The young faces of American Libertarianism


Alex MacDonald catches up with two of the younger faces in the American libertarian movement, Julie Borowski and John Yowan, to discuss the libertarian future, the issues, and Rand Paul

Since the exceptional rise of Ron Paul in the Republican Primaries last year, the term “libertarian” has become a near household name in American political discussion. For some it is a new force in US politics, but in truth it is a part of the oldest American ideology: it represents limited government, a stern following of the constitution, a right to individual liberty, and private property rights.


I caught up with two young libertarian activists from the United States to learn about their thoughts on the movement, its recent success, and its hopes for the future.

“The biggest challenge to the libertarian movement is calling people’s attention to the existence of the libertarian system in a clear and logical way,” says John Yowan, a 25 year old political activist from Kansas.

“We must put forward books, articles, and videos. But these will get nowhere if nobody knows of their existence, which is why we need to also focus on publicity through things like social networking, radio, blogs, events, and TV. Educating the masses cannot proceed without both theory and activism,” he continued.

The rise of the internet, or rather, the greater understanding of the internet by the public has certainly helped the libertarian movement. Social media, as John mentions, allows activists to network with one another, exchange ideas, and promote their values to people who may never have considered a libertarian political movement as their own. The internet as a whole is also quite a fitting scene for libertarians to spread their message, as it is one of the very few places where governments will struggle to successfully regulate and control.

“I believe that there is a huge rise of libertarian or classical liberal young people in the United States,” Julie Borowski tells me. Julie rose to fame with her hugely popular YouTube videos which promote the libertarian movement – it’s all about social networking, like John said.

“I would say the main reason for the rise is because of Ron Paul’s presidential campaigns in 2008 and 2012. A lot of young people say, ‘Ron Paul cured my apathy.’ Many of us were sick of politics as usual from members in both political parties. Ron Paul introduced many Americans to libertarian ideas and inspired us to learn more.” Borowski admits herself that in her political past she once espoused a pro-war preference on foreign affairs – can such a radical change be applied to Americans as a whole? The distinct opposition to the war in Syria may well have been the first glimpse of such a movement.

But as Julie mentions, voter apathy has been a problem for many American voters, and the same could certainly be applied to the United Kingdom. The politics that makes up the two and a half party system we enjoy – or perhaps don’t enjoy – in Britain has been detrimental to political enthusiasm. Voters feel dissatisfied with the political climate: they feel that there is little difference between the Liberal Democrats, Labour Party, and the Conservatives. It’s for this reason many disenchanted voters are flocking – rightly or wrongly – to the UK Independence Party, which campaigns for British withdrawal from the European Union as well as a tough opposition to immigration and social change.

Yet over in the United States, American media is doing little to cure voter apathy: for all the similarities within the Republicans and the Democrats in the United States, Julie claims that the media is still anti-libertarian. “The media still does not treat the libertarian movement fairly in the United States. As we saw in the presidential debates, Ron Paul was not given the same amount of air time as the other candidates with similar polling numbers. I do think it is starting to get better though. I’ve never heard the word ‘libertarian’ used so much in mainstream media. More media outlets are realizing that the country is moving in a more libertarian direction and they have to move as well or become extinct.”

The same could be said of the GOP, whose candidate, Mitt Romney, lost a bitter election to Barack Obama last year in the Presidential election. The election previous saw the Republicans headline John McCain, another hawk who wanted to operate aggressively in foreign territories. Yet should we compare Obama’s foreign policy to the average Republican, it would most certainly be the case that there would be little difference – and their opinions are not representative of libertarian foreign policy. So for the future of the GOP, young libertarians like Julie Borowski and John Yowan are placing their faith in Kentucky Senator, Rand Paul.

“I think Rand Paul is a good politician. He sticks to his values, I do not agree with him on everything but I respect him for going against his political party when he disagrees with them,” John mentions. Certainly there is a correlation between principle and popularity, voters feel that consistency is a big bonus in politics, and that among other reasons was a huge problem for Mitt Romney in his presidential campaign.

Rand Paul, the Senator from Kentucky, may not be the perfect choice for non compromising libertarians, but for many young activists, he is by far the best pick.

“I believe that Rand Paul is probably the most libertarian leaning Senator. He is more of a constitutional conservative that is an ally to libertarians on many issues. He brought attention to Obama’s unconstitutional drone wars, he is an outspoken critic of mandatory minimum sentences, he introduced bills to withdraw from Afghanistan, he wants to privatize the TSA, he wants to actually abolish government departments (Departments of Education, Energy, Commerce and Housing and Urban Development), and more. I think some people give him a hard time because they constantly compare him to his father. As Rand Paul has said himself, ‘there will never be a Ron Paul,’” says Julie Borowski.

Rand Paul, as Julie says, is not the most libertarian politician that could be conjured up, but he is marching down an adjacent road. Rand Paul’s advantage is not that he is perfect – there are some things to be debated about his politics such as his position on Wikileaks and Chelsea Manning – but that he is not perfect, and he may attract the right wingers from the GOP and also the libertarian voters; which would give him a broad base and strong support in any election. Sure he is divisive, and he may not be a snug fit for either of those groups, but in modern politics, who can be everything to everyone?

For young libertarians like John and Julie, there is still much more work to be done: laws that need reform or scrapping entirely, changes in policy decisions for the government, a massive reigning in on spending and promotion of the End the Fed (#endthefed) movement.

“’If a law is unjust a man is not only right to disobey it, he is obligated to do so,’ Thomas Jefferson once said,” John tells me. “The best source of information about abusive government is individuals within the government – easily. It is important to have people with integrity in government. We need people that keep true and are never ashamed or afraid of doing what is right. When the state becomes abusive not only do the people have the right to know, they MUST know in order for our form of government to work. Our country was founded on this idea.”

Are there any politicians with integrity left? John Yowan clearly thinks so. And many American libertarians are crossing their fingers and toes in the hope that Rand Paul is one of them.

American libertarianism is moving in the right direction: the drone wars, the NSA scandal, the trillions of dollars worth of debt and the bankruptcy in Detroit are all factors of aggressive Statism. Could it be time for a new era of politics? And to what level of bellicosity will it boom: “don’t tread on me”? Only time will tell; but for Rand Paul acolytes and libertarian followers, it must be a pretty exciting time indeed.


  1. I liked Julie Borowski, but then I saw her videos on feminism and women in the libertarian movement and she is a slut-shaming, social con, trapped in her middle class bubble that repeats text book definitions of libertarianism.

    If she is the future of the movement – it’s not going to get far, trust me.

  2. This is an excellent article. I am familiar with both Julie’s and John’s remarkable presence on the net. Julie has a penache for informative and entertainig videos. I would recommend them to anyone interested in learning about the liberty movement!

  3. Um, Ron Paul (and probably Rand) are not libertarians, they are paleo-conservatives. They share some ideals with libertarians (classical liberals) but both Pauls are socially conservative for instance.

    • Yeah I heard that Ron was actually a social conservative, but to his credit he never wanted the government to legislate for his morals. That seems libertarian enough to me – check out Julie’s video in this article on the topic

        • The perfect libertarian, someone that believes in unlimited liberty, that you describe is actually an anarchist. Anarchists are often just libertarians that stopped making exceptions. Wanting to at least limit authorities from the federal level to the state level is just another one of the compromises that many libertarians are willing to make.

        • I assume you are talking about Abortion. Under the original conception of the Constitution, most all police powers were to be reserved for the States and not the Federal Government. Most all criminal law is under state law and not Federal. That does mean that some states can have bad laws. If they violate the Constitution, especially as it is amended by the 14th and 15th Amendments,… then the Federal Government can intervene. Otherwise it is left to the states or the people, as per the 10th and 9th Amendments.

          It is not a perfect system. Such a thing does not exist. As an engineer I know with absolute certainty that EVERY decision making process makes mistakes. That’s an absolute given. Given that fact, how does one minimize the resulting damage. The Founding Fathers believed that “[T]he government of the United States is a definite government, confined to specified objects. It is not like the state governments, whose powers are more general. Charity is no part of the legislative duty of the government.” ~James Madison. I believe the idea is let there be separate experiments in the states and let the people vote with their feet upon which states they choose to live in.

          I can support either Ron Paul or Gary Johnson on the issue of Abortion because frankly my own beliefs and feeling on this issue are very ambiguous. That being said I am firmly pro-choice because I believe an unwanted fetus is committing trespass within the mother’s body.

          First let me provide some personal background. My mother and sister both had abortions performed upon themselves before Roe vs. Wade was decided. My sister’s abortion was botched nearly resulting in her death, while also leaving her infertile for life. Her infertility was a factor in her first husband leaving her. If my mother had not previously aborted my womb siblings, I would not have been conceived and born myself. Please excuse me if I don’t regard my family members as being murderers or irredeemably evil.

          I greatly admire Ron Paul for delivering 4000+ new lives into the world, and if he feels it is wrong for a doctor to help in taking a life, I can respect that. However, I have noted, that on several occasions, he has said he would not have the law interfere with a women’s access to oral abortifacients. Some of his pro-life supporters may be surprised at this. My understanding is that his stance is consistent with his belief that a person owns their own body, and therefore can ingest whatever they want into it. Presumably, this would mean a women can self-induce a miscarriage whenever she chooses during an unwanted pregnancy. Given the obvious risk and discomfort, that such an act would result in, I would prefer that the mother have access to the services of a doctor, or at least a midwife, when engaging in such potentially dangerous acts.

          The theory that an unwanted fetus is committing trespass within the mother’s body is explained, in far greater detail, by the referenced discussion by Walter Block,
          ( which he calls evictionism. I would simply note that if I invite you to stay at my residence, I can also ask you to leave. If you then choose to stay, against my wishes, I am fully within my rights to call a police officer to forcibly remove you, even to the extent of killing you, if you threaten violence in order to stay within my residence. My prior voluntary invitation does not imply an absolute right to squat on my property for perpetuity, or even nine months.

          I believe Ron Paul’s suggestion that the Federal Congress, by a simple act of legislation, should remove the Federal Government and the Supreme Court jurisdiction over this issue, is the most correct position to take. For questions this vexing, let there be 50 different attempts at a resolution. Criminal law is already almost exclusively a state matter, with the laws on murder, rape, assault, robbery, and such varying from state to state. Abortion should also be handled properly at the state level. Rather than one resolution being imposed upon every state, let each state decide as they will what should be done.

          Like so many other political questions, libertarians tend to look to the process of how questions are decided, while most others look only at the intended result. As with Solomon’s splitting of the baby, sometimes resolutions require us not to ask for our entire pound of flesh. It is also a legal truism that, hard cases make bad laws.

          The Libertarian Party was, and is, largely pro-choice on the issue of abortion, on the premise that the fetus is committing trespass upon the woman’s body if she so chooses to construe it as so.

          “So the unborn child is worthy of death for simply coming into existence involuntarily? That’s a pretty demented theory.”

          No more demented that killing any other trespasser, is it? Would you make it a criminal offense for a women to self induce a miscarriage through the use of an abortifacient?

          I invite you to spend a three day weekend with me at my home. After the three days are over, you inform me you will not leave voluntarily. I call an officer of the law to help evict you. You refuse to cooperate. The officer tries to remove you by force. You violently refuse to comply. The officer, regretfully, then kills you in order to enforce the eviction. Even a former renter, who can no longer pay their rent due to involuntarily losing their job and income, can be forcibly removed from their home, despite the hardship this involuntarily causes.

          The distinction hangs upon the fact that the unborn child has no voluntary choice in any of this. The implication is that since every act of sexual intercourse may result in the unintended conception of a new and unique life that every act of sexual intercourse is implicitly consenting to conception. There is no room for sport/recreational sex at all here.

          To me it is still rather simple. Is an unborn child, life? Yes, of course. Is it human? Yes. Does it have an absolute right to the use of it’s mother’s womb for nine months? No more than someone invited into my home for a few days, who then wants to squat in my home for nine months instead. This issue gets somewhat difficult for me when the mother is asking for a late term abortion where there is a strong possibility of giving birth to a live infant (by cesarean) without undue risk to the mother’s life.

          I do find it to be somewhat inconsistent of many Progressives that a woman has total control over her body, in the event of an unwanted pregnancy, while insisting the state can tax her to whatever amount of money the state unilaterally chooses to tax her to pay for welfare to support someone else’s illegitimate children. If it is wrong to impose an altruistic purpose in one instance, then why not the other also? Certainly a woman is more responsible for a child she helped conceived than for a stranger’s child? If the child’s life and welfare is irrelevant in one case, then why not the other? Just asking?

    • Rand and Ron are socially conservative, But They also understand It is not the Governments job to regulate morality for the most part, though I think Rand Might Back certain bills if he were POTUS. But I am sure he would VETO far more than pass which is a problem with the last several presidents, They just sign whatever comes across their desk

    • Social conservatives can be libertarians. The biggest difference between a libertarian and a paleo is that a libertarian is for free trade, while a paleo would be more of a protectionist/nationalist from an economic standpoint.

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