This weekend marked the end of the season for Students for Liberty’s regional conferences in North America, but the upward trajectory suggests they’re only getting started. After SFL’s first conference in 2008 with approximately 100 attendees, 2013 has seen 18 regional conferences — in addition to the international conference in Washington, D.C., and those held elsewhere in the world. This weekend alone, three took place, in Louisiana, North Carolina, and the first of its kind in Canada.
The New Orleans, Louisiana, event began with a Liberty on the Rocks social on Friday evening and then the conference proper on Saturday at Loyola University. Jeffrey Tucker, executive editor of Laissez Faire Books and a distinguished fellow with the Foundation for Economic Education, gave the morning keynote address to the approximately 170 attendees.
“Shall we have some fun with ideas now?” Tucker asked, as he introduced what seemed to be the theme of the day: governmental incompetence, worthy of scorn and humor, and why we can be optimistic, given the rapid rise of superior, peaceful alternatives. The ongoing Obamacare embarrassment offered a case in point, as millions of people find their medical coverage illegal.
“I don’t know if you’ve heard, but anarchy seems to be breaking out all over. And this is just great news . . . Every day and every way we’re seeing the structure of power crumble in the most marvelous way.”
“The common old lie is that our leaders are so smart; they’re so wise, so brilliant . . . and then you see something like [the Obamacare fiasco] happen, and they get on camera, and you realize, ‘These people are just idiots.'”
Tucker offered hamburgers as an analogy for the confusion and lack of anticipation over why so many people can no longer purchase their medical insurance. Assume a government mandate that every hamburger have two meat patties, he said. Naturally, McDonald’s announces that they’re taking them off the dollar menu.
“‘What? . . . How is that possible that you’re taking the hamburger off the dollar menu? Why are you doing this?’ . . . Like nobody would have expected that to happen.”
Tucker accepted an exclusive PanAm Post interview, in which he elaborated on why he appreciates SFL and his concern about people leaving the movement. His recommendation is that people focus more on entrepreneurship and alternatives, rather than pointing the finger and waiting for government to change.
“The problem is none of us control the government . . . so I think this depresses people.”
As with the conferences elsewhere, the day proceeded with additional lectures, panel and small group discussions, an exhibitor area, and a social gathering in the evening. Notably, Jacob Sullum, senior editor of Reason Magazine, addressed the “voodoo pharmacology” of drug prohibition; Alexandre Padilla, of the Institute for Humane Studies and a native of France, sought to dispel myths about immigration; and Walter Block offered the evening keynote address on the how and why to privatize roads.
Loyola University, New Orleans, has earned a reputation for its market-oriented economics department, within the business school, so it provided a fitting home for the event. Dan D’Amico, an assistant professor of economics with the school, analyzed post-Katrina New Orleans, and why particular demographics have returned, while others have stayed away.
James Padilioni (pictured), vice president of the Students for Liberty North American Executive Board, continued that theme with an investigation into the jazz scene and how licensing requirements have influenced its evolution.
Attendees at the New Orleans event came from as far away as Maryland, but particularly the neighboring states of Texas, Mississippi, and Alabama. Ya’mesha Davis and Catherine Garrett (pictured) were part of a large contingent from Troy University, Alabama.
“One of my close friends convinced me to come [and] I thought this was the perfect time to interact with people and learn more about [Students for Liberty],” said Davis. “The people are very nice, friendly. They like to engage in conversations . . . They’re very open-minded people.”
“We also just wanted to hear other people’s opinions, how other people feel,” said Garrett. “It’s great networking; everybody is so nice and understanding, laid back.”
Noelle Mandell, conference and SFL south central regional director, says the growth people are observing is natural, since “the ideas are so popular . . . Students generally are liberty minded and are interested in learning more about the philosophy.”
Mandell also says that event planning takes up a great deal of her time and that of SFL.
“I was fortunate enough to have New Orleans in my region, and was excited about the opportunity . . . I was eager to put an event together in a city where we hadn’t held a conference yet.”
In particular, she was pleased to help newcomers, “students who hadn’t had any experience attending a SFL event.”