Confessions of a Former Democrat: My Journey to Libertarianism

26

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 FountainheadHuman Action, or Capitalism and FreedomInstead, 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.

  • http://thoughtsonliberty.com V.A. Luttrell

    Oh, the good ole days when I still liked Ron Paul…

    …that’s not entirely true. I think RP does a lot for liberty, but his views on gay marriage that have come forth since then make me unhappy. :-/

    Anywho. I also seem to remember you being particularly hung up on the idea of foreign aid as well. We had lots of long debates about that.

    • iggy

      His view on gay marriage personally is not favored b/c he is religious. However, he believes that if you live in California then you shouldn’t dictate whether or not those in Texas should or shouldn’t and vice verse. It’s only fair really. Eventually, Texas will have to get with the program of modern times and allow gay marriage…if not, they’ll lose a lot of economic benefits from those who leave the state.

      • http://thoughtsonliberty.com/ Gina Luttrell

        Unfortunately, his unfriendliness to homosexuality and gay marriage extend beyond his personal beliefs.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_positions_of_Ron_Paul#Same-sex_marriage

        • biscuits

          What exactly in there do you disagree with? It appears that he has
          staunchly supported policy that would get federal meddling out of the
          marriage business altogether. Seems perfectly inline with what a libertarian politician at the federal level would push for.

          What the states do at the state level is not within his scope as a federal legislator.

          • iggy

            I always just about to say the same thing^ Ron Paul’s views on gay marriage are actually equal for everyone: Government needs to stay the hell away from it! Government should have nothing to do whether or not I want to get married to another man through a Christian church or get married to a horse in the Scientology church…or women.

          • http://profiles.google.com/hibbard.tyler Tyler Hibbard

            Probably that he does not support equality for all at every level (personal up to federal and beyond).

    • http://www.facebook.com/robkirchoff Robert Kenneth Kirchoff

      I make no defense of his views on marriage. The more he says about it, the less I like it.

      Still, que le mieux est l’ennemi du bien.

      • http://thoughtsonliberty.com/ Gina Luttrell

        This is America. Speak American.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=500314160 Elizabeth Thames Robinson

    Heck yeah! I dabbled in the Republican part when I was in college, and found the very same things… It was all about power, not about what is right!

    • http://www.facebook.com/rburger Rachel Burger

      Ultimately, I found that there was very little difference between the Repubs and the Dems.

      • lawrensj

        “If I could change one thing about [libertarians], it would be just for them to see that many times they want the same thing as [all other humans] — equality for people, a stable society, freedom, etc. but we just think that there are different and better ways to go about it.” (essentially a quote from G. Luttrell)

        your limited experience being used to paint an entire two parties that received over 125M votes by the public is as bad as the party members you so dislike.

        • Brandon Capecci

          Libertarianism is a philosophy with binary ideals of civil liberty. One who advocates liberty “most of the time” and expects anything less than animosity from Libertarians is a moron. It would like asking an abolitionist to get along with someone who says “I also don’t agree with slavery… most of the time”

          • lawrensj

            you are an idiot. as the founding fathers, who you libertarians believe are near god like, were part abolitionist and part full time slave owners. hell there were even some against slavery who owned many many slaves; jefferson. go do some reading, get your learn on.

  • http://www.facebook.com/kevinboyd1984 Kevin Boyd

    “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.”

    Why not instead co-opt the Republican-Democrat paradigm to promote liberty? Wouldn’t it be best to try and nudge the Democratic Party and the Republican Party into more liberty friendly directions than to just yell and throw stones from the outside?

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Bryan-Jaffe/648909551 Bryan Jaffe

      Kevin, have you seen what the RNC did this past summer when many liberty proponents tried to nudge the party that way?

      • Jake

        So people are just supposed to say “Oh they play too rough, I give up” No, you keep fighting. We’re winning battles across this Nation. Here In Texas we sent the guy who introduced the Anti-TSA some reinforcements. It’s better to affect liberty in our lifetime now. Then wait around for Americans to wake up!

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Bryan-Jaffe/648909551 Bryan Jaffe

          Who said anything about giving up? I just don’t see either of the two parties as the answer – they are both corrupted, rotting corpses. We need to work toward something new and fresh. The GOP is on its way to committing suicide – it is alienating much of its base.

          We need something in place to catch all the disaffected GOPers when they get fed up with the elites and decide to move on.

          • Jake

            They aren’t the answer per say. Just a tool for accomplishing a goal.

  • Savage Chromasign

    I was a Republican till Bush and the Iraq war, then I was a Democrat until Pelosi sold out the anti-war movement by saying they would not pursue impeachment after the midterm elections. I’ve been a Libertarian ever since and I have yet to be disappointed with that decision.

  • Fellow Traveler

    You may enjoy this Bastiat quote:

    Life, liberty, and property do not exist because men have made laws. On the contrary, it was the fact that life, liberty, and property existed beforehand that caused men to make laws in the first place. What, then, is law? It is the collective organization of the individual right to lawful defense.

    Each of us has a natural right — from God — to defend his person, his liberty, and his property. These are the three basic requirements of life, and the preservation of any one of them is completely dependent upon the preservation of the other two. For what are our faculties but the extension of our individuality? And what is property but an extension of our faculties? If every person has the right to defend even by force — his person, his liberty, and his property, then it follows that a group of men have the right to organize and support a common force to protect these rights constantly. Thus the principle of collective right — its reason for existing, its lawfulness — is based on individual right. And the common force that protects this collective right cannot logically have any other purpose or any other mission than that for which it acts as a substitute. Thus, since an individual cannot lawfully use force against the person, liberty, or property of another individual, then the common force — for the same reason — cannot lawfully be used to destroy the person, liberty, or property of individuals or groups.

    Such a perversion of force would be, in both cases, contrary to our premise. Force has been given to us to defend our own individual rights. Who will dare to say that force has been given to us to destroy the equal rights of our brothers? Since no individual acting separately can lawfully use force to destroy the rights of others, does it not logically follow that the same principle also applies to the common force that is nothing more than the organized combination of the individual forces?

    If this is true, then nothing can be more evident than this: The law is the organization of the natural right of lawful defense. It is the substitution of a common force for individual forces. And this common force is to do only what the individual forces have a natural and lawful right to do: to protect persons, liberties, and properties; to maintain the right of each, and to cause justice to reign over us all.

    A Just and Enduring Government

    If a nation were founded on this basis, it seems to me that order would prevail among the people, in thought as well as in deed. It seems to me that such a nation would have the most simple, easy to accept, economical, limited, nonoppressive, just, and enduring government imaginable — whatever its political form might be.

    • http://www.facebook.com/rburger Rachel Burger

      Thank you for sharing :)

      • Fellow Traveler

        Here’s where this sort of thinking originated in our civilization:

        “Hate evil, and love good, and establish justice in the courts.” — Amos 5:15

        “Justice, and only justice, you shall follow, that you may live and inherit the land that the Lord your God is giving you.” — Deuteronomy 16:20

        “Each one must give as he has decided in his heart, not reluctantly or under compulsion, for God loves a cheerful giver.” — 2 Corinthians 9:7

        “Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the strong, but judge your neighbor fairly.” — Leviticus 19:15

        “You shall not go after the majority to do evil. Neither shall you testify in a matter of strife to incline after the majority to pervert justice.” — Exodus 23:2

        “Woe unto them that decree unrighteous decrees, and that write grievousness which they have prescribed;” — Isaiah 10:1

        And David said to God, “Wasn’t it I who commanded the people to be numbered? I am the one who has sinned, and done evil indeed;” — 1 Chronicles 21:17a

        “You shall not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and subverts the cause of the righteous.” — Deuteronomy 16:19

        “Then came also publicans to be baptized, and said unto Him, ‘Master, what shall we do?’ And He said to them, ‘Exact no more than that which is appointed you.’ And the soldiers likewise demanded of Him, saying, ‘And what shall we do?’ And He said unto them, ‘Do violence to no man, neither accuse any falsely; and be content with your wages.’” — Luke 3:12-14

        “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” — 2 Corinthians 3:17

        “Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all its inhabitants.” — Leviticus 25:10

        “And it shall come to pass, if you listen diligently to the voice of the Lord your God, to observe and to do all his commandments which I command you today, that the Lord your God will set you on high, above all nations of the earth”
        Deuteronomy 28:1

        “Righteousness exalts a nation.”
        Proverbs 14:34

        “Tell the righteous it will be well with them, for they will enjoy the fruit of their labor.”
        Isaiah 3:10

        “A righteous man knows the rights of the poor; a wicked man does not understand such knowledge.”
        Proverbs 29:7

        “Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with my own things?”
        -Jesus Christ, Matthew 20:15

        “The man who looks intently into the perfect law that gives freedom, and continues to do this, not forgetting what he has heard, but doing it, he will be blessed in what he does.” — James 1:25

  • Jake

    Good story. Mines kinda the opposite though, family is very conservative and has always voted Republican. 2012 was gonna be my first time voting, so I watched the Republican debates and chose my guy, something I had never heard from a Republican before.

  • http://www.facebook.com/jcisar John Cisar

    Political parties waste much political energy pursuing power and extracting revenge on the opposition. It comes at the detriment of real sensibility, liberty, and progress. George Washington’s forewarned about the destructive nature of party in his farewell address. If you haven’t read his address, please do. I tend to revisit it Washington’s speech in my mind, whenever I listen or read remarks made by party leaders or news reported by politically biased meda networks.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Bryan-Jaffe/648909551 Bryan Jaffe

      The problem now is that the parties have essentially created a team sport mentality in the country – you have to pick a team, ONE team, and support your team at all costs. No matter how horribly your team acts, or how abominable one of the player on your team is, you are not supposed to hold them accountable and call them on it, you are expected to defend and make excuses for them.

      This mentality completely eliminates the fact that we are not supposed to be a cheer-leading squad for our elected officials – we are supposed to be their bosses. When they misbehave, we are supposed to hold them accountable, not give them a free pass as long as they have the right jersey on.

      During the last election, people I know wanted to tune into the Presidential “debates” not to hear what was being said, but because they wanted to “be there for my guy!” As if the debate is a sporting event!

      Yes, the parties are wrecking us more than anything, but we are the ones feeding into it by allowing ourselves to become fans and abrogating our responsibilities to keep these people honest and fire them when they go astray.

  • Jimmy Lin

    Well while the ideology is nice, Libertarianism falls flat on its face when it comes to details or actual governing policies.

    Also raising the minimum wage is a moot point since the only time it is ever raised is when it already falls far behind inflation to begin with.

    Sorry to say, the idea of civil liberty = economic liberty is pure bullshit. There are only two classes of people that have the most freedom, the richests few, or the dirt poor. Capitalism by nature creates both, but it does not create a middle class. In order to create a middle class, some form of redistribution is necessary. If you took basic economics you should have already know why monopoly is bad, but the fact that monopoly is a problem indicate that capitalism by nature is flawed, so it must be mended by laws as needed.

    Democrats are not perfect, but they have the right idea at least, just not necessarily always the right approach. Most only votes Democrat because the Republicans today is not even a political party, more like a suicide bombers’ club. Libertarians talk big, but can’t govern worth a damn because their policy is too “talking point-esque”.

    The U.S need the economic ladder back again, not just talks of liberty. Now think back of what created the ladder in the first place, yes, the disgusting “big government” was what created it, which only proves that it is not the size, it is how you use it.