I want to share my path to becoming a full-blooded libertarian. I’ve always had libertarian views on social issues, but I also had left-wing views in regards to taxing the “rich” to help people who were in need. More on that later; first I would like to share my personal background.
I was born not with a silver spoon in by mouth, but rather a platinum spoon. I was spoiled beyond belief in terms of both attention and presents. Having been afforded the status of being a young white male with essentially limitless resources to pursue an education, it would be hard to say I ever struggled for money.
My views, as stated, were very libertarian in regards to personal freedoms, but couldn’t have been any more socialist in regards to taxes. At the time, it made sense to me to tax the rich in order to benefit the poor. I saw every corporation that was in any way successful as “greedy” and as taking advantage of its workers.
I had a friend who attained a degree in politics and we argued, all in good fun, over our political views. I believed that it was okay to tax the rich since they didn’t need all the money they earned. He disagreed with me (rightfully so, I might add); his counter-argument was that it didn’t matter how much money someone had; it was still theirs.
And why wouldn’t I agree with taxing the rich? It wasn’t my money, and my parents seemed well enough off to support all my needs without me seeing an impact.
In college, I eventually decided I wanted to go into the field of counseling to help people in society. At 25, I had my master’s degree in the subject. It was my goal to become fully independent of my parents. I wanted to be responsible for my success and failures. From that point, on I slowly became less dependent on them financially until I was completely on my own.
My first long-term job was in a program in which the state gave free counseling services to any family with children. This included an unlimited amount of time spent with the family. I loved the job and can attest that I, as well as the other case therapists, made a huge impact on several families that needed help.
Then the new year came, 2013, and things changed overnight. Each year that the company received a grant from the state , a new proposal had to be made to accommodate state changes. With the new proposal, workers were expected to see more people within the same amount of time. For most, this was a struggle.
Not having kids or other responsibilities, I was able to not only meet, but exceed the program’s new higher expectations. One day the director called me in to discuss my performance. She said, and I quote, “You’re like a poster child for the program…” and “what is it you do, you tend to get more positive feedback?” Then came her offer, “If you want to, you can work more hours to help the program.”
Wait, what? My reward for exceeding program expectations and bringing in more clients was the offer of doing more work? As you could probably guess, I didn’t take the director up on her offer.
Interestingly enough, none of the staff, including myself, got along with the director, and regardless of her praise, she never seemed to care much for me. Yet of course, she noticed which case therapists met the program expectations.
I want to make it a point to say that I considered myself no better than any other therapist – each one had their own strengths and worked their hardest. Yet, those with families struggled most and received the most criticism from the director. I found this ironic, given her focus on helping struggling families. The director consistently accused those not meeting expectations of “being lazy” or fabricating how far they drove to receive extra money for gas mileage. The amount of work required to meet “program expectations,” though, was determined by the director. Never did it occur to her that she had overly high expectations; the program would still attract more than sufficient government funding without being so demanding of the employees.
I wish to emphasize what I learned. First, I essentially was not valued as an employee outside of my ability to bring in more funding. My outstanding performance and contributions to the success of the program merited no form of reward.
Second, a state-funded business created to help people did not provide its workers any better treatment than I would have expected from a private business. Maybe, just maybe, all these “greedy” businesses turned a profit due to a good market strategy and respect for employees.
I couldn’t keep up with the pace I was working; I was meeting expectations at a personal cost. I started using vacation days more and more to recuperate from the work overload. Eventually, I put in my notice to leave the program. My notice was put in 3 weeks in advance, and during that time I had one vacation day which was approved in advance.
During my vacation day, the director contacted me and told me I couldn’t take a vacation after I put in my notice unless the vacation day was scheduled before my notice was put in. I challenged her, for the first time, and stated there was no policy anywhere informing me of this and that the vacation was approved. Needless to say, she wasn’t happy, but I felt a small sense of relief finally being able to assert the truth.
During my downtime, I reconnected with libertarianism and started to apply their views of the economy to the places I had worked in the counseling field. I noticed that the organization I had just quit depended on funding from the county government. Within this system, logging more hours always allowed the program to get more money from the state. So from the director’s viewpoint, all that mattered was how many hours the employees worked; the value of an employee with high customer satisfaction was negligible. The employees had the same backwards incentives as the director; all an employee needed to do to be valued was to log the proper number of hours. There was no incentive, outside of personal altruism, to actually provide high-quality service. Indeed, there was actually an incentive to work more slowly, so as to take up more hours. This lowered the standard of care that a case therapist would provide.
Let us imagine if the entire program was only privately funded. Employees would be hired based on customer satisfaction; were they not, the program would die due to lack of funding. The standard of care could only raise; employers would be insane not to increase wages for the employees bringing in more profit. Also, employees would work harder knowing that the work they did made a difference to an employer who might reward them with a raise.
And what of those who wouldn’t have otherwise been able to afford services? This is where funding should come from the communities, not the state. I’ll be damned if a more wealthy community couldn’t generate commerce by investing in a less fortunate community which has the potential for new, much needed businesses.
Against my morals, I applied for unemployment. I had been holding a position as a contract worker as a therapist at another organization, but was let go in lieu of people with far less experience – but that is a whole story of its own. I received a call from the state and they collected information, yet never got back to me or sent me the paperwork I was suppose to receive. During this call, I expressed my very sincere intentions of wanting to work, but after 3 weeks, I have yet to receive the resources promised.
As of now, I sit in the condo I bought shortly after I quit the job. I sit here now jobless and in debt, counting down the days until I will have to give up my freedom and move back home with my parents. Sitting with me is the stark realization that not a dime of all the taxes taken out of my paycheck to help others over the years will help me. Then again, I made all my own decisions and accept the consequences for them, and there is nothing more libertarian than that.
Image credit to en.wikipedia.org.