Fighting Apathy: My Time as a Libertarian Conservative Warrior

Written by Dan Milyavsky

It may sound like hyperbole, but I went to a high school that was oppressively leftist. I remember having countless English teachers go on and on about what a horrible mayor Rudy Giuliani was (even though he made NYC safe for all of us to live in), how racist Mark Twain was, thereby ruining Huckleberry Finn for the entire class (despite the fact that the novel is anti-slavery and anti-racism) and what a horrible economic system capitalism was (even though it generates the wealth that paid the teachers’ salaries and lavish benefits).

My parents are immigrants from the former Soviet Union. Being fortunate enough to live in Moscow, their life was better than the wretched squalor that most Soviet citizens had to live in. However, they had to suffer under the boot of government repression just the same, and even more so since we are Jewish. They raised me with a distinct appreciation for liberty and they never bought into the corrosive identity politics agenda that is now so widespread that it is a part of almost every high school and college curriculum.

This is all to say, that I may have overreacted a tad bit. I put a McCain Palin sticker on my locker even though I didn’t particularly care for either of them. My Facebook wall was filled with political rants, which served to enrage the liberals and annoy those who just didn’t care about politics.

In his original mission statement in 1955, William F. Buckley Jr. wrote that the newly founded National Review “stands athwart history, yelling Stop, at a time when no one is inclined to do so, or to have much patience with those who so urge it.” I suppose this is what I saw myself doing, and never missed an opportunity to try to propagandize my peers regarding the virtues of the free market, even though they usually either couldn’t care less or already had a stubbornly intractable perspective that was the opposite of mine.

I spent my first three semesters of undergrad at Hunter College, living in the dorms there. There too, the leftism was overwhelming, and my political views did not exactly do much to enhance my popularity. I recall when I posted a Facebook status saying that I had finally gotten around to more or less supporting the legalization of gay marriage, I was viciously excoriated for being insufficiently enthusiastic, even though if memory serves I’m quite sure I came around to this point of view before Barack Obama did. I tried to start a Libertarian-Conservative club at Hunter College, since I figured that with four different Marxist groups, it shouldn’t be that hard to recruit people for a club which does not advocate statist criminals running every aspect of our lives. I was sorely mistaken.

When I transferred to Binghamton in the spring of 2012, I fell in love with the place. This is a much friendlier place for alternative political points of view. I joined the Binghamton Review and the College Libertarians. In the latter, we had extremely vocal (that’s putting it mildly) debates on all the issues, ranging from how attractive of a candidate Ron Paul was to whether the Iraq War was fought for oil (I don’t think it was, since we didn’t end up taking any of the oil, but I am still opposed to it, so much so that I think its initiation may have made George W. Bush a worse president than even Barack Obama).

Since being a libertarian (I’m a bit less conservative than I used to be) was so easy here, I did not feel myself to be part of a shunned minority anymore. I suppose my social skills also improved a bit, and I stopped preaching the virtues of the free market to everyone I met whenever the topic of politics came up. In fact, I’ve reached a point where I’d prefer not to discuss politics at all with people who are not particularly invested in the subject, the same way a molecular biologist isn’t going to start discussing cell signaling pathways with every person he meets who asks him what he’s interested in.

As I matured and became older, my priorities shifted. I started thinking a lot more about getting into medical school, and I would much rather hang out with my friends and cultivate meaningful relationships than get into political arguments.

This is all perfectly natural, and I have no regrets about it. However, the cause of liberty is still very near and dear to my heart, and throughout my life I hope to continue advocating for it. I’ll be spending the vast majority of my time concerned with other things, but I do sincerely believe that human beings should be able to conduct both social and economic interactions as they see fit. Free market capitalism has created more wealth and prosperity than any other system, helping poor and rich alike. It has given rise to countless technological innovations which have improved our quality of life. So to my fellow libertarian and conservative comrades out there who might wonder if the fight is worth it, fear not. We know in our hearts that it is.

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