So, I learned a fancy new word recently, “solipsism” and every so often, it grinds against one of my other hobby horses and gives me an interesting notion that may or may not hold up under further scrutiny. Today, it bounced up against libertarianism, Libertarians, and why Libertarians struggle so mightily at the ballot box.
Solipsism has a more formal meaning in philosophy and then a more casual every day usage. In philosophy, it has to do with the idea that knowledge of anything outside of your own mind is uncertain – your experience of the outside world, if it even truly exists, is mediated through your mind. So, you don’t really know how accurately the outputs match the inputs. More casually, it speaks to interacting with the world in a self-centered way.
Libertarianism holds up liberty of the individual above all else. Individualism isn’t bad. Liberty is good. So, what’s the problem? It might be that the solipsism inherent in the ideology short circuits the ability to empathize. And, I’m referring to empathy rather than sympathy where, as I understand it, the distinction is that the former is the ability to comprehend things from the perspective of another; whereas the latter has more to do with feeling bad for the other person because you understand that the position they are in is an unhappy one. I think you can empathize with someone without feeling bad for them, and I think you can sympathize with someone without really knowing how they feel.
So, if I’m correct that solipsism short circuits empathy and libertarianism creates this sort of blind spot in its adherents; then that would help explain electoral difficulties. It’s difficult to sell liberty without really understanding how others experience liberty. And even those who subscribe to the same basic ideology have a tough time really understanding each others vision of that ideology.
On the other hand, maybe electoral difficulties are nothing more complicated than that fiercely individualistic people are inevitably going to have a tough time engaging in what is fundamentally a group effort. (Which I think is a lot more likely than what seems to be the preferred explanation within the group: that non-Libertarians are too stupid and/or lazy to see the Truth.)
Anyway, like I said; just an idea that occurred to me. I’m still chewing on it.