From Naivety to Left-Wing Politics to Libertarianism – My Political Journey

Article written in 2015
When I was 16 I attended a seminar about exploitation at a local university. The seminar leader asked us to discuss how we are victims of capitalism. Clutching my designer handbag and wearing my Diesel jeans I responded, “I don’t think I am a victim of capitalism. I love shopping!” I was admittedly grouped with people who understood the question better.

By my second year of sixth form I had come across Marxist ideas in A level sociology and had frequent discussions with my step-dad about left wing politics. I looked back at my 16 year old self and thought ‘How embarrassing when I said I wasn’t a victim of capitalism! Of course I am.’

After attaining my A levels I went on to study sociology at university where my left wing views were reinforced daily, if not hourly. I felt fairly confident that this meant I was a Labour voter but I always thought something didn’t quite fit with me and I couldn’t put my finger on what it was.

I believed that the poor should be helped as much as possible and if this meant raising taxes for the better off then I was fine with it. A bigger government would result in more services and a better standard of living for the most disadvantaged in society.

I visualised a left wing government as a caring parent who supported its children when in need. I saw it as a sign of a civilised society where people are willing to give up some of their earnings to help mankind. I thought any ideas that did not agree with taxes or advocate public spending were cruel; supporters of privatisation certainly didn’t care about equality and justice.

This all changed when I was introduced to a completely alien political philosophy –Libertarianism.

How I understand Libertarianism:

  • As long as I don’t harm anyone in my actions then I should be left alone.
  • I should be fully autonomous and not forced to do anything.
  • I should be secure in my life, liberty and property.

Libertarianism allowed me to see government from a revolutionary perspective and I began to see taxes in a whole new light.

Being a citizen in a statist society necessitates that the government can demand a chunk of money from you and use it in ways that you do not agree with. You have absolutely no right to withhold your contribution even if you desperately disagree with how it is being spent. For example if I disagree with the public funding for nuclear power sites the government very kindly gives me the freedom of speech to complain about it but if I wanted to act by refusing to fund this with my money then I would be thrown in prison.

Being the product of a left wing institution and hearing this argument I came to the conclusion that it was worthwhile loosing some autonomy to ensure that others are cared for. However I soon realised that this meant that I was supporting a coercive system that uses violence against anyone who has a different opinion. Ok, so I can say I disagree with how my money is being spent but what’s the point if I can do nothing about it. I wondered how this could possibly be the sign of a civilised society.

No matter how good, selfless, caring or honourable an idea is I am not comfortable with people being forced to support it. Many argue that we give up some of our liberty in return for protection but who protects us from the government?

A year ago if someone had said to me: ‘What do you think about the concept of a government that throws you in prison for disagreeing with its ideas and steals your money?’ I would have replied; ‘That’s awful! Thank god I live in this enlightened democracy known as Britain. I should count myself lucky’.

Often people argue against Libertarian from a pragmatic standpoint but I’m optimistic that if we were all self-governing we would efficiently organise ourselves and voluntarily support one another socially. There’s no need for government interference in the economy either as the free market would function efficiently if it wasn’t constantly interrupted by subsidies and policies.

All this leaves me in a dilemma. As a Libertarian it follows that I do not vote in the forthcoming election. However I currently see Libertarianism as a utopia. There isn’t an option for me to opt out of statism therefore it seems to me that the next best option is to vote for the party which is the lesser of two evils. Unfortunately the only two parties that have a chance of being voted in do not give me any ideas to be passionate about. For now I remain in political limbo.

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