What Ray Kroc and Alexander Hamilton Can Teach Libertarians

Virtual Reading Group: Markets Not Capitalism
September 12, 2017
Libertines and Liberty
September 12, 2017

There are two pop culture items I would like to point you to: The Founder and Hamilton. Both have a significant lesson in them. If you are unfamiliar with these pieces, The Founder is the story of Ray Kroc, the man who franchised the McDonalds business empire. Hamilton is a Broadway musical about the trials and hardships of the Alexander Hamilton in his attempts to attain a legacy for himself in creating a robust financial system in the United States.

Being libertarians, I am sure most of you have positive feelings about The Founder and negative feelings about Hamilton, however if you are looking for a political message in these pieces, I think you are missing the point. They tell the exact same story. They are both stories of a person who busted their ass to reach their goals. 

In Hamilton, they describe Alexander as the “$10 dollar founding father without a father who got a lot farther by working a lot harder; by being a lot smarter; by being a self-starter.” Throughout the play he is incredibly ambitious with his famous line being “there are a million things I haven’t done.” There is even a whole song called “Non-Stop”, which is all about Alexander Hamilton’s work ethic. He never stopped writing. He never stopped advocating. The man was non-stop.

In The Founder, Ray Kroc spends 50% of the movie fighting the McDonalds brothers who drag their feet time and time again. He separates from his friends whom he describes as the “idle rich”, and decides to make better friends with immigrants, door-to-door salesmen, and entrepreneurs. He fills his company with people who know how to hustle and know that the hustle never ends. At the end of the movie he gives one of my new favorite movie speeches:

“Now, I know what you are thinking: how the heck does a 52 year-old, over the hill, milkshake machine salesmen build a fast food empire with 1600 restaurants in 50 states, 5 foreign countries, with an annual revenue within the neighborhood of about 700 million dollars? One word: persistence. Nothing in this world can take the place of good ole persistence. Talent won’t. Nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius won’t. Unrecognized genius is practically a cliché. Education won’t. The world is full of educated fools. Persistence and determination alone are all powerful.”

These are powerful words and they cannot be understated. Nothing replaces hard work. In our society we constantly use the phrase “work smarter, not harder.” What a crime! This is bullshit and it’s robbing millennials of greatness. The first half is absolutely correct. The second is the destruction of virtue and achievement.  The phrase should be “work smarter, work harder”.

The unfortunate truth is that libertarians work neither smarter or harder.

We certainly don’t work smarter! We fight unnecessary battles. We die on hills we will never win. We make bed fellows with despicable monsters. This is us not working smarter.

And we definitely don’t work harder. I have spent the past two weeks going school to school in the Northeast recruiting students to join the fight for a free and prosperous future. As I walk these campuses, I see the schools plastered with fliers from the College Democrats and socialist clubs. At NYU, I saw 3 different socialist clubs at their club fair. The socialists are preaching on the greens of their campus, working to have dozens of events every month, and forming coalitions. On some of the campuses I visit there are libertarian clubs and on some there aren’t. Either way they are invisible.

I see groups across the nation run two group meetings a semester. TWO!? I see some never meeting at all. I see groups that think putting up 5 fliers is exposure on campus. I see activists that invite 10 people to a Facebook event and think they have created good traction. Many are guilty.

Libertarians constantly make fun of socialists because they think they are holding positions of non-work and laziness. Well guess what? They are working harder than us! They are working smarter than us! And it is so damn obvious. The American revolutionaries gave their lives, all their comforts, and their safety to attain liberty and independence. We can hardly dedicate 3 hours on a Thursday.

In order to be an activist, you have to be active. Our mission is one of incredible difficulty and persistence. We will fail over and over again, and we won’t stop until we attain every last success. We will be tired. Our feet and backs will hurt and ache. Our brains will be fried. But, whether we succeed or fail, we will know that we gave our everything to fight for human prosperity. We will be able to hold our heads high.


This piece solely expresses the opinion of the author and not necessarily the organization as a whole. Students For Liberty is committed to facilitating a broad dialogue for liberty, representing a variety of opinions. If you’re a student interested in presenting your perspective on this blog, visit our guest submissions page. Like what you read here? You can sign up for a weekly digest of the SFL blog and subscribe for a weekly update on SFL’s events, leadership programs, and resources.

Back to Blog