The New Student Libertarian Movement…

…appears to be on its way to being coopted as just another branch of insurgent upper middle class ideology. I explained why in “Should Libertarianism Be Cultural Leftism Minus the State?”. A serious anti-state radicalism needs to be grounded in demographic groups that are most directly in conflict with the state and whose values are most antithetical to those of the ruling class.


Perhaps they’re not as salient to those of you who don’t spend your days on college campuses, but Students for Liberty is pretty freakin’ amazing. I’ve been watching small libertarian groups come and go on various college campuses for about the last 15 years now, and I have never seen (or read about?) a student libertarian organization that is this big, this passionate, this well-organized, and this knowledgeable. Their regional and international conferences, their webinar series, the symposia series they run with Liberty Fund, their books, everything they do is just terrific.

What’s really drawn my attention recently, however, is the way in which these students transcend so much of what has been objectionable about the libertarian movement in its past incarnations. Both in terms of its demographics and its substantive political and moral concerns, today’s movement seems broader, more inclusive, and more in keeping with the liberalism of classical liberalism than much of what we’ve seen before. For starters, there seem to be many more women and racial minorities involved than I’ve ever before seen. Not that the libertarian movement of the past set an exceptionally high hurdle. But progress is still good to see – even if it’s purely anecdotal or secondhand on my part. Anyone have any firm numbers?

I’ve been especially proud to see SFL pushing recently for libertarians to take issues associated with feminism and black studies more seriously. Such calls aren’t unprecedented in the libertarian intellectual tradition, of course. But that’s kind of the point. There are a few people like our own Roderick Long who have written about both issues in the past. There are groups like the Association of Libertarian Feminists who have been doing this kind of thing for quite a while.

But these aren’t the issues that jump to mind when you think about what libertarians stand for. And that’s a shame. It’s a shame because the issues are important, and central to the kind of liberalism that libertarians ought to be among the loudest in supporting. And it’s a shame because we still live in a world in which people like Stefan Molyneux dismiss feminism as “socialism with panties,” and people like Justin Raimondo write offattempts to reconcile libertarianism with concern for social justice as young professors sucking up to their “commie” colleagues. Fortunately, today’s libertarians aren’t putting up with such nonsense.

This makes me proud. And hopeful. It makes me think that we here at the Bleeding Heart Libertarian blog didn’t just make that idea up. We caught on to something in the zeitgeist, and the students are picking up on it to. The libertarian movement is evolving, and I for one am thrilled to see what happens.

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