It was night just outside of Washington DC. The crowd of 20-somethings packed the hotel’s ballroom and the energy was high. College kids had come from across the country to learn more about and celebrate what set their soul on fire – liberty.
It was the 2018 national conference of Young Americans for Liberty. Matt Kibbe was on stage to begin his interview. His guests entered in the back of the room and walked through the crowd as people stuck out their hands and the honorable congressmen graciously greeted them before proceeding to the stage. Representatives Justin Amash and Thomas Massie were the celebrities of the night.
Kibbe began by opening a bottle of beer and declaring “beer is freedom”. He then offered a bottle to both congressmen. Massie heartily accepted, Amash politely turned down the beverage. Kibbe recalled Amash’s story of finding liberty.
Amash didn’t know what his political leanings were classified as (i.e. what political party he should be a member of). So, he did what everyone does when you are searching for an answer: Google it. After putting in a list of his principles like: free markets, low taxes, individual rights, etc., the Wikipedia page for libertarianism popped up. Reading that made him think, “maybe I’m a libertarian”. He started reading all the great libertarian thinkers: Ayn Rand, Ludwig Von Mises, Adam Smith, Friedrich Hayek, Murray Rothbard, etc. Come to find out, he was a libertarian and believed strongly in those principles.
Massie, on the other hand, describes his discovery of liberty differently. He went to MIT and was trained in technological engineering. Suffice it to say, he was not political and really didn’t have much interest in politics. But politics found him when his local town wanted to extend their city-limits to include his farm and he fought back. There are many regulations that are enforced on homes within city-limits. Of course, it varies from town to town, but it is understandable why an owner of a farm would not want to be in the city-limits.
As Massie sees it, every hillbilly is a natural libertarian. He recalled a common saying in his neck of the woods, “you don’t worry about what somebody’s doing in their hollow, as long as they don’t worry about what you’re doing in your hollow.” Therefore,he just gravitated to a limited government, pro-individual liberty stance.
When in Congress, Massie walked into Amash’s office lined with black and white pictures of great liberty thinkers (including those mentioned above) and asked “Justin, are these pictures of your family?” He tells this story in his characteristic Kentucky draw with a chuckle. I imagine the MIT grad is being extremely humble when acting like he had no idea who those people were, but he makes an incredibly good argument about the basis of liberty: don’t be a Nosy Nancy. Individual human beings have a right to exist in peace unless they are hurting something or someone else.
As a person born and raised down a dirt road, in a town you’ve never heard of, tucked in the Ozark hills, I can verify that hillbillies do have a natural tendency to be libertarian. The anarcho-capitalist from New York who was studying economics in graduate school sitting next to me had a different background, but we both were there because we respected human freedom.
If we disagree on different specific policies but agree on foundational principles, we can work together and unite. Diversity is our strength. But what kind of diversity? Skin-color, ethnicity, and background are all differences that are beyond our control. Thoughts, principles, and actions are the characteristics that we make a conscious effort to achieve.
We can be united despite our different backgrounds and diverse opinions because the principles of freedom are the common threads that bind us in liberty.
Image: Gage Skidmore