As I have noted in my “Failure of the Libertarian Movement article,” libertarians have generally limited their activities to marginally useful areas like politics and economics but have seldom used them to illuminate and free the human spirit. Liberty is ideal for freeing the human spirit, but we really haven’t used it very well.
In fairness to the economic and political folks (and I’d have to include myself as one of the guilty), a lot of analytic ability was required to push through the thick web of statism that we grew up with in the 50s and 60s. Often, highly analytical people were the only ones who could push through it all without serious emotional damage. As a result, most of the early libertarians were moved, by both their skills and the situations they faced, into economics and politics.
But regardless of libertarianism’s unique past, politics and economics are not rich fields – they certainly matter, but they leave huge sections of the human experience unaddressed.
Music, on the other hand, is a much richer field, as are painting, sculpture, and a dozen other artistic endeavors.
Doing Art, Not Politics
There have been a few libertarians pursuing art (God bless them), but they have often felt a need to use the early libertarian model of political and economic analysis as fodder for their art. The results were not as good as they could have been.
Let me be clear about this: Mixing politics with art demeans the art. Actually politics plus art more or less equals propaganda. And it is not beautiful.
Mixing philosophy and art can be done, but it can’t be preachy, doctrinal philosophy. It needs to be immediate and real – the fruit of life lessons that you personally experienced – not someone else’s ready-made doctrine.
Art has to be fresh and exciting: authentic, soul-birthed emanations of light and love and passion. It can be wise passion, even intelligent passion, but it may NOT be formulaic or analytical.
There is nothing wrong with analysis, but it is not soul-breathed like good art. As much as I love passages from Rand, Rothbard, and Mises, they cannot be simply set to music and expected to take on a life-giving beauty.
Politics is external and economics is external; art is primarily about internal experiences and visions. Art is not at all mechanical; it is organic.
The Fields Are White for Harvest
The truth is that we libertarians hold the answer to the world’s problems in our hands, but we’ve never spread it beyond a few small and contained areas. There are vast areas lying open before us, and it is time for us to go out into them.
Liberty is the great handmaid of life and beauty on the earth. It is the great catalyst of new visions, the key that unlocks the barriers between people and their impossible dreams. Liberty empowers the life-force inside a billion individuals, and when touched by it they find new ways to release hidden talents, to remember lost epiphanies, and to reanimate their crushed spirits.
I am not trying to be poetic here – I am trying to describe the real situation that sits in front of us.
Let me say this again, in a slightly different way:
Liberty is really about life. The purpose of liberty is to allow human life to flourish. And it is art that reaches inside of people and touches the frustrated life inside of them, that draws it out of them and makes them believe that it can thrive in the world. Economics and politics, however necessary they may be, cannot do this.
Here’s the great thing about art: There is – and can be – no plan.
Art is an expression of life. It must be planted and nourished separately in each of us. It grows differently in each of us, and it emerges differently from each of us and thus enters the world. We are each a unique womb of sorts, in which our art grows and matures.
It is our job as artists to take in the best seeds, to nourish them as best we can, and to be as purely honest with what we produce as possible.
When we create, we should not be focused on external things like approval, style or reward. (Though we must seriously develop our skills; they are essential to expression, after all.)
To create great art, we must focus on the thing itself: this new expression that is growing inside of us, the people we will give it to, and most of all, the unique nature of what we are producing.
Life improves every living thing it touches, and our job as artists is to birth these emanations of life into the world and to love the people we hope it will reach.
Each creation of yours will have its own nature and should be used in its own way, not according to anyone’s expectations. Plant and nourish the best seeds you can find, but let each thing that grows inside of you choose its own direction and nature.
But, most of all, go out and create. Don’t wait. Start small if you must, develop your skills at whatever pace you can, but do NOT sit still and wait for some magic day when “it happens.” Make passable art at first if you must start there, because passable art has a way of developing into good art, and that often becomes great art. But it will never develop at all until you are in motion.
And by all means, cooperate with other artists. Learn from them, teach them, collaborate. Think of this as cross-pollination: We are all unique, and we can pass those unique characteristics from one to another, and all benefit from the experience. To borrow a phrase from my economic training: Creation is positive sum game.
Creating art can be hard, frustrating and even disappointing. But if you give honest expressions to the things that really matter to you, to the things that mature within you, the effort will enrich you for life, and many others with you.
I wish you all the best.