By Kevin Dunbar
Though I owe a lot of my philosophical views to intellectuals and radicals spanning the last two centuries, the biggest contributing factors to my becoming a voluntaryist are marijuana, my father, and an innate tendency to be strong-willed and rebellious.
I grew up in a small river town located on the banks of the flowing muddy waters of the mighty Mississippi, Hannibal, MO. The town’s claim to fame is being the boyhood home of Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain. I was brought up in a conservative middle class household. My father has always been an inspiration to me, a hardworking man full of integrity, and to this day he is still the most honest and upstanding person I have ever met. He instilled in me, by example, to always honor your word and pay your debts. His frugality with money has also rubbed off on me, and has helped me get through some lean times in my adult life. My father is also where I obtained my first taste of anti-government views.
He was not anti-government to the point of being an anarchist, but he held a less than favorable opinion of the State. Consistently taking what would be considered the ‘lesser of two evils’ approach he voted republican. Though I wouldn’t have considered him a republican. He was some variant of a constitutional minarchist, but not quite libertarian. He absolutely despised having money stolen from his paycheck by the IRS, and was always very vocal in his opposition to the redistribution of wealth. The language my dad used to describe the IRS is probably inappropriate for this essay, but if I were to say “those thieving rooster-vacuums” one with a colorful mind could likely deduce it.
Gun ownership/rights is another area that I have been influenced by my father. He possesses the “shall not be infringed” view concerning firearms. Before having some health issues with his eyes he would shoot in competitions, and spend hours in the basement reloading ammunition. Though he no longer shoots in competition we still spend many hours on the range and reloading in the basement.
Needless to say, his conservative views of money, hatred for the IRS, and enthusiasm for firearms have influenced me over the years, and were a precursor leading to what I would become. Coincidentally, I have rubbed off on him as well. We often discuss political philosophy and over the years he has come to hold most of the same views as myself. Our only major difference at this point is that I have disavowed myself from politics completely, and he still believes that political actions to lessen the State on the way toward anarchism is a worthwhile pursuit. I suppose I cannot begrudge him that when someone like Walter Block holds a similar view, and it is an oft debated topic amongst anarchists.
When I was around 14 I was introduced to pot and it changed my life forever. Growing up I had been exposed to the “Just Say No” campaign, The DARE program, and other propaganda like the television commercial where an egg represented your brain. Then they cracked the egg open in a frying pan, and said “This is your brain on drugs.” Being young and only exposed to the negativity surrounding drugs I was a little nervous when a friend asked if I wanted to join him in smoking, but curiosity got the better of me and I agreed to try it.
Since that day, nearly twenty years ago, marijuana has had such a positive impact on my life. It has made me happy when I was feeling down. It has given me clarity and insight. It has inspired creativity, and heightened my senses. It has made me consider things in new and novel ways. It has made me think and question. And it has given me deep, meaningful, and sometimes life-altering introspective moments. And, very shortly after I started, marijuana made me very cognizant of the fact that the government were a bunch of liars, and outraged that people could get punished for it. One of my first introductions to Libertarian thought was a book called “AIN’T NOBODY’S BUSINESS IF YOU DO” by Peter McWilliams. I am not sure if McWilliams’ was a libertarian but his book certainly was. It argued against legislating morality and punishing people for consensual crimes (drugs, gambling, prostitution).
It is not outside the realm of possibility that upon being born I slapped the doctor and flipped him off. I have been hard-headed, strong-willed, and marched to the beat of my own drummer for as far back as I can remember. I’ve never been able to deal well with authoritarian people. In grade school I had my name written on the chalkboard followed by checkmarks almost daily. I never did anything too out of line. It was always for minor petty infractions.
I stepped my game up in junior high and was a frequent visitor to the principal’s office and detention room. I received ISS (in-school suspension) for failing to comply with the vice-principal who demanded that I pick a candy wrapper off of the floor that he insisted was mine, though it was not. In another instance, though I no longer recall the initial infraction, the VP offered to give me “pops” for my punishment (at the time I attended junior high it was still considered acceptable practice to assault students with a paddle). I readily agreed to his proposition but gave him fair warning that upon striking me I would strike back. He opted to give me a pile of detentions instead.
My problems with the public school system worsened in high-school. My freshman year I accumulated well over 100 detentions, and I was kicked out for a total of 25 days for various infractions. The highlights include throwing a bottle rocket out of a classroom window, refusing to turn a Hooter’s shirt inside out, singing “You are my sunshine” to an overbearing teacher in the middle of class, upon a teacher’s refusal to let me go to the bathroom I picked up the trashcan and took it to the corner of the room to relieve myself, and I told the principal that he could “gargle on my sweaty nut-sac.” I ended up dropping out halfway through my sophomore year and taking a correspondence course to receive my diploma. I then managed to get myself expelled from an uptight private college. Though, ultimately, I did graduate with a BS in psychology, made the Dean’s List, and was inducted in to Psi-Chi national honors society.
Through all of this I never really became political. I suppose I have had libertarian leanings most of my life, and even have some poetry I wrote as a teenager that has anti-authoritarian themes and even mentions anarchy. But I was never active. I registered to vote in college only because a Sociology professor was offering extra credit to anyone with a voter’s registration card. My indifference towards the political leviathan would soon come to an end. One quiet evening, sitting in my home smoking with a friend, I received a knock at my door. I didn’t think anything of it. I assumed it was another friend stopping by to hang out, so I got up and answered the door only to be greeted by an armed thug with a badge.
“Is that your car parked outside?” he asked.
“No, I park around back in the alley.” I replied, closing the door.
Before I could get the door closed the cop kicked it back open.
“What’s that I smell?” he asked smugly.
“Bacon?” I replied inquisitively.
I was soon kidnapped and at the police station being booked for my first (and knock on wood last) drug charge. I didn’t actually have any marijuana on me, but I did have a glass pipe, so I was charged with paraphernalia. This all happened because a neighbor parked too far from the curb in front of my house and someone had called and complained. Thanks to my neighbors, absurd laws, and the injustice system I received two years supervised probation with a one year suspended sentence and was required to attend rehab.
That was the first time in my life that I had ever felt victimized. It was not a good feeling. I still get a pit in my stomach and well up with rage thinking about it.
My rebelliousness continued in rehab. During my first meeting I was given some “literature” about marijuana that was utter drivel. I was told to read it and write an essay about it. Instead I copied pages out of textbooks and scientific journals and took them to my next meeting. I told them if they expected people to take them seriously then perhaps they should hand out something with substance. For doing this I was labeled as grandiose, and was told to write about how grandiosity was a trigger for my drug use. Instead I wrote an essay on how awesome it was to be grandiose and detailed all of its benefits. This inspired the counselor to call my probation officer. I was made to go twice as long as originally scheduled, but I never did give in on the issue.
It was after this experience that I became involved politically, and also when my activism began. Politically I went through a phase of minarchism. The libertarian party was a natural fit for me, and I became the County Chair. I supported Ron Paul during his 08 presidential bid. It was on the Ron Paul forums that I was first introduced to anarcho-capitalism (though I had read Murray Rothbard’s CASE FOR THE 100% GOLD DOLLAR beforehand, but it focused on economics, and at the time I had no clue who Rothbard was). It didn’t take very long for the ancaps to sway me to their side. I found the Mises Institute (where I would come to know Rothbard quite well) LewRockwell.com, and Stefan Molyneux. It wasn’t long before I was one of the anarcho-capitalists on the forum trying to persuade the minarchists.
As far as activism I have engaged in various activities. I have given speeches at Tea Parties speaking out against the Federal Reserve and fractional reserve banking. I have had a few op/eds published in the local newspaper. I have handed out pamphlets for FIJA promoting jury nullification. I carry a sign in the trunk of my car that reads “slow down cop ahead” so I can help prevent unsuspecting motorists from having money extorted from them (this has gotten me hassled by the police on more than one occasion). I have gone to meetings promoting the “Fair Tax” to speak out against it and promote the idea that the only real fair tax is no tax. I went to a meeting where the director of the Missouri Department of Transportation was campaigning to make seat belt violations a primary law, meaning that a motorist could be pulled over solely for a seatbelt ‘violation,’ and let the director know that I did not favor the government harassing and extorting money from the people under the guise of safety. Aside from that, I speak out to family, friends, strangers, and on websites like Facebook and Reddit. I’m currently trying to focus my efforts on writing.
Though the label of anarcho-capitalism still applies to me, I do consider myself more so a voluntaryist. That is because I believe all interactions should be voluntary, free from force, and that people should be able to live in any manner that they see fit. I do not have a problem with people wanting to live in a commune, or start a community that practices socialism, so long as they do not use force to compel me to do the same. Some favor digital currencies like Bitcoin, some prefer hard money, some may prefer no money at all. Some want dispute resolution organizations, some would opt for private courts and police, while others yet would prefer to practice ostracism. Some want private defense, some militias, or even pacifism. I don’t have to agree with everybody, and they don’t have to agree with me. We can all associate as we see fit on a voluntary basis. I think that is the beauty of voluntaryism and what separates it from other philosophies. It allows for different ways of life, and what would freedom be if you didn’t have the choice to live in the way that you see fit. Voluntary interaction is the ultimate key to freedom.
To my father, pot, and all of the people who have inspired me: Cheers and Godspeed!
My Journey Ⓥ By Kevin Dunbar