“Liberty does not have borders”: Student Activism at the European Students for Liberty Conference 2013

ESFL (Kopie)
Over 350 students attended the second annual ESFL Conference in 2013

„Liberty does not have borders“, that is the view of the European Students for Liberty. They organised their second annual European conference to connect liberal students from all around the world. The venue was the University of Leuven and the conference was hosted by the Classical Liberal Students Association (LVSV) Leuven.

HHS (Kopie)Speakers from all over the world came to Leuven to discuss various aspects of liberty. Hans H. Stein welcomed the students and introduced them to the work of the Friedrich Naumann Foundation for Freedom (FNF) with its over 60 offices worldwide. He encouraged them to connect with the FNF staff in their home countries and to become activists for liberty.

Among the keynote speakers was Tom Palmer from the ATLAS Foundation, who spoke about “Why we fight for Liberty”, receiving tumultuous applause from the audience for his statement “I know that when there is injustice, tyranny, and war, Students for Liberty will be there…” Mike Tanner, CATO Institute, lectured on “the Welfare State as a Pyramid Scheme”, Kurt Leube, Professor Emeritus at Stanford University, talked about the Essence of Nobel-Prize winner Friedrich-August Hayek and Steve Davies,Institute for Economic Affairs, gave an overview of “the History and Future of Liberty in Europe”.

During academic breakout sessions, students had the opportunity to attend lectures on topics ranging from workshops on how to become an entrepreneur to lectures on why women benefit from limited government. One of the speakers was John Chisholm, CEO of CustomerSat; in his presentation, he told students to find their inner skills and to to use them in the best way to start their own businesses. “Don’t be scared of being an entrepreneur,” he challenged the students. James Turk, Director of GoldMoney, gave an outlook on the value of gold and how to profit from investing in gold. In his opinion everyone should start investing in gold now, in order to be independent from currency fluctuations. “More liberal structures in prisons means less crime” was the main argument of Kings College’s David Skarbeks. He talked about prison gangs and the dynamics involved in their “creation”. In prison, the norms and rules that regulate society don’t apply. However,  inmates in prison generate their own rules to clarify the balance of power and claims of ownership.

Griechen (Kopie)The Friedrich Naumann Foundation sponsored the participation of a group of Greek liberal students. We interviewed them about their conviction and the current situation in Greece. Liberals in Greece are a minority. Those who want to learn more about Liberalism have to find information and other like-minded individuals on their own. Only small liberal groups exist because most people think liberal parties will not improve the situation in Greece. The majority tends towards left or right parties. Thus liberal groups should do more self-advertising to increase their visibility, one student said. 24% of employees in Greece are working in the public sector. To improve Greece’s situation the majority of the interviewee’s would decrease the size of government. Due to the high taxes 35% of Greeks moonlight. If the government lowered taxes this problem would be solved, according to the interviewees. Most disturbing is the fact that youth unemployment rate for those under 24 years of age is at 58%. This points to a structural problem and a lack of entrepreneurism.  In the eyes of our interviewees, the number of liberals in Greece is increasing. However, liberalism still has a long and rocky path ahead.  All in all the students were very confident that the situation in Greece will improve, after the financial support Greece received from the EU. They were happy to see that large numbers of liberals gathered at the ESFL Conference and were looking forward to the next conference in 2014.

ESFL supports liberal students and student groups in Europe. Their goal is to foster the spread of liberalism all over Europe. Students from across Europe are connected and are taught effective leadership strategies by other students as well as experts.

For more information please visit the European Students for Liberty

Bianco Schubert