The Shock of Liberty

The few weeks since our official campus recognition have been a whirlwind for the Stephen F. Austin State University YAL chapter. In between successful Constitution Week tabling and other events, we participated in a student political forum hosted by the campus NAACP and Student Government groups. Though this was not an event put on by our chapter and was originally intended to be a “Republican vs. Democrat” debate, the three YAL panel members put forth a strong showing while sitting between the College Republicans and Young Democrats.

 The YAL panelists (the three seated at center) discuss their next answer.

While not a member of the panel myself, I had a front-row seat to the audience’s reactions. Realizing that this was probably the first substantive exposure to libertarian beliefs for many of the attendees led me to recall how jarring it was personally to learn about the libertarian perspective. The faces in the crowd indicated similar experiences. On several occasions, our answers to the moderator’s questions led to facial expressions wearing the shock of liberty. For a few, this was a negative shock, a voltage they weren’t ready to handle; however, for others, it was clearly the realization that the solutions to policy problems are beyond what the conventional two-party dichotomy could address.

 Panelists await the next question.

Grounded in liberty philosophy, the YAL arguments stood in stark contrast to the familiar points of the party-oriented groups, even when they aligned with libertarian ideals. While the liberty movement is perhaps more characteristically philosophical than most political movements, events like this stress how important it is to strike the balance between philosophy and broad appeal. Our goal was to clearly emphasize the foundational differences between libertarian views and the party ideologies while still remaining accessible, and I think our panel members did a good job of that.

Overall, the event, attended by over 100 students, was a great introduction to liberty on economic and education issues, leading many people to ask questions and take literature afterwards. We saw increased attendance at the very next meeting, and the organizers have expressed interest in hosting another forum in the coming weeks, indicating further opportunities for our chapter to reach the campus.

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