Dear Daily Kos Reader,
My name is Clark Ruper, Vice President of Students For Liberty. On Monday Feb. 3rd the Daily Kos published an article called 25 Images of Markets “Regulating Themselves”, which linked to a page on our website describing one of our various book publications called The Morality of Capitalism, implying we support big corporate abuse and profit for its own sake while not thinking highly of those who disagree with us. This is not the case and while we appreciate the link, we would like to introduce ourselves to your community, as we see ourselves more as potential allies than opponents.
First a little bit about our community. We are a movement of young people who cherish the ideals of personal, economic, and academic freedom. Students For Liberty got its start back in 2008 when a handful of students organized what we then thought was a good sized conference of 100 people, which has grown into our now annual International Students For Liberty Conference that featured over 1,400 attendees last year. There are currently 1,194 libertarian student groups in our network around the world with new burgeoning movements in Africa, Latin America, and India to name a few exciting developments.
Unlike other student movements, we are not tied to any political party or partisan structure. We are not interested in party politics; instead we are activists for ideas. We believe strongly in the ideas of human liberty, ideas which are now seen as radical but are part of a rich classical liberal tradition reaching back centuries, ideas which have created the prosperity of the modern world. We publish books like The Morality of Capitalism to make the case that true free enterprise capitalism, as opposed to our current system of corporatism, is a liberating force with the power to tear down existing power structures and raise humanity out of poverty. We printed 100,000 copies of these books that our students distributed on campus to combat the status quo of big government crony capitalism taught in the classrooms.
The book includes contributions by two Nobel Prize winners, one a novelist and one an economist, an interview with successful entrepreneur and advocate of “conscious capitalism”, as well as various articles from academics and activists around the world. Each offers an appreciation of how free-market exchanges are rooted in morality and reinforce moral behavior.
The original Daily Kos article uses anecdotal pictures to argue against those who “see markets as ethically right or ethically moral, meaning pursuit of profit always somehow leads to a greater good.” But that is an outrageous claim, one that we do not support. We do not think that markets always produce the right results; no social system can do that.
We do not think that markets are in and of themselves moral. Rather that truly free markets are rooted in morality and can reinforce desirable social norms and morals. In the article “Liberty and Dignity Explain the Modern World”, economic historian Dr. Deirdre McCloskey argues that capitalism and its accompanying prosperity came about through a change in how people thought about business, exchange, innovation, and profit.
This is what we mean by the morality of capitalism. That it creates the institutional arrangements that channel individual self-interest to the common good.
The other side of our belief in the power of markets is our distrust of centralized power; a belief that power tends to collect and corrupt. We utilize the insights of public choice economics and the problems of regulatory capture and observe that big government and big business go hand in hand. Hence our insistence on the difference between free market capitalism and crony capitalism.
In fact, the Daily Kos article makes this point very well for us. Most of the examples used are from some of the most heavily regulated markets and industries in the world.
You can download the whole book for free and see for yourself. We do not cast aside those who do not agree with us as “liberals”; as if that is a dirty word (I proudly refer to myself as a liberal). Instead we want to have a dialogue on these issues and find where we have common ground such as opposing cronyism and corporate welfare. I will close with the description of a panel at our 2014 International Students For Liberty Conference, Libertarians & the Left:
'Raised in an era of the financial crisis, everlasting wars, ballooning private & public debt, battles over gay marriage, and the US government’s surveillance state, young people today recognize that the status quo is broken and are looking for alternatives. Libertarians are well positioned to address these issues, and although long thought of as “on the right”, are today finding more common ground with modern liberals and progressives.'
If we can get beyond our historical differences, we will find we have more in common, and more to work on together than we thought. Together, we can find ways to work toward a freer, more prosperous, and fair future for all.
Students For Liberty