This is a question that gets asked fairly often. The short answer is as follows;
- Intellectual honesty and the knowledge/acceptance that I was completely ignorant, combined with a strong desire for justice and an unyielding passion to find the truth.
For those interested in the long answer, and to give the above some context, I was never exposed to anything politically in-depth (by choice) beyond browsing the paper in my late high school years. Really didn’t like either side of politics. Having to categorise myself on the left-right spectrum I’d have been “independent” [in the ‘middle of the road’] i.e still stuck in the false paradigm.
I had no real interest beyond that. Mostly apathetic until moving to the other side of the world at 17 to work & live in the UK (Gap Year). There I had lots of free time to ponder what I wanted to do with my life. Part of that involved asking the big questions… queue: minor existential crisis. At the core of it, it was probably best described as absolutism vs. relativism, “But what is the truth? How do I know? Is there such a thing?”. This lead to more questions. So where to begin, and who would know? The philosophers. So I started with the classics.
Plato’s - The Republic, Aristotle’s - Ethics, Machiavell’s - The Prince etc. I came away with a bit of a muddled perspective; remained a philosopher king, with a real appreciation of natural law ethics. That progressed to: “This is all great, but what are today’s philosophers saying?”, to “who is today’s greatest living intellectual?” Noam Chomsky was calling the US a world empire at the time and was a chief critic of the Iraq War invasion. He was the only one stating the obvious [that I knew of]. Naturally, I started reading his works. I even wrote him a letter seeking advice, to which he responded. Whilst killing time youtubing Chomsky videos, someone had spammed “Ron Paul: America’s Last Hope” below in the comments section.. Oh yeah? I had to check him out. Several days later this “politician” hadn’t appeared to ever “back down” or “sell out”. Unbelievable. And that was it really, I was finally on the proper path.
It wasn’t so much what Ron Paul was saying, but the principled stand he was making. The anti-imperialist stuff was a no-brainer. The “extreme” free-market stuff came later as I still had to get out of ‘the box’. Learning basic economics helped immensely. However, that did not start until after I had stalled for maybe 6 months parroting Ron Paul’s conclusions. Finally, after not being able to adequately defend a position of his, I had to either accept or deny the objection. I needed more information and endeavoured to find out why Ron ‘believes’ what he does. Austrian Economics, and Libertarianism it was. From there the immersion began into a whole new way of thinking, or — an actual — way of thinking. I then commenced with all the beginner/intro books: Bastiat’s - The Law, Enemy of the State - Albert Jay Nock, Economics in One Lesson - Henry Hazlitt etc. The results of a few book buying binges can be viewed here. Next it was downloading and listening to the entire mises.org media centre over many months.
Reading “What Has Government Done to Our Money?” was an early eye opener. Rothbard’s clarity and reasoning took me in. However, it was a long while before I progressed enough to feel I could adequately defend the concept of a private law, or a voluntarist society. That being said there is always room for improvement. The general joke goes, “what’s the difference between a minarchist and an anarcho-capitalist?” With the punchline being a certain time frame, for example “about 12 months”. It all depends on the individual, and how intense their interest. For me it was probably about 9 months of considered thought. I was sold on the rights based arguments, however the glaring question remained “but would it work?”. The journal article “Do We Ever Really Escape From [Voluntarism]?” removed all doubt.
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- voluntaryexchange answered: I read “Revolution: A Manifesto”. Followed by some Hayek and John Locke. Then I went “duh”. Rest is history.
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