Several times I have noticed something about “conversions”–political, religious, what have you. It seems to me–and I suspect other libertarians have had similar thoughts from time to time, though I don’t recall seeing this written about before–that it’s an indication of the objective superiority of a view if conversions are almost always to that position, and rarely away from it.
The most obvious case would be libertarianism and socialism. You almost never hear of someone, once they become a libertarian, all of a sudden becoming a socialist. Whereas, many people, if they are sincere, ethical, and searching for politically sound views, will become libertarians to one degree or the other. This seems to be true, to varying degrees, of conversions of muzzy-headed liberals to “conservatives”–as people get older or wiser, many become more conservative. Do you ever hear of conservatives becoming more liberal? Arianna Huffington is the exception that proves the rule.
When the occasional person does go the other direction, it’s usually to a more apathetic or mainstream approach, but not usually to leftism. E.g. an anarchist, a la Roy Child, may revert to minarchism. But to statism? Even Nozick, a semi-minarchist (I think), sort of renounced his earlier “hard core” libertarianism, but never made it clear what he reverted to; it seems unlikely he become a democratic socialist but stayed silent about it.
Moreover, when someone does abandon a superior ideology, they often reveal they never really understood it but just jumped on it for faddish reasons, as evidenced by their mischaracterizing the ideology, much like its ignorant opponents do. Liberals have to mischaracterize what libertarians really believe in order to oppose it. While,
Now I am not adopting a version of the Whig view of history, but there does seem to be a general one-sidedness, or directionality, to a given ideology, when it is objectively, and significantly, superior. In the case of libertarianism itself, it seems to me the fact that libertarians almost never convert to socialism, but leftists, liberals, and mainstreamers often moderate their leftism or even see the light of libertarianism, is a striking indication of how superior our view is.
I’ve noticed this in other fields too, e.g., within Christianity–Catholicism versus Protestantism. In my–admittedly limited–experience, anti-Catholics usually badly mischaracterize its doctrines. But often a sincere, searching non-Catholic Christian, bouncing from one Protestant denomination to the other, finally sees what the Catholic church really teaches, and converts. Whereas, when a Catholic converts to fundamentalism, it’s either for convenience (e.g., marriage) when he is not that “into” either one anyway; or they reveal that they never really understood the Catholic doctrines very well in the first place, and thus succumb to anti-Catholic distortions of RCC doctrines.
I’m not claiming here that this proves RCC is “superior” to fundamentalism, but it’s just an example, from my own personal experience, that illustrates the unidirectional-conversion rule I noted above.
There are undoubtedly other examples, probably Chicago-to-Austrian economics, etc.
See also: My Religious and Political Conversions