Christiana Hambro of Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) (United Kingdom); Jared Meyer of Manhattan Institute for Policy Research (United States); Milica Kostic of European Students for Liberty (Serbia); Gloria Álvarez of Movimiento Cívico Nacional (Guatemala); and moderator Dr. Gabriel Calzada, president of Universidad Francisco Marroquín.
The virtues of liberty are often intuitive for many of today’s young people, as they struggle to reconcile their individualist tendencies with top-down ideologies of any stripe. At Atlas Network’s 2015 Liberty Forum & Freedom Dinner, the panel titled “Motivating Millennials: Can the Freedom Movement Win Over the Next Generation?,” provided insight into the best strategies for engaging the next generation in the broader free market movement. Panelists included Gloria Álvarez of Movimiento Cívico Nacional (Guatemala), Christiana Hambro of Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA) (United Kingdom) Milica Kostic of European Students for Liberty (Serbia), and Jared Meyer of Manhattan Institute for Policy Research (United States).
Álvarez reflected on the fact that millennials have greater access to knowledge than any other generation in history, and spoke of the need to “bring the ideas behind ‘I, Pencil’ to the 21st century with ‘I, iPhone’” in order to engage their love of practical technology and boost their understanding of the interconnectedness of the world. She discussed how the themes of liberty can often be found in surprising places in modern pop culture and emphasized the need to apply these references to common sense, individual rights, limited government, cultural markets, and liberty. Álvarez is the host of the video series Aprender Volando (Learning to Fly), a series of six-minute videos produced by Argentina-based Atlas Network partner Libertad y Progreso on the topics of populism vs. constitutional republics, poverty and dependence, and education.
Hambro discussed the IEA’s efforts to motivate millennials through presenting the right arguments with the right messaging in front of the right audience. The organization’s programming is currently geared toward engaging with students through conversation and involvement, rather than lecturing at young people. To keep millennials’ attention, they focus on keeping talks brief and discussing the economics of things that young people in the U.K. are interested in, like soccer. The IEA presents these ideas to high school students across the United Kingdom through its EA magazine.
Kostic acknowledged that “being a millennial is different everywhere” — a fact that is especially relevant to groups like European Students for Liberty, which works with millennials from many different countries and cultures. She focused on the general desire that many young people have to be part of a change, especially social change, in which they feel they are making improvements. Their satisfaction comes not only from talking about the ideas, but from actually doing something in practice and getting results that lead toward a better future.
Meyer, co-author of Disinherited: How Washington Is Betraying America’s Young, presented an array of ways in which the message of liberty can be framed to resonate with young people. “Millennials aren’t scared of big, but they hate inefficiency,” he said. Meyer pointed out that millennials like fairness, so it can be a successful engagement strategy to talk about how government programs pick winners and losers in the economy and treat people differently based on how politically connected they are. One practical example is to point out that government is standing between young people and their Uber ride-sharing, because this is an issue that young people have plenty of direct experience using. There are plenty of “Ubertarians,” Meyer argued. Despite what people claim, he pointed out, millennials are not the most socialist generation because they don’t want the government to tell Apple how many iPhones it can make and what features it should have. He suggested that the liberty movement should avoid using politically charged terms like “capitalism” and “socialism,” and instead use more terms like “free market” versus “government control,” which are more fundamentally descriptive. “If there’s one thing millennials really hate, it’s being controlled,” Meyer said.