As a person that considers himself a libertarian, I see the biggest obstacle like-minded people to face is their own kind. You are never quite libertarian enough for the libertarian next to you, and that is what will keep us from creating significant change. I came to see this mostly as an outsider coming into the libertarian state of mind, or better put, realizing what I didn’t know I already believed in for so many years.
How many are out there are already libertarians and simply don’t know it yet? We need to come together in a better way and show them. But we need to first ditch the labels we so dearly hold onto. To put this in context, I’ll start by briefly documenting my slide toward the recognition that I was libertarian.
From Republican to Libertarian
A little more than 20 years ago, I remember being all revved up for W. I had been a life-long Republican, and there was no way I was voting for Al Gore! I remember talking to one of my co-workers, who flat out say “No way, dude!” Yeah, another Democrat. I get it, you wanna raise my taxes. He looked at me and smiled, and said he was a Libertarian.
A what? He even pulled out a little card and showed me. Now I am sitting there thinking this had to be some whacked out political movement of crazies… Whatever, anarchists or something. But he actually pressed me and started asking me some probing questions.
What do you think about gay marriage? In barely an instant, I said I really don’t care. He gave me a gotcha, as he reminded me the the Republican part and most of the Democrats were against it. Libertarians have never been against it.
He asked me if weed should be legal. Again, I really don’t care. I don’t get high, but toke up if you want. Again, a gotcha.
What about income taxes? Ah, I am a Republican! I want low income taxes! And yet another gotcha… why do we have income taxes at all? Read your constitution and see how it was enacted.
One question after another, and virtually everything he said was like a knife in my belief system. Corporatism, Crony Capitalism, Victimless Crime, Personal Freedom, and on and on. I became increasingly curious, and to this day he has no idea how that became a major turning point in my life.
I started to do research, and it all just added up. This made sense. But still, we live in a two party system, and in my mind at least the GOP was closer to this. I had to live in reality.
Not long after, another friend was in the car with me, and started talking about someone named Ayn Rand. Again, the conversation turned to libertarianism, and he insisted I read Atlas Shrugged and Fountainhead. I was increasingly curious, so I had to, and the parallels with what I was seeing in the world around me were monumental eye openers. Still, Republican was bette than Democrat in my head. George W did have my vote, but let me watch with a more cynical mind.
Throughout the Bush Administration, I only knew of two people that identified as libertarians, but my curiosity grew more and more. As I watched all of the Republicans hail the glories of the Patriot Act that would keep us safe, I did have that voice inside of me wondering what kind of doors this would open to government power in the future. No Child Left Behind had me wondering how the guys arguing for small government were making it bigger and more cumbersome. The war in Iraq had me wondering what might be behind the curtain as we wage all out war against a second rate dictator that was our buddy a few years prior. I was clearly on a slow slide to the free side.
I later watched the crash in 2008, and what brought it on. I researched deeply in who was behind Common Core, who wrote the ACA, what the effects of Dodd Frank were, and how Citizens United quite literally created a system that effectively allowed elected office for purchase. The Republicans were behind some, the Democrats behind others, and every one of these took something from the citizens. I came to see clearly that the GOP and DNS were little more than two sides of the same coin. Like so many others, I deregistered from the party, and re-registered as “Independent.”
Mitt Romney Sealed The Deal
I’ll admit that I begrudgingly voted for John McCain. I am not gonna lie. I could not stand him. But I had spent a large portion of my life living in a “democratic socialist” county in Europe, and watched it go down the drain. The words echoing from Obama’s speeches were so familiar to me. Don’t we understand the disaster unfolding throughout Europe? I thought what so many believe. Lesser of two evils, right?
But then after four years of Obama, all the GOP really needed to do was get someone up there that could articulate a case for personal freedom, and Obama would be history. That is when I watched the GOP eat its own. There were clearly some hopefuls that had grown out of the Tea Party, but it was all too clear that the fix was in. Although nobody in The United States seemed to feel any love for Mitt, the GOP was going to systematically eat its own in the primaries one by one in order to assure Mitt got that nomination. And when they saw Ron Paul had been a credible threat, I watched them change the primary rules at the convention to make sure nothing like that could happen again. Really? From that point, I was done with the duopoly.
OK, Gary Johnson got stumped on Aleppo, but that was not going to dissuade me.
The Flavors of Libertarianism
And so I get closer to the point of this article. Because by now, I am firmly planted in libertarianism, and no longer willing to choose between the lesser of two evils. So I read, and read, and read some more. The more I did, the more I saw how incredibly fractured this movement was. Sure, Johnson made a good showing, but the Libertarian party could never really get any ground unless people that are libertarian minded are actually part of an organized movement of sorts.
But whomever you speak with, you keep hearing the same thing. I am not a big “L” Libertarian, I am a small “l” libertarian. The next person over is a “classical liberal,” or a “constitutionalist,” or an “originalist,” a “left-leaning” or “right leaning” libertarian, an “anarcho-capitalist,” a “minarchist,” or any of the countless labels I could keep listing. People that lean libertarian seem to want to stake their claim in whichever faction is 100% in line with 100% of their beliefs. The problem is that this kind of absolutism will get us nowhere.
I am a small “l” libertarian
Yep, that i where my stake is. I will admit that I have huddled myself in that cave, unwilling to identify as a Big “L” Libertarian. But I need to change. As I read the Libertarian platform, I am not 100% in agreement with everything the party stands for.
Let’s take abortion. I have a really big problem wrapping my head around the topic. I cannot bring myself to make a declarative statement that I believe that there is a moment in time that aborting a child suddenly changes from personal choice to murder. I am not saying I am for it or against it. I am saying I simply do not know. I am entirely on the fence. I struggle with this, so I cannot take a definitive stand with a specific policy one way or the other.
Legalizing drugs is something that I have been getting comfortable with over the years. I am 100% in favor of decriminalization, but when it comes to legalization, I am not fully at a point in which I would say I am ok with someone buying meth off a rack at 7-11. However, I am extremely open to the discussion, and looking for convincing ideas.
I struggle with wide open borders. I don’t want a wall with a moat and a military perimeter, but I need convincing to feel comfortable that it would not at least lead to a period of economic disaster. Again, I am open to that discussion.
But when I look at the party platform on self-ownership, expression, privacy, victimless crime, parental rights, justice reform, death penalty, self defense, property rights, environment, government finance, taxation, free markets, education, defense, foreign policy, discrimination, etc. I am 100% on board, and that is quite a bit!
So when I consider that for years I was willing to call myself a Republican, even though I disagreed with a great deal of the party platform, why have I refused to call myself a big “L” Libertarian, because I am not comfortable with just a few items on their platform?
We Need to Come Together and Raise Our Voice
During this election season, that was primary on my mind, and I took a bit of action to get that started. I officially changed my voter registration from Independent to Libertarian. It was my first step in embracing another party that I do not completely agree with, but is ever so much closer to my beliefs than the GOP and DNC. After all, I am not defined by the the policies I disagree with.
So this is my call to anyone willing to read this far. If you call yourself a Classical Liberal, ask yourself if you are really that far off from the Libertarian party. If you are an Anarcho-capitalist, wouldn’t you you agree that supporting the Libertarians gets you a lot closer to where you want to be than the GOP or DNC?
The libertarian labels need to go, and we simply need to let the world know in simple terms what we all agree on.
What if the majority of us made such a decision, and we collectively had the human resources to get millions of Trump supporters and even Bernie supporters to ask the same questions I asked 20 years ago?
I can be done if we are willing to do it. It could be a new Tea Party, so long as we refuse to allow the duopoly to co-opt it.
I have to say I need more. I too am in the fence somewhere between the two crazy world’s.
Hi Michelle. That is really part of the problem. That people think there are two crazy worlds. If you really think about it, neither is based on personal freedom. Neither is actually based on our founding principles. If more of us start to wake up to this, GOOD change can actually happen for the vast majority of us.