My Discovery of Freedom

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What surprised me most about discovering libertarianism is the fact that I wasn’t living in a free society, as I had been taught all my life.

I was 28 years old when I discovered libertarianism. Up to that point, I “knew” I lived in a free country. That’s what I had been told and taught ever since I was old enough to think. Like most everyone else, from the first grade in the public schools to which my parents had sent me I was forced to stand up every morning and recite the Pledge of Allegiance, during which I affirmed that America was a “republic” with “liberty and justice for all.” By the time I was 28, I was fully indoctrinated, as most Americans are.

I walked into the public library of my hometown looking for something to read. I ambled over to the political science section. I saw four little different colored books entitled Essays on Liberty, Volumes 1-4, on a lower shelf. They had been published by The Foundation for Economic Education some 20 years before. I pulled volume 1 off the shelf and began thumbing through it. I then began thumbing through the other three.

My life was changed forever. I had never read anything like that. All four volumes contained hard-core, pure, uncompromising, and principled libertarian essays unequivocally pointing out that Americans were not free and explaining why.

I took all four books home and pored over them. The scales were dropping from my eyes. I was breaking through the lies and indoctrination that had encased my mind since I was a kid. It was a liberating feeling.

Over the years, I have wondered what my reaction would have been if those essays had instead contained “public-policy proposals” for reforming the welfare-warfare state system under which we live. Things like school vouchers, health savings accounts, Social Security “privatization,” surveillance reform, selected foreign interventionism, and regulatory and monetary reform.

I have no doubt that if that is what I had read in those essays, I never would have become a libertarian. It was reading the pure, uncompromising case for liberty that enabled me to liberate my mind from 28 years of indoctrination.

Here are some examples of what I read in those four little volumes that liberated my mind:

Americans, in general, regard socialism as something alien and unrelated to America, and would never consider joining the Socialist Party. Yet, they clamor for every piece of socialistic legislation which is offered — so long as it is sugar-coated with an American label or wrapped in an American flag.—Betty Knowles Hunt

Paul wants some of Peter’s property. For moral as well as legal reasons, Paul is unable personally to accomplish this desire. Paul therefore persuades the government to tax Peter in order to provide funds with which the government pays Paul “a subsidy.” Paul now has what he wanted. His conscience is clear and he has proceeded “according to law.” Who could ask for more? — why Paul, of course, and at the very next opportunity.”—Clarence Manion

Thus the American people are on the verge of a final decision. We must choose between the destruction caused by government paternalism, and the security secured by individual freedom with individual responsibility as expressed in the Bill of Rights. There is no other choice.—Dean Russell

In 1916, Lenin advised Swiss workers that direct federal taxation would be an instrument through which Switzerland could be socialized. The same for the United States.—John Unkel

When the State intervenes in the business of Society, which is production and exchange, a condition of war exists, even though open conflict is prevented by the superior physical force the State is able to employ. Politics in the market place is like a bull in the china shop.—Frank Chodorov

Government means always coercion and compulsion and is by necessity the opposite of liberty. Government is the guarantor of liberty and is compatible with liberty only if its range is adequately restricted to the preservation of economic liberty.—Ludwig von Mises

Attaining knowledge of right principles is an infinite process. It is a development to be pursued but never completed. Intellectual integrity, the accurate reflection of highest personal judgment, is within the reach of all. Thus, the best we can do with ourselves is to represent ourselves at our best. To do otherwise is to tell a lie. To tell lies is to destroy such truth as is known. To deny truth is to destroy ourselves.—Leonard E. Read

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