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Apr 10 - 12

After a long wait, we’re excited to release the complete schedule for the 2015 European Students For Liberty Conference!

The schedule is jam-packed with over 36 speakers from 18 countries, highlighting topics including from Islam and the Free Market, Bitcoin, privacy on the Internet, saving migrants at sea, the fundamentals of liberalism, the EU, the Eurocrisis, Objectivism, GMOs, Euroscepticism, free speech, the crisis in Ukraine, Open Borders, our conference theme, and much more.

Every person who is interested in the ideas of liberty will find something to enjoy at the conference, whether it’s finding the opportunity to meet and network with hundreds of other students, interacting with our many sponsor and partner organizations, or having a great time at our evening socials.

The conclusion of each day’s session will be following with a dinner and social at the conference venue, along with a special jazz performance we’ve arranged for all attendees.

This is a conference to not miss! Be sure to take advantage of our special deal now on ESFLC.org to register and join the largest pro-liberty conference to ever take place on the European continent!

The complete schedule is available for download here.

The European Central Bank headquarters. Photo credit: Andrea Sortorati.

The European Central Bank headquarters. Photo credit: Andrea Sortorati.

Recently there has been a lot of debate in the E.U. on the topic of whether the ECB should take some steps to combat the ominous ever-present threat of deflation. Mario Draghi has of course been pushing his inflationary easy money agenda for a very long time, but so far Germany has been using its influence to thwart any attempts to start a Quantitative Easing program in the Eurozone like the one in the U.S.

In the past months the ECB has been gaining ground in the debate, as deflationary paranoia has been spreading throughout the public sphere. Most (if not all) of the anti-deflation propaganda in the media is based on entirely fallacious myths about the effects of deflation, so it is useful to familiarize yourself with some of the most popular ones and understand where exactly they go wrong.

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Photo Credit: Donald Townsend.

Photo Credit: Donald Townsend.

As a student in banking, I have grown accustomed through the years to the perpetual public hatred toward financial institutions. The recent report of HSBC having made significant profits for years handling secret accounts whose holders included drug cartels, arms dealers, tax evaders and fugitive diamond merchants, did not improve this feeling.

There is nevertheless a system under which this could change. This is not a system which would eliminate profit, or failures, but in which excessive risk-taking, irresponsibility, and political cronyism, would ceased to exist.

At first sight, this system, the idea of free banking, could seem provocative. It refers to a monetary arrangement in which banks are subject to no special regulations beyond those applicable to most enterprises. Let’s see where this idea comes from and where it could guide us to. (more…)

Gordon Gekko, the character that originated the catchphrase "Greed is Good" in 1987 in Wall Street.

Gordon Gekko, the character that originated the catchphrase “Greed is Good” in 1987 in Wall Street.

The catchphrase of Gordon Gekko is at the heart of popular criticisms of capitalism and of mainstream economics. The arguments against capitalism are, somewhat roughly, that:

  • (a) capitalism leads to people being greedy, or
  • (b) that by relying upon people’s greed capitalism is itself somehow corrupt as a system.

The criticism of orthodox economic theory is that economists assume people to always act greedily. Since this clearly is not the case – people give time and money to charity, rich people do not all vote for lower taxes, soldiers risk their lives for each other – this orthodox economic theory relies upon mistaken assumptions and is therefore unsound.

Greed is different from self-interest. If you have some spare time which you can spend either cleaning your house or reading a book and you decide you’d rather read a book, that’s a self-interested decision but in no way is it greedy. Greed is more than merely attempting to satisfy your own wants: it also involves a wrongful disregard for the interests of other people.

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A few days ago I came across this fascinating graph in an article on Business Insider UK. It depicts the average amount of working hours per week in 14 different countries over a period of 130 years. In the year 1870, the number lay somewhere between 55-72. In all 14 countries this statistic has dropped to less than 45. This is nothing short of remarkable!

As the article points out, we sleep around 56 of the 168 hours in a week, which leaves us with around 112 waking hours. While the average worker in the year 1870 spent 65 out of those on his job (58%), today it’s a mere 40 hours per week (36%). Over that same period of time, these countries have seen an explosion in both population and GDP per capita.

The rise in leisure time allows us to read more, spend more time with friends and family, travel or do other things. Granted, the article points out that we spend most of that time watching TV, but it’s thrilling nonetheless. In a way we have gained more freedom through this dramatic change because we don’t need to spend as much time on an activity that many find unpleasing. The questions arises: How has this been brought about?

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With this last part of the series, we have finally come full circle from the first article attempting to draw as realistically a picture as possible of “the” conservative mind to a discussion of objective values (presumably very dear to the conservatives) and their strategic utility for the spreading of liberty. Today, I’d like to fill the last gap left blank and proceed from the abstract concepts of objective (not objectivist!) ethics to the concrete conservative understanding of it, i.e. traditional family values, religious and sexual conservatism and so forth.

Was Ronald Reagan right? Must libertarians be conservatives? Must conservatives be libertarians?

Was Ronald Reagan right? Must libertarians be conservatives? Must conservatives be libertarians?

On the surface, it might look as if there could not be a greater divide between the conservative conception of a morally upright life and the liberal laissez-faire, extended beyond the economic sphere. The conservative view traditional families, fidelity and strong inter-generational bonds as goals everybody should be aiming at, where the liberal believes that “anything goes between consenting adults” – or so it seems.

Indeed, if conservatives were to use the state to enforce these values (and they, alas, tend to do so regularly), there would be no way of reconciling their position with ours. However, as I will argue, resorting to statist measures has done more harm to cultural conservatism than anything else, and that there are reasons to back the liberal political philosophy with such traditional values.

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Conservative politicians may well become the choice of the young idealist. This will not be the case for those who cling to outdated traditions, but rather for the conservative statesman who models himself on the principles of classical liberalism. Such principles found support in the 20th century amongst the likes of Thomas Sowell and Milton Friedman, and more recently in Republican radicals, such as Rand Paul and Thomas Massie. Even in the United Kingdom, a country not known of late for its libertarian beliefs, Steve Baker, Daniel Hannan and others are trying to paint conservatism with the brush of liberty.

Why might youth flock to these men? There is much to put off any idealistic whippersnapper when it comes to their agenda. They favour private ownership of most services, including those of health and education, while questioning the notion that a government program is the cure for poverty. This flies in the face of the ideologies of many who believe that they are destined to grow up and join the tradition of Roosevelt, Kennedy and Obama.
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With the New Year comes a new tax. I don’t need to tell you that new taxes are always bad, but this one manages to be particularly terrible.

As of the Jan. 1, 2015 there is a new and ‘improved’ (no, not really) VAT on digital services. The EU commission has been working on this piece of legislation for the past several years, but even so most people have either just heard about it in recent weeks, or not at all (just like with every other piece of legislation that comes out of the EU Commission).

The biggest change that this new value-added tax brings, is that now the price for digital products and services will be taxed not at the tax rate of the seller’s country, but at the tax rate of the buyer’s country. So basically if you are running a business offering digital products based in the UK and you sell to someone from Germany, the product you are selling will be taxed at the German VAT rate, if you sell to someone in France, at the French VAT rate, and etc. This tax applies to all possible digital products including ebooks, videos, music files and etc. The EU claims that the aim of the new legislation is to target big corporations like Amazon, who place their European headquarters in tax havens like Luxembourg in order to avoid the higher VAT tax rates in other countries. However, as it usually is with new taxes and regulations, it will not be the big corporations that are going to be hurt the most, but the small businesses and the consumers themselves. (more…)

Sudanese refugees displaced in Chad in 2004. Photo credit: Eskinder Debebe.

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) reports that there are over 50 million people displaced by violence and persecution – the highest level since World War II. Only around 12 million are under the mandate of UNHCR. The majority, referred to as Internally Displaced People (IDPs), do not meet the criteria of refugees under international convention because they have not crossed an international border.

Around a quarter of the total have been displaced by the ongoing conflict in Syria and Iraq. There are currently around 4 million refugees from Syria and Iraq outside those borders, as well as another 9 million displaced internally within the countries. UNHCR has identified 380,000 from this conflict who it says are in desperate need of resettlement to third countries – people who cannot be returned to their homes even once the conflict ends. These include the most vulnerable people: those with medical issues, victims of rape and torture and single mothers without family support. There are also thousands fleeing from oppression and violence in Eritrea, Somalia and other African countries.

The right to flee from violence and tyranny should be important to all friends of liberty, and especially to Americans.

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In order to recognise the efforts of the best pro-liberty student leaders in Europe, we announce that as part of this year’s ESFLC in Berlin, we will be awarding the very first European Students For Liberty Awards!

The three categories are:

  • European Student of the Year
  • European Event of the Year
  • European Group of the Year

The first step in this process is nominating your friends. Do that by filling out the nomination form bellow.

The nominating process will end on March 20. Then the nominees will be revealed and students from across the continent will be invited to vote for those most deserving of the rewards!

The winners will be announced at the 2015 European Students For Liberty Conference in Berlin, Germany on April 10-12. Be sure to sign-up and attend to see which students will win the awards!

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