Comment: Thanks for a great post, Michael.

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Thanks for a great post, Michael.

For me, the progression was the reverse, i.e. from spirituality to libertarianism. A member of the "spiritual" wing of the "60s generation", after surviving the Haight/Ashbury and some years of psychedelic experimentation I turned to the study and practice the Buddha's teaching at a California Zen Center.

I was in my tenth year there in 1981 when one day, by a kind of fated accident, I happened to hear from a friend that the income tax is voluntary. At first, of course, I scoffed; but a nasty letter from the IR&S spurred me to investigate... and my mind was blown, as I began a process of education that eventually resulted in learning that nearly everything I had been taught and told, and believed, during my entire life, about politics, economics, history and similar subjects, was totally false: a gigantic fabric of lies, and not at all by accident.

Until then I had been your common, garden-variety California left-liberal lite-socialist: peacenik (went to Canada in 1967 to escape the last stupid, unConstitutional war), environmentally-concerned, etc. But as I began to study libertarianism, I realized that my approach to these concerns (which I still hold) was in diametric opposition to my spiritual beliefs and practices. As a Buddhist, my spiritual life was (and is) based on the principle of absolute personal responsibility (and the absolute personal freedom to fulfill that responsibility); but then, I realized, I would go out in the world and support, and vote for, leftist political ideas which completely contradict and subvert that principle.

Thus for me, the discovery of libertarianism (in particular the Non-Aggression Pledge, which distills the whole subject into one simple principle) enabled me to bring my worldly, political life into harmony with my spiritual life and practice -- though it has rather isolated me from my spiritual community, who somehow seem not to have figured it out. (I know of only one other declared libertarian Buddhist -- or Buddhist libertarian, for that matter -- despite the natural and perfect affinity between the two.)

I discovered Ron Paul that same year, and immediately sent him a contribution, my first ever to a political candidate. I had the pleasure of meeting him in 1988, when he visited the city where I now live (and was then active in the Libertarian Party). I was immediately struck by his character and presence, and by his presentation of a political philosophy that would allow people of the most divergent views and lifestyles to live together in peace. And, of course, most of all by his own example of living by that philosophy. If all Christians (or even a significant number) were like Dr. Paul, I could actually see Christianity as a force for good in the world.

Some may find it odd, but when I think of Ron Paul, the person who comes closest to him in my mind is the Dalai Lama. They were born only seven weeks apart in the summer of 1935, and both exemplify a life of spiritual principle in the secular world. It is possible, though of course seldom easy. But as you point out, "No one here gets out alive," and all we can take with us is the character we have built by our actions in this life. In Buddhism this is called karma, and it determines what we experience next.

What may result in the world at large from Ron Paul's efforts remains to be seen; but for me the most important result is exemplified in your post, Michael: the opportunity he has given us all to examine what is truly most important in life. I expect he would be pleased to know that he has given you such serious food for thought.