by Justin Jefferson, Economics.org.au senior columnist
“There is nothing so powerful as an idea whose time has come.”
~ VICTOR HUGO
What a great feeling it was last week to burst in to the first seminar of the Austrian school in Australia, surveyed by Mises’ approving beam, and Rothbard’s cunning sideways glance. Great hubbub and tumult of happiness; people from all over Australia, and the world.
Some were just new to Austrian theory. One guy I talked to had first found about it a month ago. Other adherents were ancient of days; they sponsored Hayek’s trip in 1976. It seems among the older crowd, many first came to libertarianism through Ayn Rand; among the younger, through Ron Paul.
Hans-Hermann Hoppe was the keynote speaker, and he delivered his withering critiques of the state, money and banking in such a clear way, unfolding logic step by step, it made you wonder how such theory could be thought extreme. Ben O’Neill also gave an excellent and plain-spoken critique of the positivist idea that rights are whatever the government says they are. And there were many other interesting thought-provoking speakers.
Some ideas for possible improvements:
- Have activities other than critical activities. For example, follow something heavy with something light, like comedy. Ridiculing politics is as easy as shooting fish in a barrel in any event; armed with Austrian theory and our current crop of clown-criminals, we should have the A-bomb of funny.
- Focus on common vision. Libertarians tend to be a herd of cats, and from so much critical activity, too easily fall into division over minor theoretical points when the same energy would be better spent spreading the irrefutable arguments for liberty. For example, there are group-workshop methods which do not involve argumentation, and which produce ranked priorities by a consensual non-verbal process. If everyone came away with no more than an understanding of what others want to focus on in the coming year, that would be valuable. An even better outcome might be interested groups dedicated to achieving particular agreed goals over the year.
- Try a traditional debate format. For example there seems to be an ongoing issue within the Austrian school whether *voluntary* fractional reserve banking should be illegal. Why not have a debate by two teams of three persons, three minutes each, with the audience deciding the winner, for a prize of champagne, just for fun?
- Perhaps we could invite some other luminaries of the Austrian school to attend next time: Hulsmann, de Soto, Woods, Rockwell?
The venue was great, but I predict it will not be enough to hold next years’ attendees.
I was really impressed with the way the organizing committee, who had no experience of hosting such an event, carried off such a success with so little fuss. My congratulations and thanks to them all.
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