Like my George Mason colleague Bryan Caplan, I gave two talks at the Students for Liberty International Conference this weekend. And I emphatically agree with Bryan’s observation that the SFL students I met had vastly better social skills and are generally much more socially “normal” than were the young libertarians of my own generation (I graduated college in 1995):
The Students for Liberty conference has to be seen to be believed: the attendance (about 500 students), the energy (off the charts), and most remarkably of all, the high social skills. 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. What happened?
The best explanation I’ve got so far: the Internet. Back in the old days, libertarian students spent a lot of time alone with their books. It was awfully hard to meet others with a shared interest in liberty. This social isolation had two effects…..: Libertarians got a lot less practice sharing their ideas in a civilized and constructive way [and]… Few “people people” became libertarians because it was too depressing. As the Internet – and social networking, its favorite child – blossomed over the last two decades, these effects of libertarian isolation largely faded away.
A closely related trend is the high proportion of women among today’s young libertarians. By my rough estimate, about 40-45% of the SFL attendees were female. That’s a sea change from twenty years ago, when young libertarians were an overwhelmingly male group. Considering that women are on average less interested in politics than men are in general, the percentage of women in SFL is roughly what one would expect in a student political group that isn’t specifically [...]