Rags or Riches and The University of Houston

This is a bit of a watershed moment for YAL @ UH. This is our first semester at the University of Houston, where we have been organized, active, and growing consistently; this is also our first activism report. We have been engaged on campus, in the Houston area, and in the great state of Texas in what seems like a new event within the liberty movement every week. Needless to say, we are glad to be where we are and we are excited about where we are going!

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I’m sure it would be no surprise to you, the reader, for me to say I was a bit nervous about advertising the ideals of free markets on campus. I guess the stereotype of the college population, one that would favor the ideals of socialism over capitalism, had me a little worried we would encounter communist hardliners with every passerby. I’m not one to back down from arguing with statists for sure, but for someone looking to grow a group such as YAL, I had my doubts.

Man…was I wrong.The University of Houston is a mix bag of sorts when it comes to political ideologies among students; I figured as much considering UH, like Houston, is a melting pot of cultures. I had assumed that anyone interested in politics or economics willing to walk up to our table would be looking for a fight.

Turns out, a large majority of students had never considered the issues or where they stand; this made the perfect opportunity for us to start from scratch and build the foundations for belief in individual liberty.

Did we convert everyone right away? No way. Though, we planted the seeds of liberty and gave them an avenue to learn more; with any hope, their tree will bear fruit in time. Surprisingly, we found a lot of students who were already well interested in the principles of liberty — libertarians, constitutional conservatives, anarchist, and disenchanted Democrats — who were hiding out on campus seemingly waiting for something like YAL to pop up. Most of them were excited to finally see a liberty group on campus organized and growing, and relieved to find out “they were not the only ones around.”

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We loved using the Rags or Riches game board. We found it to be a perfect way to pull students into our table. “Hey! Want to play a game?!” worked nearly every time.

Most students at UH are commuters, so when they’re on campus it is usually for classes only; most students have little free time to spare between classes or between their work schedule. Offering folks to play a quick game gave us an opportunity to pull students in, get them to think about the correlation between freer markets and lower poverty (something they likely never thought about before), and for us to concisely make the argument for fewer regulations and lower taxes, all the while not taking too much of their time.

Most students were receptive to the idea that government presence in the marketplace tends to become so large over time as to restrict the growth of wealth instead of protecting it, particularly for the little guy. The Rags or Riches game board also offered us a unique chance to bring up the problems with agency capture and the revolving door within most federal bureaucracies like the FDA and the Treasury Department; this was warmly received by both students who leaned to the left and to the right. Just about everyone who played the game got the order of countries completely wrong; some came close.

Even still, I feel like everyone enjoyed the challenge and was surprised to see the correct order especially that the US was so far down the ranking.

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Perhaps more importantly, making it easier for us to pull students to our table gave us a chance to talk about other ideas of liberty and to explain what we’re planning to do around campus. Just about every student who came by our table to play the game or to chat were interested enough to learn more about YAL to write down their email or check out our Facebook page.

We’ve had new faces at every weekly meeting. We definitely plan on continuing to use the Rags or Riches game board at future tables — it works!

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I was nervous at first about advertising free-markets around campus; the Rags or Riches game reminded me of how popular free-markets can be and how inescapable the fact is that free-markets are the most powerful way to pull people out of poverty and to protect liberty.

The Rags or Riches game helped YAL @ UH to spread the message of liberty and to grow even larger. We’re just getting started. 


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