Thursday, February 23, 2017

Conference sees good and (mostly) bad in 2017

Can libertarians mediate the divide? | Newsday -  Cathy Young:

February 23, 2017 - "The people who gathered for the 10th annual conference of the International Society of Students for Liberty in Washington last weekend were a motley crowd that included anti-war activists with neon-colored hair and law students in three-piece suits. In the exhibit hall, a display honoring Ronald Reagan was only a few feet away from a LGBT group with a rainbow version of the 'Don’t Tread on Me' Gadsen flag and from the table of a group called Muslims for Liberty.

"Despite the festive atmosphere, this year’s speakers at the libertarian event were mostly in a dark mood.... While libertarians tend to be at the Republican end of the two-party spectrum, Donald Trump Republicanism is about as un-libertarian as you get. There was raucous applause when Katherine Mangu-Ward, editor of Reason magazine ... declared at the opening-night session, 'Free movement of people and goods across the border is good.' Another Reason editor, Nick Gillespie, contrasted the libertarian spirit of “cosmopolitanism and tolerance” with Trump’s demonization of undesirables — and with the left’s anti-pluralist drive to silence politically incorrect speech.

"Tom Palmer, vice president for international programs at the nonprofit Atlas Network, ... named left-wing identity politics and thought-policing as part of the problem, [but] his focus was the threat from the right: in America, Trumpism, with its cult of the leader who embodies the people’s will and its paranoia about the foreign; in Europe, populist, nationalist, and sometimes outright fascist movements, many financed by Russia’s authoritarian regime.

"Social psychologist and New York University professor Jonathan Haidt, whose talk on the rise of the 'safety culture' in colleges was probably the biggest hit of the conference, warned that 'the end of liberal democracy” was a real threat.... Social justice, Haidt said, is replacing pursuit of knowledge as the central mission of universities, and there is less and less tolerance for dissent. The result is a generation sympathetic to censorship of offensive speech.

"While parts of the conference had a decidedly pessimistic tone, there was optimism as well — and discussion of libertarian victories from deregulation to gay civil rights. Libertarianism may not have all the answers; but right now, it may be our best hope for rebuilding a culture of freedom and tolerance."

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