William Gillis has tagged me with the question: What motivated you to start looking into Anarchist/Libertarian thought?
I’ve got a long version here, but the short version is: as a 15-year-old science fiction fan I read an article on “The Science Fiction of Ayn Rand” in the May 1979 Starlog; this led me to Ayn Rand’s novels, which led me to her nonfiction, which led me to read people she cited, and then to people they cited, and so on; hence I was soon reading Murray Rothbard, Isabel Paterson, David Friedman, etc. I resisted anarchism for an embarrassingly long time – but I was gradually growing more radical, thanks to my reading, to the influence of the Institute for Humane Studies (including such lecturers as Randy Barnett and Don Lavoie), and to events like the first Gulf War. On May 12, 1991, I decided I had finally become an anarchist.
I hereby tag everybody.
My initial interest in libertarianism came from having professors in college who were interested as well as the existence of the Von Mises Institute.
Thank you Dr. Long.
Largely you and Dick Clark. Thanks!
[add]… for the anarchism. I was introduced to basic minarchist libertarianism in high school; looked it up on the Internet and thought, wow, I didn’t know this was an option. Wasn’t so much a conversion as a realization.
It usually begins with Ayn Rand. In my case, however, it begins with a girl in high school. I was mad about her. And SHE was into Ayn Rand. So, after a brief flirtation with Objectivism, I moved on to Jan Narveson’s brand of neo-Hobbesianism and eventually to a style of libertarianism founded on a neo-Darwinian interpretation of moral sentiments. But, sadly, I didn’t get the girl.
Ayn Rand never meant much to me. I have one book of hers. Basically I started out as what is now known as a South Park Republican, listening to Micheal Medved on the radio as I delivered pizza (and flowers, later), but essentially socially liberal. I later “graduated” to full scale market anarchism out of philosophical consistency.
In recent times I’ve discovered Critical Review, Jeffrey Friedman and Bryan Caplan, supplementing Rothbardian/Carsonian style anarcho-pluralism with public opinion research and the faultiness of mass-democratic-politics.
You. And Walter Block. You can share the blame equally.
Simple…Larry Elder cites Harry Browne cites Murray Rothbard cites Hans Hoppe cites Roderick T Long blogs Stephan Molyneux.
(I never wanted to skip Rand but as I became an anarchist, her minarchism seemed like backtracking. However, I hereby vow to read Atlas Shrugged before watching the movie!)
Your essay titled “Antifascist Before it Was Cool” (or something like that) put me over the edge and was my gateway to the left-libertarian blogosphere. From there I’ve learned that libertarianism could very well be the true champion of the poor. I probably would have converted sooner, but everyone I’d ever met who professed to be a “libertarian” or an Ayn Rand fan could have been Ron Paul’s ghost-writer.
Laws of the Jungle did it for me, which I was linked to by some semi-crazy guy who used to be a part of the No-Treason.com crew (or at least their followers/frequent commenters) and who linked me to the above-mentioned book while haranguing me to “remember your principles” in the comments of a post at jihadwatch.org, a site I used to hang out at a lot when I didn’t think about things as much as I do now.
I got in touch with the author of the Laws, a man named Allen Thornton, and he sent me about 25 copies of his book, which I hand out to anyone who doesn’t immediately start calling me an idiot when I voice my views on politics/anarchism. More effective than the Book of Mormon in a motel nightstand as far as “converting” people is concerned, I’ve found!
People who came through Ayn Rand might enjoy the Guide to Objectivism, as well. Anarchists who know people coming through Ayn Rand might want to send them a link to the Guide before their journey is complete, too, just to ward off the chance that that person might become a Randian minarchist by accident.
This nifty book called “For A New Liberty” by Murray Rothbard got the ball rolling for me. But I didn’t decide in favor of anarchism until I started listening to Stefan Molyneux’s podcasts. I was struggling with the internal consistancies of being a minarchist for a while and something about Stefan’s podcasts pushed me over the edge.
Laws of the Jungle is awesome. While it didn’t make me an anarchist, it definitely codified a lot of arguments in a knock-down fashion. Very distilled.
My own journey toward my current views came in a roundabout way. I was always anarcho-sympathetic really. I was raised by an existentialist dad and he taught me not to believe in myths. Going to public school just gave me concrete examples of irrational authoritarianism. I was constantly asking myself “why the hell do they act/think this way?” In High School, I was given some books by a libertarian computer-science teacher. It all made sense. Finally, a political philosophy based on actual ideas and consistent principles.
After that I was introduced to Rand and Mises. Rand seemed a bit too much like mythology for me. As I told a friend “There are no Dagny Taggarts, only Jim Taggarts”. The system doesn’t let people like John Galt get rich.
After that, I found Robert Anton Wilson and Nietzsche and others, and I ended up rejecting minarchism soundly on the grounds that the basic, initial laws of the state, defining “crime”, “money” and “property”, are the most fundamental basis of tyranny.
Eventually I started reading Rothbard and SEK 3 and it all became more clear than ever.
I was an anarchist first. As a teenager wanting to rebel against trends, peer pressure and imposed authority, I picked up George Woodcock’s Anarchism, and Proudhon’s What is Property?. I misinterpretted Proudhon and became an anarchist communist for a while, immersing myself in Kropotkin and Bakunin and pamphlets picked up from Freedom Press (Which Kropotkin started in 1886) where I worked on Saturdays. Then I reread Proudhon and became more sympathetic to classic mutualism. That moved me to American individualists, reading JJ Martin’s Men Against the State. This, and Tucker articles on line, persuaded me that capitalist exploitation was founded on state intervention, and emancipation of workers could only come from truly freeing markets and abolishing the state. Studying Nozick at university strengthened this position. Then, knowing that anarcho-capitalists had developed the ideas of free market protection and law and order that the individualists proposed, I started reading David Friedman and Rothbard, and developed into an anarcho-capitalist.
Marginally OT, but I have a question about “left” libertarianism.
First, brief background. I’m a former progressive-with-libertarian-inclinations increasingly now drawn to “real” left libertarianism (pushed that way, inter alia, by a “Road to Surfdom” reaction to the events of the past 7 years and horror at our murderous foriegn policy, combined with a better undersanding of issues such as regulatory capture, rent seaking, and all of the asociated reasons why government usually aids the powerful in our society rather than the powerless). But, despite a fair amount of reading (and yeah, I need to do more), I’m having a somewhat tough time figuring out what distinguishes left libertarianism from “conventional” libertarianism. And by differences, I mean programatically. Now, obviously I know that not all left libertarians think alike; I’m referring, I guess, mainly to the agorism/market anarchism strain (which is why I’m commenting here).
Let’s get specific. One difference, it seems to me, is that, while being strong believers in free markets, and opponents of collectivism, left libertarians tend to be a little (lot) more sceptical of capitalism (at least, capitalism as it exists presently) than are other libertarians.
But … aren’t all libertarians somewhat sceptical of what one might call state capitalism? I mean, left, paleo, CATO, whatever strain of libertarian, you’re going to be appalled by corporate welfare and regulatory regimes that priviledge corporations/big business over smaller enterprises. Isn’t it really just a matter of emphasis, and, perhaps, different beliefs/wishes about what will happen in a stateless society (the left libertarian, for example, perhaps believing that a stateless society will benefit the entrepeneur as opposed to the capitalist, and/or allow more people to become captalists)?
Programatically, it seems, that left libertarians perhaps tend to be a little more anti statist than many conventional libertarians (minarchists, e.g.). But even there there are plenty of non-left libertarians who also are radical libertarians (in the sense of being against even the minimal state). Heck, it sometimes seems that the left libertarians are closer to the paleos in this respect.
Anyway, I hope the above isn’t too naive or flat out wrong. Any guidance, and suggestons for focusing my further reading (i.e., what are the most important texts) would be gratefully appreciated.
Oh, and yes, I realize that this post contains a partial answer in terms of texts; I did read it before I commented.
Aren’t all libertarians somewhat sceptical of what one might call state capitalism?
Sure. The left-libertarian complaint, though, is that many libertarians, while recognising the difference between state capitalism and free markets in principle, often tend (at least in part) to forget or understate it in practice by treating the libertarian case for the free market as though it supported or justified various dubious aspects of present-day state capitalism.
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