This is my third time going to ISFLC (13-15 February 2015), and it was even better than last year. All the criticisms of SFL and its mentality aside, it is one of largest libertarian gatherings in the world, rivaling the Free State Projects PorcFest. Its largely an academic gathering, but anyone can attend. Well-known and lesser known libertarian organizations from CATO to the aforementioned to the Property and Environment Research Center sponsored booths and talks at the event. Leading speakers included a skype-in by Edward Snowden, a joint panel featuring Judge Napolitano and Ron Paul, Congressmen Jones, Amash, and Massie, and former Mexican president Vicente Fox, among others.
Snowden had a lot to say about what he did and what he believes, and I hope I can find a video of it later to post. He also talked about his fears and concerns when he released the info and revealed himself. When asked who his hero was, he said he knew many saw him as a hero, but he does not believe there were heroes, only heroic acts. A truly profound statement.
Perhaps the most popular and thrilling speaker(s) were the Judge and the Doctor. Judge Nap most spine-chilling, but inspiring statement was that Second Amendment is not for “shooting at deer, but for shooting at the government”. The openness of that statement by anyone, especially a former government judge, is an optimistic sign of the times. Its also a testament to how free we are still here. In many countries, if not most, he would have been quickly arrested and never heard from again. While Napolitano talked about that issue and the wars, Dr. Paul decided he should talk about his favorite topic: ending the Fed.
A short Q and A occurred afterwards, that included some hardballs at Paul. One person asked him to clarify his views about Russia and Ukraine and he said that everyone, including Russia, should get out. As usual, it seems that you have to phrase your questions carefully to get a response from Paul. If you ask about NATO, hell talk about NATO. If you ask about Russia, hell talk about Russia. He was rarely or never asked about Russia, so it seemed he was pro-Russia. A communist troll representing an pseudo-libertarian “society” that I dont care to identify further asked him about the newsletters and started wailing and shrieking before being booed away. The twitter commentariat was not amused.
The next day, I attended a talk sponsored by Christians for Liberty to find out how other faith-based liberty groups work. I actually learned a lot about what they do and how they talk to Christians, lay and clerical. Additionally, I talked to two of the speakers after and they mentioned how they had gotten local groups started. This is something I definitely want to get going. Im going to start some Jewish libertarian meetups, so we can have real life groups going to discuss topics, bring us together, and reach out to libertarian-leaning Jews (and also to bring libertarian JINOs to Teshuvah). I would like to see something get going in DC, but my main starting focus will be NJ/NY, and NH (when I move). I also know a guy who wants to start a Jewish libertarian community in the Denver area. There are already groups in Israel that we could join up with, but a more formal communication network would be beneficial.
After that, I attended a talk about Gun Rights and opposing tyranny. The speaker, Stephen Halbrook spent a large portion of the time to talk about what the Weimar Republic and Nazis did to register gun owners and disarm Jews. The Nazis would tell Jews they had 24 hours to turn in their guns, many did, and were arrested anyway. Most probably died in camps. Those that didnt turn their guns in joined the Warsaw ghetto uprising and the Bielski brothers (who he indirectly referenced). He wrote a book about gun confiscation under the Nazis, which I purchased.
Finally, I attended a talk about environmentalism via property rights. That was definitely one of the most interesting talks and it could bring on board a lot of statists. The speaker said she still supported a small government for a few things, but said property rights or systems that emulate them work much better than regulations. She also said that sometimes the best use for a forest is to chop it down, and thats ok, but said to hold out hope because wealthier populations prefer clean environments. Food, water, and shelter are more important than a clean environment.
The next day, the highlight speech was by former president Vicente Fox, who talked about the need to end the drug war (despite him having a role in exacerbating it). It was fascinating to see him at the event and he brought out a lot of cheers.
ISFLC is always an interesting event. Now that I have a few years experience with it, I am interested in setting up a table there next year. It costs $500, which probably could be fundraised (another thing the real life groups are needed for), but I may not use it Friday night and Saturday day, so I would like to split it with another group or two, such as Muslims 4 Liberty and/or African Americans for Liberty. I have to consult with more educated Jews about whether one can do outreach if they are already technically breaking Shabbat (altho its worth noting that its possible to attend the event without violating Shabbat, since there are stairs and you do not need to engage electricity). This year, I did meet one Jewish libertarian who I interacted with briefly on the page/event, and I saw another mysterious Jewish guy with a kippah who left the room before I could talk to him.
In any case, its worth attending at least once. Tickets usually go on sale around September/October for $10 for students and a bit more for nonstudents.