A libertarian friend on Facebook asks the basic question, which could be translated as “if we’re right, why do so few people agree?”
Actually, he wondered how anyone who has read his intellectual heroes, Mises, Rand and Nozick, could disagree.
There were many interesting answers. Here is mine, hot off the Facebook press (with a few revisions, basically turning a first draft into a second), in which I take on the individualist’s main current enemy, progressivism:
They Have Already Won!
Progressives are the new conservatives.
Americans have lived under dirigisme since Roosevelt’s time, and major inroads into market interference (beyond the 19th century’s love of protectionism and pork projects) had been made since at least 1913, so we of the Land of the Free haven’t seen much like a free market in our lifetimes or our parents’ and grandparents’ lifetimes. The best we can do is point to a few industries in the voluntary sector as examples of what we want. Beyond that it’s mostly conjecture, hypothesis, “theory.” Since progressives basically have what they want, they can point to what exists and say it works. So their basic attitude to major critics of interventionism is to rest on the Presumptive Case for the Status Quo. In this they are conservatives.
And can pretend to be empiricists.
Practical people shaking their heads at deluded fools.
Of course, they also want to further increase the scope of government into private property and market institutions, so they retain their basic “progressive” attitude, as well as being conservative. They halve their cake and eat both halfs.
Resting on the past, and on the institutional inertia, they don’t have to think hard.
And those who buy into this paradigm can read anything critical with a foot on the garbage pail lever even as they begin. Few will learn anything even if they were actually to study Smith, Say, Bastiat, Menger, Mises et al, and even kept up with contemporary revisions and corrections. They could hear the Spencer-Mises line that trade is cooperation and still miss the point, because their whole paradigm is set to muddy the foundational way we think: in terms of transactional clarity*. They think, instead, in broad categories, and engage in constant tribalistic rituals instead of real thinking. They are creatures of collectivism and macroeconomics.
The individual is something to be pushed around, like a pawn.
They imagine themselves at the top of the board, surveying the checkered landscape. The sheer exhilaration of this culturally-defined role is enough a taste of power to firmly corrupt them for the rest of their lives.
Power tends to corrupt; even imagined unlimited power corrupts absolutely.
Few people change their minds on much after their mid-20s. So, with governments running public schools and the Academy, it is, as Trump says in goofy ways about other aspects of the established order, “a rigged system.”
It takes a certain type of person, or sheer beneficent accident, to produce anyone but proponents of an existing and persisting system. The reward centers and conduits are firmly in place to continually entice groupthink and group solidarity.
We are the early adopter types. (Another way of thinking about all this: practical marketing.) Until we can sell our vision to more regular consumers of ideology, we won’t get far, and most folks will remain unconvinced.
Widespread resistance to criticism is completely understandable. After all, the dirigiste mindset and redistributive instinct in Late Welfare State Capitalism set traps, and most people are savvy enough to see the obvious incentives to play along, which push many people to double down on the system. Even further, they try to game what is already rigged.
Too few people see that this lattice-work of incentives and disincentives yields perverse consequences, is indeed best seen as a set of traps. Only a few folks are bright enough (or cussed enough) to see all this for what it is, truly a “systemic oppression” (SJWs have nothing on us!) that produces a more insidious-than-natural “state of nature” set of dilemmas (not all of them Prisoner’s Dilemmas; but many are) that catch and hold and incentivize participants to join in on the general idea: live at the expense of everybody else.
* This is usually called “methodological individualism.”