The goal for any debater is to win. Too often, though, we have the wrong idea of what it means to win. Badgering your opponent with mountains of data until they disengage is, in our opinion, not a win. Consider the following when debating:
If you’re debating online, you have an audience. You may never see them. They may never chime in, but you can be sure they’re reading along. Keep them at the front of your mind when engaging your opponent. How you treat your opponent is not just a reflection of you, but your entire message. Each debate has the potential to win or lose many people, and since it’s online, your message may be available for years to come.
Your opponent has reasons for why they believe what they believe, and it’s not because they’re idiots. We all have our experiences and teachings that have made us who we are. We find it helpful to go in to discovery mode when dealing with someone of opposing views. A series of genuinely curious questions can help defuse hostility and lay a foundation of mutual respect.
Meet people where they are. If you’re an anarcho-capitalist and your opponent is claiming to be a socialist, there’s no amount of data that’s going to convince them they’re wrong. You have to be willing to meet them at socialism and slowly bring them over to a freer way of thinking. Perhaps admitting you understand the appeal of socialism is a way to find common ground before introducing them to solid data from this site showing the devastation socialism has caused throughout history.
When dealing with people who love government, remember what Milton Friedman said. “One of the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results.” A main focus of this website is to link to data showing the results of government policies so people become aware that intentions and results are rarely the same when it comes to government policies.
Plant a seed. Just because you don’t win your opponent over today doesn’t mean that you haven’t touched them in some way. Your readers will never be able to unlearn what they have learned from your exchange.
Approach the debate being open to new ideas. We find that positive exchanges with intelligent people leads to new awareness, even if they don’t share libertarian views. Remember the words of Socrates. “The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.”
Finally, keep your debate clean. Don’t engage in logical fallacies. If you’re not familiar with logical fallacies, you can get a look at some of the most common ones on our logical fallacies page.
In summary, the libertarian message should be one of inclusion. Everyone is at least a little libertarian. The goal of this web site is to encourage and foster that.