The following was written by Clark Ruper. 

We have seen many exciting positive indicators of the growth of our liberty movement these past few months. Our numbers and influence are growing, and people are taking note. The list of observers ranges from journalists and polling firms surveying the attitudes of millennials to academics such as Liana Gamber Thompson conducting an ethnographic study of the liberty movement. Now new research is being published by anthropologist Kaja Tretjak on the liberty movement, its constituents, and place in the broader social-political landscape.

I have been lucky to meet Kaja a couple of times over the past few years, first at the 2010 SFL Austin Regional Conference and since at various Students For Liberty conferences and various movement events. As a relative outsider her approach is very refreshing, embedding herself into our community first hand, building relationships with our constituents, and opening real dialogue on our worldview, goals, and ambitions. I for one am quite happy to see the early results of her work.

Her recently published paper Opportunity and Danger; Why Studies of the Right are Crucial for U.S. Anthropology and Beyond, is largely a call for open-minded inquiry from left-oriented and academic spaces. A particular point of hers is to expose what she terms the Koch Brothers Fallacy: “The tendency, widespread particularly among various parts of the left, to view any and all liberty movement dynamics as sinister plots devised by the conservative billionaire brothers and imposed upon duped, or bought, participants from above.” If there is one point that I could get academics and public intellectuals to realize it would be this. That it is possible that we libertarians are well intentioned and sincerely believe that our ideas have great power to improve the state of the world, especially for those least well off and historically marginalized groups. Like our friends on the left we envision of world of tolerance, freedom, opportunity, and prosperity, we just happen to think that our means of focusing on local knowledge and creating alternative institutions are more effective at reaching those shared ends than use of the coercive, monolithic, and monopolistic nation state. Kaja recognizes this and is asking her fellow academics to give us the benefit of the doubt.

In this piece she makes a number of observations about Students For Liberty and our role in the world. She notes that, “Students For Liberty’s global campus network has expanded to 863 student groups [actually just over 1000 now, it has been a good fall] since its inception in 2008, while Young Americans for Liberty, also established in 2008, is today the fastest-growing national organization in the United States and boasts a network of over 125,000 activists.” And later, “Further, the liberty movement, as it is termed by participants, increasingly transcends borders. For instance, SFL has formed considerable African, European, and Latin American counterparts. African SFL unites students across nine countries from Egypt to South Africa, while affiliates of European SFL span campuses in 26 countries…”

She also noted that the liberty movement is breaking down the barriers of the traditional left-right political spectrum, lending evidence to my argument that the conservative-libertarian fusionist alliance is outdated:

A long-standing political coalition between libertarians and conservatives dominated a significant portion of the twentieth century…Some aim to benefit by allying with the movement, as exemplified by the public “conversion” to libertarianism by Fox commentator Glenn Beck. But the liberty movement’s recent revitalization has embroiled the long-standing conservative/libertarian political coalition in strife, despite vehement insistence of traditional conservatives to the contrary, at least in public…Yet libertarianism’s resurgence has also ushered forth the emergence of new liminal spaces between “right” and “left” political formations as traditionally understood, spaces through which increasing numbers of young people develop their political identities and challenge existing political economic arrangements. A framework that uniformly dismisses such developments as “right-wing” is unable to account for the fluid constituent parts within the once robust conservative coalition, nor grasp the potential reshaping of the political and cultural milieu in the United States and beyond by various parts of the liberty movement.

She then goes on to detail how we young advocates of liberty are driving this dynamic, as she said,

“Large parts of the movement’s youth who have taken up this knowledge are presently reimagining and recreating libertarianism on their own terms. Alliances with left-identified efforts in antiwar and police accountability organizing; models of localized, ‘off the grid’ alternative economies; promotion of emerging technologies such as 3D printing, secure communication methods, and the decentralized, open-source digital currency Bitcoin; as well as community projects around organic gardening, alternative education for children, and health education programs geared at marginalized communities. Further, parts of the movement and fellow travelers are extremely critical of both existing economic hierarchies and their apologists, committed to reviving libertarian traditions centered on the experiences of vulnerable groups. Movement participants collaborating under the broad rubric of the libertarian left systematically fuse market analysis with ardent critique of structural poverty and other forms of subordination – urging the interaction of antiracism, feminism, mutual aid, and labor solidarity with libertarian thought.”

I think I will stop block quoting her here, although I am tempted to as there are great insights throughout the piece, and encourage you to read the whole thing here. If you ever sit around and wonder to yourself “is this all worth it, are we making a difference?”, as we all do from time to time, then take a minute give it a read. We students for liberty are upsetting a long established social-political equilibrium, in doing so laying the groundwork for not just the  continued growth of our movement but preparing for a world libertarian ideas hold say in political, economic, and cultural realms around the world. We are quite blessed to be living in an age of optimism. Our rivals are not that lucky.