by Kurt Fuller
How does one become a voluntaryist? Are you born that way? Is a life-changing event required? Do you need to be convinced? The answer probably is different for different people. In fact, there may be as many answers as there are voluntaryists. In my case, the road to voluntaryism was a very gradual process, taking about four decades.
My upbringing was fairly typical for a child of the 50s and 60s. I came from a blue collar, union manufacturing, Mississippi River town in Iowa. My dad worked for his entire career as an electrician at the largest factory in town. Dad was a union man all the way, having been President of the Cellophane Workers of America for many years. As you might suspect, he almost always voted straight Democratic.
As a child, I considered myself to be a staunch Democrat, though there was really no reason for it beyond the fact that my dad was a Democrat. I never thought much about or spent any time on the issues. To me, politics was a game, and the game was fun to watch, especially at the national level. I was fascinated by delegate counts, caucuses, primaries, and state-by-state strategies.
Later in life, I discovered that the politicians also view it as a game, though they portray to the public that they care only about issues and principles. My parents, teachers, and fellow citizens reinforced the notion that I had it all wrong, and that the issues were what I should be following, not delegate counts.
During my senior year in high school, I received the biggest shock of my life, politically speaking. My Government teacher (a staunch Democrat) gave us a test with a series of questions about various political and social issues. The purpose of the test was to categorize you as a Democrat or a Republican. I was stunned to discover that my views were very much Republican. I had always been opposed to welfare, unemployment insurance, progressive income taxation, etc., but was too busy playing the game to realize that my views were almost completely opposite those of my beloved Democratic Party.
From that point forward, I started paying attention to the issues. Though neither Richard Nixon nor Gerald Ford did much for me personally, I voted for and rooted for both of them. It was hard to root for Republicans because I had always rooted for Democrats. It was like rooting against your favorite baseball team.
As my knowledge of the issues (and of myself) increased, I became interested in “fringe” candidates. In 1980, I was a rabid supporter of John Anderson. He was different from the rest, and he espoused many of my beliefs. My feeling was that he had a chance to win as a third party candidate. But a funny thing happened on the way to the voting booth.
A few months before the election, I stumbled across Milton Friedman’s Free to Choose series on PBS. It was so fascinating that I bought the book and read it cover-to-cover in about three days. It was my first comprehensive introduction to free-market thinking. My view of the world would never be the same.
Then about a month before the election, a friend of mine showed me a magazine article about Ed Clark, the Libertarian Party candidate. It blew me away. Here was a guy who lined up perfectly with my beliefs. This was the way to go! However, I still voted for Anderson. So much of myself was invested into his candidacy, that I couldn’t bring myself to vote for Ed Clark, but the positive consequence of the whole thing was that it killed my 20 year passion for playing the political game.
From that point forward, I “knew” that the Libertarian Party was the answer to America’s political problems. It was just a matter of working hard to get the message out, and convincing people that we had a chance. There are some great people involved in the Libertarian Party, and they have done some outstanding work toward the cause of freedom and free markets. Working with them and being exposed to their work was and is euphoric. I devoted a significant chunk of my life and my resources to the betterment of the movement.
As time went on, I became discouraged with the idea of achieving freedom through the Libertarian Party. The problem we were trying to solve was too much government in our lives. Or maybe the problem was government, period. How could we solve the problem of too much government by electing people to “serve” as part of the government? How would we convince enough people to vote for our candidates without compromising our positions? Did we really think we were going to win elections by advocating legalization of drugs, pornography, and the carrying of concealed weapons?
When openly questioning the idea of achieving freedom through the Libertarian Party, I would ask, “How can we solve the problem by utilizing the problem?” People would usually just look at me, as if to say, “You have to participate in government if you want to reform it.” That certainly is the universally accepted way of solving problems. On the other hand, thousands of years of history show it as a universal failure. After ten years of hard work, I dropped my membership to the Libertarian Party.
Government itself is the problem. Getting rid of it became my goal. Anarchy is defined as the lack of government. Unfortunately, the word anarchy means chaos to most people. They have been conditioned to believe that without government, the world would be one big riot with people shooting at each other all day long. The Wild West would be tame by comparison. I got absolutely nowhere trying to convince people that anarchy is the way to go.
A few years ago, I stumbled across The Voluntaryist, and Carl Watner‘s book, I Must Speak Out. These writings shed an entirely different light on the lack of government. Instead of chaos, voluntaryism is based on order, peaceful relationships, self-interest, respect for the rights of others, and morality. It teaches that the end does not justify the means. It shares real-life, historical examples of problems that were solved through cooperation and self-interest, not force or theft. I still may not be able to convince anyone else of its merits. But for me, voluntaryism is the answer I have been seeking all these years.