How I Became a Libertarian

On the magazine's 50th birthday, Reason staffers share their philosophical origin stories.



Joanna Andreasson

Editor's note: Reason's December issue—an extra-long celebration of 50 years of free minds and free markets—is on its way to subscribers as we type. To accompany that commemorative edition and kick off our golden anniversary, Reason staff writers were asked to share their libertarian "origin stories." Their responses are below.

Want to receive early access to magazine content like the 50th anniversary issue in the future? Subscribe here!

Reason's 50th anniversary

Objectivism: The Gateway Drug

Katherine Mangu-Ward

If it weren't for Ayn Rand, I might not exist at all.

The (semi-apocryphal) story goes like this: It was the early 1970s in Florida. My mom had recently finished reading The Fountainhead when she met my dad, an architecture student. Rand had—perhaps for the first time—made the profession seem sexy and dangerous, so my mom agreed to a date.

Fast forward to me at age 15, growing up surrounded by good liberals in a suburb of Washington, D.C. My mom gave me a copy of the book, intending it as little more than a historical curiosity. It was a move she has since come to deeply regret. What followed was a summer of voracious reading of Rand's oeuvre—which was at the time my only exposure to ethics, aesthetics, metaphysics, or political theory—then a couple of years as a rather insufferable teenage Objectivist.

On my first day as an undergrad, I came across an Objectivist study group and immediately signed up. What I didn't know was that it was essentially a front group, with the goal of introducing students like me to a wider slate of political thinkers. Their evil scheme worked, and I quickly left the ranks of the orthodox Objectivists in favor of German Romanticism, the Scottish Enlightenment, and Austrian economics. I picked up a copy of Reason magazine for the first time a year or two later, and the rest is history.

I no longer call myself an Objectivist, but it's no easy task to rouse a fairly complacent kid to care about the world of ideas. Rand did it for me, and she's still doing it for thousands of people every year.

Big Brother Made Me a Libertarian

Nick Gillespie

Big brother is literally the reason I'm not just a libertarian but a Reason employee. My brother John, who is four years older than me, discovered Reason in the bookstore at Rutgers University (coincidentally, Rutgers is the undergraduate alma mater of Milton Friedman, whose old dorm served as the headquarters for the economics department and whose top floors were condemned as unsafe for many years).

John was in college between 1978 and 1981 and started sending the mag to me. What a time! The September '78 issue featured a cover story on "France's Philosophical Superstars" that praised Jacques Lacan, a renegade psychologist whom I would later encounter in grad school as a darling of the post-structuralist left. A February '81 story about the Love Canal environmental disaster in upstate New York exposed the government, not private industry, as the culprit, completely reversing the mainstream narrative. In a period that was long on apocalypticism, Reason was describing a world of free expression and experiments in living, of truth and optimism, of belief in the abilities of regular people and super-geniuses to not only solve all the problems of the world but have fun doing it.

By the time I started college in the fall of '81, I was a subscriber and had started calling myself a libertarian. After working at music, movie, and teen magazines for a few years in Manhattan, I went to grad school for literary and cultural studies. Michel Foucault (whose first American gig was teaching at University at Buffalo, from where I took my doctorate) had kind words for and clear sympathies with Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, and Reason Contributing Editor Thomas Szasz, but even still, the experience showed me I didn't want to live in such an intellectually constipated and conformist space as academia.

When Reason ran an ad for an assistant editor I applied, partly on the strength of interviews with everyone from Jerry Mathers, who played the title character on Leave It To Beaver, to Ozzy Osbourne, who played a satanic, bat-biting rock star. I got the job, and, well, here I am, 25 years later. Unlike Winston Smith, who had to learn to love Big Brother, I've never been alienated from my big brother. But my gratitude to him for stamping my passport into an ever-expanding universe of "free minds and free markets" grows with each day.

Losing Showed Me the Value of Tolerance

Scott Shackford

Though I identified as a liberal for much of my early adulthood, I kept company with libertarians throughout my journalism career. The first publisher who hired me right out of college was a libertarian (and a Reason donor), although the newspaper itself was a reliably liberal alternative weekly.

In 2002 I found myself working at a small California daily owned by Freedom Communications, a now-defunct media chain founded by noted libertarian R.C. Hoiles. There were no purity tests for a news editor like myself, but the opinion pages were reliably focused on libertarian responses to pressing news issues. I was resistant but constantly exposed to libertarian ideas.

I took a break from journalism in 2004 to try to make it into television writing. While entrenched in low-level reality show post-production work, I was also surrounded by fellow liberals heavily invested in preventing President George W. Bush's re-election. As a gay man, I watched as the Republican Party made me and people like me the villains that summer and fall, using fear of same-sex marriage to get out the vote. I held my nose and voted for John Kerry (even when I was a liberal, I rarely had much respect for the Democratic Party's flag-bearers).

Kerry lost, Hollywood was crushed (my workplace the day after the election was as silent as a library), and I ended up crawling back to my old job at the newspaper. But it left me with a realization: I thought I needed to "win" the election and control the government so that I could use the power to get what I wanted. Didn't it logically follow that if the "other side" won, they should use the power to do the same?

That logic would mean that I would be treated as a second-class citizen whenever people who opposed gay rights were in charge. I found that untenable. And then I slowly began to understand that in order to convince conservatives not to use the power of the government against me, I had to agree not to do the same to them. That recognition became the bedrock of my own libertarian transformation.

My libertarianism comes from a deep place of humility. I don't want to use the government to control how other people pursue their own happiness. I ask others to afford me the same consideration.

Zig-Zagging Past Guns and Pot

Jesse Walker

I first heard the word libertarian in 1980. Someone had erected a big "Ed Clark for President" sign alongside the 15-501 Bypass, and my family drove past it regularly. My 10-year-old self had heard of Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan and John Anderson, but I didn't know who this Clark guy was, so I asked my father (a Carter man) about him.

"He's with the Libertarian Party," Dad told me.

"What's that?" I asked.

"You know how the far right loves guns?" He affected a southern drawl even more pronounced than the one he grew up with: "You'll get mah GUN from mah COLD, DEAD fingers!" Normal voice again: "And the far left, they love pot." Now he switched to an obnoxious-hippie David Crosby/Cheech and Chong tone: "I want my mariWAna, MAAANNNNN. I want my mariWAna."

"Um, OK," I said.

"Well," he concluded, "the Libertarian Party is for both." I'd like to report that at this moment Boy Jesse shouted "Cool!" and declared himself a libertarian, but that actually took a few more years.

As I grew more interested in politics in my teens, my anti-war, anti-authoritarian, hyper-tolerant outlook led me to the left. This was an anarchistic Whole Earth Catalog kind of left that at that point seemed to be fading away, but it was quite definitely the left. It wasn't until I started reading economics in my last year of high school that I realized that radically freer markets didn't have to mean mass poverty or immutable corporate hierarchies. (Quite the opposite.)

I read a variety of explicitly libertarian texts, from The Machinery of Freedom to Illuminatus!, and that helped seal the deal. And then, of course, there was the near-complete set of Reason back issues that I found in my college library my freshman year.

My thinking has evolved in all sorts of zig-zaggy ways since then, but I'm still some sort of libertarian. I never really got into either guns or marijuana, though. As best as I can remember, it's been about a decade since I last shot at a target or smoked any pot. If you ever think I've deviated from the correct line in some way, you can blame those lapses.

Thank God for Reason's Bastard Children

CJ Ciaramella

It's not quite accurate to say Reason saved my political soul, but one of its bastard children did.

As a student at the University of Oregon, I had dabbled in leftist politics, but my interactions with actual campus leftists quickly convinced me I wanted nothing to do with them. So I was skeptical but intrigued when the editor of a student libertarian magazine invited me to write for it.

The Oregon Commentator (RIP) had started in the '80s as a red-meat conservative mag, but by the time I came along, it had dropped most of its social conservatism. The magazine's tagline was "Free Minds, Free Markets, Free Beer," and it had a daily blog full of snark and news. It was irreverent, frequently ridiculous, but also capable of strong reporting on subjects other media ignored. Sound familiar?

As a writer for the Commentator I began covering the University of Oregon student senate, and my anti-government leanings began to increase at a startling rate. Nothing turns you into a libertarian faster than watching a room full of 20-year-olds manage a $12 million annual budget, all of it collected through mandatory student fees.

In the context of university politics, libertarianism meant we were opposed to spending gobs of money to send student senators to conferences in Hawaii, and in favor of free speech and debate. Years before the phrase "social justice warrior" became a cliché, the university was a petri dish for the sort of illiberal campus activism that now makes national headlines.

There was a copy of Choice: The Best of Reason in the magazine office that I would thumb through while skipping class or waiting for drunk staffers to file stories. Reading Reason showed me that the petty authoritarians I saw on campus were part of the larger society. It also showed me there was a coherent ideology beyond dead-end outrage politics and the two-party consensus that government power must be checked, but only when the other side is in charge.

And it was through Reason that I discovered Radley Balko's reporting, which profoundly influenced my views on the criminal justice system and the sort of journalism I wanted to do.

I eventually left college to join the booming newspaper industry (sorry, Mom and Dad), but I had a framework for looking at the wider world, thanks in no small part to Reason and one of its boozy offspring.

Slowly Losing My Republican Roots

Zuri Davis

When I was younger, I read a Time Kids profile of then–Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. From that moment I decided I wanted to work in the White House under a GOP administration. This and other influences led me to become a die-hard young Republican.

I was reeling in emotions after Mitt Romney's election loss to Barack Obama in 2012 when I was introduced to the libertarians at my college. Seeing as I previously believed that libertarians only wanted to smoke weed and walk around naked, my new friends shattered my biases. They found common ground with me and slowly began to challenge my beliefs on interventionist foreign policy, the death penalty, and the drug war, and they educated me on issues like occupational licensing, criminal justice reform, and constitutional privacy around the time of Edward Snowden's National Security Administration leaks. I was also influenced by a campus visit from whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg during my freshman year.

I eventually became annoyed that I was the least knowledgeable person in the room. I began conducting research so that I could better participate in discussions and defend my beliefs; this led me to Reason.

Things significantly changed when I encountered Frédéric Bastiat's "The Law" and Barry Goldwater's Conscience of a Conservative. I still had a few of my strong Republican roots at the time. But after reading those works, it occurred to me that the "freedom" rhetoric I embraced as a Republican did not translate consistently to policy. This became even more apparent during the 2016 election, as I watched people I once respected beg for more government in the name of security, racial identity, and vague anti-leftism.

These experiences solidified my transition to libertarianism. Because of them, I hope to always be a consistent champion of smaller government and a freer society for all.

A More Consistent Liberalism

Jacob Sullum

As a student at Cornell in the mid-1980s, I was annoyed by leftish activists who hissed during politically incorrect movie scenes, circulated petitions urging the stockpiling of cyanide pills in case of nuclear war, and built ersatz shantytowns to protest the university's investments in companies with ties to South Africa. I therefore eagerly enrolled in political historian Isaac Kramnick's course on "Liberalism and Its Critics" during my sophomore year, thinking it would cover rebuttals to the ideological orthodoxy that prevailed on campus.

The class was, of course, about a different sort of liberalism, one that I somehow had not encountered until that point. To my surprise, I found myself identifying not with the critics (people like Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud) but with the liberals (people like John Locke, Adam Smith, and John Stuart Mill). I previously had thought of myself as a moderate, since I did not feel comfortable on the left or right. But I began to discern a thread of consistency running through my political instincts, something that was sorely lacking in the perspectives conventionally described as "liberal" and "conservative," which seemed like weird hodgepodges of arbitrarily selected positions.

Consistency, it seemed to me, was important, because politics should be based on moral principles, which don't mean much if they are discarded whenever they prove inconvenient. Taking that idea seriously sometimes required me to abandon positions to which I had a strong emotional attachment. I struggled with myself to justify, for instance, government support for space exploration and bans on private forms of racial and religious discrimination.

After graduating, I worked as a newspaper reporter in my hometown, Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, where I picked up my first copy of Reason at a newsstand. The magazine and the authors it mentioned continued my education in classical liberalism.

While I was reading F.A. Hayek, Milton Friedman, and Ayn Rand, I was also covering local government. It is hard to say which was the bigger push toward libertarianism. I realized that politics gives people of limited ability the power to forcibly interfere with the lives of their fellow citizens, and I concluded that it was best to limit that power as much as possible.

From Hillbilly Socialist to Rootless Cosmopolitan

Ronald Bailey

In 1972, I voted for George McGovern. As an earnest 18-year-old at the University of Virginia, I was pushed toward progressive, even socialist, ideals by the prevalent rhetoric and activism against the Vietnam War and in favor of civil rights for black Americans (not to mention the expanding sexual freedom and exuberant recreational drug use). Additionally, growing up poor in Appalachia made me intellectually susceptible to assertions that the federal government could win a war on poverty.

Fortunately, I had signed up for Economics 1 taught by Professor Kenneth Elzinga. While I did well in the class, I intensely disliked its policy implications. Free markets work better than intelligently designed, well-intentioned government programs at achieving social goods? Impossible! With the casual arrogance of youth, I decided to take more economics classes and prove to myself that the free market paradigm of social and political progress was wrong.

In search of an alternative theory, I took several courses from Marxist professors and studied such lefty classics as Paul Sweezy's The Theory of Capitalist Development and William Hinton's Fanshen: A Documentary of Revolution in a Chinese Village. I even read most of Karl Marx's Das Kapital. Studying philosophy, I found myself attracted to the liberal political and epistemological thinking of John Locke, David Hume, and, of course, John Stuart Mill. At the same time, I found the deductive lucubrations of Immanuel Kant and Georg Hegel implausible.

I eventually double-majored in economics and philosophy, and that combination led me ineluctably toward libertarian conclusions. In 1975, Professor Laurence Moss introduced me to such Austrian economists as Carl Menger, Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk, Ludwig von Mises, and Friedrich Hayek. Reading von Böhm-Bawerk's devastating review of Das Kapital, "Karl Marx and the close of his system, a criticism," ended any residual interest I had in Marxism.

I ended up writing a long paper critiquing Mises' assertion that economic theory consists solely of a priori propositions. On the other hand, I was persuaded by Hayek's empirical argument that it is through undirected social and political experimentation that some societies hit upon institutions that enable human flourishing. Those liberal institutions include free markets, private property, free speech, religious toleration, and the rule of law. Liberal capitalism is the only system that has made it possible for billions of people to rise above humanity's natural state of abject poverty and violent ignorance.

Much against my initial inclinations, by 1975 I had become and remain a self-conscious libertarian.

Trump Turned Me Into a Libertarian

Joe Setyon

As a young Christian conservative, there was a time when I didn't much care for libertarians, particularly those running for president. Sure, they might have some good ideas, but in my mind, they were siphoning votes away from solid Republican candidates. Plus, why did they have to be so stubborn? Maybe more Americans would support them if they moderated their stances on illegal immigration, gay marriage, abortion, and war.

So I stayed conservative—and a diehard one at that. Though I wasn't old enough to vote until 2014, I was a big supporter of traditionalists such as Mike Huckabee in 2008 and Rick Santorum in 2012.

Then came the 2016 election, and everything changed. I wasn't going to support Donald Trump—he made true conservatives look terrible with his giant ego, crude language, and endless controversies. Instead, I flip-flopped between Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz.

I wasn't alone. For months, many prominent conservatives—politicians, pundits, and columnists—battled against the reality star. But soon Trump was the only one left, and I watched my fellow conservatives coalesce around their new leader.

I stopped being a conservative because I saw the true motives behind the movement. Right-wing commentators and media outlets knew they could make big bucks by jumping on the Trump Train, and lawmakers realized they could benefit politically from defending the president. They didn't really care about conservative policies; they were terrified of becoming irrelevant.

Disillusioned, I started searching for an authentic alternative. Say what you will about libertarians, but they don't lie or change their loyalties to make people like them. Once I started listening to what they had to say, I realized I actually agreed with a lot of it. If we really want to cut government spending, we need to be less willing to go to war at the drop of a hat. And if we want the government out of our wallets, we should live and let live on gay marriage as well. I'll never stop being pro-life, but on most other issues, I think the government should stay out.

So in a way, I can thank Trump for helping to turn me into a libertarian.

I Was Always a Libertarian

Peter Suderman

To be honest, I am not quite certain when I became a libertarian. Was it when George W. Bush launched an ill-advised war with no clear objectives against a country that had not attacked the United States? Was it during the financial crisis and the ensuing bailouts? Was it the first time I was forced to remove my shoes at a Transportation Security Administration checkpoint? Or was it much earlier, growing up in a deeply conservative small town, where it often seemed as if community and conformity were emphasized over individual idiosyncrasies and achievements?

Perhaps it happened the first time I looked up the word on Wikipedia—and followed that by reading Milton Friedman and Friedrich Hayek. (Eventually, I discovered Reason.)

It's not that the precise moment has strayed from my memory. It's that I don't think it really exists.

While in college, I was as annoyed by conservative social dogma as by liberal groupthink. I tried calling myself both a conservative and a liberal at times, but neither really fit. Team sports bored me. So did partisan politics. Conventional left and right political ideologies seemed stifling and incoherent. Whatever I was, it was something else.

I suspect I have a hard time identifying exactly when and how I became a libertarian because I never really became one. Although some of my particular opinions about politics and policy evolved (as they continue to evolve today), what happened wasn't really a transformation or a shift. Instead, it was an act of self-discovery. I was an individualist, a skeptic, an anti-authoritarian who despised violence and valued mutual consent. I was more focused on building the future than preserving the past. A libertarian, I came to realize, is what I always was.

Thank You, New York City, for Making Me a Capitalist for Life

Todd Krainin

I'm tempted to say that because our political beliefs are deeply shaped by our genes, a few fortunately placed strands of DNA predisposed me toward individualism at conception. But if I had a decisive libertarian moment, it came 13 years post-insemination, when the New York City Department of Education unintentionally convinced me of the value of free markets and consumer choice.

Based on nothing more than my home address, I was zoned for one of the most violent schools in the city. Hillcrest High boasts such notable alumni as Aaron Alexis (class of '97), the perpetrator of the Navy Yard mass shooting that took a dozen lives in 2013, and Fran Drescher (class of '75), whose voice could mortally wound a man at 10 paces.

I can joke about it now. But back in the mid-'80s, the idea of me, a sensitive teenager, spending four years at an institution affectionately known as Rikers Island Prep, was unthinkable. Anxiety about my future inevitably led to my first ideas about politics. Citizens, I realized, were allowed to choose their own toothpaste, their own car, and just about everything else—but for some strange reason, education was too important to be left to us.

I recognized this as unfair and I wanted no part of it. Instead of going to Hillcrest, I became determined to attend an elite public magnet school. To that end, my parents generously provided me with a private tutor and a summer at a fancy theater camp. Along with some hard work, I won entry to an arts school on Manhattan's posh Upper West Side.

For every kid who got into one of New York's four "specialized" public schools, administrators told us, 25 others did not. The unlucky masses, most of whom didn't have private tutors and theater camps, were assigned a school of the city's choosing. I was part of an enviable few, and I was never allowed to forget it.

If my public high school experience wasn't enough to make me libertarian, a family trip to Berlin clinched the deal. After spending a week in the cosmopolitan west half of the city, I crossed Checkpoint Charlie in the summer of '87 and found life in communist Germany as bleak, as gray, and as interminable as a New York City public education.

That was enough for me. Two years before the Berlin Wall fell, I was already a capitalist for life.

The Old White Man Who Led Me to Liberty

Shikha Dalmia

Yes, it began with Ayn Rand.

I read her in high school in India, where I grew up. Her heady message that my life belonged to me, not the society or state, gave me the strength to question the stultifying demands and arbitrary conventions of the world around me. But it also bred alienation from it.

A lovely elderly Southern white gentleman, John Calhoun Merrill, sowed the seeds of a rapprochement after I landed in America. He was the journalism professor who taught media ethics at Louisiana State University. A libertarian himself, he sensed that this off-the-boat foreigner was actually a natural fit for his "tribe." But I sorely needed an education, and he was about to retire. So he unloaded his library, showering me with the works of other great, white, male thinkers: John Locke, John Stuart Mill, Joseph Schumpeter, Karl Popper—and F.A. Hayek.

If Rand's normative individualism, with its injunction to judge and be judged, bred righteous censoriousness, Hayek's methodological individualism, which sought to understand ordinary human behavior on its own terms, cured it. Methodological individualism meant using individual behavior (the micro) as the central analytic window into the broader economy and culture (the macro), rather than vice versa. In other words, it involved examining individual action in light of broader socio-cultural incentives in order to understand its inner rationality, not setting up a lofty, asocial, ahistorical external standard of rationality and trying to hold individuals to it, as in Rand.

Two of Hayek's works were particularly eye-opening for me. His article "The Use of Knowledge in Society," an abstract work with the sex appeal of octogenarians in a geriatric ward, was at one level an analysis of the central problem of centrally planned economies—namely, that without a price mechanism, planners couldn't coordinate the dispersed knowledge of far-flung economic actors. At another level, however, it was a celebration, contra Rand, of ordinary schmucks hustling their very particular knowledge of "time and place" into a living.

Meanwhile, Hayek's book The Road to Serfdom developed with precision and power how government coercion in the economic realm devolves into all-out tyranny. It was a warning against socialism. But it also applies to democratic capitalist polities that trample individual liberty to achieve collectivist ends, whether liberal (banning God and guns) or conservative (banning drugs, immigrants, and sex work).

Those insights help me daily. So it started with Rand but it has ended with Hayek. At least so far.

A Conspiracy Against the State

Brian Doherty

The seeds of my libertarianism can be found in the science fiction/conspiracy trilogy Illuminatus! by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson. One of the specific purposes of that work, according to Wilson, was to do to the state what Voltaire did to the church—that is, reduce it to an object of contempt for all thoughtful people.

From how that book blew my mind and inspired me, through a series of connections I cannot be precisely certain of—I was just 12 years old at the time—I wound up mail ordering a copy of the Principia Discordia, the founding religious document of the Discordian Church discussed in Illuminatus! I tracked down this volume in the rich, fascinating, and frightening catalog of the bookseller Loompanics. Afterward I delved deeper into its offerings of forbidden or hated ideas, eventually ordering a copy of Henry Hazlitt's Economics in One Lesson. That book's version of economics matched the ethical conclusion that felt undeniable to me after reading Illuminatus!: that shaping the human social order primarily by granting one set of people working under an institutional cover the poorly restricted right to rob, assault, and kill others at their will seemed like a bad idea.

From there I became interested in exploring alternatives in which people got to do what they wanted with their lives and property as long as they were not directly harming others' lives and property. Over the next few years I read Mises, Hayek, and Rothbard, who suggested that the free exchange of human effort and property might be the best way to approximate a world that met most people's desires and needs and increased human wealth. That made sense to me both intellectually and emotionally.

That reading behind me, when I met some congenial and hilarious people manning a booth for the University of Florida College Libertarians in the autumn of 1987, I was primed to want to go even deeper into their intellectual and social world. The personal affinity and access—necessary in an age before all words ever written or said were available on a magic box on your desk—cemented my growing appreciation of the literature and mentality of libertarianism.

A Boring Evolution

Robby Soave

I was born on a seasteading platform. My mother was a noted Austrian economist and my father was the CEO of a private militia.

Just kidding. My story is a lot more boring than that. I was raised in a Republican household by parents with socially liberal tendencies, and after I went to college I discovered there was a word for that. My college years overlapped with the rise of Ron Paul and the birth of Students for Liberty (check out my feature story on the group's founding in this month's print edition), which helped me meet other libertarians, one of whom told me about this neat little magazine called Reason.

Economics Showed Me Where I Belong

Stephanie Slade

For years I identified reluctantly as a moderate Republican. It never felt quite right. Supportive of gay marriage recognition and concerned with protecting the environment, I really wasn't a conservative. But as a pro-lifer who favored a dramatic reduction in the size and scope of government, I sure wasn't a liberal, either. Even moderate was a misnomer, and I knew it—if anything, my views straddled the mushy middle. But there didn't seem to be a word for that.

Two experiences changed my perspective. First was studying economics in college. In class, we learned to carefully graph out key concepts of the discipline, which often crystallized some point I had until then only vaguely grasped. I saw that free trade leads to both consumer and producer surplus—the actual creation of new value in society. I saw that some government interventions—taxes on goods and services, say—capture a slice of that value and transfer it to the state. And I saw that many government interventions—imposing a price floor such as a minimum wage, for example—result in a glaring triangle marked "deadweight loss," a reference to the value no one gets to enjoy as a result of the policy.

I left the University of Florida pretty well convinced of the ability of free markets and solid property rights to efficiently solve most problems in the economic sphere. But it wasn't until I attended a summer seminar hosted by the Institute for Humane Studies that I discovered there was an entire political worldview built out of the insights I had begun to acquire while doing problem sets in college.

It didn't take long for me to realize that arguments anathema to most Republicans—for legalizing drugs and prostitution, for opening the border, for reining in America's presence overseas—flowed from lessons contained in my Principles of Micro and Public Choice Econ textbooks. I also became ever-more-acutely disappointed in how willing the GOP was to sell out its alleged principles and accept bigger government whenever it seemed to be in the party's short-term political interests. For the first time, I found that I wasn't alone in holding an idiosyncratic mix of far-left and far-right positions. Libertarianism offered a rich intellectual tradition from which to learn and with which to identify. Finally, I had a home.

NEXT: Why You Are Not a Conservative

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  1. I think I’ve always been a libertarian – growing up as one of the youngest siblings in a very large family and regularly getting picked on by older brothers and sisters taught me an appreciation for keeping your hands to yourself, keeping your nose out of other people’s business and the principle of de gustibus non est disputandum.

  2. I lean libertarian. Came here to read a libertarian publication. Instead, I find an apologia for many aspects socialism written by people pushing the progressive agenda as their fundamental mission. This site caters exclusively to the progressive narrative, only its authors lie to themselves that they are pro liberty, and cover it with false equivalence.
    Fuck off, Reason staff.
    I’m gonna hold to my beliefs and process in spite of, not because of, your ridiculously disingenuous representation of the brand.
    Keep being woke, bitches.

    1. So why don’t you tell us all how you arrived at your libertarian viewpoint.

      1. I’d like him to actually spell out what ‘proggie” positions Reason writers take.

    2. I find it hilarious that when a Democrat occupies the White House Reason is accuse of being a conservative rag, and when a Republican occupies the White House Reason is accused of being a leftist rag.

      That says more about the accusers than about Reason.

      1. To me, that shows they are doing it right!

        It’s a reflection of my own personal experience: my lefty friends think I’m a right wing guy who happens to be pro-drugs, while my conservative friends think I’m a radical leftist. My independent friends think I’m hopeless cynical about all things government. (They are closest to correct, LOL.)

      2. I’ve been visiting this site since January, so no basis for comparison.
        But let’s leave the current administration out of it.
        Does Reason not consistently:
        Race bait?
        Decry cuts to social welfare?
        Vilify Russia?
        Defend corporate censorship?
        Excuse or endorse the heckler’s veto and classification of hate speech?
        Push open borders, usually using a “noble savage” and “white man’s burden” type argument?
        Decry tax cuts?
        Lie via omission?
        Everything is presented through a progressive lens, even if mealy mouthed opposition is raised (almost always with a caveat of false equivalence). It’s their pathos – emotionalism, appeals to authority, condescension, groupthink.

        I don’t like Rs, especially progressive Rs, but the Ds are right out. Ds are totalitarian, and if you don’t think progressivism has been winning just look at how the entertainment and corporate world behaves.
        Libertarian people on other sites have helped me clarify my views, but I’ve always leaned libertarian. My first vote for president was the L candidate. With the way Reason and the LP are pushing things, that’s unlikely to happen again.

        1. Libertarian people on other sites have helped me clarify my views,

          Such as?

          What are your views? You have a lot of contempt for Reason, fine, but what do you stand for?

          1. Charles Tips, Charlie Fortin, Rob Weiss, John Cate, Mark Anthony Canty, Michael McFadden, etc.

            My beliefs are closer to the “do not unto others” than the “do unto others” from the other article. Generally letting other people do as they will, so long as accommodations are not forced on others, and they can suffer the consequences of their choices. I’m patriotic/nationalist and think foreign policy should be determined by strategic interest – and foreign policy includes immigration policy. Nobody has a right to come here, though I generally like immigrants and diversity. The problem is when no standards are set and multiculturalism, rather than melting-pot-ism, is enforced. “America first” should always be our assumption about government, as it is its role.
            Above all else, reality and rationality must be the basis of our worldview. Not fantasy, though also not without ambition.

            1. Rob Weiss the TV producer? Huh?

              Generally letting other people do as they will,

              Great! I agree. But then you say:

              Nobody has a right to come here

              From my point of view, these two statements are contradictory. If the general view should be people ought to be left alone to do as they will, what if those same people choose to migrate to a different country? Why shouldn’t they be left alone to do as they will in that instance too?

              I’m not trying to be argumentative, I’m honestly trying to understand how you reconcile this apparent discrepancy.

              1. Citizens and residents are different than foreign people. I believe in countries, thus not all people are the same.
                I think valuing people in the abstract is ridiculous and misanthropic.
                I value people based on proximity; family, friends, associates, neighbors, etc mean more to me than an imaginary human (abstract, as in I don’t have experience of them) does.
                I have extensive experience with illegal immigrants (Pablo, Lorena, Carlito, Dunia, Mariano, Vonderson, Cesar, Paco, etc) good, bad, and neutral.
                While I like many of them personally, illegal immigration creates problems. It cost my company multiple contracts. Lorena has been here 30 years and barely speaks English. That’s not good. A friend got arrested for possession, and i reached out to a lawyer who’d ensure he wouldn’t be deported.
                But those are real people, and despite the harm some have caused I value them to varying degrees.
                Abstractly, other immigrants are real as well – but policy can’t be based on anecdotes and exceptions.
                Unlimited immigration, without integration, will disintegrate the character of the country. All previous waves of immigrants strived to be American, and went through shit to achieve it (our own style of hazing, if you will). But with our narrative pushing balkanization, we have to reassess our approach.

                1. Our economic conditions are not healthy, or sustainable, and we have the dominant public faction pushing an anti-American identity.
                  If we want to avoid totalitarianism, the prospects of Americans must be higher priority than the plight of foreign nationals

                  1. And not TV producer Rob Weiss (maybe Weis), at least so far as I know. Think he’s Canadian

                    1. Correction: Rob Weir

                2. I think valuing people in the abstract is ridiculous and misanthropic.
                  I value people based on proximity; family, friends, associates, neighbors, etc mean more to me than an imaginary human (abstract, as in I don’t have experience of them) does.

                  I understand the valuing bit based on proximity and personal relationship. If my neighbor were hurting, I would be much more likely to help him, than if I saw some anonymous plea on the Internet or on TV. Because I know my neighbor, and I don’t know random anonymous goobers.

                  Where I think we disagree, is that I don’t think a person’s rights should be respected based on how much I value the person. I’ll be more compassionate to my neighbor than to random strangers, but in terms of natural rights, both my neighbor’s rights and random strangers’ rights are the same, and a commitment to liberty compels me to support both with equal vigor.

                  This is why I continually say my support for open borders has nothing to do with compassion for immigrants. It does not. They are (mostly) strangers to me, and it is not much of my concern whether they succeed or fail. If they succeed, then great for them. If they fail, then that is on them. In neither case should they be raiding my wallet. It is instead about a consistent defense of their liberty.

                  1. Fair enough.
                    I, personally, believe in the right of self defense. That right extends to nations. It is the government’s, as vested by this nation’s citizens, right and duty to protect our boundaries.
                    Whether one is a 7′ foot tall soldier covered in blood or one is a 5′ peasant woman toting 5 kids behind her, all are invaders if they don’t receive sanction prior to entering.
                    Freedom of movement does not allow me to violate your personal space, and it does not supersede the existence of nations.
                    Freedom of movement can only exist internationally, not internationally. Thus requires either anarchy or a one world government.

        2. When Obama was in the White House people constantly accused Reason of conservative bias.

          Likewise when Bush II was president the comments accused Reason of catering to leftists.

          Partisans don’t like it when Reason criticizes their leader.

          1. I’m skeptical that their criticisms of Obama were quite as zealous, but I don’t know for myself, just inference based on their current coverage.

            1. Obama wasn’t a boisterous buffoon who started a major trade war and declared war on immigrants. So Reason didn’t criticize him for those things. But they were plenty critical of his continued war on Muslims and his fucking up of the health care system. There were other things, but I can’t really think of them off the top of my head.

              I will say that Reason is trying way to hard to cater to gays in some very unlibertarian ways, by supporting government force when it benefits the LGBQWhatTheFuckEver community.

              But otherwise they tend to stick to Free Minds and Free Markets, regardless of who is in power. Which really pisses off people who don’t like it when their guy is criticized.

              1. So Obama was “cool”
                Despite the fact that he waged war on domestic industry…

                1. So Obama was “cool”
                  Despite the fact that he waged war on domestic industry…

                  Um, no. Calling Trump a boisterous buffoon does not equal calling Obama cool. Just as disagreeing with Trump on immigration does not equal support for open borders, and opposing his trade war does not equal defense of the status quo.

                  Your comment is exactly what I was talking about. Criticism of Dear Leader is interpreted as support for his enemies. And you accuse me of binary thinking…

              2. …they were plenty critical of his continued war on Muslims and his fucking up of the health care system. There were other things, but I can’t really think of them off the top of my head.

                Off the top of my head they were plenty critical of the Obama administration for:

                1. Continuing domestic mass surveillance, particularly after the Snowden leaks
                2. IRS targeting of “Tea Party” groups
                3. The mis-handling of Benghazi (blaming it on an idiotic anti-Muslim video, being a quisling on free speech in general)
                4. His “war on whistle-blowers”
                5. Continuing the drug war despite admitting to smoking pot and even doing coke in his youth
                6. Going after journalists (James Rosen in particular, also seizing phone records of AP reporters)

                I’m sure there were plenty more, but you get the idea.

                1. I’m sure there were plenty more, but you get the idea.

                  Oh yeah, let’s not forget “you didn’t build that,” the “Stimulus Bill” that didn’t stimulate anything other than Paul Krugman’s nethers, and his constant push for gun control every time he had a fresh pile of corpses to use as a handy soap box.

              3. Does “Reason” support government force to help the gays? or only a few writers? Shackford doesn’t seem “to cater to gays in very unlibertarian ways”…at least nothing that I can think of off the top of my head. Neither does it seem like Doherty or Sollum do either.

          2. I dunno man, there were a lot of people accusing Reason of covering for the Left during the O years. I was there and was one of them.

            The accusations of “You’re right wing” became pretty hollow and died off ~2014 as I recall.

        3. Race bait?

          If there is a questionable issue of racism enshrined by law, I see no problem in pointing it out. Reason also comments on the adverse effects of affirmative action.

          Decry cuts to social welfare?

          I’ll be in the minority here, but how it’s done is just as important as the thing itself. Getting rid of Social Security tomorrow would lead to chaos and even more government as a response. Not to mention I find the extreme focus on only welfare spending by libertarians suspect, as if that were the only case of government theft.

          Vilify Russia?

          In many respects, the vilification of Russia also brings to task the US meddling in the affairs of other countries. Unfortunately there is little transparency within government so we can judge the actual threat for ourselves. Or have you forgotten about the Ukraine?

          Defend corporate censorship?

          I see the actions of Facebook and the like regularly criticized. Questioning the wisdom of government involvement is hardly a tacit endorsement of censorship.

          Excuse or endorse the heckler’s veto and classification of hate speech?

          Heckler’s veto is also known as free speech (or do you support “free speech zones”). Hate speech is more of a social conversation about cultural norms. I see no reason why that should be off-limits to libertarians.

          1. Push open borders, usually using a “noble savage” and “white man’s burden” type argument?

            There is actually a strong economic argument for allowing labor the same degree of mobility as capital, or you mark labor as serfs tied to the land. Albeit government could probably push for reciprocity more than it does, and I am miffed free trade agreements never includes labor.

            Decry tax cuts?

            Again, how it is done is important. I mean cutting all of my taxes but none of yours is technically a tax cut.

            Lie via omission?

            Ya don’t say?

            As libertarians are not imbued with selflessness and incorruptibility as a hallmark, I fully expect libertarianism to be manipulated just so to reflect one’s personal prejudices.

        4. “Does Reason not consistently:

          Your questions,My answers

          Race bait? No, and I defy you to quote a single example of such
          Decry cuts to social welfare? No, and I defy you to quote a single example of such
          Vilify Russia? I am not sure what Russia has done that deserves any high praise
          Defend corporate censorship? Still struggling to think of a single example. Are you speaking of censor ship “of” or “by” corporations?
          Excuse or endorse the heckler’s veto and classification of hate speech? No, and I defy you to quote a single example of such
          Push open borders, usually using a “noble savage” and “white man’s burden” type argument? Actually a more open immigration policy has always been a major plank in the platform of the Libertarian Party and an essential tenet of libertarian thought. Also, I challenge you to produce a single example of a Reason article that uses ‘a “noble savage” and “white man’s burden” type argument’.
          Decry tax cuts? No, what they have consistently decried is overemphasis on tax cuts instead of actually reducing spending in any meaningful way.
          Lie via omission? No, and I defy you to quote a single example of such

          1. Contd

            Everything is presented through a progressive lens, I really don’t think you know what any of this means. You are pretty clearly a social conservative and to you actual libertarianism appears to be ultra permissive just as to socialists it appears to be fascism.

            1. I don’t know what magazine you’ve been reading Isaac, but Nardz is dead right on every single point.

      3. I find it hilarious that when a Democrat occupies the White House Reason is accuse of being a conservative rag, and when a Republican occupies the White House Reason is accused of being a leftist rag.

        By who? The commenters?

        Can you recall John ever saying that Reason was being too conservative during the Obama years? Me neither. Too liberal? Constantly.

        And Democrats ALWAYS accuse Reason of being too conservative. No matter who is in office.

        1. Yes, the commenters. There are always going to be consistent people who’ve been around the site commenting for years. And some of those people are very consistent in a left-wing or right-wing ideology. But, the administration apologists (then and now) are usually much louder than the chorus of people singing amen. Because the people who agree with the articles don’t feel the need to follow up with apoplectic rants about how Reason is a bunch of commies/nazis. Most of the Trump fans here haven’t been posting to Reason longer than 2-3 years. And after the next democrat is elected and Reason writes articles about how f’ed their policies are, these Trump fans will lose interest and go somewhere else.

          And Republicans ALWAYS accuse Reason of being too liberal. No matter who is in office.

    3. I think its funny that off Reason, people are referring others to Reason but they recommend going directly to the comments first.

      1. Makes sense. We’re pretty dang smrat here.

        1. I am so smart…. smrt…I mean smart.

  3. True libertarians love Trump! Reason is a bunch of leftists because they don’t love Trump! MAGA!

    1. See, that’s the problem.
      You see it as either or, black and white.
      There is a difference between not loving Trump and going full blown TDS.
      There is a difference between supporting Trump, generally or particularly, and loving him.
      Not shitting on Trump or pointing out deranged attacks gets one called a cultist. Being open minded or undecided on policies that don’t align with libertarian dogma gets one called a cultist. Pointing out the difference between authoritarian and totalitarian gets one called a cultist.
      Groupthink is shitting on Trump. That’s not my style.

      1. There is a natural anti-authoritarian bent to libertarianism, though. I would expect Reason, or any libertarian publication really, to be especially critical of the powers-that-be who happen to be in charge at the time.

        OF COURSE Trump isn’t going to get the benefit of the doubt. NONE OF THEM should get the benefit of the doubt.

        1. There may be an anti-authoritarian bent, but only so much as it’s useful to further totalitarian interests.
          Authoritarian = you must do right
          Totalitarian = you must do right, and you must believe right

      2. What I see is a bunch of partisans shouting down anyone who disagrees with their Dear Leader. If you’re not in lockstep with Trump then you hate America. It’s really fucking sad that PBP is more libertarian than most of the voices here.

        1. It’s really fucking sad that PBP is more libertarian than most of the voices here.

          How much more? 8% more?

          Let’s not get carried away here.

        2. PBP is more libertarian than most of the voices here.
          Hahahahahahahahaha?. whew. Oh wow, apparently anything left of the Clintons is libertarian.

      3. You’re a whiny little girl.

        Libertarians should be people you’d like to have a beer and a bull session with, not yammering children.

    2. True libertarians love things that further libertarian aims–like deregulation, tax cuts, non-interference based civil rights actions.

      True libertarians don’t let themselves get sucked into cults of personality, for or against.

      And if you’re committed to that all or nothing view, you’re part of the cult.

      Sarc, you’re part of the cult. You said this–

      “It’s really fucking sad that PBP is more libertarian than most of the voices here.”

      You seem to be in agreement with our most deranged lefties and trolls more often than not. You need to put the Trump down, step back, and take a good hard look at yourself.

      Principles, sarc, not principals.

  4. You’re all Republicans who love pot! Or maybe Democrats who don’t want to spend us into oblivion.

  5. I’m strictly a 100% cultural libertarian as I don’t understand how markets or economics work so I shut my mouth and let other people try to figure that out.

    1. Markets are simple: the first rule of economics is scarcity. People follow incentives: the more people want something, the more they are willing to pay for it. The more people will pay for something, the more opportunity there is to make money providing it. This attracts more producers, which kicks in the other side of the matter, where the more of something there is, the less trouble there is buying it, so the price drops.

      Everything useful about economics follows from that. No need for 3-D chess. Just follow the money and believe that people follow incentives.

      1. What do you do when you can’t afford something you need?

        In the early 90s, I remember ALL economists saying it was nearly impossible to have unemployment under 4% of the population.

        I don’t get inflation and I know that living under both scenarios, deficits don’t matter — so why even track deficits?

        1. Poor people in America are obese and have smart phones. I don’t think anyone in this country lacks basic needs unless they try really hard to not let people help them.

          1. True except for health care. And that’s where markets become distorted by government force.

            1. That’s not true. Hospitals cannot turn people away for inability to pay. It’s against the law. Poor people still get health care. They may get sued for non-payment, or Uncle Sam might pick up the tab, but they don’t go without.

              1. He was asking about how a free market handles that, not the current regulated one.

                1. A free market handles health care exactly the same way “it”* handles everything else.

                  You want it, you find the person you need to provide it and you pay to get whatever that provider agrees to give. What you pay, how you pay and how long you take to pay are between you and the provider of your choice.

                  The results may vary according to your expectations, the promises and actual competence of your provider and your actual condition.

                  As always, caveat emptor.

                2. A free market handles healthcare the same way it handles everything else.

                  People trade with other people to get what they want. Quite simple really.

                  1. *Of course, the market is not actually a conscious entity that delivers anything and/or everything according to your wishes, wants or needs, but it does make it possible for the greatest number of people to get something that is as near to what anyone can possible get within the limits of what is possible considering inconvenient things like reality and scarcity etc.

                    There is no evidence that interventions in delivery of healthcare changes the outcomes or survival of illness, trauma etc. Essentially the same number of people die, just different people.

  6. I look forward to the next installment; TDS and the Road To Liberaltarianism.

  7. I grew up with immigrant parents who had a soft spot for FDR. Even as a teen, I was fairly politically aware and, in order to rebel against my parents, I moved further left. I believed in fairness and equal treatment, and, as a naive youth, I thought government was best at that. I knew other governments?Hitler’s, Stalin’s, Mao’s, and Pol Pot’s?could be horrific, but the US was special in its government, I thought.

    As a young adult and parent, I was shocked to see American government screwing up, badly. The Iraq war, the welfare lady next door who took home a better salary than me, a college grad, and whose two abused kids my wife and I often fed because their mom had locked them out of the house, all started to erode my faith in government. The best you could say was that they just throw money at any problem, often making it worse. In reality, it is really about control.

    It was then I began to learn of a third way. One that rejected both camps and aligned closely with my beliefs: the NAP, equal treatment of all, government leaving people the hell alone, especially when it comes to foreign intrigue and victimless “crimes.” I have been a staunch libertarian ever since.

  8. Meh. Mostly Anarchists explaining how they think they are Libertarians.

    They dont want tiny limited government under rule of law, like the USA started out as, but whatever.

    Anarchy-Land or bust!

    1. It’s about baby steps and being a realist!

      When I was 18, I wanted to drive a Ferrari V12. But I settled for VW with stiffer springs and an aftermarket exhaust.

      I’d love to see anarchy with free market everything, but I would settle for a tiny limited government. Hell, at this point, I’d be ecstatic even government underwent a 50% cut across everything. (It would still be so disgustingly fat it would make Chris Christie seem anorexic, but I’d still be happy it was moving in a good direction!)

      1. “I’d love to see anarchy with free market everything”

        Just like with Ayn Rand, this sounds all well and good until your biological predisposition to have kids kicks in

        1. Just like with Ayn Rand, this sounds all well and good until your biological predisposition to have kids kicks in

          Right, and then just looking at a picture of Ayn Rand will dispose you of that desire to have kids. /sarc

  9. “My libertarianism comes from a deep place of humility. I don’t want to use the government to control how other people pursue their own happiness. I ask others to afford me the same consideration.”

    This is libertarian.

    If Libertarians are more like Robby and Shikha than the above quote, well, then libertarianism is well and truly fucked.

    1. “My libertarianism comes from a deep place of humility. I don’t want to use the government to control how other people pursue their own happiness. I ask others to afford me the same consideration.”

      This is libertarian.

      I agree. I think humility is the cornerstone of libertarian thought. That none of us can ever truly place ourselves in the shoes of another, and understand what they are going through, and so the proper solution is to just butt out, don’t try to dictate how they should run their lives, don’t try to patronize them or control them, just let them find their solutions with as minimal interference as possible.

      1. Well said.

        Penn Gilette said, “I’m not smart enough to make decisions for others.” The reality is, nobody is! And you especially need to be wary of those who imagine they are smart enough.

  10. The headline of this article is a lie. None of the writers/ editors at [t]reason are real libertarians. EVERYONE KNOWS they’re a bunch of prog-tards pretending for a pay check until they can get a plum gig at WaPo. /sarc

    1. Agree. All but three claimed to be libtards turned libertarian. That can’t happen, progressivism is a mental illness and therefore can only be treated not cured.

      It’s like liberal Californians moving to Arizona or Massachusetts libtards moving to New Hampshire. They leave because they can’t take the bullshit they created and move bringing their bullshit mental illness to fuckup their new home.

  11. Two prongs: government incompetence taught me that government is a terribly inefficient way to do anything, let alone to actually accomplish anything. And I eventually developed my own theory of “self-control” (the right, and duty, to control oneself and one’s property) which subsequent reading showed was just self-ownership rephrased.

    I grew up with the Vietnam War illustrating government incompetence. Bombing holidays, ridiculous rules of engagement, failure to apply the native / guerrilla warfare lessons from the War of Independence or even realize that Ho Chi Minh had fought the French, the Japanese, and the French again, and was not about to bow to yet another corrupt foreign government when he had reliable backing for his own local corrupt government.

    And then NASA, who had spent so much money so fast that Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo could hardly fail, but still had stalled for a year or two because some bozo did not think about the obvious dangers of pure oxygen — floundered with the Space Shuttle after the glory of the moon landings. Compromise after compromise to woo the Air Force into abandoning the MOL because it was not NASA’s idea, sorry-ass safety record, and the supposedly re-usable system costing far more per launch than a full Saturn 5 expendable.

    Then there are the numerous faux-libertarians on here who bow and scrape to Trump just because he upset Hillary. Her tears are delicious, of course, but that doesn’t improve the taste of Trump.s cum.

    1. In other ways, I think the Vietnam War and NASA only confirmed my self-ownership ideas, and I never did “become” libertarian. I remember some friend around 3rd or 4th grade trying to get me to join the (Cub or Boy?) Scouts, telling me all the great things I could do, like tying knots, camping, hiking. (This was in a rural unincorporated town, all houses on septic tanks, fuel oil or propane; I remember a sidewalk built in front of the school and wondering what on earth for, and same for signal lights at an intersection; what for?) I said I can do all those things without joining the Scouts, right? He agreed, and implicitly understood that I had no interest in joining some organization to do things I could do on my own.

      When it came time to register to vote, I did, not sure why, but they wanted a party. I saw Libertarian, registered as such, and immediately felt silly and dropped the registration shortly afterwards; seemed as oxymoronic as the Anarchist Union fighting in the Spanish Civil War.

  12. Reading Heinlein novels as a kid and teen did it for me.

    1. I was actually going to comment that I’m surprised none of the contributors ever mentioned Heinlein in their posts.

    2. “Reading Heinlein novels as a kid and teen did it for me.”

      Yes, that’s where I get my libertarian roots.

  13. From a very young age, I always hated people telling me what to do – or worse – how to think. Especially if they gave me reasons that didn’t make sense to me (if they bothered to give me reasons at all).

    Read my first Heinlein at age 9 or so, and everything he wrote after that. That pretty much sealed the deal.

  14. I think it’s very interesting that all of the younger staff members (without exception I think) come from a relatively conservative/republican background, while all of the more senior staff members came to libertarianism from a more liberal/democrat upbringing.

    1. I do think it is illuminating. For decades now the rightwing info-tainment establishment (talk radio, blogs, etc.) has been pushing a particular type of conservative dogma, and then Trump comes along, completely ignores the dogma, and whaddyaknow, all of those same people who had been preaching the conservative dogma drop it like a hot potato and go running to lick the boots of the man in charge. It shows what an utter fraud the modern Conservative-Entertainment Complex has been. They were always in it for the clicks and the bucks, never for the philosophy or the beliefs.

      1. I’m not sure that kind of thing is uniquely inherent to the right. The vast majority of people just simply don’t take the time or effort to stake out a principled political/philosophical belief system. Thus, crowds gravitate to people, not ideas. Honestly, I don’t hold any contempt or disdain for ‘ordinary’ people like that. That’s the way it is and probably always will be. What I like about libertarianism is that it basically asserts that the best method to deal with this reality is to simply limit the power that these ‘ordinary crowds’ (government) have over others.

      2. I listened to talk radio a bit, mainly because I was sick of hearing the same songs played over and over. But once Trump got the Republican nomination I couldn’t stand listening to them at all. Like you said, they made an about turn on all of their principles in support of their dear leader, exposing themselves as a bunch of frauds. Haven’t listened to a talk show since.

        1. I still listen to talk radio, though I mix it up with NPR so that I might still get invited to cocktail parties… or something. There are a few I can’t listen to though; Hannity is just unbearable about the bootlicking. I probably listen to Dave Ramsey the most on am radio, but his show isn’t really political (though you could probably guess his affiliations).

          1. Ramsey used to be syndicated around here. I miss his show. He’s the reason my only debt is student loans.

            1. For sure, his show is good stuff. He can be pretty self-righteous sometimes, but his common-sense and often contrarian views of the financial world can be very refreshing.

          2. I also liked Boortz. No idea how he reacted to Trump. He’s not syndicated around here anymore either.

  15. 1. nobody is picking on Bailey. am disappoint.

    2. people who seek power over other people seek to use that power on people. they suck.

  16. I had been an unexamined democrat all the way through college. I was in the national guard and 1 year post graduation I was deployed to Iraq (I worked on helicopter electronics) and witnessing the breathtaking waste and incompetence wholly disabused me of the notion that government is anything but a parasitic leviathan and I rapidly came to calling myself libertarian after that.

    1. witnessing the breathtaking waste and incompetence wholly disabused me of the notion that government is anything but a parasitic leviathan

      Didn’t serve in the military, but I’ve worked as an engineer on several government programs for either the military or NASA. So I’m quite familiar with the waste and incompetence of which you speak.

  17. I was a kid in high school when my boss at my summer job lent me a copy of Robert LeFevre’s book, This Bread is Mine.. After that, I read Atlas Shrugged, Anthem, and the Fountainhead. Then, Reagan let me down when he failed to end draft registration, and I gave up on the Republicans.


    1. Selective Service Act began under FDR and continues through today. The so-called draft ended in 1973 after I was conscribed. Since Reagan could only sign a bill passed by congress to repeal the act, and only had two years of Republican control in the senate. Seems you should have given up on Democrats as well.

  18. What is Dalmia doing on the list? I know she writes for the magazine, but other than Mexicans/Pot/Ass Sex she doesn’t seem very Libertarian.

    1. Most of them are not Libertarian.

      They have been catching shit since they outed themselves as mostly Anarchists and Lefties.

      Its election time, the Reason propaganda machine has to sync up and get Lefties elected.

    2. “What is Dalmia doing on the list? I know she writes for the magazine, but other than Mexicans/Pot/Ass Sex she doesn’t seem very Libertarian.”

      In other words, Dalmia is a Leftwing liberal. Yes, exactly. Oh, to be fair, she’s probably not hard Left, but I’ve never seen her write anything highly critical of standard Democratic higher taxes & more redistribution economic policies. Furthermore her articles are about as “Reasonable” as Donald Trump’s standard speeches. Even when I agree with the direction of a Dalmia article, I find it to lack a solid rational argument.

    3. Dalmia doesn’t really exist, it’s Gillespie’s alter ego in drag.

  19. I think I was always a libertarian. My mother is a conservative and my father is a socialist. I never agreed with either of them. Basically I’ve always figured that people should be free to do whatever they want as long as they don’t fuck with someone else’s day. Neither the right nor the left likes that idea. They want people to be controlled, and their only argument is over what and how.

    1. So you’re the spawn of James Carville and Bay Buchanan?

  20. I wonder what the Statlers and Waldorfs of the comments section will do to the contributors? Let me take a look…

  21. Nota bene:

    Civilization is, fundamentally, a crime against nature.
    Government is, fundamentally, organized crime.

    Libertarianism is the best route toward minimizing that crime.

    1. +1

    2. A “crime” against “nature”? According to who or what? Have you asked “nature” what it thinks?

      “Nature” as a concept is an invention of civilization. Ironically only civilizations make artificial rules dividing things into “natural” and “unnatural”. “Nature” is not a sentient living being. Saying “it’s a crime against nature” is like saying kicking a rock is crime against rocks. Concept of “crime” is also invention of civilization and funnily enough, we don’t apply those rules to “natural” world. Afterall it would be absurd to press criminal charges against lion or any other predator for killing things. Or against “nature” itself for hurling asteroids and causing ice ages.

      If it’s a “crime against nature” then nature should be treated as a living sentient being. And if nature is a living sentient being, it should stand trial for crimes against life. Afterall millions of animals have suffered in the ruthless, unequal, survival-of-the-fittest, world of “nature”.

      And for some reason humans are not part of this “nature” even though we were created through exact same process as any other animal. No idea why. Humans made these weird rules anyway.

      This is absurd and stupid.

  22. “I don’t want to use the government to control how other people pursue their own happiness.”

    Then first, move away from simplistic political labels, aka brands.

    “Libertarianism” is a sham. It has become the “uncola” of controlled and manipulated political parties.
    It has become merely another political brand.

    Many people think Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are competitors, yet they are largely owned by the same largest firms.
    Enter 7-Up, the uncola. It is different, refreshing, crisp, different…….or is it?

    7-Up is owned by both Keurig Dr Pepper and PepsiCo.
    The largest institutional shareholders of KDP include Vanguard, State Street, BlackRock, and other of the largest money-management firms, whom also largely own, and thus control Coca-Cola and PepsiCo.

    The point of this?
    Regardless which establishment brand you choose, you’re still being led by, and enriching the same ultra-powerful, the same ultra-wealthy individuals.

    “Libertarians” have become corporate shills, just like the Politicians representing the Dems and GOP.
    If they want to succeed in politics, they must please those corporate Lords whom supply the campaign cash, or be destroyed by the competing parties whom do please the corporate Lords.

    1. Ron Paul’s largest campaign contributors included the U.S. military, Google (a large military contractor) and Microsoft. Both Google (Alphabet) and MIcrosoft are owned by these same largest firms.
      The largest industries contributing to his campaigns – Retirement, healthcare, electronic manufacturing – the largest corporations of each also being owned largely by these same firms.

      As a Politician, Ron Paul made a career on public monies.
      How is that “Libertarianism”?
      That flies in the very face of the ideology.

      Rand Paul – The largest industries contributing to his campaigns include – Retirement (investment), healthcare, and the Republicans.
      As a Politician, Rand Paul continues to make a career on public monies.

      Even David Nolan, founder of the “Libertarian” party became sharply critical of the direction the party had taken, accusing party leaders of abandoning its radical roots and being “absorbed with minutia” and too focused on winning elections. “They’re afraid to say anything that might scare people, because that might keep people from voting for them,” he told Lew Rockwell in a December 2008 radio interview. “It’s become a very timid organization in the last six or eight years.”

      They’ve been absorbed into the same machine they once purported to fight.

      1. True “Libertarianism” requires strong intellectual and moral conscience, which is lacking amongst the masses.
        Very few people can act in the wholly unselfish nature required for sustainable “Libertarianism”.

        It also requires a universality of the same, by everyone.
        This is quite literally impossible to achieve.

        EVERY human is ruled by personal biases and prejudices, and as such fail to act in wholly objective manners.
        As such, the “freedom” of one is always the oppression of another.

        Thomas Gordon and John Trenchard wrote, in their Cato’s Letters (#42) that “Law is therefore the sign of the corruption of man; and many laws are signs of the corruption of the state”.

        This means, in part, that laws are designed not for the masses, but for the few.
        Laws are a detriment to those can act in ethical and moral manners, but necessary for those that cannot.
        Yet laws must be universally enforced for those few corrupt.
        The more that corruption spreads, the more laws that eventually exist.

        Ben Franklin wrote that “Only a virtuous people are capable of freedom. As nations become more corrupt and vicious, they have more need of masters”.
        Thus, as a few corrupt seek to exert their corruption for more personal gain, others eventually follow, acting in self-preservation against those few.
        Self-preservation then often becomes greater corruption (scarcity of resources means the more that others seek for themselves, the more they take from others….a problem that compounds).

        1. The 1 percent take more for themselves, away from and in spite of the 99 percent, in act of self-preservation, because the .1 percent take more for themselves.
          The .1 percent in turn take more for themselves, away from and in spite of the 99.9 percent, in act of self-preservation, because the .01 percent take more for themselves.

          And so on, and so on…..

          Similarly, whilst “Libertarian”, aka “free-market” ideals may be a romantic notion for a nation to pursue, there are over 190 other nations. Some of those nations are guaranteed to pursue their own national and economic interests, via stronger government intervention.
          That intervention leads to national and economic advantages for those nations. Thus the “free-market” nations must then follow suit, or lose out.

          “Libertarianism” is therefore wholly unsustainable.
          The U.S., if choosing to pursue true “free-market” policies, would lose to other nations instead pursuing protectionist policies.

          Wealth inequality (demonstrated via the WTID wealth inequality index) is occurring not only in the U.S., but across the globe. The same happened in the 1920’s.
          As more Russian and Chinese billionaires gain ever more personal wealth, more American billionaires must also pursue more personal wealth, in order to keep from falling behind.

          Everyone is out for themselves, first and foremost.

          No ideology is universal in nature.

          1. Thousands of years of revolutions and peasant and popular uprisings have not resulted in greater equality and equity, they have simply resulted in better methods of controlling those seeking change.
            They have taught the masters, the Lords, the true ruling elite, how to better quash dissent.

            Those that truly control politics, the government, and the system, have learned better ways to control the masses.
            They won’t let fringe elements disrupt their control. They will absorb, and control those fringe elements, for their benefit.

            There is very little true distinguishment between medieval feudalism, and “capitalism” of today. Ditto for contemporary “socialism” (Daniel Ortega is evidence, as he accumulates ever more wealth for himself…..similar to the unfettered “capitalists” of the U.S.).

            The main difference being the amount and degree of “spin” (aka propaganda) presented.

            So, dream on.
            Just know that as a supporter of the establishments version of “Libertarianism”, you are being fed to the same corrupt machine.

            1. Who moved the rock?

    2. they must please those corporate Lords whom supply the campaign cash

      “who” supply the campaign cash.

  23. I was too young to vote for Ronald Reagan, but his campaign rhetoric made him sound like a libertarian. I’d heard that his economic philosophy could be learned by reading a book titled “Free to Choose” by some guy named Milton Friedman. I read it. I wasn’t even yet in high school.

    Reagan put in much of his economic policies, especially the tax cuts, and the economy responded. Then the communist world fell to pieces before our eyes. It was like Milton Friedman were the prophet, and everything he said came to pass. I became a true believer in the power of capitalism and markets.

    I started my own businesses.

    Then, George Bush, Sr. became president. He broke his “no new taxes pledge”, and I was so upset, it felt like a total betrayal, not just of what Reagan had stood for, but also against the principles of self-sufficiency, hard work, and, yeah, capitalism. I was so mad, when I got old enough to vote, I registered as a libertarian because I knew that’s what Milton Friedman was.

    One I did that, I started thinking, well, if I’m going to tell people I’m a libertarian, I better find out what that’s about.

    And here I am.

    1. Randomly stumbling upon Milton Friedman’s “Free to Choose” lecture series on YouTube probably had the greatest affect on me in regards to political/philosophical thought. Ayn Rand and Robert Heinlein got me questioning things, but Friedman really hit it home.

    2. Don’t be fooled by propaganda……….

      “Reagan was no libertarian. Instead of wrapping ourselves in his mantle, those of us who support deep reductions in government’s size and power should take a clear-eyed look at the Reagan record.

      The Cato Institute did just that in “Assessing the Reagan Years,” which showed that under Reagan, federal spending actually increased from 23 percent to 24 percent of gross national product, while payroll tax increases resulted in a net tax increase for most Americans.

      Not only did Reagan renege on his promise to abolish President Carter’s new Cabinet departments, Education and Energy, he appointed secretaries dedicated to their preservation.

      Carter did more than Reagan to deregulate the economy, the authors explained, and while farm subsidies tripled under Reagan’s watch, Reagan eliminated only one (one!) major federal program, the Comprehensive Employment and Training Act (which was almost immediately reborn under another name).”

      Excerpted from The DC Examiner, February 8, 2011

      Plus, what of the massive “War on Drugs” initiated by Reagan?
      How did that result in more “freedoms”?

      Reagan was, first and foremost, an Entertainer.
      He knew how to manipulate the media, and his audiences.

      Much more than the truth, the mindless masses love amusing anecdotes.

      “Historians relate, not so much what is done, as to what they would have believed.”
      Richard Saunders (aka Ben Franklin) – Poor Richard 1739

      1. I didn’t say Reagan was a libertarian. I said he sounded like a libertarian in his campaign rhetoric.

        Your whole post seems to be living a world of the way things should be.

        My post was about the way things were.

    3. About time someone mentioned “Free to Choose.” You can’t read that book and not be changed forever.

  24. I credit this channel for getting me interested in economics. Highly recommended.

  25. I guess I have always had libertarian views but reading this site has made many of my libertarian views better, if that makes sense.

    I still don’t consider myself 100% libertarian though. I’m still annoyed by the naivety of many libertarians who think that US retreating from overseas and disbanding most of its military, will somehow result in a better world. Yes, i’m sure Russia, China, NK, and many others bullies of the world, would gladly follow the example and stand down too.

    And while it’s good to be wary and critical of the government, some libertarians seem to have almost irrational fear of it, thinking that every government official is evil and incompetent, and every decision made by government is motivated by malice and will eventually lead to 1984. It just gets tiresome after a while.

  26. I grew up Republican. No questions about it. Military brat. College on ROTC scholarship. Respect the police. Constitutionally limited government. Law and Order. Death Penalty. Etc. And I believed that through the 90’s.

    The first thing that I remember shattering that mindset was the Abner Louima incident. That wrecked my default assumption of the justice system being fair and trust-worthy.

    Then, during the GWB administration, i gradually came to accept the reality that Republican talk of things like small government and limited spending were just lip-service bullshit and the GOP was about nothing more than forcing their Christian-Conservative beliefs on the country.

    Somewhere along the line I started reading stuff from Balko. That eventually led me to Reason. From there, I realized that libertarians weren’t just some fringe weirdos. They actually had a consistent belief system (with some room for internal debate) that I agreed with.

    1. I guess I would also say that the time that I started reading Balko lined up roughly with the year that I spent deployed in Iraq. OIF and OEF made it clear that our comforting mantras about how our military is protecting the rights and freedom of Americans is horseshit. While our military exists to do that and is capable of doing it, that’s not what the politicians send the military to do. The politicians throw away the lives of our military in order to stroke their own egos. Protecting American freedom had nothing at all to do with OIF and OEF.

    2. Same here. At some point between 2000 and now, I figured out that Team Red is full of BS with the small government talk. It was just a way to get us to vote for them.

  27. I came from a staunch Team Red family. I had heard some of the small government talk from Reagan. I also learned to respect the right to bear arms.

    What helped move me in a libertarian direction is the syndicated column of Vin Suprynowicz of the Las Vegas Review Journal. From his column I learned about and read the book “Aint Nobody’s Business If You Do” by Peter McWilliams.

    I also got exposed to P.J O’Rourke when he wrote for Rolling Stone. I thought he was the only good part of the magazine and read all his books. (yes, I know he’s not strictly a libertarian, but he espouses leaving people alone.)

    1. “Free to Choose” is also one of my top books.

  28. “Oh there ain’t no other way
    Baby I was born this way . . .”

  29. My libertarian leanings started as a child of an almost-but-not-quite tax evader who actually read parts of the federal tax code looking for angles. My father’s rants about its complexity and contradictory rules were entertaining – almost in a sitcom sort of way. At 16, waiting in line at the DMV, was my first personal experience of a stultifying bureaucracy and its complete lack of respect for my time – no business ever treated its customers that way. A few college economics courses sealed the deal.

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