Many of my friends, family, and colleagues, if asked, will report that I associate myself with the libertarian political philosophy. They’d probably feel comfortable saying that I support the likes of Ron Paul, Justin Amash, and Gary Johnson. What they probably don’t know is that my Libertarian cred is even higher with my subscription to Reason magazine. But I have recently found myself slightly disaffected with the Libertarian party. Some of it is personal philosophy changes, some of it is recent events, and some of it is just misalignments that have always existed that I never saw. But they all add up to something much bigger than I can ignore.
I grew up Mormon and was raised to think of the world in very black and white terms. Almost two years ago, I decided to leave the Mormon Church and one of the greatest things I have gained in that long and painful process was the ability to think freely and with nuance. I was used to authority figures telling me what was right and what was not and aligning my philosophy and worldview with theirs. That said, I have always put very heavy emphasis on social issues even from a young age. I’ve almost always been pro-choice despite the region of the United States where I grew up. I have always been deeply disturbed by racism and blatant discrimination of any kind. And — as a former Mormon, I feel it my duty to specifically mention this one — I have always been pro LGBT rights. These and many others beliefs and opinions, despite them being mine, typically always made me feel uncomfortable because they typically did not align with those of the previously mentioned authority figures.
Enter Ron Paul and Libertarianism. As a young returned-Mormon-missionary, Dr. Paul’s libertarian ideals and principles appealed greatly to me. Not only could I be a fiscal conservative, but I could also be a social liberal and still have a party and several major politicians to identify with. What’s more, there was an underlying guideline that directed nearly all the group’s political thinking. That principle basically was that the government guaranteed certain rights and they should stay out of everything else. This gave me the psychological comfort that I had grown up with in my religion of aligning myself with someone of higher authority. In many ways, Dr. Paul became my libertarian prophet and whenever I didn’t hold a particularly strong opinion about a topic, I typically found his and argued for it. Rare was it for me to critically analyze the position and use it as a step to get to my own opinion.
As I slowly began to question my religious belief system, my entire life was was being turned upside down. Everything I previously thought I knew to be true was not. I went through of phase of extreme vulnerability and fear, not knowing what was real and what was fake. I was forced to reevaluate my entire worldview. I began to explore the possibility of developing my own opinion, venturing into the gray area, accepting the nuance, and viewing 17 different sides to an issue rather than just two. It was scary, but I have been able to find my own person, find the values that I really believe in, and use those to dictate my political ideology.
Being raised Mormon, I was brought up in an extremely sexist society and left the Church loaded with all sorts of disgusting, unconscious bias towards women. Working in the tech industry, I see the sexism and misogyny on a near daily basis. It now makes me cringe to hear a politician claim that if there really was a gender pay gap then companies would solely be hiring women. Ron Paul and other libertarians make that claim, all the time. I see the scientific data suggesting that our climate is changing rapidly. I see pesticides manufactured by billion dollar organizations causing autism that the EPA is fighting. Yet libertarianism wants to leave problems like that to the market and do away with the EPA. The market simply isn’t going to work fast enough.
As of late, we have seen atrocities like the murder of Heather Heyer and other racial discrimination around the country. I take a look at the Libertarian party and I see a group that is dominantly white male whose ideologies of nationalism and self interest appeal to the alt-right. To borrow a quote from John Ganz at the Washington Post:
“It was the very bareness of the idea of self-interest and liberty as such that allowed Chris Cantwell, the weeping neo-Nazi made infamous in Vice’s coverage of Charlottesville… to make conceptual space for racism…”
American Libertarianism is a strange breed of Libertarianism anyhow. Compared to the rest of the world, it is a very much more “get off my lawn” and “leave me the hell alone” type of Libertarianism. I still align with many of them on many things, such as the importance of our First and Fourth Amendment rights. But I can no longer associate myself with the Libertarian Party, or any party, and that’s ok. I have come to enjoy living in nuance.