The Six Stages of the
: In presenting Murray to you, he's
a teacher, a scholar, a writer, a professor, editor of Libertarian Forum
. About his many books, let me give
one title, the latest, I believe, The Ethics of Liberty
. I think that will do for this
It's a pleasure for me to call on
Dr. Murray N. Rothbard to deliver the keynote address of the first World
Libertarian Convention in Zurich, '82.
ROTHBARD: See, one prophecy turned out to be
incorrect. I'm here, not in my birthday suit, but everything was fixed up by
the authorities, the hotel, whatever.
Well, it's a great pleasure and
privilege to be here. And it's a really great honor to deliver the keynote
address to the first World Libertarian International. In my own irreverent
terms, I could call it the Libertern, but I think I won't do that.
The first problem I was confronted
with in giving a keynote to this group is, how can I speak trans-culturally. I
don't know how many nations are represented here, but quite a large number. And
how can I speak to people, each one of whom has a different culture, a
different national history, a different history of the movement? And how can I
meaningfully talk to trans-national or trans-cultural Libertarians?
OK, the first answer to that was
easy. The first answer is that Libertarian itself, of course, is international.
It's trans-national. It's cosmopolite. The glorious idea of liberty, of a free
market and a free society is universal and it's not dependent on culture or
time or place, for that ideal is based on the nature and on the rights of man,
of human beings wherever they exist. So we have this, of course, one common
language, so to speak, or common terminology, of common concepts, which is
OK, then I thought I would try to
work out for this gathering at least the beginning of a theory of stages of the
Libertarian movement, a theory which we might be able to apply to every country
regardless of how small or how advanced the movement might be in the particular
country. I'm not saying, of course, that these stages are inevitable, that one
must always go from one to the other, but I think every movement will pass
through one stage, one, two, et cetera.
OK, the first stage in any given
country or region or area or city, the first stage, the movement necessarily
begins always with one person; one person has an idea. One isolated individual
somehow discovers Libertarianism. How he or she does it, it can happen in many
different ways, by reading, by listening to something, by thinking or whatever.
So we have one solitary Libertarian living isolated in one particular country
or region. In the United States, such a person is often called a lone nut.
So stage one is the lone-nut stage.
I think it's – a gray beard such as myself, of course, went through the
lone-nut stage. And many people here probably have. I was a lone nut in the
1940s. That was my lone-nut period; probably earlier than that, too.
OK, so the lone nut continues on in
the gadfly status, arguing with people, being a pest, whatever, learning more
about Libertarianism. And finally, a great moment arrives in the lone nut's
development. He or she finds another lone nut. Now, this is a tremendous thing.
This could be either sex. It could be the lone nut either finds or converts
another Libertarian. It's a great moment in each person's development.
we have two lone nuts. Of course, it's much more effective and much happier
than one lone nut. We have two friends, buddies, comrades who pal around
together, who discuss these great ideas that they've just learned about, sit up
all night discussing them and so forth and so on. So now, we have the stage
two, the buddy stage of a pair, the two-lone-nuts-together stage.
At this point, I should say
something about the conversion process, if indeed, the first lone nut converted
the second lone nut. Because, of course, conversion is crucial in the growth of
the Libertarian movement or of any movement. And I think that most conversions
– there are many ways that conversions can take place and have taken place. But
I think that most conversions occur not by verbal bludgeoning or by
high-pressure tactics, but by the convert either hearing or reading or
whatever, something which he feels, a statement or statements which he feels or
she feels was a sort of a shock of recognition to be articulating something
that he believed down deep for many years.
"Gee, I always believed that. I
just couldn't put it into words." I keep finding every Libertarian after
Libertarian who says that. Especially in the early days of the movement, we
find another Libertarian, we say, "Jesus, how did you become a
Libertarian"? Like how did you become a deep-sea diver or whatever? And
the person would say, "Well, I came across this or read this or heard
this, and I said to myself, I believed this all my life and I never articulated
it." So I think this is crucial to the conversion process.
OK, so we have these two buddies.
Either the first lone nut found or converted the second buddy. And the third
buddy comes. A third convert appears. Now this growth from two to three, this
is stage three in the development of the movement. The growth from two to three
is not just a 50% increase – of course, it is a 50% increase quantitatively –
but it's much more than that. Because one person is a lone nut, two people are
two lone nuts, three people, that's already a school of thought.
It's a much bigger impact – (laughing)
– on life around them than two people. "Gee, three people believe this
crazy thing; maybe there's something to it."
So now we have a school of thought.
We have a little group. And it seems to me, at least my experience has been, my
observation has been that once you have three people, it's pretty much easier
to get six or seven. And then we have six or seven, you're now in stage four of the movement, the
study group stage, or what the Marxists called the circle stage in movement development.
Editor’s Note: The Titania movement has just entered this stage – the “circle stage”. Come
to our meetups to learn how we overcome many of the challenges
described in this Rothbard speech.