Expanding YAL’s Influence beyond the College Campus

In order to change the present system we must be able to analyze and explore it, and to see in the concrete how our libertarian view can be applied to such an analysis and to the prospects for social change. —Murray Rothbard

If you analyze it I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism. —Ronald Reagan

Murray Rothbard’s vision

The Ludwig von Mises Institute celebrated the ebook release this month of the two-volume collection The Complete Libertarian Forum, containing all articles of the bold libertarian newsletter primarily written by Murray Rothbard during its fifteen-year run.  In the March 1969 preview issue’s introductory piece Rothbard explains the two-fold purpose of The Libertarian as a means to build unity and cohesion in the libertarian movement while providing practical ideas for bridging the chasmic gap between libertarian theory and real-world application.  If only Rothbard could have lived to see the greater liberty movement today!

Congressman Ron Paul official portraitThe greatest byproduct of retired Congressman Ron Paul’s past two bids for the presidency is the youth-heavy movement of passionate conservative/libertarian activists who seem never to grow tired of spreading the message of constitutionally limited government and maximum individual liberty. 

Dr. Paul’s philosophy, which has finally embedded into the minds of hundreds of thousands of young people, accomplishes the arduous intellectual task of interweaving the libertarian philosophy of Rothbard and the Austrian-school forefathers with the paleoconservative philosophy of Barry Goldwater and Robert Taft, while reconciling both similar schools of thought with the conservative/libertarian worldviews of America’s leading founders. 

Thanks to Congressman Paul’s guidance and the mobilization of activists through organizations like Young Americans for Liberty and its strategic partners, conservative/libertarian ideas are beginning to translate into public policy.

The potential strength of the liberty movement

There are at least two million Americans who demonstrated their support for the greater liberty movement in the 2012 primary elections and caucuses (200,000 in California alone), and the portion of these who continue as activists equals the size of an army.  Unfortunately, many liberty movement activists are disorganized and often act as individual agents or small groups, completely unaffiliated and uncoordinated with other liberty organizations, and they seldom have a mission or a set of viable goals.

One group will organize ten or twenty people to protest in front of the Los Angeles Federal Reserve branch while another in Cleveland circulates a petition to nullify NDAA, and the overwhelming majority of conservatives and libertarians content themselves with “making disciples of all nations” through posting political memes for their friends to see on Facebook (in other words, preaching to the choir). 

So long as they remain as they are they’ll accomplish little or nothing for the movement. 

YAL doesn’t have this problem.  Instead of claiming ownership over a mass of unorganized libertarian-conservatives, YAL’s ranks include tens of thousands of like-minded students who operate in concert with the goals organization’s leadership. 

While YAL has always advocated campus activism, the recent push in 2013 for nationwide coordination with particular themes (Free Markets 101, Generation of War, and Innovative Activism) will undoubtedly yield significant results both in recruiting and awareness.  Such coordinated activism and education is important in translating ideas into public policy because those to whom the organization successfully reaches out are more likely to vote for candidates who support strictly Constitutional government while opposing those who don’t.

YAL’s foundation for expansion

One of the beauties of YAL is its nonpartisan status—stressing principles and issue education/activism instead of one political party over another—which provides it with a plethora of opportunities for growth and expansion.

YAL is currently focused on spreading around college campuses.  It would be of equal interest, however, for the regional directors to coordinate with chapter leaders to reach out to high school juniors and seniors at high schools strategically located near a college or university.  After all, high school is the time in many young peoples’ lives when they begin to form their political opinions and many high school students actively wish to get involved in more clubs and extracurricular activities.  Visits to high schools by local college chapter leaders and their regional directors would light a spark of curiosity towards liberty in sixteen- and seventeen-year-old minds. 

YAL State Conventions would be effective in activism training as well as building unity and cohesion between college and high school chapters alike, also solidifying YAL in the high school student’s eyes as not just another club on campus, but rather a lasting organization in which one can proudly belong.  By bringing YAL to more high schools, the organization would cultivate more young minds with the vineyard of liberty—arming them against the notorious indoctrination of left-leaning academia—while also serving as a sustainable recruiting pool of high school graduates who will be eager to continue their involvement with YAL as college freshmen.

YAL could also consider spreading to civil society, where there’s a leadership vacuum in the liberty movement.  The national leadership might look into the possibility of establishing auxiliary YAL chapters open to all people, not just students, in cities and towns nationwide.  These off-campus groups would operate in a structure parallel to that of their on-campus counterparts and would also operate under the helpful leadership of the regional directors.  Their mission would be activism and education in civil society just like YAL currently brings activism and education to campus society. 

The off-campus parallel organization might possibly be called the Young Americans for Liberty Auxiliary or even simply Americans for Liberty.  The YAL organization’s non-partisan status could also lead to establishment of a special branch for military bases.  There would need to be less emphasis on the anti-war philosophy and more emphasis on the study of Austrian economics, conservative-libertarian theory, and the Constitution.  

This could be a valuable opportunity as troops are notorious for being lonely and isolated around the world, and often seek out places to belong and pass the boring off-duty hours.  Troops, DoD civilians, and private-sector contractors could be using their off-duty time studying the works of Ludwig von Mises or Friedrich Hayek in pro-liberty groups from Fort Irwin to the Wiesbaden, Germany garrison to the local National Guard armory.

Such an expansion would not only dramatically increase the sizes of YAL and the greater liberty movement alike, but would also speed up the liberty movement’s immediate goal of education.  Education of more individuals in the philosophy of limited government and maximum individual liberty would also hasten Rothbard’s vision of seeing libertarian ideas translate into public policy as members and sympathizers independently vote according to newly solidified principles and not the propaganda talking points of mainstream media. 

If any organization is to spearhead the peaceful revolution to be waged in the minds of men and women and in the ballot box, why shouldn’t it be Young Americans for Liberty?

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