A Tiger in the Jungle: How to be a Libertarian on a Leftist Campus

By Stuart Clayton Lee

Solomon Asch is a name you’ve probably heard of if you’ve taken a psychology class. He’s famous for conducting his experiments exploring the idea of conformity using one test subject and 7 other “test subjects”, known as confederates, who were really working with Asch. The test was a simple vision test involving lines. The test subjects were shown a card with one line on it and another card with three lines marked a, b, and c which were all different lengths. The test subjects were suppose to say which line most accurately measured the same length as the one on the other card. The confederates were there to purposely answer incorrectly, and the point of the experiment was to see if the real test subject would conform to the incorrect answer or answer correctly.

College has a similar effect on students with different views than typical left leaning students. Right wingers, and especially libertarians, are the real test subject in this analogy. Will we hold true to our principles, or will we succumb to social pressure and join the ranks of left wing students? The future is uncertain for all of us, however, there are steps we can take in order to survive the tsunami of left wing intimidation that you might run into. I shall break up a solution to this in 3 segments in order to form the ultimate shield to aggression.

The First Suggestion: Silent but Deadly

In both the classroom and social environments, stay quiet about politics. Think about this in a cost benefit analysis. What is to be gained by getting into redundant debates with classmates, professors, and friends? Could you gain another ally for the libertarian movement? Unfortunately the chances are stacked against you, and this isn’t because of a lack of knowledge on your part or anything, it’s simply because you’d be working against a social environment that demonizes anyone on the right wing. Also consider that when you’re arguing with a majority, you’re going to sound like an “odd man out” and therefore incorrect to bystanders.

Debates with professors are an even bigger thing to avoid. Professors have the benefit of being an authority figure in the classroom, and even if you’re correct in your argument, your classmates will still probably side with the professor. Why should they side with you? Do you have a PhD? Are you the one teaching the class? On top of that have you ever really enjoyed that “know it all” student who chimes in every two seconds? There is only one instance that I could see as beneficial to discuss your political ideas. This situation is with only you and another person. This other person can be another classmate, a student, even a professor. One on one talks don’t immediately expose you as an “evil right winger” to lots of people, and if you’re calm and respectful you’d be able to articulate your ideas alone with this individual without them hating you in the end. These one on one talks are actually quite effective and will help you see results better than arguing in large groups or with professors in a classroom.


The Second Suggestion: The Enemy of My Enemy

It’s important, if not vital, for you to find those with similar political views. If not, you may feel alone and isolated in your college experience unless you’re able to hold politics back and normally socialize with nonpartisan friends. Even if this is the case, it still helps to find those who share the same ideas.

The first thing to look for are libertarian clubs on campus. This could be Young Americans for Liberty or Students for Liberty. Attend these meetings, help out, make friends, and find yourself in the company of those who don’t think you’re just another evil neoliberal. The concern might be that by surrounding yourself with people who think like you you don’t learn anything new, however, I would retort and say that the majority of your college experience is going to be in the influence of left wing thought. The time you spend with other libertarians is small compared to the time you’ll spend trying to think through arguments made by your left wing environment.

Now this might be controversial, but I believe that your group of political allies should include conservatives. To find them, look for a College Republicans or Turning Point group on campus. Conservatives don’t fully agree with natural rights, they have an interventionist foreign policy, and they think coercion is justified in order to mold society to their will. However, conservatives are often correct when it comes to economics. Following the teachings of the Chicago School of Economics and lessons taught by Milton Friedman, or through Murray Rothbard and the teachings of the Austrian School, these people could be potential friends. Although anecdotal evidence is pointless, I will note that I have personally found it easier to talk to conservatives about political ideas on which we disagree. Conservatives are typically more in favor of free speech than those on the left, as shown by recent protests. Conservatives have it rough too on a college campus, and empathy could be the bridge to a helpful friendship.

The Third Suggestion: Strength Through Hardships

My last suggestion is to really revel in your college experience. It’s going to be different than your left wing counterparts. Instead of just accepting everything you hear and learn, you should always look up arguments against what you hear or form your own arguments. This constant situation where you’re learning new things and then going back and checking opposing arguments will make you stronger and smarter. Who becomes stronger at a gym, the one who keeps lifting the same amount of weight, or the one who keeps evolving and lifting higher amounts of weight?

The main benefit of having a left wing controlled campus would be that the right wing will become intellectually stronger. The left may increase in terms of numbers, but this process of having our ideas challenged 24/7 will eventually pay off making the right wing and their arguments stronger. It’s a rough process and you may get discouraged at time, but do well in class and do even better when fact checking what you learn in class and what your classmates say. As Nietzsche said, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.



College can be intimidating, especially if there’s a large portion of students who disagree with you politically. This weird and complex experience is almost like a jungle. You’ve been thrown into this environment and expected to survive. Be the animal that’s respectable and growing everyday. Be the tiger. Protect yourself and your friends and always be on the defensive. Never attack, but be prepared to respond when something comes your way.