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cypherpunk vrg

The late 80s and early 90s saw the creation of the internet, and during these early years a group of programmers, cryptographers, hackers, and activists came together online to outline how this technology had the potential to realize a radically different political order. These were the cypherpunks, and their vision was ‘crypto-anarchy’: a world where nation-states were stripped of their power to coerce, as cryptography would prevent them from ever knowing who they should be coercing.

You might have noticed something: this has not happened.

The creation of the internet has already raised significant challenges both to libertarians (who are now, post-Snowden, aware of the extent of the surveillance state) and to the state itself (which is trying to understand how to regulate new technologies and structures such as cryptography, cryptocurrency, and distributed autonomous organizations). But so far we have only witnessed the early effects of the internet-of-information; since 2008, the world has seen the start of the internet-of-value and the internet-of-things, which also promise radical transformations.

Our new Virtual Reading Group, “Cypherpunks and Libertarianism, aims to explore the links between the cypherpunks and the liberty movement in a variety of areas. Participants will explore how cryptography can challenge state power, the future of intellectual property, social orders in cyberspace, freedom of speech in the context of computer code, and much more!

The deadline for applications is January 6th 2017.

  • Discussion Leader: Dr. Alexander J. Malt, Department of Philosophy, University of Durham (UK)
  • Meeting Dates: Wednesdays 6pm EST, 1/11/2017 – 2/15/2017

Apply now!

Any world-conscious person should have heard by now of the tragedy that occurred in France on January 8th and 9th, 2015. A total of seventeen people were killed because of extremism, religious motives, offense, and a controversial cartoon. French people across the country were (and still are) outraged, saddened, and deeply affected by the loss of Charlie Hebdo’s creative team as well as a police-woman: innocent lives. I arrived in Lyon, France on the 5th of January, ready to start my semester abroad. Three days later, I was thrown into this whirlwind of emotion with the rest of France; I experienced the reaction of French people first-hand, as one of their fellow citizens and as a foreigner. I am also experiencing the aftermath of the tragedy: increased security, solidarity movements, and history in the making. I would like to share with you my observations and my interpretations of this event as a libertarian, and as a foreign student.

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When you first discover libertarianism, there are certain names that jump out. It’s important to learn from intellectual giants like Ayn Rand and Murray Rothbard, but there are many unsung heroes that are also worth exploring. In this educational series, we hope to introduce students to such individuals. While not all of the figures profiled here explicitly identified as libertarian, they made great contributions to the cause of liberty that are worth acknowledging.

“Government should exist only to try to protect the rights of every individual, not to redistribute the property, manipulate the economy, or establish a pattern of society.” – Raymond Cyrus “R.C.” Hoiles 

Who: Raymond Cyrus “R.C.” Hoiles (1878-1970) was an American newspaper publisher; he bought several newspapers and was the president of Freedom Newspapers, Inc.

Why he matters: R.C. is important to the libertarian movement because throughout his life he advocated freedom through his newspapers. He was a man of principle and always stood up for his beliefs; he reflected his commitment to them in his quote: “What this country needs as much as anything else are newspapers that believe in moral principles and have enough courage to express these principles and point out practices and beliefs that violate moral principles. A newspaper that only tries to run editorials and columnists and news items that are popular is of mighty little value to its readers.” Hoiles’ major concern was government’s public education. He argued passionately for a voluntary, private school system; his libertarian spirit mainly advocated freedom in education and he spent the last years of his life writing about it. The California Press Association honored him posthumously as a “Great Crusader for Individual Freedom.”

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I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t consider myself a politically correct person. I curse. I enjoy Cards Against Humanity and South Park. My sense of humor is not always appropriate in mixed company. After all, why should I bother with political correctness when it’s all just left-wing propaganda used to stifle my right to free speech? No one has the right to not be offended.

I used to think that there was absolutely nothing remotely libertarian about political correctness; I thought the idea was directly contrary to freedom of speech, which should always take top priority. Like most things, it’s not that simple. On the one hand, freedom of expression is one of the primary tenants of libertarianism, but on the other, so is respecting the dignity of the individual. Should we really defend those who knowingly and unapologetically say things that might demean others? Besides, campaigns such as the Spread the Word to End Word campaign, don’t advocate for a government that punishes citizens for saying offensive words, but instead aim to educate the public about why certain words are offensive so that people will change their behavior voluntarily.

Ultimately, if I say something that offends someone, that someone has every right to tell me they’re offended and ask me to stop. That person’s right to speak out in favor political correctness is just as valid as my right to be politically incorrect. It’s true that no one really has the right to “not be offended,” an argument I commonly hear from those who dislike political correctness. However, I rarely hear about the opposite right, the right to be offended by someone else’s speech, and more importantly, the right to say something about it.

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The following was written by Gregory Burr, Mid-Atlantic Regional Director for SFL, on behalf of the North American Executive Board. 

A Chill on Free Speech is coming to the University of Montana and other schools around the country

Students’ right to free speech is in jeopardy after the Department of Justice and the Department of Education issued a broad definition of sexual harassment in a May 9 “findings letter” to the University of Montana. The departments’ description of the letter as, “a blueprint for colleges and universities throughout the country”, indicates that the scope of the letter’s mandate goes well beyond the University of Montana and is generating concern from students and faculty across the nation. By mandating a definition of sexual harassment that is overly broad while rejecting an objective “reasonable person standard” this “blueprint” poses a systematic threat to free speech and due process. By defining sexual harassment as “any unwelcome conduct of a sexual nature” including “verbal conduct” the letter opens the door to the censoring of a whole realm of speech that falls under the protection of the first amendment. An unwanted request for a date could easily be considered harassment under this definition. A production of The Vagina Monologues that offends even one evangelical Christian, orthodox Jew, or devout Muslim is harassment under this definition. For those who value individual rights and due process this letter is incredibly concerning. (more…)