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Thursday, March 30, 2006

How I Discovered Liberty

I attended Rangiora High School from 1971 to 1975. In 1972 I was over the moon when the Kirk Labour government came to power. By my 5th form year,1973 I was a committed leftie, communist even. That was the year of the oil shock. I remember arguing with Chris Rowe that V8 cars should be banned because they used too much petrol.

My leftism was strengthened in my 6th form year when Mrs Stevenson, my very attractive Geography teacher, brought some socialist priest to talk to us about the horrors of Pinochet's Chile, from which he had recently returned.

I was horrified and resolved to leave school at the end of the 6th form, work my passage to Chile and fight with the anti Pinochet resistance. That resolve lasted almost two weeks.

I became aware of Rodney Hide around that time. He was a year ahead and I don't remember ever talking to him. I do have a vivid picture in my mind however of Rodney, green blazer, full head of combed forward near black hair animatedly talking to a taller pupil as they walked towards the library.

We did have some mutual friends and one mutual enemy who is now according to Rodney, a very fine man.

In my 7th form year I took Fine Arts prelim and economics. The economics was chosen so I could learn more about the world in order to more effectively change it.

My teacher was "Jason" McCord a hard swearing reprobate and certainly no socialist.

He taught us free market economics and I quickly grasped its beautiful logic. Supply and Demand, law of diminishing returns; it was clean, clear and logical. I was sold.

However "Jason" would always say "the free market is the most efficient system, but its not the moral system"

I couldn't figure this out. How could something be efficient and logical, but not moral? It was a real dilemma for me. I reconciled it by advocating using the market to produce wealth for socialist redistribution.

During the holidays after leaving the 7th form, a friend of my Dad's, "Brud" Edgar, left a copy of the Sunday News on our kitchen table.

I read it and inside was a two page centre piece article entitled something vaguely like " "Capitalism the only moral system for the life of a rational being".

The article was about Ayn Rand and her philosophy of Objectivism. I read it and re-read it. The author was the late Bill Weddell (brother of National Radio's, Jessica Weddell). Bill later went on to convert another socialist to capitalism, that icon of Kiwi libertarianism, Lindsay Perigo.

The article's impact faded a little. Then I was off work for a few days after initiating force against my brother and cutting my hand when breaking his glasses with a punch.(I was a convert enough by then, not to go on ACC).

I took the Midland bus into Christchurch and wandered into Summer's second hand bookshop in Tuam Street.

There it was on a rack full of paperbacks. Ayn Rand's "For the New Intellectual"-price $1.40. It was a dilemma. If I bought the book, I wouldn't have enough for lunch. My stomach won. I walked down the stairs and 50 yards down the road.

My conscience fought back. I walked back to the shop and bought the book.

It was like being hit in the forehead with a cricket bat. The book contained all Rand's key speeches from "The Fountainhead" and "Atlas Shrugged" including 34 pages of "John Galt's Speech".

This was a huge struggle for an 18 year old recovering communist to absorb and digest. I did it though and it changed my life.

Around that time, our local MP, Derek Quigley, got offside with that appalling bloody socialist, Prime Minister, Rob Muldoon.

I wrote a letter to Quigley, whom I admired for his stand, outlining 20 or so points that National had to adopt to bring the country back to sanity. Low taxes, welfare reform etc. I knew exactly what had to be done. I had moved out of home but used my parents address on the letter.

My shocked mum, answered the door one day to find Derek Quigley standing on the doorstep wanting to talk to the young revolutionary. Unfortunately we have never have met to this day, though I know some of his family.

With this kind of early life, is it any wonder I'm now a proud member of ACT?


Anonymous Anonymous said...

free market economics fails to take into account the enviroment past the mid to short term, it also has a tendency for an elite to build up and gain control of the resource base leaving the vast majority to scratch out a living with the meager left overs

9:54 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

10:14 PM  
Blogger Rob Good said...

Very interesting Trevor

5:04 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Anonymous said...

free market economics fails to take into account the enviroment past the mid to short term, it also has a tendency for an elite to build up and gain control of the resource base leaving the vast majority to scratch out a living with the meager left overs "

Yeah right Anon.That tired false crap is laughed at by teenagers who have a better grasp of reality than you do.Wise up.

10:00 AM  
Blogger Lindsay Mitchell said...

You made a comment about refusing to go on ACC after "converting" - is it wrong to accept ACC when you pay your premiums and have no option to insure elsewhere?

12:26 PM  
Blogger Trevor Loudon said...

As Dave Hendo often says "being a libertarian costs". I never take state money if I can help it. I'm not stupid about it, if I break my leg I'll ride to a state hospital in a subsidised ambulance. However I'll avoid state money if possible and have never been on ACC or a benefit.

1:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Had something of a similar experience myself. Was a bit of a bum in my teenage years. Was very left of centre. Then in mid-90s started listening to "Banksie" on Radio Pacific. The worm was turning. And finally it all changed. The buildup to the 1996 election...I waited avidly for a Pam Corkery (!) "speech" at polytech...after 15 minutes of verbal diarrhea I was fully commited to the "right".....

1:45 PM  
Blogger Rick said...

Wow. What a great story, bringing all those threads together.


3:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I use to be deep in the left, but in 2004, in the fifth form, I did Economics. While it was mainly simple demand and supply models, it converted me to the right. I am currently taking seventh form Economics which is quite advanced, and according to last years' Seventh formers, all of the past three years’ curriculum is basically the first year curriculum at university.

The free market allows the most efficient use of scarce resources, basically, because when prices are left alone they reflect the scarcity of a resource rather than being adjusted to something that is artificial, but socially acceptable.

4:46 PM  
Blogger Lindsay Mitchell said...

"I'll avoid state money if possible". Trevor, the state doesn't have any money, only taxpayer money. Having been forced to pay into their monopoly accident insurance scheme, if you had an injury and needed treatment wouldn't you take the ACC subsidy towards the treatment? Having paid the premiums, it's your money. If it was private insurance I assume you wouldn't have a problem. Being a libertarian doesn't require you to be a martyr. Dave Henderson can probably afford to but what about people with ordinary incomes who can't afford to pay twice for services? Or can only some people can afford to be libertarians?

6:00 PM  
Blogger Trevor Loudon said...

I can assure you Lindsay, Dave H adhered to that philosophy long before he could afford to. It's in fact a powerful incentive to make more money when you know you'll have to pay twice for many things. I'm certainly not trying to be pious or sanctimonious here, (you did raise the issue) but there is a principle here. If every individual took as little from the state (taxpayers) as possible, the state really would begin to wither away. Everybody has to make a judgement call on this one, depending on their cuircumstances and level of commitment to their beleifs. My beleif is that its easier to reduce the power of the state if you're as little as possible beholden to it.

7:21 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

But how did you become a leftie in the first place?

9:33 PM  
Blogger Libertyscott said...

Great stuff Trevor, I know the feeling - socialism sounds so fair and attractive when you are young, until you find out it doesn't work and then it becomes clearer and clearer than it is immoral as well as impractical.

9:58 PM  
Blogger Lindsay Mitchell said...

"It's in fact a powerful incentive to make more money when you know you'll have to pay twice for many things."

That's like saying paying high taxes is an incentive which is the argument Cullen usually runs.
We can all do a bit of mental arithmetic and figure out whether we have paid for what we are getting back. I can't see anything morally wrong with that.
But I'm no expert on libertarian theory so I put the question to someone who is and he supplied the following.

The Question of Scholarships (Ayn Rand)

In this essay, Rand explains under what conditions it is acceptable for
someone who follows the Objectivist morality to accept scholarships.
Private scholarships are acceptable as a form of non-sacrificial
assistance. Government-funded scholarships are acceptable as a form of
restitution for tax monies taken from the recipient. "The recipient of
a public scholarship is morally justified only so long as he regards it
as restitution and opposes all forms of welfare statism. Those who
advocate public scholarships, have no right to them; those who oppose
them, have. If this sounds like a paradox, the fault lies in the moral
contradictions of welfare statism, not in its victims." Rand says
similar considerations apply to accepting money from social security,
unemployement insurance, or government research grants. She also
decribes the parameters within which it is acceptable to take a job
with the government.

11:22 AM  
Blogger Trevor Loudon said...

To anonymous, who wants to know why I was originally a socialist

I was brought up in a vaguely Labour household. Socialism was the dominant culture of the time. I was a child of the welfare state who had been fed on free school milk and educated to love the government. I was an idealist who wanted to help the world (still am) and socialism seemed the fairest option. It was the anti Vietnam war era so America was evil and capitalism was American. I had no inkling of what capitalism was. I was young and dumb. Is that enough?

12:22 PM  
Blogger Trevor Loudon said...

To Stevo, Jeremy and Liberty Scott

Thanks. I think we can all relate how, if exposed to the right info, people can change their ideas over time. That emphasies the impotance of good Blogs, books, talkback radio etc. One article, speech or book can change a life. One life can change history. You can still see that idealism that made me a socialist eh? It's true though, one can never underestimate the power of good ideas.

12:28 PM  
Blogger Trevor Loudon said...

Lindsay, I think you're being a bit over complicated here. It's a simple proposition. When you can possibly avoid taking cash or services off the state, do so. Don't get to hung up on it. If you have to go to a state run school to be vet, do so. If a better private school comes along, but costs way more, try to get the cash. This is a matter of personal morality, not a code dictated by Ayn Rand or anyone else.

12:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Once again stanley shows why he should be locked up in a padded cell somewhere...

3:10 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Lindsay and Rand are right. Trevor is bonkers. There are a lot of chances to avoid state spending that I bet Trevor doesn't take. He could deliver cheques around town in person instead of posting them for instance. It's doable but takes time. Is it right to take goods from a thief? Well, it depends. If the thief steals money from you and buys a TV with it then you may not get your cash back but you have the right to take the TV as partial compensation.

3:16 PM  
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Great article! Thanks.

2:52 AM  
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8:39 AM  
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10:59 PM  

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