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Alex R. Knight, III

“Toward Freedom” is an Everything-Voluntary.com series sharing personal stories about the journey toward freedom. Archived stories can be found here. Submit your story to the editor. Originally published at Voluntaryist.com. The first time I remember even seeing the word “libertarian,” was in 1994, when I was twenty-five. Years prior to that, like most kids, I had no real philosophical or political leanings. Government was just something that happened to be there, like the landscape, or the weather. As I grew into my teens, however, I began to develop a kind of vague sense that something was wrong – perhaps even horribly so – with the way society was structured. I think the catalysts for this awakening process were things that many young people experience on the path to adulthood: I had my first few brushes with the police – mainly for underage drinking. The paychecks I earned at the several jobs I had over those years had numerous taxes taken out of them. Laws restricting ownership of guns seemed increasingly wrong. The police and the military had them, yet the government wanted to curtail others from doing so. I began, again, like many young people, to distrust and resent authority in all forms. My new awareness, however, had no cohesive threads running through it. My rapidly developing beliefs didn’t fit into any form of traditional political paradigm. I wasn’t “right-wing.” I didn’t think the police should have many of the powers that they had. I didn’t think drugs should be illegal (after all, I was doing them). I didn’t think the government should have soldiers marching all over the world. But I wasn’t “left-wing” either: As stated, I liked guns, and thought people should be able to own them without asking permission from anyone. I thought people, regardless of how much money they had, should be able to keep that money without having the government confiscate it through taxation. I thought that public schools were run more like prisons and indoctrination centers than learning institutions, and that they should be privatized, and all associated property taxation ended. Indeed, if people were actually supposed to own their houses, how could they be taxed? I didn’t identify with either Republicans or Democrats. I settled for considering myself politically independent. I had no idea what I would do when I became old enough to vote. When I did get there, I did nothing. Based on my beliefs, there seemed no method of voting consistent with my principles. But in 1994, I chanced upon an article written by one Sean Glennon in a free newspaper published in New Hampshire called Seacoast Times. Glennon was a far leftist, but the piece was about drug legalization, so it held my interest. In it, Glennon made mention of the fact that the Libertarian Party candidate for governor, Steve Winter, was in favor of ending the drug war. This intrigued me. So much, in fact, that I looked up the Libertarian Party of New Hampshire’s toll-free number in... Read the full thing

Robert Higgs

“Toward Freedom” is an Everything-Voluntary.com series sharing personal stories about the journey toward freedom. Archived stories can be found here. Submit your story to the editor. Originally published at BadQuaker.com. In college in the 1960’s I was not a political person. Although I took a keen interest in politics, especially in the war that was raging in Vietnam, I concentrated on my studies, earning a living, and chasing women. After I began work as a professor, in 1968, I gravitated quickly from my collegiate New Leftism toward classical liberalism. As I learned more about Austrian economics, political economy, public choice, and history, I became increasingly libertarian (minarchist variety). My views continued to evolve, however, and by the time the 21st century arrived, if not sooner, I had finally reached my destination as a libertarian anarchist. Although I make no apology whatever for this ideological identity, I do not share the seeming expectation of some of my fellow libertarian anarchists that a revolution is now, or soon will be, occurring in the direction of my preferred political ideals. Indeed, my expectation is, if anything, the reverse: it seems to me much more likely that the USA will continue to drift and lurch toward totalitarianism, though this system will surely have a unique red, white, and blue coloration to suit the American people’s history, culture, and tastes. I do not expect a dictator with a funny little mustache and a horde of brown-shirted thugs to take power after smashing heads in the streets. I expect instead an elected dictator who looks like George W. Bush or Barack Obama and a horde of police dressed in riot-suppression gear to turn the trick, though most people will not need to have their heads smashed and will go along gladly. If I comprehend the world in this way, what, some people wonder, am I doing by embracing libertarian anarchism? Well, I am obviously not taking this position in order to come out on the winning side. If that were my goal, I would already have found a way to make myself useful in the military-industrial-congressional complex. No, I have put myself where I am now somewhat as Martin Luther did when he announced: “Here I stand. I can do no other.” In my case, this declaration means most of all that I am simply doing what seems to me the decent thing; that taking any other ideological position would entangle me in evils of which I want no part. Although I sincerely believe that a stateless world would be better than the present world in countless ways, such as better health, greater wealth, and enhanced material well-being, I am not a libertarian anarchist primarily on consequentialist grounds, but instead primarily because I believe it is wrong for anyone – including those designated the rulers and their functionaries – to engage in fraud, extortion, robbery, torture, and murder. I do not believe that I have a defensible right to engage in such acts; nor do I... Read the full thing

Jay Gunther

“Toward Freedom” is an Everything-Voluntary.com series sharing personal stories about the journey toward freedom. Archived stories can be found here. Submit your story to the editor. I was born and raised in a very strong Christian, very strong Republican family. I remember at age seven when the race was between Barry Goldwater (R) and Lyndon Johnson (D), and although I knew nothing about politics, in my home, it was all about Barry Goldwater. And so it went. Nixon was God, Humphrey was the devil. Nixon was a saint, McGovern was evil… and so forth. I was excited in 1976 when I was finally able to vote and to cast my straight ticket Republican ballot in favor of Gerald Ford and all of the other candidates with an R after their name. I was a poor history student in school. History bored me to tears, especially anything that had to do with American politics. I remember dating a history major in college whose passion was American History. On our first date, I laughed and told her that as far as I was concerned, history belonged on the bookshelf and there it should stay. I don’t think she was very amused. We never dated after that – so I guess it was not just our first date, but our last date as well. At about age 22, I started getting very interested in politics. It was during the years shortly following the end of the Vietnam War. I remember some of the treatment that the vets were getting. I hailed them as heroes. Damned be anyone who didn’t. I was proud of our troops and their sacrifices for my freedoms and believed that anyone who didn’t honor the vets or salute the flag needed to be taken behind the woodshed and whipped – before putting them on a boat and sending them out of the country. I remember writing a paper about how much I appreciated policemen for setting up sobriety check points in order to preserve my safety. I remember feeling a sense of pride when I dutifully paid my taxes. I remember the disdain I had towards anyone who didn’t honor the flag. The list of things I appreciated about the state was long. Life was good for the first 30 years. I was complacent and ignorant, obedient, faithful and an unquestioning Republican. I remember the day, January 18, 1987, as if it were yesterday. I was in a leadership position in my church and was asked to read a letter to the congregation. The letter was from the president of our church. It was the year of the bicentennial anniversary of the Constitution for the United States of America. The letter contained counsel to our church members to prayerfully study the Constitution and gain a better understanding of it. As I read that letter, I remembered feeling like a hypocrite. There I stood, admonishing the congregation to do something that I had never done nor had any intention of... Read the full thing

Karen De Coster

“Toward Freedom” is an Everything-Voluntary.com series sharing personal stories about the journey toward freedom. Archived stories can be found here. Submit your story to the editor. Originally published in I Chose Liberty: Autobiographies of Contemporary Libertarians. Typically, when I say I’m a praxeological austro-paleolibertarian, Rothbardian anarchocapitalist extremist, Hoppean propertarian, and politically incorrect canonist, people say “Huh?”The womb was perhaps the birthplace of my libertarianism. After all, I have no Leftist past lurking in my yesteryears, and no prior liberal leanings, unless you want to count the days when I was fifteen, working at Arthur Treacher’s Fish & Chips for two-something per hour, and cheering on congressional attempts at raising the minimum wage to three-something per hour. I figured with a raise like that I’d finally be able to afford one of those cool, portable eight-track players. With that kind of reasoning behind me, one can easily absolve me of my earliest economic worldviews. During my elementary school years, I became an avid reader. This bookmobile thing (a bus turned into a library on wheels) would park on the corner at the end of my street every Friday afternoon, and I’d run to it and ravish the shelves for the next great book. My interests started out with sports and animals, and by the end of my elementary school sentence, my focus had progressed to political biographies, news, and historical events. I grew up six blocks from 8 Mile, the famous thoroughfare depicted in the current Eminem movie. Detroit was a political hotspot in the nation following the 1967 riot, with the busing issue right on its heels. This issue gave me my first taste of totalitarian government putting the clamp on the right of self-ownership, and thus my individualist radicalism was born. I had some unusual early influences. In the eighth grade I borrowed an H.L. Mencken book from the city library. I couldn’t understand why everybody didn’t think and write like he did. Also, I became enamored of the Barry Goldwater legend. I read everything I could about him and the famous campaign that I was too young to have remembered. Despite all his faults and hawkish militarism, I was a Goldwaterite born too late.In high school, I went through my Russell Kirk phase, absorbing his cultural conservatism and meshing that with my more radical anti-state thoughts. I called myself an “anti-government conservative” because the Libertarian Party was young and had not yet had an intellectual influence on me. In addition, I was oblivious to the fact that there was a process of systematic thinking to libertarianism at that time. Reading Kirk led me to Edmund Burke, T.S. Eliot, James Burnham, and many of the other leading conservative writers. I also took to watching the TV news, and Bill Bonds, the famous Detroit news anchorman, was my favorite character. It was simple stuff, but his constant assault on the political elite whetted my appetite for expressing my views more passionately. This is a guy that went on the air... Read the full thing

Mark Crovelli

“Toward Freedom” is an Everything-Voluntary.com series sharing personal stories about the journey toward freedom. Archived stories can be found here. Submit your story to the editor. Originally published at Voluntaryist.com. While most of my friends would find it difficult to imagine today, I have not always been a loudmouthed, pain-in-the-ass, libertarian anarchist. In fact, if you asked my friends from high school whether they ever agreed with anything Mark Crovelli ever said, I imagine that more than a few of them would say that they did. By contrast, if you polled my current friends about their feelings about what Mark Crovelli the anarchist thinks, you’d be lucky to find two that will vouch for my sanity. Looking back on my transformation into a libertarian anarchist, I find it almost miraculous that it ever could have occurred. I was raised Catholic by my mother (my father having converted to Hinduism), and, until relatively recently, I was fanatically devoted to the Catholic Church. I was so devoted to the Church, in fact, that I very seriously considered becoming a priest during my freshman year of college. As far as my political thinking was concerned back then, I was like many Catholics in that I only cared about the issue of abortion. I knew almost nothing about economics, history, or anything else for that matter, but I knew that I vehemently objected to abortion. It was that hatred of abortion that urged me to study political science as an undergraduate, in the naive hope that such a degree would allow me to fight for the pro-life cause. Since I viewed my study of political science as a vocation of sorts, I never wavered or doubted that political science was the subject I should be studying. I did not take well to my classes, however. I did well in terms of my grades, but I found everything that political scientists claimed to be studying completely mind-numbing. I still do. At some point during my junior year of college, however, I had a small epiphany. I was taking an especially mind-numbing class about law, and one of the assigned readings was a short excerpt from a book entitled Law, Legislation and Liberty by F.A. Hayek (I forget which volume). When it came time to discuss the reading in class, which I had luckily read the night before, I was shocked to witness the Professor completely misinterpreting Hayek’s words. I had found Hayek extremely difficult to read, but I could plainly see that my professor was completely butchering what Hayek had written. This incident led me to search out more of Hayek’s works, because I had agreed with what he had written in the small excerpt I had read. The only book I was able to find in the local bookstore was his extremely dense little book The Fatal Conceit: The Errors of Socialism, which I promptly purchased and read. I found the book almost excruciatingly difficult to read, but I completely agreed with the parts... Read the full thing

Larken Rose

“Toward Freedom” is an Everything-Voluntary.com series sharing personal stories about the journey toward freedom. Archived stories can be found here. Submit your story to the editor. Originally published in The Voluntaryist, 1st Quarter 2012. I was raised in a conservative home, in a conservative town, with some libertarian leanings. I grew up thinking the good old U.S. of A. was the land of the free and the home of the brave, and that “our” Constitution made us fundamentally different from every other country. I was a big proponent of “limited government” – meaning police and military, and not much else. Back then I considered myself quite adept at explaining and arguing why collectivism and communism are immoral and irrational, and why “government” should have only a very limited role in “society.” Since almost everyone was more pro-“government” than I was, I was almost always arguing against “government” doing this or that. I had little practice in rationally justifying “government” doing what I did want it to do. But there was a problem. My arguments for why “government” should not be taking care of the poor, controlling education, running the health care system, and so on, applied equally well to the things I thought “government” should be doing. For example, if individual liberty was the moral and practical choice when it came to food production, why was it not the moral and practical choice when it came to protection and defense? If a welfare state forcibly robbing people in the name of fighting poverty was immoral and counter-productive, why was forcibly robbing people in the name of protecting them from thieves and invaders any better? Arguing “it’s for your own good,” or “it’s necessary,” or “the collective need justifies it,” made me sound exactly like the communists I routinely railed against. And saying “The Constitution says so” was a complete cop-out, as if my philosophical position didn’t need a rational basis as long as it matched what a sacred piece of paper said. I’ve enjoyed arguing for as long as I can remember. And whenever one engages in intellectual battle, the chinks in his armor will always be his own inconsistencies. I had made a hobby out of aiming for the giant holes of inconsistency in the “armor” of collectivist ideas (socialism, communism, democracy, etc.). And I wanted my own philosophical armor to be invincible. To put it another way, because I considered the truth to be what matters above all, and because the truth can’t be inconsistent with itself, I wanted to make sure there were no contradictions or inconsistencies in my own belief system, and in what I was advocating. So I spent lots of time looking at my own philosophical “armor,” and saw that it had some gaping holes in it – in other words, I saw that my philosophy contradicted itself. And that wasn’t okay with me. So I set out to remove those inconsistencies, no matter what. If my reverence for the Constitution got in the... Read the full thing

Ben Speers

“Toward Freedom” is an Everything-Voluntary.com series sharing personal stories about the journey toward freedom. Archived stories can be found here. Submit your story to the editor. A lot of people go through life without ever questioning things, but I’ve always identified with Socrates’ sentiment that the unexamined life isn’t worth living. In the realm of politics, I’ve always been driven by the question, “What are the proper limits on personal freedom?” When I was introduced to voluntaryism (also known as voluntarism), I felt like I had finally found a philosophical home. The journey that took me there was a long one. In a way, it’s the story of my life. Dad’s Legacy As a child, my political views were largely informed by my father’s views. Dad was an outspoken conservative. I could probably sum up his views best by describing him as a Reaganite. Dad was not quite a paleo-conservative, but he was in many ways antagonistic towards neocons. While my dad did vote Republican almost all the time, he was aware of rampant corruption within the Republican Party. My father taught me about why communism doesn’t work economically, and he also warned me about the dangers of totalitarianism. In some ways, he was a product of the cold war. It wasn’t until later in life that I fully appreciated what he meant when he said that the US was becoming more and more like the Soviet Union. Dad talked a lot about small government and individual freedom, yet he worked for the federal government for most of his adult life, right up to his untimely death. He had been raised in a very patriotic family; his own father had fought in WWII. My father believed in the ideal of a Constitutional Republic with a limited government. So he believed in the necessity of having some government while remaining fiercely skeptical about the benefits of having too much of it. I think Dad’s career was a reflection of that attitude. He enlisted in the Air Force during the Vietnam War in order to avoid being drafted into the infantry. He felt that that route was a reasonable compromise between draft-dodging and sacrificing his life for what he perceived to be a senseless and poorly managed war. Dad later earned a commission as an officer with Air Force Intelligence, but after a few years he could no longer tolerate the incompetent, inefficient, pig-headed bosses who impeded him from doing his job while simultaneously taking the credit for his work. In the ‘80s Dad transferred to the Air Force Reserves, a part-time job, and secured a position with US Customs Intelligence. Eventually, however, he would come to face many of the same problems that he had suffered under in the Air Force in his Customs career. The ineptitude and clumsiness of bureaucracy nearly drove him mad at times. My dad was always a big believer in self-defense and gun ownership rights, although he never spent much time actually handling guns. In fact,... Read the full thing