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How did you become a libertarian?

This topic contains 22 replies, has 22 voices, and was last updated by Scott Scott_Bartlett 9 months, 2 weeks ago.

  • #6681

    Assuming that you are a libertarian, I’m curious to know how each of you got to become a fan of liberty. Was it a book you read, a video you watched or were you just wired this way from the start?

    I’ll share my story:

    I grew up in Guatemala fairly center right but around senior year in High School I got really interested in reading and learning anything I could about the mafia during prohibition. Being born and raised in Guatemala the more I read about this the more it seemed eerily similar to what was happening with the war on drugs. Most of the literature on drug prohibition was libertarian, I got exposed to more libertarian readings on different issues and this coincided with me starting my Econ degree and well things went from there. It took me about 2 years to come to the realization that I was a libertarian and the “Ahhh” moment happened after reading “The Law”.

    Anyway, I’m curious how you guys got into these ideas?

  • #6683
    Joshua Ammons

    As a teenager, I had a few problems with the establishment. My family was right of center, and I agreed with some of what they had to say. I noticed from an early age that I liked some of what the left had to say, and I liked some of what the right had to say. Ultimately, I disliked more of what I heard than I liked from both of the political parties. It was really when I started to learn more about economics that I started to dive deeper into the ideas of classical liberalism. Learn Liberty and the Foundation for Economic Education sparked the flame of liberty in me, and I have been fanning it ever since.

  • #6723

    I was motivated to become politically active around the time of the Obamacare debate in 2010. I came of age politically during the financial crises and came to learn that the government ruins everything it touches. I felt the same way about the way the healthcare debate was unfolding. In college a friend and I went to a college republicans meeting and they were basically debating the whole time about how they needed to work harder to retain new members, but during the whole meeting and afterwards they never once introduced themselves to us, who were brand new members.

    The next day the same friend and I went out to a Students For Liberty meeting on campus, and then I was sucked in. I went to my first International Students For Liberty Conference a few months later where I picked up copies of The Law and Economics in One Lesson, and the rest was history!

  • #6739

    I first became interested in politics when I was in 9th grade during the 2008 election. As I learned more about the Republicans and the Democrats, I realized that I didn’t identify with either side. I disagreed with the Republicans on social issues and with Democrats on economics. I started talking to my parents about politics and they introduced me to the idea of libertarianism (I’m very lucky to have two libertarians for parents). I was really fascinated by the idea! I read books on libertarian ideas and attended programs put on by by the Foundation for Economic Education and the Charles Koch Institute. 8 years after I first became interested in politics and was introduced to the ideas of libertarianism, I’m so excited to be working at IHS!

  • #6762

    I always thought that government spending was way out of control. I never thought there was much difference between the democratic party or the gop. Both are doing a great job of wasting my tax dollars inappropriately. The democratic party is a little worse but not much. From 1992 until 2008 I had always voiced my disgust in the ballot box with a write in. In 2008 my brother in law told me to look up Ron Paul. I did and thought what’s not to like? So he was my write in in 2008. Then in 2012 I saw a gop debate with Gary Johnson. I realized that there really is a political party that has the right ideals. I am registered as a Republican so I can vote in primaries but I am a libertarian. It disgusts me that we are pigeon holed into the belief that there are only two choices.
    My uncle used to live in Nevada. He told me that in 1998 Hairless Reid didn’t lose reelection by less than 500 votes but in Nevada “None of these candidates” is on the ballot and nobody got over 8000 votes. I think none of these candidates should be on the ballot in all 50 states. Then perhaps people who don’t currently vote would be more likely to voice disgust by voting for nobody.

  • #6765

    Nidesh Acharya

    After I started to go to a program that was held in my hometown called ‘The last Thursdays, a talk on entrepreneurship’ organized by an organization, a think-tank called ‘Bikalpa an alternative’. I started to gather in the organization and participated in the periodical discussion programme called ‘Friday Discussion’. I read a dozens of book in that organization about liberty and as per the suggestion I started to watch videos on learn liberty channel. ‘Free your mind’ by an indian writer was my first book. Then I read The law by Bastiat and watched a documentary by Friedman called Free or Equal and read The road to serfdom by Hayek. That is how I became a libertarian.

  • #6766

    I had been a very apolitical person, like most of my fellow Americans, until my local High School opted to stop paying for buses as student transportation. Forced to find people to drive me to the school (which was located a decent distance away from my home), I ended up spending more time with one of my brother’s most prominent friends. This friend would oftentimes pick me up after school had ended, and, when he didn’t, I would usually end up walking to his house while waiting for another ride (his place was much closer to the school than mine). Conversations with this friend, who I now consider my best friend, revolved around current political issues. I do not have a fantastic memory, but I think that most of my responses to the current news essentially boiled down to confusion. Why does marijuana have to be illegal? If people don’t want to take marijuana, can’t they just choose to not take marijuana? Why do guns have to be the focus of attention? Wouldn’t it be just as bad if these criminals used homemade bombs instead? Although, when it came to economic issues, I leaned much more socialist (and was even a self-declared communist, recalling that Marx promised the freedom to fish one day and engineer the next as one wished), I slowly came to find that most arguments based on socialism could be done without government interference at all. Wouldn’t charity be just plain better than forced redistribution?

    It was about this time that I first picked up on even greater ethical issues at hand, here. Always partial to consequentialism, but never partial to collectvism, I found the idea of ethical egoism particular appealing. I found this idea well expressed in Anton LaVey’s Satanic Bible, with LaVey having taken much of his inspiration from Ayn Rand. While I’ve never been a particularly enthused fan of Rand myself, I can recognize the advancements she has made in philosophy, which has been so entrenched in utilitarian collective impartiality that those who offer egoist ideals are often dismissed as ‘amoral’ or given arguments with extremely obvious answers (at least, to any professional ethicist). For instance, one might ask why an ethical egoist would ever prevent the murder of a rival, but an easy answer comes from the idea of rule utilitarianism, which tells us that consequences may sometimes be better achieved by upholding principles (such as ‘Help prevent the murder of others’) than by attempting to analyze the consequences of individual acts. Regardless of these specific philosophical musings, my further investigation into ethical foundations, combined with my High School participation in a club called the Junior State of America (JSA), solidified by devotion to libertarianism. I cannot say that I fully endorse the ‘sacred’ rules of all my fellow libertarians, such as the Non-Aggression Principle, but I can say that I have enjoyed debating with others and endorsing libertarian viewpoints on a variety of issues.

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 4 months ago by Wyatt Gungnir.
  • #6791

    I was always a libertarian but did not know it tell I want to college and studied economics under a Missean. I remember one day we where disusing farm policy and I asked the professor if it was not the case that we needed farm subsidies. He explained that government subsides largely supported marginal farmers who should do something else, raised the price of food, and enriched millionaire farmers. I wondered what else I had been told about the government and the economy that was not true. Around that time I also discovered Reason magazine and my professor introduced me to FEE and The Freeman.

  • #6835

    I became a libertarian thinker (a European liberal) through teaching economics. It was a gradual thing. I am from Nebraska, so I was naturally a conservative. When I went to college, I was not bombarded with US liberal thought either (being in Nebraska). However, my boss (I worked in the library) was an adamant liberal and always said, “when you are young you are supposed to be liberal– a Democrat.” By nature, I rebelled against the first person to tell me how to think:)…even though I am sure my educators did so without me knowing it:( I am a bit of a contrarian because I like to think for myself. Always have been. Never liked U2 when all the kids liked it (I was raised in the 80s, college in the 90s…so I am old), I didn’t like Weezer until now:)…I like classic lit and sci-fi (very libertarian in my reading) and not the “latest” books. So…I have been naturally gravitating toward real freedom of life and markets over the past 25 years.

    I began teaching in the late 1990s and then began to experience “collective thought” and “soft education” first hand. I didn’t like it. I want to teach with a cognitive emphasis at the forefront, not self-actualization. Don’t get me wrong, I think self-actualization is important, but I don’t think one size fits all and I don’t think it should be at the expense of the cognitive process in education. Most of my peers were and are liberals, belong to the NEA (our education power union), and are very collective in their thinking. I am not.

    It was in about my 10th year of teaching that I was asked to teach economics. The teacher before was a coach, so you know where that went– it had zero students signed up (it is an elective). I said yes and, this coming year I have over 60 in microeconomics (3 sections) and over 40 in macroeconomics (2 sections). I teach for dual credit/honors too. Our average class size is (freshmen, sophomores, etc) is about 160, so we have grown! I share this because I teach the Austrian school a bit more– free markets, free choice, the Constitution. I have learned the most by researching, preppin for class, networking (the Council for Economic Education at UNL is amazing), and teaching it…the best way to learn, as they say:)

    I have evolved as a teacher and my students love our discussions and activities that are not the “norm”– the CNN type, you know? I like to ask kids how sweatshops could be good (yes, I use your Learnliberty video) and what make a good political leader (public choice economics). The kids like how we “turn it on its head” by not agreeing with mainstream and what CNN says…or the paper…or the NEA clones…or the consensus…the “norm”.

    I guess that sums it up. I became a libertarian over time by a transformation on my own. I don’t know why I did it. I don’t know how I got a hold of “Economics in One Lesson”, “The Law”, “The Thomas Sowell Reader”, “Road to Serfdom”, “Free to Choose”, “What it Means to be a Libertarian”, “The Libertarian Reader”, “The Making of Modern Economics”, and so forth (I could go on), but I did. I watch your videos daily. I subscribe to the programs. I love FEE.org, the Cato Institute, and Reason Magazine. And it all happened over time. I’m a lifelong learner of liberty and freedom. Sure, it drives my wife batty at times (she isn’t so open to discussion. A music major:).

    Thank you Learnliberty.org. You changed my life for the better. I feel it is a calling to help my students do so too.

  • #6861

    So many interesting stories! My story is much more boring – I went to college and read a ton. I read Bastiat, Hayek, Smith, Friedman, Marx, Lenin, Nozick, Rawls, etc… Classical Liberalism just made sense. To me Classical Liberalism should be uncontroversial – it is a philosophy that holds treating the individual with respect and dignity as its highest value. Any implications on the state (where libertarianism comes in) are just logical extensions of this primary value.

  • #6862

    So many interesting stories! My story is much more boring – I went to college and read a ton. I read Bastiat, Hayek, Smith, Friedman, Marx, Lenin, Nozick, Rawls, etc… Classical Liberalism just made sense. To me Classical Liberalism should be uncontroversial – it is a philosophy that holds treating the individual with respect and dignity as its highest value. Any implications on the state (where libertarianism comes in) are just logical extensions of this primary value.

  • #6932
    R. M.

    I first liked Socrates when I was a teenager. Then nothing for some time, although I can say I was a contrarian on some very important things…

    Then, during my first years of University (studying for something totally different) I also managed to find some time and read Steven Pinker’s “The blank Slate; The modern denial of human nature” (suggested by a close friend of mine – I’m also interested in physical anthropology, evolution, and stuff like that). He also suggested Thomas Sowell’s “A Conflict of Visions” (from which Piker was inspired to write his book).

    Because of my family background I’ve been an anti-communist… and this was another push to try to discover the anti-communist position… This pushed me into discovering and exploring US politics (I’m from somewhere in Europe), but I soon became disillusioned by both sides. Then I discovered *Ayn Rand*. Read most of her important non-fiction books. I also read “Anthem” and partially “The Fountainhead” (didn’t finish it because I watched the movie)…

    I still consider myself to be an Objectivist, although, Since when I read Rand I’ve also read a lot of libertarian stuff.

    I regularly listen to “Excursions into Libertarian Thought” podcast by G.H. Smith. (I stopped listening and following some “libertarian” individuals, – like TomWoods and the people at Mises.org – because of their connections and sympathies for white-supremacists, racists, bigots, and the Confederacy.)

    I obviously follow Learn Liberty on YT (first time commenting on this forum, though).

    • This reply was modified 1 year, 4 months ago by Rizvan R. M..
  • #7001

    My journey to libertarianism took quite a few twists and turns. For a long while I thought I was a Democrat. I was first woken up if you will by the Zeitgeist films. Once I learned what fractional Reserve banking was I was hooked. I advocated for a resource-based economy for about 3 or 4 months. I even went so far as to scheduled screenings at some local bars. They didn’t go over as well as I would have hoped. But at the same time that I received the Zeitgeist films I also received quite a few Alex Jones films. And over the course of two years I dove down that rabbit hole of fear. And ate it up. Thought I was a constitutionalist. It was one day while I was driving and listening to AM radio which somehow managed to pick up Alex Jones win free talk live came on after his show. They were discussing an issue with two 16 year old girls who we’re in a relationship and how they should deal with the statutory rape issue. I called in spouting off some nonsense about states rights and Ian set me straight. I started researching libertarianism volunteerism and anarchism and finally settled on anarchism. No anarcho-capitalism no anarcho socialism simply Black Flag anarchism. Hopefully not to be confused with black block anarchism. And that’s my story and I’m sticking to it.

  • #7218

    When I realized that I could be socially liberal and fiscally conservative. They didn’t have to be mutually exclusive.

    I knew I was a small government Republican. Big Ted Cruz fan (still am). But, a friend of mine introduced me to Rand Paul (who I liked, but didn’t know much about.) The more I learned about Rand, the more I realized that I was more in line with his views than Cruz’s (Still believe Cruz is a fantastic liberty lover and patriot). That’s when I realized that it’d definitely be more fitting to call myself a libertarian rather than a Republican. And with what’s going on in the current election, the nominee and the GOP establishment — the GOP is dead to me. Only a few principled conservatives left in the GOP (Mike Lee, Rand, Cruz).

  • #8111
    Free_Folk Leader

    I have always been a libertarian. I loved guns, I hated government and I loved individual liberty. When I moved to USA I learned that there is a word for it “libertarian” only then I cam across the work of Friedman, Hayek and Adam Smith. Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams more recently.

  • #8590

    I read “The Virtue of Selfishness”.

  • #8740

    I wind up in a state of serious self-reflection every time I see or hear this question. My journey was something like this:

    1. First came Stossel. Both his earlier books as well as some of his ABC material was what first opened my eyes to the fact that there was an alternative to the political dichotomy that already exists.

    2. Then came The Advocates. The World’s Smallest Political Quiz isn’t the most accurate quiz ever, but the Nolan chart element was at least useful enough for me to gauge how I drifted from being an authoritarian centrist to Libertarian. Quiz2d.com was also a great resource at the time.

    3. Ron Paul’s campaign in 2008 was part of why I started changing my mind on a variety of issues, such as foreign policy or making me aware of what the Federal Reserve even was and why it was so controversial. But in the fall of 2008 I started to notice that I was starting to become far more radical than even his supporters were.

    4. I was really persuaded by the material that a lot of policy organizations were putting out – especially when I realized how much of it was simply analyzing data that was already public record (such as spending per public school student vs PISA scores). ReasonTV had launched their YouTube channel around the same time frame (this was all still happening in 2008) and The Drew Carey Project really caught my attention.

    The very first episode (about private toll roads) really got me thinking about how the main difference between government and market provision of goods is that with markets, you pay for what you use and use what you pay for (charity being a perfectly okay exception).

    5. My biggest intellectual influence when it comes to the views I have now would probably have to be David D. Friedman. This webbed chapter of his argument for market law really blew my mind. The same is true of this post by Robert P. Murphy about a similar question.

    Now: Two things have happened over the last several years for me. I’ve become more certain we could do away with government altogether and end up with much better results. But I’ve also become more convinced that that’s not what I should argue for.

    What I’m interested in today is taking a panarchist approach to policy (eliminating government influence without doing away with it all at once) and in activities that reduce the personal impact of government regardless of who’s in charge.

    I’ve been particularly amazed at the work of groups like Defense Distributed, or the way Uber has taken on taxi cartels, or how Napster and BitTorrent have brought zero-marginal cost distribution of goods to the mainstream. These all flip the dispersed cost/concentrated benefits issue that has allowed special interests to grow the size of government.

    Learn Liberty has been on my radar ever since I saw an ad for it while it was in Beta. I’ve enjoyed a ton of the videos that have been put out, and now that Dave Rubin has done interviews of the professors featured, I feel compelled to actually use this project to it’s fullest.

  • #8914

    The day I got out of high school I also received a letter called “draft notice”. After returning from my enslavement (Korea 1955) I was on my way to becoming “Libertarian” (notice capital “L” — it would be many more years before I could hold that title using a lower case “l”; many more yet before I could wear the title “Anarchy” — capital “A” :-] ). Looking back I think I had always been individualist — I just hadn’t learned the term, or what it meant.

    Last time I participated in what they like to call “election” (I now see them as bread-and-circus presentations) was 1964 — well over a half century ago. Spent the entire 1964 summer break from teaching working my heart out on behalf of Barry Goldwater. That “learned me”. I think that was the last year of the “poll tax” in the place they’re calling “Texas”.

    Later I met Harry Browne in Houston at the signing of his new book, “How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World“. You can google pdf free renditions online. My eyes began to open widely.

    This has been a slow, sometimes arduous journey. And lonely — until the internet came along. Sam

  • #9000

    I was a Berniebot entering college, but I always had some latent antiauthoritarian attitudes that contradicted with that mindset. I attended meetings for both the College Democrats and Students for Liberty. The VP of the SFL chapter got me into reading the Conquest of Bread by Kropotkin and I became an anarchist real quick. I started reading a bunch of other stuff and now I’m not strictly an anarchocommunust although I’m still very fond of it, but I detached myself from some leftist attitudes like supporting authoritarian leftist governments and supporting government funded social programs.

  • #9005

    My family was conservative when I was growing up, so more-or-less republican, but when we saw the militaristic/invasive direction the party was taking, we didn’t feel like things were right. I consider myself a conservative libertarian. Didn’t like Johnson so I didn’t vote for him, but the political theory of libertarianism is still what I believe in.

  • #9022


    How did I become Libertarian? It is really difficult to pin point one specific event that evolved my philosophical thought. As a child living in a moderate crime area of low income African Americans and Mexican Americans I did not have many positive influences. All I had was a few friends and my mother. I was raised in a single parent household to a Mother addicted to crack. It was not until I got older and began to understand that the government subsidized her drug abuse in the form of food stamps, CEDA, and section 8. These governmental programs created a dependency in many minorities, and paid the users of said programs to fail. The failure was the lack of independence and dignity they lost threw the use of such programs. Thomas Sowell, Walter E. Williams and Milton Friedman are the first people I have heard use the term libertarian. From those people I begin to search for the meaning of the term and the origins, because the way they advocated for less government was something I have never heard many of my peers speak about. I am now what some would call a anarcho-capitalist as Rothbard and Mises happening to be my two biggest influences of my adult life. There is much more I could explain, but if you want to know more I am always an open book.

  • #9408

    I was born free in Zimbabwe, Southern Africa where today freedom has become a privilege of only a few. From my upbringing I inherited freedom of thought. A prime motivator was my father who was a “free talker” and I remember that he would defend the defenceless often citing freedom as the prime source of human progress. He would talk to me as an equal as a child which sometimes made him a bit hard to understand but I caught up and inherited a taste for free-thinking.

    • This reply was modified 9 months, 3 weeks ago by Martin Martin_Chibanda. Reason: Grammar
  • #9473

    Looking back at my youth, my family taught me individuality, respect, and tolerance towards others. They also taught me to be kind and charitable with others. In many ways, I feel that I was taught many classic liberal principles. Where my awakening to libertarianism started was during my high school years. A worked on a living history farm in Southern California, where one of the owner’s sons was a fellow classmate of mine and a Civil War reenactor. He was a member of a Confederate unit and invited me to join his group.

    After joining this Confederate unit, my close friends criticized me and accused me of supporting slavery. However, while I heard other spectators at our events accusing fellow Confederate reenactors with similar criticisms, I listened to their educated replies. Much of what was taught on those reenactor battlefields went against the traditional narratives that I had been taught in school. As a result, I started to research and study American history independently.

    Meanwhile, I traveled to Korea and did some missionary work for a while. Then I worked in Hollywood for a couple years. I joined the Navy for a 10 year run and finished my last two years on the USS Constitution in Boston. My extensive years of independent study of American and then naval history helped to me to earn the title and role as the ship’s command historian. Quickly, I discovered that many of my junior sailors had little to no real education regarding American history and/or little understanding regarding the founding of the free and independent States. Most of them had never even read the U.S. Constitution, which disappointed me since all of them had sworn to defend it from all enemies foreign and domestic. Many of my sailors thought I had a degree in history and were all surprised when I told them that nearly all my knowledge was based on my self-study. By this point, I had started college and had taken some classes. But after my experience on the USS Constitution, I decided to finish my bachelors degree in history.

    During my studies regarding the War Between the States, as it ought to be called, I discovered Thomas J. DiLorenzo’s two books on Abraham Lincoln. His economic analysis and insight regarding the real Lincoln finally settled many questions that I had regarding the dominant narrative of the war. It was through DiLorenzo that I came aware of the Mises Institute, and then Learn Liberty. I had been studying history through my classical liberal understanding, but really didn’t realize I was a libertarian until I discovered Austrian economics. The pieces have finally come all together, as I continue to educate myself and others.

    Currently, I worked in Washington State in an alternative high school that helps students earn their GED. I have the freedom to teach our students history, economics, civics, and government through a classical liberal lens. They are exposed to Austrian economics and taught to be critical thinkers. I often use Learn Liberty videos as a tool in my efforts to help these students awaken to classical liberal principles. Now I am looking at furthering my education and a masters in economics. I am happy to be a part of this community of liberty loving individuals.

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