Hi, My Name is Paul

I consider myself a libertarian.

I say this not because it defines me or is the most important part of me, but because it’s likely to be the aspect of me that comes across most strongly in what I write here. As the government gets involved in more and more aspects of our lives, it’s hard to find topics that aren’t touched by politics.

I say my libertarianism doesn’t define me because I see it as the conclusion of my thinking, not the beginning. I don’t approach each issue by trying to fit it into a libertarian mindset. I’m certainly not perfect, but I try to approach each issue with an open mind first and see where things go. It just happens that, more often than not, it leads me to an answer which is consistent with the libertarian philosophy.

libertarian_hedgehogI think one of the major problems with American politics today is tribalism and the tendency to treat others as part of some group instead of as individuals. I believe this too often blinds people to the wrong committed by people in their own tribe while making it more difficult to understand where the other side might be coming from. I’m no stranger to some gentle ribbing of politicians and partisans, but it saddens me when I see people whose only method of political discourse seems to be putting down the other side. I don’t believe incessant mockery and insulting of people is the way to change hearts and minds. I believe the best way is trying to understand where other people are coming from and discussing issues with them as individuals instead of members of some “other” group.

I worry about the interaction between this tribalism and how far politics has invaded every aspect our lives because I worry that it’s making us less tolerant of each other and less willing to see the other side of an issue. I’m absolutely against the government banning gay marriage, but it also greatly worries me when situations arise like Brandon Eich and Mozilla. Should a CEO be forced to step down for supporting a political proposition 6 years ago, even if he was in the majority at the time? Does an entire company deserve a boycott just because of the political donations of their CEO (the same could be asked of Chick-Fil-A)? I believe in trying to be more tolerant and understanding of the other side instead of ostracizing and calling them dumb or evil.

I believe in trying not to jump to conclusions and at least trying to hear both sides of a story. It’s disturbing how often early reports on breaking news contain inaccurate information that people spread without ever realizing it was wrong.

I consider myself a skeptic. I don’t accept being told “that’s just the way it is” by authority figures. I want to know the why and how.

As I mentioned before: I like to think I approach things with an open mind. You want to tell me why you think vaccines are dangerous? I’ll hear you out, since there have been legitimate concerns with vaccines in the past, but you better present something more compelling than a discredited Andrew Wakefield study.

So what does that all ultimately mean?

I believe that capitalism and the free market, while not perfect, is the best system we have because it generally incentivizes consensual transactions where both sides win, as opposed to the winner-take-all mentality of the government that forces the preferences of the majority on the minority. I believe that the Golden Rule is a good rule to live by and the non-aggression principle is a good set of guidelines. I believe in the scientific method, but I also realize that it has limits. I’m a skeptic, and I try to keep an open mind. I believe that debates are for changing minds, not signaling what side you are on.

On a lighter note, here are some other things that I feel are more important and flesh me out more as a person than my politics does:

I’m a husband and a father. My family means the world to me.

I embrace the term geek. I’m a Trekkie and a Browncoat. I listen to Zathras. I hang with the Scoobies. I’m team Cap. While I’m a Hokie in real life, I think I would’ve been a Ravenclaw had my acceptance letter to Hogwarts not gotten lost.

I work at an awesome company called The Motley Fool and I’m passionate about their mission: “Helping the World Invest — Better”. I enjoy investing in individual companies and seeing if I can beat the market. However, there are rules and regulations regarding what I can and cannot say publicly, so it’s sadly unlikely I’ll write much about investing.

jump_double_pikeAccording to Myers-Briggs, I’m an INTJ, which means I’m an introvert who is more comfortable in small, intimate groups versus a crowded bar and I’m somebody who is more capable of thinking through things analytically versus dealing with feelings and emotions.

I love games of all types: from Axis and Allies to Ticket to Ride; from Magic: The Gathering to Poker; from Mass Effect to X-COM. I chose “Destroy” because the Indoctrination Ending is the only interpretation that makes sense to me.

I like watching sports (particularly baseball, basketball and football) and enjoy playing them (mostly basketball and ultimate).

I like the combination of sports and games (fantasy sports, Madden).

I have a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, although I think it’s less impressive than it sounds.

I love movies. Some of my favorites? The Rock. Independence Day. Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle. Kick-Ass. Captain America: The Winter Soldier. The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King.

I love quoting movies while watching them, which drives my wife crazy.

I’m occasionally quirky, but mostly normal. I’m just a guy trying his best to enjoy life and, in some tiny way, make the world a better place for my kids.

I hope you enjoy what I have to say.

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Paul Essen
Founder and Chief Discourse Officer at Rampant Discourse
Proud geek. Trekkie. Browncoat. Entil'Zha. First human spectre. Hokie. Black belt. Invests Foolishly. Loves games of all types and never has enough time to play as many as he wants. Libertarian who looks forward to the day he votes for a winning presidential candidate. Father to two beautiful daughters.

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