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Tech will spread freedom worldwide, says Rachel Altman

To many, the prospects for liberty seem grim. With populism on the rise and authorities cracking down on free expression in many places, how can democratic ideals ever succeed? But Students For Liberty alumna Rachel Altman believes that seeing the big picture can give us good reason to hope.

Since she was young, Rachel Altman has researched women’s rights around the globe. What she has found is concerning. In the developing world, she says, legal enforcement of gender equality is too “top-down” to have any effect. For instance, quotas mandating that women occupy influential positions didn’t address root problems. Rachel realized that fundamentally, reforms must “change impressions of gender equality and of women” to have any lasting effect.

When Rachel first came to this realization, she began to see an intersection between libertarian philosophy and women’s rights. Her high school in a suburb of DC was left-leaning, and her social views were widely accepted there. But when Rachel began reading Bastiat, she felt her views become less orthodox. “I was apprehensive about being super vocal because of how liberal my high school was,” she recalls.

Rachel credits her libertarianism to other factors as well. “My education and where I grew up was very liberal, but my family was conservative. That influenced me to take the best parts of both sides of the spectrum.”

At Tulane University, Rachel felt more welcome despite her nonconformist views. She soon became active in the libertarian cause on campus. So when she heard about Students For Liberty through the local chapter president, she decided to join.

Rachel fell in love with SFL from the start. She liked the focus on ideas and intellectual debate. But what especially inspired Rachel about SFL was the international outreach element. She was surprised that “the culture of liberty” is so strong in places like Brazil. “I had no idea there were libertarians in so many countries,” Rachel says. The fact that ideals of freedom already have purchase internationally is what convinced Rachel of her potential to make change through SFL.

The more Rachel got involved in SFL, the more she wanted to accomplish. In 2019, she helped organize the Restoring Justice Summit held at her university. “Seeing our hard work play out and the adrenaline rush – it was an incredible experience.” This success pushed her to eventually become an SFL regional coordinator.

Last semester, as SFL’s regional coordinator, Rachel won the award for highest recruitment nationally. But Rachel wants to stress that for her, this was not about winning a numbers game; it was about building a community. Being a leader is about recognizing what is possible within the community you are handed, and using your resources to cater to those needs. “It’s about being authentic,” Rachel says.

Rachel Altman is optimistic about the future of libertarianism, especially when playing to its advantages. “I think in many ways, embracing technological progress will create great tools for libertarians.”

That’s why she is the Director of Digital Media for TechFreedom, a think tank in DC that advocates a decentralized approach to technological change. TechFreedom believes that policies aimed at controlling technological change will only hinder growth. Instead, “evolution and adaptation” are the best ways forward. Libertarians should promote policy frameworks that lay out general rules, without trying to engineer outcomes.

It continues to inspire Rachel that libertarian ideas are growing everywhere. “With the help of others I can make a change to my community and hopefully the world as a whole,” she says. This is why she chose to go into political communications in DC. After all, Rachel has personally seen ideals of freedom spread. “Knowing that that’s possible and libertarian ideas have grown gives me hope.”

Rachel Altman gives Students For Liberty credit for providing many opportunities that helped bring her to where she is today. It offered her chances to organize events and meet many fellow liberty-lovers. For those on the fence about getting involved, Rachel urges to start now: “It’s going to be one of the best experiences of your college career and your life.”

But SFL has also had a lasting impact on Rachel’s personal life. She has made lifelong friends from her activism, and found her work at SFL fulfilling. “The amount of time I spend doing SFL-related things makes me really happy.” And it also changed her perspective in important ways.

But above all, Rachel has always cared about changing the world. She says the fact that SFL focuses on global outreach “inspires me and makes me want to work even harder.”

Focusing on global causes is also humbling. Rachel notes that in the US, infringements on freedom often seem like “the end of the world.” But elsewhere, simply demonstrating for liberty can be dangerous. “We have people in Myanmar who were arrested – or Venezuela, or Belarus.” Rachel Altman has found joy in taking up their cause.

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.