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Start an Independent Free Market Reading Group

Would you like to become a more effective free market activist and inspire others to do the same? Do you enjoy talking about the fundamental ideas of liberty? Then please consider starting an independent free market reading and discussion group in your area. The materials from Liberty In the Books can make the process much easier, enjoyable, and fruitful. Consider the following suggestions. (Additional suggestions for running a discussion group may be found at Oclubs, even though that organization focuses on different content.)

Be Safe and Responsible

The founders of Liberty In the Books lack the resources to independently evaluate any reading group, or organizer thereof, other than the one they actively attend. Therefore, no other group may claim to be sanctioned by or affiliated with Liberty In the Books. However, independent groups may claim to use Liberty In the Books materials, so long as they note their non-affiliation.

It is strongly recommended that independent groups meet at public places, such as a bookstore or coffee shop, and that potential members attend only meetings held at public places. It is the responsibility of each potential member to independently evaluate a group and its organizers. It is the responsibility of each group organizer to plan meetings consistent with the safety and comfort of each participant.

Refine Your Purpose

The materials selected for Liberty In the Books cover basic and applied economics, policy, and the history of liberty. The goal is not to review technical economics or esoteric debates of interest mainly to academics, but to study "Economics in Action."

Think about the sort of audience you'd like to attract. If you don't want your group filled exclusively with bombastic libertarians, you should probably avoid debates about anarchism and the like. The goal of Liberty In the Books is to have fun while learning about and discussing the ideas of liberty, and that is probably a good goal for independent groups as well.

Gently Moderate

The point of a discussion group of this sort is to talk about a particular work in some detail. Groups that meander far off topic or that become pointless bull sessions will quickly lose their better members. On the other hand, participants should be encouraged to bring their own relevant experiences and points of view to the discussion.

One possibility is for a group's organizers to moderate each meeting. Another possibility is to rotate the responsibility, so that each member takes a turn.

Discussion questions can help keep a meeting on track. However, it is not necessary to review every question, and some questions might draw more interest than others. Review questions should be considered rough guidelines for the discussion.

In some cases, a moderator might have to politely state the purposes of the group and insist that discussion remain respectful and on topic. In extreme and unlikely cases, a moderator might need to ask a participant to leave the group, either for a meeting or permanently.

A good moderator walks the line between keeping the discussion focused on the selected work and encouraging participants to offer their own reflections on the work.

Promote Your Group

To start a group, you might start with your friends. You can also turn to your broader address book and social media contacts. Some discussion groups have found Facebook ads to be an effective way to promote a group.

Select a Time and Place

An established time and place for a group promotes regular attendance. For example, you might meet the first Tuesday of every month at a local coffee shop or book store. Call or visit a location to obtain permission to meet there. Meetings that run from 1.5 to two hours in length tend to work well. Meetings should begin and end on time.

Communicate with Members

One good way to notify participants about meeting times, reading assignments, and so on is to set up a Google group. A Facebook group might also work well if every participant uses that service.

Offer Guidelines

Organizers of an independent group might wish to write up guidelines for their group. For example, following are the guidelines for Liberty In the Books:

The purpose of Liberty in the Books: Economics in Action is to provide a fun forum for free-market advocates to discuss economic principles and history and their application to the important issues of the day, with the goal that members will be better able to publicly articulate the case for free markets.

Members should strive to regularly attend meetings and read the selections. Readings generally will run less than 100 pages per month and will cover various areas of policy as well as basic economic principles. Some readings will be available online, others through special reproduction rights acquired by the event's organizers. Occasionally members will need to purchase a book, which typically will provide readings for several meetings.

In order to keep the discussions interesting and topical, members should focus their comments on the reading material, though of course they may draw upon additional information that sheds light on the readings.

The group assumes a general support of free markets, enabling members to discuss matters of history and economics in greater detail than would be possible if members fundamentally disagreed about economic liberty. While membership is open, the moderators may, at their discretion, limit discussion that falls outside the purpose of the group.

While the group will discuss economics in history and theory, discussion should not assume any prior, specialized knowledge of history, economics, or policy, other than what is provided by the selected reading material. Discussion should remain accessible to any intelligent layperson familiar with the reading material, rather than veer into highly technical issues of interest only to a few.

While the moderators welcome feedback and advice from members, the moderators' decisions pertaining to Liberty In the Books are final. Moderators may, at their discretion, begin with a short presentation, invite outside discussion leaders, establish other parameters for discussion, ask disruptive members to leave, alter the location or time of meetings, change future reading selections, and in other ways guide the group.

Members are the guests of the club's organizers, who will strive to make Liberty In the Books consistently fun, inspiring, and informative.

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