Published on January 22nd, 2010 | by Dr. Joel McDurmon7
How to Argue with a Liberal and Win!
Among the many pleasures that came with my joining the staff at American Vision in 2008, President Gary DeMar revealed to me dozens of boxes of books donated by a long-time supporter. Robert Metcalf and his Christian Studies Center had given a few thousand volumes to American Vision a few years prior, and these volumes needed sorting and stacking in our own libraries. It was almost like Christmas for a few hours each Friday as we opened boxes to see what books each held in store. We found many gems!
Among those gems I kept a curious little paperback called Clichés of Socialism. The title caught my interest and I began to flip through. I found dozens of short chapters each responding to a pithy popular myth promoted by liberals, leftists, socialists, and other societal pests: “The more complex the society, the more government control we need”; “The free market ignores the poor”; “Tax the rich to help the poor,” etc., etc. These and many other myths like them are refuted handily in this book.
Then I noticed that—despite the fact that the book originally appeared in 1962—many of these chapters have profound relevance for today’s debates. Consider today’s debate over socialized health-care, alongside these clichés: “Private businessmen should welcome government competition,” and “The government can do it cheaper because it doesn’t have to make a profit.” Recall the recent attacks on insurance companies making profits, and note the parallel with the same old argument, “No one must profit from the misfortune of others.” Hear the cries against “evil speculators” on Wall Street echoing from decades ago: “Speculation should be outlawed.” Hear the claims about how “the American people” now own 60% of General Motors since the government bailed it out and bought a stake in it, and realized it’s nothing new: “The Government is All of Us,” and “Under public ownership, we, the people, own it.” These myths are still so relevant today that this book will make an especially important reference for today conservatives and lovers of freedom. It may even educate a liberal or two should they have the capacity and willingness to learn.
When I began to read some of the chapters for the first time they immediately struck me as clear, concise, and powerful. Hardly any of them span more than a few pages, making short work of devastating the socialist worldview. Cliché by cliché, the liberals’ fragile intellectual empire crumbles beneath the force of logic, facts, and straight-talk. Written by several of the best conservative and libertarian minds of the former generation—Henry Hazlitt, Murray Rothbard, Leonard Read, Paul Poirot, Hans Sennholz, and many others—the incisive responses display a surprisingly conversational tone and provide many memorable arguments, stories, and examples. These characteristics make them easy and enjoyable to read. I realized quickly that this is a perfect book for the average person trying to combat the forces of socialism that today wish to trample the American Constitution and our legacy of freedom and free enterprise.
So, I decided to get this old book back in print today. Thankfully, the original edition carried an already written permission to reprint the work without special request. But since the original edition appeared in 1962 (only once updated in 1970), the facts and figures and some of the historical references had fallen a bit out date. So I asked permission from the original publisher, The Foundation for Economic Education (FEE), to publish an edited version. The staff at FEE—with their eye always on the need for furthering the message of free markets, limited government, and the moral superiority of free choice over government compulsion—amiably agreed with the small request that I make clear note of the things I edited. No problem. The project was on.
After a couple months of typesetting and editing, I arrived at the goal: to present the clarity, brevity, and power of the original work in a modernized version relevant for today’s readers. In doing so, I hope to help equip the average man to see through the many faces of socialism in our culture, and to stifle the retorts of liberals in the modern public square.
With the publication of this modernized, newly-titled edition of this book we at American Vision hope to help take back the America that seems to be slowly slipping away. Conservatives have always faced this feeling as progressives constantly wish to socialize everything and continually try to do so one issue at a time. Today is no exception, and the arguments are always the same. Conservatives just need to learn to stand against them with bravery and optimism. We need bravery to stand against what seems like the large machine of socialism, including the mainstream media, universities, unions, special interests, school systems, entrenched lifetime politicians in Congress, and corruption throughout them all. While they constitute a vast, imposing force, their errors are intellectual and moral. Truth and bravery to constantly state and spread the truth will help bring about their end.
But we must also have optimism. This means we must believe that the truth will ultimately prevail. The lack of such a belief has often caused the wane of conservativism historically, but has also supplied its strength to victory when we have believed. For if we do not believe we can change the future, then why fight for it? Standing up to the powerful institutions of socialism requires bravery, but looking past them to a better day requires optimism as well. Without these two virtues conservatives cannot overcome socialism; with them we just may. The knowledge and character exhibited in this book will equip the reader to build these qualities in his or her own heart and mind. Buy it or download it, enjoy it, and put it to work.