Chris Spangle can vouch for me when I say that I’ve been “meaning to get involved” since 2006. Yet I hadn’t officially joined the LPIN until now.
My journey toward libertarianism was a slow, albeit radical, one. If you asked me my political party affiliation in 2004, I would have said Republican. In 2008, I was more anti-Obama than pro-anything. In 2012 I called myself liberal. In 2013, I finally called myself a Libertarian.
I was first introduced to libertarianism through Dr. Louise Morton’s Ethics class at IUPUI. Among other works, John Stuart Mill’s “On Liberty” was one which was discussed. I devoured it in an hour despite Mill’s abuse of the English language. It made sense to me that as human beings we have the right to liberty so long as we do not harm other people. He was the first philosopher I read that so clearly argued for liberty in such a logical faction. My dog-eared copy had this section highlighted in Chapter 3, “On Individuality as One of the Element of Well Being”:
“…men should be free to act upon their opinions – to carry these out in their lives, without hindrance, either physical or moral, from their fellow-men, so long as it is at their own risk and peril.”
What he states is the theory that men should be free to act as they please so long as they don’t harm anyone. In essence, it is not the government’s job to police people. Although Mill used “society” more often than “government”, the principle is the same. So you do drugs but only harm yourself? Great. Want to eat sugar-laden frankenfoods and give yourself cancer? So be it. To me, it is logical to suggest that when individuals make an educated decision to act irresponsibly, then they should be held accountable for their own stupidity. Of course, some people are ignorant of the consequences of their actions, but that can be rectified through education. Mill suggested that intervention and criminal action should only take place when an individual begins to harm someone else. To say that we need to keep people from harming themselves is to say that we do not have liberty over our own lives.
Despite the love I felt for libertarianism, I didn’t join the party after this introduction. I do remember feeling very creeped out by the pro-Obama crazies at the time, and that took up more of my energy than seeking out libertarian causes. My in-between years were spent listening to AM 1430 from morning to-night, including Abdul, Neal Boortz, and Glenn Beck.
Like many, my reticence wasn’t due to a disagreement with libertarianism. In fact, I agree with many libertarian tenants and have for years. My problem was that I didn’t see government as something which would ever go away; I am not an anarchist. I had a hard time fusing the idea of libertarianism with the practicality of it. It was very all-or-nothing thinking, and I believe that a lot of people stay in that zone. For a long time, my thought was, “Well, I should vote where it matters and deal with the parties already in power.” The problem is that the parties in power do not respect liberty. They respect money, reelection, and more governmental power. It wasn’t until I accepted the fact that electing Libertarian politicians would move us in the right direction that I began to accept the Party.
I think many refuse to join the cause because they don’t see it as a practical, viable alternative to the two-party system. Or they do not know what the party stands for other than non-interventionism and pro-drug legislation. I firmly believe that many Americans would agree with libertarian viewpoints if exposed to them. The fact that we so honor our Founding Fathers is indicative of this. As a people, we value individualism and freedom.
The lack of Libertarian party candidates and primary voting opportunities aside, many also do not vote Libertarian because they feel it will waste their vote. I remember speaking to Chris about this years ago. The idea among many people about voting and third parties goes like this:
1. Voting libertarian, or any other third-party, is a wasted vote.
2. It is therefore unwise to vote third-party.
3. Few people then vote third-party.
4. Which is an indicator that voting third-party is a wasted vote…
You get the picture. It creates a cycle where no one votes third-party because no one votes third-party. Getting people to see that change won’t happen otherwise will help. The laughable part of that situation is that a good portion of our population doesn’t vote, anyway. But it’s the thought that counts, right?
I also leaned away from the Libertarian Party because of my sexuality. I am an outspoken gay rights activist and a bisexual woman. (I swear, it’s not a phase!) These two qualities steer many people toward the Democratic Party, the de facto LGBT political party. I think that the Libertarian Party would do well to seek out and cater to LGBT who want change but don’t think they have any other choice.
While for me the decision to join was a purely logical one, for others this is not the case. Most people are not swayed by logic but by emotion, and the Libertarian Party does a poor job of appealing to emotion. I think as a party we are pretty tired of being played by the Big Two and so we don’t tend to do it to potential followers. However I think we lose when we forget to make emotional appeals. Or when we refuse to allow those who can garner emotional responses, like Glenn Beck, into the outer rings of the party.
Last year Chris Spangle told me to stop being a troll. Well I hope you’re happy, Chris.
Lynn Swayze is a Guest Contributor. She is a mother of four with a background in political science and philosophy. Lynn has been an outspoken advocate for LGBT rights.
Guest Submissions can be sent to Ruiz@wearelibertarians.com. Please provide links to any sources cited in your submission. Every variety of libertarian thought is welcomed. However, We Are Libertarians will maintain a standard of professionalism and as such will not accept pieces based solely on conspiracy theories and/or pieces that are overly obscene. We look forward to your contributions! – Joe Ruiz, Managing Editor