I'd like to address the rest of you.
Whether you go on to be lawyers or professional snowboarders or morticians or food-truck owners, I hope you'll remain active participants in public discourse—that you'll keep learning from other people, and use persuasion in hopes that other people can learn from you. Because most people don't read Friedrich Hayek, or Reason magazine, or my articles at The Atlantic, or the legal briefs filed by the Institute for Justice, or Cato white papers. The ideas they encounter about liberty and most other subjects are shaped by friends, family, acquaintances, and co-workers. They're encountered as particulars, not in the abstract, where so much libertarian rhetoric resides. How does one persuade these people?
I certainly don't have all the answers, but I have some advice.
Number one, behave as if your goal is actually persuasion. So many times, people engaged in political speech, broadly construed, aren't really trying to change anyone's mind. They're more interested in a rant that makes them feel self-righteous, or getting in digs that feel satisfying to deliver. Don't confuse scoring debating points with persuading people. Listen to them. Understand them. Respect their insights. And explain why you differ in a way that permits them to agree without seeming to have lost, or looking foolish.
Number two, look for allies, not heretics. Someone who agrees with you 80 percent of the time is an ally, not an enemy to denounce for not being a true libertarian. Someone who agrees with you 1 percent of the time, on just a single issue, is someone you can work with in good faith on that issue. And if you do, odds are they'll listen more closely to your other ideas.
Number three is the most important. A friend taught me this.
He's an orthodox Catholic. I am not. I went to 14 years of Catholic school and decided that it wasn't for me. As you can imagine, I've heard all the arguments for Catholicism. So when my friend, Nick, argues with me about Catholic doctrine, he is very unlikely to persuade me of anything. But Nick happens to be one of the best people I know. Even though I don't have faith in the same things that he does, I see how his faith makes him a better person. I see how he makes the world a better place, and how his belief system drives him to do it. And whenever I think about Nick, I think to myself, you know, I disagree with the Catholic faith on a lot of particulars, but there must be nuggets of truth within it if it inspires people like Nick to be this good. It makes me so much more open to the notion that I can learn something from the Catholic faith—just as the molestation scandal took a lot of people and closed them off to the idea that Catholics had anything to teach them.
How open will people be to libertarian ideas? That depends, in large part, on the libertarians they encounter. This is, of course, the hardest advice to follow. I'm telling you to be good. To show, by personal example, how your ideas can better the world in concrete ways. Well, not everyone can pull that off like my friend Nick. But to the degree that you can, there's nothing more powerful. You'll reach people that no liberty-minded politician or activist or journalist could possibly reach.