May 15, 2012

Foundations of Liberty: Students for Liberty

By: D.B. Atchison

Editor’s Note: In his new column “Foundations of Liberty” at Free the Future, author D.B. Atchison profiles organizations helping to advance the movement for liberty.

Students For Liberty (SFL) has dedicated itself to the restoration of a free society by starting with the future– the youth.  Since its inception in 2008, SFL has grown from a gathering of 100 students to an organization with a presence in every continent except Antarctica, including 43 countries, and 800 student-run chapters.

SFL traces its origin to a small meeting organized by current SFL president Alexander McCobin while he was an intern at the Institute for Humane Studies.  That meeting set out to develop the best practices for student organizations that are dedicated to liberty.


They determined that a successful student organization needs to fully understand liberty in order to practice it, that students with similar ideas need to be able to contact other, like-minded individuals, and that student groups need external resources to be effective. With the help of Sloane Frost, Pin-Quan Ng, and Sam Eckman (pictured right), McCobin organized the first Students For Liberty Conference, and out of its success launched the organization Students For Liberty.

The rapid growth of SFL is atypical of most newly established organizations.  In the past year alone, they published their first book, The Economics of Freedom, distributing over 30,000 copies to student groups around the world.  Additionally, their Facebook page grew 153% to a total of 18,800 fans in the same year.  As of today, their page now has 64,970 fans showing a far greater growth rate for 2012. More statistics on growth and funding can easily be accessed in their 2010-2011 Annual Report.  From their first Students for Liberty Conference at Columbia University in 2008, which attracted 100 attendees during a blizzard, to this year, SFL has grown ten-fold with the most recent Fifth Annual International Students for Liberty Conference attracting over 1,000 students from around the world.

SFL is completely run by its student members, which gives it a one-two punch of grassroots momentum.  This unique structure also ensures that the issues SFL takes on are the issues that matter most to coming generations of students, and what will become the forefront issues as its members enter the political sphere.  As McCobin says:

By rejecting the typical top-down model of student organizing where groups are expected to take directives from the national office… we empower students to advance liberty through whatever strategies they think will be effective on their own campuses.

As a 501(c)3 educational organization, SFL provides students with resources to combat the growth of government in one of the most bureaucratic, semi-authoritarian environments in the United States- the college campus. They provide consulting services for students, as well as one-on-one services for specific, on-campus problems.  They also act as a networking group, providing students with a large umbrella of support from other students, leaders, and organizations dedicated to the philosophy of liberty.  Lastly they place resources like $500 protest grants and books at a student’s disposal.
Partnering with both the Ayn Rand Institute and the Foundation for Economic Education, SFL also provides free books to students who wish to start a pro-liberty reading group.  The available books include works by Ayn Rand, Frederic Bastiat, Ludwig Von Mises, and others.  Additionally, they offer free webinars on various topics throughout the year, allowing students from around the world to simply click and learn liberty.

In all, Students For Liberty is an organization which continuously attracts large numbers of college students each year.  They are a force that is here to stay, and a presence that will continue to grow nationally and internationally, and help guarantee a bright future for the liberty movement.SFL has taken what was once a libertarian minority in the conservative movement, given it the fresh face of youth, and, most importantly, have given the principles of the coming generation -the principles of liberty- a national voice.  SFL now has presence at both CPAC and the Clinton Global Initiative, showing that they are able and willing to take the debate across all parts of the political spectrum.

Disclaimer: D.B. Atchison is an alumni of Students For Liberty at the University of Alabama