Last weekend, I attended the 2014 International Students for Liberty Conference with 1500 other mostly young libertarians. For many of us whose only exposure to libertarian thought is online, maybe a few people in a local group or club, or a few friends, this is truly an amazing experience. It was my second conference (I went last year as well) and while I did not attend many of the actual seminars, it was nice to just bask in liberty.
My first thought upon arriving was “Ah, the fresh fragrance of freedom.” It can be hard for us keyboard warriors, who in real life are surrounded by statists and statism, to come to terms with the fact that we are in an area with 1500 like-minded people. People who you do not have to explain much to. People who already agree with you on fundamental principles. Not to mention seeing your heroes like David Friedman, Radley Balko, and Jeffrey Tucker walking around.
Despite the snowstorm stranding many people, the vast majority did actually make it to the conference mostly on time. I checked into my hostel, and found over a dozen other attendees were also staying there. I met a few later on, but the conference took up so much time and we were so tired after that we did not have a chance to meet up at the hostel. At the conference itself, people milled about tables set up by the famous libertarian organizations such as the CATO Institute, the National Rifle Associate, the Foundation for Economic Education, the Free State Project, and many others. Pretty much the only missing entity was the Mises Institute, who I think do not attend any conferences.
The main event of Friday was the filming of the John Stossel show in front of all of us live. The show aired on Thursday 20 February 2014 (sorry I should have posted this blog earlier), but should be available online somewhere or eventually it will get posted (a clip of the show is on that link). The show filming included many technical problems that are interesting to see behind the scenes. An hour long show can take over two hours to film and they often have multiple versions of the intro and outro clips. Afterwards, there were several socials to meet and greet each other, and unfortunately (in my opinion) for us to get drunk.
The next day was the main day and featured many seminars on a whole host of topics, just about everything you can relate to liberty. Rather than list them all, it may be best to link to the brochure. Featured speakers include Oliver Stone, Justin Amash, Thomas Massie, Radley Balko, and others. Oliver Stone trolled attendees when he defended Hugo Chavez and other super-psychopaths of many Central and South American regimes. Food is not provided to the attendees because central planning that kind of thing is difficult and expensive for 1500 people, especially with lots of wonderful establishments nearby.
The evening saw entertainment in the form of comedian Andrew Heaton (video) and Nashville band Radar vs Wolf(part 1, part 2). Additionally, awards were given out to various SFL groups and students, and the keynote address (part 2) was given by George Ayittey, a Ghanaian who had a lot of profound things to say about liberty in Africa and the world. I think the biggest takeaway was when he connected dictatorial control of the media to their ability to control the population. When this is understood, the growing influence of government in the United States makes a lot more sense: the media is basically in bed with the government, and it is getting worse. I will cover this idea in a future post.
The third and final saw mainly large talks in the main ballroom. Jeffrey Tucker moderated a bitcoin panel. Radley Balko talked about the evisceration of not only the “fourth ameniment”, but also the centuries-old common law practice known as knock and announce, which has been all but discarded by police, first in the war on drugs, and now in just about anything. Lisa Kennedy Montgomery, someone who I am not sure exactly how to describe, talked about the generation war between Gen X and Milennials, and how that pertains to liberty. And the conference closed out with a speech (part 2) by Ethan Nadelmann of the Drug Police Alliance. Nadelmann is Jewish and even referenced as much in his speech.
The main goal of the conference appears to be networking so those of us who are yuppies can find internships and potential jobs. If there is one criticism I have, its that all these people are economics and political science majors and plan to get professorships and academic careers. That is simply not going to happen. Where are the entrepreneurs, the farmers, the miners, the libertarians who want to get down and dirty and do real things, not shuffle papers. I guess theyre at PorcFest, which is now open for registration, and I am strongly considering attending.
However, in spite of all that, there were a lot of cool people to meet, whether fellow libertarians, the famous bylines whose articles we read, or the organizations we know and love. I highly recommend it to anyone who can attend. Tickets are cheap for Americans, free for everyone else, and accommodations are not too pricey. The hotel is expensive, but nearby hostels are cheap, and there is always airbnb. In 2015, the conference is actually moving to the larger Marriott Wardman Park, which suggests that it is growing in leaps and bounds.
There are loads of “free” books to take, contests to enter, mailing lists to join, and other assorted goodies to take. I actually missed out on some that I forgot to take, but I took a lot of stuff to hand out to people back home or keep on hand. I tried to keep it limited, as I am trying to get rid of stuff so I can move to New Hampshire.
Afterwards, I headed around town to see some sites, including the Jewish War Veterans museum (sue me, I left an antiwar message in the guest book), enjoyed African food, visited the African Art museum and the Holocaust museum (left a pro-gun message in that guest book). And now I am in Baltimore, where I am hoping to get to H. L. Menckens house (which needs funding for restoration and reopening) before I head back to my home state to return to reality. All of this travelling and sometimes libertarian sightseeing makes me want to write a libertarian tour guide.
Update: Added video links to speeches. See above or click here. Also, the Stossel show will air 2/23/14 at 9pm ET on Fox Business and 10pm ET on Fox News.