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The Story of My Conversion to Liberalism

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scottscobig Posted: Fri, Apr 6 2012 3:20 PM

It's been an awesome ride for me.  Back in the mid 1990s I was in social work school and so I somewhat naturally bought into progressivism.  Ironically, it was my IRS agent brother whose following statement began my journey back from the dark side.  He reminded me who it was that originally wanted to destroy the agency of Man and force people to "be good."

 

I then began to listen to Rush Limbaugh et al and come to my senses.

 

About 6 years ago, a local realestate investor with his own radio show turned me onto Atlas Shrugged.  That was THE main turning point for me.  Up to then, I was simply returning to my conservative, religious (Mormon) roots.  I read all of Rand's stuff, Atlas 3 times.  At scottsgulch.blogspot.com I reconcile my religion with Objectivism and selfishness, etc. along with other things.  But I found it very disconcerting that Utah's and other conservatives weren't fiscally so.  I then stumbled upon mises.org/daily and have come to embrace full libertarianism.  I've also begun my journey as a student of Austrian economics.

 

I lost my last attachments to conservatism when I realized that my personal feelings on matters don't give me the right to force anyone to do or not to do anything.  It's all so simple, really.  Live and let live.

 

I'd be very interested to hear the story of your journey toward Liberalism.  Sometimes I feel like an obsessed lunatic.  I can't figure out why no one I personally know seems to care about the torture and pending death of freedom.  I once gave copies of Atlas for Christmas.  I think one out of 10 recipients read it.  Are people lazy?  Apathetic?

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Clayton replied on Fri, Apr 6 2012 3:41 PM

Sometimes I feel like an obsessed lunatic.

+1

I once gave copies of Atlas for Christmas.  I think one out of 10 recipients read it.  Are people lazy?  Apathetic?

I've not read Atlas Shrugged and probably never would, even if someone gave me a copy of it. I wouldn't read much into it.

Clayton -

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I never tire of hearing these stories.

More:

The road to Austrian school

Post your "political past"?

How were you first introduced to Austrian Economics?

Does anyone ever wish that they never discovered AE?

 

scottscobig:
Are people lazy?  Apathetic?

Yes.  (Although, an 1100 page opus is not exactly a cakewalk...and probably not the best way to ease anyone into a new philosophy.)

For more on this, see here:

To Any Who Were Once Apathetic: What Brought You In?

 

And for furthering your own studies, see here.

 

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There's a thread regarding this subject here. My response is here.

 

scottscobig:
I once gave copies of Atlas for Christmas.

Wow. I should read that book soon. I think I'm going to do it over the summer (currently juggling a few books including her We the Living).

 

If I had a cake and ate it, it can be concluded that I do not have it anymore. HHH

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ThatOldGuy:
There's a thread regarding this subject here.

Beat ya to it. wink

 

Wow. I should read that book soon. I think I'm going to do it over the summer

There's a few audiobook versions, which may help get through it.  If you can't find em in torrents, lemme know.

 

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"Wow. I should read that book soon. I think I'm going to do it over the summer (currently juggling a few books including her We the Living)."

You'll love Atlas since it's so similar to society and government's reaction to the 2008 financial crisis. Almost as if Rand was predicting our future when she wrote it. e.g. The "Equalization of Opportunity Act", lol. Spot on!

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You STARTED with We The Living?  It's a great book, but.....oh, wait, never mind.  I don't want to spoil anything for you.  How to say this?  Um.  I love them all.  I'll be curious to read what you think when you're done.  But I definitely prefer Atlas.

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John James:
ThatOldGuy:
There's a thread regarding this subject here.

Beat ya to it. wink

I posted that, saw your comment with the three other links regarding similar posts, and thought Classic John James... laugh

 

From The Road to Austrian School:

John James:
It sounds a little sad and almost pathetic, but YouTube, Google, Wikipedia, and Mises.org (and iTunes podcasts) have been quite possibly the most influential teachers I've ever had.

I've thought this almost word for word. Right on.

 

John James:
Wow. I should read that book soon. I think I'm going to do it over the summer
There's a few audiobook versions, which may help get through it.  If you can't find em in torrents, lemme know.

It's not necessarily that I'm intimidated by the size of the book, it's just that I usually start reading a book and end up juggling three or four at the same time by the time that it's finished (I could only tolerate Adam Smith talking about 16th century precious metal price fluctuations in Wealth of Nations so long before I started reading my newly purchased Meltdown by Tom Woods), which makes it difficult for me to stay focused. I don't know how to fix this problem. I've never tried independently reading a book by audio and may give it a try in the future. Thanks for the suggestion.

 

If I had a cake and ate it, it can be concluded that I do not have it anymore. HHH

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fountainhead:
You'll love Atlas since it's so similar to society and government's reaction to the 2008 financial crisis. Almost as if Rand was predicting our future when she wrote it.

I've heard similar thought from so many- it only makes me more interested in reading it!

 

If I had a cake and ate it, it can be concluded that I do not have it anymore. HHH

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scottscobig:
You STARTED with We The Living?

Well, the first book by Rand that I read was Anthem in middle school, which I found to be pretty interesting. We the Living seems pretty gripping so far (this is the first fictional book I've read in I don't know how long). I'll get to Atlas Shrugged :)

 

If I had a cake and ate it, it can be concluded that I do not have it anymore. HHH

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Clayton replied on Fri, Apr 6 2012 4:18 PM

Written in June, 2008 and edited slightly:

The 2000 Presidential election was the first time I was old enough to vote and, as a good Republican, I cast my vote for W. I was raised a small-government conservative and I believed that the Republican party genuinely stood for small-government conservatism since that had been its platform since at least the time of Ronald Reagan. In the eight years which have passed since I first voted, I have seen Federal spending balloon to unprecedented heights. For six years, Republicans controlled both Congress and the Presidency. The Republicans broke record after record for fastest budget growth, largest total Federal budget ever and so on. It became painfully obvious that the Republican Party was using the same recipe the Democrats had used to hold Congress for nearly forty years before 1994: buy the incumbency. But if the party of small government used exactly the same tactics as the Democrat party once they obtained power, instead of using their power to scale back the Federal government, decentralize and delegate power back to the states and so on, then neither party represented small government. The idea of a small government party was a myth created by Republicans to obtain power in the first place. That is, the Republican party talked about small government only because they knew there were a lot of disaffected folks out there who wanted smaller government who would vote for anyone who appeared to be in favor of scaling back government.

Then it struck me that it was a matter of course. Why does someone go into politics except to govern? And once power has been achieved, by whatever means, what incentive is there to scale back one's own authority? We love to flatter ourselves on how selfless, giving, and others-oriented we are. When you look at the historical record, and how people actually choose when really faced with the choice between power or self-restraint, the choice, with extremely rare exceptions, is power.

Sometime before Christmas last year, I was at Barnes & Noble and I happened to be looking at the discount books. I noticed a pile of political books and, since I fancy myself a philosopher of religion, politics, etc. I gravitated towards it. One book, Basic Economics, caught my eye both because I had been thinking I needed to better understand how the economy works, and because I noticed its author was Thomas Sowell, who I had heard interviewed on radio and TV on several occasions. I had been impressed with his concise reasoning and no bullshit mentality. I bought the book, hurried home, and started reading voraciously.

As I began reading, I began to have my mind blown by the simplicity and far-reaching consequences of economic philosophy. Sowell's book has no math equations and does not present a mathematical case for a particular school of economics. Rather, his book makes philosophical arguments about human behavior. The first principle he introduced which thoroughly rewired my way of thinking was this: People tend to do more for their own benefit than for the benefit of others. I have since run into this principle in many different forms. Milton Friedman in an old television interview I saw on YouTube says it this way, People never take care of the property of others as well as they take care of their own property. Or, stated another way (David Friedman, Milton Friedman's son): People have goals and tend to make the choice among the alternatives facing them which best achieves those goals.

When these principles are consistently applied to all people - whether police, government bureaucrats, elected officials, charity workers, clergy or business owners - the change in one's perspective is revolutionary. I would go so far as to say that, despite finishing a bachelor's degree in computer engineering, I had not really learned to think critically until I began studying economics. I had never learned to analyze the "irrational" choices that other people make which I would not have made in their circumstances. I assigned the "crazy" actions of other people to wickedness, stupidity, ignorance, insanity, corruption or any other number of human maladies. While human behavior is not completely predictable, there are predictable elements to it. By assigning the choices which people make that I don't understand to irrationality, I was giving up and failing to think critically about why, really why they make the choices they do.

To bring this back to the Republican party, I began to think critically about why government had grown more under the Republicans than it had under the Democrats when a vital component of the Republican platform had been to scale back government once they attained power. 9/11 is no excuse for the overall budget growth we've seen. The reason, really, is simple: Both Democrats and Republicans have an interest in increasing the size of government. The difference between them is which government programs they champion. That's it. Since people tend to act more in their own interest (political gain) than in the interests of others (constituency), it is inevitable that elected leaders - whether R or D - will always increase the size and scope of government.

That's when I realized that there is no hope for limited government. The Libertarian Party and other independents sit on the sidelines waiting for the "some day" when Americans start voting for something other than Republicans or Democrats, but it was clear many years ago that this is futile. There is no political solution to the problem of political government. Government, by virtue of the fact that there is no force which may oppose it, always grows.

So, I began to think about what if there were no government. What would happen? Would chaos ensue? Would we have "nature red in tooth and claw" or the all-against-all war predicted by Hobbes? I think the answer, given sufficient qualification, is no.

I will try to compress into one sentence the basic reason why it is possible to imagine a realistic (not idealistic), ordered anarchy. The reason is this: The free market can provide all the services which government currently monopolizes at a lower cost, better quality or both by inducing organizations which perform these services to compete with one another under the constraint of profitability.

As I read Basic Economics, I began to search the internet to see if there were others who taught things similar to Sowell. That's when I stumbled on mises.org and LRC and began reading. The more I read, the clearer the world became and the more sense I could make of all the many things about the social order that had always puzzled me and which I had assumed were simply inscrutable. Ludwig von Mises, Murray Rothbard, Hans Hoppe, Lew Rockwell and many others began to part the clouds, as it were.

Most recently, I've begun to explore way off the map from economics into the realms of law, morality, social norms, and my basic humanity. As I've explored, I've discovered that there are many, prevelant misconceptions in society that so twist and distort the basic facts about what it is to be human at all as to turn the world almost completely upside-down. The truth, on the other hand, is simple. It clarifies, rather than obscures. It has always been with us but it doesn't serve the interests of the most powerful and influential people in society. So it is, in fact, suppressed.

I'm playing with the idea of writing a book-length treatment of my discoveries. The thesis of the book would be the following:

  • There is only one book of knowledge: your own conscious experience (awareness). All other forms of knowledge are sub-headings in this one book.
  • There is only one goal of action: your satisfaction (or pleasure). We may call "good" that which brings about your satisfaction and "evil" that which brings about your dissatisfaction.
  • Therefore, there is only one subject of study: good and evil. All other forms of study are sub-headings of the study of good and evil. 
  • To be alive is to study good and evil. To cease the study of good and evil is to die.
  • Those who attempt to suppress the truth - that is, to divert people from the study of good and evil - thereby promote death. They are attempting to subvert the course of Nature in order to lead others into self-immolation, slavery, cuckoldry and self-treachery.

Clayton -

 

http://voluntaryistreader.wordpress.com
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ThatOldGuy:
(I could only tolerate Adam Smith talking about 16th century precious metal price fluctuations in Wealth of Nations so long before I started reading my newly purchased Meltdown by Tom Woods)

If I were drinking something, I probably would have spit it out.

 

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@Clayton

Interesting that you bring on Sowell, as he was one of the guys that brought me here too!  I was a small government conservative too.  I used to read Coulter and other fools, and eventually I moved on to Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, and John Stossel.  I kept seeing certain names and ideas pop up in their weekly articles (Bastiat was the most common).  I googled him, and eventually made my way to Austrian Economics and somehow to Murray Rothbard.  He's the guy who helped me make the final leap, though that leap really wasn't so hard for me at the time.

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John James:

ThatOldGuy:
(I could only tolerate Adam Smith talking about 16th century precious metal price fluctuations in Wealth of Nations so long before I started reading my newly purchased Meltdown by Tom Woods)

If I were drinking something, I probably would have spit it out.

Apart from some digressions (Smith's word, not mine) and other passages for which he is well known, Smith does provide some valuable remarks on central banking that seem to fall in line with Austrian thought. All in all, I'm glad I read Wealth of Nations.

 

If I had a cake and ate it, it can be concluded that I do not have it anymore. HHH

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ThatOldGuy:
Apart from some digressions (Smith's word, not mine) and other passages for which he is well known, Smith does provide some valuable remarks on central banking that seem to fall in line with Austrian thought. All in all, I'm glad I read Wealth of Nations.

All 5 volumes?  If I had read that whole thing, I guess I would be glad (at least in some sense) to have gotten through it too.  Are you familiar with Rothbard's critique?  Mises Daily, full chapter

(P.S., the spitting was a reference to the spontaneous bursting of laughter that followed the reading of that sentence, not a shock that you would read either of those titles.)

 

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I cannot click on a thread without being offended by your pretension and condescension of others, JJ.  You need parents.

"The Fed does not make predictions. It makes forecasts..." - Mustang19
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John James:
All 5 volumes? 

Yep.

I haven't read critiques of Smith although I'm not surprised that they exist, especially from an Austrian perspective. What I was referencing here, in your quote of my post, was Smith's comments on the Ayr Bank. I wasn't sure if I should post an excerpt here or if it would be more appropriate to start a thread regarding it, but they reminded me of the Austrian Business Cycle Theory (scanning your links- thanks, by the way- Rothbard doesn't touch on what I'm talking about). 

 

John James:
the spitting was a reference to the spontaneous bursting of laughter that followed the reading of that sentence, not a shock that you would read either of those titles.)

I hoped so- at first I thought it was my missing something of significance in Smith's 70-odd page digression on silver.

 

If I had a cake and ate it, it can be concluded that I do not have it anymore. HHH

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Aristophanes:
I cannot click on a thread without being offended by your pretension and condescension of others, JJ.  You need parents.

Maybe you need...to join a convent?  Awesome we can help each other out!  High five! 

 

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I don't know if I really have one.  If so it would be something like a combo of

a) Having a non radical, loopy, or insane family background to begin with

b) Always having an interest in social science, social philosophy, and things of that sort

c) inhereting, owning working in, and running a business that wasn't very "govt friendly"

d) Having an infatuation with music and "intellectual college types" in high school - getting involved in music - going to college - and finally becomming rapidly disgusted at the vaccancy of many of the people and ideas involved and quickly realizing I wasn't "one of them".

e) Noticing the obvious BS of all my 101 and 200 social science and humanities classes other than the economic classes I took. ..and actually dropping my 2nd sociology class because of my "groovy" sociology prof.   I essentially gave up an easy A because I hated the class so much.

"As in a kaleidoscope, the constellation of forces operating in the system as a whole is ever changing." - Ludwig Lachmann

"When A Man Dies A World Goes Out of Existence"  - GLS Shackle

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I'd be very interested to hear the story of your journey toward Liberalism.  Sometimes I feel like an obsessed lunatic.  I can't figure out why no one I personally know seems to care about the torture and pending death of freedom.  I once gave copies of Atlas for Christmas.  I think one out of 10 recipients read it.  Are people lazy?  Apathetic

 

Remember, there are probably people out there who passionately wonder why you don't care about what they care about.

 

"As in a kaleidoscope, the constellation of forces operating in the system as a whole is ever changing." - Ludwig Lachmann

"When A Man Dies A World Goes Out of Existence"  - GLS Shackle

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I stumbled upon Austrian Economics and Libertarianism because I’ve always loved reading and philosophy, but haven’t started to think about politics since the last year. When I started to read about politics and economics, I tried to do so in an unbiased way and I found out that, the more objective I was, the more my conclusions seemed to agree with voluntarism and libertarian philosophies. So I am a libertarian not because of any emotional arguments or bias, but because I read about many forms of social organization and tried to reach a conclusion in an objective and rational way, keeping an open mind. And I put many emphasis in this, because, as philosopher Michael Huemer says, the problem of political irrationality is one of the greatest we are facing today.

I am not really sure about whatever praxeology is the best approach to economics or not, but I still have a lot to think, learn and read before arriving to a conclusion.

It is not left versus right, it is social engineering versus spontaneous order.
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Hello, Mises forum.  I've been a lurker on and off for awhile now.  I suppose I'll tell my story:

I was raised a conservative.  Went to church every Sunday, was given responsibilites around the house, and was expected to do well in school.  Politics were never really talked about, however.  Sports pretty much consumed me through childhood, and into high school.  Senior year, though, things changed.  I took AP US Government, and my teacher was quite the libertarian (though I didn't realize it at the time).  I did really get into political philosophy after that though.  That was the 2007-08 school year, and the following fall was the first presidential election in which I was eligible to vote.  I was a staunch "Republican".  Believed in our "just" wars, etc.  Went to Arizona State, and the first week attended the College Republican meeting.  Bunch of Goldwater Republicans, and I was encouraged to read the Conscience of a Conservative.  Though I never did, it started me on my journey to libertarianism.  Somewhere along the lines of researching that book before I took the time to read it, I discovered Rothbard and the Mises Institute.

Throughout this process, I was writing posts and debating people on Facebook.  Both on my page, and on the discussion boards of the McCain election page.  I made many "friends" there, and after the election and the board closed, we opened up a political discussion page on Facebook.  That's where I learned my fondness for truly learning for a purpose, and writing about it (and defending my beliefs, etc.).  

After discovering Austrian economics, I really found my love.  Economics and economic history.  I wasn't well versed in it, so I bought the beginner's package here at the Mises store.  I never registered for second semester, as it didn't seem neccessary for my goals  --my goal was to teach the economics I learned.  3 times I attempted going back to school to become a teacher, as I thought that was the only medium to teach.  Then I realized I could potentially reach way more people through writing and the Internet etc.--  I moved back to my home town, and got a "good" job.  Worked at a warehouse, making good money with benefits and the works.  However, I worked from 5am-2/3pm M-Sat.  I found I either worked and kept up with my physical condition (running, eating healthily etc) or worked and kept up with my reading and writing.  Reading and writing took a back seat.  For two years I've been stagnant.  Haven't really read, haven't really wrote.  Two wasted years.  Once I realized it, I quit on the spot.  Took up a menial part-time job, on second shift.  Time to read in the morning when my brain works fastest, and time to go to bed at a decent hour.  Now, I'm just looking for a medium such as I had on Facebook, where I can develop my knowledge and discuss it with intelligent people.  Hopefully this board will get me back on track to writing, and forget those two wasted years.

I guess I shouldn't say they were completely wasted.  My friend, about a year ago, told me about the book Born to Run.  I researched it and came across barefoot running and Vibram Five Fingers etc.  From there, I found Mark's Daily Apple and Primal living.  From there, I found Lew Rockwell, and now I'm a proud anarchist.  Before, I classified myself as a "conservative-libertarian", whatever that is.

Anyway, enough about me.  I'm glad I finally joined and am back on track to my stated goal when leaving college.

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