Celebration and Steadfastness: Take Aways from the Students For Liberty Chicago Conference

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At the SFL Chicago Conference on Saturday, I learned some new things, and was reintroduced to some old. But, during the cab ride home two objectives stuck in my head; to celebrate the freedom philosophy and to be steadfast in my pursuits for a free society.

David Kelley, founder of the Atlas Society, kicked off the morning by dispelling myths about Ayn Rand’s philosophy, Objectivism. What I liked most about Kelley’s lecture was that he highlighted Ayn Rand’s benevolent view of the world. Kelley thinks that Objectivists do themselves a great misfortune by failing to emphasize the positive value of benevolence. So, regardless of what anyone says to you- Ayn Rand valued kindness, generosity, and charity (albeit as secondary values). If you wish to espouse Ayn Rand’s ideas, then you must speak out against the myths.

For the breakout session I chose to listen to P.J. Hill, Senior Fellow at the Property and Environmental Research Center (PERC) in Bozeman, MT. I chose Hill’s lecture because I went to college in Bozeman and I’ve heard such great things about PERC.

If you are at all interested in environmental issues, you must check out PERC’s work. Hill believes that if we have clearly defined property rights (unlike the “publicly owned” lands in Montana), then we could deal with environmental issues much more efficiently, and without the use of force. Hill celebrates property rights by showing how useful they are in regards to environmentalism.

Furthermore, Sarah Skwire, Fellow at Liberty Fund, talked about changing our language and attitudes about “work”, namely blue-collar work. As lovers of capitalism, we should commend all kinds of work, as long as it is productive. The freedom to work as you please is a freedom worth celebrating.

Next up, George Smith, author and long-time libertarian activist, gave us a colorful talk about the history of libertarianism, how it has changed, and how to keep our liberty-flames burning for years to come. His main advice was to read, read, read, and read some more. He advised to stay interested in the historical intellectuals and their works. Needless to say, Smith’s flame is still raging on as he continues to fight for freedom.

After dinner, we had the pleasure of hearing from Antony Davies, Associate Professor of Economics, and Mercatus affiliated Senior Scholar at George Mason University. Davies’ extensive and interesting research explored the difference between economically-free states and less-economically-free states. Not surprisingly, Davies found that the more economically-free states fair better in many ways (less child labor, more economic growth, lower unemployment, less atmospheric pollution, and less income inequality) than less-free states. His research, which applies to not only the U.S. but countries across the world, rekindled a part of my motivation that had been slightly faded.

And finally, we had the great, great pleasure of hearing from David Boaz, Executive Vice  President of the Cato Institute. Boaz’s talk was one of my favorites because he illustrated his message with a historical story. Boaz explains that we, libertarian-minded people, should focus less on politics and more on the principles of liberty, because by living those principles, we can initiate political and social change. He told us the story of the Peace Movement in East Germany, and how the fall of the Berlin Wall was initiated solely by citizen action- and the action came at just the right time.

Boaz doesn’t want us to get discouraged, and either do I. How does that old saying go? Slow and steady wins the race? Soft water breaks the hardest stone? It might be a cliche, but I think it’s true for us. Over the years we’ve watched as all other political systems and ideologies fall and prove to be impossible. But the freedom philosophy holds strong, and now, is stronger than ever.

Like all of the speakers alluded to in their own ways- celebrate the philosophy of liberty and don’t let your flame for freedom go dark. We will chip away at the statist stone and eventually break through to the world we wish to see.

[Originally published on the Students for Liberty blog]

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