How I came to be a NAL (the L part)

April 29, 2008

in Freedom, New Age Libertarian, Politics

I am part of a very, VERY small group, the New Age Libertarans. My husband jokes that I and my two sisters are the only members of this oxymoronic covey. I think that explaining how this came to be so is worth a post or two.

First came the political persuasion.

***

When I teach high school Government & Economics, I start one lesson by writing the following on the board:

For most people, choosing a favorite sports team is more a matter of geography than a reasoned choice.

The students debate the merits of this statement. Sure, the New England Patriots and Boston Red Sox have had a good run in the last decade, and sure, if you’re growing up during this time in Boston or environs, you will be likely to enculturate their colors, their logo, their fans’ fervor. But what if you are growing up in Montana? What if Lacrosse is what lights your town on fire? What if you just don’t catch the glow of the Patriots or the Sox? Does that mean you are wrong?

Students usually come to the conclusion the statement is is true. One team is not inherently better than another (unless we’re talking about the Broncos, of course).

I then erase the sports reference and replace with the word religion.

For most people, choosing a religion is more a matter of geography than a reasoned choice.

Again, students debate whether or not they believe the statement is true. If you grow up in a Lutheran family in Minnesota, you are predisposed to holding Christian views and lifestyles. If you are born into a Jewish family in Tel Aviv, you are likely to espouse Judaism by osmosis, if not by choice. If your family is of the Vaishya caste, living in in Calcutta, Hinduism is probably your default setting.

People rarely choose a religion because it its True; they choose it because it is There.

Usually the class that ends up agreeing that one tends to be born into a religion, either by family or by culture.

Finally, I replace religion with one’s political leanings.

For most people, choosing a political party is more a matter of geography than a reasoned choice.

And they inevitably decide that that statement is also true.

***

Each democratic society chooses several principles to honor and construct laws around, but only one can be The Guiding Principle.

Justice is good. Freedom is good. Equality is good. Harmony is good. And there are others in the mix…but which is best?

I grew up with a father who thinks Freedom is the epitome of human values.

And freedom, he says, is really three words: Freedom With Responsibility.

Limited government is the best way to keep individual freedoms for people and have society reap the benefits of human achievement. This includes our freedom to wonder, to work, to own the fruits of one’s labor and one’s risk-taking and one’s calculated efforts. And with these freedoms goes the responsibility to behave honorably and respectfully toward others.

To drive home his points with his three daughters, he did his own oxymoronic thang. When I was in high school (and my sisters in junior high and elementary school), a documentary was produced based on economist Milton Friedman’s personal statement Free to Choose.

We were made to watch this PBS series for 10 weeks. (Ten weeks! To a teenager!) When we complained about the irony — that we had no choice in the matter — Dad replied, “Sure you do. You can watch it either on Friday night or on Saturday morning.”

(Haha, Dad. You probably think I forgot. Or that I’ve forgiven you.)

###

I grew up and married a Democrat. Roger’s father, a good man like mine, holds justice as his Guiding Principle (although he, too values freedom just as my dad also values justice.)

So we all have our default settings regarding politics. Mine was Republican, which at one time meant to me (correctly or not) the party of freedom and personal responsibility.

But no longer. Increasingly, the Republican party devalues both personal and economic freedoms. GOP lawmakers tax and spend just like their Democratic counterparts, and in addition they want to meddle with our freedoms in our private lives by telling consenting adults what is and it not OK for them to do behind closed doors.

So I will eventually switch my party affiliation.

But “New Age Libertarian” doesn’t quite have the same ring.

See part 2 of this series, for how my spiritual beliefs emerged.

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{ 14 comments… read them below or add one }

The Casual Perfectionist April 7, 2010 at 12:04 am

Annnnnnnnnnd, that’s why I’m a Registered Independent! ;)

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mary elizabeth April 7, 2010 at 12:04 am

wow lori-you’re writing gives me goosebumps. why are you not teaching our youth anymore…get back to teaching. you are really talented lady!mb

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Lavender Luz April 7, 2010 at 12:04 am

MB — thanks for saying that.CP — I just found out that the Independent Party is an actual party. I always thought it simply meant “none of the above.”Ex — See! We’re growing! We’re a movement!My dad is like most fiscal conservatives, and thinks that most politicians want to grow government. He also says they go to Washington to do good, and they all do very well (paraphrased from someone else).My dad is actually quite suspicious and disdainful of authoritarianism, as it is an anathema to freedom. It’s surprising this difference hasn’t come up more in discussions between your dad and mine.So I still have a place to stay?Ms P — I’m going to see some of your kin this weekend! She’s a friend of mine, a Dem from TX (another rare breed). Oops, she’s from Austin, so I suppose that doesn’t count.

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Ms. Planner April 7, 2010 at 12:04 am

I found this post delightful! However, I think my family might be the wild card as I grew up in a household of Kennedy Democrats in TX (and not even in Austin)! To this day my mom will make comments about banning all guns and I think, how do you live where you live lady? :)

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excavator April 7, 2010 at 12:04 am

I heard an interesting segment on NPR a few years ago, called, “Crunchy Conservativism” by a man who may have described himself (and his wife) as a ‘New Age Republican’. At least a “Birkenstock-wearing Conservative.”What’s your dad’s current take on the Republican party?Mine has not betrayed any doubts about the incidents that have come to light: the signing statements, the justice dept maneuverings to give the president near unfettered power, the deceptive news practices (paying people to promote administration projects but representing these promotions as hard news), not to mention of course the increased surveillance. I think my father’s background may lend itself to more receptivity to authoritarianism than yours…Love ya whatever your political strike, Cuz!

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Steph April 7, 2010 at 12:04 am

I like that: freedom with responsibility. That pretty much sums up my political position. Now if we can just find a political party that actually represented it.

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katd April 7, 2010 at 12:04 am

Amen, sister!! :) This is almost exactly what my politial background is. I’ve grown increasingly disheartened with the Republicans, though, and actually did switch party affiliation prior to these primaries.

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The Casual Perfectionist April 7, 2010 at 12:04 am

Well, my hubby and I are “Registered Independents” but it shows up as “unaffiliated” on our voter registration card. So, we’re more of the “none of the above” kind of people. I just did a search for “Independent Party” and there are all kinds of “interesting” things out there, huh? :)

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Furrow April 7, 2010 at 12:04 am

I considered myself a Libertarian for a while, but then I decided that so many people were so stupid/selfish/short-sided,etc, that having a truly Libertarian government would be a scary thing. I’m all for social libertarianism, but if we were to throw out things zoning and environmental laws, I’d be worried about the consequences. I think I’ve become a bit of an elitist. Don’t worry, though. I’ll never run for public office.

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Lavender Luz April 7, 2010 at 12:04 am

Steph — if only such an animal existed (a politician that espoused both freedom and responsibility). It’s been so long since we’ve had a real leader.Furrow — you may not, but what about Zo? I think one’s view of how we should govern ourselves goes back to the basic idea of whether you think people are basically good or basically bad.Julia — I would like to read more of your views. Oh, for reasoned discussion.

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Julia April 7, 2010 at 12:04 am

This is so interesting to me, because by virtue of my life story I have made choices on the last two, if not the first one. Sports teams, both in the Old City and the new one are a given, although which sports I give a crap about is still a choice. The rest? I chose to learn about and practice Judaism even though I grew up knowing zilch about religious observance and even many cultural traditions. To boot, my soon-to-be brother in law is a Jew by choice. Similarly, having moved to this country as a teenager, I got to make choices about my political affiliation. Interestingly, while mine and my parents’ choices on this coincide, the same is not true of many of their friends and those friends’ kids. My generation has almost uniformly chosen justice (of course here I believe that my religious choice and my political one are intimately linked by that concept), while the generation of our parents seems split about 50-50 between knee-jerk conservatism (no, really, their guiding light is not freedom– it would be much easier to deal with if it was) of “the other guys want to socialize everything” and a reasoned compare and contrast with a side of life experiences that lands them with justice as well. Fascinating topic. Can talk about this for hours.

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mamabirdsblog April 7, 2010 at 4:19 am

Brilliant, Lori! I love your analysis of why people choose who and what they are and agree most people just identify themselves with what they’ve always known.

I’m actually proud to be a seeker of truth and found both my religious and political persuasion after much time searching for answers to “what is true,” and not what my parents brought me up as, to my mother’s great dismay. I am a Conservative, registered Republican only because there is no “Conservative party,” and registering Independent means not being able to vote in primaries. Determined to put a true Conservative up for election one day, and alas, can’t do that w/o registering Republican. They’ve got us and they know it!

Good on your Dad for raising his daughters to know what true freedom means. That’s the only way we’ll ever preserve it.

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Dana February 22, 2012 at 2:06 pm

We aren’t supposed to have a real leader. This is supposed to be a representative democracy, meaning we elect representatives and *we* tell *them* what to do.

The President is more a balancing act between the two houses of Congress if you want to know the truth. S/he (oh I wish) checks them when they get too big for their britches. Beyond that, s/he doesn’t get to boss us around.

I don’t think it is irresponsible to have some government programs in place to help people with various things, but I’d like to think we could get there without all the extraneous crap the government is doing now that genuinely deprives us of constitutionally guaranteed freedoms.

And yet, I don’t think being able to deliberately keep another person in poverty or deliberately pollute the environment are “constitutionally guaranteed freedoms.”

Call me a frustrated Green with a serious social libertarian streak. I dunno.

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Gina @ Special Happens January 15, 2013 at 10:06 pm

You know, more and more, I’ve wanted to change my affiliation…to independent… at least it shows that I wouldn’t blindly follow one wing or another… I get to think for myself!

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