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It is not very often that you get to hear an exiled government whistleblower talk about his experiences and personal opinions. In case you missed it, Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald, and Laura Poitras recently gave a Q & A on Reddit’s /IAmA that everyone should check out, as it is one of the only opportunities to get to hear Snowden’s own views on topics ranging from the NSA leaks to the pros of living in Russia (unless you were at the 2015 ISFLC). In the thread, one of Snowden’s replies in particular lingered with me:

To tag on to the Putin question: There’s not, and that’s part of the problem worldwide. We can’t just reform the laws in one country, wipe our hands, and call it a day. We have to ensure that our rights aren’t just being protected by letters on a sheet of paper somewhere, or those protections will evaporate the minute our communications get routed across a border. The only way to ensure the human rights of citizens around the world are being respected in the digital realm is to enforce them through systems and standards rather than policies and procedures.

Considered ancient by most media standards, the National Security Agency and their systemic abuse of privacy remains a pressing and continuous issue. Despite the lack of coverage, countless organizations and individuals are still pushing for privacy reforms, and Snowden’s comment touches on an issue that seems to be under-emphasized. While policy changes and enforcement are critical and necessary to make progress towards better privacy protection, creating a broad coalition and using personal privacy protection are required to create real and sustainable privacy protection.

Government spying and privacy violations have seemingly fallen to the back burner for many activists and average citizens. Both Congress and President Obama feigned concern over the massive violation of Cloud-Data-Protect-LargeAmerican’s privacy, but have done absolutely nothing to stop it.  Activists should expect any reforms that come to fruition to preserve the government’s current powers and operations while simultaneously saving face. Snowden is correct in saying that, if we really want to protect our privacy, it needs to become a global issue for everyone, and citizens must take it upon themselves to protect their privacy with whatever means possible. Anything short of this, and privacy protection is guaranteed only by “a sheet of paper somewhere,” doomed to “evaporate the minute our communications get routed across a border.” (more…)

unnamed (2)There are two things you should know about me before reading this article: my heritage and my living situation. I am Canadian. However, I have lived in Lyon, France for the past three months and will continue to do so for the next four. For anyone who reads my blogs, these two themes have been recurring ones, and have each contributed to how I view liberty. Living in France, a country well-known for its current (and long-standing) socialist tendencies, and experiencing everyday life here in comparison to  a much more conservative/liberty-minded Canada, has really messed with my view on liberty and how this term can mean something so different in various countries. When I think of liberty in France, is it really liberty? Is there a right and wrong definition of liberty? Are there actually cases where certain types of liberties don’t make sense in a libertarian context? The following may just be a philosophical rambling on my part, but I would like to share my thoughts on how different the meaning of liberty can be when subjected to differing conventions, cultures, and countries.

One of the first things an expat learns about France is that French people don’t really like to work. Allow me to elaborate: during every work day of the week, there is a 1-2 hour lunch break from around 12:30-2:30, in which time nothing remains open. Or at least, nothing on the business end of things. Need to go to the library at 1:30



to take out a book for the literature test you forgot you had this afternoon? Nope, library’s closed. Need to print off an assignment due at 2:00? Nope, all of the printing centres are closed. Need to visit a government office to update your visa that will expire in a week? Make sure you go at 9:00 a.m., before the lines get too long, because otherwise you’re screwed. The café and restaurant owners are thrilled, naturally, because this is when they get all of their business, but the rest of the commerce shuts down. And then, of course, nothing remains open on Sundays, and only select places on Saturdays. Oh, and after having hardly worked all week, the French like to strike as much as possible for higher wages or fewer work week hours. (more…)

539121-gay-marriageIn 2013, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg made headlines for offering surprising comments reflecting on the 40-year anniversary of Roe v. Wade. “That was my concern, that the court had given opponents of access to abortion a target to aim at relentlessly,” the renown liberal justice told an audience at the University of Chicago Law School. “My criticism of Roe is that it seemed to have stopped the momentum that was on the side of change.”

Quickly thereafter, pundits speculated what Ginsburg’s comments would mean for the then-forthcoming rulings on California’s Proposition 8 gay marriage ban. The New York Times Editorial Board went so far as to comment that “overblown fears of a backlash based on a false reading of politics before and after Roe v. Wade could lead the Supreme Court to shy from doing as it should — enforcing equal protection by declaring same-sex marriage a constitutionally protected right in every state.”

Of course, it’s impossible to know if such a sentiment of caution dissuaded more moderate members of the bench to rule on the constitutionality of gay marriage bans in Hollingsworth v. Perry that year. But with another marriage challenge scheduled for oral arguments next month, it’s timely to consider again what backlash (if any) a nationwide ruling extending same-sex marriage to the 13 states that currently don’t recognize it would have. Could a pro-gay ruling ultimately undermine gay rights by making martyrs of traditional marriage proponents for decades to come? In other words, could Obergefell v. Hodges  — as the upcoming case is cumbersomely named — be the Roe v. Wade of our time?



The historic city of Cesky Krumlov

US and international undergraduate and graduate students are invited to apply to this year’s International Summer School seminar on “Classical Liberalism in Philosophy, Economics, and Politics,” taking place in the Czech Republic from July 12 to 18, 2015.

The CEVRO Institute’s School of Legal and Social Studies, Ohio University, and Florida State University are collaborating to host 35 students in Prague and Český Krumlov — two places that, historically, exemplify a lack of freedom. All students interested in broadening and deepening their knowledge of classical liberalism and the fundamentals of the free market are encouraged to apply. Class sessions and debates will focus on topics covering political philosophy, history, economics, and economic policy.

One 2014 participant says, “It is a good opportunity to explore classical liberalism ideals with a diverse group of people in a city with a past that reminds you how important freedom is.” Others praise the program for its global scope, in part due to the students’ origins, and also because program coordinators come from the US, Czech Republic, and Slovakia to teach these young scholars. This year’s speakers include Richard Veddar — an Independent Institute scholar and Ohio University professor of economics — and Mark LeBar — an Institute for Humane Studies Summer Seminar facilitator and Florida State professor of philosophy — among others.

US participants are eligible for full scholarships, and non-US students will receive discounted tuition. More information can be found at CEVRO’s website here.

Libertarians often discuss theories and accomplishments by major figures who themselves identify as libertarian, such as Ludwig von Mises, Murray Rothbard, Ayn Rand, Ron Paul, and others. Yet there are many ideas and achievements that have been conceived and realized by non-libertarians that nonetheless deserve praise from libertarians.

An earlier article I wrote about George Carlin noted that he once described libertarianism as “pretentious,” yet his monologues reached an audience of millions and enabled them to rethink their views on many issues, often times in a pro-liberty direction. I noted that he was an “unlikely hero for liberty” as he brilliantly intertwined political commentary and comedy at a time when it had almost never been done before.

President Ronald Reagan and General Secretary Gorbachev signing the INF Treaty

President Ronald Reagan and General Secretary Gorbachev signing the INF Treaty

Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev is another non-libertarian figure who epitomizes this phrase, as well. Gorbachev was the leader of the Soviet Union during the 1980s, in a tenure that closely coincided with that of Ronald Reagan. While Reagan is regarded by many on the Right as a proponent of freedom, Gorbachev is much lesser-known in most Western countries. Considering the violent formation of the Soviet Union during the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917 and the oppressive rule of Josef Stalin, it seems unlikely that a man who had been a member of the Communist Party since 1950 could make significant strides towards liberty. Yet, that is exactly what Gorbachev did in his tenure as leader of the Soviet Union.

A member of the Communist Party since the Stalin era and proponent of state socialism, Gorbachev was also a man who unwittingly realized that reforms were needed in a pro-liberty direction for the economic stability of Russia and Eastern Europe, so he worked to ensure increased freedom and opportunity for hundreds of millions of people throughout the East. Gorbachev’s actions and remarks were not libertarian in many instances, but his signature accomplishment of almost single-handedly ending one of the world’s most oppressive regimes is something that deserves high praise from all who believe in liberty. (more…)