Report Back: 2014 Boston Students for Liberty Regional Conference

Some of the titles we had on sale! (The BitCoin sign is for another table)

SFL was overall definitely exhausting but more importantly a welcomed experience in general.

Things got off to a rocky start due to a lack of tabling space but when one of the tablers randomly left a little later in the day Avéry (pictured here with me at our first table locaiton), my partner in crime for the day and I were able to get a pretty good spot next to FEE (which Jeffery Tucker was “tabling”).

One of the things that caught me off guard was how many people were minarchists or constitutionalists. I was under the impression that SFLers tended to be more radical and more welcoming of anarchism. But I seemed to be meeting more outspoken constitutionalists than anarchists.

In addition, ALL/C4SS was also the only explicitly anarchist organisation there. We were the only ones selling things (I am pretty sure) and it showed because a lot of people cited not having money or cash on them. This was a bit of a bummer in a few instances and it definitely diminished the sales we couldv’e gotten otherwise. Though it also seemed to hold true that most people just didn’t bring money either.

In the future it’ll be a good idea to have it so we can accept things like Bitcoin, other crypto-currencies, Paypal and perhaps more importantly, credit and debit cards.

But in terms of the sales we did get, we sold some discount zines and gave a handful of zines away to ALLy Juliana at the end and a few other people throughout the event. We also managed to have the Molinari Institute/C4SS banner up for a bit (our third tabling location) which was cool.

The talks were a mixed bag for me. The Law Enforcement Against Prohibition talk’s statistics on the drug war were…staggering. But their “solution” was more state control (regulation and taxation) over drugs which reminded me of Ryan’s excellent article, Weed Legalization as Privatization, Disempowerment.

Dan D’Amico had an interesting talk on mass incarceration that seemed to lack much data to really conclude anything too strongly. Still, it was an interesting look at what goes into deciding what’s mass incarceration and based on what factors.

He also alleged that racism doesn’t cause the legal disparities in prisons, courts, etc. but that these legal systems make it easier for racists to be racists or for people with otherwise inhibited prejudiced views to act on them more easily? It seems to me that even if that were perfectly true it would just create a feedback loop of racists perpetuating the legal system which perpetuates them.

But I admit to not having looked at the data D’Amico presented in its original context so I’m definitely open to being wrong here. That’s just my own intuition given the data he gave and my own interpretation of it and whatever else I’ve heard and know.

There was a guy named Edward Lopez who had a talk on “bottom-up politics” and that was interesting but seemed to focus on corporate entrepreneurship more than independent kinds. It also had too broad of a definition for “politics” and seemed to be defining it as anything intentionally designed could be problematic in some big way. I think that’s a bit too Hayekian for me.

Finally there was Jeffery Tucker’s talk which…I’m not gonna lie, was kind of inspirational. I know some people think Tucker is a bit over-dramatic with his enthusiasm (or appears such) but he really does seem to be genuine about his feelings and ideas. And he makes a pretty convincing case to me that the state due to it being bound up in geography is inherently going to have trouble (though I think he may overstate the trouble) dealing with non-geographic tactics of activism (Bitcoin, crpyto-activism in general, etc..).

He also criticized the “socialists” for attacking stuff like Uber and Lyft and asked if they were really against the political and economic elite. Because it seemed to him that libertarians were the one who were the socialists! We just want different means (here he brought to mind Gary‘s excellent work on Socialist Ends and Market Means).

After the talk was over I achieved my greatest accomplishment by getting Tucker to admit (and it wasn’t really that hard) that he was a socialist in the sense of Benjamin Tucker. He also added that he only really disagreed with them on issues of scarcity…which due to technological advances he thinks are becoming less and less relevant.

In general I had a lot of great conversations and found the time to re-read Anna Morgenstern’s excellent essays on why anarcho-“capitalism” is impossible (including the re-visitation).

Roderick’s Long’s 10 Common Objections was pretty popular but that was mostly because there seemed to be so many minarchists.

And most of the minarchists there seemed puzzled by either the leftism or the anarchism. I don’t think there were a lot of both. Most an-caps seemed to be agreeable to the fact that we were anti-state. One of them was down with our aims of more worker cooperatives, unions, anti-racism, etc. etc.So the an-cap reception seemed a lot better by comparison.

My speculation on why the minarchists didn’t balk at the leftism way more than the anarchism is because I think most of the minarchists were too caught off guard by the all too obvious anarchism that they couldn’t even notice the nuance of it being leftier than an-caps.

The discussions I had about anarchism contra minarchism were also a bit weird and surreal to have. One of the people I talked to was a member of LEAP and made “might makes right” arguments and acted like I was against arbitration or mediation of disputes per se even though I keep stressing that I just didn’t want a monopoly of these things.

Overall, the conference, although a bit disorganized thanks to Suffolk University deciding at the last minute to make their homecoming that weekend, was a fun experience and hopefully there’ll be a bit of better organizational luck next year!

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