Ask a Libertarian

Ask a Libertarian! Did you come to libertarianism from the Right or the Left?


Welcome to Ask a Libertarian with Reason's Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch. They are the authors of the new book The Declaration of Independents: How Libertarian Politics Can Fix What's Wrong With America.

Go to to purchase, read reviews, find event dates, and more.

On June 15, 2011 Gillespie and Welch used short, rapid-fire videos to answer dozens of reader questions submitted via email, Twitter, Facebook, and In this episode, they answer the question:

Did you come to libertarianism from the left or right? 

For the complete series, go to and's YouTube Channel at

Produced by Meredith Bragg, Jim Epstein, Josh Swain, with help from Katie Hooks, Kyle Blaine and Jack Gillespie.


NEXT: Ask a Libertarian: What's the libertarian take on religion?

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  1. First one, then the other.

    1. I’ll expand my original post – like anyone will read it…

      I came from a “mixed” family – a conservative, Republican father who came from poverty and found wealth by being a good worker and playing the stock market. A true ‘rags to riches’ story. My mother was always more on the left – a teacher and NEA member who is knee-jerk anti-war and pro-Democrat. So really, I’m a little bit of both.

      I was also the black sheep of the family – the kid who got into punk rock, drinking, girls, and drugs. The kind of kid who would battle it out with my parents and the teachers. I hate authority and still do.

      The Team Red/Team Blue has too much nannyism/paternalism to make me feel comfortable. Just leave me alone!

      1. Kinda sorta similar. Mom’s side= new deal democrats/university academic liberalism; dad’s side = evangelical christian tea partiers.

  2. Neither. I’ve always been pro-freedom, and that happened to include economic freedom as well, all from an early age. I always found the idea of “joining” a TEAM to be uncomfortable. I knew the group dynamics would annoy and disgust me, and I would be forced to conform to the group’s identity.

    No thanks, not ever.

  3. My family is conservative, so I imagine that probably influenced me, but I can remember being in middle school during the Bush/Dukakis campaign and not being very enthusiastic about either. Each seemed to have things I agreed with, to a limited extent. I found the package deals quite unsatisfactory, however.

  4. I’ve been all over, now edging into Spooner-style anarcho-capitalism.

    1. Read more Konkin…

      I find myself increasingly flirting with Konkin and the Agorists.

      1. I’ve read about the agorists on wikipedia, but I’m a little nervous they subscribe to the labor theory of value, which I’m inclined to think is bunk. I wanna read more Rothbard.

        1. Good point on the LToV. The one misgiving I have with Agorists. Although I like their vision for dissolving the state through gray markets and counter-economics.

          1. Yeah, Marx was big on LToV too.
            Me too, seems very practical.

  5. Sorry, but who gives a fuck about any of the questions you’ve chosen to answer.

    Let me submit this one to go along with the idiocy:
    Boxer, briefs, or ‘I’m a cheap-ass libertarian who never wears underwear’ ?

    1. Why are you still posting here? Your blog sucks. Go away.

      1. AA, why are you responding to me? You bore me. Please incif me.

    2. I do – I think 90% ofthem have been interesting with decent anwsers witha good amount of humor.

      So, that should answer your lame-ass question. But then you probably weren’t looking for an actual answer.

    3. Rather, stop fantasizing about Welch and Gillespie sans undergarments. They wouldn’t fuck you with Ariana Huffington’s dick.

      1. Hmm, I could tell you which one doesn’t wear any. I must be psychic?

  6. Actually, this was one of the few questions I found interesting. The answers were a little disappointing, but that’s not necessarily Matt and Nick’s fault.

    I came from the right. I sleep a lot better these days.

  7. I was raised a libertarian. So much for rebelling against the parents (although I’m the one who convinced my Pa that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are bad and that the police are not to be trusted).

  8. It’s ok Matt, you can laugh.

  9. I think most people come from the right (based on those I’ve spoken with, posts I’ve read, etc.)

    I personally came from the hard left. This happened when I pulled my head out of my ass after college and realized two things. First, the left wasn’t serious about being anti-war, pro-individual choice (in sex, drugs, faith, etc.), and anti-gov’t (sure seemed that way under Bush, but we found out after 2008 that the 2000-2008 left was not anti-gov’t, they were anti-Bush).

    In addition to that lesson, I had to actually get a job, and I was lucky enough to eventually land at a bank, working foreclosures. I learned a lot about the national systems of finance, real estate laws, etc. The basic economics are undeniable. My position, and beliefs, were wrong, and that was being shown to me every day, in every way. I sucked it up, admitted that I’d been stupid, and changed my views. Why more people cannot grasp this concent (that admitting you were wrong does not equal weakness), I’ll never understand.

    1. +1 for quality

    2. solidarity with you my man as I also work in the realm of RE finance.

      As for me, I guess it could be said that I came from the right. I grew up in a fairly traditional ‘pub family. Dad was a GOPer his whole life, still has a tendency to vote for whomever he feels is the empty GOP suit best positioned for the general election. I can’t crack him.

      But in spite of all that, I generally came to libertarianism through libertarianism. I was in ninth grade watching the third party debates on CSPAN in 1996 and first heard Harry Browne speak. From that moment on, I was a libertarian (although made the mistake of voting red a couple of times).

      1. Looked up Agorism, and it’s interesting. Thankfully, living in Texas, I have the opportunity to participate in the “grey” market all the time through my constant hiring of cheap, probably illegal labor.

      2. I read his campaign book from that campaign; that really healed me of some statist education.

  10. Came from a conservative family with an emphasis on capitalism. The libertarian philosophy was all there, it just needed to be sorted out and applies to all facets of politics not just the economic.

    1. Similar here. Previous generation was dirt poor and went from rags to upper middle class largely thru effort and self employment. I always felt beholden to a system that created that opportunity for them. I just didn’t understand the fundamentals until later when I took over the family business. John Stuart Mill kicked off the rest of the journey for me.

  11. I’ve been a libertarian as far back as I can remember having a political philosophy at all. I think I came to it just learning the usual stuff about the Revolution and the Constitution.

    I once thought that the libertarian wing of the GOP could become preeminent, making the GOP more of a libertarian party. But I stopped thinking that was likely decades ago. Just watching the RLC get abused by the party leadership is evidence enough that statism is the god of the GOP almost as much as it is the Democrats.

  12. The question presupposes some earlier involvement in politics, but I think I’m just genetically libertarian.

    The first libertarianish book I read was The Law, by Frederic Bastiat, which I got from some Goldwater Republicans that I knew. So in that sense I guess I came from the right.

  13. Phew. From the title I was afraid this one was going to be a bukakke video.

    1. It isn’t!?! And to think, I was looking forward to watching this when I got off of work. What a crock.

  14. Solidly from the left, raised by a buncha hippies. I was a Kennedy Democrat and possessed not one ounce of critical thought, until I worked with a libertarian who forced me to think about things, rather than just parrot what I heard on the tee-vee.

    Currently, I’m completing the journey from minarchist to anarcho-capitalist.

  15. I’ve always been a libertarian. My parents voted for Ed Clark in 1980 (Ronald Reagan was too much of a big government type for them), which was the first time I was aware of the party, but my dad was a small business owner who had nothing good to say about government at any level. Both of my grandfathers were what would euphemistically be called “individualists”.

    1. My wife was a liberal when we married, and for several years thereafter, despite my efforts to help her understand my philosophy. Eventually, just hearing Michael Badnarik and then Ron Paul often enough changed her mind.

  16. My libertarianism came from myself. I think.

    Meaning, I was exposed to hard right stuff as a kid, socon parents, listening to Rush every day, loathing Bill Clinton. But, I was also exposed to the general culture at large, and found the social tolerance promoted there more appealing.

    While I can’t help what I was exposed to, I think what sticks and what doesn’t is a matter of personal proclivity — the disdain for Clinton’s lawlessness, warmongering, and police state antics was what I got from my conservative upbringing; I got a disdain for racism, homophobia, etc. from my liberal culture and education.

    Richard Garriott helped a bit, in exploring in a pretty novel and immersive way (for the time) how a person who values Virtue can still oppose the coercive promotion of Virtue (and how coercion tends to end up making a mockery of the Virtue it sought to promote).

  17. I came mostly from the left. My parents were hardcore conservatives. My mom is an extreme religious conservative while my dad cared more about economics than social conservatism. I rebelled in college and started reading about communist stuff. That phase ended as soon as I read Emma Goldman’s interview with Lenin, where he denounced free speech as a “bourgeois value.” I moved on to anarchism and left-libertarianism, where I read a lot of Bakunin, Proudhon and Goldman. Finally I read The Ego and It’s Own by my namesake, which converted me to Individualist Anarchism and egoism, where I read Benjamin Tucker. Finally I read Rothbard which mostly changed my views on property. Now I’m pretty much an Anarcho-capitalist.

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