Sunday, March 12, 2006

Thoughts on the Windsor Liberty Seminar

UPDATE: Check out the photos. Read Ian's blog on the event, and Paul's for more insight.

This year's Windsor Liberty Seminar was amazing.

If you missed it, kick yourself a few times. You really missed a great day to chat liberty with some amazing people.

Dr. Jan Narveson gave an overview of the philosophy of liberty, with a few concrete cases to whet our appetite.

Dr. Lydia Miljan followed Narveson with a talk on the Hidden Agendas of the media, and the trouble with empirical studies of bias in the media. Her talk sparked a pretty animated discussion in the breakout groups on just what it means for the media to be biased in one way or another. For instance, does the media influence our preferences, or do our preferences influence the media? The Calgary Herald, for instance, appears to show plenty of positive coverage of the Conservative Party, and the Party tends to do really well in Calgary. But is this a sign of the media responding to the preferences of their audience, or are they helping to shape those preferences? (I suspect it's both. But think about the CBC, and their positive spin on NDP "news"... Is that the same, or different?)

Gerry Nicholls gave a great talk on pragmatic approaches to pushing liberty. His insight? We need to focus more on the Quality of Lifers... the people who don't care very much about ideology or philosophy, and care much more about how certain policies might impact them, and their family in terms of their quality of life. He's right, I think, and good marketing of what are (obviously) great ideas could go a long way.

Dr. Steve Horwitz exposed three economic myths, including the most virulent one--the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. It's nonsense. The rich get richer, sure, but the poor have gotten richer too. And there's a separate question of whether it's the *same* rich and poor who are getting richer or poorer. The numbers appear to show that people tend to begin their economic life somewhere near the bottom, and end up somewhere near the top. This makes perfect sense. The numbers are insufficiently subtle to capture the fact of "poor" college students and job market entrants who, after being in the labour market for a while, begin to earn more and more money. Fun, fun, fun.

Finally, Dr. Pierre Desrochers gave an incredible talk about the way capitalists tend to find uses for "waste," converting what was once garbage into useful resources for other things. It doesn't make much sense to say that capitalists would be happy to throw stuff away--they're supposed to be greedy, right? So if they're greedy, why wouldn't they try to come up with other uses for their sludge, slag, and other by-products of creating things like iron-ore or soap or whatever? Why would you throw out something that could make you even richer? That's dumb.

Matt Bufton, the organizer of the event, deserves some serious kudos for this event. Hopefully, he'll keep this up year after year. (You rock, Bufton!)

I also had a chance to meet up with some really cool people. Robert, the fellow who videotaped the event, is planning to do the same for this year's Liberty Summer Seminar (get on my email list if you want more news about this year's event). The video will be available soon, and I'll post on the details once the pictures and videos are available. I also finally met Omar, the fellow who debated me a bit on the Muhammad cartoons issue. He's a very bright young man who I hope to speak with more often. He plans to attend the Liberty Summer Seminar, hopefully after reading a truckload of Hayek and, maybe, Oakeshott, so I'm sure I'll get a chance to talk with him some more. Of course, Debi was there, and her vim and optimism about liberty in Canada is contagious. Janet was her typical awesome self, and I got to meet her dad, who was cool.

In short, the Seminar was great fun. Three cheers to Bufton and the Windsor Liberty gang.


Blogger mostlyfree said...

Photos are up at the Freedom Project.


8:46 p.m.  
Anonymous Omar Soliman said...

Great to have met you and the rest, Peter. I learned quite a bit and, most importantly, had a pretty good time.

I'll let you know how the readings are going...

Lets keep in touch.

11:04 p.m.  
Blogger dr_dog said...

Anybody who offers an audio/video feed will get my heartfelt thanks. Even if I can't make the trek to these seminars, the speakers are still a great listen over the net.

8:17 p.m.  
Blogger Matt said...

Dr. Dog, video was recorded and is currently being edited. I'm sure Peter will be kind enough to post a link once it is available.

2:22 p.m.  
Anonymous Seyitbek said...

Hi Peter,

I agree with everything you said of the seminar. I was lucky to be in your discussion group. It kicked butt.

Please keep me posted on your Liberty Seminar.

1:00 a.m.  

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