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The following was written by North American Executive Board Member Gannon LeBlanc.

President Obama recently announced the expansion of the federal government’s Pay As You Earn program, which helps students who take out government loans manage their debt. The program will cap monthly payments at 10 percent of monthly income with loan forgiveness after twenty years of timely payment, or ten years if the student works in nursing, education, or the military. At first glance, this might sound like a well-intended program, but there are two primary issues with it. The first is that this is a bandage for a problem that the government created and does not address the real issue of the student debt crisis. The second is that this program still harms student borrowers over the long run.

I myself am one of the millions of students with a decent amount of college debt and I don’t support this program. It is the equivalent of a doctor trying to apply a cast to an arm that they themselves broke and asking me to thank them for the cast. As this image shows, the cost of attending college has skyrocketed far and beyond the inflation rate. Prices have increased rapidly because the government is offering students easy access loans to attend college, such as Federal Stafford loans. In total, the government spends $99.7 billion a year on loans and other financial aid programs for higher education. However, they profited $41.3 billion last year from these loans. This is profit, not revenue from student debt. The government is not the private sector; it shouldn’t be profiting off of students they claim to be “helping.” The federal government is not helping students; it’s throwing us into debt that not even bankruptcy can save us from. This is another way to generate extra government revenue without having to call it a tax.

Now, I don’t blame the universities for price gouging; it’s basic economic incentives. They see the government offering students tons of money in easy access loans and the only way universities can reap this loan money is by increasing their prices. It’s also supply and demand. With access to easy loan money, many more students are going to college regardless of whether it’s actually the best option for them. This large increase in demand for college education causes prices to increase.

When our parents were going to college in the 1980s, their average cost of tuition per year was about $2000 for a public four-year college. In the past three decades, it has tripled to $7600. It was once possible to go to school and work part-time to pay for your entire degree. Now even working full time, students still often have to take out loans to afford college.

The US government and President Obama think they are helping us with this new loan refinancing program. However, once the fine print is viewed, it’s just another bureaucratic hurdle college students and graduates will have to navigate. If payments are not made on time, then the twenty year forgiveness is negated. Since students are paying less over longer periods of time, they are actually paying more than ever for college. Interest is allowed to accumulate, thus causing the total amount students actually pay for their degree to skyrocket.

That’s not to mention the macro effects of student debt relief. With loans being forgiven and less money paid out per month, it’s important to ask who will pay in the long term. Currently it’s not an issue, since the government is profiting so grossly from students. But what will happen in twenty years when we start to see many individuals having portions of their debt forgiven? These are potentially powerful and dangerous effects of government intervention in higher education.

If President Obama and the US government truly care about us students and our education, they need to understand that their programs are only getting in the way by creating false price indicators in the market, forcing students into complicated and confusing bureaucratic plans, and producing negative externalities. Leave higher education alone so that we as individuals can take responsibility for ourselves, instead of being a cash cow for government profit and shackled by inescapable debt.

Last week, Reason-Rupe released a new poll on the political perspectives of Americans between the ages of 18-29, considered the “millennial voter.” They compared this poll to a similar 2009 survey and found that young people have become increasingly more skeptical of government. Here is a look at some of their findings:

73% of millennials no longer support Social Security coming from the federal government. More than half of millennials believe that current and future benefits should be cut for retirees. Many also doubt whether Social Security will even exist by the time they are able to receive benefits.

More than half of millennials believe that cutting taxes in some areas would help the economy. Most prefer a smaller government that provides fewer services with a lower tax rate than a larger government with higher taxes. This is consistent with a majority also advocating for a reduction in government regulation to improve the economy.

All of this is not to say that young people favor government reduction across the board. Many millennials still support government action and higher spending in certain realms. For example, most believe that the federal minimum wage should be increased and that government should ensure everyone makes a living wage. Additionally, 54% want the government to step in and provide a college education for everyone, as well as access to healthcare. There is also strong support to raise taxes on the most wealthy, more government spending on infrastructure, and further assistance to the poor, even if it means higher taxes.

However, when it comes to social issues, millennials fall pretty close to most libertarians. Most show support for legalizing same-sex marriage, legalizing marijuana, allowing people to buy whatever food and nonalcoholic drinks they want, and reducing the drinking age. Nearly any nanny state regulation you propose, millennials will likely fight against.

It is easy to see that not all millennials are going to be identifying as libertarian any time soon. They probably will not consciously appreciate the work being done by market forces or openly denounce government institutions as detrimental to preserving liberty. What they will do is continue to remain skeptical of promises from Congress and the president, of interventions into countries around the world, and of privacy invasions here at home.

Overall, the Reason-Rupe poll demonstrates that millennial voters are far less likely to trust politicians than other voting groups. Our use of creative problem-solving through innovation and charity exceed every generation before us. This generation is driven by an amalgamation of technology, culture, and freedom, making us less dependent on an antiquated political system than ever before.

Calling all North American students! SFL is excited to announce the dates and locations for 21 Regional Conferences to be held across the continent this fall, including three brand new conferences in Calgary, Atlanta, and Kansas. This year’s conferences will feature some of the most impressive libertarian movers and shakers in the world, so stay tuned for upcoming announcements on our exciting speaker line-up. Previous speakers include David Boaz, Lawrence W. Reed, Tom G. Palmer, Jeffrey Tucker, Dr. David Friedman, Shikha Dalmia, Matt Welch, and Nick Gillespie. 

Organized by students for students, SFL’s Regional Conferences are an unparalleled opportunity for college students to network and discuss ideas with like-minded liberty lovers in their areas. These Saturday events will feature interactive breakout sessions, workshops, and engaging socials to provide students with opportunities for professional advancement, coalition-building, and leadership and activism development. Whether you have never heard of libertarianism or are a senior student leader for liberty, our fall regional conferences have something for you. All attendees are guaranteed to walk away from these events energized and inspired with new resources for your student groups, new activism ideas, and a new network of support.

Registration is free and includes three free meals and drinks at our evening socials. Check out the full line up and register for a conference near you!

Yesterday was a sad day for economic freedom worldwide. John Blundell, the great free-market institution builder, passed away at the age of 63. Blundell played a critically important role in the global movement for free-markets and liberty and left a legacy of institutional impact that all libertarians should aspire to.  The Atlas Network wrote, “He celebrated the quiet behind-the-scenes work that often matters more than what’s most visible to a general audience.” Here at SFL, we send our condolences to the Blundell family and all those touched by his inspiring life. The world is a more free place because of Mr. Blundell.

Blundell was a movement builder who understood the importance of institutions in crafting a global movement towards liberty and free markets. Blundell worked for and with the Institute of Economic Affairs, the Institute for Humane Studies, the Fraser Institute, the Mont Pelerin Society, the Institute for Justice, and perhaps most importantly, the Atlas Economic Research Foundation. His fingerprints can be seen on free-market think tanks across the globe. Blundell was also a writer who penned a biography of Margaret Thatcher and the influential Waging the War of Ideas.

Blundell was a serious thinker when it came to social change and his work has lit a fire in our students  to do the same. Any casual reader of this blog will recognize the bounty of blogs SFL publishes on social change, public opinion, Hayek, Alinsky, and the climate of political opinion. Recognizing the importance of social change strategy is a lesson we can take from Blundell, who did his best to ensure long-term lasting influence for libertarian ideas and not just quick temporary victories. Blundell channeled Hayek when he wrote in Ideas:

“Over the long run, it is a battle of ideas, and it is the intellectual – the journalist, novelist, filmmaker and so on, who translates and transmits the ideas of the scholars to the broader public – who is critically important. He is the filter  who decides what we hear, when we hear it, and how we hear it.”

Blundell’s contributions are seen throughout Students For Liberty. We use his writings from Waging the War of Ideas in our leadership training across multiple continents. In a statement yesterday, the Atlas Network noted, “He celebrated bold leadership on behalf of the principles that will be vindicated over the long-term.” SFL will continue to ensure bold leadership training to all our students in order to carry on the Blundell legacy. In addition, his latest book, Ladies For Liberty: Women Who Made a Difference in American History, serves as inspiration for our Women For Liberty program and blog series. Blundell’s international outlook and work with the Atlas Network provided a template for how to craft an internationally focused organization. In short, SFL is forever grateful to Mr. Blundell for his work in advancing a free society and a free academy.

Free markets have pulled billions of people around the world from the evils of abject poverty. But while it’s important to celebrate Hayek, Mises, and Friedman, it’s also critical to take note of those behind the scenes in promoting markets and liberty. Mr. Blundell made an indispensable contribution to the ideas of freedom. As we continue to ‘wage the war on ideas,’ let us remember John Blundell. Rest peacefully.

For the IEA obituary, please click here.

For the Atlas obituary, please click here.

By Matthew La Corte, David Clement, Dustin Lane, and Sara Ther

“Good men must not obey the laws too well” - Ralph Waldo Emerson

The comment section of any political article is normally a nasty place. Sadly, immigration articles feature some of the most inhumane, archaic, and backwards ideas imaginable. A recent Students For Liberty blog posted to Facebook saw one dastardly comment after another with a common question being, “What part of illegal immigration don’t these people understand?”

Putting aside all the literature touting the economic benefits of both low- and high-skilled immigration, the impossibility of maneuvering the US’s broken system, and the moral question of what to do when 90,000 refugee children arrive at the border, we’d like to address the ridiculous notion that immigrants should be deported merely because it is “the law.”

It is a frightening proposition to assume that the illegality of something means it is morally wrong. Admittedly, there is comfort in the simplicity of having right and wrong being decided by legality. However, the world is not that simple, and the implications that come from this assertion are dangerous.

The incoming SFL Campus Coordinator class displaying signs that say “Liberty Has No Borders”

In the antebellum US, it was illegal to aide in the escape of slaves. In Nazi Germany, it was illegal to help Jews escape summons to ghettos and concentration camps. Before Lawrence v. Texas, it was illegal for same-sex adults to have consensual sex. It’s preposterous to argue that any of these are justified simply because they are “the law.” Prohibition did not make drinking morally wrong; it just made it punishable under the law. Legality can clearly be separated from morality and often should be. In many of these cases, those breaking the law were not morally inferior. In fact, their heroism and valor made a more just and humane world.

There are options when laws, good or bad, are on the books. First, laws can be enforced despite sky-high costs. The War on Drugs is a primary example. Second, laws can be changed, like those calling for tax reform. And third, bad laws can be ignored. During the Civil Rights Era, many African-Americans rightfully disobeyed racist Jim Crow laws that horribly perpetuated the notion of “separate but equal” facilities for whites and blacks. Immigrants should similarly not be condemned when they disobey backwards laws. After all, it is more important to have good laws than to strictly enforce bad ones.

Those who focus on the term “illegal” when discussing immigration are misdiagnosing the problem. If something is illegal, it does not logically follow that it is wrong. Any minor who has consumed alcohol, any business owner who paid someone under the table, and any hurried person jaywalking has broken the law. The fact is that most of us break the law in our everyday lives. In the case of immigration, so-called “illegals” break the law to provide their families with opportunities and safety impossible to find in their home country. Instead of being shamed, they should be celebrated for their courage.