Students for Liberty (SFL) is an international organization whose purpose is to educate young people about the nature and importance of liberty; to develop leaders who are willing and conceptually equipped to fight effectively for liberty; and to empower them by providing resources, networks, infrastructure, and general support for their activities.
Attendance at SFL’s events is more than 600,000 students annually. In 2021, they held 2,571 events worldwide, organized and promoted by 3,429 student volunteers. It is a vibrant organization of very smart, highly motivated young men and women who are applying the skills and ideas learned through SFL programs to their personal and professional lives in business, law, education, the sciences, the arts, and political activism.
At SFL’s recent LibertyCon, held in Miami, Florida, I got to meet several dozen of SFL’s participants and coordinators in person and observed several hundred others showcasing their worldwide activities in support of individual rights and liberty. Many of them engage in activism in countries where advocating liberty can get you beaten up, jailed, or even killed. These young men and women are courageous and heroic.
As Ayn Rand pointed out, the fight for liberty requires a philosophic base—specifically, ethics, epistemology, and metaphysics. A few years ago, Craig Biddle and I, through Prometheus Foundation, began working with SFL to help students around the world discover that base and use it in their advocacy of freedom. As part of our initial engagement with the organization, Craig and I wrote a booklet, titled Liberty: What Is It? Why Is It Good? On What Does It Depend?, for SFL to distribute at their events. The booklet is a brief introduction to Ayn Rand’s ideas in support of liberty (and is sometimes titled “Ayn Rand and the Foundation of Liberty”). Since then, through my Prometheus Foundation, we have supported further philosophic education and programs for SFL to provide their hundreds of thousands of students with the necessary philosophic foundation for freedom. These programs include, among other things, Leonard Peikoff’s extensive course, The History of Philosophy. Indeed, the CEO of SFL, Wolf Von Laer (PhD), his wife, Sophie, and several people on SFL’s staff have completed Peikoff’s course. They studied it seriously and loved it.
I first was introduced to SFL while touring with Yaron Brook in Europe. I noticed that Yaron’s audiences would range from very small and unmotivated to quite large and highly motivated. The larger, more energetic audiences were those involving SFL in collaboration with ARI Europe, which was co-founded by me and run by Annie Vinther Sanz, who is now Director of Operations at Prometheus Foundation. These SFL audiences sometimes were in the hundreds; the students were markedly more motivated than those in other audiences; and their questions displayed a high degree of curiosity and intelligence. ARI understandably contributed money to SFL in order to have an opportunity to speak to their students.
While in Asia, Yaron introduced me to Alexander McCobin, who co-founded and was, at the time, CEO of SFL. We had lunch with him, and also attended an SFL event in, I believe, Hong Kong. I asked Yaron about ARI’s relationship with SFL because I had been told that ARI would not engage with SFL because they had some connections to the Libertarian Party. Yaron replied that the SFL in Asia and Europe is a different organization from the SFL in America. I accepted his answer but found out later that this was not true. Alexander McCobin was CEO of the organization worldwide, just as Wolf von Laer is today. All the SFL organizations were and are coordinated centrally. Students for Liberty is a worldwide organization. (The Libertarian Party is a U.S. organization; SFL is worldwide.)
I think SFL is a perfect audience for advancing Rand’s ideas. And I’m delighted to support SFL’s programs that advance them. I’ll post about some of those programs soon.
Carl B. Barney
November 9, 2022