Dr. Kenneth Brent Olsen

Dr. Kenneth Brent Olsen

It is undeniable that libertarianism is a growing movement, especially amongst the younger generations in America. During his campaign for the Republican nomination for President of the United States in 2008 and 2012, Congressman Ron Paul brought a great deal of attention to libertarianism, especially amongst the youth.

This inspired the formation of Young Americans for Liberty, a student activism organization which supports liberty candidates. Many of those youth who were inspired by Ron Paul became registered Libertarians.

In 2016, Gary Johnson once again inspired many Americans, especially amongst the youth, to become Libertarians during his presidential campaign. In 2020, Jo Jorgensen and Spike Cohen continued to draw younger Americans towards the movement and to the Libertarian Party.

Congressman Justin Amash, the first Libertarian United States congressman, also has inspired and continues to inspire many young adults towards the Libertarian Party. Democratic Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, likewise draws many of the youth on the left towards libertarianism and despite her having no association with the Libertarian Party, towards the party.

One of the efforts that some members of the Libertarian Party are working on is building a college club for young Libertarians on campuses nationwide. This effort is gaining momentum especially right now as Young Americans for Liberty have been going through some internal strife. Also, with many Republicans leaving the Republican Party and many of them joining the Libertarian Party, there is a lot of momentum building at all levels in the party right now.

Why are young Americans so drawn to libertarian principles? Most young Americans are drawn towards progressive and liberal parties because the youth in America are typically not as attached to tradition and conservative social values of their parents’ or grandparents' generations.

While homosexuality was still considered to be a mental disorder as recently as the 1970s and has taken even longer than that to normalize socially, for the youth of America today, homosexuality is generally widely accepted and for most gay youth, being “out of the closet” is not generally met with as much intolerance as it has been for previous generations.

The Libertarian Party has fought for the individual rights of homosexuals since its creation in 1971. The Democrats, on the other hand did not advocate for gay marriage until 2012.

The Libertarian Party has been fighting against the War on Drugs since 1971 as well. It has been a major part of the effort to re-legalize drugs, which has won recent battles throughout the country to re-legalize cannabis. While most young Americans do not habitually engage in drug use, most see drug use as a personal choice and when engaged in harmfully, as an illness.

They have seen the efforts of nations such as Portugal, which decriminalized drugs work. The younger generations tend to be more open-minded and able to see statistics supporting legalization for what they are without trying to demonize the concept.

Many young Americans are beginning to realize the damage done by government continually increasing the national debt and are becoming fearful of what this will mean for them as the government teeters closer to the edge of insolvency. The only political party which truly demonstrates a desire to decrease government spending is the Libertarian Party.

The Republicans and Democrats only argue about how fast government should grow, not whether or not it should continue to grow. This trend will be more injurious to younger generations than older generations.

Libertarianism has always been a movement drawing the youth, but as the younger generations reach the age of majority and continue to remain a part of the liberty movement and the growing Libertarian Party, this means America is getting closer to seeing the rise of the Libertarian Party as a party to contend with in American politics.

Dr. Kenneth Brent Olsen is a clinical psychologist practicing in California. He has been active in the Libertarian Party since 1996 when he ran for Salt Lake County Commissioner in Utah. To contact Dr. Olsen, please email him at  vicechair@ca.lp.org.

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