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.