I love being part of groups with so many intelligent people. I confess quite freely that I’m a little nerdy. Sometimes … well … a lot nerdy. Or maybe geeky. Books excite me. Television doesn’t. I prefer to talk about ideas rather than argue about who should be starting at quarterback for the DoofusDogs.
As a long-time libertarian, I’ve enjoyed the benefits of being part of a group with a rich intellectual tradition. Being able to read amazing exposition of ideas and have rich intellectual conversations with my friends is something I’ve treasured for more than 20 years. We have great think tanks and books and websites and all sorts of resources — as long as your brain works in the same hyper-rational way that most libertarian brains work.
But let’s be honest. We’re not doing so well with mainstream audiences. Why not? I think we’re so focused on our ideas — and on arguing with each other and winning intellectual debates with our opponents — that we’re not very good at actually doing things. We’re very good at producing 74-page white papers on a subject, but we’re not as good at finding real-world ways of implementing the things we talk so much about.
What can we do about it? I’m not sure. I’m certainly not advocating that we drop our intellectual approach to the world. I’m not advocating that we quit writing books and papers and setting up think tanks. I’m just suggesting that we’re going to have to go beyond that. We’re going to have to think in terms of making real-world plans and putting them into motion. And we’re going to have to communicate with people who are intimidated by our emphasis on philosophy and braininess.
If we want to continue talking to ourselves and arguing with other nerdy people about ideas, change isn’t necessary. We’re really good at those things. But if we want to change the world, we’re going to have to start changing ourselves. We’re going to have to communicate to “normal people,” not just to other intellectuals.
You might have noticed that what I’m doing here is written on a level to be accessible to more typical, average people. That’s intentional. I don’t have any interest in spending the rest of my life writing things that will be read only by intellectuals. I want to plan real-world change and sell it to people who can make it happen. Sometime soon, I’ll talk about the role that I think art and culture play in all of this, but for now, I just want to point out that if we’re going to change the world, we have to start by changing ourselves.