032713_lft

A Meeting at 30,000 Feet

I’m looking out the airplane window, marveling that the clouds are below me. My computer is out and I’m surfing online. As usual, I inhale a big intake of air, still dazzled that this is possible.

A notification pops up that there is a meeting taking place in Austin, Texas, a digital Meetup sponsored by the Mises Circle as run by a student name Michael Goldstein. I’m invited to join.

Surely, their bandwidth won’t support my joining. But I figure I will try it anyway. Suddenly, I find myself on camera along with many others, and looking not only at others who have entered the digital space, but also at a group of students in a room where the meeting itself is taking place.

So I do a double take, glancing at my screen and out the window again, and I almost have to pinch myself. I’m flying above the clouds, yet I’m also on the ground in Texas. In technological parlance, the whole thing is made possible by “cloud computing,” but it is also literally true.

When exactly did this kind of thing become possible? There was no headline in The New York Times. There was no grand announcement. I’m not even sure myself when this became possible. Google Hangouts are about 18 months in existence, but the technology keeps improving bit by bit. It seems almost like it all happened in the blink of an eye.

Remember how people warned us about how digits would destroy personal contact? How we would all get sucked into the Web vortex of fake friendship and digital relationships and lose the ability to engage each other face to face?

As far as I can tell, experience is showing the opposite. The digital world is making possible new forms of robust physical networks too, people meeting face to face in social settings that did not and could not have existed even five years ago. And these physical meetings are integrating with digital ones.

And maybe that’s the great benefit of the digital turn. Digits link real-life human beings in ways that had never been possible in previous ages. This allows the formation of human communities to serve a crucial social and political function: They serve as a buffer between the individual and the state. Such networks are essential for the building of human liberty.

Today, there are thousands of gatherings of people from all walks of life that would not otherwise exist. There is a simple reason. Now we can form them and get the word out, and others can find out about them. These enthusiast groups cover crafts, running, surfing, painting, music, technology, philosophy, religion, investment, and every other conceivable thing.

For example, I just returned from an exciting speaking tour of sorts in southeast Texas. Gatherings of this sort — huge cross sections of people from many walks of life — would have been so much more difficult in the pre-digital era. Why? Well, in the past, the organizers might not have known there was a demand, they might not have had the resources to promote, and people wouldn’t have thereby known they should even attend at all.

But with the digital world of Web communities and social media, it all came together quite beautifully. There was a traditional meet and greet in a restaurant one night with a standing-room-only crowd where your editor gave a talk on new strategies for reclaiming our right to be free. This was sponsored by Liberty on the Rocks, an expanding network of meetings all over the country for libertarians.

At the main event, held at Stephen F. Austin State University, in Nacogdoches, Texas, Young Americans for Liberty and the Charles Koch Foundation sponsored a conference on libertarian ideas, as well an event with a more formal and academic approach (but still fun!).

Stefan Molyneux gave a paper on how politics compromise ethics. Jessica Hughes eviscerated the idea that the Constitution is a source for freedom and human rights. Stephan Kinsella presented an illuminating case against John Locke’s idea that we own the products of our labor. Your editor presented a tutorial for living outside the state.

The place was packed, with people coming from long distances to be there. We even had one digital speaker. Walter Block appeared on Skype on the big screen and answered a number of audience questions on banking, labor, the environment, and other matters.

Stefan Molyneux, Stephan Kinsella, yours truly,
and other “meet and greeters,” at Liberty in the Pines, Feb. 23, 2013.

It was a fun, educational, and exciting experience. We all take this for granted, but again, trying to put this kind of meeting together 20 years ago would have been nearly impossible. Today, it is commonplace. In fact, even this very evening, I’m speaking at a student gathering that was easily formed and promoted through Facebook and Twitter, whereas it would have required plastering posters all over campus in the past.

I first began to sense this some years ago when a friend of mine moved to Shanghai. Had this happened 20 years ago, this young American would have been lost and isolated for years, maybe forever. But he and his wife notified their network in advance and arrived with a social structure already in place. They moved into a foreign country with an unfamiliar culture where the language is forbidding and still felt right at home.

This type of thing is happening all over the world and probably in your hometown. It began a few years ago with the institution of the Meetup. But over time, many different venues have served the same purpose. Facebook and Google started allowing events to be created, shared, and promoted. And the lines between digital and physical are blurring so that Google Hangouts and Skype meetings of groups commonly extend and entrench the relationships formed in physical spaces.

As a result, all kinds of intellectual societies are becoming ever smarter and more sophisticated. This is particularly true in libertarian circles. Students today are able to read and borrow from thinkers from all ages. Barriers between factions have broken down. The learning never stops, extending from digits to real life and back again. This has put new pressure on me as a speaker, but in a good way: If I ever repeat myself, someone will take note!

Coming up in Las Vegas, July 10-13, 2013, is the largest gathering of the year. The event is FreedomFest, and there could be as many as 3,000 people there. Laissez Faire Books is sponsoring an entire day of talks and panels. We’ll have a large book table of all the speakers’ books. The event keeps growing year after year because it gets better and more people are hearing about it.

Technology has heightened the value of the event, and the event has heightened the value of the technology. They work together. The result is the formation of a new community of people who find new forms of strength, intellectual confidence, and human camaraderie in discovering that we are not alone, but are part of something much larger than ourselves. We are part of a generation radically rethinking the way the world works and the role of politics in society.

Sincerely,
Jeffrey Tucker

Jeffrey Tucker

Written By Jeffrey Tucker

I'm executive editor of Laissez Faire Books and the Chief Liberty Officer of Liberty.me, an innovative private society for publishing, learning, and networking. I'm the author of four books in the field of economics and one on early music. My personal twitter account @jeffreyatucker FB is @jeffrey.albert.tucker Plain old email is tucker@liberty.me

  • SPACE: The Final Frontier Begins

    SPACE: The Final Frontier Begins

    Chris Campbell

    by Chris Campbell
    On Nov 18, 2014

    Would you leave Earth to help colonize another planet? This might sound like an absurd question, but, according to many leaders of thought, its one we might have to confront sooner than later. Chris Campbell explores our journey from air to space, and ponders where we’re off to next. Read on…

  • How to Blow the Whistle (and Not Live to Tell the Tale)

    How to Blow the Whistle (and Not Live to Tell the Tale)

    Chris Campbell

    by Chris Campbell
    On Sep 29, 2014

    If you’ve ever wanted to expose some heinous crime against humanity, here’s your chance. In today’s Laissez Faire Today, Chris Campbell shows you how to make sure the world accesses to your leaks, even if something happens to you. Chris also shares why this is probably a terrible idea. Read on…

  • Edison’s Secret Energy War is Back (Here’s How to Cash in)

    Edison’s Secret Energy War is Back (Here’s How to Cash in)

    Chris Campbell

    by Chris Campbell
    On Sep 23, 2014

    Over a century ago, a hidden energy war began. The bad guys won. For 100 years, man has been a slave to the energy monopolies. But now, miraculously, the good guys are throwing a punch -- and they’re inviting you to fight the good fight. Even promising riches if you do. Chris Campbell fills you in on the full story. Read on…

  • Thrive in Chaos: The Ancient Secret to Self-Sufficiency

    Thrive in Chaos: The Ancient Secret to Self-Sufficiency

    Chris Campbell

    by Chris Campbell
    On Sep 22, 2014

    An ancient guide has been in hiding… until now. As it dusts itself off, some early adopters are calling it “the definitive text on self-discipline, personal ethics, humility, self-actualization and strength.” And, according to Chris Campbell, it could be the only thing you need to thrive in our day-to-day life of modern chaos. Embrace it, and become the hero of your own story. Ignore it, and risk living a whimper of a life on someone else’s terms. Read on…

  • The 3-D Printing Story You Weren’t Told (and How it Ruined My Face)

    The 3-D Printing Story You Weren’t Told (and How it Ruined My Face)

    Chris Campbell

    by Chris Campbell
    On Sep 18, 2014

    “What… is… that?!”That’s what one colleague asked when she saw this on my desk…My face, according to 3-D printing“My face,” I said. “What does it look like?”“Uh…”OK, sure. It’s a rough depiction. Eh. It’s pretty choppy…And, as you can see, the glasses didn’t really take well… making for an eerie sunken eye look.Didn’t really turn […]

  • shutterstock_83366287

    The Story of a Reluctant Winemaker

    Joe Maga

    by Joe Maga
    On Dec 15, 2014

    Sometimes life deals you lemons. It’s up to you to make lemonade. This month’s Insider Cellar recommended winemaker had no intention of making wine when his family settled just north of Santa Barbara. When our reluctant winemaker’s father walked his land in the early 1980s, he was probably disappointed when he discovered the soil did not have the nutrients to support his strawberry crop

     

  • Bitcoin: Buy Now or Forever Hold Your Peace

    Bitcoin: Buy Now or Forever Hold Your Peace

    Chris Campbell

    by Chris Campbell
    On Sep 17, 2014

    Bitcoin has been pretty quiet lately. But that doesn’t mean big things aren’t taking place behind-the-scenes for the digital currency. In today’s Laissez Faire Today, Chris Campbell pulls back the curtain and shows you how Bitcoin is quietly slipping into the mainstream. He also shows you why now could be the time to buy now, or forever hold your peace. Read on…

  • Net Neutrality: The Story Not Being Told

    Net Neutrality: The Story Not Being Told

    Chris Campbell

    by Chris Campbell
    On Sep 12, 2014

    In an odd mix of fate, protesters and corporations are holding hands. They both have one common goal: save the Internet from the evil cable companies. We all have a common hate for them. But what if the cable companies aren’t as evil as once thought? What if there’s an even bigger evil lurking behind them? There is. Read on…

  • The Only Way to Get Rich: A Zen Proverb

    The Only Way to Get Rich: A Zen Proverb

    Chris Campbell

    by Chris Campbell
    On Sep 10, 2014

    Want to get rich? Don’t listen to financial “gurus,” says Chris Campbell. In today’s Laissez Faire Today, Chris shares a Zen proverb and shows how understanding it is the only real way to get rich (and live a rich life). Read on…

  • HappyFamily

    One Free Website to Keep Your Family Safe

    Chris Campbell

    by Chris Campbell
    On Sep 9, 2014

    Ben Franklin once said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” In today’s Laissez Faire Today, you’ll learn about one FREE website that has the potential to not only keep your family safe – but also open your eyes to what’s happening in your own neighborhood. Chris Campbell has all the details. Read on…

  • SHI0115

    The Only Path to the American Dream

    Ryan Cole

    by Ryan Cole
    On Dec 10, 2014

    This month, I’m going to tell you a hard truth. It’s one that Wall Street brokers and financial analysts try to hide. It’s one that most newsletter writers choose to ignore. In fact—when it comes to the financial world—this is a “secret” that everyone knows… but no one will mention.

     

  • Youre_Incredible

    Use “Power Gaps” to Build Your Own Empire

    Chris Campbell

    by Chris Campbell
    On Sep 8, 2014

    All over the world, power is dying. The dictators and tyrants of the world are no longer able to wield it like they once used to. And they’re losing it to the “little guy.” Chris Campbell shows you how to be the king of your castle by taking advantage of this fact. Today, you’ll learn how to grab “power gaps” in the market and channel them into your product idea or project. Read on…

  • http://pro1.lfb.org/257033?email={emailaddress}

    Cash in on the Hidden Sex Boom

    Chris Campbell

    by Chris Campbell
    On Sep 5, 2014

    Chris Campbell got more than he bargained for during Sunday brunch. In a packed restaurant, he learned about a hidden sex boom that’s taking the world by storm. You won’t believe how much money ordinary Americans are making in this boom. It’s so much…you may even consider cashing in yourself.

  • Hacker

    Celebgate: Your Pictures Are Next

    Chris Campbell

    by Chris Campbell
    On Sep 4, 2014

    Hundreds of pictures of nude celebrities were leaked onto the Internet last week. The mainstream is blaming twenty-something hackers, but according to Chris Campbell, everyone must’ve already forgotten what we learned about the NSA only a year ago. Read on…

  • Free Markets and Malaysian Fireflies

    Free Markets and Malaysian Fireflies

    Chris Campbell

    by Chris Campbell
    On Sep 3, 2014

    The fireflies along the tidal rivers of Malaysia show "feats of synchrony that occur spontaneously, almost as if nature has an eerie yearning for order." Chris Campbell tells you where else this might occur in the world. Also, new technology may revolutionize the agriculture industry and what we think of as a farm.

  • TimeBomb

    Three Time Bombs in Your 401(k)

    Dave Gonigam

    by Dave Gonigam
    On Dec 4, 2014

    They lurk somewhere in everyone’s 401(k) program. Tick, tick… And it might be years before you discover them. Tick, tick… By the time you do… Kaboom! It’s too late. They’ve already blown up your retirement.

     

  • Smoking Pot in the Governor’s Mansion

    Smoking Pot in the Governor’s Mansion

    Chris Campbell

    by Chris Campbell
    On Sep 2, 2014

    Jeff Davis is running for Governor in Hawaii and has an interesting campaign strategy. Also, what motivates hackers is revealed and the findings might surprise you. Finally, Ferguson is discussed in a new light. Chris Campbell has more...

  • The End of Money

    The End of Money

    Bill Bonner

    by Bill Bonner
    On Aug 22, 2014

    When the government pumps trillions of dollars into the economy, they’re not actually printing the money. It enters as digital entries in banks across the country. It’s made the system fast, responsive, and, unfortunately, vulnerable. Now our money is no longer something we hold in our hands, but something that exists on a very susceptible network.

    An article in , ,

  • Time to Take the Plunge in Juniors

    Time to Take the Plunge in Juniors

    Doug French

    by Doug French
    On Aug 19, 2014

    When’s the best time to invest in something? When everyone else is trying to get their money out of it. It might go against conventional thinking, but following the crowd usually makes you miss the real opportunities. At one monetary metal conference recently, the smartest guys in the industry sat down to discuss where these real hidden gems lay.

  • The Moral Case for Self-Driving Cars

    The Moral Case for Self-Driving Cars

    Ronald Bailey

    by Ronald Bailey
    On Aug 18, 2014

    Say goodbye to your boring morning commute. New technologies are changing the way people drive their cars. It’s making them safer, more fuel efficient, and could reshape the way America builds its roads and cities. The only thing that could stand in the way...

  • SHI_December2014

    This Sector Is Ready to Explode 1,000% Higher

    Ryan Cole

    by Ryan Cole
    On Dec 1, 2014

    One industry is expected to grow from an estimated $77 billion sector by the end of 2014… to around $700 billion in 2024. And that, frankly, is a conservative estimate, as you’ll see below. This isn’t because of some resource boom or new discovery. This isn’t because of funny business or a trader play. This is real spending, done by real companies to combat a very real threat. It’s already an established industry but poised for exponential growth. Because the problem it combats is growing exponentially.

     

  • Central Planning by Central Bankers

    Central Planning by Central Bankers

    Gary North

    by Gary North
    On Aug 15, 2014

    In a 2009 article, the Huffington Post went into considerable detail about the number of people with PhD degrees in economics employed by the Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System. This is the government’s branch of the Federal Reserve. It is not one of the 12 regional Federal Reserve banks, all of which […]

  • The Only Email System the NSA Can’t Access

    The Only Email System the NSA Can’t Access

    Hollie Slade

    by Hollie Slade
    On Aug 11, 2014

    When the NSA surveillance news broke last year it sent shockwaves through CERN, the particle physics laboratory in Switzerland. Andy Yen, a PhD student, took to the Young at CERN Facebook group with a simple message: “I am very concerned about the privacy issue, and I was wondering what I could do about it.”There was […]

  • Don’t Ignore These 3 Big Sells

    Don’t Ignore These 3 Big Sells

    Greg Guenthner

    by Greg Guenthner
    On Aug 1, 2014

    Remember that correction we’ve been quietly talking about over the past couple of months?Well, it might be right around the corner. Stocks waited until the last day of the month to nose-dive. The S&P 500 posted its first 2% down day since April — and the Dow wasn’t far behind. Early this morning, futures continue […]

  • Why You’re Probably on an NSA Watchlist

    Why You’re Probably on an NSA Watchlist

    Mike Leahy

    by Mike Leahy
    On Jul 30, 2014

    I was talking with one of my colleagues the other day, and he raised a very interesting question, one that deserves consideration by anyone worried about their digital privacy. He read an article that championed the idea that the more steps one took to protect their privacy by using anonymous Web-browsing tools like Tor, the […]

    An article in ,

  • EightUnusual

    8 Unusual Rules for Investing

    Chris Mayer

    by Chris Mayer
    On Nov 4, 2014

    Where do great investors come from?I’m not sure what the hurdle rate for greatness is, but Guy Spier has put up impressive results. His Aquamarine Fund has returned 463% since inception in 1997, versus just 167% for the S&P 500 (a broad proxy for the market). Put another way, $1 million invested at inception is […]

     

  • Smart Apps vs. Obamacare

    Smart Apps vs. Obamacare

    Greg Beato

    by Greg Beato
    On Jul 23, 2014

    Health care costs in the U.S. have been rising so steadily for so long that containment barely seems possible. Even optimists don’t dream of cutting the price tag. As its official name — the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act — suggests, Obamacare aims for affordability, not radical reduction.But at a time when we’re all […]

  • The Bitcoin Billion-Dollar Discount

    The Bitcoin Billion-Dollar Discount

    Dominic Frisby

    by Dominic Frisby
    On Jul 17, 2014

    When you type a website address into a browser, you might have noticed that the letters “http” appear at the front. “HTTP” stands for Hypertext Transfer Protocol. In typing a Web address, you are actually sending an HTTP command to transmit that website to you. Hypertext Transfer Protocol is the means by which information is […]

  • Predicting A Future Free Of Dollar Bills

    Predicting A Future Free Of Dollar Bills

    Simon Black

    by Simon Black
    On Jul 14, 2014

    Picture the scene. It’s 2020. You’re at the checkout in a convenience store with a carton of milk. But you’ve got no cash and you’ve left your cards at home. No problem. You scan your right index finger; the green light flashes. Purchase approved and you leave. Easy.Is this a realistic vision of the future, […]

    An article in , ,

  • Look Who's Taking Credit for the U.S. Shale Boom

    Look Who’s Taking Credit for the U.S. Shale Boom

    Matt Insley

    by Matt Insley
    On Jul 8, 2014

    After a week of reckoning about the American oil and gas boom… I’ve got to get something off my chest.I can’t stand it when a coworker takes credit for something I did.Whether it’s a special report I wrote or just a little investing trick I found on my own — if someone takes it and […]

  • SHI_November2014

    A Double-Digit Winner That’s Attacking America’s No. 1 Killer

    Ryan Cole

    by Ryan Cole
    On Nov 1, 2014

    I made a choice five months ago. And that choice has saved my life. This wasn’t some instantaneous decision, with danger near. It wasn’t some great “eureka” moment, either. There probably isn’t a person out there who would question what I did. In fact, more and more people are making the exact same choice every day. And each one does it to the sound of applause.

     

  • The Real Forgotten Man

    The Real Forgotten Man

    Chris Mayer

    by Chris Mayer
    On Jul 2, 2014

    Franklin Delano Roosevelt famously used the term “forgotten man” in a 1932 speech to describe those at the bottom of the economic pyramid who, he felt, government should aid.But the originator of the phrase “forgotten man” had a whole different meaning in mind. He aimed to expose the seeming good intentions of government to reveal […]

  • Join 200 Other Wildcatters Plotting a Course for the Baby Bakken

    Join 200 Other Wildcatters Plotting a Course for the Baby Bakken

    Matt Insley

    by Matt Insley
    On Jun 27, 2014

    I want to share some insight and give you a front-row seat to America’s next big shale play.Let’s get to it…Over the past 10 years, the U.S. has turned the ship around, quite literally.We’ve gone from a country that was expecting to import massive amounts of oil and gas — to a country that’s sitting […]