Why Have Libertarian Students' Social Skills Increased So Much?
By Bryan Caplan
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. The first was a treatment effect: Libertarians got a lot less practice sharing their ideas in a civilized and constructive way. The second was a selection effect: 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. Nowadays, almost no libertarian is isolated unless he wants to be. As it turns out, few do.
But that’s just my starting story. Got a better one?