It is a well-established fact in 2022, as has been the case throughout history, that the vast majority of college students identify with left-leaning politics. My school located in the heart of the nation’s capital is no exception. A year of recruitment for Students For Liberty on my campus has yielded some valuable insights for the wider liberty movement to learn from and actualize.
A novice observer might preemptively conclude that a campus saturated with self-described “progressives” would be an insurmountable environment to advocate for liberty. Quite the contrary; this assumption could not be farther from the truth.
Young students are very passionate about social issues. For better or worse, race, gender, and inequality are three staples of this generation’s interest in politics. Luckily for libertarians, we have been at the forefront of these issues for over 50 years, despite them being traditionally associated with progressives. Libertarians and progressives agree that racism is inherently irrational and degenerative.
We also agree that the political and legal institutions of the United States have been tainted by deep-seated racial biases. This flaw in our institutions has created arbitrary barriers to social, political, and economic mobility for several minority groups, especially the African American community.
We additionally agree that arbitrary barriers, especially those erected by the state, are fundamentally immoral and should be removed wherever and whenever possible. We additionally agree that everyone, regardless of their immutable characteristics or socioeconomic class, ought to be treated equally under the law.
Climate change is an increasingly hot topic on college campuses. Libertarians and progressives read off of the same sheet of music by concluding that climate change is at least in part a man-made phenomenon and action must be taken to limit or even reverse the damage.
Progressives prefer a centralized state-led approach centered on solar and wind-powered energy as a replacement for carbon-based energy sources. Libertarians agree that wind and solar are terrific alternatives. But we believe that free and open markets for renewable energy technologies, with a particular emphasis on nuclear energy, are the best means to innovate, lower cost, create abundance, and overall reduce carbon output.
Most decent people believe war is an inherently destructive enterprise. Libertarians and progressives share this very same sentiment. Wars are fought by young, shall we say, college-aged young people. Imperial conquest, we both conclude, is a waste of human life and precious resources that are better used toward more productive ends.
LGBT rights? Libertarians were on board over 20 years before progressive were.
Ending the drug war has long been a primary position of Libertarians for nearly 50 years. Progressives share our position that the drug war has caused more harm than good, violating civil liberties in the process. We detest overcriminalization and the prison industrial complex that has grown out of the state’s botched attempt at policing away recreational drug use.
We both find it silly that Marijuana is not federally legal for medical and recreational use and 420 is a holiday celebrated annually in both social circles.
This list is not comprehensive or all-encompassing. Rather, this is a crash course of the areas that are ripe for collaboration.
While libertarians and progressives perpetually remain miles apart on economics, the sovereignty of the individual, and the proper role of the state, we should not deny ourselves opportunities to build partnerships, make friends, and advance the cause of liberty wherever possible.
If you are interested in getting involved in promoting the ideas of liberty while also developing your skills and meeting many like-minded students from across the world, click on the button below to apply for the Local Coordinator Program.
This piece solely expresses the opinion of the author and not necessarily the United States government or the organization as a whole. Students For Liberty is committed to facilitating a broad dialogue for liberty, representing a variety of opinions.