AEM Europe and PCPE in Prague, April 21-24 2016

I have recently returned home from 4 days of Prague, Czech Republic, where I attended two conferences: Austrian Economics Meeting Europe and the Prague Conference on Political Economy. After having been secluded from Austrian economists and Libertarians for almost 2 years, it felt like a homecoming to be surrounded again by people who share similar thoughts. This was after all the only place in the last two years where I was able to fully express my (´controversial´) ideas about society. Being surrounded by tremendously smart people – you have to be rather smart and geeky to give up part of your free time or professional work in order to visit conferences and discuss philosophy, politics and economics – within the beautiful city of Prague made it a wonderful experience.

The AEME came about after the summer of 2014 when those from Europe who visited Mises University that year decided to come together again to discuss classical liberal ideas in the spirit of Carl Menger, Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich von Hayek and Murray Rothbard. The first AEME event took place in 2015 in Vienna, Austria, the city where the Austrian School of economic thought emerged from the works of Carl Menger, Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk, Friedrich von Wieser, and others. The Austrian School is famous for its methodological struggle against the Prussian Historical School and their idea that economics is culture- and time-specific and therefore does not contain universal validity. The Austrian School is also famous for such theoretical contributions as the subjective theory of value (as opposed to Marx’ labour theory of value), theory of marginal utility, opportunity cost doctrine, Austrian business cycle theory, the time structure of production and consumption, methodological individualism and the economic calculation problem that was first formulated by Ludwig von Mises in 1920 and later expanded upon by Friedrich von Hayek to show that pricing systems in socialist economies were necessarily deficient. From a socio-political perspective, the School argues for limited government and some even for libertarian anarchism.

AEME pubAEME participants sharing their last evening in Prague in a local pub

What was great about the second AEME is that it took place right before the PCPE conference at the CEVRO Institute. Most of us who attended AEME have stayed two extra days to attend the PCPE conference as well. The CEVRO Institute is a private university founded in 2005 that is located in the very centre of the city of Prague. The university prides itself in its emphasis on freedom, markets, and its innovative character that is for example manifested in its PPE (Philosophy, Politics, Economics) programme taught by such international illustrious professors as Michael Munger who is also director of Duke University’s PPE programme, Peter Boettke who is the director of the F.A. Hayek Program at George Mason University, David Schmidt who is director of the Center for the Philosophy of Freedom at the University of Arizona, Boudewijn Bouckaert who was the former dean of the Faculty of Law at the University of Ghent, and Josef Sima who is the president of the CEVRO Institute. The institute has invited several prominent speakers for its conference. Prof. Mark Pennington (London School of Economics) was for example invited to present “Why most things should probably be for sale”. Prof. Benjamin Powell who is the director of the Free Market Institute at Texas Tech University was there as well to speak about “Migration, Economic Calculation, and the European Situation.” Prof. Mario Rizzo (New York University) had the honour to be the keynote speaker and spoke about “The four pillars of new paternalism” which was followed by commentaries from Prof. Pascal Salin, former president of the Mont Pelerin Society.

Mario Rizzo - PCPEMario Rizzo’s talk on “The four pillars of new paternalism”

The second day of the PCPE conference, there were 27 speakers spread over 9 sessions on such topics as economic theory, anarcho-capitalism, the Austrian School, entrepreneurship, cryptocurrencies, the role of family and more. I was one of the speakers and spoke on the “Philosophical investigation of seasteading as the means to discover better forms of social organization”. The thesis of my talk was that one core focus of political philosophy is to deal with the realities of value pluralism and political disagreements. I contended that the most common form of social organization, representative democracy, does not satisfactorily deal with these realities. Therefore, we should look for political possibilities beyond representative democracies and that in order to discover these possibilities, we should experiment with new forms of social organizations. By approaching the issue from a meta-system level perspective and realizing that governments are resistant to structural societal changes we should then introduce competition into the industry of governments. Seasteading, the creation of habitable dwellings on the oceans, could serve as a means to introduce more competition in the industry and lessen political tensions between citizens who hold different comprehensive doctrines.

Chhay Lin - PCPEMe speaking at PCPE about Seasteading as the means to deal with such political realities as value pluralism and political disagreements

If I could mention one thing that has made the most remarkable impression on me, it would be the warning issued by Prof. Stephen Baskerville (Patrick Henry College, USA) that the most immediate threat to our liberties is feminism and the social justice movement. He maintained in his talk that there is an ensuing crisis of the family which is perpetuated by the state. According to Prof. Baskerville, family courts can enter homes uninvited, take away people’s children, confiscate their property, and incarcerate them without trial, charge or counsel. With over 50% of all first marriages ending in divorce and more than half of all these divorces involving children, the greatest threat to our liberties is the colluding social work state bureaucracies with radical feminism. These groups have colluded to suppress information on such injustices. Listening to Baskerville’s talk, I felt the great urgency to engage in an intellectual battle against feminism and the social justice movement.

Other than the many intellectually invigorating moments, the city itself provided many magnificent sites. To mention several sights: we visited a beer garden, experienced a classical music concert at the Mirror Chapel, walked over the Charles Bridge, and visited the Prague Castle.

Prague Charles BridgeThe beautiful Charles Bridge crossing the river Vltava

All in all, the city of Prague, AEME and PCPE were an unforgettable experience! It has already been decided that next year’s AEME conference will take place in Krakow, Poland. The conference will be open for anyone who is interested in Austrian economics and libertarianism. For more information on AEME and the papers that were presented in the previous editions, you can find our website here. In case you are interested in studying at the CEVRO Institute and its MA PPE programme with specializations in “Austrian Economics”, “Studies of Transition”, and “International Politics”, you can visit their website here.

Vote Different. Be A Libertarian. Let Life Live

John McAfee’s latest political campaign ad is inspiring as it asks voters to vote libertarian. It is an homage to Apple’s “Think Different” ad as well as to individual freedoms, creativity and intellect.

The video shows ‘rebels’ and game-changers who have moved the world forward. You do find Steve Jobs, Elon Musk, Edward Snowden, Julian Assange, Peter Thiel, Bradley Manning, Ross Ulbricht, Martin Luther King, Ayn Rand and many more. You even see Bitcoin and crypto-capitalism which is simply another form of libertarian anarchism. Ending with the lift-off of a spaceshuttle, the ad presents a message of hope for libertarians and a message of progress as long as we “let life live”.

The same celebration of human individualism and message of hope was also apparent in McAfee’s earlier campaign ad that was released two weeks ago.

Small thought on Carpe Diem, regrets, suicide and happiness

Another small thought from my conversation with a friend… This time on carpe diem, regrets, suicide and unhappiness after I heard about a recent wave of suicides among students in Hong Kong.

Carpe diem is a great concept, because at its core lies the love of fate. Loving fate makes us fearless, lets us accept our situations, happiness, sadness and therefore gives us the power to see every circumstance as an opportunity to seize. Only by loving fate, we can truly seize the days.

Nietzsche spoke very well when he said:

“I want to learn more and more to see as beautiful what is necessary in things; then I shall be one of those who make things beautiful. Amor fati (the love of fate): let that be my love henceforth! I do not want to wage war against what is ugly. I do not want to accuse; I do not even want to accuse those who accuse. Looking away shall be my only negation. And all in all and on the whole: some day I wish to be only a Yes-sayer.”

There is one more thing that we haven’t mentioned, but that is necessary to seize our days, I think. That is ‘regret’. We have to use regret as a source of motivation and we have to use sadness as a compass that directs us into the direction of greatness and happiness. I hope that those students who are going through much hardship will eventually realize that regrets are positive influences in their lives and that they should motivate them to choose a better life over suicide.

I may be wrong, but I think that suicide is fundamentally an action that is derived from our fears. It is not because people dislike life that they commit suicide, it is because they fear judgments or failures. So if we would like to help them, we shouldn’t instill in them an appreciation for life more than an appreciation for fearlessness. That is something I see all around me: people who are fearful of judgments. They cannot deal with expectations, which are oftentimes dogmatic like the expectations to have good grades, to marry, to earn a living etc. School is an awful place where such expectations are instilled into the minds of the young. When you are put together in class with others that have the same age, that study the same things, that are expected to get good grades for the same tests you are taking, you are naturally comparing yourself to your peers. Of course there are always people that are better than you, and therefore always more reasons to be unsatisfied. If there is one thing we as a society should do if we truly care about the well-being of our children, we should carefully look at our education system and take it apart.

Talking about suicide, regrets, unhappiness, carpe diem… there’s this song I really like which is quite meaningful:

And the lyrics: “Time shows fair weather, friends abandon you, Remember and I will be reborn, Love grows above what fate has handed you, It’s darkest right before the dawn.”

I also realize that most people say that we should live without regrets and that this is carpe diem. This seems to be a false notion to me. True carpe diem would be to live WITH our regrets as they are the sources of our motivations, and they are signs of our awareness of a multitude of potentialities or possibilities in life. Carpe diem, in the sense of the modern YOLO attitude, is too stringently preoccupied with actuality which in consequence becomes blind for possibilities in life.

Without regrets, without motivations, without the awareness of our mortality, without the attitude to assess possibilities in life we would be nothing more than powerless wild beasts whose fates are entirely determined by circumstances and emotional contingencies. Our future would be truly dark.