How I Became a Libertarian
by Michael Edelstein
My transition from a liberal Democrat to a
libertarian began in Brooklyn, NY in the mid 1970's
when I met Walter Block.
Two of my passions then were chess and Dr. Albert
Ellis' Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT.) At
about this time, I met Bill Shooman through the REBT
network. As Bill and I became friends, he introduced
me to his REBT friend, Walter, a chess devotee and
Walter and I began to play chess regularly in his
dining room. Between chess games we debated
politics. I won most of the chess games and Walter won the
political debates. After two years I was a convert.
My last liberal pillar was my naive faith
that banning guns would reduce crime. It's logical:
if no one has a gun, we're all safer, right?
Today, in 2007, libertarianism is my greatest
intellectual passion and has immeasurably enriched
my life. I'm continually deepening my understanding
of the freedom philosophy, largely under Walter's
tutelage. He and I no longer play chess, though
we've become fast friends.
Murray Rothbard was Walter's libertarian mentor
as Albert Ellis was my psychotherapy mentor.
Both were groundbreakers and geniuses in their
respective fields. Both had an intense dislike for
Ayn Rand. It only seemed fitting, Walter suggested,
that we bring Rothbard and Ellis together. He arranged
a late night meeting in Al's office with the four of us.
It was a tame evening, especially considering the
iconoclastic and opinionated reputation of each.
The highlight involved the four of us singing a
humorous song Al wrote, a parody of individuals
like Rand. The song, "Perfect Rationality," is sung
to the tune of Luigi Denza's "Funiculi, Funicula"
and has as its refrain:
Perfect, perfect rationality,
Is, of course, the only thing for me!
How can I ever think of being
If I must live fallibly?
Rationality must be a perfect thing for me!
In 1984 or 85, Walter introduced me to Jeffrey
Rogers Hummel, when Jeff and I were both living
in Brooklyn. Jeff resided near Prospect Park. He
and I began running together in the Park. I found
Jeff a fount of libertarian knowledge (among other
kinds), so I availed myself of his wisdom during
our runs. To be optimally efficient, I often carried
on our runs a list of questions and a pencil for
Jeff, in turn, introduced me to David Ramsay
Steele, a true Renaissance man. After a discussion
with David about a book idea I had, he and I
embarked on collaborating on Three Minute Therapy,
Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life,
www.ThreeMinuteTherapy, a psychology self-help
book based on my psychotherapy practice and the
pioneering work of Albert Ellis. It was published in 1997.
We're presently collaborating on a second, The
Revolution in Psychotherapy. This traces the history
of the psychotherapy movement from Freud to the
As a libertarian, I've contributed articles to
Liberty magazine. I've many given talks to
libertarian groups, including the NYC and CA
Libertarian Parties, the Mises Institute, the International
Society for Individual Liberty (ISIL) meetings in
Norway and Canada, and Laissez-Faire Books. I
debated Sharon Presley, a libertarian psychologist
under the auspices of Free Exchange in San
Francisco, and conducted an on-line chat on
constructive communication strategies with the Free
State Project. I've spoken on overcoming libertarian
feuding and burnout.
My most famous convert to libertarianism is Nando
Pelusi. He went on to play Murray Rothbard in the
enactment of Rothbard's Mozart Was a Red at Murray's
60th birthday fest in NY.
I'm a clinical psychologist and practitioner of
REBT. I've given talks to libertarian groups on the
parallels between REBT and libertarianism, and on
the REBT notion that self-esteem is bad for you.
My current libertarian interests include the Free State
Project www.freestateproject.org to free New
Hampshire of tyranny, Ron Paul's 2008 presidential
candidacy www.ronpaul2008.com , and active
involvement with the Libertarian Party of San Francisco,
www.lpsf.org. I'm also a member of a local libertarian