In “A brief look at social empathy” (September 8), Kevin Bargnes discussed a socially conservative yet fiscally liberal political ideology. In his editorial, Mr. Bargnes made a few errors in statements regarding the conservative and libertarian movements. We, the UW-Madison chapter of Young Americans for Liberty, would like to clarify exactly what we believe.
The editorial claimed members of our group are “generally more aligned with the Republican Party.” This is a common misunderstanding of Libertarian ideology. We do tend to agree more with conservatives on economic matters, but more with liberals on social ones. However, we are still neither liberal nor conservative; we have no political affiliation, we tend to share similar political views as the libertarian party, and we believe, above all, in maximizing individual freedom.
As a minority party, we are often compelled to work with others to accomplish our goals. We are willing to work with one group that shares a similar perspective with us on a certain issue while working towards other goals with completely different groups. To say we “tend to support Republicans,” as Mr. Bargnes asserted, only gives one side of the story.
It is inaccurate to say we are “conservative college students who are socially liberal” – we are a group of people actively fighting for liberty, an ideology distanced from pure conservatism. His given description would actually describe a moderate conservative. If we were the same as conservatives and Republicans, we wouldn’t have started our own party, nor created our own ideology.
Later in the editorial, Mr. Bargnes stated that if you “want to use government to fix [societal problems],” that “you should also be able to understand more personal, internal issues” and that this is a matter of social empathy. It is true we do not want government to be used to fix societal problems, as we believe individuals should hold both the power and the responsibility required to do so. However, we are not devoid of empathy as Mr. Bargnes might think; in fact, we support legalized marijuana to reduce the pain of chronic diseases, gay marriage to provide equal rights to gay families, dollar-for-dollar tax credits on money given to charity in order to encourage donations, an end to the drug war to relieve the oppression of millions of third-world citizens, and a non-interventionist foreign policy to prevent the horrors and destruction of war.
Mr. Bargnes asserted we are “selfish, big government haters.” While we do proudly support and work towards smaller government, this is by no means selfish. Studies have shown clear, causal links between greater economic freedom and reductions in both poverty rate and the severity of that poverty. Large governments tend to reduce economic freedom by placing restraints on the free market. The free market allows for the greatest opportunity for competition and production, making it the optimal economic system for individuals to increase their standard of living. So that no confusion arises though, we would like to point out that we disagree with much of the behavior of large corporations. Large corporations often use political power to influence legislative action in their favor, creating barriers to entry for their markets.
The assertions Mr. Bargnes made in his editorial about our group were erroneous, and we felt obligated to respond to those statements. We hope this clarifies any misconceptions about our organization that the editorial may have caused.
The Members of Young Americans for Liberty, UW-Madison Chapter