What Liberty Means to Me and Why SFL Matters

The Confused Early Years

Back when I was in high school I used to be a fascist. I mean this in the real sense, not modern version, where people throw the word around at everything they disagree with. I was on the far right conservative social spectrum, believing certain values needed to be protected by any means necessary.

For all I cared back then, putting LGBT people in gulags was not such a bad idea (back then we didn’t have LGBT), while at the same time accompanied with expressive nationalism. Hell, I even wanted to have the evilest profession of all – an army man. Economics wise, even though I didn’t have even a rudimentary knowledge of it, I held strong beliefs on raising the minimum wage, and on occupations which I thought should have been outlawed or harshly regulated, in accordance with what the ‘right’ moral position is (the likes of prostitution and drugs come to mind).

I specifically remember asking an economics professor of mine, ”Why don’t we have not just a central bank, but a single government-owned bank that would give out loans with the preferential interest rate, especially to the downtrodden?”.

Yet despite these frankly abysmal opinions, there was no way I could have ever acted upon them. I couldn’t hurt a fly. Funnily enough, to this day I have never thrown a single punch.

The transformation

As we grow up we learn new stuff, either deliberately or by accident. Well, I can specifically remember certain almost movie-like epiphany moments when my mind, if not changed at the immediate moment, was for sure permanently altered..

Macedonia is a pretty conservative country concerning LGBT issues. Seldom are these issues discussed, much less are LGBT folk made to feel welcome about their sexuality.  

Yet somehow, by some stroke of luck, I struck up a conversation with an extremely polite and patient person, who happened to be gay. After running my mouth off on what I now know were my wholly homophobic opinions, he simply asked me: “Why do we find the same occurrences in the animal kingdom?” Jaw-dropped!

It sounds a little silly. But it was this simple experience that taught me to view the concept of love differently.

Then there was ‘Nothing New on the Western Front’ – a book that anyone who professes war should read. In a simple dialog, two of the compatriots are arguing over why they are on the front lines fighting and, ultimately, dying. Was it the national pride, the love for the fatherland and their families, the money or because some politicians/emperors chose to send young man die on the fields for their own personal gain, all from the safety of their offices?

I don’t know in what hole I’ve been living but it took me almost twenty years to understand that almost no war in history was truly justifiable in this way.

However, what finally brought me around to libertarianism was my economics course. For the first time, I encountered the minimum wage graphs, and coming from a country with the extremely high unemployment rate (25-30% at the time; today hovering around 21%) I couldn’t believe ‘that bullshit’.  In theory – maybe yes, but not in the real world.

After class, I went to YouTube and stumbled upon Antony Davies’ video on the MW for learning liberty. I remember he even replied to my skepticism (and now I’m dying to read what he wrote almost six years ago).

If you’re reading this you probably know the difference between a monarchist and an anarchist. More or less, it took me the same amount of time from being a ‘kid who knew nothing’ to a full-blown ancap.

What liberty means to me

We libertarians approach liberty in many different ways. For me at least, as I strongly adhere to the NAP, at the end of the day, what it boils down to is respecting people’s rights. Meaning, you can be a douchebag, morally defunct or even a socialist.

Perhaps, I might vehemently disagree with you and your choices. I might even choose not to break bread with you.  But I will defend your right to liberty. After all, vices are not crimes.

The loneliness of libertarianism and why SFL matters

Being libertarian, even with the big tent approach, is awfully lonely. Even in the US, the country with some of the best libertarian infrastructure, in the 2016 elections the libertarian nominee won only 4.5 million votes against arguably the worst candidates in decades.

In Macedonia on the other hand, a small post-communist country finding a needle in a haystack might be easier than finding libertarians. It took me two years to find out that the SFL chapter existed in Macedonia – shortly after this, I joined.  To this day we are the only libertarian organization whatsoever in Macedonia.

Libertarians are usually charged with being unfriendly, confrontational when not shy, fanatics, ideologues, idealists and what not. In many ways, people are right here, because to believe in liberty is a radical idea in the 21st century.

But that’s the beauty of SFL. It provides students with the platform and the resources to better themselves while making a change in society in the process. For those frustrated with the current attack on our liberties and interested in writing, we have speakfreely.today. For those interested in spreading the ideas on the ground there are many opportunities for organizing events and campaigns. For the more nerdy types, we have the SFL Academy, the Virtual reading groups.

SFL is an organization one does not join just to have something to put in the CV. It’s a way of life.

I am not proud of my youth/past, but I am not ashamed either. It has played a role in what I am today, and as far as I know, I have not done a grave injustice to anyone. However, unlike most puzzled by this identity charged politics, I understand where people are coming from, making me better suited to dismantle their arguments.  

On the other hand, being libertarian does not make me proud, no matter how confident I am in my convictions, but I’m proud of being part of SFL.

Before SFL, I thought I’m the only one, at times was even questioning myself and wondering if something was wrong with me. Then I met so many like-minded people, convinced of the beauty of the ideas of liberty. The need to belong is purely human nature and people who say you can’t choose your family are wrong, as I have found mine.

By Simon Sarevski, Local Coordinator from Macedonia

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