I guess you could say I "go back" to the first year there even was an official Libertarian Party, not that I was involved in that, per se. There have been three basic influences in how I came to have libertarian-oriented views.
#1 I travelled behind the Iron Curtain and saw what life under communism was like. I arrived home & just about kissed the ground. Whatever the nation's flaws (and I'd certainly rallied against the war), I was forever grateful for our freedoms and also prosperity.
#2 In 1972, through a chance encounter on a train (Hah, there is no such thing), I came to learn of Conservative Harvey Michelman, running against Democrat Bella Abzug for a Congressional seat in NYC's 20th District - the Upper West Side, where I lived at the time. The (cute) guy sitting across from me for an hour was his campaign mgr. As we chatted, it became apparent that Michelman, a "libertarian-oriented" Conservative (first time I heard the term), seemed to have views that matched my own. I decided to volunteer.
.....Along with (not many) others, I stood at subway stops and handed out flyers & bumper stickers. lol There was no time (or money!) for corrections. Bumper stickers read: HARVEY MICHELMAN FOR GONCRESS. Bella won big time. But I like knowing that my vote is there in his recorded 6,253. http://www.ourcampaigns.com/RaceDetail.html?RaceID=57779
.....It was a great experience. For the first time I was with like-minded souls in terms of shared libertarian values. They were a fun group - smart, witty. And... they turned me onto Ayn Rand.
#3 I read the Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged and a couple non-fiction titles, incl. Selfishness Is a Virtue, and I started to receive her newsletter and learn more about objectivism. But when in recent years the YA son of a friend declared himself an objectivist, well, seeing his way of looking at things in simplistic black & white terms, all I could think was, "I remember when I was like that, too."
.....In more recent years, I had something of an epiphany re the concept of selfishness. It occurred to me at some point that my sense of self included more than me. Certainly if my children were hurting, I was hurting. But it was more than just my children. More than even those close to me. I'm thinking now of jrd's story. Well, it's become cliche, the concept of feeling "one with the universe" - but I think that's what enlightenment is. (Ever see the movie Powder? It has that theme.) In a sense, all the selfishness principles hold. It's just that you see them applying to an ever-widening circle. Well, that's how I've come to view it.
Anyway, not long afterwards, I returned to college, taking a few Economics courses, including "Comparative Systems," learning about centralized planning and all - which didn't hurt my libertarian-oriented political views any. But by the mid 70's I pretty much lost interest in politics, totally focused on career; that was followed by a shift in priority to children and education.
As if my conservative views didn't make me enough of an outsider (no less in NY), I chose a spiritually-centered elementary school education for my children, Waldorf education. They'd have a rich interdisciplinary curriculum and... no tests or grades. Among other differences from traditional ed, it's a non-competitive environment. To boot, based on when the founder believed would be the most *developmentally-appropriate* time to learn to read, my children would only begin to be taught how to read as of the end of 2nd Grade. These days, that's considered significantly "late."
Virtually EVERYONE thought we were crazy and would be "holding our children back" and that I wasn't preparing them for "the real world." That is, the "real world" where everything was gauged according to *material measures of success* - grades in school, standardized test scores, ranking of your college, size of your salary, value of your house, cars, other holdings... Those weren't goals I had for my children. I hoped for them to grow up to be good citizens of this earth.
It was the interdisciplinary aspect that had initially drawn me, but I also related to Waldorf education's founding, what came about in response to the death and destruction in Europe from WWI. It seemed that, no matter what - regardless of country, culture, or religion - there was something in values and/or practices that over eons we kept handing down from one generation to another that, sooner or later, resulted in WAR. Bottom line, it was the goal of the education to break the pattern. It was thought that you'd never get adults to change their views. That if there was hope for the future, it would need to come from new generations of children who would think differently. Literally. (P.S. Unlike in PUBLIC SCHOOL, this does *not* mean children are indoctrinated with anti-war or any other political agenda.) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Waldorf_education#Spirituality
The education has a few nicknames. One is Education to "the hand, the heart, & the head" (corresponding to physical development/development of the will; emotional development; and intellectual development). It's also called "Education Towards Freedom." Freedom there has to do with being internally-motivated. We're motivated "externally" - by grades, money, power, fame, land, the law, peer pressure, adv'g, etc. - if we act hoping to receive some reward and/or avoid some punishment. A free human being is internally-motivated based on his values, i.e. regardless of anticipated reward or punishment. So there it was, again, this leitmotiv that keeps weaving in and out of my life: FREEDOM.
I guess it was in the early 90's that I happened to find Harry Browne's book on a sale table somewhere. I didn't associate the author with being libertarian. The title intrigued me. That book did have an influence on me. And I think there's some good advice he gives--- but also bad advice. And personally he's just not my kinda guy. He strikes me as being rather cold, for one. I think he also suffers from what I associate more with people younger than him: short-term thinking. It was years ago that I read the book, left only with a general impression, and so when I saw your comment I accessed the full text on line to see if I could identify what parts I took the strongest issue with. I've been re-reading, but it's too long to spend that much time on. But...
just on his section of marriage relationships, he doesn't reflect the view of, say, Steven Covey, author of Seven Habits of Highly Effective People. Harry Browne goes by his feelings: if you're not happy, then leave. For him, it's all about self interest and one's feelings. Mutual, but still, an attitude like this "hippy poster" you saw everywhere around college campuses in the 70's: http://echopen.files.wordpress.com/2012/01/i-do-my-thing-you... (As to his personal life, I only know what I just looked up. It says that when he got married, he already had a full-grown daughter. I guess he at least practices what he preaches!)
Whereas, I remember a story from Seven Habits, where some guy told Covey he no longer loved his wife. Covey agreed, viewing "love" as a verb - referring to how the man *treated* his wife (not lovingly). SC told him to forget how he felt, to make a choice to love his wife as indicated by his actions towards her. What happened was, she responded and began to treat him more lovingly back. Next thing, the guy found himself "loving" her again (feeling love towards her).
Harry Brown's self-centered life philosophy is more of a problem for me where children are involved. But even as regards "just" a couple, the materialistic way he views relationships also reminds me of one of the stories in the film (one of my top 10) The Joy Luck Club, the scene depicted in the photo below. I was glad the mother convinced her daughter to ditch her husband. Later, the woman found a man who viewed the two of them as a "couple" [a Harry Brown dirty word] vs. her ex-husband, who saw them as two individuals who lived together, paid for their own expenses themselves and shared joint expenses 50/50, and spent time with one another if and when it was convenient for each. http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_Qv1Z5ETcWgI/SbnNBoq2W-I/AAAAAAAAAO...
While such a view of close personal relationships is anathema to me - and I've tried to impress upon my children that LOVE doesn't operate according to a principle of 50/50 - if it works for some people, I'm happy for them. But Harry Browne's attitude is really what I associate more with feminist thinking. I can't explain the consequences of his/feminist views without getting too personal. Suffice it to say, children don't count for much.
Beyond family debates, I didn't really become interested in politics again until a few years ago when I joined up with a local Tea Party group. While there were "concerned taxpayers" in the group, it seemed to attract mostly social conservatives. It was almost defunct by the time the presidential election came around, but among those left, it was disappointing to sense that most supported Rick Santorum. The abortion issue trumped all others. (While at the time I considered them all a bunch of hypocrites - when clearly Ron Paul was the only candidate whose values matched the tea party mission statement - I guess I don't know how I'd act if I viewed abortion as akin to murder, as those people did and some here do.)
Oh. I forgot something. Raised mainstream Protestant, I left the church when I was 16. But I've had what I'd call spiritual experiences. And, unlike the majority of Christians, at some point I read the Bible. I found that my beliefs matched what Jesus said. I then decided to join a church, not that I stayed long. My beliefs matched what Jesus said - not what church taught.
Then too, years earlier, because of how deeply impressed I was with Waldorf education, I read some of what its founder Rudolf Steiner had written in other areas. While not parochial schools, Waldorf ed does have Christian roots. But Steiner's was an esoteric view of Christianity, one not incompatible with Eastern religions/philosophy. Sound junkie that I am, I can maybe best describe it this way. Christianity, Eastern philosophy, ancient religions... I see it all as one long song.
But getting back to his philosophy of education, it's not as if being a free-thinker, being internally-motivated by one's values, has anything intrinsically to do with goodness. Even more so if you're internally motivated - not bound by convention or even law - it matters "what's inside." Not taught "to" children but reflected within Waldorf curriculum are qualities such as "truth, beauty, and goodness" and "reverence, gratitude, and awe."
Waldorf ed is complex - hard to explain, no less in a tiny ad! At one of the Waldorf schools my children attended, here's how it was summed up - acknowledging the human being in that three-fold way corresponding to the head, heart, and hand. It said something to the effect that the goal was to help children develop capacities, not just skills, the capacity to think - objectively and creatively; to feel - compassion and joy; and to act - on behalf of oneself, one's fellow man, and the earth. That pretty much defines what's important to me and what my hopes have been for my children.
Let's see... libertarian-oriented political views... part fundamentalist, part esoteric-new age views on religion and spirituality... and holistic "alternative education" for my children. In terms of being outside the mainstream, there was also the media thing.
Enrolling our children in a Waldorf preschool, as a prerequisite we had to agree they'd have ZERO media at home: (what evolved to mean) no tv, movies, videos, electronic games, computer games, or internet use. That rule only lasted during children's early years. (Thereafter it was strongly recommended children have limited media use, weekends only.) But even when media was "allowed," even after my children were in public school, it had simply ceased to be part of our family life. With the exception of weekend movies at some point, we were basically media-free for about 15 years.
I'm sure you did not expect such a lengthy response. Sorry about that. I didn't intend for it to be. This post is just a topic that's really the story of my life. And I'm not a non-conformist. I've never done things for the sake of being different. It just kept working out that way. Well, at least I dress like everyone else! :)
When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the Universe.
~ John Muir
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