You won’t believe how much this here dumb American, pictured above, learned as one of the MCs at LibertyCon Europe, from April 19-21, 2024. 

In no particular order:

I learned that Local Coordinator Jack Hare is a tall, mustachioed Brit who always wears a brown blazer, whom some of his friends call the Ron Swanson of Students For Liberty. And I learned that he rides a government-funded bus in his hometown of Brighton, that it’s usually empty except for him, and that the absurdity of this situation is one of the reasons he wants to fight the local aldermen.

I learned not to eat too much of the food that’s on the table when you arrive at a Georgian supra; that’s actually just the first course, and there are about 5 more to come.

I learned that it’s probably best if I don’t use the full names of the of the Azerbaijani local coordinators because the government there has been cracking down on basically everything. But I also learned that that’s only inspired Farhad, who loves the NBA, and Mahammad, who has a future as a tour guide if this whole economics thing doesn’t work out, even more.

I learned from Elizabeth Tseretelli, SFL’s ever-energetic European Programs Associate, that Georgian myth suggests if you can eat khinkali without spilling the juices, you’re likely to be a good kisser. Meanwhile, I gathered from Lika Janelidze, a fast-talking, passionate SFL alumna, former staffer, and one of the godmothers of SFL Georgia, that parliament there is voting on a law to require any organization that receives foreign funding to be registered with the government. And I learned how much she’s willing to risk in order to protest it.

I learned, though I should’ve already known, that Brexit made immigrating to and emigrating from the UK much, much more difficult.

I overheard Nicolas Straehl, the slender, leather-jacket-wearing National Coordinator from Switzerland, develop a crush on another person at the event, and I learned who it was, but I can’t tell you. I can however tell you that Nicolas calls himself the black sheep of SFL — not because he lacks friends, but because instead of studying economics or business or law like many coordinators, he’s studying philosophical Italian literature. I also learned that he’s writing a paper questioning whether Heidegger was really a Marxist and that SFL gave him the confidence to say so in public.

I learned that Stalin destroyed a tradition of winemaking in Georgia that had been multiple millennia old.

Marek, a local coordinator from Slovakia, taught me about the amicable — yes, actually non-violent! — split between Czechia and Slovakia in the ’90s. Meanwhile, Marek, the other local coordinator from Slovakia, taught me about how strictly marijuana laws are enforced in his country. They both chimed in to teach me about their plans to host a Bitcoin conference so that, maybe, people there will be able to buy weed without jeopardizing their lives.

I learned that in 2018, an Argentinean rock band wrote a song called “Javier Milei: The Last Punk.” And that they meant that as the highest compliment.

I learned that David Friedman’s lecture to open LibertyCon was his first totally new talk in more than a decade. And that communities in Somalia and Saga-Period Iceland, as well as the Comanche Indians, got on pretty well without a government.

I learned that SFL alum and North American Programs Intern Connor Sutton struggled as much to come out as a libertarian to his parents as he did to come out to them as gay.

I learned that Jack Nicastro, coordinator at Dartmouth University and Prometheus Fellow, is launching a new YouTube channel with FEE about the libertarian philosophy hidden in anime. Yes, you read that right. And Jack learned from me that we need more fiction in the liberty movement, and that the Learn Liberty blog wants to publish some.

I learned how to pronounce the name Zoltan Istvan. And I learned that he ran for President as a member of the Transhumanist Party, that he’s not crazy but brilliant, and that I want to live (almost) forever, too.

Speaking of names: I learned that Valencian coordinator Aquilino Carrasco Alfaro’s first name hearkens back to Hercules, but that he introduces himself as “Aki.” I learned I’m not sure how I feel about the Spanish president’s pardoning of the Catalonian separatist politicians because, on the one hand, it sucks that the president gets to play God, but on the other, the separatist organizers did use stolen tax money to fund their referendum. I also learned what Aki thinks on that and many, many other subjects.

I became aware that some Europeans know only slightly more about North American geography than I know about European geography.

I learned that coordinator Amjad Aun is one of the most thoughtful people on the planet. I learned that he belongs to a religious minority in Syria, and that he’s worried the power of the state will be used against him and his family. Meanwhile, he learned my master plan to change the world (not because I preached, but because he asked) by trying to just be a good person. 

I discovered that this video on the Venezuela Diet exists, as does this one on price controls. And I re-discovered how good it feels to laugh from deep in your belly.

I learned that Milan Linhart — not a coordinator, but a friend of the SFamiLy — ran a 19-kilometer race on the Sunday morning of LibertyCon, and then continued running so he wouldn’t miss David Friedman’s panel on universal basic income.

I learned Paulina Plinke is the Regional Coordinator for Germany, Austria, and German-speaking Switzerland but might leave that position soon to pursue a PhD. But I learned she’d only be comfortable leaving because her region of SFL is in a stronger place than when she started, and just hit an all-time high for local coordinators.

Also from Paulina, I learned what the word handschuhschneeballwerfer means, but go look it up because it would take me too long to explain it.

I heard, though did not confirm, that cameramen from a media company owned by a Russian billionaire were filming us from beyond the gates, their entry barred by security. I sussed out that they would depict us all as anti-Putin “foreign agents” who would like to see the downfall of the Russian state and military. And I figured out what I would’ve said, had they asked me directly if their depiction was accurate: “No comment.”

On that note, I learned from a film screening, in great detail — hoo boy, did I learn the gory but important details — what happened in Abkhazia in 1993.

I learned with my own two eyes that there really were massive headshots and portraits of Big Brother Stalin throughout Tbilisi during the days of the Soviet Union. They’re not still up, thankfully; this I learned from photos from that era, which I learned had been found undeveloped at a flea market, and turned into an art gallery that was featured at LibertyCon. 

From that same gallery, I learned that even in the USSR, mothers and daughters squabbled and teenagers jumped into lakes from high above them.

I saw one local coordinator ask for a Kleenex. Then I saw another give him an entire package, before giving me a courtesy chuckle when I said, “From each according to his ability, to each according to his need, right?”

I saw a dozen SFL volunteers hammering on their computers and talking madly into their phones. I don’t speak Georgian, though, so all I really learned from this is that they were awfully passionate about whatever they were doing.

I was informed that, while everybody loves free stuff, we should actually call it “Zero Price Stuff” because we still had to go get it and then carry it home.

And I learned that churchkhela is the most perfect street snack ever invented, that Georgians are vaguely aware that Georgia — the one with Atlanta — produces peaches, I learned how Leopold Ajami got his mom to stop smoking, what Harrison Griffiths thinks about slippery slopes, that “persons” instead of “people” is the most common mistake non-native English speakers make; and I learned where all those Clint Eastwood Spaghetti Westerns were actually filmed and where Franz Ferdinand was assassinated, how tall Bitcoin enthusiast Dennis Porter is and how short his podium was in comparison, I learned why Gandhi’s most famous protest is called the Salt March, and I learned that there’s nothing more inspiring and faith-in-humanity-affirming than an in-person event with interesting and like-minded people who are willing to challenge their own beliefs and yours because that’s the only way you learn anything at all.

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