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Portugal’s Minister of Higher Education recently made some negative comments about Praxe, a set of initiation rituals at Portuguese unis, that made me feel a mix of anger and disgust.

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Costumed older students perform rituals on a freshman. Source: Flickr

It is difficult to explain exactly what Praxe is if you are not from Portugal. It’s a set of costumes, rituals, codes of conduct, community work, dinners, songs, activities and hierarchies. For example, a suit and cape for older students to wear, a book on how students should behave during Praxe activities, hierarchies on who organizes what, etc. Each university has it’s own traditions, with different clothes, books, games, and so on.

The tradition of Praxe can be traced back to the 14th century, when monks used to perform rituals to initiate new entrants to the monastery. Praxe usually involves a weekly meeting where the older students wear their costumes and the younger students do as their seniors say, within the bounds of reason. The older students aim to break the ice between the freshmen by making them play together in a childish manner, almost like in kindergarten. Younger students are treated as children and if they make mistakes they are commanded to perform a physical activity, such as push-ups or jumping jacks. Usually, they play the sort of games you’d find in a kindergarten or on a scouts field trip. Never, ever with drinks even nearby.  This is all with supervision from other elected students to assure everything stays in line with the code of conduct. Participating in Praxe is completely voluntary.

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The French parliament recently adopted an amendment to an “Equality & Citizenship” bill that will introduce a civic service obligation for thousands of young people between ages 18 to 25. In a time when young people demand more freedom and restrictions on them have been lifted all throughout Europe, this measure proves France’s insufferable obsession with control.

The amendment that has been introduced and approved by the French National Assembly makes a major change to the efforts of president François Hollande to make civic service more widespread to teach ‘the values of the Republic’ by simply making it compulsory for everyone. The proposed plan would force young people from the age of 18 to attend a so called ‘republican class’ that lasts for three months, after finishing secondary school. The purpose of this class will be to teach the fundamental values of the French state.

In a second step, the classic civil service will be made mandatory as well, for a period of six months that can be divided into two three month periods. That means that young people up until the age of 25 will have to get engaged with either an NGO or a government institution (municipalities, regional administrations, ministries etc.) The government has announced that it favours this amendment.

This decision will now be submitted to the Senate before it will return to parliament, but it has a clear chance of passing both houses. France will then become the first country in Europe to introduce a mandatory civil service (if we exclude mandatory military service or civil service as a substitute for military service).

It is a sign of desperation at least. With the trust in government at a record low, the country being paralised by the still ongoing strikes and the repeated threat of terrorism, the political class tries to make sure that the next generation is being made obedient to authority beyond classic state education. What masquerades itself as a measure to teach respect for the rule of law is nothing but another drain on the creativity and freedom of choice of young people:

9 months of their time, instead of spending it on their dreams, careers, hobbies or leisure, is to be devoted to government. Instead of being the entrepreneurs of their life, young people will get taught that becoming a civil servant is a virtue that will benefit their neighbours.

All this in a country where the army of civil servants is soon to be 6 million and where more than half of your income goes to government. What could possibly go wrong?

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The EU-induced overregulation claim has little evidence for it, why do many libertarians want to believe it?

As some commentators aptly noted, given that Brexit poses a serious risk to the maintenance of free trade between the UK and its largest trading partner and the free movement for a large number of people between the two, without any guaranteed major gains on these issues elsewhere, the default libertarian position should be ‘Remain’. Why, then, do many if not most, libertarians appear to favour ‘Leave’?

These libertarians largely seem to believe that the EU causes a lot more government intervention in the domains beyond foreign trade and immigration than would  have been present without the EU. Unfortunately, the only evidence that they provide involves anecdata on singular bizarre regulations (like the one on the curvature of bananas) whose significance in the big picture is pretty dubious.

It is of course difficult to prove anything about counterfactual scenarios in social contexts, because we are not in a position to arrange true controlled experiments. However, recognizing a key feature of the EU legislation provides us with the best (if still flawed) possibility to theorize about a situation where there had never been a EU.

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Not far from the Old Town, in a suburb in the north of Prague, lies a black, three store house that doesn’t seem to stand out from the rest of the buildings in the neighbourhood. Unless you enter it.

As you step in, you can congratulate yourself— you’ve just entered the world’s first bitcoin-only cafe— Bitcoin Coffee. The Paralelni Polis project was founded by a Czech contemporary art group Ztohoven and members of Slovak and Czech hackerspaces. They were inspired by Czech dissident Vaclav Benda, a leading persona of the movement for greater political freedom in the 1970s, and Timothy C. May, one of the founding members of Cypherpunks and the author of The Crypto Anarchist Manifesto.

Before your sight has a chance to explore the spacious room in front of you, your attention might get caught by a weird looking kiosk at your right hand side. A closer look reveals you that this big machine is nothing less than a true Bitcoin ATM.

Soon enough you’ll find out there is no space for any Fiat currencies — established as money under the force of law — in this house. If you want to taste the extraordinarily delicious coffee served here, you will have to press the button on a small black box next to the ATM so it can print out a paper wallet containing a unique Bitcoin address with both your public and private key. Of course, you can also use mobile wallets on your smartphone.

As you are saying “goodbye” to your money while inserting paper notes in the ATM, your paper wallet will immediately receive the inserted amount in bitcoins, and you are ready to go — with digital gold in your pocket!

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Photo by Patrik Repka

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After the Brexit vote in the UK there is a lot of speculation concerning the next countries to leave the European Union. France is being repeatedly named in those lists. There are several reasons why that will never happen:

The European Union embodies the French political dreamland

Unlike the United Kingdom, France has no close relation to classical liberalism, individual liberty or limited government: all France’s trust is put in the government, whether it be related to dealing with the housing situation, unemployment or lifestyle choices. The French are constantly woven in a net of comforting (yet economically devastating) socialism, so a political union that tries to regulate them even more doesn’t find too much opposition in the country.

Adding to this love of redistribution, France loves centralisation. If politicians could coordinate the construction of tunnels in the Alps from Paris, they most likely would. However, running regions, districts and unified municipalities that are effectively powerless, is still essential to offer well-paid careers to members of the political class. So what more could they want than an enormous political body with numerous institutions in which’s maze of unaccountability you will get lost easily?

While British politicians are fairly unpopular in Brussels, French MEPs make up the core of the political groups and their messages, especially those who have pushed political integration and centralisation. It is a roundup to their political career, their last honour or their last chance to be considered real statesmen.

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The outcome of the new elections in Spain (elections that are the direct consequence of the inability of the four main parties to form a government after the December 2015 elections) has come as a surprise to virtually everyone. A black swan made its appearance while the votes were still being counted. The Popular Party won the election with 33% of the votes and 137 seats (out of 350), 14 more than in the December elections (although 49 fewer than those obtained in 2011). Despite being cornered by numerous cases of corruption, the conservatives did not only surpass their own expectations, but they also beat most polls, which forecasted the same seats and percentage in votes that they had achieved in the previous elections.

However, the most significant surprise of the election night was, no doubt, the fiasco of Unidos Podemos, the coalition of Podemos, the radical party disguised as social democrat and led by Pablo Iglesias (former advisor to the Venezuelan government), and Izquierda Unida, the former Communist Party. By standing together for the elections, the coalition expected to take advantage of the electoral law, which favors the concentration of votes, and thereby to increase the number of seats in Congress. Yet the coalition lost more than one million votes, which roughly coincides with the number of people that abstained from going to the ballots in comparison with the December election.

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Demographic trends in Austria, like falling birth rate and ageing population, have raised some concerns about stability of the pension system. The Austrian government pension programme, which pays for 90% of pensions, runs the so-called „Pay As You Go (PAYGO)“ scheme. Every employer and working individual in Austria is obliged to pay a contribution into a pension fund. These contributions are then used to finance the pensions of current retirees. The problem with this programme is that it is in danger of becoming unsustainable in case the number of retirees relative to contributors becomes too large, since the latter then have more pensions to finance. This appears to be the case in today’s Austria. There were 606 retirees for every 1000 contributors last year, which is an enormous difference compared to 1961, when it was only 354 retirees for 1000 contributors.

Constantly increasing pension expenditures are getting harder and harder to support. In 2015 the Austrian government had to inject more than €10 billion into the state pension funds. These costs represent about 3% of the Austrian GDP or about 13,5% of federal expenditure. Certain projections say this amount may rise up to €13,5 billion by 2019 and €31 billion by year 2060, which is no spare change. Some of the past Austrian governments have recognised this problem, but their attempts to repair the pension system were insufficient and sometimes had adverse effects. For instance, gradually raising pension contributions from 11% of the salary in 1956 to current 22,8% placed a heavy burden on Austrian workers and employers.

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European Students For Liberty Executive Board is happy to announce that we are opening applications for the positions of:

  • Regional Director for United Kingdom and Ireland
  • Regional Director for Northern Europe (Sweden, Iceland, Denmark, Norway, Finland, Faroe Islands)

Regional Directors are European Executive Board members in charge of managing, organising and overseeing regional activities of ESFL.

The ESFL Executive Board oversees the organization’s principal programs in Europe.  ESFL Executive Board members are responsible for growing the student movement for liberty in Europe: providing resources to students across the continent, organizing Regional Conferences, and generally supporting students in the cause of liberty.  Selection to the ESFL Executive Board is highly competitive, and participation on the Executive Board should be seen as an opportunity to make a meaningful difference, which carries significant responsibilities. The Executive Board requires a minimum commitment of 15 hours per week and involves both collaborative group efforts with leaders thousands of kilometres away as well as individual work to complete projects and prepare events with little supervision. Full proficiency in written and spoken English is mandatory, as all ESFL activities are conducted in English.

The ideal candidate for either of these regions should:

– Have a vision and strategy for the region

– Have a vision and a strategy for ESFL as a whole

– Have local knowledge and good contacts within the region

– At least a year of pro-liberty activism experience

– Open mind and good communicational skills

– Passion for liberty!

Please fill out this form to apply. Deadline is on July 18 by midnight CEST.

For any additional information, please email [email protected]

Because freedom is colorful

 

In May the Georgian team of European Students for Liberty organized its first Freedom Color Camp, which took place at Bateti Lake – one of the most beautiful places in Georgia. Out of many applicants, the fifty best pro-liberty students were chosen to participate the project.

The idea of this particular event was to create a different environment where students from several universities of Georgia could enjoy liberty discussions outside of the academic space.

On 8th of May at 10 AM the organisation committee welcomed participants in the city center of Tbilisi and we hit the road together.

Getting to the lake was an adventure in itself. Since the mini bus was not able to take us all the way to the end of the road, we had to hike until the end. This hike gave the students a chance to bond with each other and enjoy a sunny Saturday in nature.

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This article was written by ESFL-member Daniil Gorbatenko.

One of the main complaints about the modern European top-league football is that the recent influx of funding into the sport is changing it for the worse. People who make this point draw attention to enormous sums of money paid for players nowadays (to the point where a team that had just qualified for playing in the Premier League for the first time in its history paid £10 million for Benik Afobe). To those opposed to commercialization of football, big money can just be removed from it without compromising anything.

However, those who lament the role of big money in football often do not realize that football is a complex sphere of economic activity. Consider Iceland and China. Iceland is a country of around 333,000 people, yet its national football team is participating in the 2016 European Championship. Iceland has shockingly held one of the favourites, Portugal, to a draw in its first match, and has now even made it to the quarter finals of the tournament. In contrast, more than 4000 times more people live in China than in Iceland, but the Chinese national team failed even to qualify for the last football world cup.

Iceland team and supporters performing their Viking chant after beating England yesterday. 

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