SFL Calendar
SFL's Network
Support SFL
Make a Donation Join the Network Attend a Conference Start a Group
Upcoming Events
Sep 20
Upcoming Events
Sep 27
Upcoming Events
Sep 27
Upcoming Events
Oct 11
Upcoming Events
Oct 18
Upcoming Events
Oct 18
Upcoming Events
Oct 18
Upcoming Events
Oct 25
Upcoming Events
Oct 25
Upcoming Events
Oct 25 - 26
Upcoming Events
Nov 8
Upcoming Events
Nov 8
Upcoming Events
Nov 15
Upcoming Events
Nov 22
Upcoming Events
Nov 29
Upcoming Events
Dec 6

This post was written by Senior Local Coordinator Luca Bertoletti

These days, there is a growing minority who believe that Islam needs to be banned in our countries, that it’s not a peaceful religion, and that Muslims who believe in peace need to convert to Christianity.

But what is Islam? Does Islam really want only war and destruction? Or is it more closer with classical liberalism than we can think?

At first sight, the social, economic, ethical, and political connotations of Islam might give the impression to be unfavourable for believers in liberalism.

Superficially it looks like to have features of authoritarianism or even totalitarianism: Islam is an all-embracing creed that provides its followers with certain and indubitable knowledge of ethics, law and religion.

Important is, also, the fusion of church, as well as scepticism about fundamental ethical and political truth, which is absent in Islamic doctrine.

Professor Norman Barry, in his article Civil Society, Religion and Islam, tries to explain why we can say that Islam is not so far from classical liberalism.

Berry’s article is concentrated first on the character of Islamic law. That sovereignty ends in God means that there can be no absolute sovereign.

According to Barry’s view, the lawmaking process in Islamic traditions is also very interesting in his opinion. In Islam, there is an Hayekian  understanding of lawmaking, that is no final and absolute power to make law but it comes from individuals.

In the last part of his article, Prof. Barry speaks about ethical imperatives in Islam, such as respecting human beings, even including enemies, and the Islamic idea of human rights.

It is not too difficult to read about a set of human rights in Islam which, according to Professor Berry, “is not radically different from Lockean tradition of the West”.

Indeed, in 1981 a very important document, titled “The Universal Declaration of Human Rights and Human Rights in Islam” was published. This document put Islamic human rights theory in the context of contemporary debate.

There are a lot of similarities between Western and Islamic approaches. There are not only the fundamental rights of human beings but also in this document we can read the conventional clams to freedom of thought and discussion, including religious freedom, property, dissent, non-discrimination (including LGBT rights), and free movement.

At the end, Professor Berry, after pointing out so many positive points in Islam with respect to its relation with civil society and market economy, raises a very important question: “Why have Islamic countries, with of course some exception, not been recognised as part of mainstream liberal social and political theory since much of its doctrine is consisted with it?”

It is not difficult to share Barry’s conviction that “Muslim states took the wrong doctrines from the West and many ideas which are alien to pure Islamic tradition,” but, I believe this answer is not sufficient to explain the problem in itself.

To explain it, we have to ask: can Islam co-exist with the modernity?

Like every religion I think yes, it can. But exploring that, we should reject a  prejudice.

This suggests that Islamic religion is irrational. This view should be rejected because it fails to recognise the centrality of religious and experience to so much of human society, Islam, as well Christianity, as well as Judaism and many more. At least the people who spread this idea do not say anything about what might be put in its place (we cannot convert 1.57 billion people to Christianity or make 6 billion people Atheists).

Islam is not the problem it is often presented to be even thought it is true that there have been Muslim tyrants — as many, perhaps, as there have been Christian, or Hindu ones.

Islam is not in contrast with democracy or modernity.

The key to understanding this, is to understand that Islam recognizes that a religion cannot hug the entire  society for as long as there are people who don’t believe in it. It has therefore concerned itself with the question of the treatment of those who dissent from its teachings.

The earliest Muslim community had its origins in the seventh century as a persecuted minority in Mecca.  As is well-known, Muhammed and his followers eventually left Mecca for Medina in order to establish a community of the faithful.

Nevertheless, when the success of Muhammed’s mission saw the expansion of the Islamic community, it was itself forced to address the question of how to deal with the diverse people, and what forms of diversity to accept in its community. Its response was to develop a political tradition which was remarkable for its tolerance of non-Muslim communities.

Islam today, particularly in the west, conjures up images of fanaticism and intolerance. Yet much of its history is in contrast with this impression.

In the eighth and ninth centuries, the Byzantine empire was destroyed under the force of Islamic expansion, and Muslim armies eventually overran the Persian empire before also taking the regions of Syria, Iraq, North Africa, southern Europe and Spain. These areas, many of which were already subjugated to foreign rulers, particularly in Byzantine and Persian territories, were re-purposed to Islamic ones.

Islam, for the most part, proved more reasonable and tolerant, and more disposed to grant its populations a measure of local autonomy — with lower rates of taxation. To Jews and Christians it accorded greater toleration than they had been accorded until that time.

In fact, the local Christian churches had also helped the invading Muslim armies to escape persecution for “heresy” that had suffered at the hands of Christian orthodoxy.

The Muslim rulers left existing governmental institutions intact, and left religious communities free to govern their own internal affairs according to their own faiths.

To be sure, these rulers sought to eliminate idolatry and paganism, and regarded Islam as the one true religion. But the Islamic ideal demanded that others be invited and persuaded to convert, not forced.

If they refused, they were to be left in peace. This was most notably so in Jerusalem, which had been captured by Muslim armies in 638 CE. Under Muslim rule, not only were Christian churches left unharmed, but Jews, long banned from the city by Christian rulers, were allowed to return in several centuries of peaceful coexistence, brought to an end only by the Crusades.

The point of noting all this, is not to insist that Islam’s history is stainless, or that those of its rivals are bloody.

Like any tradition with a history spanning centuries, it has had its periods of stagnation as well as its periods of flowering. And those traditions have varied from the harshly austere, to the mysticism of Sufism.

Now, we can find a lot of Muslim countries where the minorities are protected: Morocco, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Jordan, as well as Iraq before the fall of Saddam, Indonesia and many more.

Within Islam’s traditions, we find not only the practice of toleration but also the concepts which give it theoretical expression: concepts of opposition and disagreement, consensus and consultation, and freedom of thought and expression.

Like that of any doctrine, Islam’s humanity and capacity for toleration depends on questions of interpretation.

In the Qu’ran, the injunction to Fight to defend Islam (jihad) is capable of of many interpretations, but not all consistent with the use of armed force to persecute non-believers.

In the same way, if you read the Leviticus book of Bible, as well some sentences of the Gospel according to Luke, you can get a lot of interpretations. Fortunately, not all of them consist with the use of armed force to kill the non-believers.

Luca was born in 1990 in Brescia, Italy. He studies economics and political science at the University of Milan and is a Senior Local Coordinator for Students For Liberty.

This post was written by the members of ESFL Spain

Last week, September 5th, members of ESFL Spain were dismayed by the following news:

Dr. Juan Ramón Rallo, one of the greatest representatives of the Austrian School of Economics in our country, has been publicly censured after his first appearance on Wednesday on the Spanish state television TVE. His collaboration with the morning magazine La mañana was cancelled due to the complaints received from the Spanish trade union UGT (Unión General de Trabajadores). The union issued an announcement two days before Rallo’s ban stating its disconformity with the fact that a libertarian minded economist such as Professor Rallo had a slot in public television. On different occasions, Rallo defended that all public TV channels should be privatized. Apparently, this became the perfect casus belli for the UGT to wipe out a libertarian minded intellectual from “the People’s television”.
Situations like these reveal who is really in charge of the state’s TV. This event constitutes an unacceptable attack on plurality and freedom of speech that deserves the deepest rejection by civil society. Seemingly, state’s media (which all the citizens are forced to fund at gunpoint) has seen its decision-making authority absorbed by a trade union mafia who now imposes the editorial line which journalists working in the government’s TV must follow.
Therefore, not only are Spanish citizens forced to fund trade unions like UGT (which, by the way, hold charges for the greatest case of public funds misuse in Spain’s history), but they must also see how these “defenders of the proletariat” decide what the appropriate content to be broadcasted on public television is and what must be banned (of course, according to their own views).
As a collective of student groups, we feel ashamed and outraged seeing how a trade union, instead of representing its members, dedicates to lobby in order to advance its own agenda, a pretty different agenda from the one of the Spanish society. We hope that, sooner than later, the civil society will react and decide to cut the funding to these public money leechers and censorship lovers – 40 years of fascist dictatorship were more than enough.

Business shapes our world positively. From waking up to going to bed we use goods produced for profit, making us better off as well. Almost daily we enter– barely noticing it – into private contracts by buying what we need for our lives, making life possible for the providers of those goods likewise. Trade always is a win-win situation for both parties – at least from their subjective perspective.
Politics shape our worlds negatively. From waking up to going to bed we are annoyed by politician’s talk and initiatives profiting themselves, not making us better off as well. Once every couple of years we enter – barely noticing it – into the polling booth to further give away our lives, making life possible for those we vote for. Democracy is always a lose-win situation for both parties – at least from my subjective perspective.

Differences between business and politics are manifold. The sociologist Franz Oppenheimer distinguished between two means to achieve the end of survial: the political and the economic means. The political means is based on violence and force: taking without asking – robbing – a lose-win situation. Contrary, the economic means is based on peacefulness and voluntariness: taking with negotiating – trading – a win-win situation.

In the end, business produces value for everyone, while politics takes value away. Politics are not able to produce any value in any manner. It only can give value back which it had formerly taken away. Its attempts to create value for special groups by making them dependent through welfare is always overshadowed through a loss of value for other groups, which is exponentially higher.

Despite this, politics and its institution – the government – are quite popular. In Germany, around 60% of students want to work either for government itself or areas heavily subsidized and intervened by government like health and education. They expect even more from the one thing government should provide for: security. For sure, they have good intentions. They are not evil. They don’t use violence in their private transactions. They think they provide value – but they do not.

Business – on the other hand – is getting really unpopular despite securing the foundations for politics at all. To attack its institution – the market – is not only since Karl Marx a favorite leisure activity. It is blamed for making the climate warmer and the people colder. It is a place of exploitation where capitalists enslave workforce, which rather works out of need than starves to death. Nevertheless, those people attacking markets still use goods they won’t have without them. They continue drinking beer, eating out and using their smartphones. That is perfectly fine – they probably paid for that. Likewise, anarchists using public roads have paid more than enough taxes for that. However, while private initiative can provide for roads, can government produce our food and smartphones? Ongoing experiments of world history prove the contrary. Governments are not even able to provide toilet paper in the case of Venezuela, despite sitting on the world’s biggest oil reserves.

Ideas matter – when they are applied to the real world. The idea of omipotent government is deeply rooted in the heads of many people. Planting the idea of a voluntary society is a hard task. Social Change is possible in the long run, though. However, why do we have to wait to live in a free society? Why can’t we just start creating one – despite politics? Actually, we can. Business shapes our world. Business creates value for us. Business can also create more freedom for us. Now and in the very short run rather than in our uncertain future!

Business can even restore value politics have taken us. Modern encryption allows us to communicate without being spied upon. Digital currencies allow us to decide for valuable money. Internet exchanges of all kinds allow for purchasing goods government tries to deny us. Modern transport opportunities make it easier to move – and finally escape politics.

Politics, however, mostly tries to destroy this newly created value. Politics seem to have an inferiority complex despite being superior. Because they are not able to create value, they rather destroy than admire it. Politics equals the jealous children who destroy other children’s brick towers because they’re higher than theirs.

It is time to show this to the world. While many students prefer false security working for government and taking value away, few are willing to work hard and take risks to create value. Those students are the future innovators. Those students might be able to make the difference. Those students will create value and may even serve liberty.

For those students, Entrepreneurial Students for Liberty was recently founded. Dozens of future leaders of liberty in Europe want to raise awareness of the fact that business, not politics, shapes our world and creates value. They want to follow the path of entrepreneurship to find freedom for themselves by creating value for others. And they want to encourage you to do the same!

Without doubt we need more entrepreneurial-minded people. Way too much talent is wasted in government and state education. To meet this demand we need to change our perception.“Safe is the new risky“ – a wise sentence goes. This might be true considering the continuing self-made problems of governments worldwide. The solution does not lie in politics – it lies in entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs make us better off, politics do not. Entrepreneurship is the „new safe“, because entrepreneurs can trust in their abilities to care for themselves in tough situations.

Entrepreneurial Students for Liberty understands itself as a platform for like-minded individuals to go the path of entrepreneurship together. Mutual support – sharing one’s knowledge and skills voluntarily – is essential for the development of one’s self and business. Everyone can be an entrepreneur – he or she just needs to serve the needs of other people. Finding ideas, finding colleagues, finding liberty for oneself – liberty needs entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship needs you. Shape the world yourself rather than being wheel in the whirl!

If I say the name Hayek, do you associate it with spontaneous order, law versus legislation and tradition? Or do you associate it with social justice, markets and the Universal Basic Income?

Have you, the last year, read any of these works: Human Action, by Mises. An Inquiry into the Cause and Nature of the Wealth of Nations, by Adam Smith. Individualism and Economic Order, by Hayek. The Calculus of Consent, by James Buchanan. Man, Economy & State, by Murray Rothbard? (Any works equivalent in size and importance for understanding classical liberalism is also allowed.) Or have you limited your reading to blogposts, and short articles?

If you have read contemporary academics: have you read their peer-reviewed literature in, for example, Critical Reviewor any of the many, many other peer reviewed academic outlets? Or again, have you limited yourself to blogposts?

If you are part of the latter, this blogpost is for you. If you are part of the former, this blogpost is probably also still for you. The purpose of this blogpost is to create a perspective on how to study classical liberalism, because I have the impression that, on the margin, some are confusing studying a body of intellectual thought with reading blogposts. Let us give you the quick and dirty summary: if the only thing you are doing is reading blogposts, even if they are from Bleeding Heart Libertarians or other high quality libertarian leaning websites, you are doing it wrong. One notable, online exception, would be George Smith’s essay collection at Libertarianism.org. George Smith takes great pains to explain the historical context of intellectual debates in a way that teaches people context, rather than ‘fad of the days’.

The reason why I am warning against blogposts is not because I want to devalue the work that these academics are doing, but it’s important to understand why they are doing this. They are not trying to rehash the core of classical liberalism (usually). They are focusing on the edges of the arguments, the controversies and the discussions. And in the blogosphere, they are doing this in a way they consider to be fun, and not necessarily in a way they think is publishable. (Although some definitely is.) Trying to learn classical liberalism through the online blogosphere is similar to trying to understand the Middle East by looking at a panel discussion. Yes, they’ll cover the current issues, but they’ll usually not have the time to give all the knowledge required to discuss why this current issue is a relevant addition.

Of course, it’s easy to have an essential grasp of spontaneous order. Per usual, just reading the wikipedia page would give you a good introduction. However, a part of being a good advocate of your ideas is to push yourself to know more and know better. SFL as such has only very limited programs to make yourself more knowledgeable as libertarians. (Although the online virtual reading groups and the Liberty Fund session in Vienna are important exceptions!)

None of this should be taken to understand that the current cutting edge stuff should be ignored, but the cutting edge stuff of academics is done in their academic, peer reviewed work, not on their blogposts. 
But it’s also important if you want to become a knowledgeable advocate of ideas, to also read Mises, Hayek, Rothbard, Narveson, Rand, Lomasky, Smith, Hume, Locke, Nozick, Machan and many, many others. Don’t ignore the classics assuming you can learn their insights from social media.

This is especially true if you want to modify your classical liberalism/libertarian label. Let me take one example. There are a lot of self-identified left-libertarians in SFL, people who study the works of Kevin Carson, Gary Chartier, Charles Johnson and Sheldon Richmann. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this; the intellectual diversity in SFL is one of the many reasons why I love this organization. But in order to understand and read these authors effectively, it’s important to understand the core of classical liberalism, to completely understand where and to what extend they diverge, criticize, build of and/or apply in an onorthodox way from the original core.

To quote Nathan Goodman, a self-identified Left-libertarian and Campus Coordinator in the USA, as a response to the question: can you study left-libertarianism when you are not studying classical liberalism?

Maybe, but doing so would almost certainly leave the student with a poor understanding of left-libertarianism, if we’re speaking in the C4SS/ALL sense. To properly understand Kevin Carson’s arguments against large hierarchical firms, one should understand Coase’s work on the firm and the work of Hayek and Mises on economic calculation. To properly understand left-libertarian arguments for the commons, one should understand Lockean/Rothbardian theories of just acquisition of property and probably also Ostrom’s work on governance of the commons. To understand left-libertarian arguments for why the state entrenches the power of privileged interests, it’s useful to understand public choice theory. Left-libertarianism in the C4SS sense is heavily informed by classical liberal insights that have been developed by classical liberals outside of left-libertarianism, and thus it probably can’t be fully understood without understanding classical liberalism.

This point is relevant for all modifiers to your classical liberal/libertarian label.

One last suggestion. As a young student, it’s normal to try and read the classics and grapple with their insights. It’s ok that when you are 18-23 (random age) you are blogging on Law, Legislation & Liberty of Hayek, Theory & History from Mises or The Ethics of Liberty of Rothbard. You are in that stage of life during which you are learning about the ideas. And learning doesn’t have to be difficult. You think reading Human Action is too difficult? Use the study guide to the book to help you! Do you think reading everything from Hayek is too difficult? Read very smart people who write about his work. If you want to inquire into the nature and cause of the wealth of intellectual classical liberalism, don’t let your sentiments get the best of you and find good secondary literature to help you with it.

You are – usually – not yet engaged in the production of new insights or the creation of cutting edge of social science or philosophy. Don’t feel the need that, as a student, you have to emulate the kind of topics and blogposts the actual academics are doing. They are at a different stage of your life. And if you think you can take a short cut, if you think you can blog as if you are already a learned and well-established professor while you are still trying to learn, you will probably not succeed compared to a route where you first learn to walk before you learn to run.

Lode Cossaer received master’s degrees in philosophy from the University of Antwerp and the Catholic University of Leuven and is currently working on a PhD proposal.

He teaches economics in Brussels, at a private business school. Cossaer was a political officer of the LVSV. He is an executive board member of European Students For Liberty and president of the Murray Rothbard in Belgium.

SFL has gotten some criticisms regarding the role of activism in the past. Is there any role for activism? If so, which one? This blogpost is to give my hypothesis for the role of activism. The reason why I am writing this is to offer a possibility, but I am opening the debate, rather than trying to close it, to answer the important question: why are we trying to do what we do?

As a Hayekian, I belief that both (1) ideas matter and that (2) activism is only of secondary importance. As Dan D’Amico says: the amount of liberty in a society was never a derivative from the amount of libertarians or the success of the libertarian movement in society. So therefore, ipso facto, it must be foolish to try to invest in activism, right? It is with this latter implication I tend to disagree – but again: opening the floor, rather than closing the debate.

It seems to me obvious that the most important branch – the root, so to say – of any political movement is the academic and intellectual backing that it has. No long term change is possible without an academic backing, that brings better arguments to the table, that can both provide intellectual legitimacy, as well as provide people across the board information on how to improve their lives and politics and even though we might not be able to convince all, they can at least learn from the academics who also happen to be libertarian. But for those people who don’t see themselves becoming academics – the so called activists – is there room for them? The answer seems to me: obviously, but let’s try to clarify what it is.

Let us take a look at a political movement that inspired most, if not all, of us in doing what we do: the slavery abolitionist movement. I am going to make the wild assumption that the abolitionists all had secondary goals besides slavery abolition, but that they managed to form a grand coalition around the intrinsically moral goal of slavery abolition. In short: they set aside their political differences to try to achieve a goal they could all agree on. Although there is some evidence that overtime slavery would have disappeared (as well as some evidence to the contrary) I’d be surprised if we can convincingly show that the abolitionist movement was completely useless in making this happen as fast as it did.

Most people are, what I would describe as, slightly xenophobic, security craving social democrats. There are people of the ‘nicer’ kinds – your typical liberal or social conservative – and of the meaner kind (fascists and the like). But in essence: most people are scared of the unknown, scared of changes they can’t control and have a strong desire that there are political measurements in place that take care of them. Most people are naive, incoherent about their political views and have the implicit hubris that they can control and oversee more politics than they can actually manage. In short: most people are not libertarians, and will never become libertarians.

Although it’s not logically impossible to turn everyone into good classical liberals or libertarians, it’s also very unlikely – and we’d be better of we accept this fact into our activism. Obviously, we still need to try to reach out, present the best possible arguments and try to convince as many people as possible, but mostly, we have to do this to assure the next generation of classical liberals who will continue the work, rather than some idea that eventually we’ll convince everyone to our way of thinking.

Combining the lesson I draw from the slavery abolitionists and from the empirical observation above, the role of the activism part of the liberty movement – including SFL – is our continuous effort to try to build grand coalitions with other political groups for goals we can all agree on. Today, those can be, among others, the war on drugs, foreign intervention in the sense of nation building, civil rights, freedom of speech, open immigration and, maybe, even global free trade. I don’t think we can convince the average political partisan that we need to abolish our countries welfare systems, or health care systems, or labor regulations and any of that. But maybe we can try to build grand coalitions around particular goals that we can convince them are worthwhile, without blowing up our bridges by arguing that we’ll only work toward a goal that benefits everyone if they accept libertarian anarchy.

This is, by the way, not an argument for unprincipledness, but an argument for principledness in choosing one’s battles. Would I – as an IP-abolitionist – abolish IP even though social security remains? Of course. I am not selling out on my ideals by doing so, I am achieving one of my goals. The effort of forming a grand coalition is not the same as selling out on other ideas. Selling out implies that one starts supporting ideas that one rejects in order to get something else: this is far from what I am advocating. I am only advocating that the role of activists is to pick and choose the battles they can win by forming coalitions.

What is funny about this, imo, is that someone wrote something very similar, namely Murray Rothbard in his Memo to the Volcker Fund. (I highly encourage everyone who wants to be an activist to read this. Rothbard is at his strategic best in this memo.)

(1) In the very act of agitating for repeal of the income tax, he is pushing people in the direction of repeal and perhaps eventually bringing about repeal—which, in itself, is a worthy, if limited, libertarian objective. In short, he is advancing the cause of libertarianism in the very act of advancing the cause of income tax repeal. Thus, everything he does for ORFIT, being consistent with the ultimate libertarian objective helps advance that objective, and does not betray it.

(2) In the course of this work, the hardcore libertarian should try to advance the knowledge of both the masses and his fellow ORFIT members, toward fuller libertarian ideals. In short, to “push” his colleagues and others toward the direction of hardcore libertarian thought itself. (In Communist- Leninist terms, this is called “recruiting for the Party,” or pushing colleagues at least some way along this road.) The hardcore man is working for his idea on two levels: in a “popular” or “united” front for limited libertarian goals, and to try to influence his colleagues as well as the masses in the direction of the total system. (This is the essence of the much-misunderstood Leninist theory of “infiltration.”)

Suppose there was a strong, self conscious libertarian movement that covers around 5 to 10% of the population. Although we’d never be able to convince the remaining 90/95%, if that libertarian part of the population does well, they could shift the debate into their direction, at least, maybe preventing the biggest problems that are caused by governments. Wouldn’t it be nice if more people started saying: ‘X is a libertarian, I think they are overall wrong with their general idea, but they do have a good point on government power and we should really try to limit that’, rather than dismiss everything we say merely because we are saying it? If the medium voter theorem is right, it follows that if we can change the margin of where the medium voter is, there is a possibility to improve society.

However, an important part of this is that SFL need not just a place of refugee for activist, but also, as Rothbard called it, “an open center for hardcore men” (and I will add: and women, of course).

I need not dwell here on the overriding importance of the intellectuals and scholars in forming a libertarian cadre. For the filiation of ideas and influence works as a pyramid, from the highest-level intellectuals to lower levels, from graduate school to college, from treatise authors to journalists, on down to the housewife and man in the street. In this pyramid, one scholar is worth a thousand housewives, in the matter of influence, import, etc.(…) But there needs to be, in addition, much greater concentration on nourishing a hardcore libertarian center. (…) I believe that a scholarly libertarian institute, on the postgraduate level, a counterpart to the Institute for Advanced Study, would be the ideal solution. The idea would be to gather together leading libertarian scholars, to have permanent and also temporary staffs (the latter via fellowships), etc.

If SFL truly are Hayekians – and it is clear that Rothbard learned a lot from Hayek – than we have to focus on both the activist side, as well as the academic side of things.

Additionally, I also believe in the possibility for unintended consequences that can follow from political activism. Is it possible that if we achieve a particular goal X – by building a grand coalition with non-libertarians – that we inadvertently create the possibility for the state to actually increase its power or limit freedom more? Yes, this is very likely. But the other way around is also possible, and I don’t have any numbers on the statistical likelihood of either one. Is it possible that by achieving a particular goal the unintended consequence is that we set in motion a set of institutional decision making procedures that actually limit or roll back the centralization of power?  This doesn’t seem impossible a priori; and thus it’s important to keep thinking critically what might be potential unintended consequences of certain goals that we try to focus on.
We will live never in a libertarian society, unless, perhaps, when we physically go and build it. But in the mean time, for those who want to make an impact now: (1) focus on outreach to create your successor and (2) try to build grand coalitions for goals you can achieve here and now. Politics responds to incentives and at least part of these incentives are determined by activists. It might not always matter in the (very) long run, but there are marginal gains of trade to be won by acting today in a smart and concentrated way.

Lode Cossaer received master’s degrees in philosophy from the University of Antwerp and the Catholic University of Leuven and is currently working on a PhD proposal.

He teaches economics in Brussels, at a private business school. Cossaer was a political officer of the LVSV. He is an executive board member of European Students For Liberty and president of the Murray Rothbard in Belgium.

Are you a student or recent graduate interested in gaining writing experience? Would you like to share your opinions and ideas on several issues regarding liberty with thousands of viewers? Now is your chance to do so. Apply to join European Students For Liberty’s blogging team of 15 highly motivated student writers. Prior blogging experience is not required.

The ESFL blog features a wide diversity of content including philosophical musings, campus activism and student organizing features, news coverage, pop culture commentary, interviews, and profiles of influential libertarian figures and works.  We seek to maintain a free and open dialogue and encourage people of all ideological stripes interested in liberty to apply.

If you are accepted to be on the blogging team, you will be expected to blog twice per month throughout the 2014-2015 school year. For one-time submissions and any other direct questions regarding the blogging team, please contact the Blog Content Manager, Nur Baysal at nbaysal@studentsforliberty.org. Apply by October 1st!

Proponents of a so-called post-privacy society often point how a decline of privacy is inevitable. From a purely descriptive angle, more and more information is being made available. Secret services operate in a more efficient way today because of technological advances and computer software with superior algorithms. Social media is another important factor. People are revealing an increasing amount of personal information about themselves on platforms like Facebook, voluntarily.

It’s not possible to make concrete forecasts here, but all factors indicate that the amount of personal information in the digital sphere will continue to increase. Whether there’s going to be a cut-off point is of no further importance right now. The process described above is actually taking place and this is the only relevant point in this regard. But this will probably not continue inevitably.

There is in fact a tendency among young people to only reveal certain information about themselves – and probably proportionally more of it, at least in this confined area. But the important thing is: They’re doing it in a selective way and this creates more bubbles of privacy. There are good reasons to believe that this development is actually strengthening privacy.

But there are also some people who endorse the development of post-privacy values due to normative reasons. Christian Heller is such a proponent and accordingly, he also tries to live without privacy. All of his appointments and schedules, daily routines (including his eating habits), his twitter account and other things are all published on his blog, accessible for everyone.

In his book about post privacy, he argues that privacy is an outdated concept. Basically developed by the bourgeois class during the Age of Enlightenment, the whole concept has often been used as a vehicle for enforcing oppressive social ideas like the patriarchal family structure. Thus, there is nothing inherently valuable about privacy and it also doesn’t serve a meaningful purpose today. Another argument goes as follows: Less privacy amounts to more transparency. This would make society better overall, since companies and governments, being part of this process, would reveal more information about themselves and their internal structures.
Privacy continues to decrease inevitably from a descriptive point of view, but proponents of this post privacy “movement” also endorse it normatively. Ultimately, it is said that we value privacy far less than we did in the future. And I think this is not true.

There is a lot of evidence that suggests that social media users care a great deal about their own personal privacy by using all possible mechanisms on Facebook or Twitter – for example, only revealing posts to certain people and not displaying personal information to people outside the friendlist.
After the public was informed about the spy activities by the NSA, most people were obviously indignant about it and opposed it heavily. Ever since Facebook changes its privacy policy from time to time, there are waves of boycott with people deleting their accounts. And shortly after WhatsApp became part of Facebook and even more security holes became known, a large number of people in my surrounding decided to switch to Threema.
These are not characteristics of a generation that becomes less privacy-conscious.
Our generation prefers to reveal personal information about themselves in a much more coordinated and structured way. This indicates that there probably is not a wish among young people to have less privacy. People are revealing data, but in a smart way because they don’t want everyone in the world to see it.
More transparency through post privacy is also a false hope. It may be the case that more activities of the government would become public – but on the other side, the government would have far more access to sensible data of regular citizens. And in the end, who has more power to violate personal liberties?

In short, privacy is not dead. There’s no general wish for data exibitionism. People choose to reveal information about themselves, but they do so wisely and in a restrictive manner. They don’t want the entire world to know their daily appointments, eating habits or personal issues.

Nur Baysal studies Social Sciences at the University of Cologne. She developed a general interest in classical liberal ideas two-and-a-half years ago. She’s the founder of Kölsche Libertarier und currently an executive board member of European Students For Liberty.

We’re proud to announce the first ever European Students For Liberty Ukraine Summit, coming to Kiev on the weekend of November 29-30th, 2014.


This will be our first major event happening in the country, where we will hope to unite students, young people, and anyone interested in freedom to discuss peace, social and economic liberties, and the future of freedom in Ukraine.


29-30 ноября 2014 года в Киеве пройдет конференция “ЕВРОПЕЙСКИЕ СТУДЕНТЫ за свободу” в Украине.


На форуме в качестве спикеров выступят вице-президент Atlas Network Том Палмер, автор грузинских реформ, бывший министр экономики Каха Бендукидзе и другие известные гости. Также слово будет предоставлено студентам университетов Украины.


All are welcome to join!


  • When : 29-30 November 2014
  • Where : Kiev, Ukraine
  • Program : Coming soon
  • Sponsor : The Atlas Network
  • Registration cost : Free!
  • Language : English, Ukrainian, and Russian
  • Dress Code : Business casual
  • Facebook: Event link


Tom G. Palmer is the executive vice president for international programs at the Atlas Economic Research Foundation, and is responsible for establishing operating programs in 14 languages and managing programs for a worldwide network of think tanks.

Before joining Cato he was an H. B. Earhart Fellow at Hertford College, Oxford University, and a vice president of the Institute for Humane Studies at George Mason University. He frequently lectures in North America, Europe, Eurasia, Africa, Latin America, India, China and throughout Asia, and the Middle East on political science, public choice, civil society, and the moral, legal, and historical foundations of individual rights.

He has published reviews and articles on politics and morality in scholarly journals such as the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy,EthicsCritical Review, and Constitutional Political Economy, as well as in publications such as Slate, the Wall Street Journal, the New York TimesDie WeltCaixingAl Hayat, the Washington Post, and The Spectator of London. He is the author ofRealizing Freedom: Libertarian Theory, History, and Practice, published in 2009, and the editor of The Morality of Capitalism, published in 2011.

Palmer received his B.A. in liberal arts from St. Johns College in Annapolis, Maryland, his M.A. in philosophy from The Catholic University of America, Washington, D.C., and his doctorate in politics from Oxford.

Kakha Bendukidze is a Georgian statesman and businessman, and is a founder of Knowledge Fund, the founding organization of the Free University of Tbilisi and Agricultural University of Georgia.

After the Rose Revolution, he served as Georgian Minister of Economy (June–December 2004), Minister for Reform Coordination (December 2004 – January 2008) and Head of the Chancellery of Government of Georgia (February 2008 – February 2009).

Previously, he had served as Georgia’s economic development minister since 2004, state minister for reform co-ordination from 2004 to 2008 and head of the State Chancellery from 2008 to 2009.

Before embarking on his political career in the wake of the 2003 Rose Revolution, Mr. Bendukidze had been chief executive officer and chairman of OMZ, one of Russia’s largest heavy engineering companies, from 1996 to 2004. He had begun his career in the 1980s as a scientific researcher; in 1989 he co-founded the Bioprocess Corporation in Moscow and subsequently became chairman of the company. Mr. Bendukidze served as a Non-Executive Director at Aqua Bounty Technologies, Inc. from July 2012 until October 2012.

He graduated in biology and genetics from Ivane Javakhishvili Tbilisi University and holds a postgraduate degree in molecular biology from Lomonosov Moscow State University.

More speakers will be announced soon…

Fill out my online form.

For more information, please contact conference director Viacheslav Dvornikov at vdvornikov@studentsforliberty.org or ESFL Program Manager Yaël Ossowski at yossowski@studentsforliberty.org.

Recently, a blogpost written two years ago by my friend Clint Townsend ‘Five mistakes libertarians should avoid‘ was wildly shared again. The problem many people had was with Clint’s statement that ‘The principle of foreign non-interventionism is not a precondition to being a libertarian.’ Clint goes on to argue that there is widespread disagreement and therefore that it’s not part of a litmus test. I hope this blogpost can clarify this issue a bit.

The key issue is – of course – that words matter. The dictionary definition broadly defines libertarianism as being pro liberty in all areas of life. However, if you use the Rothbardian definition and equate libertarianism wit the NAP (and thereby exclude all government action per se), ‘foreign intervention’ (usually a term associated with government policy) is a necessary implication. To turn this around, it also means that it is a precondition to be against foreign intervention if you want to qualify as a libertarian. (Or, at least, that you are not libertarian on that particular issue.) 

I personally don’t think that Rothbard’s definition is the best definition that truly captures the broad classical liberal/libertarian tradition. Hence, I have argued in the past for a different interpretation, that ‘libertarianism’, historically and currently, covers a tradition that is about “safe-guarding voluntary interaction, where the key mechanism to guard this is (broadly spoken) Lockean rights.” To expand on this

“The core question that libertarianism historically attempted to answer was: how can people with different views of the good life live together peacefully and cooperatively? This, to me, is the key emphasis on what libertarianism is (as well as why we are still, intellectually, cousins to modern day high liberalism (Rawls and all).”

I will add, immediately, that as president of the Belgian based Murray Rothbard Institute that I think Rothbard’s interpretation is, more or less, right. I think that in real life, libertarianism should aim for what Murray called ‘anarchy’ – a society where there is no monopoly on the use of force and or the deliberate creation of legislation, or, even different, competitive enterprises who provide law and security. This also means that I agree with Rothbard’s prudent and principled case against foreign non-intervention.

However, I think it’s – again, historically and currently – more accurate to say that Rothbardianism is a very important subdivision of libertarianism, rather than the core of it. When it comes to policies, I generally like Walter Block and Stephan Kinsella more than I like the proposals for Universal Basic Income from people like Zwolinski. (Which doesn’t mean I don’t want to have that discussion, but I just happen to think they are wrong.) One can think Rothbard is (broadly) correct in his conclusions, without thinking that one necessarily has to agree with Rothbard to be called a libertarian.

I hope by now it’s sort of clear from what angle that Clint’s statement came. If you take a broad view on what libertarianism is – and, again, I think this definition is more accurate, contra Rothbard – then it’s not necessary to be principled against foreign interventionism. (Just like it’s not necessary to be principled against ‘the government existing’.) However, there is another important aspect and that is, obviously, the prudential question.

Just because Objectivists are in favor of a minimal government, doesn’t mean that anything can be justified even if it falls within the case of a ‘minimal government’. Similarly, even if you think that in principle there is nothing wrong with intervening in other countries, it doesn’t follow that you think is prudent.

Let me be clear: I think the principled case in favor of (government) non-interventionism is true.I disagree – fundamentally, prudentially and principally – with those who advocate foreign intervention (even in very, very limited cases). However, it doesn’t necessary follow that they aren’t libertarians. I just think they are wrong for advocating it. And plausible even dangerously wrong in some cases.

I am also happy to report that most, if not all, SFL’ers share a deep skepticism about justifications for foreign interventionism by governments everywhere. This doesn’t mean that some SFL’ers aren’t more open to some kinds of interventionism, than others. But even there is a small difference, I’d argue.

I think – but feel free to disagree – that there is still an important difference between justifying government action for a cause that is not inherently evil relative to a cause that is. I am allowed to defend myself. If a police officer – I do understand the fictional nature of the argument, but let’s suppose – defends me (while being on tax money), this is not an inherently evil cause, but it’s supported with evil means (taxation). Similarly, some ‘foreign intervention’ goals – such as: overthrowing the North Korean regime, or even assassinating dictators – doesn’t seem inherently problematic (but it is highly problematic that is done by government), whilst advocating foreign genocide (as you, for example, sometimes hear on both sides of the Israel/Gaza discussion) is.

It is in the former category that some libertarians can be persuaded that foreign military intervention can be justified. ‘We have the army, so why not use it for good causes’. Again: I think this opinion is highly problematic, but I have no need to define these people out of the movement. I do want to convince them of the general error of their ways, and if they want to be persuaded, a good (prudent) case against this, is Chris Coyne’s After War: The Political Economy of Exporting Democracy.

One more note of caution. The ‘libertarian’ movement is not in danger because we – at SFL – refuse to define people out of the libertarian movement. Libertarian is only a word. Can we please stop focussing on how SFL defines libertarianism – we have had this debate, really – and start focussing on: why do people favor certain positions and explaining why (you think) they are wrong?

Lode Cossaer received master’s degrees in philosophy from the University of Antwerp and the Catholic University of Leuven and is currently working on a PhD proposal.

He teaches economics in Brussels, at a private business school. Cossaer was a political officer of the LVSV. He is an executive board member of European Students For Liberty and president of the Murray Rothbard in Belgium.

  • When : 6 December 2014
  • Where : Istanbul
  • Host : 3H Hareketi
  • Conference : 9h – 19h
  • Social : 22h
  • Program : Coming soon
  • Sponsor : Rising Tide Foundation
  • Registration cost : Free!
  • Language : English and Turkish
  • Dress Code : Business casual
  • Facebook: Event Link



Fill out my online form.