article-single and One Campus

Due to, I’ve had the immense honour and pleasure of being involved with a really sharp group of conservatives and libertarian students at Washington University in St. Louis. Since LRC has figured heavily in our campus activism, I thought LRC readers might be interested to hear about the impact of at one major private university.

First of all, even though I’ve been working on a Master’s degree at Washington University, it was through LRC that I became involved with all this. I was on the campus more back when I received my bachelor’s in Engineering in 1991. Now, as an older student with a ten year career in my field behind me and a lot already keeping me busy, I had mostly been in the habit of just coming to campus for my classes and not looking for involvement in that bizarre twilight zone world of political correctness and hedonism we call “campus life”. But then Dan McCarthy had an article published on LRC (see his great archive), and the description of him at the end mentioned that he was a student at Washington University. So I just e-mailed him and suggested that it would be nice to meet a like-minded fellow going to the same University. We arranged lunch together and, Dan being the savvy organizer of men he is, by the end of the meal he had talked me into writing (for free) an article for the conservative student paper he co-founded, The Washington Witness.

It’s about a year since that lunch and I’ve had a regular column in every issue since… Still for free, of course. I use my column to discuss many of the issues that are raised regularly on LRC. Two recent articles, for example, were much inspired by Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s critique of democracy. My articles were titled “Liberty vs. Democracy” and “Democracy vs. Peace”. One of my articles ended up coming to Lew’s attention without me even submitting it to him and was published on LRC as “The Wrong Response”, and then picked up from LRC by Pravda!

At least two of the speakers we’ve brought to campus are regularly featured on LRC: Humberto Fontova and Paul Gottfried . (By the way, Paul Gottfried is speaking this Wednesday, February 13th at 4pm in January 110 if you’re in the area.) Another speaker, Don Livingston, we know from an event at the Mises Institute which is headed by Lew Rockwell. These events, often with rather politically incorrect themes, have gotten great audiences through some great work on the part of the students in promoting the events. One that particularly thrilled me was Don Livingston’s talk on secession. One of our posters had the Dalai Lama next to General Robert E. Lee and the caption “Secessionists and Heroes”. The event was well attended. Professor Livingston gave a calm, well-informed lecture on secession from a political philosophy perspective. What amazed me is that I don’t think a single person got up and left (usually quite common at a student event). I’m seeing that there is a hunger for well-reasoned, radical thinking on the campuses if they can only find out about it.

Another great event organized by the conservative students was a panel debate on the war on terrorism. Though a bit nervous, I agreed to represent the paleo anti-war position. I was paired with a leftist professor against a Randian professor and a neo-conservative student on the pro-war side. Because of my involvement with this, my picture ended up on the front page of the student left-wing paper which is something I definitely never expected to happen. Again, the event was well attended and conducted in a thoroughly professional manner. The audience had probing questions and left in a thoughtful mood. I did my best to emphasize that, though paired with a socialist, I saw my anti-war position as entirely consistent with being a theologically conservative Christian (theologically liberal anti-war people are a dime a dozen) and a fan of capitalism. In putting forward a conservative anti-war position I was representing the bulk of our conservative activist students who are heavily influenced by Murray Rothbard, in particular his book For A New Liberty. Though nervous going into my first debate I left excited and ready to go at it again next chance I get.

One more thing related to the Mises Institute is that those of us who have been to some of their great events are encouraging more Washington University students to take advantage of these great opportunities to interact directly with scholars LRC readers already know and love like Paul Gottfried, Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Ralph Raico, David Gordon, Joseph Stromberg and, of course, Lew Rockwell himself. The big event of the year for undergrads is the week long Mises University late in the summer. There are a couple week long seminars for graduate students as well. We’re even planning to take quite a few students to the upcoming Austrian Scholars Conference so they can be exposed to cutting edge Austro-libertarian scholarship. (We’ll be having one Wash. U. economics student, Art Carden, presenting a paper at the conference this year.) It’s a 12 hour drive for us to get to Auburn, Alabama but it is more than worth it when we see how radicalized and energized students are after attending one of these events.

Because we’re scholars and not just activists, Dan McCarthy has had a smaller group of us in a reading group. The book we’re on right now is After Liberalism by Paul Gottfried. We’ve purposely arranged it so that we’ll have completed our own reading and discussion of his book in time for him to be at our campus so that we can arrange a smaller get-together with him after his big lecture to discuss his book. Similarly, when Humberto Fontova was at our campus we took advantage of his time to get with him in a smaller group and ask him questions about his view on the Cuban revolution.

Do you have similar stories to tell about paleo-libertarian activism at your campus? E-mail me and tell me about it. If you don’t, why not? We don’t have any special magic. Are you wondering how we got funding to bring in these speakers? How we had the chutzpah to invite intimidatingly brilliant scholars like Paul Gottfried? Perhaps you feel overwhelmed at the thought of publishing a campus paper or getting people to come to hear a controversial speaker. I’d like to answer your questions or direct you to the other students who can tell you more specifics about how we made these things happen. Maybe if there’s enough stories and questions, I’ll put together a follow-up article so that we can learn from each other. Let’s have two, three, many Washington Universities!

February 12, 2002