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Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Brand Awareness vs. Understanding

Thomas L. Knapp wrote:

BH) The goal is not merely to increase brand awareness, but also to increase brand understanding. (BH

TK) I find it interesting that as a reformer, you try to position the LP as "big tent" ... and yet you still seem to think of brand understanding as a function of a long list of policy positions rather than a small set of broad bullet points. [...] So, I like the stuff, but I don't understand why YOU like it ... why wouldn't your literature just use a bigger font to say "LESS GOVERNMENT! MORE FREEDOM!" ... or some-such ? (TK

A very valid question.  A big part of the answer is brand differentiation.  Republicans claim to be for less government and more freedom, and even Bill Clinton said the era of big government is over.  (Alas, he was wrong.) 

Despite being labeled a "reformer"/"moderate", I repeatedly butt heads with moderates who make electoral victory their highest priority.  Even though I apparently just won a water board election in an uncontested walkover, I'm not a big advocate of the farm-team strategy.  I think our influence will ultimately be through our ideas, not through the legislation written (or repealed) by our legislative majorities.  So I believe that our top priority should always be to increase awareness of the Libertarian brand as the only ballot choice that is neither left nor right, neither liberal nor conservative, but instead stands consistently for individual choice and responsibility in both one's personal life and one's economic life.

All my outreach efforts (and party reform efforts) are intended to reflect this priority.  For the specific pieces of collateral we're talking about, the wonk in me can't resist trying to write for not only those giving fleeting attention but also those (even within the freedom movement) willing to parse and mull the implications of each syllable offered.

Ultimately, I'd like Libertarian ideology to be encapsulatable (with necessary loss of precision but desirable big-tent ambiguity) at almost any level of compression.  A very rough start would be something like this:

  • 1 word: EcoLibertarian
  • 2 words: market liberal
  • 4 words: free minds, free markets
  • 11 words: "Protect individuals from each other, not from their own informed choices."
  • 16 words: "What you do or make is fully yours, but what you take or spoil is not."
  • 27 words: "Outlaw only fraud and force initiation. Tax only land rent and polluting/ congesting/ consuming the commons. Provide only network natural monopolies and protection of life and liberty."
  • 50 words: "Government should protect life, liberty, and property – keeping the market as free as possible from initiated force.  Government should not initiate force to protect you from your own informed voluntary choices, nor to make you offer choices to others. Government should not do anything that can be done by individuals cooperating in a free market."
  • 2500 words: 2008 LP Platform
  • 150 pages: Fred Foldvary's Science of Economics
There of course is room for disagreement in the longer and shorter texts, but I don't think we should ever shy away from inviting any mind to drink deeper from the well of libertarianism.