Wednesday, May 4, 2016

My conversion to Libertarianism, part I.

After Ted Cruz dropped out of the presidential race yesterday and it became clear all hope is lost for America, internet searches shot up for one term in particular: Libertarian Party.

All I can say is it's about danged time.

I've been a mostly-closeted libertarian for a few years now. Closeted, because a lot of people equate libertarians with crazy, pot-smoking, gun-toting tax-evaders. But the truth is, we're not. Actually, I believe most people can identify with the Libertarian Party more than they think -- they just don't know it. So what I'm saying is, you're probably a closet libertarian, too!

My conversion to libertarianism is a story 10 years in the making.

It started in the fall of 2005, during my freshman semester at Brigham Young University. I wanted to major in business at the time, so I enrolled in ECON 110. At that point, I didn't know much about economics, except for the basics. But I didn't really understand how economic policies could affect me.

The professor, Dr. Kearl, taught the class from two perspectives -- one that supports a totally free market, and another that relies on government intervention to steady the market. On the first day of class (right after my chair collapsed in front of a billion people in the packed lecture hall -- yeah, that was awesome), he told us to keep an open mind about the two schools of thought we were about to study. He challenged us to think about which would work best and decide for ourselves which we would espouse.

Thus began my enlightenment.

Before ECON 110 opened my eyes, I thought taxes were a necessary evil. I thought people had to be forced into charitable giving because they'd never behave altruistically on their own. I believed the price of goods was inherently unfair because people were meanies and wanted to screw their buyers over, so the government needed to step in and protect us little guys. I felt the concept of supply and demand worked just fine in a vacuum, but not in reality. I thought if I wanted to be a successful entrepreneur, there were a lot of pesky rules I'd have to play by, but I just accepted this as a fact.

As I learned about Adam Smith his philosophies regarding self-interest and the invisible hand in the free market, I wondered, how had I not learned these things in high school? Even earlier? The concepts were so simple and made so much sense. It was like I intuitively knew all of it, but I had somehow unlearned these basic truths along the way. I had been conditioned to believe that if the government can help a little (by, for example, eliminating negative externalities), it can help a lot.

As Dr. Kearl taught the Keynesian approach to economics during the second part of the term, it took everything in me to keep an open mind and not discard it all entirely. I came away understanding the government does have its place in society, to be sure. But the market functions best when government is extremely limited. 

I couldn't un-know what I had learned in economics class. I watched the free market work beautifully all around me as student entrepreneurs started companies of their own, some which quickly flourished and others which fizzled out as competition drove them out of the marketplace. It fascinated me to see Smith's principles in action.

Then, we witnessed the economy fall to pieces as the subprime crisis turned in the Great Recession of 2008 (good read on that here). It became apparent to me that the government was causing the ruin of the American economy, not the people. Many economists are starting to agree that a slew of government policies -- quantitative easing, low interest rates and homebuyer facilitation programs, to name a few -- are what caused the GDP plunge of the late 2000's, leading us straight into the recession.

I saw something else happening, too -- right at BYU. As I walked from one end of campus to the other for work each day, I passed a few electrical boxes spray-painted with the words 'Ron Paul Revolution,' along with the image of a man's face.

I was initially curious, so I Googled the name. Then, I was turned off. Who are these anarchists running around tagging stuff in the name of some unknown politician? I wondered. Ron Paul sounded ... well, crazy. And if his supporters were spreading his message by defacing public property, I wanted nothing to do with it.

Mitt Romney was my guy. See, as much as I supported the idea of a free market, I was also raised in a staunchly-conservative Mormon home. The idea that drugs and other immoral activities should be legal appalled me. I believed the government was responsible for upholding Christian values, and I erroneously thought if something was against the law, most people wouldn't do it.

Since Mitt holds my same Mormon values and he's a capitalist with gubernatorial experience, I threw my support in for him during the 2008 and 2012 elections. I watched as Ron Paul ineloquently fumbled through Republican debates, trying to share his message of liberty with the world only to be mocked to scorn. At first, I was annoyed by this kooky codger. Then, I started to feel bad for him. The things he was saying seemed lunatic on the surface, but actually made sense when I further examined them. But he struggled to be heard, and eventually dropped out of the race.

The idea of a truly free people, governed on an extremely limited basis, sounded beautifully simplistic to me. It was what the Founders had intended. And, it was even kind of ... Mormony!

But, there was still the issue of social liberalism which comes with a libertarian mindset. I couldn't accept immorality on a widespread basis! All my life, I'd been taught to "stand for truth and righteousness" in everything I did. How could I reconcile the "live and let live" attitude of the libertarians with this concept?

Maybe you're thinking the same thing. I'll tell you how I did ... another day.

To be continued ...


  1. Thank you for sharing this. I feel like people think I'm so nutty sometimes...excellent read.

  2. Thank you for sharing this. I feel like people think I'm so nutty sometimes...excellent read.

    1. Thanks for reading! I'm glad you "found" me. :)


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