians
by Paul Tiger
[The following two articles, The Short Sell and Government as a Growth Industry, were written originally for Libertarian Party publications. They were posted to the Colorado Freedom Report with the author's permission July 31, 2003. Tiger currently serves as Legislative Director for the Libertarian Party of Colorado.]
During this past summer of campaigning [in 2002], I learned quite a bit from people who consider themselves to be Libertarian activists. What they are are salespeople. After a career in selling technology, I thought that this would be easy for me. First, you have to know your product. If I didn't get one customer all summer, I did indeed learn my product.
I don't want to be insulting to the Libertarian Ideal by suggesting that you can sell it like you can sell hard drives. You can't, but the philosophies of the buyers and sellers are very similar. People aren't going to buy hard drives unless they have a need, and the same is true of liberty. If people have a need for it, they will listen to your pitch. If you knew that someone wasn't in the market for your commodity, then why would you spend (waste) your time speaking to that person?
So here I am standing around in a booth, trying to figure out who in the crowd wants to buy liberty. Nobody's wearing badges like at the shows, so I can't tell the buyers from the browsers. I'm lost with knowledge and skill, because I can't identify my potential customers. Even working a group, what glimmer am I looking for? What's the best demographic for our target market? There were plenty of senior Libertarians around to coach me, and, incorporating their insights into my own style, I have since found many ways to recognize an opportunity to sell Liberty.
While we all plan large and small events to attract new membership, let's remember to put some effort into the short sell. I identify the short sell for Liberty in two ways. First, you should mention Libertarianism in a way that prompts a question about it, or invites queries for further investigation. Second, you should sell to the buyer's needs, always leaving them with a question about their current level of Liberty. Never give a satisfactory pat answer. Leave a question in the mind of the buyer. And never take more than a few minutes.
My goal in the short sell is to attract true Libertarians. The ones that will bother to educate themselves and join the party of determined free will. Let them research their purchase and buy because they need Liberty. The long or hard sell serves to waste your time, and that of the potential buyer. They need time to think; they want you to shut up. In closing any big sale (or small), I have always valued the need for silence while the buyer was making a decision. The same is true for selling Liberty. The buyer is making a personal choice. Making an outward statement of a belief system. Making a change. Like coming out.
In your daily efforts, whenever possible, remember the short sell. Someone at work asks your opinion, and you respond, "Well, as a Libertarian..." Or, overhearing someone say something about taxes, pitch in a comment about how that wouldn't be a concern if Libertarians were elected. And keep on walking. Let your customers come to you. Find out in your own circles who the potential Libertarians are. Get them started, but let them finish.
When you are in a crowd at an outreach event, you can go out and seed the area with pamphlets and the short sell. Go back to the booth and let them come to you. You'll have wasted a quarter on printed materials for those who don't have a pressing need for Liberty. But you'll also have made an investment overflowing with dividends by capturing the minds and hearts of those who join the Libertarian Party.
Government as a Growth Industry
Private industry and commercial ventures that survive economic fluctuations, without downsizing or cut-backs in operations, are not that common. Private interests that grow in facility size, staffing, and cash flow during economic downturns are even harder to find. That is, unless they serve the government.
Or are the government.
The federal government has been growing exponentially since the end of the nineteenth century. During the Roosevelt administration, the executive branch of government began to overshadow the other two branches in size, funding, and force of will. This has become the modis operandi of what most people think of as the federal government. The growth and tyranny stems from the executive branch. In many cases, departments created by the executive branch are contrary in their operations to our Constitution, and in direct conflict with the other two branches. While we Libertarians all agree that this is out of balance, most Americans don't understand the implications that this has on their liberties. However, many do see the effects of gross mismanagement of a business in a model that does not work. But it continues to grow.
Industrial and commercial ventures that succeed do so because they provide a wanted need or service. They are sparked, and sometimes artificially supported by, funding. If they continue to fail to perform, the venture capitalists or stockholders remove funding support. Quite simply put, firms that cannot remain competitive go out of business.
Unless the firm is the US government. Here the model does not apply, because unneeded and unwanted services continue to receive funding and staffing from the stockholders (you and me). Here your funding is invested in directions that you are not interested in.
One of the largest sectors of growth in the executive branch is law enforcement. Since the creation of the Secret Service in 1865, and its reassignment to the executive office in 1902 after McKinley's assassination, this branch began down a path of having its own security and law enforcement group. Protecting the President isn't that bad of an idea, but this has expanded to include visiting heads of state and having oversight of the DC police. Let's not forget that the SS are also treasury cops. Of course this is just the tip of the iceberg, as we all well know.
The image is given that more police give more security. When they do not, fear is promoted so that the stockholders will financially support additional security resources. And we do. The bogus marketing of the government and poor investment decisions of the stockholders have been in this downward spiral for over a hundred years. The congress is also involved in supporting the executive branch's federal law enforcement conglomerate with laws so specific as to tie the hands of the judiciary. We are not just talking about the loss of liberties, but the propagation of a failed system and poor business model. Trillions of dollars wasted over a century on a system that only promotes that which it was supposedly designed suppress: fear and tyranny.
Those who work within the government, and many private businesses that support it, operate under a very strange model. The profit and loss sheet is backwards. In order for a governmental department to expect to continue to receive funding, it needs to show that the funding that they have now is insufficient. So they spend more than they have. In the free-market world this would be the sign of a failure and investors would shy away. The quality of services rendered to the customers are not of interest to the government if they know that they are the sole source. It is to their advantage to suppress competition to their services.
It is not too difficult for the executive branch to control the free market for services in the US that compete with the government. It has the largest police force in the world at its beck and call. We continue to hear of fear over a lack of a response to terrorism from an under-funded police force, and many are only too happy to pay for security. But we are paying a security firm that has continued to fail at its job, or show a poor services-to-cost ratio for a century. Push all the Loss of Liberty and Tyranny issues aside and think just about who is being paid to do the work. The bankrupt, failed model, poor performance, can't follow the rules people.
National law enforcement was used as a model for this growth industry topic because it illustrates the failure to provide all of the factors that could or would promote business growth in a free market economy.
Those who are charged with enforcing a few sane number of laws and the Constitution of this land should be well paid for it. They should be adults also. This is not an entry-level position for teens. I would consider that the state or federal governments should only be involved in capitol crimes. This leaves the work of crime fighting at the local level. Organized crime exists because of federal prohibitions. Remove them and organized crime either fails, or becomes legitimate business.
The first protective services company on my list would be my local police department. Unbound by having to follow mandates of outsiders, they can do well to concentrate on appending violent criminals and protecting the citizens. Most federally mandated crimes could very well be pursued by private firms and civil action. This would give a balance back to the judiciary to decide whether many of these laws stand the test of constitutionality. While they have this power now, they tend not to use it, because they fear the repercussions fomented by the executive office's marketing campaigns. They are only human.
The entire judicial system could work much better and less expensively in a free market model. Only those who need to be involved in the "system" need to pay for it. In and of itself it would become a growth industry, but not tax supported, so we would see much more competition in law firms. And many more attorneys would become well versed in Constitutional law to defend or prosecute their cases. As the judiciary responds to tyrannical law, many offenses would have to be at odds with base principles of our Constitution, rather than arbitrary mandates and bogus legislation.
Law enforcement gets its real power from us via the congress. We Libertarians are most often thinking about this as an issue with the legislation of laws limiting Liberty, but the real issue is with funding. We need to stop investing in this failed service, as we need to stop funding all other governmental services that are not competitive. Finding alternative vendors is not necessary for a large percentage of the services that are now being rendered, so there will be an immense cost savings to the investor (taxpayer).
The key is not the legislation of the poor laws so much as it is the laws that govern the appropriations. If funding is not appropriated, the services cannot exist. It would be naive to think that members of congress would not attempt to fund legislation though "pork barrel politics" in amendments to non-related items. However, this method of squelching services and projects has worked in the past. A fine example is that the FCC lost almost all of its funding to police the airwaves in the mid-seventies. This put many unlicensed stations on the air, and kicked off many now-popular commercial and PBS radio stations. The prohibitions to using the radio spectrum are still in place, and civil cases have ensued, but the FCC policing responsibilities have been in a reactive mode for the past thirty years.
Seek out information on the investments opportunities in your government. Tell your representatives where you think your money ought to go. Or not go. If you are required to invest in America -- be responsible about it.