I just returned from an awesome trip to Yuma, Arizona, where I participated in programs hosted by The Freedom Library, a fantastic educational foundation run by long-time libertarian Howard Blitz. For many years, the Freedom Library has been running free-market, libertarian educational programs that are oriented to people of all ages, but with a special emphasis on young people.
I arrived on Thursday and got to participate in a course on the Constitution taught by Howard. Around 15 people of all ages attend this particular class, which is two hours long. In the middle of the class, Howard showed the great video “Not Yours to Give,” which is about Congressman Davey Crockett learning about the immorality of using government to give money to people in need. The most enjoyable part of the evening was the discussion among the attendees, which I happily participated in.
On Friday morning, I conducted 4 one-hour sessions for students at classes at Gila Ridge High School. My topic was libertarianism and how it applies to the burning issues of our time. Topics included the welfare state, the drug war, immigration, and foreign policy.
Ordinarily I expect antagonistic questions from student audiences, which I love because they provide me with the opportunity to show how libertarians are different from conservatives and progressives. This time there were only two students who were antagonistic, on the issue of foreign policy. So, there were some good exchanges between us on how differently conservatives and libertarians view foreign policy.
I found it interesting that all the other questions from the students were not antagonistic but rather asked from a genuine interest in trying to understand libertarianism. I found that to be an enormously positive sign. When I do these types of sessions, I’m not necessarily looking for agreement. I’m looking to make students think. The way I figure it is that if the mental gears are moving, then people will figure out for themselves that libertarianism is the key to getting America out of the statist morass in which it has long been mired.
The best part of the trip — the primary reason I went out to Yuma — was a big 3-way debate on Saturday night. The theme: “The Proper Role of Government for the Future of America.” The debaters were noted conservative Dinesh D’Souza, who produced the new film America, progressive (i.e. liberal) Andrei Cherny, who graduated from Harvard, was a prosecuting attorney, and author of two books, and me as the libertarian.
The audience consisted of 500 people from all walks of life in Yuma. It lasted two hours. Judging from the post-debate reaction, everyone seems to have thoroughly enjoyed it. I sure did!
Each of us was asked by the moderator to state our positions about the role of government in these five areas: education, foreign affairs, immigration, healthcare, and the economy. After one person’s answer, the other debaters got to weigh in on the issue, with the original answerer getting a final rejoinder. The answers involved philosophy, morality, economics, history, and practicality.
If this wasn’t the best debate I have ever participated in, it certainly ranks among the top 5. It was a no-holds barred debate between the three of us. We all took the gloves off but, at the same time, it was civil, professional, and high quality—i.e., there were no personal attacks. It was what genuine debate is all about.
The debate was videotaped and will be posted online. As soon as it is, we will link to it in FFF Daily. I think you will thoroughly enjoy it. You might also find it a perfect way to show your friends the fundamental differences between libertarians, conservatives, and progressives.
A special thanks to Howard Blizt and the Freedom Library for inviting me to participate in their fantastic educational programs. It was truly an honor for me to do so.