U. Michigan Group Promotes Libertarianism

This story was written by Eshwar Thirunavukkarasu, Michigan Daily
University of Michigan senior Jourdan Nousain likes presidential candidate John McCain's economic policies and some of Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama's promises to promote individual rights like gay marriage. But as a Libertarian, he can't bring himself to fully support any one of the frontrunners.

Nousain, the events chair of the University's chapter of College Libertarian, is just one of many members of the group who feels a bit lost now with the presidential race whittled down to Clinton, McCain and Obama.

"Most of us supported Ron Paul," said Michigan sophomore Eric Plourde, president of the College Libertarians, adding that his group wouldn't endorse any of the current frontrunners.

Because the group feels detached from each of the remaining candidates -- with the exception of Mike Gravel, who is considering running as a Libertarian himself -- the College Libertarians have become more active locally, drawing more attention to the issues they finds important.

Though it's considerably smaller than either the College Democrats or College Republicans chapter on Michigan's campus, the College Libertarians, comprised of about 20 members, have sponsored or co-sponsored several high-profile events over the last year, including a gun raffle and a lecture last week by "20/20" co-anchor John Stossel.

Plourde noted that, though the University's chapter of College Libertarians is one of the oldest in the nation, the group has been relatively dormant in the past. This year, though, it has been much more active.

"For a brand new group of Libertarians, we've really had a fantastic year," Plourde said.

The group, which meets weekly, has brought eye-opening speakers to campus this year, including Kenyan journalist June Arunga, who gave a speech advocating free trade rather than foreign aid as a solution to poverty.

In October, the group partnered with Students for Sensible Drug Policy to sponsor a speech by Gravel.

The group also plans to continue sponsoring events like Hash Bash, an annual gathering of marijuana enthusiasts on the Diag. In November, the College Libertarians held a raffle for a gun giveaway, with the prize being a certificate for a handgun.

The Libertarian Party platform advocates for a citizen's right to self-defense, arguing that governments often obstruct that right by passing gun control laws.

Plourde said each of the group's events has garnered significant attention for libertarian ideals.

This fall, the 19-year-old Plourde hopes to draw even more attention to those ideals. With the support of the College Libertarians and the Washtenaw County branch of the Libertarian Party, he's making a run for mayor of Ann Arbor.

As a staunch advocate of limited government spending, Plourde voiced his opposition to the city's plan to consider building a trolley system to the city, citing the system's cost.

Understanding that his chances of winning are slim -- he's running against the popular four-term incumbent John Hieftje -- Plourde says his run will, at least, expose students and Ann Arbor residents to libertarian ideas.

Plourde cited an incident earlier this year when one of his supportstruction of high rises in the city. In response, Plourde explained that, despite personal preferences, he couldn't speak out against development because he supports an individual's right manage his or her personal property.

Plourde said that despite the group's increased visibility, misconceptions about libertarianism remain on campus.

"We're not anarchists," he said. "We just want the government to stay out of personal issues."

Plourde said members of the Libertarian Party tend to be fiscally conservative and economically liberal, meaning they seek to limit government spending, empoer consumers and lower taxes.

"We think people should make their own decisions," he said. "Politicians are involved in what we do every day. In my humble opinion, it's none of their business."
© 2008 Michigan Daily via U-WIRE
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