Liberty Is the Politics of Love

You know you love someone when you want for them what they want for themselves.

The three little words that really convey this sentiment are not, “I love you,” which can mean all kinds of things to all kinds of people; rather they are, “As you wish.”

Love is kind, expansive, proactive, and fundamentally non-constraining. And although some of us may disagree on a positive definition of love, we can surely all agree about what it is not: restricting, compelling, imposing, or violating the right of another to pursue his own happiness and self-actualization. Those characteristics attach to something altogether incompatible with love – and that is Fear.

And it is evident that fear has also been the driver of our nation’s politics for many years.

In a divided nation, as partisans work to use the political system and the institutions of power to impose their worldview on those who disagree with them, could we develop a politics not of Fear or imposition, but of Love? What would it look like? What system or philosophy could possibly be Love, politicized?

The answer is the politics of Liberty. Liberty, like Love, says to its recipients, “As You Wish” or “I want for you what you want for yourself.” Liberty seeks to build a society in which people can express themselves most fully because they can express themselves most freely.

While this identity between Liberty and Love is for me the best argument for the former as a political philosophy, it poses serious challenges to those of us who are fighting for it.

As I discussed with the wonderful Jeffrey Tucker on two episodes of my Blue Republican Radio show, liberty that is not Loving is not true liberty. Even libertarianism, like all political philosophies, can become a dogma, purporting a principled basis but in practice chiefly concerned with proving its own rightness and imposing itself on unwilling recipients. Even libertarianism can be imposed without consent – but only if it is not loving, and fails to put people first.

Tucker calls the latter tendency “Brutalism,” after the architectural school that was associated with the Soviet ideology and era – for, like brutalist architecture, brutalist libertarianism refuses to make any concessions to the culture, history or aesthetics of the people who are supposed to benefit from it – a refusal it justifies by its own supposed functional rightness and an appeal to a neat system of ideas.

If true Liberty (“as you wish”) is the politics of Love (“as you wish”), then what does that tell those of us who seek to bring more of the former to our national politics? The power of this question follows from the fact that most human beings have a very deep and clear experiential understanding of Love.

Some of the specific qualities of love are so obviously those of Liberty that there is little that needs to be said about them. For example, both refuse to aggress against another. Neither seeks to constrain another, except in emergency situations, perhaps, when someone’s life is in immediate danger, unperceived by the endangered party.

But Love is more multi-faceted than that and, therefore, so is Liberty.

First of all, Love is inherently humble. If you love someone, then you want to know what makes them happy, so Love shuts up for long enough to hear. Love listens. It listens to the beloved and acts on what it hears. Love acknowledges that different people experience and express Love in different ways. Even when it hears from the beloved something that seems misguided, wrong or even unloving, it doesn’t assume its own superiority, acting in a way that rejects what it heard as valueless. That variation in experience and expression of Love among people is in no way inconsistent with Love as a universal – and perhaps the fundamental – human value.

Similarly, the politics of Liberty must understand that Liberty, itself – like Love – may mean different things to different people. And similarly, also, that variation in experience and expression of Liberty is in no way inconsistent with Liberty’s being a universal – and perhaps the fundamental – political value.

Love is concerned with consequences, seeking to improve itself and adjust when the actions of the Lover are received badly by the Beloved. In other words, it is concerned and it is responsive. That makes it empirical. There is not, and there cannot be a dogma or orthodoxy of Love. No formula. It remains rooted in the human experience. And so Love is not measured theoretically by some abstract or impersonal metric: rather, it is measured in large part by the experience of those at whom the Love is directed. Like Love, Liberty should never forget that its primary purpose and measure is the happiness of people – and the facilitation of our own and other’s self-realization.

Further, Love recognizes that it has various manifestations, flavors and expressions. It even allows that sometimes, in the hands of imperfect people, it can produce completely opposite results.

In our life, we may love different people differently, and we may love the same people differently as they change, or as we do. The lesson for those who pursue political liberty is the need for sensitivity to context: an appreciation that different societies, cultures and historical traditions may use liberty to build different institutions, emphasize different principles, evolve in one way or another. Libertarians benefit their cause by respecting what a culture has already built with it. Just at “Love” that is maintained against the will of the Beloved, and denies what the Beloved values, is not Love, so a form of “Liberty” that is rejected by the people for whom it is promoted, is not Liberty.

Love is unifying. Just as Lovers do not divide against each other because their Love brings them to opposing conclusions in a few areas of their lives, so libertarians should take care not to divide among themselves because various of their number experience Liberty in ways that lead them to opposite positions in certain specifics. If they do so, they lose the opportunity to build what otherwise they may have been able to build together.

Love is respectful. It allows people to follow their own path, even when the one who Loves can see the pain that the Beloved is about to choose. By definition, letting people follow their path is the essence of Liberty, too. Sometimes, sadly for the one who Loves, the Beloved is not ready to receive the Love that is offered to them. At such times, the person who Loves may have to wait patiently and calmly, remaining open to the Beloved but standing far enough back not to impose. Parents, for example, when they look at their children, have a particularly deep sense that the point of the human experience is the journey – not the finding of a “right destination” and sitting there. And when they see their kids follow a path that will result in pain or difficulty, they don’t put down their children for their idiocy or lack of moral rectitude, but allow them to make their mistakes, as they did, being ready to support them when the request comes.

Said John Ruskin in 1870,

One evening when I was yet in my nurse’s arm I wanted to touch the tea urn, which was boiling merrily. My nurse would have taken me away from the urn, but my mother said let him touch it. So I touched it. And that was my first lesson in liberty.

And it was entirely consistent with his mother’s love.

Love lets people follow their own path that not only for this metaphysical reason that life is a journey, but also for the practical reason that judging someone for a mistake that they cannot perceive and insisting that they comply with your judgment always backfires. It breeds resentment and alienation.

The lesson for libertarians? Part of loving liberty, and part of loving people – and those two things are the same thing – is to be respectful in the face of people’s mistakes and ill-informed opinions. In particular, recognize that part of being human is at times not to behave consistently with one’s values, or the facts on the ground. Treat the mistaken with respect because only then will he or she open to you and your ideas when they are ready to hear them. Libertarians are imperfect and have plenty to learn too.

For most people, politics is the society-wide application of morality. These are the same people that when they love their children, or their husbands or their wives, don’t just express that love in allowing them their freedom and doing them no harm. Rather, they actively care. Ultimately, Love cares. People who love make compromises. They go out of their way to ensure that their interactions with their beloved are fair, not just in their own sense of fairness, but in a way that is judged as fair by their Beloved.

Similarly, those of us who seek to reclaim our political liberties might appreciate that some of our ideas, if implemented without consideration of the thoroughly illiberal circumstances of many of our countrymen whom they’d effect, could do immediate harm – not because the ideas are wrong, but because we would be disrupting an equilibrium, transitioning from one state of affairs to another, in a way that some people who did not chose the change with us, are not ready for. Many of those are people who have been disempowered by their dependence on the state. Think of the young adult who’s been brought up in a house where he’s never seen a parent work, but watched his one parent cash the welfare check to survive week after week. And others have been made promises by the state which – although they perhaps should not have been made – should not be broken without extremely good cause. Think of the old state worker who’s paid his payroll tax for a lifetime and has expected for a lifetime the huge pension he is contracted to receive from his nearly bankrupt state.

If Liberty is the politics of Love, then caring for such people during a transition to what is Good and free is as much a duty of the libertarian as the transition itself. It is the very society that we seek to change that, after all, put many of them in the positions they are in.

I am convinced that such a humble, respectful, empirical and actively caring posture of Love is the best way making the case for true individual liberty sufficiently congruent and compelling that it will change our nation. The Love = Liberty equation reminds us that to speak of Liberty is not to speak about a political system, but to speak about the state of the spirit, or the soul, or simply humanity, itself.

Love is not indifferent. Libertarians may be entirely right that civil society should take care of most of what the state does today. But if the rest of the country cannot see the movement care – cannot see that it is concerned to offer those civil solutions and alternatives inasmuch detail as it points out the faults of what we have – they will rightly believe that we’re more concerned with our philosophy than with people.

More concerned, in other words, with Liberty than Love.

And that would be a contradiction in terms.

The Huffington Post originally published this article.

Charlie Deist: Fan the Flames of Freedom

I recently jumped at the opportunity to attend the back-to-back Liberty English Camps in the Czech Republic and Italy – not as an instructor, but as an American onlooker and quasi-participant. The balance of lectures, leisure, conversation, and sight-seeing was exactly what I was looking for in a vacation, but the package delivered much more than just a rest from my daily routine.

In lectures, workshops, and casual conversation, we examined how laws and norms differ in the European continent versus the Anglosphere, and how the the West of Europe differs from the East. Thus day trips functioned as applied lessons in liberty and free markets, which continue to set the world alight with a burning, pulsing network of voluntary exchange (even my American ignorance of native languages and culture was no barrier to trade!).

In Sorrento, our distinguished speaker John Chisholm gave workshops in entrepreneurship, encouraging each participant to “unleash their inner companies.” It was inspiring to watch students reflect on their freedom in practical terms, and to brainstorm real ways of creating value for society and the individual. Back in America, it’s easy to fall into the habit of taking these freedoms for granted, even as they continually come under siege. Thanks to the vividness of the lessons provided by the camps, though, I won’t quickly forget the need to keep fanning the flames of freedom.

Liberdade! The Brazil Liberty Seminar

The Brazil Liberty Team, left to right: Patrick Reagan, Mart van der Leer, Juan Carlos Hidalgo, Glenn Cripe

The Brazil Liberty Team, left to right: Patrick Reagan, Mart van der Leer, Juan Carlos Hidalgo, Glenn Cripe.

On Tuesday morning our Liberty Team left the city of Porto Alegre, capital of Rio Grande do Sul, the southernmost state in Brazil. After a 5-hour bus ride we arrived in the city of Rio Grande, one of the country’s busiest maritime ports. For our wonderful hosts’ group Clube Atlântico, founded about 6 months ago, it was the first time they received international guests. Nonetheless, thanks especially to the efforts of Camilla, Eduardo, Heber and Everson we felt so welcome and comfortable it was like meeting old friends!

In a city known for its strong unions related to the port and city, the group has encountered aggressive opposition from left-leaning (student) groups. Though such groups apparently don’t shy away from vandalizing property in order to make a point, the Liberty Seminar was not interrupted by a confrontation. After a word of welcome from Clube Atlântico’s president Henrique, Glenn introduced the Language of Liberty Institute to the audience followed by Patrick’s empowering speech about educational alternatives and homeschooling, and a talk on marketing liberty by Mart.

After the break the attendees were treated to an eloquent presentation by CATO’s Latin America expert Juan Carlos Hidalgo on how economic freedom leads to economic growth and betters people’s lives. The 35 students that attended the seminar, hailing from all over Brazil, left feeling encouraged and inspired to redouble their efforts for the cause of liberty. During the post-event dinner with our new friends we were told that the event had also attracted new members to the group.

Encountering the sort of opposition we saw in Rio Grande was a new experience even after organizing over 40 programs all over the world, including many former Soviet countries. Still, it is easy to see the amazing opportunity in the city considering the port and the university that attracts students from all over the country. In this hostile environment communicating the message of liberty effectively will be especially important, but if it succeeds the city and its people face a very bright future.

Liberty Camp Brazil students

Liberty Camp Brazil students.

The next day we continued our Liberty Tour and went on our way to Pelotas a little farther inland. The local EPL (Estudantes Pela Liberdade) chapter Clube Austral, founded late last summer, hosted us in the Mercosul lecture room of their university. The event was followed by a dinner at a restaurant called Cruz de Malta, reminding us of our most recent trip with the Language of Liberty Institute.

Early Thursday morning we got on the bus for a long trip through the country en route to Santa Maria – the site of the tragedy at club KISS when a fire cost over 200 young people their lives. Eighteen months later the building is still boarded up, with pictures of students and flowers on the sidewalk reminding everyone of what happened that night. If anything good can be said to come out of such a tragic event, the students and locals bonded and found a lot of support with one another. The local government, however, has made safety requirements so onerous as to prevent any other clubs from continuing or opening up business since, in a city full of young people looking for entertainment.

Authentic Brazilian churrasco

Authentic Brazilian churrasco!

Presenting the empowering and uplifting message of liberty against such a backdrop felt all the more like a blessing. We were joined by Helio Beltrão, founder of Mises Brazil, who gave us his perspective on net neutrality and other current issues in Brazil. The typical Brazilian churrasco (barbeque) hosted by the local group Clube Farroupilha (lighthouse), which has already attracted more than 100 members in only six months, concluded an inspiring and fun evening.

The billions of taxpayer dollars that went into soccer stadiums and infrastructure in remote areas for the upcoming World Cup seem to have spiked skepticism of government policy among Brazilians. It seems that now is a good time for people like our new friends to seize the moment and show people why liberty is the way. The timing for the Brazil Liberty Seminar could not have been any better!

N.B. To see pictures of the Brazil Liberty Seminars, be sure to visit the Language of Liberty Institute’s Instagram profile at instagram.com/languageofliberty!

Liberty Camps in Malta and Georgia

Following our visit to Bosnia in March 2014, Language of Liberty Institute (LLI) organized Liberty Camps in Malta and Georgia.

Malta Liberty English Camp 2014

Our partner for the Malta camp was Freedom and Entrepreneurship Foundation (FEF) of Poland, founded and run by Jacek Spendel, a former LLI camp participant, from 23rd to 30th of April.

The idea of holding a camp in an “exotic” location like Malta was the brainchild of Jacek, who enticed over 20 students from Poland to fly to Malta and combine a Liberty Camp with a “holiday” in this sunny location. Held at the Bugibba Hotel, 45 minutes by shuttle from the airport, it was a unique experience and the first time a camp had been organized in Malta.

In addition to the students who came with Jacek from Poland, another 20 participants came from a dozen other countries and 4 continents to create a “once in a lifetime” experience! The only “sad” part was that none of the participants was from the host country. Malta needs some enterprising people to start a freedom-oriented movement on this island nation in the beautiful Mediterranean Sea.

Attendees of the Liberty English Camp in Malta April 23-30, 2014.

Attendees of the Liberty English Camp in Malta April 23-30, 2014.

Highlights of the camp were a one-day sightseeing-tour of the island and relocation from our hotel conference room to Mellieha beach for a full day of “lectures”, another first for an LLI Liberty Camp!

Back at the hotel for the other days, we enjoyed special presentations from a number of international guest speakers, from Poland (Jacek and Michael, an entrepreneur), from Holland (Mart van der Leer, on the EU), from the US (Matthew Tyrmand, a former Wall Street investment banker on investing and the banking system), from Nigeria (Adedeji Akintayo, on the negative effect of grants and foreign aid on Africa), from Hungary (Mate Hajba), from Norway (Thomas Kenworthy) and from Serbia (Todor Papic, on the war on drugs).

We were also privileged to hear four students from the Ukraine give their opinions and perspectives on the current situation in their country.

Thanks to all participants, lecturers, sponsors and friends of Liberty! All in all, a wonderful experience that will long be remembered, and not just for the sunburns.

Liberty Camp Georgia 2014

After Malta, it was off to Georgia for our second Liberty Camp, organized together with Georgian Students for Liberty (GSFL), led by its president Ilia Meshvildishvili.

The camp was split into two parts: the first two days were held at the Agriculture/Free University on the Tbilisi campus and the next three days at the Bazaleti Lake campus, some 45 minutes from the Georgian capital.

We were honoured to have the recently-elected president of European Students for Liberty (ESFL), Lukas Schweiger, with us for most of the week and to hear his presentations on the history, purpose and success of this growing student movement that has taken the world by storm.

Attendees of the Liberty English Camp in Georgia May 8, 2014

Attendees of the Liberty English Camp in Georgia May 8, 2014.

Also, we had Robin Koerner, founder of the Blue Republican movement in the USA and regular contributor to the “Huffington Post”, who gave several lectures on the meaning of money and the history and current functioning of the global financial and banking systems, explaining the role of central and commercial banks, how money is created, and the consequences.

Presentations from LLI Director Andy Eyschen, from GSFL President Ilia Meshvidishvili on the student movement in Georgia, and from a local entrepreneur (and former Liberty Camp participant) David Khosroshvili, completed the program attended by some twenty students from various universities in Georgia.

Speaking the Language of Liberty

To anyone who has not lived in a cage in recent years, it is clear that libertarianism is gathering momentum and becoming more mainstream. Consequently, those of us who care about liberty should expect to get many questions from “outsiders” about what we stand for. Plenty of misconceptions and objections will need to be addressed as well as questions to be answered. Attending a Liberty Camp organized by the Language of Liberty Institute (LLI) can give you the arrows you’ll need in your quiver to do just that.

Attendees at last week’s Liberty English Camp on the Mediterranean island of Malta can attest to its benefits. Nearly fifty students of thirteen nationalities produced a larger than usual turnout for a Liberty Camp. They learned a lot from many different speakers about why liberty matters, the origin of rights, the war on drugs, seasteading, the difference between real and crony capitalism (from a Wall Street insider, no less), why Estonia attracts a lot of foreign investment, starting the revolution, the European Union, and how to set up an independent Civil Society Organization (CSO). In addition, we were entertained by movies and documentaries, not to mention social events and a talent show to top it all off!

Attendees of the Liberty English Camp in Malta April 23-30, 2014.

Attendees of the Liberty English Camp in Malta April 23-30, 2014.

Liberty Camps are generally held in the countryside of developing nations all over the world, so the small island of Malta provided a slightly different experience. Compared to most seminars or conferences, though, the common denominator for all LLI events is their informal nature; the speakers lead discussion groups and workshop sessions, and blend in with the others during all social events. Along with stimulating English conversation, this is what makes Liberty Camps uniquely suitable for those who are new to the ideas of liberty. After all, how often does one get the chance to hang out with and ask questions of a speaker at a conference or seminar?

I was invited to present the case against the European Union, to which I added strategies for avoiding the statist paradigm in many different areas. (Look for more about that in the coming weeks here). It was the first time I was able to attend a Liberty Camp, and as you can probably tell from the above, I was thoroughly impressed. I’m sure I will attend many more in the future and I will be happy to share my experiences with you here.

The Language of Liberty Institute’s schedule for this year features events in South America, Eastern Europe, Africa, and possibly India. For more information, be sure to visit their website, give the Facebook page a like, and follow LLI on Twitter. There might very well be a Liberty Camp near you this year – or  perhaps you feel inspired to help organize one in your city or country!

All that remains for me to say is a big thanks to the organizers of the Liberty English Camp in Malta for doing a great job making everything run so smoothly, and to all the attendees for their participation. Your enthusiasm made for an incredibly enriching and memorable Malta Liberty Camp!

[FULL DISCLOSURE: I was not compensated for writing this article and singing the praises of the Language of Liberty Institute or the Liberty Camps. This is my genuine opinion I wanted to share with you for informational purposes and for your enjoyment.]

This article first appeared on The Raw Report.