This past weekend, I had the privilege to attend the 2011 International Students for Liberty Conference. While I am no longer a student, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to meet more than 500 liberty minded young people from around the world. I met students from Canada, England, Germany, Australia and Portugal. It always amazes (and embarrasses!) me how these international students generally know more about American politics and history than the average American. That speaks volumes about our government-run educational system.
As my third Students for Liberty conference, this one was noticeably much larger with more women than previous conferences. I’d say that the average libertarian conference has a 10-1 male to female ratio. This conference may have had 40 percent women in attendance! Since I believe that women are more likely to hold mainstream views, this is a great sign that the liberty movement is growing rapidly. Freedom is popular.
I’ve never ever said this before. You probably haven’t heard this before: some of the guys at the libertarian conference were smooth talkers. For the first time, I saw some guys confidently approach myself and other women without making a complete fool out of themselves. Gasp. They didn’t seem so intimidated to talk to a person of the opposite sex. I barely even saw any stuttering or excessive sweating. At the Liberty on the Rocks social afterwards, Andrew Guevara—one of LOTR organizers— told me to make sure everyone was having a good time. This meant introducing myself to anyone who may have been awkwardly standing in the corner by himself or herself. I looked around the room multiple times throughout the night and I never saw any of those kids.
Bryan Caplan and Ilya Somin have already pointed out that libertarians’ social skills have improved largely due to these conferences. We’ve finally found a reason to escape our parents’ basement and talk to real human beings about our ideas. Caplan says “Twenty years ago, a pack of libertarian students would have been roughly as awkward and freakish as attendees at Comic-Con… or, say, me. Now I see hundreds of students who aren’t just smart, but smooth.”
I’d have to confirm Caplan and Somin’s theory: these conferences have helped my social skills. I’m an awkward kid too. I love conferences with high concentrations of scrawny, socially awkward libertarians like me. One of the keynote speakers Megan McArdle hilariously said “We diagnosed your son with Aspergers, but don’t worry we’re going to send him to DC and have him work in a think tank.” I’ve finally found a crowd that I fit in with that I can be myself around. They’ve taught me to embrace my awkwardness and be able to make jokes about it. Thank God for giving me a sense of humor.
I attended lectures held by professors and scholars of the Institute for Humane Studies, Cato Institute and Foundation for Economic Education. I learned a lot and it revamped my dream of becoming a hip pipe smoking economic professor that rants against the state. Hey, it could happen.
I am often asked “what is your ultimate goal?” I don’t have a definitive answer to that question yet. It’s easy to say Students for Liberty’s slogan “a free academy, a free society.” The question that is less frequently asked is “how are you going to achieve your goal?” While education is vitally important, it is only part of the recipe to change the world. Let’s turn these ideas into political action. Two of the best ways to get involved is to run for office or get involved with a political campaign.
I understand that our ideas are not entirely mainstream. Will they ever be in our lifetime? That’s up to us. The mainstream media is doing their best to marginalize Ron Paul who is one of our spokesmen for liberty. Please remember that geniuses are rarely respected in their lifetime. These are the type of people that mainstream society has called “kooks” at one point. Vincent Van Gogh never lived to see his fame. Only one of his paintings sold while he was alive. Barely anyone accepted Galileo Galileo’s discovery of gravity during his lifetime. He was treated as an outcast. Now people call him the father of modern science. Same goes for Henry David Thoreau, Edgar Allen Poe and Emily Dickinson who were not respected while they were alive. I firmly believe that mainstream America will one day see Ron Paul as a hero.