Confessions of a Former Democrat: My Journey to Libertarianism
I was born into a family of hippy, Democrat Jews. My parents drive an eco-efficient Prius, regularly monitor their qi, and think that most Republicans are capital “E” Evil. They’ve been rooting for the same team since I was born, and hey, my parents are the best. Why would I question their judgement, especially since they had instilled such confidence and independence in me? In 9th grade, having taken no prior economics classes, social science covered the political spectrum. I took my first political quiz and I was politically aligned with Dennis Kucinich (admittedly, not the worst Democrat to be affiliated with). I began to internalize ideas of social justice throughout high school, and when I hit college, I began working for the Democratic Party of Georgia. Ironically, while I worked for them, I began taking my first economics class, and I met Gina Luttrell.
Working for the Democrats from 2007-2008 was not as I envisioned. At first, I canvassed for them around liberal neighborhoods. We were taught not to approach houses with American flags on them—a clear sign of a Republican household—and to mark any self-identified libertarians for our spreadsheet to never contact again. Some party supporters’ generosity astounded me with thousands of dollars of campaign contributions, while others could be easily persuaded with a team mentality—”We (as Democrats) are all in this together,” essentially telling them not to question the party. Most of our smaller donations came from this kind of rhetoric.
Once 2008 hit, Hillary and Obama were head-to-head seeking the party’s nomination, and I was moved to desk work as an intern. Being in the office made me realize just how liberal, even socialist, folks who actually work for the party are. Many of their policies went against what I had learned in economics. If they wanted to help poor people, why were they trying to raise the minimum wage to a living wage? Why were they prohibiting people from feeding the homeless?
As I spent more time working at the Democratic Party, I started to realize that what I really cared about was not the party, but civil liberties and helping the poor (and as I eventually figured out, through the free market). In utter disgust for the Democrats and party politics, I started to call myself an “independent thinker.”
That’s when Gina stepped in.
The 2008 election was a big time for the libertarians. Ron Paul had been on the ground, recruiting ideologues and making headway with a burgeoning Tea Party. I would not even consider him because he had Republican attached to his name. And then Gina began assaulting me with facts. Ron Paul would allow for gay marriage? Opposed the death penalty? Opposed the PATRIOT Act, War in Iraq, and the drug war? While I didn’t vote for Ron Paul in 2008, by 2010 I had begun calling myself a libertarian with the simple premise of “socially liberal, fiscally conservative.”
The more I read, the more entranced I became with the movement. I didn’t start with the basics like many libertarians; I admittedly have never read The Fountainhead, Human Action, or Capitalism and Freedom. Instead, I read online commentary. I engaged in political discussion and took many economics courses. I spent a lot of time trying to understand others’ ideas and trying to refine my own, especially in foreign policy. I became even more radical when I completed a Koch Summer Fellowship in 2011.
Ultimately, I had made the connection between civil liberties and economic freedom. While I had always supported that one should have sovereignty over one’s own body and should have constitutional protections from the government, I figured out that people should be able to spend their money as they see fit as well. As an added bonus, this kind of utility maximization ends up helping everyone, including the poor, in society, an original goal as well. Ultimately, I believe that if everyone took a moment to reconsider the Republican-Democrat paradigm, we would have a lot more libertarians. I’m here to help fight that good fight.