How I Became A Libertarian
I’ve received several questions from readers in the past of how I became a libertarian.
As I talk about in my primary book, most people tend to form their political opinions from their parents. They either copy their parents, or they over-react to their parents and adopt the precise opposite opinions in an effort to not be like them.
In both cases, these are highly irrational, Societal Programming-based reasons to form opinions that are not conducive to long-term happiness. Political opinions, if you have them, should come from rational, dispassionate analysis, not from whatever feelings your family or social circle shoved into you when you were a child or in college.
That’s how I became a libertarian: analysis.
I was raised in a largely left-wing family in a left-wing part of the country (Portland, Oregon, USA). My parents at the time were mostly political moderates and had no strong opinions either way. My dad was a very moderate Democrat and my mom was a very moderate Republican. (Today they are both extreme left-wingers, bordering on outright socialist, but that evolution happened long after I moved out of the house.)
As such, I was not raised with any noticeable political influence either way, left or right.
When I was a teenager during the late 1980s, it was the “cool” thing among the teenage tough-guy subculture to be right-wing Republicans who loved Reagan, loved capitalism, hated the Russians, hated communism, and hated hippies. As a dumb kid who didn’t know any better, I fell into some of that. While I never self-identified as a “Republican,” I indeed self-identified as a “conservative” from age 19 until about age 26 or so.
I never really liked Republicans because they never seemed to have any new ideas. Moreover, they always were clearly statists and insiders. Even as a young, dumb kid I realized that political insiders wouldn’t be the ones you could rely on to actually reform anything. Reagan, George Bush Senior, Bob Dole, I never liked any of these guys despite the fact I disliked left-wingers a lot more.
So although I called myself a conservative, I voted for Ross Perot in the 1992 and 1996 presidential elections, mostly because I thought a businessman would make a better president than a politician, but I was still happy with Republicans getting elected over Democrats. I did things like listen to Rush Limbaugh on the radio frequently and found myself agreeing with most of what he said.
Around my late 20s, I slowly started to realize that Republicans and conservatives were completely and utterly full of shit. They would talk as if they wanted government to be smaller, but they clearly didn’t mean it.
I always disliked left-wingers since they were clearly insane. (You guys want to be less free and more socialist? Huh? A multi-trillion dollar a year government isn’t big enough for you and you want it even bigger? WTF?) Yet, at least the left seemed honest. They wanted bigger government, and their actions actually reflected that. I slowly started to realize that this was not the case with the right.
One day, when I was about 27(?) I gave a speech at my Toastmasters group regarding economics and politics. Afterwards, a woman came up to me and said, “Are you a libertarian? Everything you were saying was libertarian.”
I knew the word “libertarian” but didn’t know what it meant.
“Libertarian?” I said, “Aren’t those the guys who always run for office and lose every election?”
She laughed and said, “Often yeah, but I’m a part of the Libertarian Party and you should come to one of our meetings. Everything you said in your speech was 100% libertarian, down the line.”
I didn’t go to any of her meetings, but I thought hard about what she said, and immediately started researching. I read a few books (Ringer, Browne, Hayek, Hazlitt, etc) and started doing a lot of research on the internet (such as it was back then).
Most of I read, not all, but most, made sense. Unlike the Disney crap espoused by the left, the libertarian stuff I read actually matched real-world economics and history. Even better, unlike the right who were clearly liars, libertarians were actually serious about this stuff; they actually wanted government to be smaller instead of just jerking off about it and lying about it like the right.
I was super impressed. The more I read, the more it made sense.
She was right. I was never a real conservative. I was just an ignorant and confused libertarian.
The stuff I heard on the right got worse and worse. I once listened to Rush Limbaugh bitch and moan for ten minutes about how “these Republicans suck” and how Republicans always promise smaller government while giving us bigger government whenever we elect them. I nodded my head in agreement as I listened to him. But then he gave his answer to this problem. He said the solution to this was to vote for more Republicans.
What the hell?
I turned off the radio. That was the last time I ever listened to Rush Limbaugh. Or anyone like him.
Then came the nail in the coffin: George W. Bush. He ran on a platform of making government smaller and not spending taxpayer’s dollars on nation-building. Well, you how that worked out. He gleefully proceeded to do the exact opposite, becoming the biggest big-government president in American history, as well as launching multiple Roman-like wars that will probably never end. I still remember in 2002 (or 2003?) when his budget increased government spending by 24% and 80% of that had nothing to do with the war in Iraq or the war on terror. Under the Republican President Bush, government grew like it was on steroids.
What was the right’s response to this? “Yay! What a great president!” He was easily re-elected.
Right-wing conservatives LOVE big government. Every time they espouse small government, they’re lying to you. Every time.
I was not one of them. I never was. I’m a libertarian. By the early 2000’s I knew for sure.
That doesn’t mean there aren’t a lot of irrational weirdos in the libertarian world. There are. There are extreme anarchists with some really weird ideas. There are libertarians who worship cryptocurrency like it’s some kind of god. There are activist libertarians who actually think they can get a majority of voters to vote for them on a national level. (Ha! Stupid. Human beings hate small government. Libertarianism will never catch on.)
Sorting through all of this, I then identified what kind of libertarian I was. Anarcho-capitalists are the extreme libertarians who think we should have no government at all. I love these guys and sympathize. In my emotional heart, I am an anarcho-capitalist. I think that would not only be great, but doable in a high-tech, modern society. Regardless, it’s a utopian belief like communism. In the real world, if you waved a magic wand and made all governments disappear, the very next day humans beings would, unfortunately, start forming governments again. I hate that, but that’s how humans are.
So given that reality, that means I’m a minarchist libertarian. This means that I (reluctantly) believe government is fine provided you keep it as small as you can for as long as you can, while keeping it mostly local and decentralized. If you want to pay taxes to your local city so it can pay for roads and cops, I don’t love that system, but I’ll take it. But if you’re forced at gunpoint to pay for the health care of some lazy asshole who doesn’t want to get a job and who lives 2,000 miles away from you, now we have a very serious problem.
Today, the right-wing is even worse, giddily voting with excitement for Republican candidates who will clearly increase government spending if elected, like Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and many others. And of course, the left has lost its mind too… but like I said, the left has always been insane.
Libertarian means the government stays small (but not zero) and leaves you alone. Run your business any way you want, marry whomever you want, smoke whatever you want, pay only a tiny amount of taxes, buy your own shit (instead of relying on the low-quality services government provides), and live your life.
Nobody wants this of course, except for the tiny percentage (around 2-3%) of the population who are libertarians.
Which is fine. I stopped giving a shit a long time ago. 🙂
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