Libertarians far and wide, hear my cry: Liberaltarianism (or left-libertarianism) is the future.

This is the first part of a three-part series that will argue that unless libertarianism embraces important tenets of the left wing, libertarianism will be entirely lost on this generation.

Please note that these facts and statistics represent the majority of the population born between 1982 and 2004. Not all views will be shared by all Millennials, but they are general trends.

Millennials are all about community, not individualism.

There’s a reason so many are drawn to Facebook. They can “be” with their friends, share their successes in exchange for “likes,” and find their niche that makes them feel like they belong. For Millennials, unlike their Baby Boomer parents, driving a car alone on the open road is/was not the icon of freed young adulthood—for them, they would much rather have a private conversation with their friends on messaging services. They do not ever want to be disconnected—and it’s not just because of social media.

Millennials grew up with team-building activities in the classroom. Many of them played sports, particularly as young children. Growing up, there was an emphasis on tolerance, and bullying quickly went out of style. Acceptance and inclusion became normal for Millennials. They even became closer with their families (consider the number of Millennials living with their parents). According to Gallup, 51% of people who are between 18- to 23-years-old and 14% of people who are between the ages of 24 and 34 are still living at home. It’s not just economic necessity or student loans, it’s also about the generosity and connection parents have with their children.

Millennials grew up in an age of identity politics. As the most diverse generation in American history, Millennials are sensitive to the struggles of issues relating to race, gender, sexual identity, and class—because a majority of them hold far more diverse friendships than previous generations.

The emphasis on community shows up in Millennials’ political behaviors. They want everyone to belong. The good news is that they will support civil liberties: They’re going to overwhelmingly support gay marriage and beat out the margins to support immigration reform. The bad news is that, in an effort to take care of everyone in their community, they’re going to support more government services like healthcare. In fact, the Pew Research Center found in their Millennials in Adulthood study that 55% of Millennials prefer a government that is bigger and provides more services. In contrast, only 43%, 32%, and 22% of Generation X, Boomers, and Silent agreed, respectively.

So what’s to be done to bring more Millennials to liberty?

1. Don’t oversell the individual

Millennials care more about community than the self. They are the least narcissistic generation in decades. The appeal to self-interest will only work to an extent. To be sure, libertarians of all sorts emphasize coming together and helping others, but there’s a side to community that only liberaltarianism wants to engage: identity politics. Acknowledging that people of color, people of different classes, and people of different genders not only have differences in how they live their lives but also have formed communities around those differences is something for libertarians to embrace, not ignore or deride.

2. Emphasize that government destroys community, and liberty can help strengthen it

For millennia, governments have targeted specific communities—from black people to Jewish people to women to the poor—and exploited them. No community is safe from governmental coercion, and no government action can strengthen a community. Communities strengthen through voluntary association and inclusion, not forcing other communities to change to fit another’s needs. It’s easy to start small. For example, women all across the United States would benefit if contraception were available over the counter, but right now they need a prescription. Help women everywhere by advocating for the removal of unnecessary governmental laws. Redirect the conversation to talk about how being free helps communities stay strong, and how looking out for freedom means looking out for each other.

3. Show off the great libertarian community

It’s a great time to be a 20-something libertarian.

There are libertarian communities everywhere—beyond just Young Americans for Liberty and Students For Liberty (which are, to be sure, fabulous, but mostly target college students). Libertarians love to socialize, have fun, and sure, talk about politics, but the community itself is largely warm and engaging. De-emphasize the fringe bigots and demonstrate how the libertarian community supports one another. If it seems like a place that’s welcoming, that has an interesting and engaging community, Millennials will become more interested in the philosophy itself.

See Part 2, which addresses Millennials and the economy, here.

  • [U]nless libertarianism embraces important tenants of the left wing


    Millenials are all about community, not individualism.

    Individualism is usually seen as the opposite of collectivism, not community per se. There are *some* individualists who loudly emphasize self-reliance versus the division of labor, but they really are just a loud minority of individualists. Individualism is a very diverse set of beliefs, not unlike how there really isn’t *one* type of feminism.

    And regarding community, it’s not just millennials who emphasize community. The difference lies with what the community is. Jews have historically had very tight-knit communities, as well as the Irish and Italians (the last two are at least true of Boston). But those groups don’t place the same kind of emphasis as the used to on maintaining a tight-knit community based on their ethnicity.

    And then you have the social (and religious) conservatives who have been talking about maintaining communities with strong “family” values or the nationalist conservatives who emphasize “American” values, where the community is America (or really whatever their narrow concept of America is).

    Maybe millennials are placing less emphasis on ethnic or religious communities now and are instead focusing on other characteristics, but it’s a significant stretch to say that they place more emphasis on community than previous generations.

    Also, individualists have historically been the first feminists and to advocate for the abolition of slavery. So there’s that too.

    • Also, the article Welfare before the Welfare State does a great job addressing your second point. Granted it’s only one example, but libertarians (even at the Mises Institute) do address this sort of thing frequently.

  • Noah

    Great article. Totally digging the centrist strategy emphasizing moderation.

    I would be a bit concerned, though, that de-emphasizing aspects of issues in outreach was not matched with symmetric policy proposals. Lacking the latter might create the impression of a “bait and switch” in the minds of those recruited.

    For instance, appealing to women by presenting libertarians as in favor of over-the-counter birth control is solid. However, a likely method–abolishing “prescriptions” altogether–might be a bit too immoderate for the centrist appeal inherent in this strategy. If immoderate policy is pursued, then those women gained by the moderate appeal might feel burned.

    Just because libertarians captured group members by promising a particular outcome does not mean that those group members will be on board with all proposed solution to achieve that outcome. An alternate approach is the incremantalist one, which has dominated the history of American public policymaking.

    For instance, instead of abolishing all prescription limits, abolish many limits, except for some on those substances that could be more easily and harmfully misused, either accidentally or intentionally. It seems reasonable to expect that some women captured by expanding the scope of OTC drugs might not be in favor of as broad boundaries as some more traditional libertarians (i.e. prescriptions for highly addictive substances). Just because one thinks it’s silly to need an prescription for birth control doesn’t mean one wants opiates so freely available.

    Seeking the center is an essential strategy for winning in majoritarian elections. If one seeks the center, and particularly if one wins by doing so, then one must be prepared to dance with the one who brung ya by following through in governing with moderate policy proposals. If one won through moderation, one better be prepared to be moderate. Moderation often means annoying the base. Just as often, though, moderation also means winning.

  • Gay_for_Jesus

    It really is a good time to be a 20-something libertarian. Never before has daddy paid for more bills. I bet he prints all of Rachel’s articles out and hangs them on the refrigerator!

  • Roderick T. long

    Left-libertarianism and liberaltarianism are not the same thing.

    Essentially, liberaltarianism fuses moderate, centrist left-liberalism with moderate, centrist classical liberalism. Left-libertarianism fuses radical leftism with radical libertarianism.

  • jay

    I think that is what Rand Paul and his father Ron Paul have been trying to do to some extent. Rand focuses attention on things like prison reform and how our current justice system is harmful to people of color.