Bodrum Days and Nights: The Fifth Annual Meeting of the Property and Freedom Society: A Partial Report

I had the good fortune to attend to the Fifth Annual Meeting of Dr. Hans-Hermann Hoppe‘s Property and Freedom Society (PFS) earlier this month. It was held in beautiful Bodrum, Turkey at the Hotel Karia Princess, from June 3-7, 2010. For those interested, I provide my own (somewhat personal, no doubt partial) report below.

Group photo2 from the Fifth Annual Meeting, June 2010, Hotel Karia Princess, Bodrum

Group photo from the Fifth Annual Meeting, June 2010, Hotel Karia Princess, Bodrum

As a brief overview: the PFS was founded by Dr. Hoppe in 2006, as a more radical counterpart to the Mont Pelerin Society. As Guido Hülsmann has noted, a goal of the PFS was to play the role that the Mont Pelerin Society was originally designed to play: spreading the uncompromising intellectual radicalism of freedom. The PFS is centered around Austrian-anarchist libertarian ideas, with a diverse, worldwide membership, not as dominated by American libertarian intellectuals as many other libertarian groups. The Property and Freedom Society’s very name emphasizes the importance of property rights to human freedom, so it is no surprise that its motto is Frédéric Bastiat‘s dictum, “Property does not exist because there are laws, but laws exist because there is property.” (See also Hoppe’s The Role of the Property and Freedom Society in a Crazy World and the History and Principles of the PFS.)

In Professor Hoppe’s opening address for this year’s meeting, “The Property And Freedom Society—Reflections After Five Years,” he concludes:

After our first meeting, 5 years ago, here at the Karia Princess, my plan became more specific still. Inspired by the charm of the place and its beautiful garden, I decided to adopt the model of a salon for the Property and Freedom Society and its meetings. The dictionary defines a salon as “a gathering of intellectual, social, political, and cultural elites under the roof of an inspiring hostess or host, partly to amuse one another and partly to refine their taste and increase their knowledge through conversation.” Take the “political” out of this definition—and there you have it what I have tried to accomplish for the last few years, together with Gülcin, my wife and fellow Misesian, without whose support none of this would be possible: to be hostess and host to a grand and extended annual salon, and to make it, with your help, the most attractive and illustrious salon there is.

A Grand Salon it is. I’ve attended many libertarian events in my life, but nothing compares to this. There are about 90 to 100 hand-picked guests. The situs, for the last five years, and for the foreseeable future, is the gorgeous Hotel Karia Princess. Guests come from all over–North and South Americans, West Europeans, East Europeans, and others. Bodrum drips with history. Minarets trill the hauntingly beautiful Muslim call to prayer five times a day, but the local Turks seem to ignore it while the tourists find it charming. In Bodrum there is the Tomb of King Mausolus–where the word mausoleum comes from, as well as the quite amazing Castle of St. Peter. And nearby is Ephesus, last home of the Virgin Mary (and once the second-largest city in the world); even Troy is not too far away. You can take a 45 minute ferry over to the Greek island Kos, the birthplace of Hippocrates, the father of medicine. Herodotus, the father of history, was a native of Bodrum. There must be something in the water. Who knows, maybe Newton and Aristotle were born there, too.

Billboard in Bodrum--defying stereotypes

Billboard in Bodrum–defying stereotypes

The Meeting–or, perhaps we should call it the Grand Salon–takes place over about four days at the gorgeous Karia Princess hotel, though many attendees come earlier or stay later for additional touring. There are speeches on three days; on the fourth day, there is a boat trip, the PFS Armada, Hoppe called it. Of the 100 or so guests, about 15 are speakers (see this year’s Program). The talks start fairly late, and leave plenty of time for socializing at breakfast, in breaks, and in the evenings. Often an attendee brings his or her whole family–such as my good friends Guido Hülsmann and Gil Guillory, who brought their wives and children.

Property, Freedom, and Society: Marzipan in Honor of Hans-Hermann Hoppe

Another special aspect to this year’s meeting was the festschrift with which Dr. Hoppe was presented last July for his 60th birthday, which I co-edited with Guido Hülsmann. Property, Freedom, and Society: Essays in Honor of Hans-Hermann Hoppe was obviously named after Hoppe’s PFS. At a table of books for sale, the two stacks of this volume had sold out by the end of the conference. The volunteer photographer for the event, Paul Vahur, had a festschrift-cake made in Estonia, entitled “Property, Freedom, and Society: Marzipan in Honor of Hans-Hermann Hoppe,” served as part of the dessert at the closing banquet.

It is so refreshing to be around so many Europeans–and libertarians, at that!–all so nice and interesting. The hotel is spacious and there is plenty of time and room to talk to so many people over the course of the event. The papers are delivered over three days, although I confess I skipped several of them since I can watch them later at home but I can’t tour the Bodrum area from home, so I grab the touring that I can while there. Dr. Hoppe and his beautiful, elegant, cultured–and Austrian PhD libertarian–wife, Gülcin Imre, are charming and gracious hosts.

Anita Acavalos, NSK, Fishing Village Kadikalesi

Kadikalesi Fishing Village–Anita Acavalos

My favorite aspect of libertarian events is the people–meeting new people, fascinating discussions with people who are world-famous experts in their field (such as Norman Stone, professor emeritus of History at Oxford), and meeting old friends. Such as, in addition to Gil Guillory and my longtime friend Guido Hülsmann (I traveled in 2000 to Seoul Korea, with Guido, Hoppe, and others), Juan Fernando Carpio, Paul Edwards (who brought his amazing wife), Tom DiLorenzo, Sean Gabb, Robert Groezinger, Joe Becker, Lee Iglody, Paul Gottfried, and newer friends such as Murat Yilmaz, Michael McKay and the lovely and brilliant young Austro-libertarian up-and-comer Anita Acavalos, David Townes, Jayant Bhandari, Paul Vahur, and many other new friends.

Kadikalesi Fishing Village–Huelsmanns, NSK, Gil Guillory, Juan Carpio, Paul Edwards–Kos in the distance

I was unable to visit Istanbul on this trip or in the 2006 trip for the Inaugural meeting, as time was tight for me, but I’ve been before and it’s wonderful and worth including in the itinerary if you can swing it. When I attended at the 2006 meeting, I went to Kos and thoroughly enjoyed it. This time, we stayed local–the Mausoleum of Mausolus, St. Peter’s Castle, the market, the marina, and the hotel itself (which has a Turkish bath). Every morning one has a leisurely breakfast in the beautiful gardens of the Hotel, visiting with various friends and others. Dinner is often a nice buffet at the hotel poolside, in the gardens, but after the second day of lectures, everyone gathers into two large buses (after taking the group photo above) and heads off to a lovely seaside dinner at the Fishing Village Kadekalesi. It is just breathtakingly beautiful–before dinner several people mingle on a pier, sipping Raki–a cloudy, white, anise-flavored Turkish spirit–with the Greek Island Kos in the background.

One day, after touring St. Peter’s Castle for a few hours with Juan Carpio and another friend, we had a leisurely late lunch at a nice restaurant called Hades in the market in Bodrum. We landed there because a merchant tried to hawk his shoes to me, and I said I was hungry, so he whisked us right around the corner to “my brother’s restaurant.” I love the merchant attitude in these culture. There was one guy we loved–we were walking past some shops, and one guy lounging in the entrance to his shop says, “Hey! Should I take your money from you now, or on your way back?” We were so delighted by his directness that we went inside and ended up all buying clothes and gifts from him. My friend Juan and our female companion even started disco dancing with him in the store.

A more interesting episode was when Juan and I were chatting with a surly looking young merchant, and Juan says, “Hey, what’s the deal with all these Atatürk posters everywhere?” The guy says, “Everybody love Atatürk.” Juan and I look at each other, and say, “Everybody?” The Turk says, “Of course.” I say, “Why ‘of course’?” The guy looks at us suspiciously, “Because he save Turkey!” Not yet willing to leave it alone, we persist, and say, “Sure, but there must be some Turks who don’t like him?” “No. Everyone.” Juan tries: “Look, we are not saying you are wrong about Atatürk, but in America, other countries, there is no one that everyone likes. Even George Washington is not liked by everyone.” “Who doesn’t like George Washington?” he asks incredulously. “I don’t, for one,” I intone. But at this point we decide to drop it. In the other shop with the friendly clerk, we mentioned this to him, and he admitted, “No, Atatürk is very popular, but of course not everyone likes him.”

Kinsella speech on intellectual property

Kinsella speech on intellectual property

After the third day, there is a Farewell Reception and Dinner, and entertainment–usually a belly dancer. This year a benefactor generously hired Turkey’s most famous and best belly dancer, Asena. She was a true artist and entranced the crowd (video). On that day I presented my talk on IP [“Ideas are Free: The Case Against Intellectual Property: or, How Libertarians Went Wrong”], and also participated in a Q&A Discussion Panel featuring “Hoppe, van Dun, DiLorenzo, Kinsella, Daniels, Kealey”(video). Interesting, one of the questions, which I fielded, had to do with the prospects for liberty. In my response, I noted that our only hope is economic literacy; we have to assume people are decent enough in their goals and generally desire peace, cooperation, and prosperity–if they do not, there is no hope for civilization–but that they are misled as to the means to achieve it. They are economically illiterate, and have been misled into believing the state is legitimate. I noted that with “teaching moments” like the collapse of the USSR, and also with increasing prosperity, and with the efforts of groups like the PFS and the Mises Institute, it may be possible to gradually improve economic literacy and to gradually delegitimize the state. Delegitimizing the state is key, I said, and concluded by observing that it is therefore important to laugh at the state (this is also a somewhat Randian theme about the inherent impotence of evil). Interestingly, Hoppe and DiLorenzo both instantly seized on this latter comment, both having obviously given it explicit thought before. Hoppe said he has actually considered getting a libertarian comedian for an upcoming PFS event–to laugh at the state–and DiLorenzo explained that one reason he often mocks the state and its media cheerleaders is for this very purpose–he gave the example of ridiculing Rachel Maddow in a recent LRC post where he referred to her getting her “panties in a knot”–this is to show these people as buffoons and clowns and to make people take them less seriously. (See also Laughing at the Regime.)

Hoppe, Kinsella, Terence Kealey, Frank van Dun, Anthony Daniels (Theodore Dalrymple), Tom DiLorenzo

The panel included, by the way, one Terence Kealey, an absolutely fascinating and delightful man, who spoke on “Science is a Private Good – Or: Why Government Science is Wasteful,” which perfectly complemented my anti-IP talk–in fact his book Sex, Science and Profits has a chapter calling for the abolition of patents (his The Economic Laws of Scientific Research also looks very interesting).

By the way, video of the speeches is available here; further pictures of the event (mostly by Paul Vahur) will be posted later.

The highlight of the trip, for me, was the boat trip, on the final day, after all the lectures were over. When I attended in 2006, everyone crowded onto a huge chartered yacht. Apparently regulations enacted in the meantime require more boats and captains per passenger, so we had a veritable “PFS Armada”–lead by Gülcin Imre’s beautiful, 50 year old classic boat (which has to be reconditioned every year to restore the wood), and followed by five other boats. It was a sight to see. The weather was beautiful, the water immaculate and breathtakingly beautiful, rivaling, in my mind, only the water I’ve seen around the Greek islands and the Italian island Capri. After about an hour trip all six boats cast anchor at a beautiful cove, near enough each other for people to visit from boat to boat by swimming or by taking small kayaks or little punts. Each boat had a wonderfully efficient crew who also cooked a delicious fish meal. The Turkish–mediterranean–diet–is quite delicious and healthy. Tomatoes, olives, cucumbers to die for, and heavenly meats.

There are just too many memories from this trip for me to recount fairly. But it was a highlight of my life. Getting to Bodrum from America is quite a hike. I can’t go every year, but will be back.

Reports on previous PFS meetings are collected at Press and offsite material here, including: