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Michael Maalouf: connecting libertarians in Lebanon

Michael Maalouf, a Students For Liberty activist in Lebanon, discusses his experience of working to connect libertarians in a country in dire need of greater freedom and competition.

“Where I live, electricity shuts down from 1 p.m. until 4 a.m. In some areas it’s much worse.”

“People have to pay for the regular electricity that the government provides  – but that they have failed in providing since 1991 – and it’s getting worse. Being without electricity became a daily thing, even though we shouldn’t get used to it. We [should] have everything over here. Yet we have to leave because of our government’s policies.”

“I’m trying to help out the youth here as much as I can, with my own capabilities. The situation for Lebanese youth is really bad. A lot of them are unemployed – I was one of them after graduating but, luckily, I found a job. I could have been one of them. Now I work doing economic research with an NGO.”

“My introduction to liberty was through a university course that I took with Dr. Saifedean Ammous. He’s well known in the Bitcoin world and had a libertarian perspective. Later on, I took a political economy class where I got the full picture about libertarianism and I really agreed with everything they said because it just made sense.”

“Then, I joined Students For Liberty in Lebanon. The first event that we did was a boot camp in the summer of 2018 – a two-day event full of workshops and sessions. I never knew that there were libertarians in the Arab world, so it was a very beneficial event which introduced SFL to the Lebanese youth.”

Connecting people to the liberty movement

“I’m connecting libertarians in Lebanon for them to chart how they will help each other. People get to know where they can get scholarships that are related to economics or political science. We’re sharing job opportunities that are outside Lebanon, or that include remote jobs because the salaries here are hard to live on even with a minimalist lifestyle. They get to know more books, discuss them, and to know the ideas properly. They get well-educated. And the most important thing is that the students are introduced to SFL.”

“Lebanon is the perfect example to show how libertarianism is misinterpreted. Everyone thinks that it is a libertarian heaven and everyone is free. It’s not, because the government handles electricity and water and has a lot of say in a lot of things. This means there are a lot of limitations for people’s lives. People think that the country is a ‘libertarian jungle.’ Leftists in Lebanon use this term even though they don’t understand it. The thing is that the whole political class has this green light to step on other people’s liberties, and just move on.”

“What the left doesn’t understand is that what they are demanding would make them more miserable in the future, because they’re giving the government more power without realizing it. I never saw a Lebanese politician who was threatened by the leftist movement or the new civil society movements. They’re all happy because they can just keep their power on.”

“To me, liberty means that a person is well equipped and well disciplined to move above the obstacles that the world places in front of them. It’s when a person is comfortable with being who they are, comfortable to do what they want to do, but that doesn’t mean that they can be comfortable when they are stepping on other people’s rights.”

“An economically free Lebanon would be a country where real private competition would exist. The electricity would be private, the water services would be private, the waste management collecting would be private. A free Lebanon would be when the government doesn’t get into all of these services; it’s more decentralized.”

“As it is now, a lot of people have to rely on government jobs to make a living. Liberty is when we have a good economic and political climate in the region that doesn’t stop us or place obstacles in front of us. I think this is when Lebanon can be fully free.”

“Lebanon has a lot of potential as a strategic location but, sadly, after the Beirut explosion, we lost a lot of our strategic advantage in the area. I still believe that we can revive that. I envision Lebanon to be a free hub, like Singapore.”

“It’s small work that I do. It’s very individual-level work. If I help a few people understand more about libertarianism, or help out one or two people to get a job, I think it would be very good. I don’t like to place things on a high level and say, ‘Oh, I want to bring jobs to hundreds of people.’ I am realistic about how everyone should be working in society, because we always wait for others.”

“One individual helping other individuals is how libertarianism works. It should be how society works.”

Michael Maalouf

Beirut, Lebanon