Education of a Libertarian

In Cato Unbound, Peter Thiel provides a few reflections on his libertarian beliefs and why his passion began to diminish after college:

As a young lawyer and trader in Manhattan in the 1990s, I began to understand why so many become disillusioned after college. The world appears too big a place. Rather than fight the relentless indifference of the universe, many of my saner peers retreated to tending their small gardens. The higher one’s IQ, the more pessimistic one became about free-market politics — capitalism simply is not that popular with the crowd. Among the smartest conservatives, this pessimism often manifested in heroic drinking; the smartest libertarians, by contrast, had fewer hang-ups about positive law and escaped not only to alcohol but beyond it.

Defending libertarianism today can be a harrowing prospect.  Many on both the left and the right view libertarians as hedonists, sacrificing the needs of society for personal satisfaction.  While this may be true in a narrow context, on the whole it misses the key points of libertarianism. I consider myself libertarian because I don’t believe the government has a right to tell me how to live. Sure, living in a society entails one to submit to a “social contract,” but aside from protecting property rights and providing a national defense, I don’t believe the government should have a large role—especially when it comes to social issues such as legislating morality. Does anyone actually believe politicians are qualified to tell people what’s right and what’s wrong? In my mind, this concept is analogous to 22yr old investment bankers telling seasoned financiers and investors how to manage risk. Just as the investment banks that allocated capital and managed risk imploded, I think it’s inevitable that a government that allocates tax dollars and manages morality will fail. (As a side note, I am satisfied with the job President Obama has done so far and am glad that he’s questioning some of the misheld priorities of Washington, like the Cuban trade embargo.)

Getting back to the article that prompted these thoughts, unfortunately it doesn’t end as strongly as it starts off.  Thiel mentions something about a hope that libertarianism will “expand into Cyberspace, Outer Space and Seasteading.” I guess this just means that Republicans and Democrats don’t hold a monopoly over fanaticism..

The full article can be accessed here.

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