Don’t Be Such a Square: Insights From Libertopia by Chelsea Krafve
Note: I originally wrote this to post on the Students For Liberty blog. It got a great reception from my peers, so I thought I’d share it here as well!
Recently, I represented Students For Liberty at a conference that opened my eyes to a completely new side of libertarianism, Libertopia.
Having interned in DC this summer, I had the good fortune of attending quite a few pro-liberty conferences. However, I did not expect Libertopia’s unconventional and refreshing attitude towards a movement that some consider to be primarily political. For those of you who are unaware, Libertopia is an annual convention that appeals to libertarians with more voluntaryist and anarchist leanings. It takes place in San Diego and places a strong emphasis on using art, music, literature, and trade to eventually transcend the belief that politics are the key to achieving social change. Claiming that California is a hub of government coercion, a group of around 100 free-market voluntaryists in San Diego decided that it would be the perfect setting to congregate and encourage a freer society. Thus, last year, Libertopia was born.
The conference was a fantastic experience and there was so much to do. Music and art was everywhere, a constant creative background of freedom of expression. David Friedman, Stephan Molyneux, Roderick Long, and Gary Chartier were among the top speakers and organizations such as the Free State Project and the Ladies Of Liberty Alliance (LOLA) sent representatives. These are scholars and organizations that place a strong emphasis on invoking social change through living liberty in order to set an example for the rest of society. I immediately noticed that the other exhibitors at Libertopia had a knack for incorporating the message of liberty into their greatest talents. These people are creative and innovative; they are incredible contributors to our common goal of social change.
While there, I met a brilliant young entrepreneur who happens to be one of Peter Thiel’s 20 Under 20. While I didn’t manage to get his number, I did get to ask him what appealed to him about libertarianism. While Christopher Rueth began his career in internet technology by hacking his high school’s internet restrictions, he has far bigger goals for his future. Ultimately, he believes in freedom of information and intends to use his talents in computer science to bring the internet to all people. Libertopia’s overarching message of freedom of thought and expression really resonated with his intellectual pursuits. What I was most impressed with was Chris’s ability to escape the presumption that libertarianism is a purely political movement and to embrace his own strengths in order to create a freer world.
All too often, activists become narrow sighted about how to best spread a message. Being able to articulate a certain idea is a great strength, but it does not necessarily mean that people will listen. If the liberty movement wants to bring about true social change, we need to involve all kinds of people, perhaps especially those with non-political passions who may not initially be interested in the economic or philosophical rhetoric behind libertarianism. This is Libertopia’s great success; although it did not have the funding or the big name speakers that a conference such as FreedomFest might, it attracted a more diverse crowd.
Liberty will never be achieved if every libertarian finds a job at a think tank or university. Don’t put yourself in a box, and don’t feel useless if policy or academia is not your path. Because if you do, you are not only short-changing your own happiness but you’re also short-changing everybody that you could have inspired by pursuing your own personal and unique interests. Libertopia taught me that everyone has his or her comparative advantage, and every different personality is of great value in our joint pursuit of liberty. So, I strongly encourage every all to attend next year’s conference, if only to discover the more unconventional ways that people have come to promote liberty. After experiencing it for yourself, I’ll be curious to know how you will use your greatest gifts to advocate the ideas that we all hold so highly.