What should young libertarians do?

(Continuing the tradition of not finishing a draft and instead creating a whole new post.)

Several months ago I was able to present an essay at symposiums in Georgia and Utah, confident that I was entering the academic world, beginning to make connections. My academic references are even better than my professional. I know I would like teaching because I love tutoring, and I can guess with mild confidence that I wouldn’t get bored with the same material.

Four years of college seemed to be moving me toward grad school and teaching. But now, I’m part of a pool of internship concurrent- and post-students working academic programs, and I couldn’t imagine their lives. I’m one of few activists in the group, where my job is talking to non-libertarians, and theirs is all too often preaching to the choir. Programs like these build our professional skills and cultivate young leaders for the philosophy, but near everyone chose to go the route of policy instead of activism. Why? Is ground work too manually exhausting? Do libertarians lack good people skills? (I don’t even need to ask that, really.) Is activism considered “lowly,” and policy work prestigious? Are there not enough liberty-aligned activism groups and an imbalance of policy/media organizations?

Our project at my group right now is getting good people elected. That requires doorknockers to talk to people. Where are all the young libertarians to get out the vote? Waiting in line for a policy job, it seems. This is not to reject division of labor and say that the academic side isn’t contributing to the success of liberty — we’re winning all the time, about as much as we’re losing. It’s to say that the kid in the classroom who’s always arguing, obnoxiously and persistently, the libertarian case, is suspiciously missing out in the field. The people who can quote Mises and Hayek ad nauseam aren’t prepared to help get a candidate elected who isn’t Mises or Hayek. They are prepared, however, to read more Mises and Hayek.

In politics, nothing moves unless it’s pushed. We need movement, bodies, material, out in the neighborhoods and city blocks; words on a page can only do so much. And maybe this anti-intellectual cynicism will extinguish as the time grows since I last read Feyerabend. But for now, young libertarians are highly frustrating. I’ve tasted victory. And the thing preventing new victories is nothing but a lack of people.

4 thoughts on “What should young libertarians do?

  1. Grassroots work is hard. Kudos to you for doing it. We have very different politics so I’m not going to root for your success but you sure have my respect.

    • In one of our primaries, we beat a corrupt Republican from the largest town in the district, backed by big money establishment Rs in the capital who were indicted of violating campaign finance laws. Our opponent was endorsed and funded by big-namers because our candidate, a small-town veteran, had tried to kick the mayor of the ballot for the criminal charges. The establishment wanted our opponent for an easy vote.
      When we won that primary, it wasn’t a libertarian victory, it was honestly good v. evil.

  2. I suspect personality types are part of it. We libertarians are, as a whole, awful with people. Between academy/policy or grass roots activism, I’m not surprised the former has more people. That said, I would distinguish between beltway policy and more ‘basic’ (for lack of better word) science with policy implications. I think many want to do the former, but very few want to do the latter.

  3. I think the problem is too that young Libertarians are scared to speak out, because the new Left is so vicious and so prominent in universities. I started my own blog as a sort of right wing/libertarian/free speech and various opinions outlet for my hometown of Vancouver, cause we literally have no publications that aren’t decidedly left-leaning, and we wanted to create a space where non-left leaning opinions could be published. I think Libertarianism lacks both groups people can join, and media outlets, which makes grassroots activism even more difficult for the few people who are practising it – they have to sort of carry the weight of the movement themselves.

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