Alexander McCobin is the president and cofounder of Students For Liberty (SFL), an organization whose mission is to provide a worldwide, unified, student-driven forum for students dedicated to liberty. I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Mr. McCobin about SFL, its achievements to date, and its future. —Robert Begley
Robert Begley: Thank you for taking time to discuss Students For Liberty with me. I know TOS’s readers will be interested to hear about SFL’s remarkable history, growth, and goals. To begin, how would you describe SFL’s general philosophy and approach to advocating liberty?
Alexander McCobin: Thank you for inviting me, Robert.
That’s a big question that I could answer a lot of ways. But I think I can best summarize it this way. I believe there are two things that change the world: ideas and people. Ideas provide the framework through which we understand and interact with the world. People actually create the world we live in.
The liberty movement has the right ideas. To be sure, there is more work to be done on the philosophy of liberty, and there are debates to be had about the justifications for and policy applications of the principles of liberty. But the broad philosophy in favor of respecting the freedoms of all people in all areas of their lives is supported by mountains of literature and analytical justification, and ample empirical evidence from the past two centuries shows that freer societies are more prosperous for far more people than are less free societies. For generations, the liberty movement has invested heavily in generating the ideas and principles of liberty. What the liberty movement has not invested in nearly enough are people to advocate and implement those ideas. There have been some great leaders and advocates of liberty, to be sure—but not enough, especially when compared to the incredibly high levels of investment by statists in people to advocate and implement statist ideas.
Given this background, SFL’s strategy is largely to focus on people. First, we seek to educate as many young people as possible about the principles of liberty. Second, we provide leadership training to those young people who are committed to liberty and who want to become leaders in the liberty movement. Third, we provide them with the infrastructure, resources, and support to advance liberty in the best ways they can.
Begley: How did SFL get started? How large is the organization today, in terms of students, chapters, and countries? And what accounts for its rapid expansion?
McCobin: I was first introduced to these ideas in ninth grade when my father gave me a copy of Atlas Shrugged for my birthday. . . .