Seeing the LRC post on how the conversion time from being a libertarian to being an anarchist is about two years again made me think about whether it’s better to help libertarians on the way to anarchism or voluntaryism or to try to convert overt statists to libertarianism. After considering the question for a bit I realized the answer was neither, or rather, both. When talking with either one, however, it is important to remember the goal is not their immediate conversion to antistatism, but rather, to try to help nudge them along the way
In my experience it is quite common to be working with minarchists to agitate the public. We attend many of the same meetings and often work together passing out literature at events. These are excellent opportunities to not just push the general public toward less government, but also to convince the minarchists that less government is always better, as in having no government is best. It gives you a chance to hit two birds with one stone. The only word of caution I would give is to make sure your discussion with the minarchist(s) does not interfere with your work with the general public. Try to hold them during the trip there and back (if you’re traveling together) or during lulls in your activities.
Everyone has their favorite techniques and talking points. One of mine when I’m trying to convert a minarchist is to point to police power. This has two advantages. First, it is something that is “fundamental” in minarchist thought. Of course police power has to be provided by the state! If this belief is shattered it often leads to a lot of reflection on the part of the minarchist. Second, thanks to the rise of the militarized local police it is an easy target. I single out a case of police brutality that resonated with the locals wherever I am, (This is disturbingly easy) and then cite that in my conversations, pointing out that if there were a market for security that the cop would have at least been fired after the incident, and probably long before such a catastrophe.
Rothbard, in his Confidential Memorandum to the Volker Fund, “What is to be done?” points out that it is vitally important for the libertarian-individualist cause to develop a “hard core.” This is the group that continues to radicalize the movement and prevent drift from core principles, “Left-wing opportunism.” I believe that anarchists naturally fill this role in the broader liberty movement. Nevertheless, we must not fall into the trap of rejecting progress simply because it is not everything we want, and to not “scare away” the general public. There is no need to go into a lengthy discussion of how an anarchist society would work. Stating that there are two ways to deal with people, with force and without it, and that you believe that the preemptive use of force is wrong would work just as well, if not better.
If your goal is to convince everyone you meet that anarchism or voluntaryism is the only feasible system in a single conversation, you will be disappointed. However, if instead you try to leave the people you talk to thinking about the state in a new way (whether that’s as simple as “maybe the government shouldn’t ban drugs” or as monumental as “wow, I guess the state isn’t necessary”) you will find that you make progress every day.