Trigger Warnings and Libertarian Outreach

October 11, 2018

I was fortunate enough to attend the LibertyFest Conference in Brisbane with Mannkal in late September. Something which stood out to me over the course of the weekend was Andrew Cooper’s insistence that LibertyWorks is a do-tank, as opposed to the traditional think-tank. As an avid promoter of classical liberal ideas, this struck a chord with me; while I enjoy the philosophising of the liberty movement, I think it is perhaps more important to convince others of the merits of free markets and individual responsibility than it is to discuss such topics with those who are already on our side.

To this end, I thoroughly enjoyed Dr Brendan Markey-Towler’s presentation entitled “Trigger Warning: How not to enrage your audience and win influence”. I found this to be one of the most exciting and insightful parts of the Conference as, while it is important to encourage and support those who already support a liberal ideology, it is also important to bring others into the fold. Dr Markey-Towler highlighted the social psychological theory of moral foundations, which stipulates that human moral reasoning is based on five foundations:

Dr Markey-Towler outlined that when liberals discuss issues with others they often directly contradict their moral foundations, which is an ineffective means of persuasion. Rather, people should aim to find common ground, and make arguments from a point which they agree on. As a young person in the movement, I find this kind of positive discussion to be particularly useful. Rather than preaching to the choir, libertarians should express the merits of the movement to others from a point of compassion and agreement. And that should be one of the main points of conferences such as LibertyFest. Conferences like it should be aiming to equip individuals with both the knowledge and the skills which they need to be an effective advocate for liberty.

This was the beauty of Dr Markey-Towler’s speech; he outlined that it is important for those in the liberty movement to find common ground in order to persuade people, but he also explained exactly how we can do this. This kind of guidance, which provides libertarians with a practical framework for approaching debates and discussions, is highly valuable and the kind of information which I think is important to understand if the liberty movement is to be effective and convince other people.

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Cian Hussey was our 2018 mid-year scholar who is studying a Bachelor of Arts degree majoring in Politics and International Relations at the University of Notre Dame. Cian interned at the Centre for Policy Studies in London in July and August. Cian is also currently interning at Mannkal.