Before coming to the University exactly four years ago, one of my biggest fears was that I would become a liberal. Growing up in a family where get-togethers with relatives were more like political action committee meetings on how to get conservatives into power, I knew liberals were the enemy. And my new college was the epicenter of liberal thought in Michigan. When I arrived, fearful that my political enemies were all around me, I took as many jibes at the school’s liberal institutions as I could. While I never became heavily involved with any political group on campus, I did go as far as to start the Facebook.com group “The Michigan Daily Is Liberal Propaganda”. That group never really took off.

Eventually, my fears were realized. I did experience a political change of heart at the University, but my shift in political beliefs wasn’t toward liberalism. Instead, I came to embrace libertarianism, a philosophy I hadn’t heard of during my years at home. And having now graduated from college and entered the “real world,” this philosophy means more to me now than it ever did.

I first made the move toward libertarianism — a philosophy of total freedom from government intervention, both socially and economically — after opening my ears to other political philosophies. At the University, I let my views be challenged by those around me. I finally came to realize that no one, not even the government, knows what’s best for me except me. And while I’ve continued to let different arguments challenge this idea, I now have only stronger reasons for thinking that government interference is bad for individuals.

Throughout my college career, I was going through another self-discovery, one that wasn’t at all political — I was wondering how to live my life being gay. (This was, of course, more difficult when I was a conservative.) After four years, I’ve finally embraced my sexuality and am ready to fight for the government to recognize gay marriage as equal to heterosexual marriage.

The funny thing is, I shouldn’t have to fight for gay rights. Hundreds of companies already recognize their gay employees’ partners and extend benefits to them, according to the Human Rights Campaign. My own company has a policy against discrimination based on sexual orientation. They’ve all embraced gay relationships, so what’s left to change?

I have to fight because the government has monopolized the benefits of marriage. What began as a widely-considered good for individuals has now become a law that holds gay people back. The federal government won’t recognize gay marriage. It controls Social Security, the biggest pension program in the country, and it only gives survivor benefits to spouses. It gives special hospital visitation rights to spouses. Child custody is usually split between married couples. And the list goes on. So while businesses and many religions have moved to recognize gay relationships, government has become the battleground through which both sides can prevent the other from gaining the upper hand. If government had never gotten involved in the first place, these hurtful policies would never have been implemented.

As many groups continue to campaign to increase the power of government for so-called good reasons, the same opportunities for destructive battlegrounds are being created. If health care becomes entirely government-run and cures for diseases are developed from embryonic stem cell research, conservatives and liberals will argue over whether government health care plans should cover these cures and one side’s views will be oppressed. But if health care is left to the private sector — as the institution of marriage should have been — individuals would be free to choose whether or not to buy plans that cover such cures.

As new students begin their first semester at the University, I hope that like me, they will encounter new beliefs. And I hope that these new beliefs will lead them to realize that no one knows what’s best for any individual, and that the best government policy is one that leaves everyone alone.

Patrick Zabawa is a University Alum

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