Blogs > Liberty and Power > Historians, Libertarians, and the "Real World."

Mar 29, 2004 3:27 pm

Historians, Libertarians, and the "Real World."

I just returned from giving two talks in Boston. One was to the Boston University Libertarian Society and the other was to the Organization of American Historians.

My panel at the OAH went well and including two other solid papers on fraternal organizations. As an event, however, the first annual conference of the Boston University Libertarian Society was far more enjoyable. Laura Barnett, daughter of Randy Barnett of Volokh Conspiracy fame, deserves great credit for putting together a powerful line up that included Randy Barnett, James Stacey Taylor, and Jeffrey Miron.

The dicussion focused on practical and contentious issues such as possible dangers to liberty posed by Bush's social security"privatization" plan, whether or not it is valid to compare the Iraq intervention to imperialism at the turn of the century, the virtues and vices of judicial review as a means to promote liberty, etc. The presentations of Barnett, Miron, and Taylor contradicted the (not always inaccurate) stereotype that libertarians do not"live in the real world."

If anything, the charge of"not living in the real world" better applies to the OAH conference. While there were several excellent papers, many speakers seemed more concerned with addressing the PC choir and papers were often laced with the usual buzzwords such as" construct" and"gendered." Other panels highlighted the most marginal aspects of history. Probably the most extreme example was a panel on "bestiality." Then again, I suppose an allegedly marginal libertarian like me should not complain too much about such matters.

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Robert L. Campbell - 3/30/2004


The program you linked to contains a casual reference to "K-16" education, in the title of a paper session.

I've thought for some time that most politicians think of undergraduate education as a mere upward extension of government-run K-12.

The K-16 titling tells us how widespread that view is becoming.