by Kent McManigal
As a kid I loved freedom. I roamed whatever wild places I could find and really wasn’t very sociable. I didn’t really think about politics since I didn’t think about interacting with people much, and that’s what politics misguidedly tries to be about.
There was no horrible event to make me dislike the externally-imposed form of coercion commonly known as “government”. It was simply a lifetime of observation and an inner need for peeling away the inconsistencies I discover. The more I saw and the more I learned the less I bought into the lie that government was “necessary” or “good”.
As a young teenager all I wanted was to walk away from civilization and never look back. I once expressed this to my parents who then said if I wanted to do that I would need a lot of money to buy land, and then would need a constant stream of money to pay “property taxes”. I was astounded that you could be forced to keep paying for something which you had bought, but they assured me that if I didn’t pay the tax my land would be taken from me. I knew this was nothing but theft dressed up and made to look legitimate. It made me angry.
I still didn’t think too much about The State although I knew that I probably wouldn’t be able to live the way I knew would be right for me, so I had better adapt my plans. Still working unsuccessfully on that.
I began to see that every excuse for having “government” was based upon a trained helplessness, and every justification for The State necessarily ignored both solutions that were known and within reach, and the demonstrable harm that comes from relying upon coercion to get your way, rather than working toward unanimous consent. I also saw the damage done to individuals on the basis of a majority vote, or society’s wishes.
Along the way there were influential people who taught me to think for myself, and one of them was probably, secretly, similar in his outlook to my current view. His role as a high school physics and chemistry teacher in a government “public” school would have probably been jeopardized had his bosses heard some of his off-hand comments. For example, he once mentioned, in passing, that no one should ever accept a plea bargain since this would help bring the courts to a stand-still. It took me a little more thinking and a couple of decades to see that one benefit to this would be that it would encourage The State to stop enforcing laws against things that are not government’s business in the first place, those “mala prohibita” acts, and focus on the real “mala in se” crimes. You know- the real laws which are based upon the recognition that it is wrong to initiate force, to damage other people’s property, or to steal.
Around this same time I did campaign for Reagan even though I wasn’t old enough to vote, simply because he claimed to be for smaller government and less government interference in our lives. So, he lied. More data to process and another lesson eventually learned, even though it didn’t register for years.
Then came college. Ugh. Government class taught me a lot that The State would probably rather people not think of. I also enjoyed the look of discomfort in the face of the minor state-level tyrant who came to speak to us about his “job” running our lives. You’d think he had never seen a guy wearing buckskin clothes and a coonskin cap before from the way he kept nervously looking out of the corner of his eye at me sitting there in the front row.
An acquaintance from that same class (who later became my brother-in-law for a few years and who went into government “work”) once informed me that I was “conservative” because I did not like or trust government “solutions”. For years I accepted this without really examining his contention. You’d think Reagan would have taught me a lesson. I did keep noticing that “conservatives” acted no differently than the “liberals” once they had been elected. They were just as quick as the “other side” to stab me in the back with their every action. This kept me confused for several years.
My observation eventually made me forget about looking for solutions from any political party or politician. All my adult life I have been characterized by those who knew me as “anti-government”. I didn’t make an issue of it, but I wouldn’t always keep my mouth shut when confronted by “governmentalism”, either. Mostly I just went about my own business of living as free as I could and kept my opinion to myself unless pressed. I was content to ignore the world of politics, except when a new “law” injured liberty in some way that I noticed. I would be irritated, but not surprised. Through it all, and involved in my own little world, I stayed quiet. My attitude was “Who would listen to me anyway?”
Years passed and life happened. I didn’t pay much attention to the world beyond my own life. During a particularly hectic phase of life I found L. Neil Smith’s book “Lever Action”, which put a label on my increasingly deep-seated sentiments. I did get online eventually (in 2001), and discovered a few libertarian websites to read. Interesting but not anything I really obsessed over.
For me everything changed in late December 2003. Without going into painful details, my life (which was already barely balanced on a worn tightrope) fell apart when my Significant Other left me. High, dry, completely alone, and in a very bad situation. At this point I had nothing left to lose. In my grief (and while drunk) I jumped feet-first into the first online libertarian group I ran across. And promptly stuck my foot in my mouth. Fortunately I sobered up and was forgiven. The internet allowed me to find, and interact with, people who felt the same basic way about individual liberty that I did. It made me feel somewhat less “alone and lost”.
For a couple of years I tried to hang on to my comforting online anonymity, until my presidential campaign made that impossible. Now I am “out”. I am no longer anonymous, and am easily found. I am “on record” with a lot of very unpopular statements and opinions. I have gotten more “radical” over the years as I learn more, as I think things through more completely, and as I pare away any inconsistencies that remain. I have come to see that when you strip away all the non-libertarian inconsistencies, libertarianism becomes anarchism. Or you can call it voluntaryism, or being a sovereign individual. Whatever you call it, it is the best way a human can interact with those around him. I’m glad I finally figured it out and look forward to continuing the journey.