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Last weekend, my club at Berkeley was honored with the Students For Liberty Student Group of the Year Award at the fourth annual International Conference. The win came as quite a shock to me; indeed, so much so that I barely gave an acceptance speech. Overcome by the surreality of the moment, I stumbled on then off the stage without clearly articulating myself. Thus, I would like to use this blog post to both express proper thanks and give a few words of wisdom to other clubs striving to promote liberty at their university.

First, I would like to greatly thank Students For Liberty for the incredible support they have provided to my club over the two years of its existence. I can honestly say that my club would not have been as successful if it wasn’t for the constant influx of resources SFL has sent our way. From their free books project to their protest grants, my club has truly been empowered by SFL. This was not only a major contributing factor to our success, but also inspired me to personally become active in the organization as a Campus Coordinator.

Next, I would like to give two bits of advice– one for starting clubs and one for established organizations. Regarding the former, I call upon students who are considering starting such a group to be steadfast and dedicated in their mission. Three years ago, I thought that founding a libertarian organization at UC Berkeley, one of the most notoriously leftist campuses in the country, would be social suicide. However, after a little work, I was inspired to see how many liberty-oriented students were hiding at my school, awaiting for such an organization to be created. Indeed, the light of liberty can shine at even in some of the most hostile of campuses. All that is needed is dedication to the cause. And, trust me, the reward is much worth the risk. Starting my club has genuinely been one of the most defining moments of my life, shaping my college experience in such a positive way. So, get out there and spark the fight for freedom at your university!

For those established student organizations, I would like to make a call to blogging. To my understanding, there are only two libertarian college clubs that maintain an active website– my own and University of Nevada, Reno’s Students for Liberty. Blogging is a fantastic way to disseminate the philosophy of liberty and draw attention to your club. Indeed, not only does my club’s blog now receive over 1000 hits monthly, but also several of our past speakers first expressed interest in lecturing to us after stumbling upon our website. In the age of the Internet, social media is a great way to demonstrate your organization’s presence and relevance on your campus. Thus, I encourage you start the college libertarian blogging revolution!

With those words of wisdom, my second acceptance is concluded. Again, I would like to thank Students For Liberty and encourage everyone to get out there and promote liberty. If we can do it at Berkeley, you can do it anywhere!

Even on Valentine’s Day, the University of Michigan College Libertarians and a coalition of five other student groups were able to attract a sizable crowd to a discussion about Mexican drug-related violence, titled Bordering on Chaos: Mexico’s Failed Drug War. More than 70 members of the campus community endured the frigid temperatures outside and ventured to Rackham Amphitheatre to hear the views of three speakers on the topic.

The event was originally the vision of U-M’s Students for Sensible Drug Policy, who wanted to enhance awareness about the increasing drug-related violence taking place south of our border, particularly in the absence of attention by mainstream news outlets and the U.S. government.

The College Libertarians immediately partnered with Students for Sensible Drug Policy, helping form a broad coalition of student groups that included the U-M chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, Latin@ Social Work Coalition, Human Rights through Education, and Students Organizing for Labor and Economic Equality.

Working closely with these groups, the College Libertarians engaged in a day-long campaign to reach out to the campus community. Some of the activities included mass distribution of flyers to students, wearing large tags around our necks with “34,550” in large letters – an approximation of the number of drug-related deaths in Mexico since January 2007, as well as artistic exhibitions of typical drug-related violence.  A viewpoint, co-authored by myself, was submitted to The Michigan Daily on Valentine’s Day. Additionally, a half-page advertisement was taken out by the coalition of groups to promote the event.

The first two presenters were Western Michigan University anthropologist Sarah Hill and U-M professor in the School of Art and Design, Phoebe Gloeckener.  Both provided vivid, insightful, and extremely personal summaries of their experiences in Ciudad Juárez, where they spoke extensively to locals and witnessed the effects of drug-related violence firsthand.  Hill related the increasing homicide rate in Juárez and statistically calculated what it would feel like in Ann Arbor, bringing the prospect of rampant drug-related violence closer to home for the event attendees. Both Gloeckener and Hill advocated drastic reform in drug laws, with Hill calling for outright legalization.

The keynote address for the night was delivered by Project Coordinator for Latin America at the Cato Institute, Juan Carlos Hidalgo. Providing insightful diagrams and statistics, Hidalgo examined the economics behind the drug trade, explained the differences between decriminalization and legalization, and emphasized the importance of properly framing the argument for drug legalization. To supplement Hidalgo’s speech, dozens of copies of the Cato Institute’s monumental study on drug decriminalization in Portugal were distributed. Needless to say, almost every person took at least one copy with them when the speech was over.

Hidalgo acknowledged that legalization was “not a silver bullet” and issues would persist. However, he pointed out the clear advantages that reform would bring about, including huge reductions in violence as a result of eliminating the black market for drugs and more individuals seeking treatment at clinics. In the case of the latter, this would take place as society changes its view of these individuals from criminals to addicts, a result validated by the case of Portugal.

Following the three speakers, a Q&A session ensued, where Hidalgo fielded a series of questions from members of the campus community. Among the most memorable included Hidalgo’s response regarding the proper role of employers, the government, and drug testing. Hidalgo stated that employers should be free to make their own decision whether to mandate drug tests for employees, as well as dismiss or reprimand employees for on-the-job drug use. The evening ended with a catered reception, with dozens of members of the audience mingling and talking to the three guests.

Ultimately, the successful event at the University of Michigan exemplifies the potential for coalition-building and collaboration with like-minded student groups at campuses around the country. The University of Michigan College Libertarians are already planning to collaborate with Students for Sensible Drug Policy on a future event. I highly encourage other pro-liberty student groups to seek out other campus organizations where there is common ground and combine resources and ideas to further spread the message of liberty.

Have ever uttered the word “libertarian” in front of a large audience? If so, you may be eligible to win an award from the Advocates for Self-Government!

That’s right– the makers of the famed World’s Smallest Political Quiz are now accepting entries for their annual Lights of Liberty Award, a competition “to recognize and reward outstanding libertarian grassroots volunteer work — and to stimulate more of that vital work.” Student activists are eligible and encouraged to apply. Indeed, SFL Campus Coordinator Stacy Litz was a Triathlon Winner for their 2009 competition!

To qualify, you simply have to have done any combination of these three activities last year:

  • Had a letter mentioning the word “libertarian” published in a newspaper or magazine
  • Participated for at least two hours at an OPH booth
  • Delivered a speech using the word “libertarian” to a non-libertarian group

Eligibility is especially easy for us student activists with so many opportunities available to us. Plus, victory is sweet for winners, who will receive a beautiful certificate, a 20% discount to the Advocates Liberty Store, and their name added to the Lights of Liberty Honor Roll. So, be sure to search through your calendar and student group to see if you or anyone you know is a qualified nominee. Simply visit the award’s website to apply and you may soon be an honored libertarian activist!

How far does privatization go? Tickled by this question? Check out the legendary Walter Block discuss why we should apply our usual insights about private property rights and competition to everything, including streets and highways.

  • What: E-Leadership Webinar with Walter Block
  • When: Wednesday March 2 at 8PM Eastern/Standard Time
  • Where: Your Computer!
  • Register Here
  • RSVP on Facebook

Walter Block earned his PhD in Economics at Columbia University. He is an author, editor, and co-editor of many books which include Defending the Undefendable; Labor Economics from a Free Market Perspective; Lexicon of Economic Thought; Economic Freedom of the World 1975-1995; Rent Control: Myths and Realities; Discrimination, Affirmative Action, and Equal Opportunity; Theology, Third Word Development and Economic Justice; Man, Economy, and Liberty: Essays in Honor of Murray N. Rothbard; Religion, Economics, and Social Thought; and Economic Freedom: Toward a Theory of Measurement.

Dr. Block has written more than 500 articles for various journals, magazines and newspapers, and is a contributor to such journals as The Review of Austrian Economics, Journal of Libertarian Studies, The Journal of Labor Economics, Cultural Dynamics, and the Quarterly Journal of Austrian Economics. He is currently a professor and chair of economics, college of business administration, at Loyola University. You can reach him at wblock@loyno.edu. See also WalterBlock.com.

Liz McLaughlin of Carolina Week traveled with students from the University of North Carolina to attend the 2011 International Students For Liberty Conference.  Check out the video Liz produced documenting the experience: