Writing this, I’ll begin by saying how I really do not care for personal pieces and feel spreading an ideology should be spread by statistics over personal stories, but in spreading an ideology, the goal of taking it to a personal level is important. Arguably, most people have based all their views purely on what is personal to them and what feels good in their gut over numbers and facts, presenting a case for why I’m doing this. The goal here is less to teach an exact moral or fact, but just show how I became a libertarian: how I decided to go from not really holding huge political interests to adopting the ideology with intense passion.
The atheist in a Catholic school, the struggling young inventor, the person obsessed by numbers and the person in love with the idea of the caped crusader, this is how I became a libertarian.
A little background about myself
I was born in Manhattan and spent a bit of my childhood there, but my father was a doctor and moved upstate to begin his own practice when I was still young. He did this going from the most heavily dense population on the planet with living in Manhattan, to being in the mountains of the Catskills, living in rural lakefront property. So, yes, the guy advocating for laissez faire capitalism and low taxes grew up in a large house on a lake, in a 95% Caucasian community. I’d just ask to hold that thought and say that I didn’t grow up in as nice of a household as that leftist girl who went on Neil Cavuto and called capitalism evil, asking for free college.
Yet, digressing from that, my background was really not political at all. No family members of mine were ever involved in political activity. My mom was a registered Republican who’d vote with the party on every election. My dad was a registered Democrat who’d never vote and managed to become much more fiscally conservative over the years. The area I grew up in was about 50/50 for politics with about half voting right and half voting left. Overall, I had really no early influences or anything that’d present any indication of what my future political, philosophical or economic views would be.
The first grade was very different from what I wanted it to be. The main issue here was attending a Catholic school, and not just a Catholic school, but the absolute most poster-child Catholic school on the planet. Small classes of 25 people which never changed, eight grades each ran by a teacher holding a different stage of menopause, a uniform which felt awful, burdensome rules which made no sense, a series of stay at home moms who’d talk about each other constantly, the token nuns which would range from friendly to scary and the three priest, which spotting the one who was a pedophile was always a friendly game. It was standard, it was probably not beneficial at all to public schools, it was going eight years with only one or two token minority kids in your class and it was just that place your parents sent you when they wanted to just piss away some disposable income.
With that said, it was the perfect place to become an atheist.
During the first grade I attended the school, we had mandated religion classes. Where everyone going to the first grade probably has many questions, I had one which was sort of uncommon for the class: who exactly is this God guy?
My parents never really attended church and because of that I wasn’t really raised to hold any religious views. I knew what death was, but believed that it could be cured by science, even for the already-deceased. This was just from my exposure to watching cartoons and movies, but I never really thought of the supernatural as anything of importance. Yet in Catholic grammar school I was learning some nonsense about Jesus, hearing why God is so great, being told to forgive people for anything and watching the teacher pull nonsense out of her ass whenever posed with a simple question that tears the whole thing apart.
Can God make something so strong, he can’t break it?
Why do earthquakes happen if God is there?
How did nothing exist before God?
These were all really basic questions any six year old can produce, and were all met with very bad answers. With that being said, I bought it. I never really believed it dogmatically, but it was really just like Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy. It held up in whatever deranged fantasy was told to children in order to get their money.
However, in about the third grade, I just wasn’t into it anymore. Maybe it was the crazy third grade teacher who made kids dress up as saints to school for Halloween and told us Harry Potter had spells from Satan in it that made me realize this was nonsense. But at the age of eight, I became an atheist. I wasn’t even 100% sure what that meant at the time, but I just knew that for whatever mysteries existed in the universe, kneeling in a church to some magic cloud and giving your quarters to a collection bin every week wasn’t the answer. I kept this relatively hidden from people in my school or family at the time, but as time grew, I just began accepting the idea less and less. In fairness, part of it might have just been my own pompous nature at the time. I held the view in fourth grade that even if God did exist, I’d not bow to him. Just being me…
Progressing through, I held these views with me pretty privately until about the 6th or 7th grade, when I told another kid that God was made up. It felt like the weirdest thing in the world at the time. It felt like the thing the socially awkward kid in class says to just dig himself deeper, but in my case it was completely sincere. There was no God, no heaven and everything which went into religion was just a lie or false story.
Doing this, I felt like a social adversary. My dad didn’t care at all, but my mom was upset due to the feeling that I was becoming too different and too weird for other kids. In religion class (a class I didn’t do particular well in), I’d often times find myself snickering in disagreement. When topics such as “miracles” or “heaven” were brought up, I’d get a few token Christian 12 year olds blurting it out in class that Charlie (what I went by at the time) was an atheist.
This all sucked. I intentionally failed my confirmation exam three times before my teacher simply passed me. I had my mom fake a note saying I did community service, which I didn’t, with her even writing the essay for me, knowing I’d just make a scene about it and not do it. Overall, that sacrament was free money from family and I never did anything besides go to the actual event. My attitude at the time was that I was scamming them just as they were scamming everyone else.
With this, it took a couple more years until high school before I found out that I wasn’t the only atheist, but that in fact many of them did exist, and without judgement. Doing this, I also learned how not to be an asshole about it – something made much easier when not forced to do religion classes daily. It became one of the single largest reasons I became a libertarian.
I was never anti-gay marriage, pro-life or substantively held any Christian positions with regard to politics. Without being influenced by the Huckabees or Santorums of the world, I finally found my place with social libertarianism.
Yet more importantly, it taught me the flaw with community and government on a whole. It judges, and judges quickly at that. In school, I felt mocked and unlike other kids for a number of reasons, but atheism was one of the big ones. It was the only one where some people would actually consider me a bad person simply for this particular view. It was sad.
Being an outcast myself, I realized the importance of protecting those of deviate from the norm. Collectives used religion and appearance to unite around, and then use it as a method for persecution. That, for me was the absolute most important thing I learned when thinking about government and realizing the importance of a libertarian state.
Going passed all of that, the next thing which made me a libertarian was my early passion to be an inventor.
The earliest career path I wanted to pursue in life was art. At a young age, I enjoyed a style of artwork combining concrete and realism with the use of abstract in creating a flow that felt natural to me. I did one design which was a concrete drawing and projecting around it to create something semi-abstract, but not disturbing the realistic focus of the core drawing. This was just what flowed naturally to me as a kid and was something I found relatively easy to do (well… sometimes).
As a kid, I’d find myself often writing dark poetry, drawing animals, painting flowers in weird color schemes and trying to flex my knowledge of art by reading about it. How I was born a heterosexual still confuses me to this day. Yet art fell flat for me. I enjoyed doing it and form about age nine to eleven I was very good at it, but I just felt it lacked any real impact on human progress. Science quickly became something much more enjoyable to me and soon the idea of humans living forever, how computers work and how things went from raw materials to consumer products became the ultimate art: the art of invention.
At the age of eleven becoming an inventor was the coolest thing I could imagine someone becoming. It was the job where you could work for yourself, you could solve problems found in life, you could approach it using creativity and the outcome could be products to be used by billions of people all over, having a massive impact (that, and large amount of money). It was a sort of magic. The introduction of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory showing candies and chocolates made in mass production was now my dream, but only with Chinese workers and circuit boards.
With this new passion, I quickly became focused on creating new ideas. In middle school, I’d try to carry around books, keeping notes and ideas for inventions and consumer products. I’d mainly ignore class work and just scribble down ideas constantly. It was that type of behavior which allowed me to file my first patent by the time I was 17 (and have it granted).
During that time, I also tried to figure out how everything worked. I’d tinker with my bicycle to get a basic grasp for tools and building. I made a small generator using hydro which was made for the lake outside my house. I tried to make my own vaccine (yeah, my dad wasn’t letting me get the supplies for that). With that, there was just a general focus on trying some basic creation.
With research, I tried every form of science and wanted to see what stuck from reading books and forums on the topics.
Biology – Understood extremely well.
Computer science – Sucked at it.
Mechanical engineering – Was shocked that I could understand it moderately well.
Material science – Wasn’t interesting at all.
Electrical engineering – Shocked that the basics weren’t that hard.
Physics – Dear God.
Immunology – I found this very easy.
For some reason, I was very good at actual life sciences, but work on engineering was mediocre at best. Also, while it was the age of the Internet, which was about to become the age of smartphones, I sucked with computers in every single way.
Remembering my love of art history, I found tremendous joy in the memorization of business history. I’d find myself reading the same books over and over again about how certain products or companies came to be. I had this itch to always watch the same documentaries I recorded about certain companies over and over again, to receive a full knowledge of their histories. When I was twelve and thirteen, I watched the CNBC documentary on Walmart about twenty times, Gameout: The Unauthorized History of Video Games forty times, watched the history of McDonald’s about thirty times and with other specials, series and films, I’d find myself just rewatching these things on weekends or when home from school constantly. The business history became an obsession.
Tying this back into libertarianism, it was very simple. Growing up, you begin to have more adult conversations at home, at school or just in life. One thing I noticed early on was the bashing of business. It wasn’t to be debated about Walmart, but that company was just viewed as evil. People like Bill Gates, Sam Walton and others just had too much wealth for their own good and that should be taken. This was all falling into this rhetoric of Chinese products being bad, big companies are bad, wealth is bad and people should do things to help others over make money. At age twelve, calling bullshit on this was as easy as calling bullshit on God at age eight.
In conversations, I wanted people to respect entrepreneurs and inventors like heroes. Business moguls like Sam Walton, to me, were the guys going to work at 3 A.M., never taking vacations and working to get low income communities more access to products at a very low cost. Bill Gates was the guy who made it so that accessing the Internet and typing reports online was easy and liberating for hundreds of millions of people around the world. Steve Jobs, Thomas Edison, Charles Goodyear, Forest Mars and many others were heroes. To most people, I was the guy rooting for the bad guys in movies, but to me they were the guys who built the world.
This all culminated in me eventually becoming a libertarian. Invention, entrepreneurship, business and business development were the good things in life. Governments and wealth takers were the bad. In all of this, the individual mattered.
Being inspired by business, I ran into what probably became the most vital thing in becoming a libertarian: statistics.
Being a nerdy & socially awkward person growing up in a rural area, I had only one real option for my early teen years – make friends on the Internet.
For me at the age of fourteen, I’d go on engineering or business blogs and forums just randomly meeting people and, shockingly, being able to get to know them well. A rogue mix of pitiful loneliness and good networking led me to this. Just the ability to find someone with a similar interest, get their email and remain in touch very often was fun. I realized this especially with the coming of the Facebook age. But there was something else: reckless political debate.
With my earlier libertarian views, I’d enjoy following elections as someone who’d call themselves a pro-choice Republican. Yet going passed that, I was interested in always hearing why the candidates supported their positions. It became very interesting to me in domestic policy on what the real differences were between candidates, and what made one better than the other.
I reached libertarianism for largely the reasons of just noticing that liberals and conservatives debated extremely poorly. Online, I found liberals rarely ever wanting to debate, and their tactics were stemming largely from personal feelings on an issue over using actual numbers or reasoning. However, that was fiscal issues. On foreign policy and social issues, I found liberals could debate very well and would actually be eager to do that. For that, conservatives would still debate more than liberals on economics, but not as well, and they normally just fell into thought traps and straw men. This made me recognize and find libertarianism in converting my ideas to just one word. Libertarians on the Internet, while at some times scary, were people who had a love for and comfort in debating. They would almost all read economics books, they were all active either physically or online with campaigns and they showed enormous passion. They were the world’s best Neckbeards!
Finding a group of people online who I agreed with, I just began improving. Debate was this virtual sport for me when there was nothing better to do. It was just a game of commenting, explaining a point, getting it debunked and debunking the debunking. Not to mention mocking crazy conspiracy theorists, Jesus-freak conservatives and communist liberals in their early 20s with no clue on what they were discussing. It was a good time.
Eventually, I wanted to get a steady flow of debate online due to my enormous love of it. I was sick of the rants on YouTube and that angry communist kid with curly hair who sat next to me in homeroom being my only debate partner. I made my own Facebook page when I was fifteen and to my amazement, I hit about a 1,000 likes within my first six weeks of just spamming through various forums and pages. This was a lot of fun. I was moderating debates and making topics I wanted to discuss. From speaking to people of various ideologies, I got reasonably good at it and well versed in economics and public policy at a young age.
I remember when I was fifteen telling my parents to get me six economics books for Christmas and that it was not going to be a joy gift. It was more of something I needed for self-improvement. From ages fifteen to seventeen I must have read over a hundred hard-copy books about economics or public policy. I’d even go on forums for economics students at Harvard, NYU, Chicago and Loyola to pretend I was an undergrad needing aid on class and asking for old test papers from previous years. Doing this, I’d argue that I hacked a degree in economics. As crazy as it sounds, I ran an estimate showing that from ages fifteen to eighteen, I actively read on public policy or economics for about an average of three hours a day either online or with books. It was the most fun a nerd could have.
Doing this all, I’d say I realized the greatest thing I can say to any libertarian: become well read on the numbers. A libertarian activist not having read an economics book has about the same chance of being a success at this as someone going into a job interview at Goldman Sachs wearing a sweat suit. The numbers are important and better molded me as a libertarian.
However the numbers aren’t everything. There has to be a philosophy. With that in mind, I didn’t find John Galt, but found Bruce Wayne.
I read Atlas Shrugged and found that those who I have always considered heroes finally appeared as heroes in a book. Even with the leftist tones, I felt the hit series Glee had a very libertarian nature into it. I marked characters like Fantine from Les Miserables as the greatest victims of when majorities can oppress those they look down on. The movie Chocolat with Johnny Depp had the greatest feeling of what it was like to be in a community, be different and still make peace with others. All of this and of course, South Park was/is great.
However nothing seemed to be a greater representation to me of what a libertarian is than Batman. I’ll say this in three areas of thought. These are: the idea of who Batman is, the idea of who his villains are and the idea of handling tragedy. All of these things make up perhaps the greatest makings of what a libertarian is or should be.
For who Batman is, he’s the dark guardian and the warrior for justice. He is this anarchist vigilante who saw a failure of government to deal with crime and began the quest of building his city off into greatness, keeping a mix of aggression, but control to avoid personal madness. The focus was not saying there shouldn’t be a government, but saying what a government should be. Batman does violate rights, but does so in such a way that makes him join his villains as someone the law will hunt. He does all of this without complaining. Batman is the ultimate reverse of Justice where he does everything against law and order to maintain it, but has no opposition to that system going against him.
He’s an outlaw who exists to keep the law alive and in that picture, the ultimate libertarian can be found existing.
The villains, in their own way, effectively hold a mirror reflecting Batman from another angle. They do this while all confronting real world villains and problems which in some cases the viewer can agree with them on. The Joker is the polar opposite of Batman, being the anarchist without any order and the need to make the world a bad place. Poison Ivy represents nature and the weak which the world tends to destroy without thinking about it. Harley Quinn is victimization and someone being obsessed with a master of sorts. The Penguin is greed and the lust for power. Scarecrow is the vision of being seen by people in the light of fear. They all in some small way represent a real world problem and also represent the reasons some people would say libertarianism cannot exist.
There’s a greater tone holding all of this together: tragedy. In the story of Batman, tragedy is many cases is the greatest theme. Batman was someone who had the ultimate tragedy turn him into the ultimate good. The Joker is someone who dealt with some form of tragedy that made him want destruction. Two-Face realized the world is cold, and being good or evil is just based on the cards life handed to a person. Catwoman is survival, and how being brought up with nothing can be the tragedy of producing a rogue survivor. It’s an amazing tone over all.
Examining the case of tragedy, it’s realizing that for libertarians, it’s why government and the bad actions of government exist. 9/11 was a great tragedy in America and the response was war, regulation and mixed consensus from the people. However, with 9/11, helping those damaged, realizing the case for working towards peace and sensible actions to prevent future attacks also happened. With that, the tragedy expressed in Batman is the greatest example of libertarianism and also the real world for showing how different individuals react to the same events in different manners. Where someone like Paul Ehrlich can look at syphilis working to cure it, others could use something like HIV as a method to mock and exclude others. This is the game, and Batman communicates this greater than any other story.
With all of this, of anything, the idea of a guy dressing up as a rat with wings could be the greatest influence for any person in becoming a libertarian.
Yet with that, it’s time to conclude.
For myself, I found libertarianism on a personal level. I did find it from the feeling of isolation with atheism and the love of progress through innovation. I noticed the importance of knowledge. The importance of never having views just stem from a background, but using facts and numbers to find what actually does work back. Also doing this in a way to always encourage talking, arguing and continued studying.
For Batman, I find the idea of having a literary character so strongly represent an ideal like libertarianism or anarcho-capitalism as the best way to spread and achieve them. Doing that is what makes the tone in a person’s mind show the ability to be willing to learn the numbers.
With that, I think everyone of any ideology holds a history and reason for coming to it, but this was mine.
This article was edited for grammar, style, and spelling, but not for content. The views expressed are that of the author, Charles Peralo, exclusively, and do not reflect that of BeingLibertarian.com or Being Libertarian LLC
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