The Unambiguously Libertarian Duo


An abbreviated version of this interview appears in YAR Issue 9.


The Unambiguously Libertarian Duo:  A conversation with Reason’s Matt Welch and Nick Gillespie

Interview by Bonnie Kristian

 

YAR:  So let’s start with the basics:  Why did you write this book?

WELCH:  Nick and I, who had been working together for years off and on, frequently grappled with this paradox of on the one hand if you look at everything that has happened even in the last ten years—which has totally sucked as a decade since 9/11—if you look at what has happened to all of our lives in the private sphere, if you look at the ability of people to transcend what they’re born into, we’re just getting more free by the nanosecond. Things are getting better in so many different ways. You’re not sentenced to the conditions that you were born in. And this is more profound than most people realize, I think, and we have argued that it affects us on the level of behavior in the way that we can organize our own culture instead of just receiving everything as a sermon from on high telling us what to do, we can control our universe and manipulate it. This is happening at the same time that on paper and in other degrees the government has more control than it has had in a long time. It’s certainly spending more as a percentage of our money than they have in a long time and as Harvey Silverglate has pointed out in his book of the same title, we commit on average three felonies a day, even if we’re law-abiding citizens, just because they keep ratcheting up the criminal code. So, how can those two paradoxes be true? How can we be by all measures more free and at the same time less free in terms of where we are on paper with the government? And this led us down some interesting rabbit holes of research. We concluded that the way to look at it is that this sort of radical new individualism in the culture, in commerce, and in our private lives is changing everything and eliminating all mediators and middlemen—evolving the power of the consumer. It is a tidal wave that’s affecting everything but for structural reasons, it will effect government last, because unlike Kodak or Fujifilm (which was one of our operating metaphors), they have—“they” being big, bad government—guaranteed revenue stream. They write the rules of their own competition. So it’s going to happen to politics last, but there’s no way that it can’t happen to politics and to governance. This is for the simple reason that we now have the expectation as people that we can control our own destinies, and we’re just not buying it. The latest polls from Gallup from 2011 show that something like 41% of Americans self-identify as independents. The dog whistle isn’t working anymore to say “Oh, you have to vote for us because the other guys are evil.” The same processes that are affecting everything else in life are building up a political expectation, a dissatisfaction, and then at the same time the government’s running out of our money to misspend. So that’s creating unique pressure, and you can see little shoots—little convulsions—that have come as a result that have made politics much more fluid and dynamic. And we think—well, we hope, being optimists of sorts—that it can lead to pretty radical change. […] So I think a lot of this stuff is inevitable. It doesn’t mean that somebody with a big L on their forehead is going to ever be the President. I think that’s the wrong way of looking at things. We have a sort of cultural libertarianism that is eventually going to form the way that politics is done.

YAR:  A lot of the subjects that you mentioned in the book and even that you’re mentioning now are domestic issues and social issues, which of course are things that we’re interacting with on a daily basis. Do you see this change happening as much for foreign policy, which is so much more removed and more difficult for us to influence?

WELCH:  For the purposes of the book we wanted to use examples of how things that you don’t think of in political terms have changed in our lives. So things like beer—we now can drink good beer. When I was your age, this was not a possibility. We had to go to Europe to drink good beer. So we wanted to walk back the processes that allowed for this revolution to happen; and it turns out to be from removing a lot of restrictions and engaging in libertarian or liberatory practices. So most of the examples tended to be domestically-oriented. That said, we’ve always drawn a parallel between the Howard Dean antiwar movement of 2003 and 2004 and the Tea Party movement, which had at least one election where they affected things much more than the antiwar movement did. But what the Howard Dean movement showed was that in times of super stress, both parties will eventually be in favor of war—always. They have different flavors of it:  Basically, the Republicans go to war with a “F-ck France” t-shirt on, and the Democrats go to war with a “We prefer the UN most of the time” t-shirt on. But it’s really a matter of gradation. But suddenly Howard Dean, who was not particularly a pacifist—he was in favor of several American interventions before Iraq—he shows up at a time when major politicians were not saying “This is wrong,” he stood up and said “This is wrong.” Suddenly there was a “WHAAH”—I mean, there was this huge untapped feeling out there.

YAR:  And from him, literally, there was a “WHAAH.”

WELCH:  Yeah, exactly. [Laughs.] That sort of scream. And it actually changed him, that whole process. And in 2008, some of that energy went to Barack Obama—falsely, in many respects. Partly that’s because the antiwar movement, the Dean movement, was completely domesticated. It became an organ of the Democratic Party. So as soon as you had Democrats in power, that antiwar movement did not exist anymore because they did not use independence. The Tea Party used independence. They were serious about it, and that was enough to at least get them to change the way things were in 2010. Ron Paul’s political obituary was written in May of 2007 at the South Carolina debate when Rudolf Giuliani had an aneurism saying “I can’t believe I’m listening to this guy talking about blowback. He must apologize to the American people.” And Ron Paul said, “No, you’re wrong. I’m right.” And everyone who was smart knew that that was the end of Ron Paul—but in fact that was the beginning of Ron Paul in many respects. He’s been around for decades, but he was the only one talking antiwar like that. So there’s this great untapped antiwar sentiment in this country. It’s very difficult to enact because war is about the easiest thing for a President to do, and it’s really difficult to roll that back. However, we face right now something that you might describe as imperial decline or a make-or-break moment. When you really, absolutely, positively have to spend a hell of a lot less money tomorrow because there are external factors hunting you down, that ultimately will become the easiest thing to cut. Defense hawks are aware of this and they’re freaking out about it. So there is the possibility to change the politics there. Thankfully Ron Paul talking like that changed the debate about it a little bit. It’s going to take a while, but I think too that that can burst forth suddenly. Unfortunately, I think most flavors of antiwar protest or movement in the last ten, twenty, or twenty-five years have been partisan. They’ve been Republicans hating Clinton so they were anti-interventionist in the 1990s and it just flipped with George W. Bush.

YAR:  Kind of related to what you’re talking about now, you talk about duopolies a lot and how they can change. But the way our electoral system is set up—just the way the Constitution is, and then even since the League of Women voters gave up control of the presidential debates, it’s geared to only have two parties. That’s a restriction that we don’t have in the marketplace examples that you gave. So do you see a third party rising or independents staying influential in, but separate from, the major parties?

WELCH:  Because of those restrictions, unless someone legitimately popular is able to change the discussion around those restrictions and hammer away at them, that’s going to be tough to unravel. Even then it might be temporary. Ross Perot probably changed or softened some of the rules governing third parties, but the parties eventually retrench. I think that the action will come from blocks of independents—people just dropping out and swarming to single issues rather than political parties one way or another. I think that’s more effective, ultimately. Usually a political tribalhood?—I always stumble on this word—tribal membership? There should be one word. The Germans would have one word for this:  treidmenshaft. Political treidmenshaft is an obstacle. Nick and I went to Hempfest this year in Seattle. It’s a beautiful park in Puget Sound with 100,000 people stone cold smoking pot for three days. They have a bunch of stages, usually with reggae bands and punk bands and discussions of marijuana legalization. We gave a couple of quick talks, and it was amazing to hear people talk about politics there because the drug war is the definition of an issue where both parties suck all the time. You can name one politician here or one politician there who aren’t completely horrible, and that’s about it—and they’re not going to do anything probably. And yet from the stage we would hear like, “If you thought George W. Bush was bad, just wait until Rick Perry comes!” And it’s like, “Dude, someone else has been President in between. I believe his name starts with Barack and ends with Obama.” If people in drug legalization movements who tend to be overwhelmingly left-leaning or Democratic, if they let go and said we’re going to elevate our issue above our natural affiliation, I think that would change the legalization movement overnight to a huge extent. If they make people pay for being sh-tty drug warriors, even if they’re Democrats, they’d change their behavior. That’s what the Tea Part did with John Boehner. John Boehner was not super happy to cut earmarks or to raise any kind of stink about raising the debt ceiling. The Tea Party made him nervous because they said “We would rather get behind Christine O’Donnell rather than someone who’s electable if we deem her better on things like TARP and bailouts.” So I think that the future is more in that—it’s more in shaping that behavior. Part of that will just be—though it might sometimes go against the direction I would want to see from a policy point of view—but it will more orient the main parties toward issues that their constituents care about but which have not been served. For Republicans that could be issues of social conservatism and even more interventions—who knows? For Democrats that could be, and has been I think, since 2006, more anti-trade, more interventions, more pro-labor. I don’t like any of that stuff necessarily, but I think in the broad sweep that it will be in the direction of more freedom. As soon as the act of disaffiliation among people happens, it does something different to their brain chemistry. There’s a stat that I to credit to Ross Douthat from the New York Times for popularizing. There was a survey in 2006 and a survey in 2010, both asking the same question:  “Do you feel threatened by the party in power?” Obviously the parties in power have flipped in those two years. And in 2006, 60% of Democrats said yes and 20% of Republicans said yes. In 2010 it was exactly reversed. 60% of Republicans said yes and 20% of Democrats said yes. Granted, it’s not that correlation is causation, but there is something to it. Once you are on the team and totally invested in it, I think it limits your brain maneuverability. You experience partisan or political information differently. I think people who let go a little bit maintain total political involvement or interest—and they might be even more philosophically strident or more ideological than ever before, but the act of not belonging to the team changes the way you approach stuff, and that in turn ultimately changes the way stuff gets done. All of that said, we don’t know what’s going to happen right now, this year. One of the points of our book is that change happens more suddenly and crazily than almost anyone at any given time predicts because our brains don’t want to deal with it. Politics has been so fluid—I mean, every week there’s some new “This is a historical shift in the polls in the last five days,” constantly right now. I think the disaffiliation and independence has created its own instability, which for me is exciting because I don’t like the stable things. That says to me that things could happen that we don’t currently and can’t currently think about. What happens, for example, if Santorum and Gingrich drop out? Or we get into a situation where—

GILLESPIE:  Hi, sorry.

WELCH:  You’re interrupting my flow, man.

GILLESPIE:  You and your flow. Did we say 3 or 3:30?

WELCH:  3:30. She wanted the good stuff first.

GILLESPIE:  Yeah, I understand. You’re bringing in the B Team now.

WELCH:  So to close the thought, you can imagine a scenario in which Mitt Romney, or even Rick Santorum—especially Rick Santorum—has to deal with Ron Paul one way or another and the Paul crowd one way or another. Santorum could easily follow the footsteps of a Bill Crystal of the Weekly Standard, who has said that this movement needs to be purged from Republicanism. So imagine if there was some kind of purging of the Paul movement from Republicanism later this year and no natural place for that to go, because Paul can’t run as anything else but what he is. That could change a Libertarian Party candidacy quickly, overnight. If that energy is super pissed off and motivated and decides that it wants to register its protest by voting for Gary Johnson, you could see numbers that are not the usually 1%. It could be a lot larger. It probably won’t be, but the point is things are so unstable right now that it could quickly get us to places that change the basic architecture of how politics is functioning. But surely you have a question for Nick.

YAR:  I do—well, for either of you. You talked about existence bias, and this relates a bit to what you were just saying about how quickly things could change. But barring everyone reading your book—which would be awesome, and you would be wealthy—

GILLESPIE:  Oh, I meant to tell you:  I was accosted on the Metro coming in. A guy said like, “Hey, are you Nick Gillespie?” And I said, “Yeah.” And he said, “You wrote the Declaration of Independents,” and I told him “just the good parts.” But yeah, he works on the Hill, so I think everybody is reading the book.

YAR:  Well, that’s great. It kind of ruins my question, but assuming for the sake of argument that they didn’t do that, how would we overcome such a pervasive bias? It’s a pretty basic assumption to challenge for a lot of people, I think:  the idea that if something exists, it’s going to be like that forever.

GILLESPIE:  Matt can probably speak to this better than me, but the existence bias isn’t going away any time soon, but the things that it effects change. This is something that came to me more when we were hawking the book last summer:  People have not internalized the level of debt and deficit and the fact that we’re broke whether at a federal level or at the state level or at the local level. When they do, things will change whether you want to or not. If you’re broke, you can’t keep doing the same thing whether you’re a family or a government or a country, and that is what’s going to change things dramatically. In terms of a two-party system or a two-party duopoly, I don’t think either of us thinks that that basic structure is going away, but what the parties stand for can be radically different—and it has been radically different, even as short ago as 1965. The Democratic Party was not the party it is now; the Republican Party is not the party it was. If you go back to the Nineteenth Century, things change pretty quickly, and I think that we’re going to reach a point—and this is kind of useless in terms of predictions even though I’ll describe the future—things will be going along exactly as they seem to be until they’re not anymore. I can see, if not this election, the next couple ones radically altering the Republican Party because of what Ron Paul and the strain that he speaks most strongly for. That’s ultimately a huge challenge to the Republican status quo, which is why you have people like Newt Gingrich and Rick Santorum attacking him so vociferously. Whatever else you can say about Mitt Romney, he’s not a change agent. I think he’ll become the Republican nominee; he may even become the President, but he’ll get pulled along in one direction or another only in the same way that Obama was a change agent. But that [change] is coming because we’re broke. It’s coming because of people like Ron Paul and Gary Johnson and Rand Paul and the whole generation of people who are going to be moving into power.

WELCH:  I think also that people understand that stuff is changing quicker now. They see it in their personal lives and their consumption habits. I remember ten or twelve years ago when they Department of Justice was prosecuting Microsoft. You could say to someone, “X technology company has 90% of X market—my god, what can we do?” And that doesn’t excite people now. You’ll still get hearings like giving Google a hard time, but people have a built-in understanding that today’s darling is tomorrow’s face plant and MySpace. It’s happening in politics too. As I was referring to earlier, stuff is changing so quickly and is so unpredictable and historical that I think people are thinking that. And then there’s a whole line of intellectual popular theory—think of the movie and book, Moneyball, for example. It’s actually about how hidebound institutions got overthrown. People love that; that’s the great modern story that Aaron Sorkin wants to keep telling. It is the great cultural motif of the moment—where can you find existence bias solidifying so much that we’re going to have a crazy revolutionary come here and topple it all over?

GILLESPIE:  And to speak to that point, between the time the book Moneyball came out and the movie, the major leagues have flipped from thinking that Billy Beane was this nutjob loser to everybody embracing him—you know, the Redsocks winning the World Series and everyone embracing that mentality. So I think that that’s one of the things that people undersell:  not just the rapidity of change, but the speed that it gets folded back into a narrative that it’s always been that way. We talk about this in the book, that the policy version of this is best understood as the deregulation of airline pricing and airline routes. Up until the moment it happened, it was almost inconceivable among all of the small people, all of the people calling the shots. And then within ten years after that, it was like you can’t remember a time before you could actually pick from a bunch of different flights. Now people can’t even remember a time when you used a travel agent, you know? These things happen very quickly, and then you forget about it very, very quickly. And I think we’re seeing that in the political arena. One of the places where that might be happening is in the use of social issues, particularly on the part of the Republicans, but also in the Democrats, where everyone is doing whatever they can to not talk about jobs and the economy and the role of the government in screwing the pooch so that nothing is getting better. These social issue type of things which have helped Rich Santorum, they work for a little bit, but then they fade and people keep coming back to an understanding that what we really need the government to do is to create a stable framework that doesn’t screw up people’s basic economic and lifestyle choices—and there’s going to be a lot of dissonance and controversy within that. Ron Paul is a fascinating character in this because he’s super pro-life, and yet he’s being attacked by guys who are saying he’s not conservative enough. But what he’s saying is that [abortion] is something which shouldn’t be discussed in this forum of the federal government. That is the future of politics, because in the end, Democrats, Republicans, liberals, libertarians, conservatives—we all know that we don’t need the government to tell us what color to paint our house or what to smoke or not to smoke or how to raise our kids or how to spank them properly or make sure they’re never injured psychically. What we need the government to do is to make a stable money supply and predictable rules that allow us to flourish, and the government has totally failed at doing that, which is one of the reasons why Ron Paul’s message and the libertarian message and the message in Declaration of Independents is gaining some momentum.

YAR:  One of the things you all mentioned was that the generation that has been raised on the internet was basically raised libertarian, even if they don’t know it. Not to put it crudely, but eventually the old people will die and the young people will be in charge—

GILLESPIE:  Sadly not as fast as they would have 30 years ago, but that’s a sign of progress.

YAR:  This is true. So basically, as young people take over this rate of change you’re talking about will increase and that will be a major catalyst—just the change of mindset?

GILLESPIE:  I’ll let Matt answer that probably better than I would, but in certain senses, the reason why younger people are raised libertarian is because they’re faced with more choices from the banal—there are so many more channels on TV that you have to pick. You have to become what Ludwig von Mises would call praxeological; it’s all about choice now in a way that when you only had three channels or one newspaper to look at, you didn’t engage that much. Now you have to engage just to manage the information flow. One something like TV or where you live or who you fall in love with, the options are much wider than they were even 20 years ago. In that sense, people understand that owning yourself and owning your choices gives you a lot more freedom and a lot more flexibility. That I think is inherently libertarian because what it’s about is you always have on some level basically unlimited desires and an unlimited amount of time and resources by which to figure out what you want. And then your desires change over time, etc. When you look at something like the internet, it’s a great demonstration of what happens with some controls that are basically broad and bubble up from the bottom, but not a lot of controls and certainly not a lot of controls that are pushed down. By the same token, you can look at someone like Mark Zuckerberg, who’s both facilitated a whole new space in the world to engage and interact—and as Facebook pushes to become a walled garden and they say, “It’s safer in here; it’s better in here; just stay inside”—is that going to become oppressive? And will that also create a bunch of people who say, “You know what, I love Facebook. Everybody should be forced to stay on Facebook.” So it could go both ways.

WELCH:  I think that creates a culture of expectation that you can control and manage the services that you consume, and that’s got to put pressure on government just because you only go to the DMV before you start wanting to rip sh-t up. It’s so bad and nonresponsive.

GILLESPIE:  And it’s better than it was.

WELCH:  And it’s better than it was.

GILLSEPIE:  Because it has to be. Because people are angry.

WELCH:  So it’s going to create that pressure that will manifest in ways that we can’t quite pin our finger on. But there’s a huge structural problem—I mean, one reason why things don’t change in a direction that, say, Nick and I might want at any given time is the same reason why we’re not energy independent or we haven’t figured out how to go beyond carbonates. It’s kind of hard. You know, these problems are hard, and the big thing staring us in the face right now is you have all these groovy, young, culturally libertarian kids, and you’ve got the Baby Boom cohort retiring in a way that is definitionally unsustainable. Everyone says it. The President says it. Timothy Geithner says it. We can’t go down the path and no one is proposing reforms. Young people are getting totally screwed as it is—it’s a huge transfer system from their wallets to their parents’ or their grandparents’ wallets (who are much richer than them anyways). Totally unfair. Then they’re all going to retire, and the ratio of workers per retiree is going from like 4.5:1 to 2.5:1 like that. So, that’s kind of hard. That’s a hard problem to solve. Ultimately, it’s going to take some kind of radical solution. One would hope that you would take the lessons that you learn out there in the world of choice and plenitude and individual responsibility for your own actions and pools of money to make those policy recommendations. The last section of our book talks specifically about that kind of stuff. But that doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy. It’s as big of a challenge as a slow moving train wreck:  You can see it coming, but no one has come up with a way to practically deal with it.

GILLESPIE:  Well, I think people have come up with ways to deal with it, but politicians have not.

WELCH:  Yes, that’s true.

GILLESPIE:  I mean the best that you get out of this mushroom cloud that’s starting to appear on the horizon is like the Paul Ryan plan. Every Republican says, “We’re going to preserve Medicare; don’t worry,” even though Medicare is the problem in terms of the actuarial insanity of the program. Medicare premiums are designed not to pay for most of the benefit. At least Social Security taxes are technically designed to cover the liabilities. With Medicare they don’t even pretend to do that, and it’s just going to get bigger and bigger. Paul Ryan’s “radical” plan is to say, “Ok, we’re going to give you a voucher for the cost of Medicare rather than just keep paying it.” To say this is rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic is to make it seem as if it’s even doing that. It’s just ridiculous and it’s not going to work. But there are plans out there, and there are all sorts of ways to radically alter the government from an entitlement state where middle class and upper middle class people—Warren Buffet is getting Medicare benefits, and so is someone who is below the level of poverty as long as they’re the right age. That’s just got to end, and it’s a conceptual thing where you can say that government is there to help people who otherwise can’t help themselves—and even that’s open for debate among libertarians. It can be a safety net, but it really can’t be an entitlement. People who can afford to pay for their own retirement and even their own lives from birth to death shouldn’t be getting a free ride. It’s wrong; it’s immoral; and this is a system where young people—particularly young people who are interested in individualism and liberty—we keep talking about class warfare. It’s not about the 1% vs. the 99%; it’s about young people vs. old people. It’s about young, poor people, who are paying for the retirement of old, wealthy people. That is not even morally obtuse; it’s just morally disgusting, and it’s going to have to end. When that system was put into place, the dynamic of the demographics was very different.

YAR:  It’s interesting to hear you all speak so much about structural issues, because with many libertarians with whom I’ve interacted, there’s such a focus on individualism—and conservatives too, on economic issues—that there’s a failure to see that there these bigger structural problems that we have to deal with. And so a lot of times it’s this mindset of, “If we just share enough books, if we just tell enough people to go to mises.org, everyone will understand the truth about liberty and on this individual level we’ll change everything.”

GILLESPIE:  Ideas matter, and individuals matter, but it’s also true that systems matter. That’s actually part of what is driven home by the internet more than anything else:  That the system doesn’t determine outcomes, but it’s the system that facilitates significant social change. It’s rarely one person standing up. Martin Luther taking his stand and nailing theses to the door changed a lot, but it wasn’t like he was working along.

WELCH:  It’s interesting to see the reaction we’ve gotten to this thing around. Mostly positive, I would say, the feedback has been. By far the most negative feedback has been from libertarians, those who have a more philosophical bent. They were upset—and they would dispute my characterization that I’m about to say—but they were upset basically because we’re talking about interfacing with the world as it exists right now as opposed to making the argument , which actually Nick believes, I think, that government really has no role in education. We chose to argue with it, “How can we apply these lessons that we’ve seen from the private sector’s choice and competition to make the money that we’re spending on education work much better—

GILLESPIE:  And do that overnight. Because this is part of the thing about saying let’s wait until we can have really revolutionary or discontinuous change. That’s all well and good unless you have a kid who’s 10 years old and stuck in a crappy school where tomorrow we could effect a major, significant change in education simply by saying instead of giving ten thousand dollars to the school that that kid attends, give it to the kid and his parents or his guardians and let them decide what to do with it. Overnight that kid is saved even if it doesn’t do the full work of dismantling a state monopoly on education.

YAR:  Yeah, that was something that I really appreciated looking into your book—this mindset that we don’t need to fix everything at once. We don’t need to make everyone as hardcore libertarian as we are overnight; but that we can engage in politics, and we can make good changes in the short term that will eventually show the larger audience of voters and people who are not already libertarian that you can have more choices and it can be better.

GILLESPIE:  We have our fevered dreams of the perfect world we would like, but we’re not utopians in the typical sense of the word. Part of it is that—and this is always the case, that people who write these kind of books go back to their childhood for a Garden of Eden—what’s fascinate for us is that for us that moment is really the 1970s, which in many ways is one of the most reviled decades. People say it was economically disastrous. Conservatives think it was disastrous for the family. Liberals disliked it because government started going broke, and going haywire, and people lost faith in a huge way because of Vietnam and Watergate and all sorts of exposes. But the one thing that the 70s proved was that even if the economy was kind of sh-tty, other things were getting better. And so there’s no idea that everything is going to be moving in a perfectly straight line, in a linear way. Economic policy was pretty dodgy for the most part of the 70s, but not completely, because that’s when deregulation happened. Lifestyle changes and lifestyle liberation became huge, and that’s not a small thing. I think we draw from that partly the idea that you—and this is a Marxist concept—that you can change history, but not under circumstances of your own choosing. We’re living in this moment, and how do we make the next moment better? And then maybe down the road we can make things totally different and better, but you’ve got to be in the here and now, and we have to recognize that progress doesn’t happen always on every front at the same time—and that’s not a bad thing; that’s just the way things are.

YAR:  Well, that’s really all I had to ask, but if there’s anything else you want to say, that would be great too.

GILLESPIE:  I really apologize for being late.

YAR:  Oh, no, it’s less for me to type.

WELCH:  Just that my half of the book is a lot better. Nick’s a dirty scoundrel.

GILLESPIE:  Matt wrote everything on the lower half of the pages, although west of the Mississippi, that’s reversed.

YAR:  Well, I’m mostly East Coast.

WELCH:  A lot of our best conversations about this have taken place on college campuses with Students for Liberty, and it’s genuinely invigorating to see what didn’t really exist five years ago in terms of an actual movement that is not monochromatic—it’s not just about Ron Paul; it’s not just about drug legalization or ending the Fed or whatever. It’s a genuinely diverse and passionate movement out there, and it’s very heartening and interesting to see.

GILLESPIE:  I think that one of the real challenges for what seems to be a true emerging phenomenon on college campuses and among younger people is does it get translated to political action. Maybe it will and maybe it won’t—it may or may not matter if it is, but how is that going to work out? A lot of the people so far who have been successful at getting elected to congressional office—Justin Amash is a pretty interesting—it’s fascinating so far that he’s very socially conservative, but he’s also very libertarian. Are there going to be people who are socially liberal but also very libertarian in terms of what the government should be doing. Will that happen, and then what kinds of policy changes will they be proposing? A lot of the Tea Party people have started to move back to tending their own gardens, looking at the state and local change. This is pretty interesting too, because that’s where in the 70s, again—you know, people don’t talk about it when they talk about how great the 70s were, but like in California, with Howard Jarvis, and the kind of state-based initiative process that really shook thing up. That happened in various other states as well. We tend to focus on the federal government—libertarians more than anybody—but we all know on some level that’s going to be the last place to change, and it’s going to be the least interesting version of it.

WELCH:  Yeah, what he said.

Bonnie Kristian is the Director of Communications at Young Americans for Liberty. Her personal writings may be found at bonniekristian.com.