I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them.- Thomas Jefferson.

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Saturday, July 23, 2011

How I Became an Anarchist

Jeff Berwick

I remember when I first stumbled upon libertarianism/anarchism/free-markets. For me it was like everything became clear in an instant after 33 years of living in a fog.
As background, I grew up in Canada. A fairly meager existence, really. I grew up in a place where -40C/F is common. That is actually where the Celsius and Fahrenheit scales meet - something on which I had plenty of time to ponder while I delivered newspapers at six in the morning in the pitch black streets where there was only two sounds, the wind howling and the deep crunching of snow beneath your feet.
I rarely went to school. After the age of about 12 I had already figured out it was prison for kids and I escaped whenever I could. I'd escape to my Apple II+ clone computer, called a Unitron, and hack away throughout the day or night.
My computer, really, was my best friend. Perhaps because I was a hacker/programmer, I had an innate feeling that there was a solution to everything. I learned through a lot of trial and error that if you have tried absolutely everything and can't do something on a computer then it isn't a fault with your programming, it is a fault with the system itself - something that usually was rectified with a hardware upgrade or a switch to a new computing system or operating system.
I'd look at the world, which in the early 80s, seemed like a dark and dangerous place. We seemed to always be worried about a pending nuclear attack from the Soviets - something which I now know to be 95% fairy tale by the same people creating all the bogeymen today - but at the time it seemed scary. As well, just coming off of the terribly inflationary 70s and the brutal economic environment, everything seemed to be headed downhill.
I looked at things like wars and very bad economic conditions and I thought there must be a way, somehow, to end wars and to end these bad economic times.
Being young and not having access to free-market style information, the only two choices that I thought were available were the typical "left/right" paradigm that still exists for many people today. I looked at the left and all their ideas about welfare and high taxes to "spread the wealth" and knew, instantly, that that wasn't for me. I then looked at the right - which in Canada, at the time, was the Progressive Conservative party. They talked about things like smaller government and free trade and things like that so I gravitated to them as those things seemed good to me.
The Prime Minister at the time was Brian Mulroney, a Progressive Conservative (PC), and I even signed up, at 14, to be a part of the PC party and even became penpals with Brian Mulroney's daughter. That was when I took this photo which, for me, as an adult anarchist that despises the nation state, is probably the most embarrassing photo I've ever taken of myself.
Jeff Berwick for Prime MinisterI remember what I thought when I took that photo - when I am Prime Minister of Canada one day I'll show everyone this photo and show them that it had been my plan, since a young age, to be Prime Minister. As an aside, this is why I am never too angry with young people who get involved with the political process - because I understand because I did that too before I was enlightened.
Life went on and every year I learned a bit more about the world. I got fired from a government union job because I constantly tried to improve the processes in the mail room where I worked. I even pointed out that we probably only needed 3 people to do the job currently being done by 10. The union boss lady didn't like that one bit. I've never had anyone fire me with such a big grin before.
I bounced around for a while, really not having any idea of what I wanted to do until, really, the internet came out and that's when I knew that I had to do something on the internet.
That something took about 10 years of my life and finally, around 2003, I had some free time to really look into why we, as human kind, can never seem to rid ourselves of wars and poverty. I still had it in my mind that there must be an answer - that we just hadn't found it yet.
So, I decided to buy a sailboat and sail the world and figure out what is going on in the world.
By this point I had seen quite a bit of things and I knew the following. I knew that the internet was going to change everything - and for the better. And, after having worked in the military and for unions and for governments I knew that those places were where hope and happiness died. And, finally, after starting up a number of private businesses and trying to employ people and create wealth I knew that government had only one role in my life and that was to impede me at every step of the process.
One of the first people I came across who started to expand my mind greatly was Doug Casey. In fact, I still remember the first article I read of his. It wasn't anything grand, in fact, it was a basic little commentary that is still on the internet today called "A Short Course in Clearing Customs".
The article caught my eye because I had been traveling and had learned what a pain it was to clear customs in every country and everything that Doug said in that article was how I felt - but I didn't know it was okay to feel that way!
It wasn't too long after that I had somehow found myself sitting at dinner with Doug Casey in Vancouver. He asked me a few things about myself and I told him how I felt, generally, about things, because of my past experience.
Doug sat back and said, "Oh, so you're a libertarian."
My response to him was, "What's a libertarian?"
I didn't even know there was a word for wanting to be free of government control! That's the way the government likes it, too. As long as they can keep people thinking there is only left or right - which are both just heavily statist views with only slight differences - then they can keep people from discovering that government is the problem, not the solution.
Armed with the new-found knowledge that I was a libertarian I headed straight home to my computer and looked up everything I could find to read on the subject. During dinner I had asked Doug many questions about how a world would work without government. All the usual questions that neophytes ask. How would the roads work? Firefighters? Police?
Doug was very patient with me but finally he mentioned that there was a book that had answers to all those questions. It's actually almost a pamphlet it is such a short book. And, it is available for free on the internet. It is called "The Market for Liberty".
I don't remember the exact date I read it but it was some time around 2004. On that date, after a long and circuitous path I finally answered the question I asked when I was young.
How can we end all wars? End government. How can we end poverty? End government. How can we, as humans, reach our full potential? Through peace, property rights and the non-aggression principle - something which is impossible with government.
As Stefan Molyneux explains in the video below, and as I knew from my days as a programmer, if you cannot find the solution to a problem then it is the system itself which is broken.
When trying to solve a problem if things get more and more and more complex, like they did when people thought the earth was the center of the solar system, it is usually a sign that it is the system - the whole basis of the theory - that is wrong. Look at government today and the gigantic mess it is in trying to rid the world of poverty and to improve the human condition through the coercive force of the government.
The way people felt the day they realized the sun was at the center of the solar system is how I felt the day I realized that the way towards peace and prosperity for humanity is in anarchism - living without a forceful ruler.

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