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Captain Corelli’s Mandolin is the fictional story of various Greeks and Italians during the second World War, with a focus on a Greek girl named Pelagia and the Italian army captain Antonio Corelli. I would not go so far as to call it a libertarian book; however, it is a book with a great deal which should appeal to libertarians. Louis de Bernieres, the author of CCM, has described it as a story about “what happens to the little people when the big people get busy.” While the books’ potshots are primarily aimed at the fascist governments of the Axis and at the communist militia, there are also pokes at more liberal governments. Neither the British government nor the post-war democratic Greek government is portrayed as evil, but the errors they make from lack of knowledge and thought are pointed out in multiple places.

Although the main characters in the novel are fictional, the story takes place in a firmly historical context. In the opening chapters Mussolini orders an invasion of Greece, much of which we see through the eyes of an Italian soldier named Carlo. Carlo quickly becomes aware not only that his government is run by incompetents, but that it cares not one whit for him: he and a friend are ordered to attack an Italian outpost while disguised as Greek soldiers, the assumption being that the two of them will be killed but that the “Greek attack” will provide a casus belli for the invasion.

On the opposite side of this conflict, we see the ruination of Pelagia’s first fiancé, a fisherman named Mandras. Mandras starts out as a handsome and innocent, if irresponsible, man who plays with dolphins and provides quite adequately for himself and his aging mother. By the time he returns from fighting for the Greek army he is emaciated and traumatised.

Following the German army also invading Greece, the Greek army is quickly defeated and Cephalonia, the island upon which Pelagia lives, is occupied. Despite this, there is a resistance movement which Mandras, feeling incapable of working at his former occupation, seeks to join. He unwittingly joins the communist “resistance”, however, a group aimed less at fighting the fascists than pretending to fight them in order to gather supplies for a violent communist takeover of the country at a later date. It is during this time that Mandras really becomes unlikeable and unsympathetic, turning into a fat, entitled serial rapist.

467826-captain-corelli-amp-039-s-mandolinIt should be stressed that there is no blanket condemnation of communists; for example, one regular drinking friend of Pelagia’s father is a devoted communist, and several characters – Pelagia included – express at least some sympathy for Marxist ideas. The trouble comes when people try to actually put these ideas into practice. Communist leader Hector justifies his actions by claiming that the peasants of the land “are full of false consciousness, and it’s just something that we have to get out of them, in their own interests.” (Chapter 28, “Liberating the Masses”)

The communists are inadvertently helped in this by the British government, which, unable to tell the difference between genuine anti-fascist rebels and communist partisans, equips the very people it will be fighting against in only a few short years. It is not difficult to see in this a precursor to the USA in the Cold War, which of course installed dictators such as Saddam Hussein only to end up fighting them later on.

Perhaps one of the most infamous historical events portrayed in the novel follows the surrender of the Italian government. The Italian army divisions, which had hitherto been fighting alongside the German army, were now their enemies. On Cephalonia the Italian army initially fought, but was forced to surrender after running out of ammunition. Thereafter came a brutal massacre in which more than 5000 Italian soldiers were killed. In the novel these include Carlo; the titular Captain Corelli is saved by Carlo, and taken, unconscious, to the house of Pelagia – the two of them having fallen in love, and her father being an experienced doctor.

Of course, eventually the Axis leave Cephalonia, but this is far from the end of Pelagia’s suffering at the hands of governments. No sooner have the Germans left than the communists emerge: “They formed Workers’ Councils and Committees, and proceeded to elect themselves unanimously to every post of authority, and to extort a tax of a quarter on everything they could think of… In Cephalonia the Communists began to deport awkward characters to concentration camps; from a safe distance they had watched the Nazis for years, and were well-versed in the arts of atrocity and oppression.” (Chapter 63, “Liberation”). One of these awkward characters is Pelagia’s father, who is dragged off one day and returns two years later in a condition similar to that of Mandras after his stint in the army.

The criticisms of the democratic government following are rather more muted, as is only appropriate, but they are still present. Pelagia takes over her father’s medical practise until “1950, when the women of the house failed to accumulate enough money to bribe a public health official into ignoring the fact that the doctor and Pelagia were unqualified.” (Chapter 64, “Antonia”). Despite both being apparently quite competent, this leads to near-destitution for the family. Later on, there is reference to a tax on completed houses, with the predictable-in-hindsight result that no-one ever completely finishes building their house.

I’m not going to suggest that the book is worth reading purely on account of its libertarian content. However, if you enjoy reading fiction then this can be an additional reason in favour of reading the book, which I highly recommend.

“Though all the winds of doctrine were let loose to play upon the earth, so truth be in the field,
we do ingloriously…to misdoubt her strength. Let her and falsehood grapple;
who ever knew truth put to the worse in a free and open encounter?”
— John Milton, Areopagitica

French people have recently gathered twice in the streets to show their support of free speech. The media was laudatory and described it as ‘historic’. Nonetheless, two days later it was announced that provocative humorist Dieudonné had been arrested for making the comment “Je suis Charlie Coulibaly” (“I am Charlie Coulibaly” — Coulibaly being the name of one of the terrorist) on his facebook page. So what’s going on? Why is free speech guaranteed only when and as long as it’s easy to be in favour of it? Do we have free speech to talk about the weather or do we have it to talk about very controversial things?

Here, I want to argue that if we value free speech, it is for allowing provocative and controversial ideas to be expressed. One of these controversial ideas, at least in France, is called “négationnisme” (revisionism). It is the fact of challenging or denying the historical existence of the Nazi genocide of the Jews. I first want to assure that I am not a revisionist. It is not exactly that I believe in the genocide of the Jews — because it’s not a matter of faith — but I know, I firmly know it happened just how the historians, specializing in this historical period, wrote it did. I’m no more racist, extremist, terrorist, or a KKK member. But I don’t believe we should have laws to prevent free speech. Here’s why:

1/ Laws can’t fight ideas

When we talk about laws restricting free speech, we are referring to laws that limit the expression of ideas, not condemning those ideas themselves. If you write racist comments somewhere just for the fun of it, you can be punished; but if you really believe black people should be treated like cattle and keep it for yourself, then it’s ok.

Moreover, the records of history show over and over that an idea whose time has come cannot be stopped by any army or any government. Did censorship stopped the Enlightenment? Did Russian military prevented the fall of the Soviet Union? So we are really deluded ourselves if we believe that bad ideas will be stopped with the help of a power, state power, which has never succeeded in stopping anything at all.

2/ Liberty can limit liberty

In fact, we should not feel ashamed of letting people decide and select what’s good and what’s wrong in writings or speeches. The most provocative ideas will have great trouble in being sellable among people who are shocked: it will be the sanction, and it is enough.

Let’s thus accept that writers use satire or parody to make fun of someone in the public life: whether or not he or she deserve such criticism is irrelevant. Let’s accept that some people call into question traditional morality, good manners, or ideas we call decent and reasonable. With their smartness and cleverness, the people of our time will have many occasions to take offence at outrageous ideas, if they are found to be contemptible. They will forgive interjections of humor when it’s funny and criticism when it’s justified.

If you doubt that liberty can limit liberty, just think of what would happen if you tried to speak in favor of putting gay people in forced-labor camps. If it happens during an evening spent in one of your friend’s house, you might be kicked out or at least never invited again. If you want to publish your thoughts somewhere, you will experience “private censorship” : “Look, this piece does not fit in my paper” or “Take back this ***, what’s wrong with you?” kind of talk.

In fact, Charlie Hebdo might as well have been an example of where provocations leads to, because it was experiencing financial difficulties and had less and less readers. All these years, it was saved by taxpayer money, through subsidies.

So what’s crucial is not censorship of what’s wrong, it’s freedom to approve or disprove, to buy or not to buy.

3/ “We all know”…

Now, let’s assume forbiding some ideas that are shocking or just completley false could actually work. We would end up with a constant argument over what ideas are “obviously schoking” and what historical facts “we all know” happened the way it is commonly believed.

But who’s we ? Who would be in charge of deciding what we should or should not say ? If not governement, I believe we ought to find a moral figure whose judgement nobody would criticize, and I bet we will never find such an angel. And if governement, do we want to live in a society where government is able to decide what is true and what is false, and to enforce such decisions ?

I hope those people who proudly explained “Je suis charlie” would all answer no.

It did not take long after the terrorist attack on the offices of Charlie Hebdo for some people, mainly on the political left, to start saying “Well, what CH was publishing was genuinely offensive.” While there have been relatively few calls for new hate speech laws yet, there has been depressingly little pushback against existing laws which censor hate speech.
Thirty years ago in what was then the USSR, people would be censored for speaking approvingly of capitalism. Sixty years ago, artists and writers were censored in many western nations for “obscenity”, for being insufficiently prudish for their time. The censors of hate speech, capitalism and of obscenity were all at very different places on the spectrum of political ideologies, but the underlying rationale was always the same: “We know what it is good and bad for people to read, and we have the right to stop them reading the bad stuff.”
Defenders of anti-hate speech legislation have an obvious response to this, which is that they are uniquely right. Obviously it was wrong to censor obscenity, and obviously it was wrong to censor anything criticising the Soviet Union, but this time is different! Morals have progressed, and now we are in a position to say what is truly right and what is truly wrong – or at least, we are in a better position to make this judgement than were the censors of days gone by.
The proper response to this is: how would you know? If, as some social conservative might complain, old-fashioned values are in fact correct and our moral behaviour has for the most part degraded over time, how would the world feel any different?
The defender of modern values will argue that we have strong arguments as to why modern values are correct, and that we have strong arguments which show the values of previous generations to be irrational, bigoted, and in some cases quite frankly evil. And I’m sure that these arguments feel very convincing, but that’s simply an incorrect model of how we come to our moral judgements. Moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt and his co-authors have shown that we make instinctive moral judgements, and that we come up with moral arguments as ways of rationalising these intuitions. In one experiment, subjects were hypnotised to be disgusted by the word “often” and then asked to morally assess the behaviour of various unethical characters who were described in short stories which used the word “often”. Not only did these subjects pass significantly harsher judgement on the characters than a control group who had not had this disgust reaction hypnotised into them, a solid third of them were willing to decide that “Eric, who often chose interesting subjects for a discussion group he ran” was morally duplicitous despite a complete lack of anything which we would normally construe as wrong. They rationalised this with claims like “Eric seems like a stuck-up snob” and “I don’t know, it just seems like he’s up to something.”
Please don’t think I’m arguing for moral relativism here. I believe that there (probably) are genuine moral truths, and indeed I believe that they are far closer to the beliefs most people hold now than to the beliefs held by most people in previous generations. But I believe we need to have some humility about the confidence we can reasonably express in our moral beliefs. Unless you are someone like David Gauthier, Peter Singer or Richard Joyce there are people – likely thousands, perhaps even millions of them – who are smarter than you, have spent far longer thinking about morality than you have, and disagree with you. The fact that the philosophers I have just named have massive disagreements between them should serve to illustrate that most of us are probably not in a great position to say which things are truly right.
What does humility here imply? It doesn’t mean we should avoid all actions for fear of doing wrong – we can reasonably think that certain moral views are implausible. So far as I am aware, no sensible person has ever argued that it is immoral to want to help other people. But nor does the possibility of there being no moral truth leave us free to do whatever we like – as philosopher Michael Huemer has observed, the mere possibility of genuine moral truth gives us some reason for action.
What I think we can say is that there should be a strong presumption in favour of tolerance, and especially tolerance of people with moral viewpoints different to your own. Just as it is generally acknowledged to be worse that an innocent be wrongly imprisoned than a criminal go free (hence the requirement in criminal trials run by western judicial systems for guilt to be “beyond reasonable doubt”), it is worse to oppress or punish someone for speaking or acting rightly than it is to fail to punish someone who acts wrongly. This won’t always prevent us from punishing someone – pretty much every moral system ever devised holds murder to be wrong, for example – but it should lead us to a pretty much universal defence of the right to free speech.

Each New Year we set a course with resolutions of hope and promise for the year ahead. As liberty-minded people, we often select some resolutions that we can call political or ideological, and that can be summed up as make liberty win, or at least, as a necessary first step, put liberty on the ballot.

Every new year brings us some elections, national, regional or local, and thus some true possibilities are indeed offered.

I have already seen some of my friends expressing such a wish. But here goes the usual question: how? how can we put liberty on the ballot.

First of all, let’s be clear: putting liberty on the ballot means having candidates defending reforms that will enhance our freedom, in all its forms: whether that be economic freedom, religious freedom, or even personal freedom like marrying any adult you love.

Be a candidate

The most straight-forward possibility is of course to put your own name on the ballot, and be the liberty candidate in the race.

Nonetheless, doing a political campaign involves a tremendous effort. We could present such effort as a useful sacrifice if there were some possibility to have some positive result. Unfortunately, I have seen over and over some liberty-minded candidates receiving less than 1% of the vote, even when putting all their effort in it (and some money, too). The last time a truly libertarian candidate was on the ballot in a French election was last summer, Stéphane Geyres, from the Libertarian Movement (Mouvement Libertarien), and he received only 56 votes (0,17%).

In other countries, there have been better results, but I don’t believe any case can serve as a counter-argument.

So even if being a candidate seems the more practical solution to have liberty on the ballot, as we all wish, it does not seem to be the one solution offering the most practical result.

What does?

In my opinion, there is a second possibility which is far more decisive, far more critical right now too, than to be yourself a candidate.

Liberty as an issue

I will take the situation in France to serve as an example and to illustrate my point. I select it for an obvious reason: as a Frenchman, this is what I know best. But the general idea underlying this example could be seen in most European countries, if not all.

If you were in France a few years ago, in 2007, you would have been very surprised to hear about immigration and urban violence as the main issues.

In today’s political debate in France, is has changed dramatically. Unemployment and taxation has become the key issues for French voters.

Last month, a poll directed by Les Echos asked “Among the following issues, what should be the top two priorities of the government in 2015” The results showed that among the several issues listed, the three receiving the most picks were : “Job creation” (67%), “Lowering taxes on individuals” (35%) and “Lowering government spending” (30%). [1] This result means that if an election was to be held in France, liberty would be on the ballot.

Politics is a market like any other. No producer (the politicians) can prosper without serving the needs of the consumers (the voters). Anyone who wishes to change the characteristics of the product (policies) should therefore work to increase awareness among voters about those issues that are indeed critical.

How can we do that? How can we have Liberty as a candidate, instead of any devoted libertarian, for whom being candidate himself might appear, at least for now, as a hopeless adventure?

The answer lies in education: if we are able to spread our message in the media, in the academics, in the internet, we will be greatly empowered. We will shape policy, without doing politics.

This option is not only the easiest solution; it is also the most viable. Few people enjoy politics, but everybody has ideas and views about how the world runs. Influencing those ideas and views, towards a more liberty-oriented mindset, is the objective we should pursue.

[1] http://www.lesechos.fr/journal20141205/lec1_france/0203989394267-lemploi-et-les-baisses-dimpots-priorites-des-francais-pour-2015-1071629.php

`Twas the season of the year again: fueled by a festive holiday spirit people all over the world spent their hard-earned money on gifts that should bring joy and happiness to their friends and family members. Their expenses should not only brighten the eyes of children, fulfill ardent longings and create an unforgettable, happy event that should stay in everyones memory for a long time: retail sales was also looking forward to their most profitable time of the year.

In post-financial crisis Germany this wish seems to actually have come true. While christmas sales have declined in the years before the 2009 financial crisis that hit the world hard, the projected sales of 2014 have actually recovered again and even seem to surpass those of 2006: Germans have spent collectively over € 85,5 billion in this years holiday season, € 3 billion more than in 2006, before sales receded.

Yet, despite this increasing number a problem seems to loom over the German retail sales industry: small businesses going bankrupt en masse, creating desolate inner cities. Over 60 percent of store owners complain about dwindling costumer numbers. Every third consumer stops visiting retail stores.

 

What is causing the apparent demise of the retail industry?

It seems that there are two factors are work: the most important seems to be the rise of the internet as a new sales platform. Internet sales have strongly increased, providing a growth that is ten times as large as that of the classical „offline“ retail industry. Offering faster access to a large range of goods 24/7, often combined with a free returns policy, internet shops seem to provide better what consumers want.

Another risk factor is the ermergence of large shopping malls which combine a plethora of different stores „under one roof“. More and more malls are being built in Germany, leading to a migration of costumers away from „classical“ inner city stores to large shopping centers that are often located in suburbian areas. Faced with the internet and large malls, which lead to declining costumer number and thus sales, traditional stores try to save their businesses by approaching the one actor that could help them, atleast from the menace of shopping malls: the state.

By creating the horror image of desolate, dying inner cities they want to convince politicians, bureaucrats and the public that it is necessary to stop the construction of new malls for the „sake of the public good“. In some cases they are succesful in lobbying against another investors „unfair competition“, using their arguments to convince politics to prohibit the construction of new malls.

 

Why lobby groups are so succesful

A small special interest group using their resources to enforce their will for the sake of a greater good is a classical example of a theory called „The Logic of Collective Action“ by the social scientist Mancur Olson. In his 1965 book Olson explains how small, well organised groups can exploit „public“ resources for their own agendas. Public resources are those that belong to „everyone“, where there is no defined owner. He argues that once a group, for example a society, grows too large, the majority of people will lose interest in participation and instead „free-ride“ on the work of others who actually do take action. Hence, this incentive not to participate will create a large, lethargic majority.

Small, well-organized groups, in this example retail store owners, can use this fact to lobby for their own interests. Since they are the only ones taking action and claiming to represent a majorities intentions they will be succesful unless other groups will take action, too. In the case quoted above there was no opposition. A competitor was not allowed to enter the market because of a political decision to protect other entrepreneurs. Not the consumers decided who was to stay in business, as it is usually happening in free-market societies, but a small lobby group has used political power to protect their own businesses.

This rather harmless example of how disgruntled store owners abused political power for their own sake shows how easy it is for small, well-organized groups to dominate larger groups. In a free-market society not influence on politics would decide what would be the best for „public interest“, but responsible consumers spending their money on services they like best. This creates an incentive for the industry to constantly innovate and offer newer and better products in order to stay profitable. Only such an environment of constant change, creativity and innovation will lead to human progress. Protectionism instead will lead to „stale“ markets without improvements, forcing consumers to spend money on overpriced, low-quality goods and services.

Now that we know how small, well-organized groups can protect themselves from unwanted competition and stay in the cozy nest of state-sponsored protectionism, we as responsible consumers should take action ourselves, unless we want to live in a world where the active few are able to exploit the inert many.

In the last article, I have outlined what I consider to be the conservative position, singling out three major influences:

  • The personal conservative attitude, roughly described as an aversion for change, and its implementation into legislation
  • „Social Conservatism“, a firm commitment to traditional morals and customs, often connected with deep religious sentiments and a belief in absolute moral norms
  • Realpolitik: the support and lobbying for the power elites, a defense of vested interests and the status quo

It should be obvious that neither point a) nor point c) can be reconciled with the libertarian social philosophy. Conservatives who cling to either of these approaches can never be more than temporary strategic partners, if they can be partners at all. However, point b) is worth being examined thoroughly. Fortunately, we can count on a good deal of other (liberal as well as conservative) thinkers who have argued for and against a permanent alliance of the social conservative and the libertarian forces in society. My modest aspiration is to examine their proposals and to arouse interest for a more in-depth study of the subject.

Let me begin with the more abstract part about the existence of absolute ethical norms.

The role of objective values

We all know that libertarianism is regularly defended, by us and others, within a functionalist framework. Arguments of the type “A freer society would lead/ has led to [insert any socially desirable end]; therefore, we should have liberty” are common practice among virtually all kinds of libertarians. If you don’t believe this, it might be enough to scroll through your Facebook Newsfeed and check how many of your friends appeal to moral principles when arguing in favor of liberalism.

Social (or cultural) conservatives find this unsatisfactory. As the Acton Institute’s Hunter Baker writes, “[f]reedom without a strong moral basis ends up being an empty promise” – from which he, very unfortunately, draws the conclusion that “[m]eaningful freedom required the exercise of virtue on behalf of citizens. The key, of course, … is to change the nature of the actors.“

It is a mystery to me how he arrives at these startling results, calling for the worst kind of government intervention one could imagine; namely those who try to make the citizenry morally upright. Nevertheless, I am not averse from his desire for a firm ethical basis for liberty, and would largely agree with Rothbard’s vivid words on the matter:

How many people will man the barricades and endure the many sacrifices that a consistent devotion to liberty entails, merely so that umpteen percent more people will have better bathtubs? … [A] flourishing libertarian movement, a lifelong dedication to liberty can only be grounded on a passion for justice. Here must be the mainspring of our drive, the armor that will sustain us in all the storms ahead, not the search for a quick buck, the playing of intellectual games or the cool calculation of general economic gains. And, to have a passion for justice, one must have a theory of what justice and injustice are — in short, a set of ethical principles of justice and injustice.

It would be too ambitious a task to try to derive such a concrete set of norms here. Spectacular attempts to justify, for example, the Non-Aggression Principle, and bridge the is-ought gap have been made, most notable perhaps through Hoppe’s interpretation of Habermasian discursive ethics. But they should not be of prime interest here. Let us instead, at least for the time being, assume that such (libertarian) principles exist, and ask: Are they a) necessary and/or b) helpful to defend a liberal social order? I’ll spare part b) for the next article and only deal with a) today.

Mises’ Utilitarianism

Many classical liberals have found the is-ought problem puzzling or even unsolvable, and therefore had to look for other solutions to justify their viewpoint. The most famous approach is probably the utilitarian. In its crude form, due largely to J.S. Mill, it can be considered a failure, however impressive. Interpersonal utility comparison, which is at the core of this theory, is an utterly untenable assumption; besides, utilitarianism of this kind needs to restore – though often implicitly – to absolute values (desirable, good), too.

But there are more useful versions of it. The way Mises understands it, for example, avoids both the objection made to the Bentham-Mill form of utilitarianism as well as the highly problematic is-ought gap, whose existence he never doubts. Following him, the necessity to defend the free market with grand ethical theories would cease to be all-important.

Dan Sanchez, in an essay I can highly recommend, explains how Misses arrives at this. By taking peoples’ ends as a given and applying utilitarian argumentation solely to their choice of means, the terms “right” and “wrong” become scientifically meaningful. The economist,, when calling a measure “bad” or “undesirable”, does not need to rely on absolute values; it suffices that he can show how such policies are to the detriment of those promoting them. Right and wrong are nothing but “a utilitarian precept designed to make social cooperation under the division of labor possible. “

Mises did not deny that some people temporarily profit from anti-liberal measures, or that people need to value the long-run more (where the dramatic consequences of interventionism tend to show up), as most of his critics would have it. Rather, he was convinced that if only a majority came to understand how disastrous the policies the lobby for are – the glorious task of every honest economist -, they would abandon their former views and initiate a transformation in the prevailing morality towards liberal principles. Sanchez, by taking up the example of Josef Stalin, illustrates why virtually everybody would profit from liberalization:

Perhaps Stalin may have been one of the tiny minority of people who did prosper more than he would have under a more liberal order. But he only did so ex post. Stalin was extremely lucky: he happened to end up on top of the murder heap, and not somewhere in the middle as the victim of yet another Stalin’s purge. Ex ante, he had no guarantee that would occur, and any person in a similar ex ante position could only reasonably expect to be liquidated at a young age. And it is the ex ante tendencies of general rules that matter in the adoption of codes of interpersonal conduct.

Or, as Mises points out, “The average American worker enjoys amenities for which Croesus, Crassus, the Medici, and Louis XIV would have envied him.” And all of this together is sufficient to favor and defend libertarianism. Whether or not a stringent theory of objective values is still helpful will be the subject of my next post.

MOAS rescue 105 migrants in rubber dinghy Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi/MOAS

MOAS rescue 105 migrants in rubber dinghy Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi/MOAS

The following post was written by Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS).

As millions of people are displaced by conflicts such as the war in Syria, hundreds of thousands attempt to reach Europe each year by crossing the Mediterranean Sea after being crammed into unseaworthy boats by smugglers.

This has placed a huge burden on the search and rescue capabilities of southern European states, such as Italy which recently ended its life-saving mission Mare Nostrum after bringing more than 140,000 refugees to safety.

And while many people are turning to the European Union for answers, one team of professionals are offering an alternative: a privately-financed rescue operation entitled Migrant Offshore Aid Station (MOAS).

MOAS rescue 105 migrants in rubber dinghy Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi/MOAS

MOAS rescue 105 migrants in rubber dinghy Photo: Darrin Zammit Lupi/MOAS

Proof of concept was acquired during the summer of 2014 when MOAS rescued some 3,000 migrants in just 60 days, equipped with a 40-metre ship, two drones, two rescue RHIBs and a large crew of experienced rescuers and doctors.

The foundation, which operates from Malta, requires around €400,000 per month for its operations.

The idea and initial funding came from Louisiana-born Christopher Catrambone, who will be speaking at this year’s European Students for Liberty Conference in April.

Now, MOAS is looking for partners to help it expand and ensure sustainability.

MOAS is spearheaded by director Brig. Martin Xuereb, Malta’s former Chief of Defence, who headed the Mediterranean island’s search and rescue operation for many years in which he coordinated hundreds of rescues.

“Last summer we showed that search and rescue is not just the realm of governments or institutions. We set up a professional team of seafarers, rescuers and paramedics and were able to respond to hundreds of distress reports. We conducted 10 full rescues without incident,” he said.

“But migration is not a phenomenon that is going away. Reports suggest that 2015 will be even busier than 2014, which was already a record year. The difference this time is that there is no Mare Nostrum. This will put added pressure on fishing boats and commercial vessels who are obliged to respond to distress calls, even though they might not have the necessary equipment or expertise to do so effectively.”

Brig. Xuereb called on the public to support MOAS through donations via the website www.moas.eu/donate. More than €65,000 have already been collected through donations but there is a long way to go to ensure MOAS can set sail again this summer.

To keep up to date with the latest news, follow MOAS on Twitter @moas_eu and use the hashtag #MOAS to enter discussions about migration.

Photo credit: Leondardo Antioniadis.

Photo credit: Leondardo Antioniadis.

The horror of Hitler’s attempts to exterminate Europe’s entire Jewish population rightly holds a place in our culture as the epitome of evil. Nobody can go through school in Europe of America without being exposed to the brutality of the Holocaust. We have all sat in a class and heard about the gas chambers and work camps, the mass graves and dehumanizing treatment of millions.

If you were paying attention in those classes you probably also remember that several other groups were also targeted for extermination, including homosexuals, the mentally ill and gypsies. It is this last group that I want to turn some attention to.

Gypsies are more properly called Roma (or Romani) and they share with the Jews a long history of extreme persecution in Europe. And while anti-Semitism remains a pervasive problem in many parts of Europe it is a much more recognized issue than anti-Ziganism, the hatred of Roma.

Discrimination towards Roma people is not only less discussed than discrimination towards Jews it is also much more prevalent. At least according to Pew Research’s Global Attitudes Project, which showed that negative views of Roma are much more common than negative views of Jews.

American readers may well be unfamiliar with the discriminatory attitudes towards the Roma that are common in Europe. For most Americans the word “gypsy” has romantic associations of an itinerant and spontaneous lifestyle. Sadly, in Europe, the most common image of Roma is that they are dirty, ignorant and criminal. Those Americans who experience the prejudice displayed towards Roma, often from people who are not otherwise racist or intolerant, they may react with dismay.

The disdain of the Roma people has resulted in a long history of state sanctioned and initiated persecution. In Romania the Roma were held as slaves until the middle of the 19th century. A century later hundreds of thousands were murdered in the extermination camps of the Nazis. The exact number killed is difficult to determine, but the Holocaust Memorial Museum puts the figure at over 200,000 or 25% of the prewar Roma population. Another Holocaust information site says that scholarly estimates range from 220,000 to 500,000. The systematic extermination of the Roma does not reach the numbers of the Jewish genocide, but we should be careful not to let it be overshadowed – especially when the Roma continue to widely suffer from the same negative stereotypes that lead them to being targeted by the Nazis.

This was not the last genocidal act towards the Roma. Between 1973 and 1990 the communist government of Czechoslovakia carried out coerced sterilizations of Roma women – a practice that was continued by some by some doctors on their own initiative until the issue was investigated in 2005.

Anti-Roma policies have continued in the 21st Century with controversial deportations and destruction of camps by the French government in 2010. In 2008 the Italian government declared a state of emergency in response to a rape and murder carried out by a man from the Roma community. This was used to deprive Roma people of safeguards against forced evictions and segregated them into government camps. This policy was struck down as unlawful by the Italian Supreme Court in 2013. Then in October of this year an Italian mayor proposed the idea of separate busses for Roma people.

Amnesty International reports that Roma people also frequently face unequal and discriminatory treatment by authorities and in public schools. And derogatory or controversial remarks about the Roma have been made by senior political figures in countries including France, Britain, Bulgaria and Romania. The prejudices and attitudes of government officials and employees can have major impacts on the application of the law to stigmatized minorities. A fact that has been brought to our attention by the recent debate in America over police treatment of black suspects.

The Roma people are faced with contempt, distrust and even violence, wherever they go. They are marginalized and mistreated by authorities. Their history is a long line of abuses at the hands of the state, churches and society. If their communities face issues of crime, poor education, unemployment and other social ills, couldn’t these factors be the cause? If there is any truth to the idea that Roma are inclined to crime and laziness, why have the American Roma been so successful in integrating into American society? The first step to improving lawfulness in any community is first to give those people confidence in the law.

Whether we are talking about prostitutes, young black men in the ghetto or the traveling Roma, we must recognize that as long as they are mistreated and oppressed by the authorities they will be disproportionately involved in illegal activities both as perpetrators and victims.

Liberalism’s position with respect to other political philosophies, and their mutual relations, has always been a subject of controversial debate. A good many commentators consider it as a decidedly “right-wing” and hence conservative movement, including many libertarians themselves, while others point at the historical development, according to which most advocates of individual liberty have usually been left-leaning. In addition, there are those who view it as some kind of midway between the Left and the Right, using some proposals from each side while rejecting the rest of their respective programmes.

I do not wish to enter this last discussion here, which more often then not evolves into futile semantic quarrels. Let me instead investigate what is nowadays usually taken to be a synonym for a policy of free markets and limited government and compare it with our own libertarian philosophy. That is, do we share common ground with conservatism or are we purely antagonistic forces? And, depending on the outcome of this question, would it make sense to seek not only temporary, strategic alliances with conservative movements, but even to establish a permanent cooperation, united in the desire to make society a freer place?

There’s a lot to say on this subject, which is why I decided to split its elaboration into a series of articles. And obviously, what needs to be done before any serious examination can take place, one must attempt to find the essence of the conservative creed and uncover its spirit. For it is an amalgam of quite divers schools, which in turn would make it easy to dispute the claims I will make with regard to it. Essentially, this is what the first part of the series will be about. I shall try to give as faithful and vivid a portrait of conservatism as possible in this frame.
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Do you care about your privacy? Nico Sell gives you reasons to care.

We’re pleased to announce Nico Sell as one of our main speakers for the 2015 European Students For Liberty Conference in Berlin, Germany!

Nico Sell is a professional artist, athlete and entrepreneur based in California.

She is cofounder and CEO of r00tz and Wickr. r00tz is a nonprofit dedicated to teaching kids how to love white-hat hacking.

Wickr is a free messaging app enabling anyone to send top-secret messages that self-destruct.

Wickr_logo_transparent-newNico also helps organize DEF CON, the largest hacker gathering in the world.  She has helped start more than twenty successful security organizations as a venture catalyst.

Nico earned her degree in government from Dartmouth College while focusing on nuclear strategy.

European Students For Liberty is also honored to announce Wickr will be the official messaging app of #ESFLC15 in Berlin!

If you care about safeguarding your Internet privacy and keeping your messages away from prying eyes, download Wickr and get plugged in to one of the safest messaging applications available today.

For more on Nico, check out her latest interview with the Guardian and don’t forget to sign-up for Europe’s largest libertarian conference on ESFLC.org!