A long, long time ago in a galaxy far far away, I used to be a Marxist Communist. As a 15 year old kid, I was angered by an impoverished upbringing and an inability for my mother to work due to her disability. I had looked to a political philosophy that I believed would accommodate my concerns. I lived in Loudoun County, Northern Virginia; the richest county in the United States, where kids got BMWs for their 16th birthday and withdrew $500 at the ATM to hang out with their friends. Meanwhile, my father, who had just left the Navy, was trying to provide for a family on his own, living paycheck to paycheck. I thought it was unfair; why did the rich kids get everything handed down to them while I had to go out and work for my own cool things. I wanted a BMW, I wanted a fancy house, I wanted my father to not have to work his ass off day in and day out. I felt he deserved it more than any of those CEOs and lobbyists that had more in their retirement account than my father had seen in his life.
I was just entering high school, and had a keen interest in politics and the exchange of ideas. I joined my high school debate team where I was surrounded by critical thinkers and philosophers. Unfortunately for me (and more unfortunate that I was not aware it was unfortunate), all the team captains were motivated by Karl Marx’s Das Kapital, and were hell bent on evangelizing Marxism as the basis for all of our cases going into tournaments. Young and naive, I had expressed my discontent and confusion as to the reasons leading to my situation. I was given a copy of the Manifesto of the Communist Party, and was told all my questions would be answered.
I read the Manifesto and was inspired. I saw a world that abolished currency. I believed that people could work in their specialized industry and provide for each other on the good will that the service would be returned. I believed that money and business was a way for people to legally own slaves and hold their survival hostage. I believed in seizure of property, as it was the fruit of the proletariat, and thus should be owned by the proletariat.
My father, a stark conservative and ardent catholic, did not approve. He was disgusted by the mere fact anybody would give me that book and introduce me to those ideas. “You’re being duped by thieves”, he said. “Why would anyone ever work if they produced in hopes of getting anything returned to them? Don’t you see how stupid that is?” I told him that people should be forced. Individuality is what causes laziness, the will of a person overpowers the will of production, people are evil by nature and need to be put in line.
I hadn’t listened even after many fights with my father. I went online to various communist social groups (facebook was not as big at the time) and found a group that had only existed in Germany (at the time). It was called the Antifaschichte, “Anti-Fascists” or “Antifa” for short. I had begun to talk to them about the problems with my family and how I wanted to start a chapter in the United States to help organize the millennial proletariat. Soon enough, I had convinced enough friends to start organizing protests in Washington, D.C. against the transgressions of the capitalist, neo-nazi administration of George W. Bush.
This is the time the Antifa in Germany started sending me videos of riots in Rostock, Germany, where they were beating up neo-nazis, throwing rocks at police, and burning vehicles and dumpsters. They had told me the only way to combat fascism was violence. Dissenters had to submit in the name of Social Justice both because they deserved it for oppressing minorities, and because it was the only way to operate a truly communist society.
This is where I began to have my doubts. I knew very well that violence was not the answer, and I did not understand how we could achieve policy objectives through the threat of violence. They continued to send me videos of the Antifa beating up people on the street tram, wrecking and looting businesses that had nothing to do with anything, and humiliating innocent people they claimed to be nazis. I knew something was wrong here, but I was extremely afraid to vocalize my concerns- it is largely communist culture to reject skepticism.
So I went back to my father. I told him that I needed an honest heart to heart about communism. I needed him to explain why we didn’t need government to control people. I asked him how it’s possible for people to produce without being put in line. He introduced me to the Natural Law. He explained to me that in Genesis 1:31, God had made man and everything else, and saw that it was good. My father told me that man is good by nature, and that God gave us free will: the power to choose and do what we ought to do. He explained that without free will, humankind would not be able to serve its purpose: to love and serve the Lord.
I didn’t really buy any of it, I told him I wanted real world examples, not faith based mystery. I told him this is why it’s crazy, because it’s all belief in something that isn’t tangible to the human person. He then pointed to his bookcase and told me to read all the books on the second stack. I looked and saw it was all of the volumes of the Summa Theologica by Saint Thomas Aquinas. “That is the real manifesto, not some 7 chapter pamphlet. Read all of that and you will get your answers.” I began skimming through and looking for the answers I sought. However, 5 volumes was a tall order for someone my age, so I hadn’t read everything through, but I had begun to understand that man had a power that was superior to all other animals; rationality.
Saint Thomas Aquinas explains that man’s ability to make rational decisions makes him invaluable. Furthermore, he explains that in order for man to make and mature his rationality, he must have the freedom to be wrong. Freedom is the natural state of man. What was more interesting was that Thomas Aquinas had come to the conclusion that the same natural forces that control the conditions of life on earth simultaneously give us our rights, thus man does not give rights. This blew me away, and I was interested to learn more.
The next hurdle was understanding how capitalism could possibly be any good for people. Capitalism is what made us poor, right? Capitalism is the reason we live paycheck to paycheck right? We need a government to collect taxes to spend on the people right?
Well this is when my economics teacher introduced to me The Wealth of Nations by Adam Smith. I started learning about natural law economics and the invisible hand of the market. I learned that competition in specialized industry drives a quality product for a low price. Capitalism works because in order to survive, man must make money. Capitalism is based on choices, and operates on the nature of man, as opposed to changing his behavior. I also learned that government intervention had a large impact on the supply and demand graphs that we were working on. Government interference caused gaps and dead weight loss, and I had realized communism had it wrong. However I was still convinced that a government was still necessary to keep products safe for the consumer, I mean what if there’s poison in the food?
All the meanwhile, the Antifa hadn’t heard from me, and my debate team had already ousted me as being too individualistic. I had started to receive e-mails telling me that I was delinquent in my duty and that if I didn’t participate they would come find me and beat me up. They were in Germany, so I didn’t think to call the police or anything like that. I didn’t take it very seriously because they were just kids.
One day I was walking out of school and was waiting for the activity buses to arrive so I could go home. A few of my friends that I had brought into the movement and a few others I didn’t know came up to me and surrounded me. They noted that I had on nice Jordans and haven’t been around for a while. I told them that I was done with them and communism and I wanted nothing to do with violence or intimidation. At that point, they took my backpack, threw it around me, and then knocked me to the ground. They ripped the Jordans off my feet, dropped my bag and ran. I rode the bus home with no shoes and a broken heart. I could not believe that it could happen to me.
I was done with politics for a long time because of it, and then one day I had overheard a fight about the Constitution at a Starbucks. I looked over and a man says “government gives us our rights, it can take them away”, and his friend responds “government doesn’t grant us rights! Our Creator does! It says it in the Constitution.” I began to study the Constitution and realized that all the rights Saint Thomas Aquinas talked about were described in the Constitution. At this point I realized the ingenuity of the founding fathers and could not believe the connection.
At this point, I already knew what was wrong with the conservative argument, you could not legislate people into morality, but was not aware of a philosophy that believed in both economic AND social liberty. However, one day I was driving down the road and I saw a man holding a sign that said “google Ron Paul”. I went ahead later that day and researched the man, and what I found was astonishing. Speeches that spoke to me and a message of liberty that was consistent with the founding fathers resonated with me. Ron Paul was talking about monetary policy and overseas spending. He was talking about a message of life and ending the wars; trusting in man. I had finally realized what I was. I was a libertarian.
In conclusion, a lot of people ask the question: can leftists become libertarians? I sometimes debate with myself whether or not I was truly a leftist or not, and I will leave the question for the reader to decide. What I do know is that it took a major rewiring of my brain to fully understand how liberty is not only the best principle for man, but the natural principle. I hope a leftist will read this and be open to questioning his own mindset. Research the natural law, and know that though it will seem confusing at first, it really does come full circle, and is a perfect philosophy for an imperfect world. My journey from communism to liberty is unique and very long, but I learn more and more every day that I live and I know that I’m very blessed to live in a country founded on its ideas.