Libertarian Fiction Authors Association and Short Story Contest

Libertarian Fiction Authors Association

It’s been a long time since I blogged on The Libertarian Standard. I’ve been busy with other projects, one of which is the subject of this post. I recently launched, in November 2013, the Libertarian Fiction Authors Association.

If you’re like me, you enjoy reading fiction but have a difficult time finding stories that truly reflect your values and interests. This discovery problem affects everyone, but is particularly acute for niche markets like ours. There are individuals and organizations (including Amazon) attempting to solve the problem for authors and readers in general, but no one was really catering to libertarians specifically.

How many libertarians out there have published fiction? How many more are aspiring authors, who are either writing their first novel or are thinking about it but need some encouragement and guidance? I had no idea, but I was sure there were far more than I knew about personally.

As an activist, I also think that dramatizing our values through fiction is an important way to spread the message of liberty.

As an aspiring fiction author myself, I wanted to form a group made up of fellow libertarian writers who could learn from, encourage, and push each other to accomplish their goals and continually reach for new heights — and, eventually, to get my stories into the hands of new readers.

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Batman vs James Bond

BatmanVsJamesBondIn recent months, my wife and I have been catching up on the Daniel Craig trilogy of 007 movies, and I’ve been watching Batman cartoons with my seven-year-old son. So my thoughts have been full of action heroes — particularly the Dark Knight and Her Majesty’s secret servant.

I remember my father complaining about both characters and contrasting them to the lone-hero tradition of hardboiled detectives and their fictional forebears, the cowboys.

G.I. vs Private Eye

In fact, my father’s point to my preteen self was a continuation of a point he made to me when I was about my son’s age. I’d just gotten a set of “Undercover Agent” accessories for my GI Joe doll (we didn’t call them action figures back then). Gone were the camouflage fatigues and assault rifle; now Joe sported a dark trench coat and a walkie-talkie.

GIJoeUndercoverAgentI said, “Look dad: It’s GI Private Eye!”

My father explained to me that my rhyming name for my new hero was self-contradictory. A GI was an American soldier, an official agent of the US government, whereas a “private eye” was a private individual, a lone hero in the fictional tradition. If dad had been more of a libertarian, he would have said that the military agent is paid by coercively extracted taxes and operates by state privilege, whereas the private detective is an agent of the market, authorized only by private contracts, and liable to the same restrictions as any individual citizen. My father doesn’t talk that way, even now, but he would acknowledge that description as making the same point.

So after GI Private Eye, I grew up with an awareness of the distinction between heroes like James Bond, who was funded and sanctioned by the government, and heroes like Philip Marlowe, who was funded by private clients and sanctioned only by his personal code of conduct.

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On Libertarian Factionalism, Our Critics, Conservative Associations and State Power

The generation of libertarians seen in such outfits as SFL excites and encourages me. I especially approve its efforts to cleanse the movement of the type of bigotry that emerged after years of the libertarian movement’s circumstantial alliance with conservatives to battle against New Deal liberalism. Finally, young libertarians seem poised to differentiate themselves entirely from rightwing mythology and error.

I worry, however, that many of the young libertarians, particularly centered around the DC institutions, might lose sight of the importance of radical anti-statism. This all relates to something I can best explain by way of a little autobiography.

I was always a cosmopolitan libertarian. Although I had my origins on the right, I have favored gay marriage and open borders since I was in junior high in the mid-1990s. I have always disliked the notion that white upper middle class men were somehow the most persecuted minority. I have always seen law enforcement’s treatment of people of color as one of the greatest problems in American culture. I have, with varying degrees of intensity, long been sympathetic to such leftish concerns as feminism and the need for the poorest to be liberated from the state infrastructure that keeps them down.

There are many like me who in the 1990s tended to see our values most represented in institutions like CATO and Reason, and who were suspicious of the seemingly conservative tendencies of other libertarians, such as those associated with Ron Paul.

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Walter Block Says Legalize Blackmail

blackmailI was fortunate enough to get a PDF preview of Walter Block’s new book, Legalize Blackmail, before it was published, and today I was delighted to receive my hardcover copy in the mail.

The book is a collection of  Block’s essays on the subject of blackmail — specifically, why he believes it should be legal as a matter of libertarian principle — including rebuttals of many other scholars’ opinions. It’s the most thorough libertarian treatment of this subject that has ever been published or, I am  confident, ever will be. And because it’s from Block, it’s a great read besides.

As I say in a blurb on the book’s back cover: “If you want to understand the libertarian position on blackmail, read this book. If you’ve taken it for granted that we need laws against blackmail, Walter Block will challenge your assumptions with provocative arguments you’ll find difficult to refute.”

Order it here.

It’s coming! It’s coming!

ISFLC14_FB-cover_draft04All my feeds are filling up with a growing frenzy about the big event of the year, the International Students for Liberty Conference, Washington, D.C., February 14-16, 2014.

I’ve only been once but I completely get the frenzy. I stumbled in last year, having been brought to town for a different task (some recordings on business cycle theory). I saw that the ISFLC was happening and walked in.

Wow, amazed. A new world opened up to me. There were multitudes of students present, all learning about and celebrating the magnificence of human liberty. I had no intention to stay. Suddenly, nothing could pull me away.

This year is going to be bigger and better. I’m speaking. I’m fired up about that (thanks, Institute for Humane Studies!) but also happy that my own new company has a table and a fabulous party that we are throwing on Saturday  night. It’s for those who have signed up for Liberty.me at the presubscribe rate. You can pay now or pay at the event. I would love to see you.

This is only one of many private gatherings (of course I hope it is the hottest ticket of the event). I’m also happy that The Students for Liberty is able to work directly with Liberty.me in a cooperative venture to get students access to the libraries, forums, social networking, classes, and publishing opportunities that are the core of Liberty.me’s service. In many ways, it is the ideal digital home for this generation.

Here’s the thing. Most of the year, liberty-minded people tend to go around rather glumly, regretting the state of the world. This attitude is blasted away at the ISFLC. What you experience is hope, exuberance, love, optimism about the future. It is infectious. And there is great reason for it too: liberty is positioned to rule the world in our times as never before.

I’ve been in this liberty “movement” for a bit of time, and I can tell you that everything is changing. And changed. If you don’t believe it, come to the ISFLC and see for yourself.

See you at cocktail hour!