“Paul Krugman is a poo poo head,” is the first line of popular discussion topics listed in the Students for Liberty brochure. Students for Liberty, a student group at Lane Community College, has strong right wing leanings. Their list of popular discussion topics look like a list of threads on 4chan’s “Politically Incorrect” forum. “Bernie Sanders is wrong about everything,” “Liberty means we are free to be unequal,” and “Socialism is stupid and only idiots think it can work,” are listed as a few of the popular discussion topics at Students for Liberty.
Originally the group was known as Students for Liberty but in January this year the group signed up with Young Americans for Liberty. SFL and YAL were considered competing Libertarian organizations but SFL is now listed as a strategic partner on YAL’s website. Former Students for Liberty organizer Keenan Wegener considers the two groups sister organizations.
Young Americans for Liberty is a nationwide student organization that claims to have over 250,000 members on over 750 campuses. It was started in 2009 following Ron Paul’s strong Libertarian presidential candidacy. The Libertarian student group quickly spread to campuses across America but after Ron Paul’s second failed presidential attempt in 2012, the organization shifted to mainstream conservative sponsorship according to Mark Wachtler at White Out Press.
Its list of 2014 YAL convention sponsors include organization like the Heritage Foundation, the CATO institute, Freedom Works and the Charles Koch Institute. Its current sponsors list is a “who’s who” of powerful conservative foundations, think tanks and lobbies.
Young Americans for Liberty has an active presence on the Lane campus. Lane offers cooperative education internships with the Young Americans for Liberty. They table public events with various conservative literature, have hosted a presidential debate party and held a viewing of Dinesh D’Souza’s “Hillary’s America.”
D’Souza’s Hillary’s America was a clear piece of Alt-Right propaganda. The conspiratorial narrative relied on staged contemporary and historical scenes to tell a tall tale of paranoid political fantasy. The film took such liberties with historically staged scenes that one scene included a ghostly KKK horsemen riding across the White House lawn. When asked if they thought D’Souza’s movie was propaganda Joshua Jankowski said, “What is the dictionary definition of propaganda?” Audience discussion at their Oct. 19 presidential debate party primarily focused on Second Amendment and abortion issues.
The campus’s Libertarians have great admiration for a number of free market thinkers such as F.A. Hayek, Thomas Sowell and Frederic Bastiat. Their literature is peppered with quotes and portraits of the free market economists. Free market ideas are central to YAL chapter but struggles for individual liberty are remote on YAL’s national website. On a national level YAL has married Libertarian individual freedom with free market philosophy. YAL’s cause of individual liberty has taken up the call for financial deregulation, tax cuts for the wealthy and laissez faire economics.
This election year Donald Trump’s candidacy has put Alt–Right ideas center stage in the American political landscape. Many of the ideas in D’Souza’s film go far beyond Alt-Right and delve into “Red Pill” conspiratorial thinking, that believes the whole world has been deceived by the liberal media and feminists.
Personal political views differ from member to member, but partnership with the largest conservative organizations in the country have essentially turned YAL into the youth wing of the Republican Party. “I’m not sure why we switched [from SFL to YAL,] I would have been involved either way because what drew me was the [Libertarian] ideology,” says Joshua Jankowski. “It’s the only political club [on campus,] which I thought was surprising when I wanted to get involved,” says Jankowski.
Paul Krugman’s Oct. 28 column in the New York Times is titled “Conservative Intellectuals: Follow the money.” Krugman writes, “Both Ross Douthat and David Brooks have now weighed in on the state of conservative intellectuals; both deserve credit for taking a critical look at their team.”
Krugman, the 2008 Nobel Prize winner in economics and celebrated New York Times columnist, is obviously not in keeping with the free market ideals of YAL. But even if this YAL chapter thinks Krugman is a doo-doo head it might be worth taking Krugman’s suggestion about conservative intellectuals: follow the money.
Libertarian and anarchist student groups across the country have been cooped by some of the most powerful conservative organizations in America. YAL brings a very powerful conservative intellectual agenda to the Lane campus. They also bring what Krugman writes about conservative intellectuals, “a simply weird refusal to acknowledge the huge role played by money and monetary incentives promoting bad ideas.” Popular or not YAL can continue to count on support from wealthy conservatives, as long as they continue to believe in cutting taxes for the richest people in America.