Mark Thornton

“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.

Geneva is a small town in the Finger Lakes region of western New York State. I was born and raised there in a family that was Irish in extraction, Catholic in religion, entrepreneurs by occupation, and thoroughly Democrat in politics. I now realize that by the time I left Geneva for college I was already a libertarian, a fact I credit to my family, especially my mother and father.

Looking back, I was interested in politics at an early age, and libertarian-leaning from nearly the beginning. What is surprising to me, in retrospect, was that everyone wasn’t a libertarian. This was the period of the Vietnam War, Nixon’s War on Drugs, wage and price controls, Watergate, stagflation, and in New York—big spending Republican Governor Nelson Rockefeller. Nothing was going right in this country and nobody could cover up that fact.

One of my first political memories was watching the Democratic National Convention on the television at my grandparents’ house. Hubert Humphrey was the nominee, and was roundly endorsed by my extended family. I vividly remember asking what the difference was between the Democrats and Republicans. My uncle Tim told me that Republicans supported big business and the Democrats were the party of the “little guy.” This description was followed by the unexpected question: What party did I support?

I’m sure they expected me to answer “Democrat.”

Standing on the proverbial hotspot, but firmly behind the Rawlsian veil of ignorance, I proclaimed that I didn’t support either party. After all, why support big business over small business or the little guy over the big guy? I asked if I could be a Democrat-Republican or a Republican-Democrat, to which one of my uncles responded that the Democratic-Republicans won the presidency in 1800, but was no longer active.

I responded that I would not be able to vote for some time and that I was confident that the Democratic-Republicans would someday make a comeback.

Very little did I know that Hubert Humphrey’s opponent would set in motion policies that would make that comeback possible within four years’ time in the form of the Libertarian Party, and that I would come to embrace the principles of the Libertarian Party and the old Democratic-Republican Party of Thomas Jefferson.

As the first grandchild on both sides of my family, I was surrounded by a virtual army of aunts and uncles. I credit my family, especially my mother and father, for helping me and allowing me to become what I am today. Naturally, that honor may have been viewed by some as a dubious distinction in the era when being a libertarian, especially a libertarian politician, was a sign of being a radical and a quack, but no one tried to stop me.

My mother was very influential in my life. She was not overly protective, encouraged me to try new things, and believed in self-responsibility, not rigid, arbitrary rules. She emphasized incentives, persuasion, and thinking about how your actions impacted others, rather than punishment. Her influence was at the ethical, moral, and esthetic levels, not the political.

She never tired of telling the story of her fighting city hall over a traffic violation charge. She was told not to do so, that it was not that important, and that she would surely lose anyway. However, she spent a great deal of time and money fighting the charge. She hired a lawyer, took off time from work, and in the end lost the case and was given a more severe penalty than had she not contested the charge.

You could tell that this still “burned” her many years after the fact, but also that she was very proud for having defended herself and fought city hall with everything at her disposal. The point of her story was that, when confronted with such choices, we should always do what we think is “right.” We should not take the easy way out or do the “smart” thing—especially in matters of justice and personal reputation. She remarked that your time and money come and go, but the things you are proud of, or embarrassed about, will stay with you for the rest of your life.

I think that this perspective is what underlies libertarianism: do what is right, rather than what is “smart” or personally advantageous in political and social matters. Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives—socialists of various flavors—always do the smart thing and all have groups they are defending. All of their actions are in the “national interest,” but they never do what is right. In fact, by their nature, ideology, and “interests,” they are consigned to do what is wrong. Virtually everything they do is wrong, both from a moral and ethical point of view and also from a practical and common sense (what I now would call “economic”) perspective.

Obviously, all these statists think their views are moral and practical and that their policies are of absolute necessity, but upon mild reflection or historical examination, their wishful thinking vanishes. Does welfare help the poor? Does government stimulate the economy? Does war create peace? Is justice something created by government? I have spent my entire adult life examining such questions and have yet to find just one good example that would answer any of these questions in the affirmative.

I strongly believe that this simple libertarian perspective of mine was reinforced by my Catholic education; an education that was insisted upon by my mother. The Catholic Church is an ancient, massive, hierarchical organization with lots of rules and ceremonies, but at its core is the role of conscience and of the individual who must choose between right and wrong. People listen to the pope, but they don’t necessarily comply with his dictates. Catholics will listen to their bishops, but don’t necessarily follow their orders (especially nowadays!). Catholics are supposed to do what they think is right. You should help the deserving poor and not harm others. Anything else is fair game. Everything is not morally black and white, but you pay for your mistakes. If your actions come into conflict with some official church dogma—no problem—just keep track of those “official” sins, along with your real sins (i.e., those that actually bother your conscience, like stealing and lying) and tell them to the priest in confession.

My experience is that adding the official sins to the real ones did little or nothing to increase your punishment. In fact, it was called penance, not punishment. Official sins need not be calculated exactly and are easy to estimate from month to month. Following all the official rules is also perfectly fine.

My father provided me with a completely different set of lessons. He was a practical man and ultra-frugal, having grown up during the Great Depression and World War II in a broken family. He was a good analyst of government stupidity and I owe a good deal of my understanding of the state to him.

I went to work with my father at an early age, and this is where I learned many valuable lessons. For example, I once commented favorably on the looks of a short section of road that connected the residential part of town, up on the hill, curved down to the shoreline of the lake, and then off to the next town, effectively bypassing the downtown business district. I was surprised with my father’s reply. He said that it was nothing but a Federal “urban renewal” project. It had bulldozed all the shoreline businesses, was hurting downtown firms, undermining something called the tax base, and it would eventually kill the city.

Wow! I could not believe that one little road, less than a mile long could cause all that destruction, but that is exactly what happened, just the way he said it would. Urban renewal turned out to be nothing more than a stimulant for “urban blight” and suburban sprawl. I still, to this day, consider that pretty perceptive analysis for someone trained as a pharmacist, not an urban planner.

By the age of ten or eleven I could do practically every job in the store, including selling everything from cigarettes to narcotics, cashing out the cash registers, restocking shelves, taking inventory, cleaning everything, and even filling prescriptions. The only thing I couldn’t do was type up the labels and take prescriptions from the customers. This was my father’s domain. He would take the prescription from the customer, read it, puzzle over it, and then announce when it would be ready. In a few cases it could be ready “in just a minute,” but most often it could not be ready for two hours or “later this afternoon,” or even “not until tomorrow.”

This always puzzled me because, although I could not read the doctor’s prescriptions to save my life and could not pronounce the names of most drugs, I could “fix” or fill the prescription in a matter of two minutes and my father could do it even faster. I suppose this stalling improved safety, but I bet it also had something to do with legitimizing professional licensing of pharmacists. (He always checked and rechecked everything I did dealing with medications, and this would be retested when we took inventory or reordered drugs so that we would know if even one pill was missing, all without the help of computers. He was even able to identify employee-pharmacists who stole pills from the inventory.)

The most basic and important lesson I learned while growing up in the store was that you must cheat on your taxes to succeed or even survive in business, and that most everyone who could, did so. It all began when I realized that we treated the “front” cash register different from the “back” cash register. After a little persistent questioning, my father said that we paid taxes on one, but not necessarily the other. He explained that if we paid taxes on every dollar of sales, we would barely break even, and that if we went out of business both we and our customers would be worse off. The meaning of this was clear to me and I understood its implications. This was not stealing. It was our money and if we gave it to the government they would just go and build more urban renewal. Getting “let in on” the family business made my job even more enjoyable, and I would regularly divert sales to the tax-free register.

As I learned more about the operation, it seemed like everything we did violated some government rule or other, but none of the regulations—from recycling prescription bottles to the location and storage of the cocaine—made sense. We never got caught and never got sued. I never heard a customer complain and we had plenty of happy long-term customers of all races and creeds. (We lived in the most “multicultural and ethnically diverse” society that anyone could ever imagine; everyone told ethnic jokes about each other, and everyone seemed to get along fine with each other.)

Federal regulators bothered my father the most, and they would cause him to swear and use the Lord’s name in vain. Even little things, like the requirement to use childproof bottles, got him worked up. The day we were ordered to do so, I didn’t see the problem and thought it might be a good idea, until he explained that childproof bottles were unnecessary and made it difficult for his elderly customers. I had two younger brothers, but “did we need childproof bottles in our house?” It dawned on me that I had never seen a prescription bottle anywhere in the house, despite the fact that we got sick and took pills like everyone else. Parents must hide the pills so that little kids can’t get to them. His point was now clear to me, but he continued to talk to me about it for the rest of the day, as well as with many of his customers—with everyone getting worked up about the childproof bottles as a result.

The maddest I ever saw him was over new federal rules about Medicaid and Medicare. One day he stormed out of his office and announced that “we were getting screwed.” It seems that our “reimbursement” was getting cut and that the chains would be able to cheat, but that independents, like us, would get forced out. Moments later I was told that I could not go into pharmacy and would have to choose a new career. As someone who spent most of my free time playing with toy soldiers or riding my bike, I was unaware that I had chosen a career. One thing was clear: Medicaid was a bad thing.

One “political” memory I have from the store happened one Saturday when I went to work with Dad. My first customer picked up something red next to my cash register to purchase it. It was a bumper sticker—“ANOTHER TAX PAYER IN THE RED.” We didn’t sell bumper stickers and it didn’t have a price on it, so I asked my Dad how much it cost. He yelled back, “One dollar,” and added, “no tax!” He later explained that City Hall already took more from us than they deserved, that it wasted tons of money, and any further tax increase would kill the city. He was correct, once again. Over the last thirty years the city has lost business and population, and many of its buildings have decayed—often going unused for years at a time.

For me, the fight against taxes was a fun thing. I relished selling those bumper stickers and used some of my pay to buy one for my bike. Long before Geneva, New York had gone to economic hell, I knew that government was a bad thing and that taxes were destructive. I also realized at an early age that fighting taxes and fighting city hall was the correct and moral thing to do, and that it could also be fun and exciting.

Alas, my city did die economically, just as my father predicted. The store was closed and Dad took a job with a chain drug store. Now forced to pay taxes on my wages, I largely spent my high school years resisting three government prohibitions against me.

As high school graduation approached, I became increasingly interested in politics and public policy, and was very frustrated with the state of the world. Jack Kemp’s congressional office was next door to one of my family’s homesteads, so I became familiar with his politics and encouraged by his libertarian rhetoric, especially his desire to cut taxes. I had never heard of Austrian economics, classical liberalism, or libertarianism, but I knew that Kemp sounded like he was on the right track. In registering to vote that year, I became the first person on either side of my family to vote Republican.

Fortunately for me, my family didn’t care enough about politics to worry over my choice of political parties—boy, was I fortunate! Unfortunately for Kemp and the Republicans, I did care deeply about politics. Republican words rarely turned into libertarian actions or votes in Congress (I still had never heard the word “libertarian”), so I soon renounced my alignment with the Republican Party. I set off to college on a journey that would take me from being a homegrown libertarian to becoming a professional libertarian and life-long advocate of the individual’s will over the power of the state.

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Spencer W. Morgan

“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.

The story of how I “arrived at liberty” is a long and gradual one. It is one thing to understand liberty and self-determination in general, but it is quite another to reach the point of reconciling those ideas in their applications to all areas of life. My story is the story of doing so in a few gradual phases.

I grew up in a fairly well-to-do Mormon family who were never highly politically involved until I was in my early 20’s, when my mother was elected to the Utah House of Representatives in 1998. My parents definitely leaned conservative during the Reagan years, though by the time of her run for Congress my mom was running as a Democrat… which means something much different in a local Utah race than it does nationally. My father, an accomplished civil defense attorney, exposed me to the basic notions of limitations on government, rights and arguments for market incentives. He often listened to Rush Limbaugh during my high-school years before September 11th when Limbaugh was still arguing primarily from free-market principles. We both really enjoyed when Rush would turn the mic over periodically to Walter Williams as a guest host, because of his focus and clarity on the core ideas of liberty. My mother and I would always hash out long discussions over political ideas, and over the years we have traded places a few times on ends of the spectrum. I owe a great deal to my parents for raising me in an environment where confrontation and questioning were safe, and in which detailed political discourse was not discouraged. I’m sure there were times when it seemed like the contention that resulted was not worth it.

Through all of this, I still viewed these notions (free markets, limited government) as standard Republican fare. It was not until I took debate at Brighton High School as a senior that things really changed for me. As a participant in a Lincoln-Douglas debate, I was required to address a variety of topics over the course of a year by writing and presenting a systematic, value-based case for either side of a given issue. Doing so (and knowing the problems with the other guy’s case) ultimately meant learning philosophy. I enjoyed both the debating and the writing of these cases so much that I became absorbed with it my entire senior year. I spent hours a week reading philosophy and formulating these cases with a core of good friends who shared the same passion. These were not the same people as the stereotypical overachieving high-school students who took debate and attended a tournament or two so they could put it on their college application, though many were very successful in their academics. I, on the other hand, blew off all my homework in other subjects that year.. maintaining only an interest in my history class largely because of an excellent teacher (Mr. Jacobs).

During this obsession I was tasked to write a case arguing against the resolution “Laws which protect people from themselves are justified”. As the basis for my defense, I learned and adopted John Stuart Mill’s “harm principle” as articulated in his classic On Liberty. Despite its being a very soft version of what I later came to understand as the non-aggression principle, and despite Mill’s own later acquiescence to a “greater good” societal morality, the idea was powerful and so was my debate case. I noticed how it seemed to resonate with judges ranging from the most trained debating academics to the typical “school bus judge” (a term we used for parents or school employees brought in at the last minute so the school could fill their quota of judges needed to participate). I never lost a debate round arguing negative on that resolution. It probably would have carried me to the Weber State invitational championship, had I not been required to argue the opposing side in the semi-finals against a very talented opponent who was of course arguing for the correct idea. Incidentally, I missed what would have been my first date with my wife Stephanie to attend this tournament. The experience of having to argue for a position one does not hold is an experience from which everyone can benefit. I only spent one year in debate at Brighton, but the experience awakened in me an awareness of the basic notion of non-aggression and (ultimately more importantly) a strong desire to expand that understanding.

During my LDS mission, I disobeyed the directives to have only the minimal “missionary set” of books and hauled with me a set of institute manuals. From avidly reading these manuals I gleaned not only a basic overview of the scriptural historical picture, but encountered the assertions that various LDS leaders had made about the principle of liberty. Despite this, however, I can’t honestly say that I ever felt that my religion or the Mormon culture was pulling me in the direction of liberty at all, nor that my acceptance of the idea was religiously motivated. While the theological support in Mormonism for personal liberty and agency is very clear, I still do not feel that libertarianism is mandated by Mormonism or even, in a few key ways, fully consistent therewith. It would be less than honest of me to say that my acceptance of liberty didn’t come at the expense of my own personal identification with Mormonism, primarily in cultural aspects.

In later years, I was exposed to a lot of the hypotheses about conspiracies as explanations for historical events and government abuses. This awakened in me a new awareness of the potential for state abuse of power. It made me keenly aware and observant of the way that both parties combine (whether intentionally or not) to undermine liberty in the overall sense, and of the threats to personal liberty and safety posed by the state. It also, however, made me a very hostile and fearful person and took a great toll on my family. At length I ended up rejecting this area of influence in my life both for evidenciary reasons and, to a greater extent, to remove the impact it was having on me.

The next important influence I should mention came when my ever-growing desire for more audio books about history and philosophy was met by stumbling across the web site, Mises.org. The Mises Institute, named for the famous economist, is essentially a free online university containing thousands of hours of free audio lectures and PDF books. They have dedicated the site to making the viewpoint of the Austrian, free-market school of economics, and libertarian analysis of history and philosophy readily available to all. In my college courses at the University of Utah, libertarianism was only addressed in very superficial references to the works of Mill, Nozick or Adam Smith. Absorbing the work of academics like Murray Rothbard, Walter Block and Thomas Woods gave me a new take on the history and philosophy that I had enjoyed for so long, and it also exposed me to an academic tradition containing the most powerful and systematic ideas about rights and liberty.

The last lynch-pin was pulled for me when I started reading Ayn Rand. I consider her to have been the equivalent in moral philosophy to Isaac Newton or Albert Einstein in physics. Though she didn’t herself fully reconcile the implications of her own ethics to government, she laid down the systematic foundation in her novel Atlas Shrugged that led me to the acceptance of the final implication of that idea… which is anarchy. Of course by “anarchy” I don’t mean that I desire the chaos or disorder in which it is usually assumed to result. I mean only that I believe in the absence of government. I do not believe that government should be violently or politically dismantled. I only accept means to that end which are both non-aggressive and strategically wise. What I came to fully realize after reading Rand’s novels is that there is a moral mandate against the operation or existence of government. This is because of it’s nature as an institutional, society-wide mechanism for what would be in all other contexts properly acknowledged as aggression. Her positive moral basis for rights, and her theory of rights as implicit from man’s individual condition as a rational volitional actor also filled in a lot of gaps for me where I felt like the Mises scholars and other “anti-morality” rights advocates were falling short and relying on a purely negative notion of rights. Along with prompting me to those most recent understandings, her portrayal of the individual creative hero really resonated with me having for years cultivated (and simultaneously suppressed for cultural reasons) my own passion for creating and performing music in a variety of styles.

I must also mention the last important influence who is probably the most integral one to my own sanity. That person is Marc Stevens. When I read his book Adventures in Legal Land, I initially expected it to be merely a new spin on the plethora of “get out of paying tickets” literature circulating in the patriot movement. What I got instead was the most humorous and rigidly uncompromising application of pure logic to the realm of “government” as we know it, and the ways we encounter it in our lives. His approach really helped me to lighten my psychological load. Having met him personally and listened to him extensively, he seems almost completely immune to the mindset of condescension and hostility toward others that the understanding of liberty will often lead a person to indulge. He has been an integral example to me in how to handle the understanding of liberty in my own life and relating to others in light thereof. When I want to expose someone to liberty and anarchy in a way that I am confident will cut right to the core of the principle, while still avoiding the alienating political trappings, academic packaging and self-congratulating that turns many people off to libertarianism, I send them to his material.

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Jeff Riggenbach

“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.

In high school, I took my “first steps” toward becoming a libertarian when I read books by Ayn Rand and Frédéric Bastiat, and subscribed to The Freeman magazine. I didn’t know it at the time, but those chance philosophical encounters would lead to a multifaceted career in journalism, broadcasting, audio book narration, and editing that would span more than three decades.

I received my first copy of the Foundation for Economic Education’s The Freeman in 1963. In it, I found a definition (offered by a writer named Leonard Read, of whom I had never heard) of a word that was also new to me: the word libertarian. With something of a start, I realized that this word described me. I was a “libertarian”—and not, as I had thought, a conservative.

After a stint with Teenage Republicans for Goldwater and the University of Houston’s Ayn Rand Club, I decided to pursue a career in journalism. I started at KFWB, an all-news radio station in Los Angeles, where I worked as an anchor, interviewer, writer, and producer. In later years, my voice was heard as a daily economics commentator for CNN Radio and as a weekly commentator on the Cato Institute’s Byline, which was broadcast coast to coast on several hundred radio stations.

While in Los Angeles, I was exposed to the writings of Robert LeFevre, Lysander Spooner, and Murray Rothbard, and began to work for magazines that catered to the growing libertarian movement. Beginning in 1977, I served as a contributing editor or writer for Reason, New Libertarian, The Libertarian Review, and Inquiry.

Over the years, I also published more than 400 editorials, op-ed columns, and reviews (of literature, music, and film) in The New York Times, USA Today, the Los Angeles Times, the Chicago Tribune, the San Francisco Chronicle, and others. In addition, I worked as an editorial writer and columnist in California for the Orange County Register and the Oakland Tribune. Whenever possible, I did pieces, whether for newspapers or for radio, that promoted libertarian ideas.

In 1998, I published my first book, In Praise of Decadence. The book, an overview of the libertarian movement’s impact on the 1960s, argued that baby boomers “have always been more libertarian than anyone expected,” according to Prometheus Books. The book also suggested that the oft-criticized “decadence” (that is, disrespect for traditional authority) of the 1960s ushered in a vibrant era of cultural experimentation and growth in America. The book received a five-star rating from readers at Amazon.com.

Drawing on vocal skills I honed in radio, I have narrated the audio book versions of numerous libertarian works, including David Boaz’s Libertarianism: A Primer, Rose Wilder Lane’s The Discovery of Freedom, and Jim Powell’s The Triumph of Liberty. I also taught philosophy, music appreciation, popular culture, and writing at San Francisco’s Academy of Art College.

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James Ostrowski

“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.

I suppose I could best be described as an independent, middle-class, populist, radical libertarian. How I got that way is an interesting story (you hope). I was born into a political family in one of the most highly politicized counties in the United States. My father was a New York State judge from the time I was four years old. From the age of twelve (1970) through the time I left Buffalo for law school in 1980, I was a close observer of local politics. I saw it up close and personal. By sixteen, I became personally involved as a campaign volunteer. What I saw in those early years was critical to my conversion to libertarianism later.

My first memory of national politics was the fight over the Vietnam war. Since my parents were news junkies, I literally grew up watching American boys die in the rice paddies of Vietnam on network news. I particularly recall the weekly body count: U.S.–214, South Vietnamese–313, North Vietnamese–765. Boy, we sure were killing a lot of the enemy, I thought. Can’t be long now.

My father publicly denounced the war in 1970 and that was that. I was against the war. We supported McGovern in 1972. The war was the only issue that mattered. I grew up despising Nixon. He was the guy who said he would end the war and didn’t. The next big event was Watergate. In the summer of 1974, my mother and I sat rapt while the impeachment hearings detailed all the sleaze and corruption. (Yeah, I played football and basketball, too.)

That same year, I got involved in my first campaign other than my father’s—Ramsey Clark’s campaign for the United States Senate. I remember attending a fundraiser for him in Greenwich Village hosted by Chevy Chase where Harry Chapin sang. Cool stuff for a seventeen-year-old in the big city.

It’s precarious to reconstruct what my political philosophy was twenty-five years ago. My main inspiration was Thomas Jefferson. I would re-read the Declaration of Independence on the Fourth of July. It would, however, take me several years to grasp its radical implications. It’s fair to say that in those days, I was a liberal. I was voted “most liberal,” Class of ’75, St. Joseph’s Collegiate Institute. I was anti-Vietnam war, pro-drug legalization, pro-civil liberties. I was however, unfortunately ignorant of economics and fell prey to liberal redistributionist nostrums. I also have to confess I was pro- “gun-control.” In my defense, I was a juvenile and gun control is a juvenile notion.

In the later years of the 1970s, I started developing a notion of politics based on personal experience with local politics in Buffalo. What I observed was political machines blatantly using the government to enrich themselves at the expense of the general public while a once great city was decaying. In response to this, I formulated my own simple (and unoriginal) notion of politics: government should do those things which are in the general interest, not the interest of one faction at the expense of another. I did not have at that time a firm notion of what was in the general interest; I just knew what I was seeing in Buffalo politics—use of the government for the benefit of the discrete interests of those in power—was not it.

Meanwhile, I worked on Mo Udall’s campaign for president. We liberals really—I’m trying to think of another word than hate—disliked Jimmy Carter. What a phony. Was I right about him. If he didn’t have so much competition, he would be up for worst president ever: cancelled my beloved Summer Olympics, started draft registration, created an artificial energy crisis, lowered the speed limit to 55. What an idiot! And need I say, Iranian Hostage Crisis, stagflation and the Mujahedeen? When it came time to vote, I cast my first presidential vote ever for the Libertarian, Roger McBride. I didn’t know much about him, but I knew the Libertarians were against the war on drugs, and I didn’t want to vote for one of the Commies.

In college (SUNY Buffalo), where I majored in political philosophy and the classics (an unofficial major of my own invention), I read some soft-core libertarian stuff: J.S. Mill’s On Liberty and Milton Friedman’s Capitalism and Freedom. I liked both but was still searching. Then I saw Ayn Rand on Phil Donahue. Most of the audience despised her. That made me think, maybe it’s worth checking her out. I read the Virtue of Selfishness and Capitalism, the Unknown Ideal. Since I was already an individualist and rationalist, her rationalist, individualist philosophy clicked with me immediately: (1) man is to be guided by reason; (2) the individual is the unit of value; (3) big government sucks; and (4) capitalism is cool. (That’s free market, not corporate-state, capitalism.) I already knew points one to three; Rand (and Rothbard) taught me point four. I abhor, however, the authoritarian cult that developed around Ayn Rand and the philosophical straight-jacket she forced her followers to wear.

Meanwhile, in college, we read Robert Nozick’s Anarchy, State, and Utopia. A fine book, but its main value was that it first introduced me to the century’s greatest expositor of libertarianism, Murray Rothbard. I quickly devoured many of his books and essays and signed on to Rothbardianism, a general outlook on politics and economics I have held to since 1980. I had the privilege of inviting Murray to Brooklyn Law School in 1982, where he did a tripartite dissection of the statist Reagan administration. This was to the utter amazement of the liberal audience, who could not conjure how Rothbard could be to the “left” of Reagan on civil liberties and foreign policy, but to the “right” of him on economics.

I did not see Murray Rothbard often over the years, but I felt a special bond with him, and he had the ability to make a young libertarian feel that the bond was reciprocal. The only degree I have in economics is an MNR (Murray N. Rothbard). I had the privilege of attending Rothbard’s ten-part seminar in the history of economic thought in 1984, in New York City. My notes from that seminar evidence lectures covering the wide sweep of Western and even Eastern economic, political and religious thought. Rothbard’s grasp of the history of Western religions was startling.

In the early years, I had the privilege of meeting other great libertarian pioneers, including Henry Mark Holzer, my law professor, historian Ralph Raico, my fellow Buffalonian, and the incomparable Roy Childs (who died in 1992). Roy, also originally from Buffalo, got me interested again in drug policy, which I suppose is where I made my bones. (I learned years after we met that Roy had been taught to read by my cousins.) I say “again,” in high school I had debated in favor of marijuana legalization. At the 1980 Cato Summer Seminar at Dartmouth, Roy spoke three times and gave perhaps the three most inspiring lectures. Roy and I had coffee at the bus station after the conference. I told him how impressed I was at the speeches by him and Rothbard, Thomas Sowell, Raico and others. Roy said to me, “You can do the same someday if you try.”

During the 1980 presidential campaign, the libertarian movement began to split into two factions, the Rothbardians versus the Cato Institute faction led by Ed Crane and funded by the billionaire Koch family (The “Kochtopus”). As I see it, and saw it, the split is about whether libertarianism would be “hard-core” or watered down, grass roots or inside the beltway, decentralized or run by a few moneybags and their minions, principle versus principal. I was always a Rothbardian in spirit, even when I took a brief and disappointing detour into the Kochtopus in 1990 to try to start a national anti-drug war organization. For reasons never made entirely clear to me, the Kochtopus, after encouraging me to abandon my law practice to start Citizens Against Prohibition, abruptly dropped the project.

Off and on since 1980, I have been active in the Libertarian Party. I flirted with the libertarian-Republican movement around 1992, but decided that policy tinkering is pointless. In 1994, I decided to run for governor of New York State as a Libertarian. My life-long friend and campaign manager, Marty Mutka, and I worked long and hard to gain the nomination and I was in the driver’s seat until about one month before the convention. Then, an eccentric long-time libertarian who I had mistakenly counted as a friend, recruited Howard Stern to run for Governor as a libertarian.

I thought the idea was absurd and was surprised that many party activists were intrigued by the idea. (Murray wouldn’t have been surprised.) Two key activists, each of whom begged me to run and promised to support me, stabbed me in the back and supported Stern. Several very decent libertarians stuck with me, however, including Mark Axinn and Becky Akers, and the late Gail Bova. I refused to quit and fought hard. As reported in The New Yorker, I even offered to meet a pro-Stern heckler in the parking lot after the convention. (He never showed.) The myth is that Stern rolled over us at the convention. The reality was that we came within about thirty or so votes of depriving him of a first ballot victory. The national media covered the convention but the best account was by Murray Rothbard writing in the Rothbard-Rockwell Report. Murray was a great journalist on top of everything else.

What struck me the most about the bitter experience of 1994 was how little respect many New York libertarians had for traditional non-political values like loyalty and friendship. If I gave my word of honor that I would support someone for office, then, in the old Irish neighborhood I come from (South Buffalo), come hell or high water, my word is my solemn oath, and may I rot in hell if I betray that oath. Lest I be accused of obsolete romanticism, I point out that, having scorned such old-fashioned values as loyalty, honor, friendship, and philosophical principle, the NYLP has enjoyed spectacular electoral failure since 1994. A = A, I guess.

Currently, I am affiliated with the Ludwig von Mises Institute as an adjunct scholar and contributor to Mises.org and LewRockwell.com as a columnist. Lew Rockwell, Jeff Tucker, and the crew in and around the Mises Institute are the finest people, personally and philosophically, in the libertarian movement today. Unlike many other libertarians I have known, they believe in the ancient and eternal verities.

The Mises team is the most productive free-market policy group in existence. They do far more with fewer resources than other think tanks possess. And they do it without ever selling their souls or any part thereof. Years ago, when Jeff Tucker first approached me to write for the Free Market, I asked Roy Childs what he knew about the upstart think tank in Alabama. Even though Roy had broken with Rothbard and was aligned with the Cato camp at the time, he encouraged me to work with the Mises Institute. “They’re okay,” he said, “They’re hard core.” Boy are they ever! When others cowered after 9/11, they fought for their principles more boldly than ever.

It has been twenty-three years since I abandoned reform Democrat/liberal politics and joined the libertarian movement. It has been fascinating, frustrating, thrilling, maddening, and more. I have met some of the finest men and women of our time, and a few scoundrels, too. There have been many defeats and only a few victories, but we have not yet begun to fight! “Once more into the breach, dear friends . . .”

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Andrew P. Napolitano

“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.

Winston Churchill, of whose Big Government values I have not been fond, did have a great gift for words. He once famously said, “Any man under thirty who is not a liberal has no heart, and any man over thirty who is not a conservative has no brains.”

In my case, things didn’t work quite that way. As an undergraduate at Princeton in the late sixties and early seventies and later as a law student at Notre Dame, I was a strong and vocal conservative, as the word was then understood. At the height of the anti-Vietnam War movement, I arranged a campus visit to Princeton by William F. Buckley, Jr., the leading conservative intellectual at the time. I brought in other speakers, moderated panels, orchestrated rallies, and made no secret of my political views. I even once wore a T-shirt in 1970 that proclaimed “Bomb Hanoi”! I thought Richard Nixon’s militaristic, law-and-order, pro-police platforms in 1968 and 1972 were right for the country.

Fast-forward two decades, however, and you will find me as a judge invalidating police drunk-driving roadblocks in New Jersey and forbidding the cops from stopping someone on a whim. Before my ruling, the police in New Jersey could and did stop and search any cars they wished. They didn’t need any rationale; you didn’t even have to be driving erratically since they just stopped cars because they had the power to do so. My published opinion, which ruled that such stops were illegal in the absence of some demonstration of illegal behavior, like weaving in and out of traffic or bolting out of a bar’s parking lot, was upheld by the appellate courts. Today in New Jersey random stops by police are illegal, and any evidence acquired during them is supposed to be excluded from trial.

I am proud of that opinion. But it is one that I would have railed against as a conservative college student and law student and active Republican practicing attorney. My younger self would have said, “So what’s the problem? If you’re not driving under the influence, what does it matter if the police stop and search you? Think of all the drunk drivers those stops will get off the road.”

It is a frequently made argument: Why not give up a little personal liberty, like the right to drive your car without being stopped by the police on a whim, in return for temporary safety, like fewer drunks on the road? If the random stops keep one drunk driver off the road and save one child’s life, aren’t they worth the inconvenience?

Don’t be like the younger me. Don’t be too quick to agree. Consider first Benjamin Franklin’s famous pronouncement: “They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

Ouch!

Is driving a car without being pulled over by the police an “essential liberty?” Will the drunk drivers that such pull-overs find give you a “little temporary safety”? These are not trivial questions. When Franklin made his pronouncement in 1759, he certainly didn’t think similar questions of the day were trivial. And that was back when there was no country, no Constitution, and no guarantees of liberty.

The Constitution says the government cannot arrest you without probable cause—specific evidence that you more likely than not committed a specific crime. And our courts have uniformly held that police can’t stop you without articulable suspicion—credible reasons that can be stated to a neutral judge as to why your behavior is suspicious of criminal activity. Think about it. If the police can stop you for any reason, then they can stop you for the wrong reason, like race or appearance or religion or politics or personal vendetta, just as the SS and the KGB did to persons in Nazi Germany and in the Soviet Union.

So why my change in philosophy and outlook? What caused me to flip from being a law-and-order conservative to a true libertarian? The answer: My eight years on the bench.

It took a while, but over time I learned that once the police have pulled you over, they can “find” all kinds of things in your car. And in some cases, if they don’t find what they want, they are not above planting it; like a little bag of cocaine placed under the passenger seat by one cop while another has you in the squad car answering questions. Not all cops, of course, do this; but it’s a common enough occurrence to be worried about.

Even if the defendant is a drug dealer, with a multi-page rap sheet; even if his harm to the community is palpable and real; even if the police, the prosecutors, and the courts are all convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that there was a bag of cocaine somewhere in the car; if the evidence was not obtained in accordance with the Constitution; if the police did not have a lawful basis for stopping and searching the car; if the police broke the law in order to enforce it, then the evidence of criminality must be excluded at trial. That is the law today. If the police can mow down the Constitution to nail the Devil, they can mow it down to nail anyone. The history of human freedom is paying careful attention to the government’s procedures.

I know I’ve wandered from the main question regarding my profound change of philosophy, heart, and general view of the relationship between individuals and government. I’m not avoiding it, exactly, so much as sneaking up on it gradually.

According to an old joke, “a conservative is a liberal who’s been mugged, and a liberal is a conservative who’s been arrested”; meaning, of course, that regardless of your beliefs in the abstract, one’s personal experiences tend to awaken one to reality, however unpleasant it may be.

Well, that’s very much what happened to me. As a judge, I heard the police lie and lie again. I remember one case in which a driver had been pulled over and directed to walk away from the car by one cop, while his partner secretly kicked in the car’s tail light. Why? To give the police a legal reason for the pull-over should it come up in court; which it did, of course. I remember another case in which a New Jersey State Trooper testified that he observed a crack in a tail light cover from a distance of six-tenths of a mile!

The first time a judge encounters behavior of this sort on the part of men and women who carry badges and guns and swear to uphold the Constitution (“I do solemnly swear that I will support and defend the Constitution . . .”) and swear to tell the truth (“. . . the whole truth and nothing but the truth . . .”) and then do neither, something inside you just dies. To someone from my blue-collar, lower middle class, pre-Vatican II Roman Catholic, respect-for-authority background, it was simply inconceivable.

You tell yourself that maybe it’s just one cop. But then it happens again and again. As you gain more experience, you find police not only lying under oath, but using forced confessions and prosecutors unlawfully withholding evidence helpful to a defendant, all in an effort to bring about convictions.

And then a cop I knew well came before me and lied. It was about a cocaine bust. I knew him so well I could tell he was lying to my face under oath when he told me the implausible reason about why he pulled over a known drug dealer and then just happened to observe neatly packaged cocaine on the front seat of this experienced drug dealer’s car. My now former-friend knows better than to admit that he lied. He broke the law by lying under oath (why wasn’t he prosecuted for perjury?), and because of that a guilty defendant walks free; but from the police officer’s view, he got the junk off the street (the minor amount of cocaine he seized), and so he and his fellow police officers view this as a “win”, even though they broke the law.For eight years I was a judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey. I have tried over one hundred fifty jury trials: murders, rapes, robberies, drug possession, medical malpractice, antitrust, and personal injury. I have sentenced over one thousand people. I have addressed many thousands of motions, hearings, and divorces. I was a professor of law at Delaware Law School (now Widener Law School) and taught constitutional law and criminal procedure for one and a half years there, and I taught constitutional law and jurisprudence as an adjunct professor at Seton Hall Law School for eleven years. I have written five books on the Constitution and have given thousands of lectures, broadcasts, and speeches on freedom. I am no longer a sitting judge or law school professor. But what I saw and studied and strained over taught me to speak with authority. I saw the beginnings—in my lifetime—of constitutional chaos.

The effect of my professional intimacy with the system was a sea change in my thinking. I can’t point to any single moment of sudden and divine clarity. Instead, the acts of seeing, studying, and examining the events in my courtroom day after day eventually caused me to rethink the verities that had been literally a part of my soul since I matured into a thinking, adult human being.

The one incontrovertible lesson I learned over those hard, disillusioning years: Unless you work for it, sell to it, or receive financial assistance from it, the government is not your friend.

The practical realizations that the government lies, cheats, and steals, and the unpleasantness attendant upon the acceptance of that while sitting as a life-tenured judge, naturally brought about a thirst for an intellectual re-examination of my own beliefs on the origins of freedom and to take a second look at the schools of thought that have animated the titanic battles between liberty and tyranny.

As an undergraduate during a radical time period on American college campuses, 1968 to 1972, I studied under brilliant minds, but those with a decidedly Big Government and Progressive bent. At Princeton, I was always going against the grain. The grain in those days was anti-government, anti-war, anti-big business. Having come to the understanding in the 1990s that I had been on the wrong side of human freedom in the 1970s, I was determined to re-examine the intellectual sources that brought me there.

So, I re-read many of the great books that had influenced my youth, and I read for the first time some that I had missed. I re-read The Conscience of a Conservative by Barry Goldwater and I re-read Orthodoxy by G.K. Chesterton. I dove into John Locke, Thomas Jefferson, St. Thomas Aquinas, and St. Augustine. I re-read Capitalism and Freedom by Milton Friedman. I read essays and articles by Murray Rothbard, Ludwig von Mises, and Ayn Rand. Perhaps the book that was the capstone of reforming my approach to liberty and tyranny was F.A. Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom. I have read this masterpiece twice. I was also profoundly influenced by two other masterpieces, The Way, by St. Josemaria Escriva, and A Man for All Seasons, by Robert Bolt. I re-read the three hundred most important cases decided by the United States Supreme Court; a daunting and frustrating task. I also re-read The Just War by Paul Ramsey, a Protestant theologian who was more faithful to the Magsterium than most Catholic priests were in the 1970s, and who taught me just war theory at Princeton. I even read James Madison’s notes and other records from the Constitutional Convention in 1787.

Then I found a place that synthesized all this so nicely—LewRockwell.com, or LRC as it is known to its fans. LRC is the most important, courageous, intellectually consistent web site in the world for those who are pro-free market, pro-natural rights, anti-state, and anti-war. It provides daily intellectual, and often humorous, sustenance to those of us who believe in the primacy of the individual, and those who truly believe that the state exists for the sole purpose of defending individual freedom.

I thank God for my intellectual odyssey. I have happily arrived at the most comfortable place for all who believe in human dignity; a place prepared by God the Father out of His love for us; a place for which I would sacrifice my life rather than live as a slave; a place which is the natural residence for all human aspirations. A place called freedom.

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Roderick Long

“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.

I’ve been fortunate enough to have spent over half my life in the libertarian movement, and I am very grateful to have received so much in the way of friendship, insight, intellectual stimulation, emotional support, and material assistance from its members over the years.

I owe my libertarianism to two women: my mother, and Ayn Rand.

My mother, Jorie Blair Long, comes from a family of individualists and independent thinkers, and I absorbed those values early on. From her I learned that people should rely on their own judgment, seek out their own destiny, and not dictate one another’s goals or poke their noses into one another’s business.

My mother’s political convictions were individualist as well – her family were all staunch Roosevelt-despisers of the “Old Right” tradition – but it was initially at the personal rather than at the political level that I was influenced by these values. Indeed, as a child I was thoroughly apolitical. Admittedly, I do recall being shocked and incredulous when, at the age of eleven or so, I discovered that the federal government considers a privately built or bought mailbox to be federal property. (My first episode of libertarian outrage!) But for the most part I was utterly ignorant of and indifferent to politics, and barely even knew who the President was; the political leaders who interested me were Agamemnon, and King Arthur, and Aragorn son of Arathorn.

The result of this indifference was that despite having fairly stern moral principles, I had really no political principles whatsoever. I recall, for example, writing essays for my high school social studies class in which I maintained that moral constraints do not apply in war, that a profession’s right to strike is inversely proportional to its social usefulness, and other such drivel. In my defense, I can say only that I at least held these views with no particular strength of conviction: I had given the questions little thought, because I found social studies an unbearably boring subject to think about. I had enjoyed reading books like 1984, Animal Farm, and Brave New World, but I hadn’t seen them as calling into question the political institutions of our country.

Although I had never been interested in exploring the political application of my personal values, the seed had been sown by my upbringing. The harvest came in 1979, when, at the age of 15, I read an article in Starlog magazine called, I think, “The Science Fiction of Ayn Rand.” (Incredibly, this now virtually unknown article was illustrated by the famous fantasy artist Boris Vallejo.) Its descriptions of Anthem and Atlas Shrugged were intriguing, and as an avid science-fiction reader I decided to give them a look.

For me, as for so many 15-year-olds before me, Atlas Shrugged was a turning point. Rand’s vision hit me like a magnesium flare dispelling murky vagueness; she converted me not just to libertarianism but to philosophy as such. I quickly moved on to reading all of Rand’s other books, both fiction and nonfiction (several of which my mother turned out to own already), then to reading authors Rand recommended, and authors those authors recommended, and so on. My libertarian education had begun.

I entered Harvard in 1981, certainly planning to study a bit of philosophy, but still entertaining thoughts of majoring in French or theatre or creative writing instead. In my senior year of high school I had taken a course at Dartmouth on continental philosophy, which I found to be an intellectual emetic; in light of Rand’s grim view of contemporary academia, I had little reason to expect any better of analytic philosophy. But after my first analytic course at Harvard – it was Roderick Firth’s “Types of Ethical Theory” – I was hooked. I soon realized that no other subject had any chance of luring me away, and I became a philosophy major. Though I was still a quasi-Randian, I had never brought my mind entirely into captivity to Rand (I reckon I would have lasted in her Collective just about as long as Rothbard did), and I soon began integrating the insights I had gained from Rand with the new ideas I was learning from mainstream philosophy. My foremost interests were ethics, philosophy of science, and Greek philosophy – especially Aristotle, who was beginning to displace Rand as my chief philosophical muse.

But my libertarian education continued as well; in the library stacks I was hunting down works by John Locke, Adam Smith, the Founding Fathers, Frederic Bastiat, Herbert Spencer, Ludwig von Mises, Henry Hazlitt, Isabel Paterson, Rose Wilder Lane, Murray Rothbard, Robert Heinlein, Tibor Machan, Milton Friedman, David Friedman, George Reisman, and Robert Nozick. (No Hayek, for some reason – my introduction to spontaneous-order theory came instead via the physical sciences, through courses on “Space, Time, and Motion” and “Chance, Necessity, and Order” by astrophysics professor David Layzer.) I also learned a great deal by writing for Harvard’s libertarian and conservative student newspapers, as well as for the M.I.T-based Objectivist periodical ERGO. And nearly everything I know about constitutional law I learned from my libertarian/conservative roommate Mark DePasquale. (I never took a course from Nozick; his “Best Things in Life” course, focusing on love, sex, and – I am not making this up – ice cream, sounded too touchy-feely to me. Nozick’s worst book, The Examined Life, was a product of that course, so I probably chose wisely.)

It was through an ad in the Harvard Libertarian that I discovered the Institute for Humane Studies. In 1986, my first year of graduate study at Cornell, I attended my first IHS conference. The lineup of lecturers was, for me, a fantastic feast of brain candy: Randy Barnett, Walter Grinder, Israel Kirzner, Don Lavoie, Leonard Liggio, Ralph Raico, and George Smith. (I remember Ralph asking me “Are you a Randroid?” To this I replied “I don’t think of myself as a Randroid” – which, as he quite reasonably pointed out, did not answer his question. But then again, since neither a Randroid nor a non-Randroid would admit to being a Randroid, it surely follows that Ralph’s very question was some sort of violation of conceptual grammar.) The IHS was to be an enormous influence in my life; I am grateful in particular to the loyal support of Walter Grinder, the Institute’s academic director at the time.

Over the next few years, my continuing association with the IHS had several beneficial results (in addition to the welcome financial aid!): it introduced the ideas of Friedrich Hayek into my intellectual evolution; it plugged me into an invaluable network of libertarian academics and institutions; and it radicalized me politically. (Yes, the IHS was radical in those days.) In 1987, thanks to a combination of IHS influence, Jonathan Kwitny’s excellent book Endless Enemies, the grotesque GOP primary debates (Bush-Dole-Kemp-Haig-DuPont-Robertson, ugh), and my increasing attraction to the cultural left, I was finally shaken loose from such Randian-style bad habits as hawkish foreign policy and the Republican Party. I joined the Libertarian Party on Thanksgiving Day, 1987.

By 1991, during my first year of teaching at UNC Chapel Hill – and in the face of the insanity surrounding the Gulf War – I had also come to reject the necessity of the state. I had initially resisted anarchism, convinced by Isabel Paterson’s God of the Machine that liberty could be secured only through a constitutional structure; after years of wrestling with the idea, I now came to see that market anarchy is such a structure. I had become what might be called a “left-Rothbardian.” (How big a change this was I’m not sure. When told of my conversion to anarchism, my mother and my ex-girlfriend both replied: “Oh? I thought you already were an anarchist.”)

I began to develop a moral and political philosophy that synthesized what I took to be the major insights of the Greek philosophers, the mediaeval Scholastics, Rand, Hayek, Rothbard, mainstream analytic philosophy, and the cultural left. (Admittedly, a stew unlikely to be precisely to anyone’s taste but my own.)

Through the IHS network I had come into contact with Fred Miller and his Social Philosophy and Policy Center. Now Fred invited me to spend the 1991–92 academic year there, on leave from Chapel Hill, to finish up my doctoral dissertation on Aristotle and indeterminism; this enabled me to receive my Ph.D. from Cornell that spring. While in Bowling Green I sat in on Fred’s graduate seminar on rights theory, which sparked new directions in my thinking. (All the seminar participants tried their hands at constructing deductive arguments with numbered steps deriving libertarian rights from Randian self-interest. Mine had the distinction of being the longest and weirdest.) In subsequent years, Fred was to prove an enormous help to my career, generously guiding many conference invitations and other opportunities my way.

In Fred’s seminar I had championed the “flourishing” over the “survival” interpretation of self-interest. One welcome bit of fallout from this was that David Kelley, who had led the exodus of the sane and nice people out of the Randian movement, invited me to his Institute for Objectivist Studies to give several lectures critiquing Rand’s ethics and epistemology from my own post-Randian point of view; these lectures eventually became my book Reason and Value: Aristotle versus Rand.

It was during my Chapel Hill years that I met Richard Hammer, a North Carolina engineer who sent me his manifesto Toward a Free Nation. Both inspired and frustrated by the history of attempts to found a new libertarian country, Rich had become convinced that such projects had failed, not because of a lack of potential inhabitants or resources, but because of the absence of believable descriptions of the relevant institutions. Impressed by his level-headed approach to what is all too often a half-baked project, I became involved in Rich’s Free Nation Foundation, a small think tank devoted, in effect, to libertarian constitutional design. Writing for FNF and discussing issues with the other members helped me to work out a more fully developed anarcho-capitalist political theory.

In 1997 I was denied tenure at Chapel Hill. Though it certainly didn’t seem so at the time, this was one of the best things that ever happened to me – for in 1998 I came to Auburn, the coolest philosophy department in the world. Here I soon found myself part of two different families of crusading, brass-knuckled rationalists. On the one hand, there were my new colleagues, from whom I would learn more than I’d learned from any philosopher since grad school. On the other hand, there was the Auburn-based Ludwig von Mises Institute, at the forefront of radical libertarian scholarship, in whose programs Lew Rockwell generously invited me to participate.

These two new influences were about to converge in a crucial way. Through Kelly Dean Jolley, one of my departmental colleagues, I became interested in the philosophical approach of Ludwig Wittgenstein (which I had previously dismissed as an obscurantist variant of positivism); through Guido Hülsmann and others at the Mises Institute, I became interested in Mises’ “praxeological” attempt to establish economic law on an a priori rather than an empirical basis. I soon began to see how these two projects connected in interesting ways both to each other and to my standing interest in Aristotelean ethics and moral psychology. This three-way connection is currently the centerpiece of my philosophical research, and serves as the unifying theme of my website, Praxeology.net.

So there’s my story: a Randian at 15, an LP member at 23, an anarcho-capitalist at 27, and a praxeologist at 36. (And despite all of the above, tenured at 38!) What the future holds I can’t say (kaleidic, you know), but it’s a safe bet that whatever I’m working on will have something to do with the Science of Liberty.

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