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Should Libertarians Defend Intellectual Property-

In this third edition of ESFL’s Liberty Face Off, Yernaz Ramautarsing and Louis Rouanet will delve into the long lasting libertarian debate on the issue of intellectual property rights. Is intellectual property a thing, and if so should libertarians defend it?
Do you have an issue in mind that you would like to see debated among libertarians? Please e-mail [email protected] and your suggestion might be discussed in the next Liberty Face Off. 

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Starry Night

Source: Flickr

One of my favorite songs, “Lights and cars” by Enter The Haggis, that, in my view, deserves to be much more popular than it is, has the following words in it:

I slide my finger through the dust, that colonized this place that I once loved

From the inside I could see the stars, that I left behind for city lights and cars

In a way, the whole recent history of humanity since electric lighting arrived has been one of leaving stars for city lights. And early on, this exodus from nature has captured the attention of, first, the Romantic philosophers and artists and then the modern-day environmentalists.

But unlike people craving the world that is gone, I am not going to bemoan modernity. Instead, I would like to draw attention to the big picture that the craving for the past illustrates. As I argued elsewhere, major modern ideologies, including leftism and nostalgic conservatism (of which environmentalism is a weird mixture), are at bottom political instances of three fundamental human intellectual responses to the imperfect world described by Branislaw Malinowski: magic, religion and science.

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Autobahn A3

A3 Köln – Frankfurt. Source: Flickr

Over the past two weeks, the sites of many major German news outlets featured articles about the German government planning to privatize the famous Autobahn. Actually reading the articles, one would have found out that the proposition was a bit different:  A private company would be in charge of maintaining the German highways system, but only about half of this company would be sold to private investors: the government would own the other half and keep a slight majority of the shares. Of course the company wouldn’t just be sold to anyone, but exclusively to larger financial corporations, like insurance companies. These companies are in dire need of things they can invest in, due to the low interest rates. The German highway system would be a perfect investment for them: It’s a fairly safe investment (insurance companies are not allowed to invest in risky assets) and it would be profitable. The people who’d like to drive on the Autobahn could be charged a car toll. This all was proposed by Wolfgang Schäuble, Germany’s current minister of Finance.

Now, what sounds like (and is) a perfect example of corporatism, does actually convey an interesting idea. A strip of asphalt, a guardrail – all these things have value for those using them, irrespective of who has paid for them. Yet still, it seems to be a concrete-cold fact, almost a rule, that roads, especially highways ought to be paid for by taxpayer money, in other words: to be funded by the government. But why not leave it to the private sector completely?

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Free Market My A$$

Source: Flickr

You only need to read the daily headlines to understand that globalization is accused of all evils. One of them, particularly put forward by Conservatives, is the weakening of the specificity of cultures and global standardization. The market is being blamed for destroying our values, our regional cultures in favor of a superficial mass culture based on profit.

In his book “False Dawn: The Delusions of Global Capitalism,” Jeremy Tunstall defines the thesis of cultural imperialism as the view that “authentic, traditional and local culture in many parts of the world is being battered out of existence by the indiscriminate dumping of large quantities of slick commercial and media products, mainly from the United States.” Sadly, it’s not only a claim from  anti-capitalist writers, it’s generally an opinion shared by many people.

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Norbert Hofer

Source: Flickr

Many people were surprised that a right wing populist like Donald J. Trump won the U.S. Presidential election, but another shocking surprise might be happening on December 4th in Austria. After many tumultuous months, it seems as though Norbert Hofer could possibly win the next election, and we could see another right wing populist candidate become president.

Norbert Hofer represents Austria’s Freedom Party (FPÖ), a populist right wing party. His party is becoming more and more popular, and pollsters are expecting the FPÖ to become the strongest political party in the next Parliamentary elections. In spite of the fact that his opponent, Dr. Van Der Bellen, belongs to the leftwing Green party, most of the establishment parties have endorsed him.  The endorsements even come from prominent conservative politicians, such as the former EU agriculture commissioner Franz Fischler and the former vice chancellor Wilhelm Molterer. With people having lost their respect for the establishment, many are saying these endorsements are actually counterproductive. Hofer has effectively gained the support of many workers and farmers, two demographics that usually support the Social democrats (SPÖ) and the Conservative Peoples party (ÖVP) in great numbers.

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Since the EU, Schengen and the single market were implemented, new legislation was put into place in order to level out the gun laws in all member countries. Of course this levelling is aimed at restricting gun laws in each country more, not less. A new draft update on the EU firearms directive will require EU countries to tighten their already tight/strict laws in regards to semi-automatic firearms. The draft states that “semi-automatic firearms capable of firing more than 21 rounds without reloading, if a loading device with a capacity exceeding 20 rounds is part of the firearm or is inserted into it” are reclassified as Category A type firearms. Category A basically means “prohibited for civilian use”. This is the category which also holds explosive military missiles.

Woman shoots rifle

Source: Flickr

The law itself is a mess

Since the EU press release is very vague, it could mean one of two things: Either magazines of 20+ rounds are banned, or semi-automatics with removable magazines are banned. That’s where it gets tricky: According to the vague press release, the EU might ban almost all semi-automatics. Since most semi-automatics work with detachable magazines and they want to ban devices that have a capacity bigger than 20 rounds they may argue that the gun accepts a magazine of 20+ rounds and therefore ban it. This is either a deceiving way to ban almost all semi-automatics, or EU bureaucrats are simply unaware of the issues they are legislating.

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The students of ESFL’s Animal Welfare Commission work to bring more attention to animal welfare in the ESFL network and in the libertarian movement in general. Carlos Tuñón, 23, ESFL’s Regional Director for Iberia who studies Law and Management at CUNEF University in Madrid, is one of its members. We spoke to Carlos about animal rights, the works of the commission, and the vegetarian life. 

Piglet

Source: Flickr

The connection between liberty and animal welfare isn’t immediately obvious to me. How are they related?

When defending liberty, we must first determine who will enjoy that liberty. In 1792, Mary Wollstonecraft wrote “A vindication of the rights of woman”, in which she explained that the French Revolution only demanded liberty for men, forgetting women. She was completely right. Today, like during the French Revolution, we are forgetting another group: non-human animals. (more…)

Hollande

Source: Flickr

1. The Republicans might nominate a candidate running on slashing government spending

On Sunday, the French Republican party held the first round of its open primary, in which 7 candidates competed for the nomination. The polls predicted that the mayor of Bordeaux, Alain Juppé, an establishment centre-right candidate with a great appreciation for the European Union, would be the clear winner, with former president Nicolas Sarkozy right on his tail. In a stunning upset, Sarkozy’s former Prime Minister, François Fillon, won 44.1% of the vote, while Alain Juppé finished second with 28.6%.

The upset is not only that an alleged outsider turned out to qualify for the knockout vote next Sunday, whereby disproving pollsters and political commentators, but also that this candidate’s proposals advocate a much smaller government. François Fillon wants to get rid of 500,000 public sector jobs in five years, lower the burdens of taxation and social security contributions by €50 billion and reduce spending by €100 billion. Fillon also intends to considerably increase school autonomy and wants to scrap François Hollande’s tax on large incomes.

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This Sunday, the Swiss will vote on a proposal that would restrict the use and production of nuclear energy in the country. Boris Hombourger takes a closer look at the “Energy Strategy 2050” proposal, and at the Swiss energy market.

KKL_Leibstadt

The Leibstadt Nuclear Power Plant in Switzerland. Source: Wikipedia

In May 2011, only two months after the Fukushima disaster, the Federal Council in Switzerland decided to make a major change to the Swiss energy policy, in order to implement a nuclear phase-out. They intend to limit the previously unlimited lifetime of power plants to 50 years, during which the country’s nearly 40% of nuclear electricity should be replaced by renewables. This is the core proposal of the “Energy Strategy 2050”, which also includes measures to promote energy conservation and increases in renewable subsidies. After years of parliamentary debates, the government’s proposal was modified . This means that new builds are de facto forbidden. Existing plants are not limited in lifetime. This edited version of the “Energy Strategy 2050” was accepted in Parliament last September.

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Drunk Pedestrians

Source: Flickr

If you thought the ideas of the “Nanny-Statists” couldn’t get any worse — you have been proven wrong once again. The chamber of employees in Vienna, an organization that lives off the compulsory membership of every worker in Austria, held their main convention last week. At this convention, the fraction of the “Grüne Arbeitnehmer” (“Green Workers”, who are not associated with Austra’s Green Party) introduced a proposal to have the chamber support a blood-alcohol-limit of 1.2% for pedestrians. After all, pedestrians participate in traffic, Franz Dunkl of the Green Workers argued, and therefore there should be a limit similar to the ones for drivers and cyclists.

One has to wonder what is going on in these people’s minds to think that outlawing the safest means of getting home when you are drunk is a good idea. After all, walking is the one way of moving where you endanger other people – and yourself – the least. However, it seems like they expect you to make yourself disappear when you’ve had too many glasses. The proposal was turned down by all other fractions without discussion, but it is still important to talk about it, because this is just the tip of the iceberg and it reflects the ever-growing idea that it is the government’s job to take care of people’s safety, health, happiness and whatnot.

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