Libertarian Part 4: Moving Forward

Living in a world that feels backwards

Exploring Finance

3 key taeaways

  1. Libertarian philosophy forever changed the way I see the world
  2. A better understanding makes it easier to know what to expect
  3. It can be challenging to navigate a world that seems illogical


This concludes a four part essay that introduces Libertarian philosophy. While my journey started in college with the Democratic platform, a better understanding of Economics gave me pause. I did not feel either party addressed the social and economic needs our country required. It was not until reading Money is the Root of All Evil from Atlas Shrugged that I discovered Libertarianism. It’s an amazing passage that introduced me to an entirely new idea: we are not evil for pursuing wealth.

As I explored Libertarian ideas further, I felt it explained the economy so much better than anything else I had read prior. The Austrian Business Cycle provided the best explanation for the Great Recession as detailed in part 3. This led to a review of the economic theory I learned in college by stretching the concept of free markets further as explained in part 2. I realized that I trusted the private sector more than the government because of the incentive structure. For me, the journey concluded with the realization that a stateless society is the only way to achieve true self-ownership as detailed in part 1. I recognize that even most Libertarians never make the leap into a stateless society. Regardless, and despite the natural progression of this journey, I wrote the story backwards.

After recognizing the moral consistency of a stateless society, I realized that the economic arguments, no matter how compelling, are actually less important. The discussion must start with the universal application of the non-aggression principal. This is the only way to build a society that is truly free and where everyone can prosper. I struggled with the order to present each topic, but when I explained this essay to my four year old son, I realized I had to start with the most clear, obvious, and important point: the initiation of force is always wrong.

I am often criticized with having an unrealistic and utopian vision. I imagine a world that could never exist. This is unjustified because to truly solve a problem, you must understand the root causes. Everything stems from the threat of violence at the core of our society, where the right to self-ownership can be violated arbitrarily to placate whichever mob is in control.

That being said, I understand we are far from this ideal state, but at least I have a clear and consistent vision. From this vantage point I can engage in pragmatic debates about how to solve the every day challenges facing our society.

Unlike the straightforward moral argument, the economic argument has much more complexity. It is thought provoking to have discussion on how the free market could solve problems in our current economy. However, one must realize that we will never fix what ails our society without first removing the constant threat of violence (i.e. the government). This is not an argument to hoard wealth and avoid paying taxes, but a moral justification based on self-ownership.

The upside of Libertarianism

When finally breaking through and accepting a stateless society, it felt like a massive weight had been lifted from my shoulders. The journey was a personal transformation, changing everything about how I view the world. Ten years later, I still feel the relief and freedom that came with the initial realization.

As discussed, my first attempt at this essay failed in large part because of the massive inconsistency between socially liberal and fiscally liberal values. When realizing that the natural alignment is socially liberal and fiscally conservative, everything snapped into place. Removing violence aligns with free market philosophy with absolute consistency.

The mental clarity is astonishing. I don’t get stuck in endless debates about tax rates of 32% or 38% (the only acceptable amount is 0%, and it’s not arbitrary), how to improve public schools, what about social safety nets, and on. Violence is wrong, the free market has consistently demonstrated it can meet every demand we have. End of discussion. No more mental loops.

This may sound like arrogance but is quite the opposite. It is humility of not knowing how to solve the biggest problems. There is one thing I do feel 100% confident about though: Millions of people working separately, experimenting, and finding solutions will always produce better results than a handful of bureaucrats sitting behind closed doors coming up with blunt, top down solutions that prioritize special interest groups.

When government gets involved, the millions of entrepreneurs who would be solving these problem are either blocked through regulation or disincentivized because they think the government will solve the problem and their tax dollars have already been paid to the cause.

Not having a solution does not prevent debate on these issues though. When economic or social problems are presented, I can step back and always think about how a peaceful and stateless society would address the issue. The change in approach makes the issues more clear and easy to solve. Apply non-violence and free markets to the issue at hand and you will get an out of the box solution.

Perhaps the greatest upside of a new mindset is how the philosophy goes way beyond politics. I can now simplify my outlook into two virtues:

  1. Always be the 20% (referring to the pareto principal). Be in the top 20% of dads, husbands, employees, friends, self-improvement, fitness, etc. Not the top 1%, because then you fall out of the top 20% elsewhere.

  2. Always abide by the non-aggression principal. This gets at the motivation behind my book writing project in college: the anti-Machiavellian stance to always be kind to others. From the lens of the non-aggression principal, it can be more consistently and easily applied. Never hit your kids, don’t force people to do things, take accountability for your failures (don’t force it on other people), let people make mistakes they can learn from, etc. If everyone pursued their own best interest while abiding by this principal, we would live in a much more peaceful and prosperous society.

While these two virtues can be readily applied to understanding society at large, they have greatly enhanced the quality of my own life dramatically. While non-aggression sits at the core Libertarian philosophy, in many ways so does the Pareto Principal. It explains why free markets work so well, the 20% that add the most value to society can rise to the top and drive innovation forward benefiting everyone. Conversely, with government, the 20% most power hungry, untrustworthy people will rise to the top of the political ladder to serve their own needs.

The Drawback to Libertarianism

Throughout history, many stories have been written about the mind “waking up” to an obvious truth. Platos allegory of the cave or Neo escaping from The Matrix are examples that highlight: what has been seen cannot be unseen. Without sounding too arrogant, when viewing the world through a Libertarian lens, everything makes so much sense that there is no going back. “Liberal at 20, conservative at 40”. Many people migrate from liberal to conservative throughout their lives, almost no one goes the other way.

Unfortunately, similar to The Matrix, the real world can be more harsh than the reality we experience before. We cannot cure child hunger with more tax money or solve the education gap with better public schools. These programs do not work. The promise is compelling but the reality is failure.

When seeing the world so clearly, it can also become endlessly frustrating to explain to others. It’s like knowing that 2+2=4 but finding it nearly impossible to demonstrate this simple equation to most people. I broke apart these ideas across four long articles yet still feel it was challenging to articulate in words what is so clear in my mind: Violence is wrong and free markets solve problems.

But alas, I do understand. I remember the pure devastation I felt when Bush beat Kerry in 2004. Had I been in the same mindset in 2016 when Donald Trump was elected, I may have never recovered. I would have probably shut my mind off to new ideas, unable to comprehend how nearly half the country voted for Trump. I would have felt scared, lost, betrayed, and unbelievably confused. Only when you peel back the layers, understand the economy and political monstrosity, can you make sense of such a glaring paradox.

How I Move Forward

Once I recognized that a stateless society is the only solution, I was depressed to see how far we are from realizing this vision. It has only gotten worse in recent years as the government grows larger and encroaches more into our daily lives. Below are a few measures I have taken to maintain a positive attitude each day.

Politics and Voting

US politics has always been an ugly and disgusting business. Unlike private enterprise that is motivated by profits, politicians are motivated by power. They will do and say anything to gain and keep power. The honest ones are out before they get started.

It’s not about getting the “right” people elected. Alan Greenspan was a pupil of Ayn Rand, a sound money advocate of the gold standard. Yet he wrote the playbook that central banks around the world follow to this day. If he couldn’t right the ship, there is no Fed chair who could. Absolute power corrupts absolutely.

Stepping back and reflecting on part 1, it quickly becomes apparent that voting is immoral. By voting you are complicit in the violent threat stemming from government. By voting, you are saying: “I believe in something so strongly that I want someone to threaten everyone else under the penalty of death to comply with my wishes”. Voting for either party supports the system as it exists today.

For 10 years I thought I would never vote again. Then I heard Spike Cohen make his case as the Libertarian party VP. He said his job would be done, when he closed the office and turned out the lights. This, I can support! Voting for him meant returning the stolen goods and shutting down the mafia (I mean government).

He further made the case that most people resonated with his message but had never even heard of the Libertarian party. Maybe a stateless society is too much (for now), but socially liberal and fiscally conservative is an idea that resonates!

Thus, I made the decision I would vote Libertarian from now on in the hopes that one day a Libertarian candidate could sit on stage with Republicans and Democrats and get the message out. I don’t love the idea of voting Libertarian, even if it means voting to end all violence. It feels like acceptance of the system. However, if it leads to more awareness of the message, then it’s a success regardless.

One final note on the Libertarian party. They are usually dubbed a bunch of “weirdos”. This is probably true because they are more likely to be people who challenge norms and push back against authority. Unfortunately though, this usually translates to uninspiring candidates without much charisma (Ron Paul, Rand Paul, Gary Johnson, Jo Jorgenson, etc.).

Freedom of speech

To be crystal clear, I would NEVER recommend using violence or aggression against the government. Even in cases where it is self-defense, do NOT use aggression. When the government threatens violence, either run or comply. Determine which has the least downside risk and run OR comply, do not do both! This is why I ALWAYS pay my taxes.

Instead of using self-defense against the government, I leverage my free speech to discuss ideas. I relate to people, understand their side and empathize. Everyone has a good reason to believe in something. I may disagree, but at least I understand their reason. Only then can I change someones mind. No one ever changed their mind by being yelled at or bullied. I don’t waste time online debating people. I debate the people I care about!

As a side note, I hesitated to publish this article. Freedom of speech was a founding principal in the US, but each day we seem to be moving further from allowing freedom of expression. Nothing written across these 4 articles should provoke hostility. I am not in anyway calling for violence, in fact quit the opposite. Still, we live in a world where words can be used against you. I worry about the risk involved in publishing these ideas, but I feel too strongly about these ideas to not try and push someone to think differently.

Finding like minded people

You will be hard pressed to find anyone who truly believes in a stateless society. Thus, I turn to podcasts. My two favorite people to follow are Peter Schiff and Stefan Molyneux.

Schiff has an incredible understanding of economics. He can articulate complex matters extremely well and always has a view on the latest political and economic events. His market forecasts have been off the mark for several years, but I believe he will be vindicated in the end, and the dollar will crash. That being said, I disagree with Schiff because he is a minarchist, and supports a role for government, albeit infinitesimally small.

Molyneux is another individual who can take incredibly complex topics, strip away the nonsense and explain issues clearly. If Schiff provides an economic resource, Molyneux is the moral resource. He firmly believes in a stateless society and breaks down every issue under this lens. His earlier podcasts and books are the best resources I could promote.

Where I disagree with Molyneux is the hard line approach he takes to socially ostracizing people. Essentially he explains that once a case has been made for a stateless society, a person either accepts it and agrees or you disengage from them completely.

I understand his point, how can you be friends with someone who wants to use violence against you? However there are two problems with this. First, I would have no friends or family. Second, by staying in someones life, continually making the case and peeling back the layers, maybe you convert a few people years down the line. By walking away, you miss this opportunity.

Letting go control

The frustration of looking at our political and economic landscape can be endless. There are so many easy fixes to massive problems, but the current environment will never allow them to be fixed. It’s unfortunate but I have to live life anyway. I focus on things I can control and move forward.

These simple facts, among many others, will not change. But knowing how humans respond to incentives can be very advantageous. It is much harder to be surprised by behavior that shocks other people.

Addressing a Social Safety Net

In part 1, I argued the immorality of funding social safety nets with taxes. Part 2 showed how government is ineffective at providing services. Part 3 provided examples of less government translating to greater wealth and prosperity. When these three ideas are brought together, I feel confident that a free society would produce far better results at bullding a social safety net than the one we live in today.

When making a case for a stateless society, after people ask about who will build roads, they inevitably question who takes care of the most vulnerable. Why? We all feel the need and desire to care for those less fortunate. Unfortunately, many people pay 40%+ of their income to the government and feel they have done their part.

But how well is this system working? Around the world and domestically people are falling through the cracks. The public education system continues to deteriorate and inner city children are left further behind. Will more government funding solve this problem? Unlikely. In a free market, schools would provide custom education that fits the needs of the students. Common curriculum would not be rammed down from the top. In fact, students might actually learn real life skills!

“Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day, teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime”

As history has shown, a free market would produce more wealth, better education, effective health care, and increase the quality of many other services the government currently administers. Still, there would be people in society who require help for the entirety of their lives.

For these people, I put trust in our better nature. I trust that private charities would form to help these individuals and that people would be lining up to donate. Not for tax breaks, but because it is the right thing to do. I also believe private charities would be far better equipped to care for these people than government institutions. To be honest, it’s impossible to know for sure, but history, logic, and experience tells me that these people would lead a better life in a free market society built on peaceful interactions.

Wrapping Up

If you made it this far, thank you! For 10 years I have had this conversation repeatedly in my head. I wanted it on paper so I could free up some headspace. I hope you found the topics thought provoking and maybe even considered a different view point. There is much to debate over part 2, but if you really step back and consider part 1 the issue is crystal clear. The government requires violence. So you either support it or you don’t.

To conclude, if you reject a stateless society and accept government as a necessity then this means one of two things:

  1. You do not believe the right to self-ownership is the universal and primary right. There are instances where other rights should be prioritized and thus aggression and violence is acceptable in these cases.

  2. You do believe the right to self-ownership is the universal and primary right, but it requires a government to protect and guarantee this sacred right.

There is no third possibility. Unfortunately, taking only a small step back immediately shows the hypocrisy inherent in both these views.

In the first case, if another right can be prioritized above the right to self-ownership, then what is this ultimate right (right to water, health care, education, etc)? Can it be universally applied and can you make a compelling argument so that the vast majority of people will agree?

Most importantly, how do you reconcile the inconsistency? If the right to water is prioritized above the right to self-ownership, then how can you argue the water belongs to you in the first place? If you have to violate another persons self-ownership to obtain the water by force, then can someone not do the same to you? Why not? This inconsistency is irreconcilable.

The second argument is a bit more obvious in the hypocrisy. To protect our right to self-ownership we must first give up our right to self-ownership? How much of our right are we giving up? 1% of our right so that we can have a police force to protect us? What about a military and a judicial system? Should these be included in the government services? Why or why not?

Bottom line, to apply self-ownership and non-aggression universally means government cannot exist. For just a moment, ignore the flood of questions about paying for schools, roads, military, health care, police, garbage collection, social safety net, etc. While these are all great questions, assume a free market will handle this as it does everything else.

Now, picture a society that has self-ownership and non-aggression as the core foundation where free markets can proliferate unbridled by the constraint of government. Put on hold the “gotcha” arguments (e.g. what if a private company builds a road around your house and requires a massive fee to use it), and assume the free market actually works. This is not utopia, we are human after all. There will be disputes, crime, conflict, etc. However, the social fabric is built on peaceful cooperation with a core universal principal of non aggression that can be consistently applied. While not perfect, it is impossible to imagine how this society is not a big improvement over the one we live in today.

I will end with the concluding paragraph from part 1: Reflect on modern society judging the founders of the US. Washington and Jefferson are no longer seen as great men that pushed society forward and championed individual liberty. Instead they are being judged as slave owners and racists. People are not holding historical figures to the cultural norms of their time, but the morality of the present. This is not entirely unfair. But consider this, what norms of our culture today will be judged in the future (e.g. eating meat)? If you were born 200 years ago in the South, what moral principles would have led you to emphatically reject slavery, pushing back on everyone else in society? Would you have been different and argued for freedom? Wouldn’t this have seemed radical and impossible at the time? The universal application of the non aggression principal and self-ownership makes slavery as morally reprehensible 200 years ago as it is today. I am confident the non aggression principal will stand the test of time. So, what is your universal moral principal that can transcend time and ignore cultural norms to guide your actions and beliefs consistently?

Disclosure: The content herein is my own opinion and should not be considered financial
advice or recommendations. I am not receiving compensation for any materials produced. 
I have no business relationship with any companies mentioned.