My Journey to Libertarianism

I grew up on a small farm.  My dad worked full time at a factory and also farmed.  My mom worked as a waitress and store clerk as far back as I can remember.  I was taught to work and study hard.  We were fairly independent compared to the average American, but very similar to our neighbors.  We cut and split wood to heat the house.  We had a large garden and canned food every fall.  We hunted and processed our own game.  We went to church most Sundays.  I attended a Lutheran parochial school through 8th grade.  Where I come from, crowds donate for a spaghetti supper, silent auction, etc. for friends, family or neighbors that run into bad times due to medical issues.  In reflection, it seems that my upbringing has quite a bit to do with my independent worldview.

My first presidential ballot went for Bob Dole.  Nice try huh?  I was sure I was a Republican since we were fiscally conservative, and I agreed that abortion was murder in the eyes of God.  I was 21 at the time and didn’t know much about politics.

In 2000 I voted for George W. Bush.  I feel ashamed now, but take solace in the belief that it didn’t really matter.  First because my individual vote was insignificant, but more so because I believe that it didn’t really matter who won.  After 9/11, I was swept up in pissed-off patriotism like a lot of people.  I was sure there were WMD’s.  I argued with my dad about the need to interfere in the Middle East.  I lost these arguments horribly.  When I really learned the facts I lost a lot of faith in the war hawks.  By 2004 I had started to question my place on the political spectrum.  I didn’t vote.

In the next few years my discussions with friends about current events started to become more challenging.  I was forced to research and justify my position.  After testing my convictions I was kind of in a limbo between the two parties.

In 2008,  some close and politically minded friends gave my wife and I a copy of Revolution: A Manifesto by Ron Paul.  I had seen a few things about Dr. Paul on the news, but didn’t know a whole lot.  The occasion for the gift was our wedding.  I read the book on the plane during our honeymoon and was blessed with two major life experiences at once.  Revolution lit a fire in my mind.  I started reading everything I could find about libertarian views.  In the November election I wrote in Ron Paul even though he was not officially on the ballot in my state.  My hope was that it might be reported that he got X number of write in votes.  No luck there, but I maintain that was the only vote that I have not wasted.

My wife and I had bought a house in 2007.  We knew the market was looking down, but were assured by the experts that it was only a bump in the road.  Financial advisors assured that large 401k contributions early would lead to a luxurious retirement.  By early 2009 we were both out of work, our 401k(s) had dropped 25%, and our house was quickly depreciating. Then we got to see Wall Street get a pass on their mistakes and misdeeds.  I consequently spent a lot of time studying economics.

What I have learned is frightening.  The value of the dollar has dropped 50% since 1985.  Thanks to excessive federal spending, the US dollar’s role as the world reserve currency is threatened.  Years of easy money policies from the Federal Reserve have punished savers and retired people.  Since Nixon took us off the gold standard in 1971, there has been no real check on public spending.  The rest of the world is basically pegged to the US dollar.  Everyone buys oil with dollars…or at least everyone who wants to keep our military out of their country does.  The Fed bankrolls our government and banks.  A private corporation creates money, more specifically, digits on a screen to buy bonds and securities.  Obviously this affects the interest rate and other sectors of the economy.  There is no such thing as a free market when the supply of money is manipulated by the few, and for the few.

On the philosophical side I have come to the belief that government is, at its core, merely a monopoly of force.  It is not right for me to demand, at gunpoint, a percentage of your pay.  It is no more right for a few million people to collectively demand a percentage of your pay under threat of imprisonment.  For more on that line of thought, see The Law by Frederic Bastiat.

Now this does not mean libertarians are callous to the downtrodden.  We maintain that private charity would be more efficient with the funds it receives.  Imagine if your taxes were cut in half.  Do you think you would be able to chip in for Grandma’s surgery, give extra to church or find a good charity to support?  Poverty in the US has stagnated since the LBJ declared war on poverty. A rising cause of poverty,  skyrocketing medical costs are an issue for another article.  Suffice it to say that where you find government intervention, you find dramatic price increases with little to show for it.  For example: energy, housing, finance, public education, and higher education.  Subsidization creates a greater demand, which then leads to an increase in the price.  Inflation is hardest on the poor, and unfortunately it is a mainstay of current economic planning.

In 2012 my wife and I were state and district delegates for the Republican Party.  We guessed Ron Paul did not have a chance to win, but were going to do our best to make sure he got as good a showing as possible.  Thankfully the Minnesota Republican party played fairly.  Paul secured 33 of 37 votes in Minnesota.  Many other state parties committed fraud in order to keep liberty minded delegates from advancing.

Of course Ron Paul ended up being marginalized by the Republican Party.  They would not tolerate someone who held such peaceful views to run for the position of killer in chief.  I did not vote.  This time it was not for apathy or lack of clarity on the contenders.  I refused to give my consent to the plan that either of those men have for our country.  I love this country, but the management leaves much to be desired.  I’m not sure it was worth giving up a couple Saturdays and an evening to sit in a meeting of a political party that I marginally agreed with.  Perhaps only for the experience to witness how illegitimate it all is.

Now in 2013, I’m a parent of two great kids with another on the way, and am greatly concerned about what kind of future they will have. At this point I am probably more on the anarchist end of the libertarian scale (Voluntaryist hits it pretty close ) and find I believe in less government than the doctor who got me thinking about all this in the first place.  The great thing is, there’s a lot of younger people that feel the same as I do, and that makes me smile in spite of the current trajectory of events.

  1. “On the philosophical side I have come to the belief that government is, at its core, merely a monopoly of force. It is not right for me to demand, at gunpoint, a percentage of your pay.”

    Presumably, then, private industry would take over (in some manner or another) and fill in the vacuum left by government and take care of the roads and bridges, build schools, maintain local municipalities etc., all with charitable or tithed funds? What happens when one decides not to pay? Is she “forced” than, to stay off the roads, and out of the schools? In other words, just what is your argument here? Is it just that currently there’s a monopoly on force, and that we should in effect spread that force around to private institutions?

    Government inefficiency aside, these things have to be paid for or we’re going to be forced into certain consequences. In other words how will there not be a system of force against those who choose not to pay no matter whether it’s the government or private institutions maintaining objects of public interest? Sure the consequences may be different, prison vs. no use of community objects, but what difference is there here? You could say that a choice not to pay is a choice not to use municipalities (and of course this has to be managed somehow), but honestly, I don’t see how many people would even have this choice. To those people that don’t have a choice given their social status, location, lack of resources, etc., they will in effect be forced to contribute at least some in order to function within this private utopia. So it seems you’re just exchanging one vacuous idea of force for another equally vacuous idea of force.

    • Shane said:

      Exactly, private industry would take over where it could. Speaking of municipalities, I have considered this to be a tough one for anarchism due to the lack of competition there would be in this area. I’m not opposed to having some kind of government at that level, and think full out anarcho-capitalism is an unlikely utopia. My main concern is not really at the lower level of government. They don’t wield much power. If our federal government followed the constitution I would still likely be ignorant of political philosophy and economics. At the same time I do think that things like roads, police, fire protection, education and regulation could be better handled in private hands. These organizations can decide what they will do when someone cannot pay. i imagine there could be a neighborhood charity for those who can’t afford heat and power…when tax rates are lower people tend to give more to charity.

      That quote is really only about force as far as taxes go. If my taxes went to water, sewer, garbage, roads, and national defense (not offense), I would probably be obsessively reading about a different subject. In a voluntary society I would not be forced to pay for services that I did not value. The main axiom of libertarianism is non-aggression. Defense of self and property is acceptable so force must follow there in some instances. Men are not angels. There would still be laws, and there would definitely be jails for violent people. For theft and fraud you can’t pay off… I don’t know. I’m not a legal theorist. I suppose it could be said that if you act in a way that is damaging to those around you, and do not make restitution, the range of choices available to you would diminish rapidly.

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