Hey, you know what’s an incredibly fruitful way of passing the time? Dreaming up various “types of libertarian”. Coincidentally, it just so happens that I’ve recently invented/discovered a distinction that is so pregnant with earth-shattering implications that it may well change the course of human history: “Broadsheet” and “Tabloid” libertarians. Boo-yah! Trust me, you’ll want to get on board this train right now, ’cause when it takes off it’s gonna be huge.
Broadsheet libertarians (or “sheeters”) typically drone on about weighty topics, like war or economics or whatever, in a deadly serious manner. They have little use for humour, viewing it as a distraction from important libertarian matters like war or economics or whatever. They generally have strong jaws, firm handshakes, and furrowed brows.
Tabloid libertarians (or “tabsters”) generally have a lighter style that borders on flippancy. They typically write silly or provocative articles, typically on silly or provocative issues. They can’t swim; they nudge people when they’re shooting; they insist on being placed at the captain’s table; and they muck about. They often start paragraphs with phrases like “The thing is, guys, there is actually a serious point to this”.
The thing is, guys, there is actually a serious point to this. Let’s be honest, for the most part heavy topics and ‘big issues’ are, like Plato, boring. And when they are not boring they are incredibly dreary. Perhaps liberals, in our efforts to bring people over to our side, would do better, at least occasionally, to adopt a more light and breezy style. I don’t have any statistics to back this up, mind. But ask yourself this: “If I were at a party would I want to be stuck talking to the intense dude who won’t stop going on about war or economics or whatever?”
That’s not to say that weighty issues are unimportant – clearly they are. Nor is it to say that we should avoid them – clearly we shouldn’t. But just because something is serious doesn’t mean it must always be treated in a completely po-faced way, and certainly doesn’t mean it is always best to treat it that way. A joke can often be a great way to deliver a message. Just think of how many illiberal ideas are, if not introduced, at least reinforced through comedy.
Least of all is it to say people aren’t clever enough to understand liberal ideas, so we have to dumb down. Wake up sheeple! People aren’t stupid! (And if they were, is calling them stupid really more likely to win them over?) Of course, it’s perfectly possible for anyone to be ignorant of various political and economic ideas. This does not mean they cannot learn – we learnt didn’t we? Essentially liberal ideas aren’t complicated, and most people already subscribe to them, at least in their private lives.
While there is absolutely no need to water down or compromise the message – and if there were we should just give up now – perhaps there is a need to present it in more of an easy-going style that doesn’t make us come across as cold, unapproachable. And, frankly, given the distance to our goal, why not have a laugh while we’re at it?