Changing the Way We Talk About Libertarianism

FEE's Jeffrey Tucker reflects on how the organization's past is inspiring its current mission.


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"Are we a chosen marginalized group that is going to be forever hanging around together? Is this just our social gang?," asks Jeffrey Tucker, director of content for the Foundation of Economic Education (FEE). "I think that is a problem."

When FEE was first founded in 1946 by Leonard Read, libertarianism was a little known concept. Thanks to regularly featured works by noted scholars like Ludwig von Mises, Milton Friedman, Henry Hazlitt, and George Stigler, the ideas of human liberty and freedom became more accessible and familiar to a larger audience.

The growing distaste for the current two-party system (both major party candidates set historic records for negative ratings in 2016) has increased the appeal of the libertarian perspective and the ideology has grown into a movement with real political momentum. Gallup Poll's 2015 Politcal Governance survey found that 27 percent of respondents could be ideologically classified as libertarian—the highest number recorded to date.

But Tucker warns that the growing popularity of libertarianism presents new challenges: "Because we have become a movement… it does give rise to—I think—certain temptations to speak in our own vernacular or our own really high liturgical language with each other. Then normal people can't understand."

Tucker states he has looked to the past as inspiration for revitalizing FEE's current mission.

"There weren't a lot of what we call libertarians around at the time," Tucker explains. "They had to speak in a way to everybody or to anyone who would listen. And I think that affected the way they thought and the way they wrote. Every piece had to make sense for anybody who happened to pick it up."

To reach a larger audience, Tucker has expanded FEE's editorial scope by including entertainment reviews of popular shows like HBO's The Young Pope and Netflix's The Crown in addition to policy and political coverage.

Reason's Nick Gillespie sat down with Tucker at the International Students for Liberty Conference to discuss the history of FEE and how popular culture can be used by libertarians to spread their ideas to a mainstream audience.

Edited by Alexis Garcia. Cameras by Mark McDaniel and Todd Krainin. Music by Podington Bear.

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