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Libertarianism and Generation Z

There is talk that the younger generation is becoming more “liberal.” The number of new registered voters for Democratic Party is increasing at a higher rate than that of the Republican Party. Statistics show individuals below the age of 30 have a higher tendency of backing open immigration borders and civil liberties such as same-sex marriage. These are hot topics in what the media refers to as our “increasingly polarized society.”

But what of economic issues? What about foreign trade policy, involvement in NATO, and progressive taxation?

I don’t believe I’m being overly cynical when I suggest that a majority of people don’t care about politics and public policy beyond what affects them personally, especially when it comes to issues as complex and erudite as economics.

“Tax beer,” suggested a DJ on WDHA 105.5, one afternoon, commenting on Governor Corzine’s handling of the budget deficit. “No wait, I drink that. To be honest, I don’t care what they do as long it doesn’t affect me.”

Many listeners probably share that sentiment—that if it doesn’t affect your direct life, it doesn’t matter. But if it does so happen to benefit you, then great! Who doesn’t want to pay less for everything and see that chunk taken out of their paycheck get smaller?

The free market is one of the forces that helped shape America to be great. The success of our country and other free market societies has taught us that the pursuit of self-interest is not inherently a bad thing and enables progression as a society. Especially among business and finance majors, the hopeful entrepreneurs, there is a growing ideology which is becoming downright trendy—Libertarianism.

Advocates for Self-Government, a non-profit libertarian organization, describes Libertarianism as a philosophy: “The basic premise of libertarianism is that each individual should be free to do as he or she pleases so long as he or she does not harm others.”

In terms of political values, Libertarians support minimally regulated markets, strong civil liberties, minimally regulated migration policies, and non-interventionism in foreign policy. Libertarians draw from both ends of the American political spectrum, supporting the social freedoms of the archetypal Democrat and the economic freedoms of the Republican.

According to a 2007 Pew Research Center poll by Princeton Survey Research Associates, 56% of American Adults believe there should be a third major political party, an alternative to two-party system of the Republicans and the Democrats. Another poll that year by Ramuessun suggested 58%. This year, an Associated TV/Zogby International noted for the presidential election, 17% were either undecided or leaning to third-party candidates.

There is indeed a Libertarian Party with a candidate running for president this year. But former House member Bob Barr is a poor spokesman for Libertarianism’s eponymous party and its values. His record on economic policies is solid but his record on civil liberties is not. He supported the infamously expensive War on Drugs, backed the arguably unconstitutional Defense of Marriage Act, and voted for the potentially civil-rights violating Patriot Act.

But what about alternatives? What if there was a viable candidate that spoke for a broad spectrum of Libertarian values, encompassing both the social and economic?

In a mock Presidential Primary 2008 election held by Pi Sigma Alpha, the national political science honor society, Ron Paul won the Republican’s mock primary with 27 percent of the student vote. Ron Paul’s campaign focused on ending the war in Iraq, enhancing state rights, and balancing the budget. The renegade Republican surprisingly out-raised most other contenders in the fourth quarter with $19.5 million, mostly from Internet contributions. And although he ran on the Republican ticket, he was the Libertarian candidate in 1988. Two decades later, the youth speaks in his favor.

The young adults of today, those of Generation Z, hear the word freedom very strongly. They seek to maximize individual liberty. They seek to protect their fundamental rights and the rights of those around them. They seek the change promised from the mouths of so many men. Libertarianism may finally be the third political force that young Americans so desperately crave.