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.

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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.