"Fate is what you do next."
~ Linda Cohn, ESPN Anchor (20Aug2002)
"No fate but what we make."
~ Sara Connor (Linda Hamilton), Terminator 2: Judgment Day
It dawned on me the other day that it has been almost exactly a year since I submitted, and got published, my first ever piece to LRC. That was my "Where Have All the Black Libertarians Gone?" essay. (What? You've never heard of it? Shocking! You've got to get out more.) Over the last year, I've been fortunate to be able to "scratch an itch" to say what's on my mind at not only LRC, but also at Strike-the-Root, and even on a blog or two. (The amount of cross-information-pollination on the Internet is truly awesome.) If you had told me, those twelve months ago, that I'd have published some twenty-three pieces here and another five or so elsewhere, I'd have laughed in your face. If you'll kindly indulge me, I'd now like to consider how we all got to this place. Let me begin by sharing a little anecdote that shows just how ironic my presence here is.
At least two years or so ago, I was engaged in a debate with a close friend of mine. He and I routinely muse about the meaning of freedom, black people and racism, life as we know it, the evil of the state, yada, yada, yada. Additionally, he always seems to have some greater plan in mind, and I really enjoy being around people who are reaching for more and believe in its possibility.
As we chatted about the state of U.S. democracy, he said something along the lines of, "One day soon, I'm going to publish some of my thoughts to the Internet, so that more people can be exposed to what I've discovered." I looked at him like I thought he had lost his mind. "Who gives a rat's booty what you've discovered?" played in the back of my mind, although I managed, barely, to keep the words in my head.
The black folks in our studio audience will no doubt think of a relatively well-worn phrase we use when a person has uttered something of questionable veracity. The phrase generally ends with a variation on the word, "please" and while it only contains two words, they are often stretched into four distinct syllables. Then I said, and I'm not making this up, "I have no desire to publish anything to the Internet. I couldn't care less about sharing my thoughts to a wider audience!" …Or words to that effect.
Famous Last Words
So what happened between that day and July 11th, 2006? Did I adopt libertarianism anew? No. Did I take a course in creative writing and decide to try my newfound skills out? Not close. Did I finally get fed up with Dumbya and his henchmen? (I could not be more disgusted with him now than I was when he first smirked his way out of anonymity and into the Whitehouse after losing to another putz-on-a-cracker known to his friends and foes alike as Al Bore. No, that's not a misprint.) No again.
Honestly, I still don't think I've "discovered" anything. (Obvious, I know.) Any logic, evidence, philosophy, or relevant intellectual analysis that find their way into my modest musings have, in all likelihood, already been covered more eloquently, more completely, and more forcefully by probably 8 or 9 [hundred] other writers before me. One of my favorite teachers in high school used to have a saying, "Yes, that's true, but it's not new!" Those are indeed wise words for almost anyone engaged in debate to keep close at hand. The exposure I've had to fantastic, and heretofore personally neglected, works such as those Stephan Kinsella lists in "Greatest Libertarian Books" has been more important to me than any information I've able to convey in my modest writings. My decision to share my thoughts provided the impetus I needed to imbibe deeply of the knowledge therein.
So, what did happen to push me toward this place, doing this, "libertarian essay stuff?" Simply put: Stefan Molyneux. Stef conspired with a lifetime of disgust for the status quo and a lot of pent-up need for sharing. More exactly, Stef set the ball in motion.
I was a member (still am a member) of the FreedomainRadio board, the discussion group that inhabits a portion of Stef's website. That discussion board is just chock-full of sharp, well-studied, truly unapologetic, and occasionally abrasive lovers of freedom. (Generally, these are the same types of folks who enjoy LRC!) Someone had posted a thread entitled, "What was your u2018conversion' experience?" The question was about what led you to libertarianism generally and market anarchism particularly.
I had never even considered that question, much less shared any possible answer with anyone. Curious, I waded in. In perusing one answer in particular, I felt like someone had been following me around and now sought to share my inner-most secrets! It was about 1:30 a.m. and I couldn't stop reading. Inspired, I offered my own thoughts, for the first time to anyone other than my closest friends. It was a liberating experience, but there was more to come.
The next day, I crossed another item off my list. I told my wife that she simply "had to" check out a thread on FDR. I showed her my musings. I had never shared these types of thoughts with her. It seemed to me that thereafter, sharing my thoughts with anyone else was, with all due respect, a step down. If the person whose opinion I valued the most on earth now knew I was a libertarian lunatic, who cared about some random web surfer in Des Moines? So that was it. During another discussion on FDR the following day, the concept for my, "Where Have All the Black Libertarians Gone?" piece was born.
So that's pretty much the first part of the story. The rest of the story is still being written. How's it going? (I'm glad you asked.) Looking back over my "bibliography" I've drawn a few conclusions.
My Favorite Essay(s):
Oddly enough, these essays were written one-after-the-other rather recently. I really enjoyed the piece on Westhusing because I was responding to a request from a reader and because the issue really highlighted the basic problem with traveling the world to institute democracy at the barrel of a gun. (It didn't hurt that one of my libertarian heroes sent me a note, congratulating me on how good the essay was!) Why so many continue to believe the State can provide security by exporting violence is an on-going puzzlement.
I enjoyed the "why" piece because the undercurrents of racism continue to prick me as I interact with ostensible freedom lovers. The recurring theme of racial superiority/inferiority is fertile in libertarian ranks, as many, many people shared with me in their responses to that essay. Until I spent some time "in the trenches" myself, I would have just chalked any such feelings up to ignorance. Suffice it to say that if you believe your race is superior anyway, thinking freedom is a good thing ain't that much of a leap. By the same token, unless you believe your race is inferior, you will be insulted when anyone seeks to give you that which you have not earned, no matter the justification.
My Most Responded-To Essay(s):
"What Would Happen If the Post Office Had Competition?" I average about 40 e-mails per essay. This one generated 92 e-mails from readers anxious to exchange views, give me kudos, and, of course, call me a moron. Just as interesting though, I received a number of wonderful citations from respondents that have enhanced my understanding of this issue and deepened my initial conclusions. One such excellent essay was published in the Freeman way back in February of 2002. I highly recommend it.
"Does High-Fructose Corn Syrup Have To Be In Everything?" This one has generated 87 e-mails, so far. Given that it was published in January and I'm still getting notes nearly six months later, I'd say it struck a nerve. I continue to be amazed at the amount of this crap that pervades the U.S. diet. Thank goodness the FDA is there to protect us, right? (Well, actually, no!)
"Where Have All the Black Libertarians Gone?" This was the one that started it all, and it generated 74 e-mails, including a few from fellow LRC writers, many of whom have become much more than just "Internet friends" of mine. Truth be told, I endeavor with each essay to recapture the feeling I had when I wrote this piece.
My Most Popular Essay(s):
Unlike "most responded" this category is the reflection of how well an essay was received given LRC's on-line rankings. Interestingly, the most popular essays were generally also the ones for which I received the most e-mail. Those, in order of popularity, were:
"They Protect Me From Me, But Who Protects Me From Them?" This was an examination of another food issue — the presence of trans fats in almost every processed food sold in the U.S. — and the lunacy of the State's involvement therein. The State's negative impact on our health cannot be overestimated.
Along the way, I've been fortunate enough to crack the LRC Weekly Top Ten 6 times and the LRC Monthly Top Ten 2 times. Thanks to Walter Block, I've gotten a piece into a refereed journal. (For someone so legendary to provide so much kindness is a debt I'm sure I'll never be able to repay.) I met a veritable cornucopia of brilliant and generous thinkers. Given that this is all the result of what could very easily be categorized as a lark, that's pretty amazing. I would truly be remiss if I did not offer a hearty "Thank You!" to anyone, anyone at all, who has read any of my ramblings and found value in them.
Here's to being optimistic that there is more value to be found — for you and me as well.
Wilt Alston [send him mail] lives in Rochester, NY, with his wife and three children. When he's not training for a marathon or furthering his part-time study of libertarian philosophy, he works as a principal research scientist in transportation safety, focusing primarily on the safety of subway and freight train control systems.