by Ben, a Patriot Blogger
As you can see, I am now a famous celebrity.
And I represented George Mason in the process!
How did it happen? I’m glad you asked.
Last weekend, I had the pleasure of attending the International Students for Liberty Conference, held at the Grand Hyatt hotel in D.C. One of the best features of Mason is that it’s extremely close to Washington D.C., but we’re not in D.C. itself. This is the best of both worlds. If you spend too much time in D.C., the stench of corruption starts to stick to you- and like radiation, no amount of showers can wash it off.
Unlike radiation, it will not give you super-powers.
But we also get the benefit of the good stuff in D.C. – for libertarians, ISFLC, for Conservatives, CPAC next month (Progressives are too cool for D.C. – their big convention, Netroots, is taking place in California). For the sports fan, there’s the sports teams- The Redskins, the Wizards, the Nationals, and the basement-dwelling Capitals (This is the first year I’ve followed hockey, and so far the Capitals are making me regret it). Anyways, when something worth attending comes up in D.C., I can commute, save a bunch of money on hotels, and still enjoy it. And I certainly enjoyed ISFLC.
This was the sixth Students for Liberty conference- the first had around 100 students, while this one had around 1400 attend. I didn’t realize quite how big of a deal that was at first. My old hometown was a very conservative area (this surprises some people, since I live in New York, which has gone Democratic in every election since 1984. Western NY, however, is staunchly Republican- it’s just hopelessly outweighed by the big city). Youth of course, are known for challenging Mom and Dad’s politics. But thanks to Ron Paul, the spawn of conservatives could challenge the status quo without becoming liberals- they became libertarians instead. So strong was this effect, in fact, that my graduating class had more libertarians than democrats (I’m basing that entirely on anecdotal evidence, but anecdotal evidence is pretty strong when we’re talking about a group of 300 people, almost all of whom I knew).
After graduating, I of course came to George Mason, which, as far as universities go, has an extremely high number of Libertarians. As I noted on the eve of 2012 election, if my Facebook friends were a representative sample of the world, Gary Johnson and Barack Obama would be deadlocked, with Mitt Romney far behind. In my experience, libertarians have always been a very significant faction.
This did not happen last Tuesday, if you didn’t notice.
As it turns out, my experience was not typical at all (if it were, President Paul would have delivered his state of the Union last Tuesday). A student from York University I met was incredibly impressed that Gary Johnson gained 4% of the vote at GMU(all thanks to me, no doubt). My BFF Jack from high school may have been the only person at all of Grove City College to vote for Johnson. Peter Boettke, an economist (from GMU of course) who spoke at the conference prefaced his remarks by saying libertarians getting together to hold a conference like this would have been unthinkable in the 1970’s. And the opening speech, by SFL executive director Alex McCobin, recalled him going two years without meeting a single libertarian in college.
But the weekend was not spent patting ourselves on the back. The weekend was whatever you wanted it to be. There were panels on how to do outreach to women (Libertarians have a gender gap, although, as I found out this weekend, it’s overstated. Men outnumbered women, but not by as much as you’d think), a lecture on what to do if you got arrested, or, for the nerds like me, numerous economic lectures. Mason was well represented, with the aforementioned Peter Boettke speaking as well as Bryan Caplan. Steve Horwitz, an economist from St. Lawrence University (New York represent!) spoke as well, and on Sunday, Horwitz and Caplan debated non-libertarians for the “Learn Liberty” series. To the libertarian economics major, this weekend was basically “nerd-vana”. For the non-economists, there were plenty of other sessions- over 100, crammed into eight time slots.
The highlight of conference, however, came Saturday night (and not just because of my rise to celebrity status), with the taping of “Stossel”. John Stossel, the host, is a former 20/20 journalist, who now hosts his own show on Fox Business (which GMU doesn’t receive!), and probably the only Libertarian TV host on Cable News. According to the network, the show “highlights the current consumer issues with a Libertarian point of view”. This weekend, however, featured no “consumer issues”- it was all about Libertarian politics.
That doesn’t look like a “Consumer Issue” to me, Mr. Stossel
The first half of the show focused on libertarian friendly folks-Gary Johnson, Congressman Justin Amash, scholar David Boaz, and journalist Radley Balko all spoke to Stossel about various libertarian issues and concerns. The tone was casual and polite, with the audience applauding approximately every five seconds.
The second half of the show was more contentious.
The first guest was Conservative commentator Ann Coulter defending social conservatism (and calling Libertarians [something inappropriate] in the process). Charming.
Next up was former Congressman Dennis Kucinich, representing the left, and finally, John Bolton, the former U.N. ambassador, there to defend the interventionist foreign policy embraced by both the Bush and Obama administrations, and specifically the use of drones.
After each guest spoke, students were allowed to ask questions. And a lot of us wanted to. Huge lines formed to ask each speaker question, and despite the central tenant of libertarianism being non-aggression, elbows were thrown. After attempting to get in line for Gary Johnson, Ann Coulter, and Dennis Kucinich (due to time constraints, not everyone in line could ask their question), I was ready. As soon as Stossel invited us to speak, I booked over to the queue, and was second in line.
I thought I had a good question, and apparently Stossel agreed- my question made it!
And that, dear readers, is how I became a famous celebrity. I expect an offer to become a regular contributor to Fox any day now.
In the meantime, I’ll keep enjoying D.C.’s proximity to Mason. Maybe if I actually go to a game the Capitals will start winning.
Video of my question here: http://www.mediaite.com/tv/bolton-clashes-with-stossel-over-obamas-drones-accuses-libertarians-of-defending-the-confederacy/