I had the good fortune to attend the Liberty League freedom forum the other weekend. For a decent write up of it I’d suggest heading over to Samizdata, who are a lot more positive than I fear I’m going to be. First off lets start with the good, congratulations to the organizers for putting together such an excellent range of talks, I genuinely had a hard time choosing which sessions to attend. The talks I attended where well presented interesting and informative so speaking from experience of having organized a conference in the past congratulations job very well done.
All that said I doubt I’ll be attending next years conference. I attended with a friend of mine who doesn’t identify as a Libertarian but wanted to know more – after the first talk she was ready to give up as the language was very much aimed at people from a political science/philosophy back ground. I spent the coffee break summarising the talk into normal language, which is fair enough it’s difficult to pitch talks at a level suitable for all, but it was a bit of a theme through out the weekend. There’s nothing wrong with this, it’s that sort of conference I’d just been hoping for something that would reach out more rather than being for those already immersed in the names and theories of political science and libertarianism. So it’s not the sort of conference for me, nor would I recommend it to people who want to discover more or who don’t already have an academic political background.
That rather brings me to my other problem with the event, Samizdata describes the attendees thusly:
” It was mostly young, mostly students. And it was very smart. As you will observe if you take a look at my crowd shots, most of the audience, besides being young, was male. But not all of it was. And the young males looked like they are the types to be going places in the future.”
My impression doesn’t disagree but I don’t take heart from this, the crowd was very homogeneous being mostly in suits and ties. Now I may be odd and way out of touch with todays youth but a student voluntarily in a tie let alone anything resembling a suit at a weekend seems well just a tad unnatural. There were very few alternative types, it reminded me of nothing so much as the political societies from when I was at university, so what we have here may well indeed be the next generation of politicians. They are almost certainly people “going places”, where they’re going is into politics. Judging by this conference (and I know making generalisations like this is unfair) the next generation of Libertarians are going into politics following the same path as the other political parties today:
student politics -> think tank -> Wonk/SPAD -> candidate -> MP
This doesn’t fill me with hope, as I don’t believe we ‘ll get the radical change needed from people casting themselves in the same mold as our existing political class. This idea that these were people who want to be politicians was typified by a conversation over heard when queuing for lunch:
“I think I’ll go along to a UKIP meeting to see if I want to stand for them”
I’ll not expound on that as I suspect either you’ll have the same reaction/thoughts as me or I’ll not convince you.
I wish the Liberty league all the best, but I don’t think I’ll be going back – though I did have some good conversations with people there and it wasn’t all suits and wannabe political wonks so it may well prove that I’m being overly pessimistic, I hope that proves to be the case.