Students for a Libertarian Society

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Students for a Libertarian Society was an activist organization for students in the United States who existed to promote libertarian ideals on college campuses.

Origins

The name and organizational structure were inspired by the success of Students for a Democratic Society in the 1960s. SLS was founded in April 1978.[1] It was organizationally distinct from the Libertarian Party which had its own, much smaller, official youth wing, the Young Libertarian Alliance.

National organization

At its height in 1979 and 1980, SLS had a central national office with a paid staff in San Francisco across the street from the Cato Institute and dozens of chapters. It also published a variety of pamphlets and issue papers and Liberty magazine in a newspaper format with a circulation of more than 10,000 copies per issue.

The National Directors of Students for a Libertarian Society were Milton Mueller (1979-1981), Jeffrey Friedman (1981-1982), Kathleen Jacob Richman (1982), and Chris Gunderson (1982-83). Others active in the organization were Williamson Evers, Chris Sciabarra, Mark Brady, Mark Joffe, Eric Garris, and David Beito, who were members of the national board, and Paul Jacob, a prominent illegal draft resister, Tom G. Palmer, and Dave Nalle, the publications director of Liberty magazine. Former chapter heads included Justin Raimondo and Alan R. Weiss.

The SLS was very active in organizing protests against draft registration during the presidential administration of Jimmy Carter. It later organized protests against governmental support for nuclear power. Many members supported the Libertarian presidential campaign of Ed Clark in 1980 but, unlike the Young Libertarian Alliance and its successor Students for Clark, SLS did not officially take a stand.

Decline

Beginning in 1982, the SLS began began to fall apart as a national organization over disagreements between the Libertarian Party Radical Caucus (1979) of Murray Rothbard, Williamson Evers and Justin Raimondo, and others associated with Edward H Crane and the Cato Institute. In 1982, it had to make massive cutbacks when billionaire, Charles Koch, withdrew his financial support. After the last National Director, Chris Gunderson, failed to get replacement funding, SLS quickly collapsed. It seems to have disappeared as a national organization in 1983 though a few chapters remained active for several years.

Reestablishment

Justin Raimondo was involved in an attempt to reestablish a national organization under the aegis of antiwar.com and led by Mike Ewens of the Washington University chapter, but although some local chapters seem to have been founded not much else appears to have been done on a national basis and the website is offline. The banner of organizing libertarian students has since been picked up by a new organization Students for Liberty and to a lesser extent Young Americans for Liberty (who though non-partisan leans strongly Republican rather than libertarian or Libertarian).

Further Reading

  1. Libertarian Review, October 1978, Volume 7, No. 9