Wednesday, January 30, 2013

My Europe Trip: Final Thoughts

I am writing this in an airplane on my way home; we land in a little less than an hour. Over the past sixteen days I have given thirteen public talks, mostly lectures, a few discussions. Most were set up by libertarian organizations, broadly defined—liberal in the current European sense of the word. The four largest had audiences of about two hundred people each.

There were two related features of my experience that I found encouraging, beyond the size of the audiences. One was that in almost every case most of the audience, so far as I could tell, had come to hear me, not to hear my father’s son. The other was that, with only a few exceptions, the audience contained a lot of people familiar with libertarian ideas. The libertarian movement is alive and well in Europe.

Although a total audience of over a thousand people feels like a lot of people, it is a very small fraction of a population of several hundred million; I am not counting on a European shift to anarcho-capitalism, or even minarchism, in the immediate future. But at least the ideas are out there.

And to shift to a topic that has gotten a good deal of attention lately in the libertarian blogosphere, my wife’s observation of the larger audiences was that women made up about twenty percent. The one exception was my final talk, given to an audience not of libertarians but of college students interested in economics. That audience was almost half women.


Perry E. Metzger said...

I have been surprised at how fast those ideas have been spreading. I paid little attention to the libertarian movement for over a decade, and then when I started paying watching again, I was shocked to discover (without that much effort) an extended social circle of a couple hundred young anarchocapitalists here in New York City.

This is not, as you say, evidence of a near immediate shift to libertarianism, but it is encouraging none the less.

Tibor said...

Speaking of "disproportion in gender", my guess is that this is hardly only a case in libertarianism. It seems to me that for some reason, women tend to be less interested in any political ideology and more in everyday practical issues than men. Also, I would say they tend to be a little bit more conservative than men (by which I mean in favour of status quo, not right wing conservative). I have very little evidence to base that on, but I think it would make an interesting diploma thesis in sociology or economy.

My guess is that the more you diverge from political center (at a given time, since what is considered center is not constant), the lower women to men ratio you are going to find among the supporters of those ideas. One obvious exception is political feminism, which however is (arguably unlike other political ideologies) not invariant to gender in its ideas.

Simon Andersson said...

It seems that I have not been paying attention to the libertarian blogosphere... 20% women is good or bad?

I guess that 20% is an improvement and that this is good news.

An increased percentage of women could be a very good sign. My impression is that women are on average more sensitive than men to what's acceptable or fashionable -- if a belief is widely considered crazy or evil, it will be embraced mostly by men.

Perhaps women readers will disagree with me on this. Am I correct in thinking that more women means that libertarianism is becoming more mainstream?

Unknown said...

Are the proportions different in the US?

David Friedman said...

1. From my standpoint, one reason the gender ratio matters is that political activity is in part motivated by indirect benefits, and the opportunity to meet members of the opposite sex who share many of one's attitudes is one of the most important ones.

2. I would guess that 20% wouldn't be wildly off the U.S. figure, but I don't have data.

Patri Friedman said...

Welcome home, dad!

Eitan said...

Were any of the lectures captured on video?

Tibor said...

Simon Andersson: I shouldn't answer really, as I am not a woman :) But still, I think what you are saying is basically the same impression I have - that women tend to be (that means are on average) more conservative (or mainstream would be better perhaps, but that still does not work as a full description for me) in political opinions. An impression only, but maybe there are some merits. A sociological study would be lovely :)

to David's comment:

I am really not very sure about how big a role that kind of motivation (meeting a sexual partner) has in political activity. Undeniably there will be some, but my guess (based on no data) is that it is near almost negligible. Again - giving a meaningful estimate on how much that works as a motivation (on average) would be an interesting (defined as interesting for me) thesis topic.

David Friedman said...

To Tibor:

I think "meeting a sexual partner" is too narrow. Courtship behavior broadly defined, including a lot of interaction with people you don't expect to end up in bed with, is a large chunk of human activity.