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.
- Libertarian Vs. Authoritarian: The Real History Of The Left/Right Paradigm
- Charity Over Welfare
- Socialism Is Incompatible With Liberty
- Economic Vs. Personal Freedoms
- Minimum Wage Laws Equal Fewer Jobs
by Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels
by Friedrich Hayek
by Ron Paul
by Murray Rothbard