Avens O’Brien: Second Generation Libertarian Speaks Out About Growing Up Libertarian, Leaving the Party, and Coming Back

Avens

Posted to The Libertarian Republic

This article is being posted in its entirety by permission from the author.  This is the text of her speech at the Libertarian Party of MN’s convention.

April 19, 2016

Second Generation Libertarian Speaks Out About Growing Up Libertarian, Leaving the Party, and Coming Back

by Avens O’Brien

I had the distinct pleasure of speaking to the Libertarian Party of Minnesota‘s state convention this past weekend. They invited me as a keynote, interested in my perspective on Libertarian Party activism, as I’ve done a lot of it and have what they described as a “unique” perspective on the matter.

Video has not yet been released of my speech — which is fine with me, as I’m not known for great public speaking skills — but I did write the speech, so for those who wish to know what insights I was able to present, the transcript is below, altered slightly for a reading audience.

To start, some context…

I want to give a bit of context to my billing as a “second generation libertarian”, as that could mean a lot of things. “Libertarian” doesn’t tell you much about who my parents are, what they did, or how I really experienced the Party itself in my youth.

So, let’s be clear: my parents were activists. They were interested in Objectivism, and became Libertarians during the LP’s founding. They went to see Ayn Rand and Nathaniel Branden speak at universities in New England. My father drove LP Vice Presidential nominee Tonie Nathan around to speeches in New England during the 1972 Hospers campaign. My mother made dinner for Murray Rothbard when he’d come to our house because Dad had booked him to speak at local venues in New Hampshire. They knew Roger Lea McBride in the same context as well.

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My parents named my older brother Ragnar from the book Atlas Shrugged. My parents were homeschoolers, pagan, petition-gathering, Heinlein-quoting Libertarians. Both of my parents ran for local government offices as Libertarians in the 1970s. My mother convinced my grandfather, a World War II vet, to join the Party, and run for Congress in 1976. My Dad ran for Congress and my mother ran for Governor of NH in 1984 on the LP ticket. I tell you this to give you context on what I mean when I describe myself as second generation.

That’s where I come from. That’s what’s in my blood. I feel like I’ve tried to run away from it at times, and I can’t get away.

It’s led to many experiences within the Libertarian movement, some positive and some negative. My topic is the good, the bad, the ugly, and the optimistic. So I’m going to share with you a couple of stories, about what it’s like to grow up in this environment, the tough experiences, how it impacted me, and why I’m an optimist about the future.

The first story…

My first story starts in 1996, when I am 9 years old, and it’s election season in New Hampshire.

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I can see the political ads on television and the signs all over people’s yards. One day I ask my mother, “who are we voting for? Mr. Clinton or Mr. Dole?”

Mum looks at me pointedly and says “Neither. Neither represent us! We’re voting for Harry Browne!”

Well, that does it for this 9 year old. I’m a Harry Browne supporter as of this moment. Election day rolls around, and Mum and I go to the polling place at the local school. Mum goes to cast her vote, and I go to cast mine in the kid’s ballot box. The kids ballot doesn’t even show Harry Browne on it. I walk out to the poll volunteer standing nearby, who is about 102 years old, and I say “excuse me, but this ballot is missing a name.” She lets me write him in. I cast my kid’s vote.

The morning the election results came out, I grabbed the newspaper and looked to see if Harry Browne would be our next president. I saw the vote totals listed, with Clinton, Dole, Perot… and then I realized, Harry Browne didn’t even get a percent. He received less than half a million votes that year.

That’s when I learned that I was on the losing team.

That’s when I learned what it felt like to be a political minority. Before that, I had no idea people didn’t think like my family did. I assumed we all wanted whatever it was my parents wanted. To get the government out of our business, out of our lives, to stand up against corruption and war and taxes. Why would we be on the losing team? How could these ideas possibly be unpopular?

The second story…

My second story starts in 2003. I’m 15 years old, and in my second year of college. George W. Bush has just declared war with Iraq. My friend’s older brother signs up to go “liberate Iraqis”, he comes back with his leg liberated from his body. I begin attending anti-war rallies in New England. I begin writing in a blog on Livejournal about the evils of war, and the idea that America could be engaging in terrorism too – for what is more terrifying than a campaign of “shock and awe”?

I am also taking an Ethics class. Over the course of the semester we debate about the origins and differences between morality, ethics, legality, and I am always the advocate against enforcing pretty much any of my moral perspectives. People tend to think I am a moral relativist, but I just have very few moral absolutes that I feel others need to share. I tell my classmates about the ideas of the Philosophy of Self Ownership. I explain that it is immoral to use force to achieve social or political goals.

It was during this time I found conservatives to be my “enemy”. They were Republicans and Bush supporters, pro-war and anti-choice. I was on the pro-choice side of a debate regarding abortion one day in class, and I said “once you’ve added government, or, rather, a gun to the equation, you’ve taken away all moral choice. Morality cannot exist at the point of a gun.”

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My professor told me afterwards, that he wasn’t surprised I was quoting Ayn Rand, but I was surprised — my mother always said that. I just assumed it was something she came up with. This is something that can happen when you’re raised within the movement – you pick up a book like The Fountainhead, or Man, Economy and the State and you think “wait, did I read this already?” because it all feels really familiar – it’s all stuff you were raised in.

In the summer of 2004, I spent time in New York protesting the war, and I volunteered on the Badnarik campaign for president, holding signs, and gathering petitions in NH. That was my first official Libertarian Party activism, but I was surrounded by liberals who were also protesting the war, who also hated the Bush administration while talking about gay rights and smoking pot. We marched together, Badnarik and Kerry supporters, against the Republican National Convention in New York City the last day of August, 2004.

This is when I began to believe that liberals, or the left, could be natural allies to the Libertarian Party. I found people who felt just as strongly as I did, that war was wrong, that women’s rights mattered, and that pot should be legalized.

My third story…

I was elected Vice Chair of the Libertarian Party of New Hampshire in 2006, when I was 19 years old. I held that position until 2008. During my time on the executive committee, I wanted to get more young people like myself to become activists, but it was hard. There were people who came to every monthly meeting who had been there when they founded the Party, and they didn’t like change, or coalitions, or young whippersnappers like myself trying to do new things or appeal to other people.

It was in November of 2007 to January 2008 that Ron Paul was really making noise in the Republican Party leading up to the NH Primary. I suddenly heard a conservative talking about anti-war, pro-privacy, and being against the USA PATRIOT ACT. This was exciting, and I volunteered for his campaign. This was the Ron Paul Revolution.

I went knocking on doors and canvassing and holding signs on primary day. One of my fellow Party members spotted me working for Ron Paul and he was furious. At the next executive committee meeting he called me out, suggesting I should be removed from my position as Vice Chair of the LPNH, because I was supporting a Republican.

To be fair, I guess that’s a valid reason, however, there’s a bit of context to Ron Paul, who in 1988 was the Presidential nominee of the LP. But this is the thing in the Libertarian Party and in the movement in general — WE EAT OUR OWN.

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The controversy blew over, I retained my seat, but I was really upset about it. Ron Paul’s campaign died out, and I went back to focusing on LP politics.

Then at the Libertarian National Convention, Bob Barr was nominated as the LP’s candidate for President. Bob Barr: a former Republican who co-sponsored DOMA, who tried to ban Wicca from the US military, and who had been in favor of the drug war. After all the shit I received for supporting Ron Paul, this was the guy I was supposed to support in the Party of Principle?

So I did what I’d been taught just a few months earlier. It was time to eat our own. I, and a few other people, led the charge within the LPNH to refuse to accept the nomination of Bob Barr and to consider disaffiliation from the National LP. We collected our own petitions for our own candidate who would only be on the ballot in NH – that man’s name is George Phillies.

It was a noble cause, but it was fruitless and it was a complete and utter waste of our time, energy, and resources.

I didn’t run for re-election as Vice Chair of the LPNH that year, though Party members tried to draft me as Chair.

This was when I gave up on the Libertarian Party. This was the point when I decided that for all the noble things that were said, the Party was a waste of time, of energy, and of resources. That it chewed up and spit out energetic young believers like myself, and left us bitter and resentful and cynical that liberty could ever be achieved in our lifetime. It was classic burnout.

I felt defeated…

This is where I was in 2008 in terms of LP politics. I was the child of activists who didn’t know why we didn’t have President Harry Browne in 1996, but it started to become clear – it felt like we didn’t even want to succeed.

We were too busy tearing each other down, killing any coalitions… the major parties didn’t even need to bother. I was tired of giving myself to this Party.

There’s a way of thinking called a “crab mentality”, which is a metaphor to articulate the idea of “if I can’t have it, neither can you”. It’s referring to a bucket of crabs, and how when any crab tries to climb out, the others pull it back down in this useless “king of the hill” competition that prevents any from escaping. In humans, this is envy, jealousy, sabotage in competition and we see it all the time. We see it in Libertarianism a lot.

So, I gave up.

To be clear, I was still a libertarian, but I just figured I should find some other way to go about it. I didn’t know other activists doing liberty stuff outside the Party besides a couple of movers in the Free State Project (but they were mostly LPers too) so I actually just got more involved in my own community.

I made friends who weren’t libertarians, and actually participated in a community that helped each other out when people got sick or had babies or had a house burn down. I know it’s weird by the way — most libertarians are happy to meet other libertarians, but I grew up in it. It was exciting to meet non-libertarians!

It was a learning experience to walk away, to let go, and to just be free… not because I’d won my freedom from the government, but because I was ignoring the government’s existence. I hadn’t accepted it, I’d just stopped fighting it. I was avoiding it in agorist ways by buying and selling stuff on the internet or within community, of simply avoiding the attention of the government, while violating its various laws.

Honestly, that whole experience healed my goddamn soul.

So, my fourth story…

In 2011, I was spending a lot of time in Las Vegas, gambling professionally and partying in night clubs listening to electronic dance music. My roommate was a stripper who had never paid taxes. She didn’t think of it as some “f*ck you” to the government, she just lived outside that world where people get W2s or file 1040s.

I’d always been an advocate for sex workers’ rights, and a less Puritan society in general, but I really spent a lot of time with dancers and prostitutes and escorts and porn stars, and I saw the devastating effects the law had on some of these people’s livelihoods.

I realized that for all the avoiding of the government we can do, we still sometimes need to stand up and fight against further regulation of our bodies and lives, we can’t just hope the government doesn’t notice us.

The Libertarian Party has generally been on the correct side of this issue. Liberals were sort of my allies on this subject, more-so than most conservatives, but so many people were paternalistic and protectionist, so many were advocating for government intervention that made things worse. I started talking with sex workers about these problems, and how the state wasn’t helping, couldn’t help. They needed to be left alone.

This is when I started looking at non-party organizations that lobby for less government. I actually spent some time with the Occupy Wall Street crowd that fall, which I felt was missing some of the point, but I liked that they were speaking out against government corruption and crony capitalism.

I’d already supported things like the Marijuana Policy Project, sure, but I started to see all these other organizations and groups that individually fight specific laws and regulations to improve liberty, and I was really interested in how much more effective they were than a broad-based political party. So I reengaged, not in the Libertarian Party, but in the libertarian movement.

The fifth story…

By 2014, I had moved to Los Angeles. I was working for Peter Schiff, and I had rejoined the LP, as a member of the LP California, though I wasn’t very enthusiastic about it.

I had made many new libertarian friends (mostly on the internet) at that point. This was exciting because rather than just people who were friends with my parents and as old as they were, I met new people. Young people.

I began writing for a little publication called Thoughts on Liberty. In the couple of years prior, I had begun reading a lot of these libertarian publications besides Reason and FEE, but TOL was particularly interesting to me because it was written entirely by women. Once upon a time, we were maybe 5% of the movement, but I started to realize we seemed to be closer to 30% of the movement.

Photographs taken by Judd Weiss at various conferences like Freedom Fest and ISFLC started to fill the internet with images of diverse, young, inspired people who came in more than just one gender or color, though they were all typically shot in black and white. The libertarian movement, through his photographs, started to get really, really attractive and better branded. Not just attractive for libertarians, but, mainstream appealing.

After my experiences in 2008, I thought I’d never want to be around libertarians again, but we were actually starting to grow better here. This was opening up the big tent of libertarianism, and letting people in.

This was about reaching those pro-choice, anti-war liberals I knew, and reaching those anti-NSA, anti-tax conservatives I knew, and letting them bring their own flavors and their own variations, and just calling it a bigger movement, with enough people to actually do all the things we want to do.

This was powerful to me because we’d always been shorthanded on enthusiastic volunteers in the LP, but here were college students who had the time and energy to dedicate to these various organizations, ready to activate on campus, to lobby, to get involved.

This was when I started to realize we have what we need to succeed.

Lessons learned…

I’ve learned a few lessons over 28 years as a second-generation Libertarian.

  • I learned that I was on the losing team, and that’s a heartbreaking morale killer.
  • I learned that the left and the right have ways in which they can be our allies. I stand by the fact that Libertarianism is neither a left nor right philosophy but that doesn’t mean we need to go scaring off potential allies on either side.
  • I learned that giving up on the Libertarian Party doesn’t mean you stop being a libertarian, it just means you get less frustrated by it.
  • I learned that there are all sorts of organizations doing successful activism for liberty causes outside of the Party.
  • Lastly, I learned that we actually have all our tools for success when you put that all together.

Now, plenty of terrible things have happened to us in the last 15 years when it comes to liberty: there have been new wars, the Department of Homeland Security, the USA PATRIOT ACT, higher mandatory minimums, aggressive attempts to regulate away a woman’s right to her own body, terrifying new programs to spy on all our communication… but there’s actually been an amazing amount of progress for liberty.

There is no time in human history I’d rather be alive.

For example:

  • A California law just went to effect last week, allowing women to buy birth control over the counter without a prescription.
  • Gay marriage is now legal in all 50 states.
  • Because gay marriage is now legal in all 50 states, we actually see mainstream politicians talking about getting government out of marriage altogether.
  • Cannabis is legal in some form in 23 states and DC.
  • In 5 states (and DC) cannabis is fully legal.
  • Companies like Uber and Lyft and AirBnB are providing disruptive market solutions to entrenched union monopolies, and enabling easier exchange between participants in an open app-based market.
  • New education models such as Kahn Academy are being tried.
  • John Mackey from Whole Foods is teaching hippies about conscious capitalism.
  • Wikileaks is working to make governments more transparent.
  • Ron Paul running for President in 2008 & 2012 brought many young people into the movement, where they’ve started reading Mises and Rothbard and becoming some of our hardest working activists.
  • Chelsea Manning informed the American people of the military’s abuses.
  • Edward Snowden informed the American people we were being spied on by our own government.
  • We now all have cameras on our phones now and are able to record and upload videos of police abuses – leading to movements like Black Lives Matter creating mainstream uproar over the police state.
  • Bitcoin, a cryptocurrency, is now accepted in varying forms by Overstock, WordPress, Amazon, Virgin Galactic, Target, Reddit, Tesla, Expedia, Tiger Direct, and dozens of other businesses you’ve actually heard of.
  • The Dark net is starting to create safer ways, like Silk Road, for people to access recreational drugs until we achieve legalization, and people are starting to write about the dangers of drug prohibition.
  • Portugal decriminalized drugs 15 years ago, and drug use has declined — it has also provided an example to the world about ending the drug war.
  • The Free State Project just reached 20,000 signers and has triggered the move.
  • Organizations like Students for Liberty are training some of a new generation of entrepreneurs and leaders, with over 1000 student groups across the world.
  • Say what you want about them not being “Libertarian enough”, but Congressman Massie, Congressman Amash and Senator Rand Paul are all libertarian-ish and they’re doing some good work in Washington DC on certain issues.
  • A Reuters poll last year showed that 1 in 5 Americans called themselves a libertarian when asked. Not in some roundabout way, they were actually asked “Do you consider yourself a libertarian?” and 20% said YES.
  • A recent poll comparing potential LP nominee Gary Johnson to Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump showed him at 11%.
  • We also just witnessed the first nationally televised Libertarian Party debate on Stossel last week.

We also have a large list of LP candidates, and three of those are “mainstream” candidates vying for our presidential spot this year. A former governor, a software genius who is a household name, and the owner of The Libertarian Republic, who may be young, but his website is viewed more times every month than the number of votes Johnson got in the 2012 election. In case you wondered: Johnson received 1.2 million votes, and TLR gets 1.5 million unique views a month.

In conclusion…

Here’s the big thing though that I want you to take away from this list of wins coupled with my stories:

We can’t do it alone and we don’t have to. Most of these successes I listed did not happen as a result of activism by the Libertarian Party, but some of them happened WITH the Libertarian Party, and most might not have happened if the LP hadn’t been doing what it’s done for the last 40 years.

The LP, though ahead of many of the curves in theory, has been a bit slower on the effective activism than a lot of other groups and organizations, and that’s been a really big shame.

I’ve been in the LP – it’s hard to WIN in politics. When your focus is on actual change through the political process, it’s not surprising that we keep losing and we keep failing and we keep losing morale and heart. I’ve had to tell far too many activists in the past not to go near the LP because it will break their spirit.

But I think now, it might be time.

This Libertarian Moment isn’t nearly over, it’s literally just started. We need to remember always to look at our wins, and to own them as a movement. We need to build coalitions with one another, to not judge our success by our number of elected officials by the LP, but by our ability to change the hearts and minds of the population so they come to us, and we change the future – that we show them what they’re capable of when they’re free to do anything they desire, as long as they don’t hurt other people and don’t take their stuff.

It’s time, I think, to build an optimistic, positive brand as the LP. For us to share in the successes the movement has had, to open our arms and our hearts to the new generation of liberty activists, and to be the liberty option on the ballot, and be one in a series of productive, useful and powerful forces for change. It’s time to make the LP a good investment of resources and time and to help the greater movement achieve liberty within our lifetime.

In 1996, I was a nine year old girl with a broken heart, suddenly realizing I was on the losing team. I’ve seen that look on too many activists’ faces when they measure their success by the votes cast for LP candidates. Don’t let that be your key performance indicator. I was wrong in 1996 but I didn’t know it, and it took me two decades to really see the larger picture. We lost a battle. But we’re winning the war.

Liberty is the human story, the path of our species is always heading out and up and freer than before. I promise you, I promise that little 9 year old I was, that we are on the winning team.

I hope to see you in Orlando. Thank you.

Read more: http://thelibertarianrepublic.com/the-libertarian-party-the-good-bad-ugly-optimistic/#ixzz46Zmze73B
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55 thoughts on “Avens O’Brien: Second Generation Libertarian Speaks Out About Growing Up Libertarian, Leaving the Party, and Coming Back

  1. Shivany Lane

    Huzzah! Avens. Thank you for the back story too. That brought the entire article together.
    There are many people who felt as you did at the tender age of 9 when they realized that they were different, or their family was different.

    We must all celebrate every win no matter how small because that is what keeps us going. The party is evolving organically as it should. This is truly an exciting time to be alive. To be a part of history. We stand on the shoulders of giants and should never be ashamed of our belief systems. <- That is the mother in me talking since my children didn't have a conventional upbringing either.

    I am new to the party. Every time that I read an article and they use the phrase "presumptive nominee" for Gary Johnson, a little part of me gets sad. I thought I had finally found a party where my voice and my vote mattered. I actually considered not going to Orlando because, why bother. Then I realized that I matter and so does my vote. We all matter and that is refreshing.

    Thank you for sharing your story with us.

  2. Andy

    “My second story starts in 2003. I’m 15 years old, and in my second year of college.”

    So Avens was in her second year of college at the age of 15. Sounds like an impressive achievement.

    Was Avens home schooled?

  3. Andy

    “In 2011, I was spending a lot of time in Las Vegas, gambling professionally ”

    Wow, a professional gambler. Which games?

  4. Willie Veranzano

    “So, I gave up.

    To be clear, I was still a libertarian, but I just figured I should find some other way to go about it. I didn’t know other activists doing liberty stuff outside the Party besides a couple of movers in the Free State Project (but they were mostly LPers too) so I actually just got more involved in my own community.

    I made friends who weren’t libertarians, and actually participated in a community that helped each other out when people got sick or had babies or had a house burn down. I know it’s weird by the way — most libertarians are happy to meet other libertarians, but I grew up in it. It was exciting to meet non-libertarians!

    It was a learning experience to walk away, to let go, and to just be free… not because I’d won my freedom from the government, but because I was ignoring the government’s existence. I hadn’t accepted it, I’d just stopped fighting it. I was avoiding it in agorist ways by buying and selling stuff on the internet or within community, of simply avoiding the attention of the government, while violating its various laws.

    Honestly, that whole experience healed my goddamn soul.”

    Was this before or after you campaigned for Obama in NH?

  5. Walter Bozick

    “I was spending a lot of time in Las Vegas, gambling professionally ”

    Was this at the same time that you were stripping and escorting?

  6. Andy

    Are Willie Veranzo and Walter Bozick using fake names and IP anonymizers?

    It would not surprise me if they are.

  7. langa

    Was this at the same time that you were stripping and escorting?

    What does it matter? Whatever her occupation may have been has no bearing on the ideas presented in this speech.

  8. Walter Bozick

    Who said it has an impact on the ideas? I enjoyed the essay. Just curious for my own reasons. The question wasn’t for you and implies no value judgement whatsoever, regardless of what you may read into it.

  9. dino

    yahoo for you, ms. second generation libertarian. just one more blog post and we’ll be at peak freedom. keep doing that know-nothing work of blogging as if it actually accomplishes something while an entire race of black men find themselves incarcerated in the gulag. Yeah, you’re doing it right.

  10. Avens OBRIEN

    Since I discuss drug legalization as one of my big issues, Dino, I’m not sure why you’d think I’m not concerned about or doing anything about incarcerated black men. Prison reform, criminal justice, and legalization of drugs are things I’ve been donated towards, rallying for, writing on, writing to my reps on, voting for candidates because of, and working towards for my entire adult life.

    Let me know what you’re doing that’s been so effective on the topic.

  11. Avens OBRIEN

    Walter –

    I was mostly gambling, hostessing and dealing – I took money for a date once and I found it too weird to continue – I don’t really enjoy pretending to be romantically interested in old men. It’s the biggest reason I’ve never had sex for money. I am picky about my sexual partners and they have to turn me on — if they actually turn me on, why do I want payment? So, yeah, prostitution was off the table. I have a limited number of people who’ve seen my vagina, and I’m good with that. My poly “slut” self couldn’t see adding paying customers to the mix, though no judgement to those who do.

    I spent a ton of time with escorts and strippers, and my specialty was being hired by a party to plan their weekend out. I’d arrange and ticket the shows, bring them to their table at Marquee, make sure they had whatever substances they wanted, hang out and party with them, bring them to the strip clubs where the girls knew to check in with me. If asked, I could introduce them to the ones who could get them laid.

    When I was bored and wanted cash, I’d get dressed up and wander to the tables of one of my favorite casinos. I’d find a guy by himself and ask of he’d show me how to play whatever game he was playing. I’d hang out for a while, keeping up fun chatter and asking about him, while he would give me chips and we would play.

    If I lost, I lost his money, but they didn’t generally mind because I spent so much time giving them personal attention.

    If I win, I’d try to pay them back what they gave me, and then keep some of the winnings for myself. They often told me to keep all of it.

    I played a lot of blackjack and sometimes I was just people’s lucky token for roulette.

    It was Vegas. I did a ton of fun stuff for a girl in her early 20s, some of it a bit illegal (ah, drugs), and I had a blast. I retired in 2013 to work for Peter Schiff.

  12. Avens OBRIEN

    Apparently some of my other comments are awaiting moderation due to their subject matter, so the rest of you will have answers soon. 😉

  13. Avens O'Brien

    Andy – I worked at Euro Pacific Capital in 2013 & 2014, as an account manager handling Schiff’s clients. I was training to be a junior broker for the top broker at the firm.

    We did a private placement for a startup company I fell in love with. After assisting my office in raising $3M in capital for them, the new company, called Thoughtful Media, offered me a job. I handle finance, revenue models and operations for TMG now.

  14. Avens O'Brien

    As for my parents – I can’t say about Dad. My parents divorced and I haven’t paid attention to his involvement or lack of involvement in LP politics. He’s much more focused on his religious community now.

    My mother collected petitions with me in 2004 for Badnarik… She may’ve helped in 2008, I don’t remember that well, she was doing a lot of other stuff at the time. She’s been really involved in the Free State Project lately in New Hampshire, but her affection for electoral politics seems to be next to nil at this point.

  15. Jill Pyeatt Post author

    Sometimes comments get caught in the spam filter, Avens. Sorry about that. I’ll be home the rest of the weekend, and I’ll try to pull them out more quickly than I have today.

  16. Shivany Lane

    I met Avens at the State convention here in California. I was incredibly impressed with her intellect and eloquence. Her ability to stay on topic and actually convey her feelings through words. I remember thinking, she must have been home schooled, or as my children were, double schooled. (public during the day with supplemental during the evening). We were not wealthy enough to not have both parents work so we hoped the supplemental would suffice.

    I applaud you for baring yourself in public like this and I am a little dismayed at the few who commented about you stripping and/or escorting. Prostitution and Stripping, the last time I looked, is still legal in Nevada. It may not be a job that I would ever do, but then again, I have a long list of jobs I say I wouldn’t do. However, if you need to work and those are your skills, use them. Not all prostitution is due to human smuggling or women being treating badly and getting hooked on drugs. I do not support that kind of prostitution since it is harming the woman. I knew a woman who was “a call girl”, that’s what she called it. It was in Sausalito. I lived on a houseboat that was more house than boat. She lived in an actual boat. We let her use our facilities like the shower, whenever she wanted to. She was incredibly interesting and well read. She preferred her profession because it paid well enough and she worked her own hours. This was way before the internet existed.

  17. George Whitfield

    Thanks for sharing your life story with us. It was interesting and unique. And welcome back to the Libertarian Party!

  18. Caryn Ann Harlos

    BTW, in the future perhaps I will disagree with the me of today, but I think you did the right thing in agitating for NH to refuse to accept Barr. That is the role AFAICS of the affiliates. You may not have been successful, but, as you said, a noble cause.

  19. bill mccord

    It’s heartening to learn that a whole new generation, possibly exemplified by Avens, will continue the struggle for liberty–and invigorate LP action.
    As one who has stayed since 1972 with the LP through all the perturbations described by Avens, I too have found it more productive to work “outside” from time to time. Not only can one decisively support a favorite libertarian issue, but also one can demonstrate to others that Libertarians possess the requisite political savvy for advancing personal freedoms.
    Bill McCord, LP class of ’72

  20. Avens O'Brien

    Looking forward to Orlando, Caryn. It’ll be great to meet you, even though we differ sometimes, I feel you’re a wonderful ally. 🙂

    I wasted a lot of energy on the Barr thing, I just think there were more productive ways of dealing with it, but at the time I didn’t know any other ways.

    I wish I could offer an advice column to young liberty activists.

    “I don’t like what this person did, what should I do next?”

    “Well, here are productive alternatives to protest. You could also protest, and here’s where it may be useful and here’s where it might not be.”

    Unfortunately, I got into the LP with blinders on — though I knew a life of liberty, ultimately the only option I believed there was in terms of libertarian activism was the LP itself.

    Yes, I supported Anti-War.com and other groups, but seriously, if someone had sat me down and said “hey, I know the LP is driving you crazy, but how about you check out a local Students for Liberty meeting?” (SFL didn’t exist when I was in college from 2002-2007, but just imagining it did), I would’ve been a much happier activist.

    At the time it was the Free State Project, which drove me crazy for other reasons, and most of the FSPers I knew were LPers, and the LP was a place I didn’t want to be with Barr as the Presidential candidate.

    I’m so glad liberty activists have so many other options. We’re doing amazing work in so many different venues now. It’s seriously heartening. I have never been so optimistic.

  21. Avens O'Brien

    “It’s heartening to learn that a whole new generation, possibly exemplified by Avens, will continue the struggle for liberty–and invigorate LP action.
    As one who has stayed since 1972 with the LP through all the perturbations described by Avens, I too have found it more productive to work “outside” from time to time. Not only can one decisively support a favorite libertarian issue, but also one can demonstrate to others that Libertarians possess the requisite political savvy for advancing personal freedoms.
    Bill McCord, LP class of ’72”

    Thanks, Bill!

  22. Avens O'Brien

    “I was incredibly impressed with her intellect and eloquence. Her ability to stay on topic and actually convey her feelings through words.”

    Aw thanks.

    “I applaud you for baring yourself in public like this and I am a little dismayed at the few who commented about you stripping and/or escorting. Prostitution and Stripping, the last time I looked, is still legal in Nevada. It may not be a job that I would ever do, but then again, I have a long list of jobs I say I wouldn’t do. However, if you need to work and those are your skills, use them.”

    I also didn’t take the comments above as judgmental, whether or not they were intended to be. Escorting, for the record, is a separate thing than prostitution, and I did neither in Las Vegas. 🙂

    “Not all prostitution is due to human smuggling or women being treating badly and getting hooked on drugs. I do not support that kind of prostitution since it is harming the woman. I knew a woman who was “a call girl”, that’s what she called it. It was in Sausalito. … She was incredibly interesting and well read. She preferred her profession because it paid well enough and she worked her own hours. This was way before the internet existed.”

    That’s what the women I knew in LV were like. They had plenty of agency. They liked the cash.

    Hell, I turned down a lot of money because I just couldn’t do it.

    Prostitution is illegal in Las Vegas itself. I did know prostitutes, and I often introduced them to clients, but the act itself is illegal, and I wasn’t willing to deal with the various consequences of that action.

    I break laws that are a problem all the time, but I’d own up to them. I don’t mind admitting having used drugs or having introduced prostitutes and their clients for money. That’s stuff I’m perfectly willing to own.

    Prostitution is outside my personal comfort. I can’t just let someone fuck me without a connection to them. Money doesn’t solve that problem for me, and even money can’t solve the level of danger I find in the arrangement. It’s a level of risk I’m not willing to engage in. If others are, I’m happy to let them, and I’m trying to make the experience easier for all parties. Hence my stance on legalization.

    My own personal line is there. Not to say anyone else’s should be, but that’s my line, and thus I would not, despite having no personal objection to the concept for anyone else, be willing to do it myself. Nope.

    I was a hostess in 2012, and had brought a crew of young poker players (from WSOP) to a strip club one night, and one of the guys took an interest in me. I was trying to introduce him to strippers, and he kept asking me if I’d come home with him. I told him no. He shoved money in my hand and said “this, you can have, it’s $7,000, I want you to f*ck me all night”. I said no. I gave him back his money.

    Why? He was probably early 30s, pretty good looking. He was attractive. No problem there.

    I refused because he’d been disrespectful to waitstaff. To me, as a hostess, while I was helping book their tables. To bouncers. To bartenders. He dropped glasses just to make waitresses pick them up, and then grabbed their asses.

    I had no idea what this man would be like in private but his public face certainly wasn’t helping. I didn’t know if he might tie me up, refuse to use a condom, do other things I hadn’t agreed to. I didn’t trust him in the least, and to add money to the equation just removed my ability to get help from most people if I needed it (which is another reason why I’m an advocate for legalizing/decriminalizing prostitution).

    I made that decision, as I made the same one literally hundreds of times while living in Vegas. That the risk was too high, the reward inconsequential comparatively.

    Some people find my life high-risk. Drugs, hostessing, moving to new cities with $600 to my name, driving across country alone twice, working in startups, trying to start my own company someday…

    …we all have a level of risk-tolerance and it varies. Thank goodness we all have personal choice. Let’s not make things harder for other people by increasing risk with prohibitions and legal consequences.

  23. Andy

    Avens, was your supporting Obama in 2008 somewhat of an act of rebellion against your Libertarian parents? What did they say about you supporting Obama?

    I have met a few Libertarians whose kids did not end up being libertarians.

  24. Andy

    Avens, there were one or more student libertarian clubs that existed prior to Students for Liberty and Young Americans for Liberty. I know this as a fact because I attended one of their meetings at a college in Maryland in 2001.

  25. Avens O'Brien

    “Avens, there were one or more student libertarian clubs that existed prior to Students for Liberty and Young Americans for Liberty. I know this as a fact because I attended one of their meetings at a college in Maryland in 2001.”

    Not on a national level, though I’m sure there were local groups. I tried to start libertarian clubs in college, to no avail. Just couldn’t find enough interested parties. There were 3 or 4 of us at one school that I knew, but we didn’t have an outlet except the LP itself.

  26. Shivany Lane

    Well said m’lady.
    You are correct, I used the wrong word again. I have two excellent mentors who are helping me with making sure that I use the correct words for what I mean.

    I interpreted a couple of the remarks as snarky. Maybe it is just me. The fact that you didn’t show how evolved you are on the emotional side of things.

    Well behaved women rarely make history. And without risk there is no reward. It is the yin-yang of life. I lead too safe of a life however I have begun stretching my wings now that the kids are grown and have their own lives. I am going to have so much fun with you all in Orlando. Just make sure someone invites me! I felt really bored and left out that first night in LA. I am glad I went to the party on Saturday night because I was able to meet you and several other very interesting and incredible people, though the guy with the cool outfit, black with red tie and pocket corner, seemed like he was bored with me 🙂

    I was just a lttle overstimulated with all the activity going on. And I found him interesting as well. You grew up with liberty, I grew up in HUD housing.(what amounts to “the projects” in the East Bay.

  27. Avens O'Brien

    “Avens, was your supporting Obama in 2008 somewhat of an act of rebellion against your Libertarian parents? What did they say about you supporting Obama?
    I have met a few Libertarians whose kids did not end up being libertarians.”

    My mother has three children – the boys are not libertarians, though they are liberty-oriented on social issues (decrim/legalize drugs/prositution, pro gay marriage, pro choice, very adamant about personal freedoms and privacy, anti-war) they just don’t agree on econ/taxes. So, 1 of 3 ended up Libertarian.

    I didn’t support Obama’s candidacy out of love for the guy, I did it because he lied and said libertarian things. To me. In New Hampshire, on the campaign trail. My parents fell for it too. I suspect they both also voted for him in ’08, though I can’t be sure.

    My comments:

    http://thelibertarianrepublic.com/obama-isnt-liberal-enough/

    As I said in my article:

    “I have a confession to make. Though I’ve been a libertarian my entire life, a child of Libertarian activists and a state party leader in my own right — I voted for Barack Obama in 2008.

    Hear me out. I was born in the 1980s, and came to understand my place in the political universe in 1996, when I saw there was an election for President and asked my mother which one we were voting for. She didn’t say Clinton or Dole, those names I’d seen on signs in my neighborhood in New Hampshire. She said “Harry Browne”. I remember looking at The Union Leader after the election to see if “our guy” won. I couldn’t even find his name.

    George W. Bush became president while I was in my teens, and the impression I had from his election was that it had been “given” to him by the Supreme Court. It looked like it wasn’t just Libertarian voices that weren’t heard – but even votes for the Democrats weren’t counted.

    September 11th followed quickly, and a few of my friends’ older brothers quickly enlisted in the military, determined to fight terrorism, while my family referenced Operation Cyclone and kept talking about “blowback”. I was finishing my freshman year of college when Operation Iraqi Freedom commenced.

    I went to anti-war protests, hoping to find other Libertarians, which I did — but I also found Democrats. We bonded through our mutual hatred of President Bush. We bonded because we hated the war and the encroachment on our civil liberties. We stood together, against the PATRIOT Act and Guantanamo Bay and “shock and awe”, against the lies of the Administration and the re-election of Bush. I went door to door with Democrats on Election Day in 2004, in the sleeting rain, to ask people not to vote for Bush.

    In 2007 and 2008, I began to hope. I had been Vice Chair of the Libertarian Party of New Hampshire for a year, and I volunteered on the Ron Paul primary campaign in NH. He spoke of ending warrantless wiretapping and the PATRIOT Act. He said we’d end the wars. His campaign sparked many of my liberal friends to libertarian leanings, but as McCain became the “100 more years of war” Republican nominee, I turned to Barack Obama for the ways he echoed Ron Paul.

    I even volunteered on Obama’s campaign the month before Election Day 2008.

    “No more illegal wire-tapping of American citizens. No more national security letters to spy on citizens who are not suspected of a crime. No more tracking citizens who do nothing more than protest a misguided war. No more ignoring the law when it is inconvenient. That is not who we are. And it is not what is necessary to defeat the terrorists. The FISA court works. The separation of powers works. Our Constitution works. We will again set an example for the world that the law is not subject to the whims of stubborn rulers, and that justice is not arbitrary.”

    — Barack Obama, 2007

    He was full of gems about the free market, ending war, the PATRIOT Act, and closing Guantanamo Bay. He admitted to smoking pot in college. I knew there was plenty we would disagree on – after all, I’m not a Democrat, but I knew after 8 years of Bush it was time for something and someone different, and Obama was different. He was a liberal, and I was ready for one of those in the White House.”

    I did not make the same mistake in 2012. But 2008 Obama was the best possible choice on privacy, war, legalization, women’s rights, gay rights and more.

    The disappointment of what ended up happening really screwed with me too.

  28. Avens O'Brien

    “I interpreted a couple of the remarks as snarky. Maybe it is just me. The fact that you didn’t show how evolved you are on the emotional side of things.”

    I try not to presume tone on the internet. I’d rather be naive in presuming people meant well, than defensive for no reason. If I’m being personally attacked, a commenter will make it clear enough with the next comment, generally, and then I’ll determine how to proceed.

    Generally I’d rather people make asses of themselves, rather than me making an ass of myself. 😉

  29. Jill Pyeatt Post author

    We have a constant troll problem here, Avens. With IP anonymizers, it’s not always easy to spot them. I’m glad you weren’t offended by them.

  30. Avens O'Brien

    “We have a constant troll problem here, Avens. With IP anonymizers, it’s not always easy to spot them. I’m glad you weren’t offended by them.”

    Have you seen my Facebook? LOL. I can handle a few trolls. Or people who seem like trolls who aren’t.

  31. Andy

    Avens, interesting that you ended up as a Libertarian while your two male siblings did not, especially when the statistics show that there are considerably more males who are libertarians than females, probably double or more.

  32. Avens O'Brien

    “Avens, interesting that you ended up as a Libertarian while your two male siblings did not, especially when the statistics show that there are considerably more males who are libertarians than females, probably double or more.”

    Statistically, most people aren’t libertarians. 1 in 3 people is a pretty decent stat here. 😉

    I’ve done a lot of studying into the number of female libertarians out there. There are more of us than people realize, we’re just not as active in the space sometimes. There’s numerous reasons for this. I’ve tried to isolate some of them in surveys.

    Here’s an article I wrote on the subject:
    http://thelibertarianrepublic.com/seriously-where-are-all-the-libertarian-women/

    At the moment we’re seeing popular libertarian news websites with ~40% female readership, which is comparably to other news sites like Salon or NYT… Organization membership varies, but I’m detecting some patterns between genders and different organizations. My survey mentioned in that article has been filled out by ~700 people. I’m aiming for 1000 (preferably more non-libertarians) and then I’m planning to break down the data to learn more about what people think about libertarians and what turns them on or off about us, male or female.

  33. Andy

    I read a Pew Research study that said that 68% of libertarians are men, and going by my own anecdotal evidence from attending a bunch of Libertarian and small “l” libertarian events around the country for a number of years, it would not surprise me if the percentage of libertarians that are male is higher than 68%.

    I would love to see more female libertarians, and more libertarians in general for that matter.

  34. Avens O'Brien

    “I read a Pew Research study that said that 68% of libertarians are men, and going by my own anecdotal evidence from attending a bunch of Libertarian and small “l” libertarian events around the country for a number of years, it would not surprise me if the percentage of libertarians that are male is higher than 68%.

    I would love to see more female libertarians, and more libertarians in general for that matter.”

    Gotta define your parameters though.

    “Members of the Libertarian Party” = skews more male
    “Members of Libertarian Student Organizations” = pretty split, more male but a significant percentage of female libertarians
    “Launched the movement” = more female 😉
    “People who have read Ayn Rand” = more male
    “People who’ve read The Hunger Games” = more female
    “People who consider themselves libertarian” = more male, but the percentages REALLY vary
    “People who subscribe to Reason Magazine” = more male
    “People who read The Libertarian Republic” = 40% female

    If I were going by anecdotes, I’d have a few reference points: my childhood, most libertarians I knew were female. In my teens, I met more male libertarians. In the party I met more male libertarians. However my LPNH executive committee was more female than male. At libertarian social events I help host, I meet more women.

    I know a LOT of women who are libertarian in philosophy who refuse to call themselves one, or won’t join the party, due to issues with those who call themselves libertarian.

    The point I’m trying to make is not to give up hope…. I know thousands of libertarian women, and the movement is growing continuously. 🙂

  35. Andy

    I have done fundraising for the Libertarian Party before, and going through fundraising lists I can tell you that a lot more donors are male than female.

    There probably are more female libertarians out there than are represented in current Libertarian Party ranks, but even so, I have to wonder if there will always be more men than women in libertarian ranks.

    More women getting involved would certainly be a big plus.

  36. Avens O'Brien

    Yeah, the Party does not have a good ratio generally. The greater movement does though.

    LPNV has done a lot of outreach to sex workers since Libertarians have always been in favor of legalization or decriminalization and also letting them keep their money. They’ve had a great boost in female membership simply by a little bit of targeted outreach in that direction.

    There’s no reason libertarianism shouldn’t appeal to women, but a lot of people who “sell” libertarianism have a tendency to sell with what they like best about it first, without reading the other person.

    It’s possible a key issue would bring any given woman into the party, but since a lot of times the person “preaching” liberty doesn’t pause to figure out first what the other person values, we sometimes stumble our way into weird, divisive territory when it’s not necessary.

    I’m big on the Ransberger Pivot for this.

  37. George Phillies

    Issues oriented outreach that picks up support from women and people of color:

    Facebook page Peace Now! End the Warfare State!

  38. Andy

    Excellent video, Avens.

    I have done a lot of Libertarian outreach, both in person and online. I do believe that there are a lot of people that we could win over to our side, but having said this, I think there is a significant segment of the population that will never be libertarians no matter what we do (perhaps 1/3 of the population or maybe higher). These people are either control freaks, wannabe control freaks, or they are people who prefer to be led around by control freaks.

    Do you agree or disagree?

  39. Freudian slip

    Is it more effective to focus outreach on those traditionally more receptive to Libertarianism (white males) than those traditionally opposed to it (women and minorities) ?

  40. Avens O'Brien

    “Excellent video, Avens.”

    Thanks. Shaky start, but it was my first.

    “I do believe that there are a lot of people that we could win over to our side, but having said this, I think there is a significant segment of the population that will never be libertarians no matter what we do (perhaps 1/3 of the population or maybe higher). These people are either control freaks, wannabe control freaks, or they are people who prefer to be led around by control freaks. Do you agree or disagree?”

    I agree that there are a lot of people who are disinclined towards liberty for many reasons, and some you can win over and some you can’t. I couldn’t tell you how many, but generally in politicking you assume 1/3rd of the people won’t be won over. It’s logical to tentatively think that may be the case on liberty.

    Still, I’ll give everyone a fair shot to come over. 🙂

  41. Avens O'Brien

    “Is it more effective to focus outreach on those traditionally more receptive to Libertarianism (white males) than those traditionally opposed to it (women and minorities) ?”

    I think it’s more effective to focus outreach on your own personal strengths.

    If I can speak to a bunch of sex workers (traditionally victims of statism) eloquently about the benefits of liberty, why wouldn’t I?
    If I can speak to a bunch of women who wish to homeschool their children in peace, why wouldn’t I?
    If I can speak to a bunch of female entrepreneurs who feel annoyed that the state tries to incentivize marriage by creating legal privileges accessible only to married couples, why wouldn’t I?
    If I can speak to young black protestors about police brutality and the evils of the drug war and how the government isn’t going to stop until they’re locked up… why would I?

    People in general are fearful of libertarianism for various reasons, including many many white men. And for people who’ve experienced a form of liberation due to a state action – even when the state was the original problem (SCOTUS, right to vote, abortion, striking down Jim Crow, desegregation etc) – they sometimes worry that they need the protections the state has created. It makes sense to some degree, and being able to empathize and then move to a stateless solution is generally the way to go.

    I talk to white men about libertarianism all the time, and if they’re not already libertarians, what I usually hear is “We need a social safety net. We need to help the poor. Libertarians don’t want to help the poor, but they need help.”

    The fact is every single individual is going to have something that makes them fear, hate, distrust or doubt the state, and the only way you’ll find out *what that individual’s* trigger is, is by listening to them.

    There are many libertarians out there, and we’re all individuals. Telling us we should all go outreach to the same groups would be pretty silly. We need more of everybody.

  42. Caryn Ann Harlos

    Thank you Avens likewise. I think where we have disagreed it has been agreeably. I enjoyed your video above…. Particularly the way it started.

    On the wasting time with Barr thing …. If more states did it, I think you might have found it more productive, so I still congratulate you for it. That is a wound that still has not healed.

  43. Pingback: The Libertarian Party: The Good, Bad, Ugly, and Optimistic | AVENS OBRIEN

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