When newly minted University of Pittsburgh graduate Giles Howard started the Publius Foundation in 2010, he wanted to keep things local. The student-run think tank, which focuses on state and municipal government, has published policy briefs on issues such as local courts, college students’ rights, and city gun ordinances. reason asked Howard for three reasons why young libertarians should focus on local issues.
1 Libertarian positions on local issues are often easy to identify with. Most people don’t intuitively empathize with libertarian arguments regarding monetary policy. But most young people I know instinctively share basic libertarian positions on local issues—agreeing, for example, that food trucks should be able to operate freely and that police shouldn’t be able to arrest someone for recording them in public.
2 Local issues have a constant, concrete impact on everyone. Unlike the federal government, local governments have daily contact with people in every walk of life. Local governments enforce blue laws, install red-light cameras, and decide which businesses can operate as well as where and when.
3 Local political battles don’t involve millions of voters and thousands of lobbyists. There are fewer voters to persuade and fewer decision makers to petition. Interest groups opposed to libertarian public policy aren’t as sophisticated or well-funded at the local level as they are nationally. This means that a group of determined, young libertarians can effect change locally in a way they could not nationally.