"In the following pages I offer nothing more than simple facts, plain arguments, and common sense; and have no other preliminaries to settle with the reader, than that he will divest himself of prejudice and prepossession, and suffer his reason and his feelings to determine for themselves; that he will put on rather than off, the true character of a man, and generously enlarge his views beyond the present day." - Thomas Paine, Common Sense

Sunday, July 6, 2014

When I Was A Liberal: Statist To Anarchist

Until only about three/four years ago, I was the worst kind of hardcore liberal. I claimed to believe in socialism and Marx - and I had never read more than three pages of my copy of the Communist Manifesto. I made excuses for Soviet/socialist states all over the world, wanted the government to nationalize this industry, create that welfare program, stop teaching controversial beliefs in schools, and most of all punish the rich and those damn corporations for making so much money and keeping it all for themselves. Walking to class one afternoon in 2008 I overheard someone on campus talking about how he was going to vote for Ron Paul. I mentioned to my friend, "I heard Ron Paul's a creationist. And he thinks capitalism is good! What an idiot!" You get the point. I was the worst.

I thought if the government did not do something about *insert any political topic here*, nothing would ever get done because people are simple, lazy idiots (excepting myself, naturally, for I was the Che Guevarra T-shirt-wearing savior of the world and knew everything that needed to be done). I thought without any direction from our dear leaders, some of us would wander (most would sit) around until we starved to death, buildings and roads would crumble, and the landscape would turn to sand as the feeble remnants of humanity battled with makeshift firearms and dune-buggies.

But after 2 years of Obama and getting the hell out of (graduating) college, I began rethink things (or, really, actually think). I had started working, and my boss was a staunch Republican who stayed tuned in to conservative talk radio all day. Rush, Hannity, Beck. It sucked. But as time went on, either because I was actually opening up my mind to opposing ideas or because I was just going crazy from the paint fumes, I found myself agreeing with these talking heads on some points. Then the Republican primaries started up for the 2012 election, and I had decided to at least be informed about who was running.

All the candidates sounded average right away. They were all so similar on just about every issue, but there was one who always spoke just a little different than the others: Ron Paul. It seemed to me that whereas the other candidates were trying to sell me on them, Ron Paul seemed like he was trying to teach me something instead.

I decided to do a little research on my own. My three big issues at the time were medicinal cannabis (I'll admit it), the economy (I didn't enjoy painting), and the second Amendment. I stumbled upon a website, and unfortunately I can't remember the name, that compared public claims/ campaign platforms of the several Republican candidates with their actual voting records and then gave them a score based on their consistency. Ron Paul almost seemed like a saint compared to the others. I did a little more light digging on Ron Paul, (kind of) finding out what a libertarian is, and then settling on a reading list. I was still pretty skeptical of a lot of his ideas. No income tax? So many drastic spending cuts? Should we really bring home all of the troops? And what the hell is the Federal Reserve, anyway?

There were two books that I read that changed everything for me: Friedrich Hayek's The Road To Serfdom, and despite my irrational, ignorant disregard for the man during the previous presidential race, Ron Paul's The Revolution: A Manifesto. What's most important is that I actually started reading; not just skimming through chapters for the main points so I could regurgitate some quotes and ideas on my homework, but actually trying to educate myself. The Road To Serfdom helped me understand why my liberal self was not only completely wrong, but also a budding tyrant who would have eventually been forced to violate the human rights of my subjects for the "greater good." Hayek's book also introduced me to the philosophical basis for the modern leftist: "collectivism," or the subjugation of the individual for the sake of the group, and it's opposite: individualism.

The Revolution put into words everything I had felt was wrong with this country, and then gave a solution that would have given my previous self an aneurysm: more personal liberty and less government. For the first time ever, I understood that economic and personal liberties are inseparable and that we do not "gain" personal freedom by letting the government tax us more or by enacting such-and-such regulation.

More importantly I learned a little about the Federal Reserve and it's effects. As a result of that, I also learned that our country is broke. Completely broke, and heading for a terrible collapse. These two books jump-started my re-education and introduced me to libertarian thought. Ron Paul may have lost the election, but he at least got me to start thinking about the government in a different light - with a heavy skepticism.

More recently, as I delved deeper into libertarianism, I began to ask: why do some libertarians, in their endless pursuit to not only reduce the size of government but to eliminate it from most areas of our lives, make an exception for things like police forces, armies, and courts? It was logically inconsistent. But what's the alternative? Could there even be one? That was when I stumbled upon Murray Rothbard and bought his book, For A New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto.

Rothbard was unlike any other libertarian thinker I had read. He was relentless in his adherence to the libertarian non-aggression principle and private property rights, and by doing so exposed any government as unnecessary and counter-productive in its aims. Through Rothbard I had finally been exposed to libertarianism in its most logically consistent, purest form: anarcho-capitalism or just anarchism. For A New Liberty offered a glimpse of a society without government, based on non-aggression and private property rights. To me, one of Rothbard's most important points is that he refused to make a moral exception for the government's crimes. To Rothbard, Taxation is Theft, Conscription is Slavery, and War is Mass Murder. Wearing a uniform or waving a flag shouldn't resolve anyone of their sins.

So, as it stands I'm an anarchist, but still sometimes refer to myself as a "libertarian," as anarchism is libertarianism in its purest form. I'm obviously disregarding what most people consider the "classic" anarchism: "communist" anarchism, or anarcho-syndicalism, because the basis of it is collectivism, which, by its nature, necessitates hierarchy and aggression to ensure the rights of the group over the individual. Real anarchism can only exist within an individualist framework

But the point of this article wasn't entirely to simply muse about my own personal growth and intellectual development or poke fun at a younger, more naive version of myself (alright, a lot of it was), but it was also to highlight the fact that the libertarian/anarchist movement is about one thing right now: waking people up to the idea of liberty. Most of them simply don't know what it means.  Ron Paul said  that his presidential campaigns were a platform for the message of libertarianism. Freedom and truth appeal to everyone, even our philosophical opposites (they may throw a fit when you offer a differing opinion, but every once in a while one of them goes back and thinks about what you said to them). For me, Ron Paul planted the seed that helped me go from being a naive, irrational fascist who thought that freedom somehow comes from being governed, to knowing and loving the idea of liberty: freedom from being governed. Hopefully I'm able to do the same for someone else.

Feel free to leave a comment about how you "discovered" libertarianism for yourself! Or, if you're not a libertarian (or are a libertarian but are not an anarchist,) feel free to ask me any questions.

Related posts:
Recommended reading (click to purchase from Amazon.com):

<a href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/0140447571/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0140447571&linkCode=am2&tag=simpfactandpl-20&linkId=Y6CCMVWTKILLQ7EW"><img border="0" src="http://ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?_encoding=UTF8&ASIN=0140447571&Format=_SL250_&ID=AsinImage&MarketPlace=US&ServiceVersion=20070822&WS=1&tag=simpfactandpl-20" ></a><img src="http://ir-na.amazon-adsystem.com/e/ir?t=simpfactandpl-20&l=as2&o=1&a=0140447571" width="1" height="1" border="0" alt="" style="border:none !important; margin:0px !important;" />
by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels

<a href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/0226320553/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0226320553&linkCode=am2&tag=simpfactandpl-20&linkId=BYCKJL2XMCFFUWWJ"><img border="0" src="http://ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?_encoding=UTF8&ASIN=0226320553&Format=_SL250_&ID=AsinImage&MarketPlace=US&ServiceVersion=20070822&WS=1&tag=simpfactandpl-20" ></a><img src="http://ir-na.amazon-adsystem.com/e/ir?t=simpfactandpl-20&l=as2&o=1&a=0226320553" width="1" height="1" border="0" alt="" style="border:none !important; margin:0px !important;" />
by Friedrich Hayek

<a href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/0446537527/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=0446537527&linkCode=am2&tag=simpfactandpl-20&linkId=3CWZKBDGPQNI4UFW"><img border="0" src="http://ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?_encoding=UTF8&ASIN=0446537527&Format=_SL250_&ID=AsinImage&MarketPlace=US&ServiceVersion=20070822&WS=1&tag=simpfactandpl-20" ></a><img src="http://ir-na.amazon-adsystem.com/e/ir?t=simpfactandpl-20&l=as2&o=1&a=0446537527" width="1" height="1" border="0" alt="" style="border:none !important; margin:0px !important;" />
by Ron Paul

<a href="http://www.amazon.com/gp/offer-listing/1478280719/ref=as_li_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=1478280719&linkCode=am2&tag=simpfactandpl-20&linkId=EAUKYI4EU4ORUS3G"><img border="0" src="http://ws-na.amazon-adsystem.com/widgets/q?_encoding=UTF8&ASIN=1478280719&Format=_SL250_&ID=AsinImage&MarketPlace=US&ServiceVersion=20070822&WS=1&tag=simpfactandpl-20" ></a><img src="http://ir-na.amazon-adsystem.com/e/ir?t=simpfactandpl-20&l=as2&o=1&a=1478280719" width="1" height="1" border="0" alt="" style="border:none !important; margin:0px !important;" />
by Murray Rothbard


  1. I Think most of us new libertarians found liberty Through Ron Paul.
    Up until then I was just like you. A liberal statist Tyrant wanna be who made excuses for the crimes of government.

    when the Libs and Cons have their fingers on the trigger of weaponized government aimed at the party across the isle, they call it democracy. When Its aimed at themselves, they call it tyranny. How hypocritical.

    Once you realize that liberals and conservatives are two opposite ends of the same turd, it takes a lot of soul searching to no longer be a biased, morally inconsistent individual that's willing to direct and steer the tyranny of government through the misuse of the democratic process to cast privilege and prohibition on other non consenting adults.

  2. yup, same here, ex leftist (do other political directions exist in Europe apart from natonalist idiots), but I came across it all by the magic of Youtube :) simply saw a video with an interesting name in the related videos section, watched, was intrigued, spent a while watching other suggested clips, and then just googled anarcho-capitalism. YAY internet :)