Craig and I have just begun our first two (sold out!) sessions of the OSI course “How to Write Powerfully in Defense of Liberty,” and there’s a point that’s come up that I’d like to emphasize and to share with Level Up readers and contributors.
Occasionally, people who would like to contribute to The Objective Standard reach out and ask us, “What should I write about?” Although we maintain a list of topics we’d like covered and are happy to make some suggestions, we always answer that question with another question: “What fascinates you?”
Writing well is difficult work. Even if you know the topic you set out to write on like the back of your hand, most projects, at least beyond a simple blog post or the like, still require hours of thinking about how best to communicate your knowledge. And if the topic is less familiar, writing on it likely will entail a good deal of concentrated research. Also, it’s difficult to accurately estimate how long any given project will take because as you learn more about it, you typically discover new layers of complexity that need to be dealt with to make the piece clear and convincing.
If you write on subjects you’re jazzed about, then all this work will be far easier. It may not feel like work at all. You’ll be more motivated to write a great piece. And chances are that if something sets your mind ablaze with curiosity and excitement, it will interest others, too.
However, there’s a pitfall awaiting those who set out to write in defense of freedom. “Freedom” and “liberty” refer, in large part, to the absence of laws, regulations, and policies that infringe people’s rights. But, as many lovers of liberty as there are, few are interested in the minutia of Antitrust law, the welfare state, or public lands. Fighting negatives is not very motivating. So how can we make the positives we’d like to achieve more concrete than something so abstract as “liberty”?
One thought experiment that I’ve found helpful is this: Ask yourself, “If my country or the world were already totally free—if the government did nothing but protect individual rights—what would I want to use my perfect freedom to do?
Answering this question will focus your mind on your positive interests. For instance, you might be interested in space exploration or nuclear fusion—incredibly interesting fields with loads of potential! Then you can ask, “In a fully-free society, what would this sphere that fascinates me look like? Would it be drastically better than it is in today’s mixed economy? What hints of this better world are there in today’s world? What marvels might entrepreneurs in spaceflight or nuclear energy bring to the world, if they weren’t held back by bureaucrats?”
You may find that doing this helps you shape a positive vision of what could and ought to be—a future you’d like to live in and so are motivated to fight for today.
P.S. For a great discussion on duty, victimhood, and tactics for overcoming or avoiding their traps, check out Isaac Morehouse’s excellent TOS-Con 2019 talk, “How to Create a Career that Makes You Come Alive.”