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For many young people, it often seems that they're misunderstood by society, and that only a few good friends truly understand them. It can make those feelings much worse if you're a young person who understands and values freedom. Not only do most adults not understand you, but few people your own age will share your deepest-held values--they won't understand what's really important to you. Even if you're fortunate enough to have parents who grok, and maybe a friend or two, it can still be lonely a lot of the time. Being able to connect with others is important; they challenge your ideas and expand your mind beyond the familiar and accepted. Where can you turn to find others who share your values? Where do you find people who will give you the space you need to spread your wings?
You've probably already done an online search for like minds, perhaps browsing Free-Market.Net's "For Students" section. If you're in college somewhere, or about to make that decision, some of the listings there might be helpful, but maybe not... I mean, the "Young Objectivists Club" is great if you want to talk about Ayn Rand's specific take on the freedom philosophy, but if that's not your deal they'll bore you to death. The same goes for many libertarian clubs affiliated with the Libertarian Party; their activities are mostly geared toward winning elections. Again, that's fine if that's what gets you going, but if collecting signatures outside a supermarket isn't your idea of fun, or you're into more "hardcore" freedom, ballot access and stump speeches get real old, real quick. Working on someone else's goals isn't likely to excite and challenge you in the ways you want. I don't mean to imply that outfits like the LP or Objectivist clubs have nothing to offer, nor that their work is unimportant; my point is that they may not offer the food that satisfies your hunger.
Maybe you've done a more general search, using terms like "libertarian" or "freedom" in your favorite search engine. I don't know about you, but when I recently did such a search the results weren't particularly encouraging. Adding "youth" and similar terms to try to refine the search wasn't much better. I still ended up with mostly LP organizations for the former, and sites that want to sell "freedom technology" or somesuch for the latter... <sigh>
The good news is that I did find a number of interesting possibilities, of a variety of sorts. A number of organizations are devoted to youth rights, and are actively working to repeal laws that discriminate solely on the basis of age and to prevent others from being enacted. A number of think tanks offer internship and other valuable educational opportunities for older young people as well.
I found three organizations devoted to ending age-discriminatory laws, and that seem pro-freedom all around. ASFAR stands for "Americans for a Society Free from Age Restrictions". I saw no overtly political links or content; instead, they talk about the issues from the principle of freedom. They're trying to get chapters going across the country, and are encouraging involvement via their Web site. They also publish a 'zine called Youth Truth that looks cool.
Libertarian Rock looks like a better-funded organization. The Web site is slick, and they offer free stuff to their activists, whom they call "Rockstars". Like ASFAR, they have chapters organized across the country, but unlike ASFAR, they explicitly support the Libertarian Party.
The National Youth Rights Association describes itself as "champions of youth rights". Founded by former office-holders of ASFAR, NYRA's goals seem to overlap that organization's. Their Web site wasn't very easy to view with my browser (Netscape Communicator), so I didn't spend a lot of time looking around, but based on what I did see, it seemed that they are still getting started.
Each of these sites offers a means to establish contact with other young people interested in taking action to advance the cause of freedom for "minors" in the US. Libertarian Rock has message boards, and both LR and ASFAR say they'll publish letters and articles from individuals who write in wanting help or offering advice. For those who are interested in a broader view, check out the Youth for a Free Europe Web site.
Lots of pro-freedom "non-profit" organizations offer internship programs to young people. If you're interested, a good place to start your search is Free-Market.Net. Looking up "internships" will net you dozens of leads.
If you're interested in educational material, try the Future of Freedom Foundation. They have a section labeled "For Students Only", which I have on good authority (being too old to enter that section myself <grin>) is nicely done. FFF is pretty hard-core pro-freedom, so you can count on them for telling it like it is, and never watering down their message.
Another foundation that offers material for younger people is the Foundation for Economic Education. Dry name, very good organization! They sponsor a Web site devoted to introducing and advancing pro-freedom ideas among high school and college students. There's a wide variety of material available, and you can check out their essay contest too. Back on their main Web site, they offer a number of very interesting seminars for undergraduates and advanced students on a variety of topics. Sometimes they're able to help with money for people traveling to New York to attend a seminar.
The Institute for Humane Studies offers several programs for young scholars ranging from support for thesis work to journalism to the arts. They also offer seminars, and have a searchable job board on their Web site that lists many opportunities, including internships. For many young people, the information and contacts gained from participating in an IHS-supported activity have been the springboard to a career promoting free-market ideas and solutions.
And don't forget about the Liberty Round Table's essay contest--that's your chance to really speak your mind about freedom, even if you're nowhere near old enough to go to college yet!
Well, good for you! There are lots of discussion lists, newsgroups, and other possibilities for going online and talking with people who care about the things you care about. Free-Market.Net supports many such discussion lists. A specific search on the Web for these forums (maybe something like "freedom discussion lists", or you can go to a directory like Yahoo and search there) will yield more possibilities than you can keep up with, too. Many have a specific focus--such as anarcho-capitalism, perpetual tourism, objectivism, or LP activism--so if your interests are similarly specific, you can pick one that works best for you. But, be warned--some of these lists can be rough on people who ask newbie-type questions, even if you disclose the fact that you're 15 (or whatever). If youwant to connect with other people your age, try the Student Union, a FM.N "channel" that's described as "resource center and meeting place for students interested in the ideas of liberty".
For someone who wants wide-ranging conversation on any number of topics relating to freedom, I suggest trying a discussion list I'm involved in, from the Liberty Round Table. Most of the people there are tolerant of new folks wandering in and asking questions, although if you do want to get into ongoing philosophical debates with other participants you'll probably be encouraged to do so "off-list". LRT is the same group that sponsors the essay contest I mentioned above, for anyone 21 and under. The Web site also offers lots of practical advice on doing freedom, and has a library of reading materials with a lot of cool stuff, including essays that address the issues of children's rights and how to raise children to be free individuals.
If you want to contribute your ideas or suggestions for action, there are many ways to achieve that goal. As I mentioned, some of the youth-oriented activist sites are looking for writers and activists. Essay contests are a good way to share ideas and possibly make some money too. Writing for this 'zine is another way to do both, and we're looking for young writers. And I'm sure there are plenty of things I haven't discovered yet, just waiting for an enterprising, energetic individual to jump in.
Despite how it may feel at times, you are not alone, even if no one around you seems to understand freedom, or your desire to create more freedom in your life. Lots of other people your age are out there, and there are many adults who will welcome the opportunity to help you--and learn from you themselves--because you are the future of freedom!
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