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Because freedom is colorful

 

In May the Georgian team of European Students for Liberty organized its first Freedom Color Camp, which took place at Bateti Lake – one of the most beautiful places in Georgia. Out of many applicants, the fifty best pro-liberty students were chosen to participate the project.

The idea of this particular event was to create a different environment where students from several universities of Georgia could enjoy liberty discussions outside of the academic space.

On 8th of May at 10 AM the organisation committee welcomed participants in the city center of Tbilisi and we hit the road together.

Getting to the lake was an adventure in itself. Since the mini bus was not able to take us all the way to the end of the road, we had to hike until the end. This hike gave the students a chance to bond with each other and enjoy a sunny Saturday in nature.

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This article was written by ESFL-member Daniil Gorbatenko.

One of the main complaints about the modern European top-league football is that the recent influx of funding into the sport is changing it for the worse. People who make this point draw attention to enormous sums of money paid for players nowadays (to the point where a team that had just qualified for playing in the Premier League for the first time in its history paid £10 million for Benik Afobe). To those opposed to commercialization of football, big money can just be removed from it without compromising anything.

However, those who lament the role of big money in football often do not realize that football is a complex sphere of economic activity. Consider Iceland and China. Iceland is a country of around 333,000 people, yet its national football team is participating in the 2016 European Championship. Iceland has shockingly held one of the favourites, Portugal, to a draw in its first match, and has now even made it to the quarter finals of the tournament. In contrast, more than 4000 times more people live in China than in Iceland, but the Chinese national team failed even to qualify for the last football world cup.

Iceland team and supporters performing their Viking chant after beating England yesterday. 

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We have not passed through our vote on membership of the European Union unscathed. Half of the electorate was ecstatic in the early hours of the 24th of June – they had snatched a victory that few predicted, they had defied the political establishment – the other half was desolate. But all feeling after the final votes had been counted was smothered by a shell of bitterness and ugliness that British politics had not seen for some time.

Politically-inspired nastiness from both sides had become par for the course as this referendum approached its finale. Open and celebrated sneering of Brexit supporters was common. Nick Cohen described the increasing popularity of Vote Leave’s message like filthy city sewers exploding into the city – as if Brexit supporters were actual pieces of defecate, polluting clean Remain territory as their scummy, dirty message continued to flood the country. Northerners concerned about mass-migration were all written-off as racists. Middle-class voters concerned about sovereignty being lost to Brussels were brushed off as ignorant and anachronistic.

But one group that I hoped would be exempt from this new hyper-nastiness was our older generation. These members of our society have contributed the most to it. Their taxes have supported us all; their service has maintained our freedom. Those in the 65+ category knew post-war rationing. The 75+ knew a Britain of bomb shelters and the Blitz.

It was not to be. Today, The Guardian posted a video where a group of clearly emotional young voters whinged about how the evil dinosaurs in our society voted to ruin their lives. Yes, that’s right, on the 23rd of June the most senior members of our society travelled to their polling stations with one clear objective in mind: ruin the lives of young people. Young voters have been ranting online and openly advocating for voting restrictions based on age. “It’s not fair”, they cry, “how can someone who’s going to die soon have the same vote as me?”

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Ten years ago the The Economist created possibly the only front-page of the magazine that the République will never forget. “What France needs – France is in a similar funk to Britain in the 1970s: a Madame Thatcher could restore its confidence” showed Margaret Thatcher with the French flag as a background. It’s 2016 now and it’s really, really about time.

France needs a Thatcher

Strike culture

Whenever something becomes a word, you know it’s a major phenomenon that requires a specific term to describe it. “Gréviculture” is the French word for “the habit of unions to use strikes as a regular method of negotiation“. This is ironically indicative of what is profoundly wrong with France: having a word for a problem but not a solution. So who’s fault is it that France is not working?

France has five big trade unions of which the biggest one is the CGT (Confédération du Travail / General Confederation of Labour). All of them compete for the membership of workers, which makes it a competition of who can blow off the most steam, of who can have the most influence.

But is France not already the most union-friendly country in Europe? In 2015 43% of the general population viewed the trade unions as favourable for their workers rights, and the younger the surveyed people were, the more that number increased (32% for 65+, 54% for 25 and under). Here’s a demonstration of just how influential the French unions are: in 2012 there were 2.4 times as many companies in France with 49 employees than with 50. This is not out of employers’ love for uneven numbers, but rather because many of the restrictions in the French Labour Code come into effect as soon as a company passes the number of 50 employees. Union representatives then get to sit on boards, have daily meetings with executives and co-decide on pretty much everything from contracts to rearranging the furniture.

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This article was written by ESFL local coordinator and blogging team member Marcus Rumler.

‘What may satire do? – Everything!’, German novelist Kurt Tucholsky once said. This was over 70 years ago, but the discussion about whether there should be limits to political satire or not, was very much alive in Germany this spring. In his comedy show Neo Magazin Royale, German comedian Jan Böhmermann read a poem named ‘Schmäkritik’, which was filled with insults and profanity, but also some legitimate criticism, against the Turkish president Recep Tayip Erdogan. While he was reading the poem, Turkish subtitles were displayed. In the show, he explained that he was trying to show the difference between political satire and so-called ‘Schmähkritik’, which roughly translates to ‘abusive criticism’. This part, however, was not accompanied by subtitles. The ‘abusive criticism’ is a criminal offence in Germany, even more so when directed against a foreign head of state. This is due to an old, controversial law going back to the 19th century, the now infamous Article 103.

Mr. Böhmermann’s poem was a reaction to another German political satire show, extra3, that had featured a song about Mr Erdogan (‘Erdowie, Erdowo, Erdogan’) a week earlier, which was openly criticising the Turkish President for his policies. Erdogan complained to the German government about this, to which the government replied that extra3’s satirical song was protected by freedom of speech laws in Germany. Erdogan also summoned the German ambassador to Turkey. Jan Böhmermann’s poem contained explicit allusions to this controversy.

The aftermath of Böhmermann reading his poem was rather harsh: President Erdogan declared that he was going to sue Jan Böhmermann in a German court, referring to the controversial article 103. It was now up to Chancellor Angela Merkel to decide whether to allow indictment of Mr Böhmermann or not. In the German public, more and more people called for an abolition of said article 103, and for Angela Merkel to not allow persecution of the comedian. Many people all over the political spectrum were sympathetic to Jan Böhmermann, also because President Erdogan is extremely unpopular in Germany. In the end, Mrs Merkel decided to allow the indictment of Jan Böhmermann, but also stated that she was preparing to remove the unpopular article 103 by 2018. So, in a way, the results of this affair are a mixed bag: right now, Erdogan gets what he wants, but on the other hand, a freedom of speech restriction will be removed.

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This article was written by ESFL blogging team member Julian Modiano.

What makes the Brexit referendum significantly more interesting than most other current political issues is that public opinion, for once, does not fall neatly into party lines. In fact, most opinions seem more personal than usual, albeit still hugely misinformed. The Leave campaign has focused on the evils of immigration and the supposed extremism and terrorism that comes with it, while the Remain side warns that leaving will bring the still weak economy to its knees. Both sides are scaremongering and, as usual, only focus on a handful of issues and their effects on the short term, while completely ignoring the long term effects on the whole population.

Even libertarians, who are usually consistent in opposing government centralization, have been split on the issue; many seem seduced by the terms ‘free trade area’ and ‘free movement of people’. Thus Jernej Kosec, in a recent article for European Students for Liberty, argues that there is a strong (pragmatic) libertarian case for staying, as the EU is a massive free trade area in a world that is still not fully globalized, and leaving will force the UK to accept trade treaties rather than being able to influence them themselves. The much quoted ‘remain campaign’s comparison of Ukraine and Poland is also made, to offer a historical example of the benefits of the EU.

The comparison between Ukraine and  Poland is completely irrelevant to the current debate, and the Remain side would do well to stop bringing it up. Joining the EU as a post Soviet-bloc country 20 years ago is entirely different to leaving the EU as an already democratic, somewhat economically liberal country today. The UK has no need for democratic inspiration from the EU, nor is there a threat that the UK succumb to corrupt Russian influence. The UK already has all of the benefits that Poland received from joining the EU, and it is unlikely it will suddenly become a socialist dictatorship if it leaves.

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This article was written by Young Liberty UK National Chairman Luke Nash-Jones.

Every November we wear poppies. You likely will again in 6 months. Why do we do this? It’s to remember those who died, including in World War II. Soldiers signed up then knowing they had just 2 weeks to live. What did they sacrifice their lives for? It was to ensure the British people govern the UK, to ensure your right to determine your destiny.

In the UK, we are proud to have the right to vote, to make our own political decisions. There is a long rich tradition of liberty, hailing back to the efforts of the Suffragettes, those brave Chartists, the barons who risked their lives in Runnymede in 1215 to have Magna Carta signed, and the English Civil War, where a king’s head was chopped off – such is the passion for liberty. These were key defining moments in not just Britain’s, but the whole of humankind’s, quest for liberty, that would define the concept and inspire both American calls for self-determination and the French rejection of monarchy.

However, we have lost such freedom. Up to 75% of our laws are no longer made in the Westminster, London, but overseas in Brussels. As libertarians, we are supposed to seek less not more government. How in a time of austerity could we possibly find it acceptable to have three times as many parliaments as we need – since the EU could not agree where to have its capital, it often relocates from Brussels to Strasbourg at needless expense much to the amusement of the world.

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Every libertarian is well aware of the odd name defenders of individual freedom use to label their position nowadays. In fact, the word “libertarianism” is a fairly new creation, emerging in the second half of the last century. It was coined to distinguish this position from those who call themselves “liberal”, a word that once represented a commitment to laissez faire and free markets. Today, however, it means the very opposite and is more akin to the socialist position. The redefinition of terms for political purposes was a very successful marketing coup by social democrats, particularly in the United States.

Is it possible to win arguments in the political arena by simply using words that are either so vague that we cannot assign a precise meaning to them or are systematically misleading? To what extent can the parties to the debate gain an advantage by confusing their opponents through their use of words? Is the progressive corruption of our language a threat to civil liberties? These and other question formed the starting point of a seminar aptly named “Semantic Traps: Politics with Loaded Terms”, which was co-organized by the European Center of Austrian Economics Foundation (ECAEF), the Property and Environment Research Center (PERC) and the Liechtenstein Academy Foundation. Thanks to Kurt Leube, the program’s Academic Director (and a very eager and generous supporter of ESFL), I was invited to participate in what turned out to be an extremely insightful weekend. But let us start from the beginning.

Lively discussions at the dinner table.

Lively discussions at the dinner table.

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This post was written by ESFL blogging team member Jernej Kosec.

Coming from an ex-communist country and living in Norway, it makes me somehow upset to see the huge amount of misunderstanding of how the EU works being thrown around. This misunderstanding relates both to basic legal and economic concepts. For Slovenia, and a dozen more ex-Yugoslav, ex-Warsaw pact, or ex-Soviet countries, the entry into the EU coincides with an unprecedented era of prosperity in contrast with their former peers outside of EU.

The contrast is really stark if we compare Poland and Ukraine, two of the largest states on the continent, and neighbours. After joining the NATO and EU, Poland cut all possibilities to be influenced by the institutionalized and organized crime which is the Kremlin. Ukraine struggled with two democratic revolutions, is undergoing war, and trails behind Poland on most social and economic parameters (take life expectancy or GDP per capita). The distinction is that Poland has been part of democracy- and market-enhancing institutions, while Ukraine was governed by Russia-dependent elites.

In order to begin with the EU accession, a state must meet the so called Copenhagen criteria: it has to be committed to human rights, democratic governance, rule of law, and market economy. This process helped Slovenia enormously in becoming a freer and more open society, while other former Yugoslav states aspiring for EU membership are learning the hard way that this itself is a worthy goal. But EU membership does not only benefit “poor”, ex-communist countries with weak democratic tradition. This is very important to notice in times of the Brexit referendum where different models of a European state’s relationship with the EU are considered.

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Earlier this month, Gustavo Vargas, economist and ESFL Local Coordinator from Madrid, attended La Tuerka, a Spanish online television show, to discuss the current situation of the public pension system in Spain. La Tuerka is best-known for being the forum for political discussion created by Pablo Iglesias, the leader of the left-wing political party Podemos.

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