Road trips don’t seem to have much going for them these days. The cost of gasoline has just about priced out the possibility of taking a carefree Kerouacian sojourn on a shoestring budget. The Greens have tried their damnedest to make us feel guilty about owning a car, let alone driving it long distance for pleasure. Ohio, with its painfully slow left-lane drivers and vulture-like highway patrol, feels like a state-sized molasses pit standing between Southeast Michigan and the rest of the country.
Still, when I need to gain some perspective, nothing beats hitting the road. I was fortunate enough to take two major trips this summer: the first, at the end of May, took me to Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina for an Institute for Humane Studies seminar. I just returned from my journey to Auburn, Alabama for Mises University, held on the beautiful grounds of the Ludwig von Mises Institute.
Both seminars were unforgettable. I had the privilege of meeting hundreds of individuals from around the world who share my passion for liberty and free markets. I interacted with a brilliant lineup of faculty members who presented me with engaging and often challenging ideas. I actually took notes–hundreds of pages of notes–something that I still have trouble doing in a normal college lecture hall.
But these conferences are about more than sitting through lectures and socializing with like-minded students. They are perhaps the most tangible manifestation of a powerful pro-liberty undercurrent that is steadily drawing in young intellectuals. Many attendees, myself included, tried to find solutions to today’s economic and social problems in mainstream academia. We were instead presented with a stale progressive ideology with a history of misery and failure.
By contrast, the ideas we discussed in our seminars and late into the night are alive. They value the individual over the collective; they exalt human potential rather than wallowing in our perceived shortcomings. After enjoying a week in the company of brilliant peers and pioneering intellectuals, it is impossible not to leave inspired and energized.
Like many of my fellow attendees, I’ll be heading back to college at the end of the month. There, we’ll be subjected to the same muddled mess of ideas that still dominates the Ivory Tower. But the momentum imparted by a few weeks spent with our ideological compatriots will carry us through graduation and beyond–and you can bet that next summer, I’ll be back on the road, chasing after new ideas and the young intellectuals who believe in them.