Director's Bulletin, 9th August 2009
Libertarian Alliance Director's Bulletin
9th August 2009
Introduction: My Summer Holiday in Slovakia
I am now back from my annual trip to Slovakia. Deal to Pezinok is just over 900 miles. This makes for a long drive. What makes it tiring at the moment is that the Baby Bear will sleep only while the engine is running, and expects to be entertained when it is not. Doing without sleep should have shortened the journey. However, the Germans have decided to widen the motorway that runs from Frankfurt to the Austrian border, and there was, on account of this, a four hour traffic jam by Wurtzburg, and another by Regensburg. It will make a difference on future journeys if I don’t have to choose between Rumanian lorries at 40mph in one lane and the BMWs at 150mph in the other. That was no consolation to me as I edged forward for half a day at an average 5mph.
Slovakia, for those who have never been there, is nowadays just another European country in the middle of nowhere. When I first arrived there just after the fall of Communism, it was a dirty, mysterious place, where lunatics howled in the grey streets, and you had to queue to get into the shops. There was no doubt that Czechoslovakia would break in half. The real question back then was what would happen next. For all their whining about “Pragocentric” oppression, the Slovaks had national minorities of their own. Would they find themselves at war with Hungary over the solidly Magyar regions on their side of the Danube? Would they be unreasonably horrid to their Gypsies? In both cases, the answer was no. After independence, Slovakia went through about half a decade of Vladimir Mečiar and what often seemed, when I read the newspapers, to be government by car crash. Still, for all his faults, Mečiar left office when he lost an election; and his successors were, by European standards, moderately honest and competent. Nowadays, Bratislava is fringed with cavernous shopping centres and branches of Tesco that dwarf anything to be seen in England. The city centre has been hugely tarted up and given over to coffee bars and shops that have no prices in their window displays.
All this is progress. I wish the majority of shoppers were less peasanty in their tastes. I also pity them for the adoration their political and media class lavish on the European Union. The Ring of Yellow Barbed Wire flies outside every public building. The television pours into every living room the message that being in the Eurozone is to live in the best of possible worlds. It probably is the best of times for those at the top. After a decade of formal accountability to the Slovak people, they now have another external overlord to back them up – and, unlike Moscow, Brussels has unlimited cash. Ordinary Slovaks who believe the propaganda may be in for a nasty surprise. The country seems to have entered the Eurozone at an overvalued rate. At 50 Slovak Crowns to the Euro, the country could have kept the labour cost advantage that got it out of permanent recession in the late 1990s. At 40 Crowns, it would have been no more expensive than any of the other post-Soviet countries of Central Europe. At the 30 Crowns agreed last summer, Slovakia is more expensive for shopping and petrol and electricity than Austria. Sooner or later, there will be downward pressure on Slovak prices and possibly wages, and an investment flight. This will be painful. But, for the moment, there are signs of progress all around. There are pretty things to be bought, and no apparent shortage of money with which to buy them.
Among these pretty things, I have no doubt, will soon be the novels of Richard Blake. My dear friend Mr Blake appeared in Bratislava on Tuesday the 28th July 2009, to attend a reading from his works in central Bratislava. This was organised by the Bratislava City Library, the Bratislava Cultural and Information Service, and the Slovak Association of Translators of Artistic Literature. Watched by a cross section of the reading public, by publishers, and by the Slovak media, Mr Blake sat for two hours answering questions about his work and listening to excerpts read very nicely in Slovak by Jozef Šimonovič. The event was a great success.
The British Council was notable by its absence. The local Director, Andrew Spells, had been repeatedly invited to attend this event ever since it was arranged in May. The Organisers are still awaiting his acknowledgement of their letters and e-mails. I went with Mr Blake to the offices of the British Council, in a street lined with expensive wine bars and eateries. We were told by a nervous clerk that Mr Spells had been called away on “urgent business” that would take up the remainder of the day. Mr Blake has decided to add Mr Spells to the list of people with whom he will conduct a vendetta for the rest of his life. Mrs Gabb, however, tells him to be reasonable. The function of the British Council, she says, is not the promotion of British culture, but to give jobs to people of low intellect but gentle birth. This being so, it would be unreasonable to expect Mr Spells to do more than put his signet ring on the right finger and put on his tie in the morning with the correct elaboration of loops and turns.
Sean Gabb, “What is the Ruling Class?” 29th July 2009 from Sean Gabb on Vimeo.
However, Mr Blake was not long at all in Bratislava. He appeared. He attended his reading. He disappeared. The following day, I gave a speech to the Institute of Economic and Social Studies. This is one of the youngest and most interesting libertarian organisations in Central Europe. Its leaders are always on television, but are aware of, and remain open to, the wilder extremes of libertarian thought. I am not sure if I am quite on the wilder extremes – but Mike Gogulski is. He disclaimed his American citizenship out of disgust for the actions of the American Government. He now lives in Bratislava, where he runs a translation business, and works via the Internet with Kevin Carson. Between catching up with old friends, I gave INESS a repeat of my Bodrum speech on the Ruling Class, which set off a two hour debate with and around me. I have uploaded a video of the first two hours. The sound is acceptable. My excuse for the poor sound is that I am still learning how to place the external microphone I recently bought for my video camera.
New Libertarian Alliance Publications
Carlos A. Gebauer, Public Health and Private Sickness. The Law of Governing Bodies, Administrative Corpses and Ailing Citizens: Illustrations from Germany,
Political Notes, No 194 (html) – (pdf)
Nigel Meek,The Backlash Campaign: Defending S&M is Defending Individual Freedom,
Cultural Notes, No 53 (html) – (pdf)
While on the subject of publications, I will take the opportunity here to repeat my announcement on the matter of republication. If there is anything published by us that you want to republish, on the Internet or in hard copy, please feel free to do so. This permission applies to libertarian and non-libertarian (or anti-libertarian) groups. We do not ask for payment. We do not require to be asked in advance, or to be sent copies of republished material. In return for this general licence, we ask the following:
* That the Author and the Libertarian Alliance should receive full attribution in any republication;.
* That the Author’s words should not be edited to bring him or the Libertarian Alliance into hatred, ridicule or contempt;
* That if a work is republished by any organisation that normally pays for material, the Author should receive fair payment.
I have agreed to speak on libertarianism at Warwick University on Thursday the 19th November 2009. I am discussing other engagements, but need to find space in my diary.
Libertarian Alliance Events
We have no public events this month. However, the other Libertarian Alliance is holding this meeting:
On Monday, 10 August 2009 at 7pm, Stephen Berry will give a talk on “How Britain won the war but lost the empire”. This will be at the Institute of Education, off Russell Square – student bar, Room S13, Thornhaugh Street, off Russell Square, London, WC1B 5EA. I really wanted to be there, but I must look after the Baby Bear every day next week except Friday.
This is not a Libertarian Alliance event. However, I have promised to publicise this one for NO2ID South East:
Is Big Brother Watching You?
Michael Wills MP Justice Minister
Chris Grayling MP Con Shadow Home Sec
Tom Brake MP Lib Dem Home Affairs
Edgar Whitley London School of Economics
Phil Booth NO2ID
Bourne Hall, Ewell, Surry, Wednesday the 9th September 2009 at 7.30pm
Contact: Geoff Cox 01306 631377 firstname.lastname@example.org
Free Entry / Bar Open
Libertarian Alliance Book Recommendation
My very dear friend, Richard Blake, has asked me to repeat that his latest novel, The Terror of Constantinople has met with universal applause. The hardback edition has now sold out, and Hodder and Stoughton have decided to break out the export paperbacks. You can order copies from Amazon at http://tinyurl.com/bgx5a2. You really should order a copy – preferably two or three dozen copies.
Here is a fine review of the novel by Kevin Carson, the great mutualist libertarian:
Here is another fine review by L. Neil Smith, the great science fiction novelist and equally great radical libertarian:
And I must recommend Kevin Carson’s own new book, Organization Theory. In a sense, the main point of the book is hardly new to libertarians – that the big business capitalism we see around us is not the same as a free market. But Mr Carson makes his case with an accumulation of evidence and a consistent radicalism of analysis, that I doubt if any libertarian can finish the book without having undergone some kind of transformation. The book is a brilliant and original contribution to libertarian thought in the broadest sense, and will soon be accepted as one of the classics of our movement. You can buy copies here: http://tinyurl.com/r6cn35.
Buy now and buy often. $39.99 sounds a lot of money. But divide this by 656 pages of analysis that ranges between the interesting and the brilliant – and you will agree that copies would make excellent Christmas presents.
I have reviewed Organization Theory on the LA Blog. The review is rather good. The comments are often rather funny.
Libertarian Alliance Conference
This will take place on Saturday the 24th and Sunday the 25th October 2009 at the National Liberal Club in London. You can see the brochure and book on line here: http://www.libertarian.co.uk/conferences/conf09brochure.htm
Let me remind you that we can accommodate NOT MORE than 120 people in the National Liberal Club. Last year, we had to turn away several dozen people who called during the week before – or who turned up on the day. We had a similar problem with the Chris R. Tame Memorial Lecture in February. I therefore do urge you to BOOK NOW if you want to attend this year’s conference.
Professor Hoppe is one of the great men of our movement. He stands in the apostolic succession of vin Mises and Rothbard, and is a person of forbidding achievements. This year, he is 60. In celebration of this fact, his admirers have brought out a Festschrift. I am one of the contributors. You can find my own contribution here. You can find the whole work here.
Love to all -