My last few years at Howard Payne I had a few classes in my political science program with a particular student a few years older than me; he had some interesting tattoos is all I remember thinking initially. He wrote a few papers over economics and had some strong opinions about the stuff we would discuss in class. I was probably barely awake in most of those classes and rarely took an active interest in class discussion (but don’t tell McNiece or Murphy). Somehow I guess either myself or my new friend from class sent the other a Facebook friend request. I began in my last year of my undergrad to read these articles he would share online. They were about economics, politics, and partisanship, among other things. I would read them sometimes for they were fairly short, and a lot of times the authors made compelling arguments. I had always considered myself a Republican I suppose, since all I really knew (thought I knew) was that Christians were Republicans, Southerners certainly were Republicans, and George W. Bush was a Republican. Considering myself a Republican was fun; I have always been interested in history and found pride in the fact that “my” Party was founded by the Great Emancipator and also claimed colossal figures such as Theodore Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan.
I joked that Democrats were “liberals” and “hippies” (which is still fun to throw around), and that certainly only the GOP could restore the White House to its once honorable image. More than that I had spent eight years of my life under the Presidency of George W. Bush, the Right’s hero. I was told he was a Christian and therefore I assumed that the War in Iraq (by the way, the absence of a declaration from Congress means it was not technically a “war”) was justified. Seriously, I based my approval of the War in Iraq on the perceived facts that Bush was a Christian and that the attack on the World Trade Centers in 2001 compelled our nation to defend itself. (Side note, if I may – the majority of the terrorists were from Saudi Arabia. Not Iraq. Not even Afghanistan.)
I had it figured out – Democrats were tree-huggers who wanted to take my money and give it to lazy people, as well as raise taxes; whereas Republicans were God-fearing fiscal conservatives who believed in a large military and lowering taxes. This was all I knew. I don’t blame anyone for this, I’m not pointing fingers at my parents or the church or my Southern upbringing. I’m simply saying I had never branched outside this two-party system because it seemed to work for me. I believed in the ideas I was taught in school of checks and balances, representative democracy, a social contract, and a separation of powers. I believed, even until recently, that a two-party system helped foster balance; I thought that political competition would promote a constant evolution of party ideology and methods that would benefit the people by giving us a victor…the best option at the given time.
Now then…about that friend whose articles I was reading back in the spring of 2013. He acted as a substitute teacher in the high school where I did my student teaching and on numerous occasions I was given the opportunity to have some great discussions with him. He told me he was a libertarian. I had never heard of that. I assumed it meant liberal (which of course meant I would soon have to denounce him as an idiot, right?). I don’t remember him really explaining the idea of libertarianism to me at the time; in fact, our back-and-forth really started over a debate of Teddy Roosevelt, my hero at the time. I thought Theodore Roosevelt was the man; my friend thought he, along with Lincoln, helped ruin the Presidency. He didn’t love Lincoln and TR? Who was this guy? Was this what all libertarians thought? So for a solid semester he began to break down at least my convictions of what being a Republican meant. He broke down several common beliefs stemming from the two-party system, something that I would love to do for my readers at a later time.
I began reading the daily articles on Mises.org and I was hooked. The website is a foundation devoted to furthering Austrian economics, of which goes hand-in-hand with libertarianism. The authors did not dismiss Republicans and Democrats using the language and terminology I was used to. They did not call them “hippies” or “liberals” or “Yankees.” They simply brought up an issue – healthcare, education, taxes, etc. – and logically broke down the available solutions offered by Republicans and Democrats. And that’s just it: there is another option out there besides being a Republican or Democrat. You do not have to abide by the longstanding traditions of “Left” and “Right.”
To end, allow me to introduce what libertarianism is and oftentimes more importantly, what it is not. Libertarianism is a philosophy that says I own my body and my property, and that I will not aggress your body or your property. That is it. The principle is known as Non-Aggression, oftentimes referred to as the NAP (Non-Aggression Principle). Literally, that is libertarianism in a nutshell. I cannot stress enough how my entire new set of ideals and paradigms are based upon this idea of Non-Aggression. The philosophy is rooted in liberty, as the name denotes, not what you may perceive as today’s version of “liberal.” Libertarianism at its core does not seek to give government hand-outs, to house the homeless, or any of the other components of what you might consider to be “liberal” today. So throw out the “Left/Right” playbook that Fox and CNN and MSNBC work with – because that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about a mindset, a philosophy, and a way of life that can and does apply to everything. Non-Aggression is Biblical, rooted in historical evidence, feasible, and insanely appealing. Who starts out their day thinking “how can I hurt someone or damage their property?.” If you don’t then Non-Aggression is for you. It’s not, at heart, a political party and it doesn’t necessarily require that you forgo your political affiliation. Until my next post (in which I intend to elaborate on Non-Aggression and get into some real topics) I would ask that if you’re reading this, consider this question over the next week: would the world be a better place if people stopped using force to make other people do things?
I love talking and discussing anything political (which encompasses everything) so please email me with thoughts, objections, confusions, questions or just to tell me I’m an idiot.