November 29, 2012

Career Advice

Profile in Liberty: Jonathan Bydlak

By: AFF Editors

A graduate of Princeton University Jonathan Bydlak is now the President of Coalition to Reduce Spending.

How Did You Get Involved?

When asked if Bydlak had always known he wanted a career in advancing liberty he has this to say,

Definitely not. I first got involved in the liberty movement as director of fundraising on Ron Paul’s 2008 presidential campaign, having worked in finance before that. I’d been interested in free markets since I was young — the first book I ever bought was Ronald Reagan’s “Speaking My Mind” when I was 5 years old. I paid a buck.

But I got disillusioned with politics in college because of the fiscal irresponsibility of the Bush years. There was no real difference between the two major parties, and no one seemed willing to ask the question, “but how are you going to pay for that?” Enter Ron Paul.

A friend of mine sent me an article by Radley Balko talking about Ron’s record, and while I was skeptical at first, his confrontation with Rudy Giuliani during the 2007 South Carolina debate convinced me that he was the real deal. As it turns out, he didn’t just cure my apathy — he changed my entire career path.

Finding a Place in the Movement 

Bydlak explains what he does to advance liberty in his work.

The Coalition to Reduce Spending is a political advocacy group that promotes balancing the federal budget by — you guessed it — reducing spending. We make the intellectual case for why cutting spending is important, and highlight the often-difficult tradeoffs that policymakers face.

More specifically, our hallmark program is the ‘Reject the Debt’ pledge, which asks candidates for elective office to state on-the-record that they will only vote for balanced budgets, and won’t vote for new spending programs that aren’t offset or any new borrowing.

I think a lot of people from across the political spectrum often get overly focused on electing the ‘right’ people — the “if we just get this person in office, everything will change” mindset. My view, and maybe this is my economics background talking, is that incentives matter more.

There’s a great Milton Friedman quote where he said — and I’m paraphrasing — that the greatest challenge of politics is to create good incentives so that flawed people do good things. That’s the mindset we’re trying to bring to the liberty movement.

AFF: Bringing People Together

Bydlak goes on to tell us how AFF has helped him advance his career.

I first heard about AFF when I represented the Paul campaign on your elections panel in 2008. I think it’s very, very important for everyone to have a mentor or two in their personal and professional lives. I was lucky enough to have Kent Snyder (RP08 campaign chairman) take me under his wings when I switched careers, but not everyone is so lucky.

That’s why I think groups like AFF, which bring together people just starting out in their careers with those of us who have “been around the block,” are so essential. I think everyone has a point in his or her career where you need someone to point you in the right direction. AFF does that, and their career support is especially welcome in the often cutthroat world of politics.

Being Open-minded

Bydlak offers a piece of advice to young professionals:

To not pretend that you’re going to figure everything out right away. I never would have expected to be where I am now 7 or 8 years ago, and — who knows — maybe I’ll be doing something completely different another 7 or 8 from today. Career paths aren’t linear; doors open when you least expect them to and the real question is whether you’re flexible and open-minded enough to recognize and seize on them when opportunities present themselves.

Happy Warrior 

Change often comes slower that we’d like, and the expansion of liberty will be no different. My dad always reminds me that patience is a virtue, and I think that’s a particularly important maxim to remember in politics. The reality is that politics is only one factor that determines our quality of life, so I try to follow Andrew Breitbart’s advice and remember that it’s always best to be a ‘happy warrior.’