Bill Clinton vs Bob Dole in 1996 was the first presidential election that I remember. It was during this campaign season that I first learned the phrase “the lesser of two evils.” My parents were typical conservative republicans and though they weren’t overly enthusiastic about Dole, they thought that his brand of evil was more tolerable than Clinton’s brand of evil.
Another concept I first learned during this election was the idea of a “single-issue voter.” Though the phrase wasn’t explicitly used, the reason Dole was thought to be a lesser evil than Clinton was his opposition to abortion. That alone was reason enough to support Dole regardless of his stance on other issues. In that time and up until the 2008 elections, I hadn’t thought about or formulated my own political opinions. I had more or less taken up the ideology that I was brought up with in my family. However, I do recall being less than satisfied with the idea of voting for the “lesser of two evils.”
Starting college in fall 2005, I slowly started leaning more liberal democrat with thoughts such as “everyone should get free healthcare” and that sort of thing. It was also during this time that I began to see the problems with the war on drugs. During primary season, a friend pointed out to me two candidates who were advocating for the complete legalization of marijuana – Ron Paul and Dennis Kucinich.
There was something about Ron Paul that drew me to him more so than Kucinich. He was candid and unafraid to voice unpopular opinions. As was true for so many others, his “Giuliani Moment,” was life changing for me, and opened my eyes to the immorality and criminality of US foreign policy. Those in power are constantly preaching that they are keeping us safe with their wars and foreign interventions. In reality with every bomb that is dropped, and every innocent person that is killed, the US is inciting hatred and provoking blowback.
Aside from the war issue, he was he only candidate who ever referred to the Federal Reserve. He was the sole voice speaking about monetary policy, and he explained how inflation and boom/bust cycles are not natural phenomena in an economy. Rather, they are a predictable result of central banking manipulation of the supply of money. His stances on war and on the Fed were the two greatest lessons I’ve ever learned, and started me down the path of fighting for liberty.
When Ron Paul eventually dropped out of the 2008 race, I was drawn to Barack Obama because he sounded a lot like Ron when it came to foreign policy. He was promising to end wars, bring troops home, rein in executive power to declare war, and close down Guantanamo. I let myself believe in the message of “Hope and Change,” and it was then a proud moment to pull the lever and cast my vote for Obama.
Midway through Obama’s first term, it was evident that he had made false promises. He either didn’t have the power to fulfill his promises, or he didn’t have the desire. Either way, it was during these years that I decided I wouldn’t get fooled again.
It was also during his first term that I began referring to myself as a libertarian. It was increasingly clear that government, especially big government, was the root cause of so many problems. My distrust of the state grew. Obama’s (and Hillary’s) Libyan War was another major turning point in my views on the US military. I read how Gaddafi’s regime was using weapons against the rebels that had been supplied by the US. I read how the rebels that the US was backing were comprised of jihadist fighters who were veterans of the US war in Iraq. How could the US be on the side of Al-Qaeda? Weren’t these the same people who flew planes into the WTC towers? Weren’t these the same people that the US had just lost 5,000 lives fighting against in Iraq and Afghanistan? Then after the US toppled Gaddafi, the Libyan government’s stockpile of weapons fell right into those jihadists’ hands. This played a direct role in the rise to power of Al-Nusra in Syria and in the creation of ISIS. Could the government really be this stupid? Or were they deliberate in their criminality? Regardless, it had become an institution that I feared more than cheered.
Aside from having my eyes opened to the ridiculous foreign policy of the US government, I was also coming to a more crystalline realization that domestic policy was equally farcical. In 2009, I began my first full time job after graduating college. I saw first-hand the problems associated with artificial government regulations, I was confronted with the concept of taxation as theft, and I began to see the problems associated with mandatory unionization of employees.
During the 2012 election, I became a part of the “Ron Paul or none at all” coalition. I was not going to be voting for the lesser of two evils. I donated to his campaign, passed out information on street corners, made the case for him on social media, and went to hear him speak when he come locally – dragging my parents along with me. During a Q&A session at a luncheon that I attended, a person asked him, “I find that I agree with you on virtually everything, what should I do to help bring about the changes that you speak about?” Ron’s answer was perfect. He said simply, “Do what you want to do. Do whatever makes you happy.”
As had become a staple of his speeches, it was not up to him to tell people what to do, nor was it the responsibility of government to make decisions in the lives of people. His advice was that if you’ve become a believer in the philosophy of freedom, the best thing you can do is to educate yourself. To read as much as possible. And, when confident in your knowledge and ability to refute those who would argue against freedom, to spread the ideas of liberty. I took that message to heart, and have been trying to follow that advice ever since.
Ron Paul’s GOP debate debate performances were nothing short of spectacular (see here, here, here, here, here, here, and here). When his campaign was finally over, it became the work of the millions he had inspired to assist him in carrying the torch for freedom. Reading was my priority. I consumed all the greats including Bastiat, Hazlitt, Hayek, Mises, Rothbard, Napolitano, and Woods. I read article after article on LewRockwell.com, Antiwar.com, Mises.org, and Fee.org. I simply could not get enough. It was like coming out of The Matrix.
In libertarian circles, there’s a joke that goes, “what’s the difference between a libertarian and an anarchist? About six months.” This became true for me. The more I read, the more I became convinced that the state is always a hindrance to human prosperity and an enemy of peace. It does not matter how the state is arranged or who is in power, everything that the state does is always a drain on wealth and on the productive capacities of free people.
Anarchy is a word that comes with negative connotations in the main stream. That anarchy has come to be synonymous with chaos is sad, and goes to show the ability of those in power to co-opt words and to skew language to their benefit. The true definition of anarchy is simply the lack of a ruling class. Anarcho-capitalism, the philosophy popularized by the great Murray Rothbard, is much wider in context. It is the philosophy of true and complete freedom in every aspect of life. Its guiding lessons include the non-aggression principle, property rights, and free market economics.
Every person has a right to their life, liberty, and justly acquired property. Aggression against another is never justified except in cases of self-defense, to achieve restitution, and in certain cases of retaliation. Economic resources are scarce, and as such, they should always be put toward their most efficient use as desired by the will of society.
That last point is often used as justification for central planning and state authority. How else would scarce resources be put to the best possible use? But this is a fallacy. The free market, comprised of the collective voluntary transactions and interactions between all individuals is the only way to effectively use Earth’s scarce resources. The collective knowledge of billions of free individuals will always be greater than the collective knowledge of a handful of central planners. The price and profit & loss systems that comprise free market economics show how resources will always be put toward the use that is valued most.
This newly acquired knowledge was liberating. Even so, as I began having discussions with people around me, I was still too frequently confronted with arguments that were difficult for me to refute. I knew the arguments I was being presented with were wrong, but I still lacked in ability to respond in a way that satisfied myself intellectually and in a way that could potentially change minds.
The “who would build the roads” argument was simple enough. Others, though; such as “we are the government” and “politicians represent us” were more difficult. The more I read, the more I was comfortable with responding to those arguments. Tom Woods’s podcast, The Tom Woods Show was another major contributing factor to my development, and I would be remiss were I not to give Dr. Woods his due.
Ron Paul ran as a strict constitutionalist, and that is a large part of what attracted me to him. In government schooling, I was taught how great and wise the founding fathers were in drafting the Constitution. That someone would be ridiculed and shunned in the way that Ron was for defending this supposedly revered document struck me.
I have become much more confident in responding to arguments against a stateless society that are presented to me. Politicians cannot truly be our representative, because what is representation? These people “represent” hundreds of thousands of individuals. If another individual and I hold opposing views, how can someone represent the both of us?
The entire premise of government authority is now like something from another planet. What right does 51% have to make laws that the 49% must follow? For that matter, even if every person in the world except one all agreed on a particular issue, what right do they have to tell the one how to live his life?
The questions that people will have when confronted with the ideas of a world without government will be many. While it will be increasingly difficult to answer every possible “what about this” scenario, it will always hold true that the market, the collective actions of millions of free-thinking and free-acting individuals, will be able to provide for any needs that arise.
The philosophy of anarcho-capitalism is so compelling because of its logical, economic, and moral consistency. It never requires one to follow up “I believe in freedom” with “but…” The point I always try to make when engaging people about these ideas is that I don’t want to force freedom and voluntarism on anyone. Ultimately, all I desire is to live with my family in a society free of coercion. I’d never try to force others into that society. If a group of people want to live in a community where they share everything collectively, and all wealth is evenly distributed, they should be free to do so. I only ask that these people do me the same courtesy and allow me to be free of state mandates and edicts.
While I will always be willing to accept smaller government, and a government more in line with the original desires of the Constitution, it has become clear that small, limited government cannot be the end game that is sought. It must be no government. No one should be given power to rule the lives of others. Lysander Spooner said this about the Constitution during the 19th century, “… it has either authorized such a government as we have had, or has been powerless to prevent it. In either case, it is unfit to exist.”