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NAEB SelfieThat’s right! North American student leaders who have demonstrated incredible commitment to student organizing and who wish to advance SFL’s mission by expanding the libertarian community on the continent can now apply to the North American Executive Board (NAEB)!

SFL’s NAEB oversees the organization’s principal programs in North America. NAEB members are responsible for growing the student movement for liberty: providing resources to students across the continent, organizing regional conference and leadership forums, and helping develop leaders of liberty around the continent.

Board members may gain valuable skills in volunteer management, event planning, communications, programmatic execution, and non-profit operations.  In light of this, only the most proven student leaders will have the opportunity to serve on the board, and as such admission to SFL’s North American Executive Board is highly competitive. Participation on the board should be seen as an opportunity to make a meaningful difference, which carries significant responsibilities. The Executive Board requires a commitment of 10-20 hours per week and involves both collaborative group efforts with leaders thousands of miles away as well as individual work to complete projects and prepare events without heavy supervision.NAEB Promo

Qualifications for the North American Executive Board Include:

  • Must be a university student in the U.S. or Canada during the 2015-2016 academic year
  • Have at least one year of experience running a pro-liberty student group
  • Be able to dedicate 10-20 hours per week
  • Strongly identify with libertarianism and SFL’s mission
  • Ability to manage multiple projects at once
  • Strong self-motivation to complete projects with little oversight
  • Be able to demonstrate strong management ability, professional skills, and competency
  • A passion not only for the ideas of liberty but for organizing and leading to make the world a freer place

If you qualify for the North American Executive Board and want to apply, see application requirements and additional information at studentsforliberty.org/naeb/

 

If we had a nickel for every time we heard “SFL believes” this or “SFL doesn’t like” that, we’d be richer than the cronies on K Street. The truth of the matter, however, is that Students For Liberty is a big-tent libertarian organization consisting of hundreds of leaders across the globe with a multitude of opinions — none of which singlehandedly speaks for the organization as a whole. That’s why, starting today, we’re introducing a disclaimer at the end of every opinion blog post by our student leaders or staff:

This piece solely expresses the opinion of the author and not necessarily the organization as a whole. Students For Liberty is committed to facilitating a broad dialogue for liberty, representing a variety of opinions. If you’re a student interested in presenting your perspective on this blog, visit our guest submissions page.

As a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, SFL is legally prohibited from endorsing political candidates or engaging in lobbying for specific legislation. However, that does not mean that SFL is anti-politics. To the contrary, we maintain an active blog precisely for student leaders to discuss and debate the big questions of politics, policy, and philosophy.

Is there hope for a libertarian tomorrow? If so, will voting get us there? What about single-issue advocacy? Or, is innovation and entrepreneurship a greater liberator than politics ever will be? All of these questions and more are up for debate on our website, and we encourage our blog team, guest authors, and commenters to represent a variety of perspectives.  We will show no preference to any perspective — left or right, thick or thin, humanitarian or brutalist. Libertarianism is a label for all of us to embrace and challenge.

As mentioned in our disclaimer, if you are interested in presenting a different perspective than what is presented on the blog, either through a rebuttal or piece of your own, please send your submissions on our blog information page. To maintain the quality of our blog, SFL reserves the right to discard pieces we deem does not meet our content standards. However, no opinion in favor of limiting government and freer markets is not welcome to grace our website. So, let’s keep the discussion flowing!

Sincerely & For Liberty,
Casey Given, Director of Communications
Suzanne Schaefer, Blog Team Manager

 

Guest Author Baleigh Scott wrote this article to convince people that, principally, “government is the disease for which it claims to be the cure.” In order to inform her blogged opinions (The Indisputable Dirt), this Public Policy Analyst reads political editorials and classical literature. Her background is in Economics and Creative Non-fiction, so her writing is directed to an interest in Money and Story-telling. The welfare state is her perfect subject. Enjoy.

2

If the wall is strong enough to restrict big businesses within, it is most certainly strong enough to keep smaller, not-yet-in-existence businesses out.

When I mention the dangers of regulating business (as I do incessantly)— of giving a panel of flawed human beings the power to create and enforce arbitrary rules and standards within an industry— people tend to assume that I’m going to focus, not on “proper” regulation, but on its evidently corrupted human manifestation.

The expected argument goes something like this:

We can’t expect people, including regulators, not to act in their own self-interest. If we grant government agencies the special power to regulate businesses, the biggest and most powerful businesses will inevitably find ways to use their wealth to influence those regulatory agencies. In one way or another, the given regulatory agency will become no more than a puppet for the industry’s big wigs. As a result, the very agencies designed to prevent huge companies from using their size and influence— at others’ expense— will end up granting the wealthiest companies more power and freedom than the free market ever could. Thus, if our goal is to curb the power of big businesses, we’d be better off without the regulatory agencies in the first place.”

There is a lot of truth to this.

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Today marks the 175th birthday of the founder of Austrian economics, Carl Menger. Born to a wealthy Austrian family in 1840, Menger studied at the Gymnasium in Austria and went on to Prague and Vienna to study law. After school, he worked as a journalist, analyzing the market economy. It was through this work that Menger noticed a discrepancy between the classical Smithian economic doctrine and real-world conditions.

Menger became noted in the field of economics when he published Principles of Economics, by which he was noted as the first economist to identify marginal utility,  a concept which is now widely acknowledged by mainstream economists as a fundamental aspect of the workings of supply and demand. Instead of Adam Smith’s and David Ricardo’s  classical view that prices are determined by the cost of production, the marginal utility theory stated that the value of a good or service decreases as more units of the good or service are provided. For example, as a person eats more, one’s desire for additional units of food diminishes, so it may follow that one devalues food more than if one is hungry. In this scenario, even assuming the cost of production is constant for all units, the value placed on each unit by each consumer may vary, based on personal preference, price, and other, innumerable factors.

Shortly after publishing Principles of Economics, Menger returned to the University of Vienna, where he joined the law faculty and became their chair of economic theory at 33 years of age. He even worked with Austrian nobility, tutoring Archduke Habsburg on political economy and statistics, and later advising the nation on monetary policy.

Plaque of Menger at the University of Vienna.

Menger’s work paved the way for other well-known Austrian economists such as Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek. Although the latter two economists and many other, more contemporary, Austrian economists are better-known and more frequently read than Menger, he nonetheless deserves credit for laying the foundation for those who followed in the Austrian School of economics.

I had the fortune of visiting the University of Vienna myself in July 2012 during my summer abroad; there, Menger is immortalized on a wall in the campus square. The University was a great place to visit, and continues to be renowned for its quality academics. I was excited to pay tribute to his academic homeland. Even after nearly a century of circulation, Menger’s work continues to influence economists of all types around the world

Further Resources:

Mises Institute: Carl Menger Pioneered ‘Empirical Theory’

Principles of Economics, full text

The Center exists to further the education of the American people and American policymakers on topics of money and banking. only organization in Washington dedicated to monetary reform Dr. Paul’s views on monetary policy will remain in the public eye

“The Center exists to further the education of the American people and…policymakers on topics of money and banking…
[CMC is] the only organization in Washington dedicated to monetary reform… [and exists to ensure that] Dr. [Ron] Paul’s views on monetary policy will remain in the public eye.”

Disclaimer: I do not  claim that the movies listed below are the most libertarian movies released in 2014, as I have not even seen every movie released in 2014. However, I have seen all the movies nominated for Best Picture at the Oscars.

On a scale of one to Hayek, if libertarians could make the final vote based on the films nominated by the Academy, the results would go like this. . .

8. Whiplash

 whiplashWhiplash tells the story of a driven student musician at a music conservatory, and his tough, asshole teacher. Personally, I loved this movie and would recommend you see it if you get the chance. That being said, it over romanticizes the idea that the ends justify the means to the point that it’s decidedly un-libertarian. The message seems to be that if someone has good intentions, but their methods are questionable, it’s OK. This is a mantra we often see in government. Yet, in life and in government, good intentions don’t always cut it.

On a scale of one to Hayek: Vladimir Putin.

 

 

7. Boyhood 

boyhood

Boyhood is a unique film shot over an 11 year period. It features the growth of  a boy, Mason, as he journeys through adolescence. While Mason grows up to be somewhat  libertarian, he’s more of that conspiracy theorist type that no one takes seriously. He doesn’t make any libertarian points that would make an audience say “huh, I never thought of it that way. Government is the worst.”  His father is also a hardcore anti-Bush guy, and there’s even a scene of he and the kids putting up Obama signs. Since most libertarians have a lot of problems with both Bush and Obama, the film ends in a draw in terms of any libertarian message.

On a scale of one to Hayek: A Prius with an Obama ’12 and an anti-war bumper sticker.

 
6. American Sniper

American sniper

Given its prominent displays of war, violence, and American nationalism, American Sniper is undoubtedly controversial. I think any political message a viewer takes away from this film has more to do with their own ideology than the movie itself. As a libertarian, I came out of the theater rather disturbed, which is a good thing because war is disturbing and a good war movie reminds us of that. However, the reasons and validity of the war taking place is never questioned. Chris Kyle’s motives for becoming a sniper are never questioned, and neither is his status as a hero  (is he really a hero?). Moreover, if you’re an advocate for “the War on Terror,” this movie isn’t going to make you rethink your position.

On a scale of one to Hayek: That kid in your class who hates Ayn Rand but can’t articulate why. He or she has also never read Ayn Rand.

 
5. The Theory of Everything

the theory of everything

The Theory of Everything is a romantic, biographical film based on the great Stephen Hawking. In this movie, there’s no portrayal of government or anything symbolic of government, but that’s not a bad thing. It’s nice to see Stephen Hawking overcome adversity and to see other characters help him voluntarily, outside of government (a subtle step in a libertarian direction). However, no one walking out of the theater is going to think “Man, that’s so great he did all that without the government’s help!” For that reason, some other nominees have been placed above The Theory of Everything in my list. 

On a scale of one to Hayek: That kid in your class that hates the government but can’t articulate why.

 
4. The Grand Budapest Hotel

budapest

The Grand Budapest Hotel is another knockout from Wes Anderson featuring unique cinematography and eccentric characters. The heroes spend a good portion of this movie flouting government authority, which is a good start. That being said, it’s usually for selfish reasons. There’s no moment where the main character, M. Gustave, stands up for the greater good or makes a point about how society in general would be better off if government had less power. Instead it’s “I want something, the government’s in my way, screw the government.” Sure there are some libertarian themes you could draw from the turmoil of war in the background of the film, but it isn’t overt. This places The Grand Budapest Hotel in the middle of the pack.

On a scale of one to Hayek: Actually exercising your 4th Amendment Rights when the police stop you.

3. Birdman

birdman

It’s difficult to pull a political message out of Birdman without using some high school-English-teacher level bullshit. Luckily, I’m competent in this artform. In Birdman, Riggan Thompson struggles between two identities; his former identity as a superhero and his current identity as a hasbeen who can barely keep the play he’s producing in production. If we’re reaching, this could symbolize the dichotomy between the idealized view government has of itself and the hot mess government actually is. The message is that we should all strive to do what we want, even when it’s not easy and even when it’s not what the masses would prefer. In that regard, Thompson reminds me of heroes like those Ayn Rand would write, which makes him OK in my book.

On a scale of one to Hayek: Using Uber as your only means of transportation.

2. Selma

selma

Of all the nominees, Selma is the most political, as it’s actually about a conflict between political activists and government. It portrays the importance of equality, civil rights, and anti-racism, as well as the use of non-violent means to effect change in government.  One of the great thing about Selma is that it serves as a lesson on how to make other libertarian dreams come true. To the conservatives refusing to see it because Oprah was involved, go read what Glenn Beck had to say about it. Selma could have easily been my number one in previous years, but in 2014 there was one other movie that edged it out.

On a scale of one to Hayek: That kid in your class who hates the government, CAN articulate why, and is capable of convincing the rest of the class to agree with him (so basically, all you SFL activists).

 

1. The Imitation Game
imitationSet during World War II, The Imitation Game follows the story of Alan Turing, a cryptanalyist who helped solve the Enigma Code. By the end of this movie, the audience is mad at Nazis, Soviets, and the Brits. It wins libertarian movie of the year because it makes a statement about how all government has its dark side, rather than a statement about one specific government that’s wrong on one specific issue, as Selma does. It may be a war movie, but unlike American Sniper, there’s a strong emphasis on ending the war once and for all. It also emphasizes that the way to win a war is not to simply be more violent than the other side, but to outsmart them. The Imitation Game also touches on the stupidity of the lesser-of-two-evils foreign policy seen through comparisons of Germany, The U.S.S.R., and Britain. There’s also an overt push for LGBT equality and gender equality present in the film. No other Best Picture nominee has a major female character that isn’t 1) related to a central male character or 2) the love interest of a central male character. (Selma‘s portrayal of Annie Lee Cooper probably comes closest, but she doesn’t get enough screentime to qualify as a major character).  Further, the film touches on issues of LGBT rights given that Alan Turning is prosecuted for homosexuality. By talking about the various social injustices of this time period, the horrors of war, and non-violent methods of ending a war, The Imitation Game earns my vote for most libertarian Best Picture nominee at the Oscars.

On a scale of one to Hayek: Same-sex married couples growing their own cannabis and defending it with guns they bought with Bitcoin.