Tips for Libertarian Activists

Ten Things High School Libertarians Can Do

by Tom Isenberg

Do you want to get some scholarship money for college, impress people of the opposite gender, disarm your intellectual opponents while simultaneously winning their admiration and eternal gratitude? Sure, we all do. Here's how.

  1. Educate yourself.

    • Read. You probably don't have much time to read, what with homework and romance and all, but if you do, some good introductions to libertarianism include: Why Government Doesn't Work by Harry Browne, Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal by Ayn Rand, Restoring the American Dream by Robert Ringer, and The Machinery of Freedom by David Friedman. The Ringer book is out of print, but you can find it in most used book stores. The other books can be found or ordered in any bookstore. And, of course, there are lots of great libertarian Web sites to read (see below.)

    • Get the free Laissez-Faire Books catalog. This is the best source for books of interest to libertarians.

    • Create your own Q&A file. As a libertarian, you probably get asked a lot of questions by friends, family, teachers, and others. You may find that your history and economics textbooks are somewhat biased in favor of big government (textbooks are written for use in government schools, after all.) Some questions you'll be able to answer, others you might not. Don't sweat it. Just say, "That's a good question, I'll have to get back to you on that." And do it. Write down the question and do some reading on it. You might start your own "Question and Answer" file to keep track of tough questions, statistics, etc. Mine is a simple Microsoft Word document (in outline format) arranged alphabetically by category (e.g., Drug Policy, Education, Environment, Gun Control, Laissez Faire Myths, etc.) In each section I write in bold text the common questions or talking points (e.g., "Doesn't capitalism destroy the environment?") followed by short answers or "sound bites" including references. By keeping such a file, I'm able to sharpen my answers (and I find that I remember them better.) Plus, these answers are easy to "recycle" when you get into email debates, write reports, write letters to the editor, call talk shows, etc.

  2. Add libertarian links to your Web page.

  3. Bug Your School Librarian. See if your school library has the books mentioned above. If not, ask the library to buy them (so that future students can benefit.) Also, ask them to subscribe to the two best libertarian magazines for students: Reason and The Freeman. You may need to show them copies before they agree to subscribe. If your librarian won't purchase these items, ask if s/he'll accept donated subscriptions and books. If so, contact your local Libertarian Party and ask someone to donate one or more of these items to your school library (I'm sure they'd love to.)

  4. Use Your School Newspaper.

    • Put a copy of the Nolan survey in the school newspaper. This is a simple way to introduce many people to libertarian ideas. Just download a copy of the survey and get the school newspaper to print it (maybe they can do it as a school-wide opinion poll.) Or get your civics teacher to put a copy on the classroom wall. Or just have your friends do it.

    • Write editorials. If you like to write, consider writing an occasional "libertarian" editorial for the school newspaper. A few people might even read it.

  5. Invite LP Speakers to Your Class. Call up your local Libertarian Party (they're in the phone book) and ask if they have speakers available to come speak to your Civics or Social Studies class. If they do, pass that person's name and number to your teacher and encourage him to invite the speaker for all of his classes for the day. Your teacher will be able to take the classes off, and you won't have any homework assignments. What a deal.

  6. Organize Debates. If you're really motivated and can use some extra-credit points, you can organize after-school debates, maybe once every semester (assuming you can't get your Civics teacher to just do these debates in class.) Pick one or two highly controversial issues that would attract an audience (legalizing drugs, gun control, censorship, etc.) Organize your team to present the libertarian position ("As a libertarian, I think that..."), and invite another team to present the opposing position. Have a teacher help you organize the debate and act as the moderator. And if I were organizing this, I would invite some of the smarter cheerleaders to do some hilarious "debate" cheers for each side before it presents its opening argument. But I'm weird that way.

  7. Organize a Production of "Night of January 16th". If you're into theater, you could get your school's theater group to consider doing a production of Ayn Rand's play "Night of January 16th." The basic plot is a murder trial where the audience is the jury and actually returns a verdict. The play has different endings, depending on the verdict. Themes in the play include individualism, etc. You can find the play in any bookstore. This play is popular with high schools because it is highly entertaining, relatively easy to produce, and not too long. If your school does do it, you might volunteer to write the "liner notes" for the play, mentioning Rand's other novels with "libertarian themes."

  8. Do Projects on Libertarian Themes. If you have a class assignment that lends itself, or can use some extra-credit points, consider doing a presentation or report on a libertarian theme. For Civics class, you could present the Nolan Chart as a better way of viewing politics than the one-dimensional Left/Right spectrum or you could present the platform and history of the Libertarian Party. For English class, you could do a book report on an Ayn Rand novel ("Anthem" is a popular one because it is short and has some great themes.)

  9. Hook up with College Libertarian groups.

  10. Apply for libertarian-oriented scholarships.