A Free-Market Energy Blog

Students for Liberty: A Grass Root Challenge to Statist Education (1,750 groups in sight)

By Alexander Cobin -- November 6, 2014

“The student movement for liberty has grown dramatically … to the point that it is a vibrant part of campus life these days, and people are starting to notice it.”

The school year is in full swing, which means that Students For Liberty (SFL) is running at full steam to introduce students to the ideas of liberty (especially the millions of freshmen who just started their collegiate careers).

There is good news: the statists are running scared, and we are succeeding.

You may often hear reports from full of dire warnings about Marxist professors trying to indoctrinate classrooms, hostile university bureaucracies inhibiting student organizing, and restrictions on free speech that cause a chilling effect on open discourse. [Editor note: many have experienced progressivist professors either ignoring or dismissing pro-freedom thinkers and arguments.]

These threats to liberty still exist, but to be honest with you they are becoming increasingly irrelevant.

What matters is that Students For Liberty is growing, that libertarianism is becoming the dominant force on campuses around the world.

Here are just a few of our plans for the 2014/15 school year to highlight the impact we’re having:

  • Growing the network to 1,750+ student groups world-wide;
  • Training 700+ student leaders around the world;
  • Distributing 500,000+ resources to students, including books, pamphlets, and activist kits;
  • Running 50 conferences on 6 continents for over 10,000 attendees;
  • Garnering over 750 tracked media placements; and
  • Creating new initiatives to support SFL alumni in their efforts to advance liberty.


When we started SFL in 2008, there were less than 50 pro-liberty student groups in the world, less than 10 of us in SFL’s leadership, we organized one conference for 100 students, and could only distribute a minimal number of resources to the groups in our network.

The student movement for liberty has grown dramatically since then, to the point that it is a vibrant part of campus life these days, and people are starting to notice it.

To read more about how SFL is gaining ground right now, please check my SFL bimonthly memo.

This Year

SFL is poised to have a greater impact this year than ever before, but we need your help to do so. Students have the passion, time, and energy to promote liberty. But they need the resources and support to make a difference.

SFL just ran 9 conferences for 1,170 students in 1 day this past Saturday.  In fact, we are running 21 conferences in the US and Canada this fall, as well as our 8th Annual International SFL Conference in Washington, DC from February 13-15, 2015, where we are expecting over 1,300 attendees (see www.isflc.org).  If you can join us for any of these conferences, we’d love to have you there to see why there should be great optimism for the future of liberty.

The statists are scared and liberty is on the rise, but there is much to do for a new generation. Please join us to build the student movement for liberty for a freer future.

Alexander McCobin is cofounder and president of Students For Liberty (Facebook page here).



1) What is SFL’s mission?

SFL’s mission is to provide a unified, student-driven forum of support for students and student organizations dedicated to liberty.

2) What does SFL stand for? What does liberty mean?

Students For Liberty is an organization that supports liberty. SFL does not dictate the foundations upon which individuals justify their belief in liberty. Rather, Students For Liberty embraces the diversity of justifications for liberty and encourages debate and discourse on the differing philosophies that underlie liberty. What Students For Liberty endorses are the principles that comprise liberty:

    • Economic freedom to choose how to provide for one’s life;
    • Social freedom to choose how to live one’s life; and
    • Intellectual and academic freedom.

3) Does SFL support political parties, candidates, or legislation?

No. SFL is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization. As such, we do not endorse any political party, political candidates, or legislation.

4) Is SFL a membership-based organization?

No. SFL does not utilize a strict membership model where people sign up for SFL each year. Nor does SFL have chapters or mini-SFL’s on campus that take orders from a national office. Our model is more akin to a coalition.  SFL is an external organization that provides tangible support for pro-liberty student organizations.

We work with a diversity of student organizations across the many ideological positions within the philosophy of liberty. These include the campus Students For Liberty groups, College Libertarians, small “l” libertarian associations, economics clubs, Objectivist societies, Austrian Economics reading groups, Students for Individual Liberty clubs, and any other name that students dedicated to liberty adopt.

5) How can a college student. How can I get involved with SFL?

Since SFL is not a membership-based organization, the answer to this question is not as simple as saying “pay your dues.” There are various ways that you can get involved.

  1. Start a student organization dedicated to liberty. There is no greater way to support the cause of liberty on campus than starting a student organization. Check out our comprehensive Leading Liberty Handbook for advice on how to start and run a successful student group and get in touch with a leader in your region so we can better assist you with your local needs.
  2. Access SFL’s resources. SFL provides many resources for college students ranging from our conferences, to our free books, to the Virtual Speakers Bureau. Check out our Events and Resources tabs to find out more.
  3. Volunteer time to support SFL as an organization. SFL is a volunteer-driven organization. All of our successes are due to the time and dedication of many students who want to become actively involved in the cause of liberty. If you would like to volunteer your time to support SFL, please email Clint Townsend.
  4. Sign up for SFL’s E-Newsletter. The SFL E-Newsletter is a weekly email that provides SFL updates, new opportunities in the pro-liberty community, and highlights of what students and student organizations are doing around the world to promote liberty. You can subscribe or update your preferences here.
  5. Check out SFL’s website. For even more updates on SFL, opportunities, liberty, and student activities, make SFL’s website, www.studentsforliberty.com, a daily stop and join in on the discussion.

6) Does SFL work with other nonprofit organizations?

Yes! SFL works with a variety of other nonprofit organizations dedicated to promoting liberty. These include student-directed support organizations, think tanks, student associations, academic institutions, and many others.

7 ) What makes SFL different from other pro-liberty nonprofit organizations that support students? What makes SFL different from other student political organizations?

There are many strategies for promoting liberty, each of which is effective and important in the overall pro-liberty movement. Recognizing that there is no single strategy to support students and promote liberty, SFL is dedicated to carving out a niche in the cause of liberty that complements the work of other organizations and utilizes our comparative advantage. What makes SFL truly unique is our focus on effectively promoting the philosophy of liberty on campus.

    • Where other organizations take students away from campus for programs, SFL brings the cause of liberty to campus to strengthen the connection between academia and liberty.
    • Where other organizations seek to change policy and have students complete voter registration forms, SFL is focused on the ideas behind public policy, the philosophy of liberty, and seeks to spread the message of liberty above all else.
    • Where other organizations represent very specific philosophies to justify liberty, SFL seeks to serve as a bridge between these different philosophies. We want members of different political parties to discuss with each other what a public policy of liberty means. We want Objectivists and Austrian Economists to work together on strategies for promoting free markets. We support a diversity of organizations and philosophies because we believe that what is most important is to bring the range of advocates of liberty together and focus on the 90% we have in common rather than the 10% that we disagree on.
    • Where other organizations support individual students, SFL goes a step further to support student organizations. We don’t believe that we need to wait 10 years for students to become leaders of liberty. We want students to become leaders today and so provide the resources and training for them to do just that.
    • Where other organizations are geographically restricted, SFL is at the forefront of developing an international student movement for liberty that transcends political boundaries.

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