I Used to be a Socialist. True Story. (Mark Tordai)
Wednesday January 9th, 2013
I pride myself on being an honest person. I don't have too many close friends and have lost many acquaintances on Facebook over changes to my political beliefs. Thankfully, I have made a lot of liberty loving friends since I became a Libertarian and am very grateful for their support. Many of my new allies have also lost people in their lives too, due to their beliefs which I find sad, but also, inevitable.
The story of how I became a Socialist begins at age 17 and during 2000 Canadian Federal Election. A group of people who ran for MP in my local riding (is "riding" the correct term?) came to my high school and had a debate. I grew up in a middle class suburb of Toronto, but my high school was in a rather wealthy neighborhood that mainly votes Conservative and therefore most of my friend's parents were Conservative supporters. In my family, my mother was a life-long support of the Liberal Party until recently and her parents were also life-long Liberals. My father and his parents were refugees from Hungary and were all very apolitical. I am sure I would be too if I grew up worshiping Karl Marx.
That day, several potential MP's came to my high school and spoke for over an hour. Each of them represented the many major and fringe political parties in Ontario. Being only 17 at the time, I was just a year away from being able to vote but was encouraged to attend the debate by one of my teachers. It also got me out of class- an added plus.
I will spare the exact details of the debate but after the hour was over, I was captivated by the words of the woman who ran for the NDP that year. She was a powerfully good speaker and several of my friends gave her a standing ovation when the debate was over. She spoke about free college tuition, taxing the rich, raising taxes on corporations, lowing car insurance rates, guaranteeing free health care for all Canadians, welcoming new immigrants with open arms and providing stability to the working class. All of this blew my 17 year old mind. Her solution was the increase the size of government, something no one ever questions in a government funded public school. It all just sounded so good.
Shortly after, I became a very serious Socialist and would later become a member of the NDP, their youth movement, and I even joined the NDP Socialist Caucus at 19. I believed in Democratic Socialism and became aware of the works of Eugene V. Debs: the American Union Leader and five-time US Presidential Candidate for the Socialist Party. Although it wasn't until recently that I found out that Debs and most of the Co-Operative Commonwealth Federation-which became the NDP in the early 1960's- were supporters of the Eugenics movement. And they say only Americans lie in their textbooks…
So then, what happened to me?
I read Mises' book "Socialism" in the fall of 2009 and it completely destroyed my Socialist beliefs, which had come into question after living in Europe for three years. In fact, the very first post I wrote for Mises Canada touched on my experiences over there. I had also come to some Libertarian conclusions for a few years prior. I'm very thankful for a Ron Paul video that I saw on YouTube which turned me on to the Austrian school of economics, the Mises Institute, and the books "Socialism", "Human Action" and "The Anti-Capitalistic Mentality".
If you're interested in debating people who are Socialists-I speak now from my own personal experience- that people who hold Socialistic beliefs really do think they care about others; even more so than us capitalists. They are convinced, sincerely, that only the benevolent force of government intervention, social justice and human rights can help those in need. Many watch movies like Food Inc., Bowling for Columbine, Wall Street and Erin Brockovich which display greedy capitalists as heartless animals who do nothing but poison the water supply, poison our food, and use insider trading to make millions at the expense of everyone else. So many are influenced by Hollywood that they begin to believe that only the government can help defeat evil. In reality, it's usually the government who creates said evils.
While it certainly frustrates me when I talk to NDPers now, especially when I give them facts about the market and they refuse to listen, I've found that it's much easier to be patient with people and to be humble. If you told me 10 years ago that I was going to convert to free market capitalism I would have called you nuts. But therein lies hope. If I can change, anyone can.
I didn't know the facts about the free market and laissez-faire capitalism like I do now. It wasn't taught to me in the government schools I attended. I now know that liberty is the best way for society to move forward. I might have lost faith in socialism and a centrally planned economy, but I gained knowledge in laissez-faire capitalism via not only Mises but in the works of Hayek, Rothbard, Friedman, Hazlitt and so many others. Even John Stossel and science fiction author Robert Heinlein have taught me a lot about liberty.
Now why I chose to leave socialism and eventually become a libertarian is fairly simple. Mises explains in his book "Socialism" that while socialism may be implemented with good intentions it is also implemented with force. I am, like most of us, a libertarian because as Penn Jillette often says "I don't know what's right for you." The NDPers and socialists I know and/or knew really do think they know what's right for me and you. However, no matter what they say and no matter what arguments they give, they don't.
In my opinion, the principles of non-aggression and non-intervention through liberty lead to better social progress than socialism does. Socialism has historically leads to despotism, poverty, suffering, war, depression, inflation and genocide. However we sugar coat that word, even by placing the adjective democratic before the noun, socialism is still about force and not about progress of any kind.
A truth I'm glad I came to know while attending a left-wing junior college in Southern California.
Mark Tordai obtained a College Diploma in Film and Broadcasting from Centennial College in Toronto. He also holds an Associate of Arts Degree from Santa Monica College in Santa Monica, CA with a major in Film Studies. Before returning to Canada in July 2011, Mark spent 3 years living in Europe and 2 and a half years in the United States. He credits the reading of Socialism by Mises as the main reason for becoming interested in Austrian Economics. Since May 2012, Mark has been the Social Media Guru at the Ludwig von Mises Institute of Canada.