ImageMy Circuitous Path to Anarchism (i.e., Libertarian Socialism)

I have always had an interest in political and economic issues going back to my early childhood.  When I think back, I can recall a few very interesting formative episodes. One was the economic depression or recession that hit in the early 1990s. I was only a young boy at the time and it made me very worried. This is because neither my mom nor my dad had a job and I literally thought we were going to starve to death. I still have this fear to this day, that I will end up starving to death. And it was this incident in the early 1990s that made me that way.  Moreover, at this time Canada, my country of birth, was negotiating “free trade” agreements with both the United States and later with the United States and Mexico. I remember watching everyday after school a TV Show. Now I forget the name but it consisted of a man who was clearly conservative with a very acerbic and obnoxious personality. The co-host was a woman named Judy Rebick. They would have guests. And I remember watching their show religiously every day after school. I was very much interested in their discussions about politics and economics, and especially free trade and jobs.

Also, during my formative years, i.e., I am maybe 12 years old, a bunch of newspaper articles came to the house from the Social Credit Party in Canada. This party, kind of a fringe group, wrote a lot about how our economic woes came about from the bankers. It was the banking system and fractional reserve banking which caused all the suffering in our world. They seemed to be a populist political movement. Now, of course, as a boy I didn’t use this language. This is me with my 2 university degrees imposing the language of a university-educated mind on my past experiences as a boy.

When I was in Grade 10, we had a Model Parliament and I was made the Prime Minister. I’ve never told anyone before but my original speech was influenced heavily by the Social Credit pamphlets I had started to read in my late elementary school years. I remember specifically going to my Grade 8 graduation party and one of the mother’s told me that my views on banking and inflation were all “crazy” and “wrong.” But I did mention it to the adults.  But of course, my teachers in Grade 10 flipped out with my proposed speech. It was virulently anti-banker. I think I suggested nationalizing the banks in Canada! OMG! I am sure no major political party in Canada would ever suggest such a radical course of action.

So I guess my earliest views were pretty ultra left wing.

Then, my views started to change. I remember getting a few books by an interesting and engaging author. I recall, I think what happened is my parents took me to some shopping mall in Hamilton, Ontario (which is about 30 minutes from my hometown of Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario) and at the mall, I got some books. They looked intriguing. I was 17 years old at the time. I remember because I wrote the date in the cover of my books. The books were titled The Trouble with Canada, and The War Against the Family. These books were much more conservative or right-wing oriented.

At this point in my life, my late high school and university period, I was drifting to the right. I think it is because I thought that the right-wing solutions were the way to go to fix the economy. In other words, I wanted to create jobs. I wanted the economy to boom. And I thought that the left wing ideas were not going to work. They were too “anti-business” and “anti-jobs.” So I bought into the idea the idea that the conservative right wing stuff was the way to go.

At 17 I also read Margaret Thatcher’s autobiography. I still have my copy. In fact it is still next to my bed even as I write this to you. I don’t know why, but it is! I liked her book for a couple of reasons. In the middle, she had a picture of herself driving around in a tank. And I liked that. I liked the idea of a strong woman leading her people to victory! I liked how she talked about economics and money supply. Things like M1 growth rates and stuff like this. She also had a rather erudite vocabulary. It was at this point in my life that I started to build my vocabulary of esoteric words. Some of the words I remember in particular that she liked to use include: superfluous, ossified, and ostentatious. I remember all of this because my Grade 11 English teacher, Mr. Dailey (also affectionately known as WD 40, since his first name was Wayne and so his initial are W.D.) made me stay after class because he thought I had plagiarized one of my assignments, because I was using this rarified language. I hadn’t plagiarized; I was trying to emulate Margaret Thatcher’s writing style.

By the time I was 19 and in my first year as an undergraduate at York University in Toronto, I was pretty much addicted to this right-wing conservative and right-wing libertarianism stuff. One of the first things I did as a freshman undergraduate is I went to the university bookstore and ordered some Milton Friedman books. This was motivated by my first year Political Science class. Naturally, of course, most of our readings were very left wing. My professor was a famous socialist, Leo Panitch. But my professor assigned a Milton Friedman paper for balance and I ended up being one of the very few students to defend him in our seminar group.

I went to York University to study for the degree of Bachelor of Business Administration with Honours (using the Canadian spelling!), which I did eventually complete. It seemed like a good match at the time, since it spoke to my conservative and right wing libertarian views. I thought it would help me be a public policy analyst. I would be working in the government but pushing pro-business and pro-free trade type policies.

I remember in one of my first year economics lectures (this was in one of those mega-lecture halls in the Curtis Lecture Halls, maybe 600 students packed in there), and our professor, Keith McKinnon, said something laudatory about Keynes, and students booed. It was noticeably loud because my professor reacted to the hostility directed at Keynes. But at the time, this seemed right. I was happy! My fellow students knew that we needed to follow Milton Friedman not Keynes in order to do what the economy needs. And all of this goes back to my fears as a young boy in the early 1990s. The economy sucked and so what it needed was jobs. Making sure people have job access–lots of good, high-paying jobs is what it is all about. And I thought that this right-wing conservative/libertarianism was the correct means to that desired end.

So I was excited. I thought my fellow business students were doing the right thing. We were here at business school learning business and economics and we would help make for a better future for everyone in Canada and especially here in southern Ontario.

Then I went to Brock University in St. Catharines, Ontario for my Master’s degree. I am really torn internally about what to make of my experience at Brock. Most of it was painful and disappointing. In fact, it was out of my discontent with Brock that I started to develop very strong anti-authority views.  This came mainly from my experiences teaching and being a marker-grader at Brock.

I found Brock to be a sub-standard university for the simple reason that all they cared about was short term student “comfort” factors. I found it to be rather dumbed down. I found the administrators to be anti-brain, anti-creativity, and anti-rigor. The focus seemed to be, entertain the rabble, and be a conformist. I got really tired of it all. Many times I found their courses to be at the level of maybe high school. I remember specifically quitting one of my marker-grader jobs. It was for a supposedly MBA marketing research course. And I was like, my high school Finite math course was 1,000 times more challenging than this.  For me, it was a tyranny over my mind.

And so, of course, I was always getting in trouble with the legions of administrators for my “insubordination.” And they were right. I was becoming quit the rebel. I just felt that the administrators were trying to cover up a sub-standard student body, the “party-school” student body that they were selling. And I hated it.

But now that I am not there, I am glad that they treated me with utter contempt. They spent literally thousands of hours trying to fire me. And in this situation, one learns the value of belonging to a labor union. Seriously, without CUPE (Canadian Union of Public Employees) I would have been fired probably about 5 or 6 times. But I was not some bad employee. I was trying to maintain legitimate university standards. I made my students work hard. I demanded that they think for themselves. I knew that I was doing so when some of my students would say that they learned more from me than their other 4 classes combined. But that is the kiss of death for a “student centered” university, where all that matters is student satisfaction. In other words, nobody cares if these students can actually read, write, think, do homework etc. All that matters is student satisfaction. So it is hard to maintain rigor and a challenging curriculum when this is the only thing that actually matters.

Basically, if I didn’t have to listen to the administrators, I would have maintained a rigorous and demanding, i.e., a “real” university curriculum. But because of the student evaluation scores, I felt like all I was doing was deliberately dumbing down my courses so I could get a better “score.” I felt like a fraud. I felt like I had sold out and betrayed my love of learning for these lazy bureaucrats who think they can measure “effective education” by having teenagers fill in 10 bubbles on a Scantron score measuring superfluous criteria like crazy shit like how fast did my teacher get me my grade.

But, this is definitely where my radicalization occurred. Actually, there was a simultaneous thing going on. I was a volunteer on the Niagara-on-the-Lake Public Library Board. My opinion of that board is this: a small clique of domineering little fascists. Basically this little cabal called the Executive Committee decided to seize power and pretty much dictate board policy from behind the scenes. I was livid. I hated being told what to do–these edicts from on high. I hated the secrecy. I hated the top down domineering style. I also had nothing but contempt for the members of the Executive Committee. I thought they were arrogant, stupid, bullies. I very much detested them.

So, I was radicalized. Brock and their never-ending witch-hunts trying to fire me from my job and the library board trying to get rid of me as well. I guess nobody wanted me. Well, that sucks for them! Because I was always trying to do what I thought was right. With Brock, I was trying to give these students a legitimate university education. That means that they have to be challenged, not ass kissed. Similarly, I was trying so god damn hard to follow the Public Libraries Act, and this cabal was pretty much walking all over the governing statute. So I thought I was doing the right thing. I was fighting corruption and evil and so on.

So at this point I saw myself reading more radical books. Ludwig von Mises, F. A. Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom, and the Austrian school, Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Murray Rothbard, Thomas DiLorenzo and a few of the other name brand Austrian schoolers.

I just really liked the idea of being an anarcho-capitalist. It seemed like the perfect fit. The “anarcho” part spoke to my desire to tell authority figures to go “fuck off” and stop telling me what to do because I can govern myself without your interventions and the capitalist part seemed to fit in with my prior conservative/libertarian Thatcher/Friedman interests. So it seemed like the right thing to do. And I was quite the anarcho-capitalist especially on Facebook.

In fact, I posted so much anarcho-capitalist propaganda on Facebook that the Ludwig von Mises Institute noticed and approached me to work on their Facebook page as a volunteer. And for some time, I did. I would post 5 or 6 things everyday to help drive traffic to their Facebook site.

But then something happened. In fact a couple of things happened that made me switch from anarcho-capitalism to real anarchy, i.e., libertarian socialism.

The first thing is that I stumbled across other websites about anarchy. I thought originally that they would simply supplement what I had already read from the Austrian School. Let me mention two in particular: The Prime Directive and Anarchist Writers. Later I added a few others: Lord Keynes’s Social Democracy and There are probably others, but those are the ones I can remember off the top of my head. Oh yeah, my Noam Chomsky books. And I am sure more book titles will come to me later!

And what I found was that there is just no way that anarcho-capitalism can possibly be a type of anarchy. To me I think it is a form of deception for anarcho-capitalists to call themselves anarchists. It was obvious to me that anarchy is a type of socialism. And so I felt very betrayed, lied to, deceived.

I also found the anarchist writers to be speaking to something that meant a lot to me personally, namely, being an employee just sucks! I hated working for Brock University. I hated having what seemed like 8 different bosses. Anarchists oppose this. They call it the tyranny of the hierarchy. But of course, anarcho-capitalists think that wage labor is fine as long as it is “voluntary.” So, my gut feeling felt closer to the anarchists at this point.  I liked the anarchist propaganda that says, let’s get rid of wage labor and the bosses! I agree. Fuck the bosses!

The second major thing that happened was that I finally came to accept the fact that I am sexually attracted to men and maybe a few females. In other words, I can feel sexually attracted to both men and women, but I feel more sexually attracted to men. I have felt this way since I was about 10 years old but I hid in the closet most of my life. I also feel very emotionally attracted mainly to men and maybe a handful of females over the course of my life. On the Kinsey Scale of human sexuality I score a 4 or 5. So not purely gay (that would be a 6) but pretty close. And I feel comfortable thinking of myself as a gay man now. But for most of my life I felt very ashamed and hid in the closet or suffered from denial. I wrestled a lot with my Christian upbringing, which of course was very hostile to homosexuality.

This process of finally coming to accept the fact that I am gay or near gay was caused by Zack Brown. He came out of the closet on Facebook about his own bisexuality. He wrote a very long Facebook post about his life and it really struck me. To me it was such a life changing post. As I read what Zack wrote I felt to myself: I know exactly what he is saying because he is describing exactly what I have experienced in my life. I remember spending the rest of the month thinking about what Zack had written. And I finally came to the conclusion that I was definitely not straight. I loved men. I loved to look at their bodies. I loved to masturbate to them. I loved the idea of dating them. And so on. So I finally came out of the closet.

Now I don’t care how many times anarcho-capitalists mention their “non-aggression principle.” The fact of the matter is that Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s Chapter 10 in his book Democracy: The God that Failed is just one big obloquy against homosexuals. That is how I read it. It made me very angry and I ended up unfriending many of my Facebook friends because they jumped in to defend Hoppe.

Let me just briefly mention the things that made me say to myself, I have to get out of this anarcho-capitalist stuff:

If they continued with their behavior or lifestyle, they would be barred from civilized society and live physically separate from it, in ghettos or on the fringes of society, and many positions or professions would be unattainable to them. In contrast, if they wished to live and advance within society, they would have to adjust and assimilate to the moral and cultural norms of the society they wanted to enter. To thus assimilate would not necessarily imply that one would have to give up one’s substandard or abnormal behavior or lifestyle altogether. It would imply, however, that one could no longer “come out” and exhibit one’s alternative behavior or lifestyle in public. Such behavior would have to stay in the closet, hidden from the public eye, and physically restricted to the total privacy of one’s own four walls. Advertising or displaying it in public would lead to expulsion. (212)

So basically, I see no reason supporting an ideology that seems to want to use private property rights as a way of sticking me into the ghetto and having to go live in the closet again. And that really is the fundamental problem with anarcho-capitalism right there. They blame the state for everything wrong in the world but they ultimately want to re-create the state by re-labeling it as “private property.” It is so simple to see that I feel kind of ashamed for not seeing it before.

The state is a territorial monopolist. The state makes up all the rules for its land and enforces those rules through its police force.

The capitalist is a territorial monopolist. The capitalist makes up all the rules for his/her land and enforces those rules through a private police force.

So there really is no difference. My guess is simply this. These anarcho-capitalists hate the fact that the state is telling them that they can’t be racists, homophobes, bigots etc. So they want to get rid of the state and then use their private property sovereignty rights to get what they can’t get with the state having its Civil Rights Laws.

But of course my first blog here is on my tortuous path to anarchism or libertarian socialism.

And that is pretty much why I am what I am now!

I like its anti-authoritarianism and I agree that the idea of opposing all hierarchies is the most logically consistent way of achieving true liberty. I have also come to suspect that the only way to liberate the masses is for the masses of workers to seize the factors of production. In other words, anarcho-syndicalism is probably the best way to go. But who knows, maybe I will change my mind again 😛