Friday, 20 January 2006

What's good about VSM?

How many of you know what VSM means? For the unitiated, it means Voluntary Student Membership. For those who did recognise the acronym, hopefully you've already been out their waving the flag on its behalf because it's a perfect issue for freedom-lovers to take up their cudgels and support. For existing students and new students getting ready to start on a New Zealand campus, may I invite you for a moment to listen up as to why you need to know about VSM.

The VSM issue pits freedom, individualism and voluntarism on one side, against collectivism, compulsion and bossyboot busy-bodying on the other. It is, in microcosm, the very issue of our age, and one perfectly calculated to appeal to present students, and most importantly to help make them (if you argue well enough) lifelong supporters of freedom. What could be better? If I wasn't a committed atheist, I'd call it a God-given gift to freedom lovers. Taking part in such a campaign should be a no-brainer whatever your chances of electoral success, because it's not just with immediate electoral success by which such victories are judged.

The important thing with a VSM campaign is not whether you win or lose on campus -- though don't let that stop you fighting to win; life on a VSM campus such as Auckland's is infinitely better than the compulsory alternatives, and Auckland students wallets so much heavier: The real victory of a VSM campaign comes in the number of people each and every year that your campaign permanently switches on to freedom. That's your number one job as a VSM campaigner -- everything else is gravy.

As a political training ground, there is a lot to be said for mounting and/or helping out with a principled VSM campaign: a great battle to be had, one in which moral right is clearly and unequivocally on your side, and as such a great apprenticeship for young student politicians -- on one side, collectivists of all stripes demanding a right to students' wallets; on the other side, strong, sound arguments for the right to choose, and for freedom of association.

In some ways, it would be an awful shame for the opportunity for that on-campus debate to be taken away by a change in legislation in whatever direction. But as long as the law is as it is, I would urge every freedom-loving student as emphatically as I can to get involved in their campus's VSM campaign, and help make it a principled one.

[NB: a debate on VSM is presently under way at the AoC blog, and probably elsewhere for all I know. Join in. Libz on Campus would be another excellent place from which to help launch a principled VSM campaign. Release the hounds!]

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