“Nowadays to be intelligible is to be found out.” — Oscar WildeIn the wacky world of American politics, if you as an employer have a religious objection to paying for your employees’ contraceptives, it is you who is contemptuous of religious freedom.As the New York Times editorial board lectured a judge who thinks otherwise, “the […]
Socialism is the big lie of the 20th century. While it promised prosperity, equality, and security, it delivered poverty, misery, and tyranny. Equality was achieved only in the sense that everyone was equal in his or her misery.In the same way that a Ponzi scheme or chain letter initially succeeds but eventually collapses, socialism may […]
Six months ago, I stepped out from the shadows of the United States Government’s National Security Agency to stand in front of a journalist’s camera. I shared with the world evidence proving some governments are building a worldwide surveillance system to secretly track how we live, who we talk to, and what we say. I […]
I opened a new bottle of probiotics this morning, and it had one of those circular seals on the top. You know, the one that reads, “Sealed for your protection.”And that seal got me thinking… how much protection do we need? How much security is enough?How much homogenization, pasteurization, disinfection, national security, etc…. do we […]
Last spring, Barack Obama told the graduating class of Ohio State University:“Unfortunately, you’ve grown up hearing voices that incessantly warn of government as nothing more than some separate, sinister entity that’s at the root of all our problems… They’ll warn that tyranny is always lurking just around the corner. You should reject these voices. Because […]
In the Huffington Post last week, Glenn Greenwald, Slate contributor Ryan Gallagher, and Ryan Grim had an investigative piece reporting that the NSA had been tracking the online porn-viewing habits of several Muslim leaders whom it viewed as radicals. A top-secret document shows that the agency was considering exposing these firebrands’ Internet dalliances as a […]
Americans are still trying to get a handle on the full extent of the government’s domestic spying activities, including the recent revelation that the National Security Agency (NSA) has been collecting and storing the email address books of ordinary Americans using online messaging services. Many users of such services are looking to tech executives for […]
A few months ago at a demonstration against the president of Montreal, Maine and Atlantic Railway, a Canadian citizen made the following claim: “We don’t have guns, we are not Americans, we are civilized.” A few days before, in early July, a train of the company had run away and exploded in Lac-Megantic, Quebec, killing […]
From the Tongue-In-Cheek Department of Laissez Faire Books…Washington, D.C. — Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, announced that her committee will hold a “major review into all intelligence-collection programs.” This surprising declaration followed the revelation, through documents leaked by government whistle-blower Edward Snowden, that the NSA has been listening to the […]
From the Tongue-in-Cheek Department of Laissez Faire Books…Washington, D.C. – The complex negotiations aimed at bringing a long-term solution to the federal government’s expenditure and debt problem have produced an unconventional proposal. “Although the solution only focuses on a tiny fraction of government expenditures,” declared President Barack Obama, “it is a step in the right […]
I’ve just spent a harrowing weekend reflecting on Thomas Paine’s Common Sense, the pamphlet that came out in January 1776 and turned the public toward seeking independence from Britain. I say harrowing because the distance between the ideals found in this pamphlet and those of today’s America is so vast as to be nearly unrecognizable.The […]
It was a wild ride last week in the world of the Deep Web, that section of the Internet that requires special tools to access. The feds took down the site called Silk Road and claim to have arrested its founder and administrator. The news streams were filled with lurid tales of derring-do in this […]
Want to know just how invasive the state is going to get in the United States?Well, take a look across the pond.In terms of the large, invasive state, we English are way ahead of you guys. We’re a good 50 or more years further down the road to serfdom.Nineteenth-century Britain was about as glorious a […]
A tense drama unfolded this week with the virtual shutdown of vital government agencies: the Commodity Futures Trading Commission, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the National Labor Relations Board, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, as well as many other such federal agencies. Without them, the Founding Fathers could not have imagined the republic.Even if fewer […]
Three months after Edward Snowden’s leaks began to reveal the extent of the U.S.’ mass surveillance program, “serious people” are beginning to make the case that it’s time for the outrage and indignation to subside and give way to a “national conversation” about the future of surveillance. So has the moment come for us to […]
A sixth-grader has been suspended for drawing an inappropriate picture. The drawing did not include any gun, but showed a checkpoint backed up by a SWAT team carrying flower pots while an unarmed drone hovered above.The suspended girl, whose name is kept secret at the request of her family, said she “just wanted to draw […]
The second part of this two-part article reveals an untold part of the story about how they were stopped last time. And shows how, if not again stopped, how it could lead to a fundamental loss of civil rights and freedom on the Internet.The offending legislation was barreling down the track, seemingly — even in […]
Two years ago, Hollywood, no kidding, masterminded a plot to, in effect, steal the Internet (by criminalizing certain conduct, booby trapping the Web in ways that few non-mega-corporations could cope with). There are signs, as perceptively flagged by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, that the perps are back at it. We should care.This two-part article reveals […]
It has now been nearly two centuries since French political scientist Alexis de Tocqueville visited America and compared American democracy to the French variety. The Martian asked his Earth correspondent to redo the comparison.The typical Frenchman thinks that Paris is the center of the universe, life without a baguette is not worth living, France is […]
I was at the Canadian border, headed toward the freedom that exists a few feet beyond the last security check. I was gently waved down a side corridor.Ninety minutes later, I was let go, but not before something truly alarming happened. I’m pretty sure that the Canadian government captured a mirrored version of my smartphone […]
Fort Meade, MD – The United States, the least unfree country on Earth, is fighting a major invasion of the Blueshirts.The most visible Blueshirts constitute a 50,000-plus army that occupies all the airports in America. Recognizable by their blue shirts and their inquisitive eyes and hands, they search and humiliate all Americans trying to leave […]
Sometimes, the news of the day causes me to say, “Huh?” The New York Times revelations last month about NSA programs and activities to enhance the agency’s ability to spy on ordinary citizens prompts today’s “Huh?” Who knew that our every phone call, Internet post and tweet is being recorded by the government?I have operated […]
U.S. and British intelligence agencies have successfully cracked much of the online encryption relied upon by hundreds of millions of people to protect the privacy of their personal data, online transactions and emails, according to top-secret documents revealed by former contractor Edward Snowden.The files show that the National Security Agency and its UK counterpart GCHQ […]
Oh, how the media love a good strike. Look at these fast-food workers and peasants standing up to the owners of capital! They aren’t going to take the oppression anymore. The suits in the boardrooms had better shape up and stop hoarding all that money. They need to give it up to the men and […]
Like all great historical ideas, the project of licensing journalists so that they may benefit from the First Amendment was born in a very modest place. In fact, it began in the most modest of all places: the brain of Dianne Feinstein, U.S. senator from California.The new law, which was just adopted by Congress and […]
The position that there need be a state is too often taken for granted.The main body of Sartwell’s book Against the State is dedicated to destroying the arguments for a state from the likes of Hobbes, Rousseau and Hegel. In fact, one thing that becomes crystal clear in reading Sartwell’s book is how bad the […]
Crispin Sartwell is someone you should know. He is doing important work in recovering forgotten greats in America’s anti-authoritarian tradition. Among other works, he’s put forward a lean and powerful book titled Against the State.In what follows, you’ll see why he’s my favorite living philosopher. Sartwell will take you on an intellectual tour de force […]
I’ve found it: the organizing cell of what must be the world’s most dangerous intellectuals. It is right in this room where 100 people now sit, listening and discussing. But instead of heated and sweaty plotting, what we find instead is the atmosphere is of a 19th-century salon: polite, smart, fun. It’s the ambition and dream that is delightfully dangerous: to upend and overturn the oppression that most people in all nations suffer and figure there is little they can do about it.
The cause is liberty, property, and anti-imperialism — same as that which inspired the American Revolution. But the place this time is Bodrum, Turkey — a place that seems to have been founded at the beginning of time — at the beautiful hotel called Karia Princess. It’s in a land I’ve never visited before and couldn’t even imagine before seeing its terrain out of the airplane window.
Yes, I’m a typical American who has a hard time imagining the existence of vibrant, thriving, beautiful world’s outside the nation-state I know best. The farther reaches of Europe’s oldest civilization are precisely this, and filled with surprises around every corner.
The commercial district is teeming with modern energy, with all the newest stuff. But just a few feet away, fishermen sell their catches straight from the boat at the wharf, like a scene from a Renaissance painting. The old and new mix in a symphonic way, and to the same degree that multifarious languages and cultures live side by side in peace.
The meeting is the annual gathering of the Property and Freedom Society, as founded and headed by the famed radical intellectual Hans-Hermann Hoppe, a man who has become a legend in his own time. He makes his home in Istanbul, but comes here once a year to run this little adventure. His newest book, The Great Fiction, has been published by Laissez Faire Books. The book is on display here and is the talk of the conference.
The book takes on the idea of the nation-state most directly. Nations are real, he argues, insofar as we think of them as distinct groups of people with particular cultures and religions. States are something else entirely — gangs of elites who bamboozle the population with ideology into giving up property, freedom, and power that should naturally belong to the people. The answer to the future in the Hoppeian view: Embrace society and abolish the state.
This is an idea that has inspired the world’s most daring intellectuals, many of whom are gathered here. What is the purpose of the meeting? To unleash serious ideas from control by the state, its kept intellectuals, and the craven media classes. The meeting is not open to the public. You have to be invited. Who would turn down such an invitation?
The range of people who receive the invitation is intriguing. Here you will find entrepreneurs, professors, independent writers, information technology experts, financial professionals, and even officials and workers with various government agencies. They come from all over the world, and Americans are in a distinct minority. But there is a sense in which the meeting occurring here is enlightening precisely because of its non-American quality.
The speakers so far have addressed Turkish history and its parallels with Spain, a revisionist perspective of modern Iranian revolutions, the millenarian foundation of Islamic political permutations, the place of the novel in popular culture and the problem of property restitution after revolution. There are talks planned on money, media, regulation, and the history of ideas.
In other words, they are all over the map, always intelligent, always learned, always free of conventional, pre-set orthodoxies. The one rule: No thought is banned. If you into strictures and guidelines for what one must think about this or this, this meeting is not for you. Every talk has caused me to think about some topic a new way.
On the way here, I was preparing for my own talk by doing a close read of Ludwig von Mises’ 1922 book Socialism. I had bumped into a passage in which Mises contrasts two kinds of property: goods whose value is depreciated in use and goods that can be consumed an unlimited amount of times by an unlimited number of people. Mises gives the example of a painting as the second type.
When I saw Hans at the first dinner, I asked him about this passage and whether it foreshadowed his own scarcity-based theory of private property. Impressively, he remembered the passage perfectly, almost like he has just re-read it too. He granted that Mises was getting close to the right idea, and then pointed out that he developed this notion further in his 1940 work published in German.
Moments like this remind us of what it means to be a great intellectual on Hoppe’s level. Ideas live in your mind as real things. Literature and history animate your thoughts and days. Your capacity for comparing and integrating ideas across countries and centuries occupies a much larger place in your mind than the passing headlines of the day.
The meetings have that same tone. But there is also something else. There is true friendship on display here, a level of camaraderie rarely found in this world. The casual conversations tend to be about everything under the sun, with the exception of the usual talk in the U.S. today: presidential politics. In fact, I would recommend to everyone in the U.S. who is fed up with endless disputes between the two ghastly choices to move abroad for at least two months and return only once it is over.
I’m developing the view that political wrangling, especially when there is really not much at stake, is the ultimate enemy of mankind. Partisan politics turn people into enemies when they should and would naturally be friends in a normal society.
In the world of ideas such as is on display here, people can disagree yet still learn from each other. Likewise, and for the same reason, in a marketplace such as you see on the streets of Bodrum, all merchants are happy to cooperate with anyone to mutual betterment.
But with partisan politics, it is different. It’s all about hating your neighbor. For example, if a person believes all of civilization rests on a Romney win, he will naturally and rightly regard all Obama voters as mortal threats, wreckers of the good life itself. And the same is true in reverse.
And consider that the demographics of voting are rather predictable. You can often tell quickly how a person will or will not vote by appearance of station of life. That creates prejudice, bias, and even hate. Thus do politics create these stupid battles between people — for absolutely no reason — and wars against the brotherhood of man. They create the divisions they pretend to heal.
And that is the part of the reason for gathering with people who have completely freed their minds from the illusion that the answer to all social woes is to put this guy instead of that guy in charge. Once you realize that the real energy of society comes from within — and that politics are only a divisive intrusion — you are better able to be friends with others and find the good in diversity of thought. You find that great, magical, and rare thing: ideas growing and expanding because they are leavened by sincerity and dedication to seeking the truth.
Any American traveling abroad these days is struck by something strange: the absence of police. You can move about. You can walk here and there. You are not hounded at every turn by the state. I vaguely recall that this was once true in the U.S. too. But this has changed. In 10 years. That’s fast, but not fast enough that people really become aware of it until they travel abroad.
I’ve recommended for several years that one of the priorities of any young person these days must be to travel. Gain some perspective. See how things work in other places. Discover that other places exist and that there is such a thing as genuine freedom outside the officially designated “Land of the Free.” It’s a new world and the freedom is on the rise, but not within our borders.
The rest of the world does have something to teach Americans. If this dangerous crew gathered in Bodrum has its way and continues to expand its influence, many places in the world could be on the verge of really showing the way forward.