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Tuesday, April 11, 2023

9 Signs You Might Be a Budding Libertarian

Have you ever felt that the two major political parties are basically the same? You’re not alone.

Image Credit: iStock

Have you ever felt that you’re politically homeless?

If you’ve never felt at home as a progressive or conservative, well, you might be a latent libertarian. Yellow could be your color.

Here are some things you might do that could be a sign you’re a libertarian.

1. Avoiding Taxes

Tax avoidance is when you use legal loopholes to pay less in taxes.

If you’ve tried avoiding taxes, or have, you probably believe that the money you earn is rightfully yours. It seems unjust to you that 30-40 percent of your money is taken away every year and spent by the government on things you may or may not support. Progressives and conservatives both seem to love spending more tax dollars to “help” people, but you might be skeptical of how much good that’s actually doing.

Avoiding taxes may also indicate that you believe the broader libertarian mantra that “taxation is theft” or that “consent matters.”

So, if you’ve ever humored avoiding taxes, or have used tax loopholes yourself, you may have a libertarian streak in you.

2. Tipping

Tipping is how a lot of waiters and waitresses make their money. The beauty of tipping is that if a waiter or waitress is especially good, they can earn more tips.

You may tip because it’s a social norm, but have you ever seen tipping as a form of voluntary action that benefits society?

Voluntary action matters because if we expect someone else to do something for us, then unforeseen consequences can occur. A recent FEE article shows that California, known for its stringent laws and government handouts, has the least amount of tipping of any state. Why? It’s likely because Californians view the government as a “charitable” organization, which makes them think “Why tip when the government does it for me?”

The issue is, the government is not charitable, it spends our dollars, which are collected through force. And although the government spends the money, they’re probably not tipping waiters and waitresses with it. The money ends up in the hands of people that didn’t earn it. If you think that charitable giving, like tipping, is something better done voluntarily, you might be a budding libertarian.

3. Negotiating for a Raise

Negotiating for a pay raise can be a daunting and rewarding task. Nonetheless, many people rely on the government to give them pay raises. For example, the majority of public schools increase their teacher’s salaries by a few percentage points every year, whether or not they’re adding value to the system. All federal employees are paid this way. Good, right? Not if you’re trying to negotiate for a pay raise.

Now imagine that you were a teacher who wanted to negotiate to get paid more than other teachers because you’re providing more value, but you’re told you can’t get paid more because that would be “unfair” to others.

If you’ve ever thought that stance is ridiculous, then you likely believe in individual free trade, which is a libertarian principle.

4. Selling Things under the Table

Spring cleaning is a good time to dust off the old stuff and sell it on places like Facebook Marketplace or to your buddy down the street via PayPal.

However, the issue with selling on platforms like these is that they’re monitored by the IRS. On platforms like PayPal, if you make $600 or more, you’re forced to report those earnings because they count as self-employment income. But, as many of us have done, we’ve sold things for cash because cash sales are more difficult to trace and tax.

If you think it’s silly to be taxed for selling an old TV for anything more than $599.99, then you probably believe in people’s right to trade freely. Libertarians do too. Do you think you might be one?

5. Investing in Cryptocurrency

Back in 2018 when I first learned about Bitcoin, it changed my whole viewpoint on the US monetary system. It’s how I learned about the importance of money.

If you’ve ever seen cryptocurrency as a valid investment vehicle or an alternative to US dollars, as I have, you likely believe that there’s something fundamentally wrong with how money works in our country.

If you believe your money shouldn’t be manipulated by government printing presses, you just might be inclined toward libertarianism.

6. Breaking the Speed Limit

All of us have broken the speed limit at one time or another. You may have done so to whiz through a yellow light just in time or because you enjoy living in the fast lane.

Breaking the speed limit might indicate you believe that laws aren’t always right. Perhaps the speed limit is too slow in a given area. The road is a straightaway, so why is the speed limit 40 mph? Plus, everyone else on the road is already going 10-20 mph over the speed limit, so it doesn’t hurt if you drive the same speed.

If you’ve broken the speed limit for any of those reasons, you might accept the libertarian principle of “natural order.” Natural order is when society automatically organizes itself through human action. For example, drivers, like you, naturally go at the speed that the road and their cars will allow. No faster, no slower. There is no need for a government to organize that behavior. It happens on its own.

You have a healthy libertarian streak if you’ve broken the speed limit.

7. Buying “Dangerous” Items

The weeks leading up to the 4th of July rekindle Americans’ favorite pastime: shopping for fireworks.

Fireworks are considered “dangerous,” but you might believe that shouldn’t stop you from being able to buy them. Things like fireworks should be at the user’s own risk, much like swimming in the deep end of a pool without a lifeguard on duty.

A more silly example of a “dangerous” item is a chocolate egg called the Kinder Surprise. Back in 2011 a woman was stopped by US border officials and was threatened with a fine of $300 if she was caught with the chocolates in the United States. Little did she know, they were illegal.

If you think it’s ridiculous for the government to tell you what you can and cannot buy, you probably believe in free trade, a pillar of libertarianism.

8. Getting Frustrated with the DMV or Post Office

One of the most frustrating activities is trying to mail a large item or renew your license.

I remember one time I tried to mail a laptop at the Post Office and it took an hour to do so. Why did it take so long? There was only one person on staff for a line of 30 people. This was at noon on a Saturday, a day you’d think the Post Office would have more employees to keep up with demand. I’ve had similar experiences at my local DMV when trying to renew my license.

Places like the Post Office and DMV have one thing in common. They’re government-run monopolies. If you’ve ever been frustrated with businesses like these, you might be in support of freedom of competition. Imagine if entrepreneurs were allowed to compete with monopolies like the Post Office or the DMV. Mailing something or renewing your license could be as easy as buying something on Amazon. This is possible with freer markets.

So, if you are in support of more efficient business models, you probably appreciate free markets, because they make it possible for better business models to emerge. And, if that all sounds good, you might be an emerging libertarian.

9. Standing in Line

We’ve all stood in line for a taco at a food truck or when checking out at the grocery store. But what is it about standing in line that has anything to do with libertarianism?

Standing in line means you believe in voluntary action and the natural order that stems from it. If you approach a line of people, you know that it’s fair that the person who came before you gets to go first. Why? It’s because we as humans, when left alone to act on our own, will develop “hidden rules of engagement” that all of us understand as we integrate with our society. When all of us follow these hidden rules, natural order, like a line of people, emerges.

What you may notice is that natural order happens without government intervention. It’d be silly to see signs posted telling everyone to “stand in line or else” because we know the rule and its importance already.

Standing in line is only a small example of natural order. Natural order tends to occur anywhere there is freedom of choice. However, government intervention prevents natural order from occurring by placing laws on people that they themselves never asked for. These laws then create negative unintended consequences by incentivizing poorly-organized human behavior.

If you understand standing in line as an example of the importance of natural order, you might have some yellow in you after all.

Connecting the dots

What we do reflects what we actually believe.

If you observed that you’ve done, or at least valued doing 80 percent of the things on this list, you probably believe in the power of free markets, voluntary action, natural order, and individualism. Inversely, you probably see that the alternative to those things, government rule, isn’t the way to make society flourish.

If you think you might be a libertarian after reading this, welcome home. Just remember that realizing you’re a libertarian is only the first step towards a longer journey.

Being a libertarian isn’t just about identifying with a party so you can “feel” at home. It’s about understanding the principles of the freedom philosophy and their value to society and yourself.

Being a libertarian is harder than being a progressive or conservative, but at least you can sleep soundly knowing that you chose this path by thinking for yourself.