This week-end, I was at the Libertarian International spring 2004 conference in Leiden, Holland. I was invited to give a speech on the Enterprise of Liberty vs the Enterprise of Politics (Update: the text is available on my site at last).
Leiden is a beautiful city, with higher a concentration of bicycles than I could imagine, and beautiful architecture of successful bourgeoisie bordering calm canals. Dutch people are very friendly, and most of them speak english. You can feel that the country has cultivated its tradition of liberty, more developed than in other countries of EU, though social-democratic goodthinking heavily censors the media, here as elsewhere.
The convention was just great. So many free and rational minds in the same place, discussing a wide variety of topics, enjoying being together, and making plans for how to promote liberty! Many friends I hadn't seen in a long time, and new friends I made on the spot. gustavolacerda even came from Amsterdam to share the post-conference social events. Last but not least, I came perfectly accompanied.
There were a lot of good speeches. The one I enjoyed most (for its novelty -- to me -- on topics I am directly interested in) was Butler Shaffer's; I hope it is soon available on the Internet.
Interesting was the account of the past achievements of the EU (by Jacques de Guenin), and of its future menace (by Albert Spits): on the one hand, the lasting peace between France and Germany, the free movement of people, merchandises and capital, the weakening of national government powers, and of their arbitrary interventions and money manipulations, the increased protection of citizens against national government, etc.; on the other hand, the rapid growth of an uncontrolled and uncontrollable remote bureaucracy completely detached from local (or individual) concerns, a huge and ever growing body of legislation, with liberticide articles sneaked here and there, a new constitution that makes illegal any opposition to the EU whatsoever (article 51), etc.
Though I already knew his views, I also greatly liked Christian Michel's description of justice in a free society. However in latter private discussions, he defended a legalist conception of due process against Stefan Metzeler and I, who were arguing that a breach of procedure shouldn't cancel independently gathered evidence against a criminal, but only lead to a separate procedure against the abusive law enforcement officers. (I just expanded my article about free defense -- in French -- to reflect Stefan Metzeler and my opinion on this point.)
In this and other discussions, I greatly enjoyed the opportunity to argue rationally with rational people. Better yet, Cees de Bruin whom I met there masters both rational content of arguments and rational control of the emotional content of human interaction. There is a lot to learn from such a person. We became friends immediately.
Though I procrastinated my way toward lack of preparedness, my speech went rather well and was greeted very positively by the audience. As usual, I spoke too fast, I didn't properly articulate the speech in presence of side ideas, and had to skip a few sections (like the one that expounded the subtitle "Right Answers to Wrong Questions"). And as usual, the question session helped me squeeze in many of the ideas I had skipped (Cees was on the same mindwave as I and anticipated them, and that was our first contact). As usual, the audience was indulgent and the lack of preparedness was seen by most as spontaneity and passion. My dear friend and godfather in libertarian circles, Jacques de Guenin, wasn't fooled, though. In any case, the audience seems to have generally enjoyed my intervention, and I'm happy if I gave food for thought for a few people there.
As for the contents of the speech, you'll hopefully be able to read it soon on my page; it was kind of a sequel to my previous speech Government is the Rule of Black Magic -- taking a White Magic view of things as they happen, where the previous article had more of a Black Magic view of things as people imagine them.
My, it's good to share a real good time with such nice and intelligent people, and I am proud to say, with Friends. People like Hubert and Rita, Jacques and Odette, Mary-Lou and Peter, Stefan, Christian, and so many others, are dear friends indeed.