In grade seven or eight, so many years ago, I remember writing an essay for my social studies class, suggesting that the 'government' should provide everyone in the nation with a free home and an income sufficient to live a dignified life. Sounds reasonable, doesn't it?
I have an excuse for writing such drivel. I was only twelve or thirteen years old. I just didn't know any better.
Karl Marx was considerably older than I when he envisioned a world wherein production and distribution would be: "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need." Superficially, that warm and fuzzy sentiment sounds fairly benign, even laudable, at least to anyone with his critical faculties in suspension or as yet undeveloped. Why is that?
I just did two web searches. The first search was for "from each according to his ability." As I began to follow the links, I quickly discovered that after the first half-dozen or so they had little or nothing to do directly with Karl Marx' political vision.
The second search was for "to each according to his need." I got many, many more relevant responses for this search. Many of the linked pages expounded at length as to why this ideal should be pursued and how.
My little experiment should tell us something. That warm and fuzzy feeling we get from the complete Marx statement is because consciously or subconsciously, the last half is the part that is stressed. Why? It strikes an emotional chord in us. How can we not want everyone to get what he or she needs? The first half of the quote is glossed over because it is actually quite sinister upon careful examination. "From each according to his ability" is the dangerous part of the Marx equation. It specifically discriminates against those who are most productive. It gives politicians and bureaucrats the means to control the populace. If, according to the Pooh-Bahs in government, you are one of the 'able,' you will be forced to produce for the benefit of those who are in 'need.' Implicit in this system is the power of the state to penalize anyone who doesn't produce according to his or her ability, according to the very subjective assessment of those in charge.
I have always been a voracious reader. Soon after I wrote my rather naive essay, I started to read a lot of novels with historical and/or social significance. As I made my way through the shelves of our local library, I discovered John Dos Passos and other left leaning American writers. Dos Passos' gritty description of the radical left and early trade union activity in the United States helped me realize that while the pursuit of a better life was everyone's right, indeed responsibility, that did not somehow legitimize forcible redistribution of income, essentially the enslavement of one group of citizens for the benefit of another. I concluded, early on, that notions of 'fair' or 'reasonable' really have no meaning in the context of a Marxist political utopia. There is nothing fair or reasonable about a system where anyone is forced to support anyone else. Each of us has a responsibility to take care of his or her own family. That's a moral imperative. Beyond that, we may give compassionate, voluntary help to the disadvantaged. That's charity. Forced collection of income through taxation and its redistribution through an alphabet soup of social programs is immoral, unfair, counter-productive, just plain wrong. That's extortion.
By the time I entered high school, I realized that I was looking for something which could define my evolving personal philosophy of individualism, responsibility and ethical behaviour. It was in grade eleven that I discovered the author Ayn Rand, specifically her novel "Atlas Shrugged." The novel chronicles an entirely plausible economic and social collapse of the United States as the movers and shakers, the thinkers and doers, the truly productive individuals of society, decide to go on strike. Businessmen, bankers, scientists, artists, musicians, academics, at least those who weren't permanently attached to the teat of the state, withdrew their services. If you haven't read this book, get it and read it. You will love it or hate it. It will not be a passive experience.
Ayn Rand called her philosophy 'Objectivism.' I won't cover objectivism here, but I will say that while I admire much of Rand's philosophy, I did my best to avoid becoming a 'Randroid,' someone who followed Rand and her teachings uncritically, slavishly, almost with religious fervor. I simply believe that Rand nailed it, eloquently and compellingly, on many issues.
Years later, I spoke with a friend visiting from California, about Rand. He recalled seeing some literature, somewhere in Los Angeles, from an organization that seemed to promote individualism and individual liberty. Not long after I got some pamphlets from what has since become the International Society for Individual Liberty (ISIL) and from them I learned about the fledgling U.S. Libertarian Party.
In 1973, I attended the annual Libertarian Party National Convention, held in Cleveland that year, and while there met a number of other Canadians. Marshall Bruce Evoy was one of them. Along with Bruce and seven other like-minded Canadian individualists, we founded the Libertarian Party of Canada. Bruce was acknowledged by all of us as the driving force behind our combined efforts and the 'official' founder. Bruce passed away in 1998. We all miss him.
In 1974, I became the first leader of the Libertarian Party of Canada, a position I resigned because I became frustrated with how slowly things seemed to move ahead. I have never been a particularly patient person. I want freedom NOW. I am still a member of the Libertarian Party and admire those who are now at the vanguard of a very frustrating struggle to gain recognition and understanding. It will be a long, long process. Humans appear to love being herded and manipulated by political leaders and insulted by bureaucrats. I don't understand it, but then I appear not to understand much of what goes on around me.
The world needs more individualists. The world needs more libertarians. To help you find out more about libertarianism, I have created links to interesting, informative sites below.