In my column this week I took libertarians to task for pie-in-the-sky, holistic thinking, for believing that they would make an electoral force that could actually execute policy change. Some will read that as an attack on such holistic thinking of the grassroots. That could not be further from the truth.
While ideological purity may not be valuable for making policy change, policy change is certainly not the only variable in play.
Put simply, the libertarians I want to see making this centrist, good-governance change need to come from somewhere. And that place isn’t traditional bastions of left or right. Grassroots activism, be it through lectures, student activities, op-ed writing, or otherwise, is a great tool for building skills, talent, and networks that can later be used to execute the change that libertarians seek.
Sound public-policy understanding is a rare and valuable skill. Washington is the “Big Leagues” of politics. To use an economics term, DC is an all-star market. All-stars may have more talent than most, but they still need to study and be found and coached. Even Michael Jordan needed to be discovered. Washington is not a place where one succeeds on talent alone.
Nobody thinks it would be smart to haphazardly hire and fire; there needs to be some sorting and training mechanism between raw talent and execution of the desired goals.
Knowing what those sound policy goals are matters too. There need to be people exploring ideas, generating data, and, where political margins present themselves, getting involved in electoral politics. All of these are functions of any viable libertarian grassroots.
It may not be policy change, but that doesn’t mean it’s worthless. All of these are only parts of the puzzle of making the world a more free and peaceful place. So yes, there is a case for the libertarian grassroots.
They may not be making change on their own, but they produce the chief ingredient: talented, smart libertarians who know what they’re talking about. They produce philosophical backing for arguments, citations to use when making the case to policymakers.
All of that matters. And without the grassroots, there would be no libertarian-influenced policy change.