The Property and Freedom Society: The Club Med of Libertarian Conferences

Keir Martland October 14, 2015 0
Sean Gabb in the foreground on the right. Keir Martland in the middle of the photograph. Source: propertyandfreedom.org

Sean Gabb in the foreground on the right. Keir Martland in the middle of the photograph. Source: propertyandfreedom.org

Earlier this year, Hans-Hermann Hoppe invited me to his annual Property and Freedom Society (PFS) conference in Bodrum, Turkey. Having never been to Turkey before, I decided I would ask a good friend and colleague from the Libertarian Alliance, Sean Gabb, if I could travel with him. He responded, “If you think you can put up with me, let’s do it.”

At the airport, Sean and I had a chat over a coffee at the Jamie Oliver café about the ageing leftists and the young and vibrant right, evidenced by – apart from my good self at the Libertarian Alliance – the new generation of writers and activists for all manner of organisations, be it Breitbart, Young Independence, or indeed the Adam Smith Institute. I wasn’t convinced, but after a rare moment of optimism from Sean, we went to the duty free to get some whisky for Professor Hoppe.

Sean returned to his usual cheery self on the plane. “Because we’re in the middle of the plane, in the event of a crash, we are least likely to survive.” Then he fell asleep for the duration of the flight while I gawped out of the window.

After I had unpacked, I walked over to the Karia Princess Hotel to see who else had arrived, like me and Sean, a day early, on the 9th September. I had the good fortune of meeting Professor Richard Lynn and his wife. However controversial his area of study may be, he is a man of quality. Richard read History at Cambridge originally, but switched to Psychology in his second year.

Dinner that evening was with Hans and Gulcin Hoppe and Sean. What to say about Professor Hoppe? He is without a doubt the most important libertarian economist and philosopher for at least a generation, and his more recent writings on history are of equal value. In person, he is a great raconteur and conversationalist. On the final night of PFS he slowly approached me and put his hand on my shoulder to say “Until now I had never ever heard the name ‘Keir.’ I was, however, aware of Keira Knightly.” I bet he was!

There is also nothing wrong with Hoppe’s sense of humour. Aware of the potential comedic value of his German accent, he used it to great effect. In order to alert us that it was time to get ready for the next lecture, he would shout “Achtung, achtung!” He also had us in fits of laughter when he told us of how Murray Rothbard kept rabbits in his apartment, which he would sometimes take for walks down the streets of Brooklyn.

I did meet a few Americans at PFS, but I didn’t let it ruin the conference for me. I particularly enjoyed the company of Stephan Kinsella from the ‘Center for the Study of Innovative Freedom’ (C4SIF) and his quizzing me on the Glorious Revolution. A number of other interesting foreigners are worth mentioning: Christian Robitaille from Mises Canada; Juan Carpio from Universidad San Francisco; Joakim Fagerström from Mises Sweden; and many more. Sean and I weren’t the only Englishmen at PFS, however. Also present were Peter Brimelow of VDare, Andy Duncan of ‘Sound Money’ at Casey Research, and Andy Curzon of the Intellectual Minds conferences.

On the 14th September, there was the boat trip. We all walked down to the marina, sailed out into the Aegean, and had some lunch. Apart from the lengthy discussions of common law, limited liability, entrepreneurship, and the practicalities of getting the state out of the economy, what I most remember is the moment that we were all swarmed by wasps. Sean leant over to tell me, “Of course, a real man isn’t afraid of wasps.” Then, when a huge oriental hornet landed on the table, he changed his tune, “Oh, that’s alarming. I think I will go in the sea after all.”

Perhaps the most surreal moment of PFS 2015 was when, for some reason or other, a succession of gay anthems started booming out of the sound system. Suddenly, a lot of confused people found themselves having to talk over the sound of the Village People’s YMCA.

Another memorable moment was the firework display after a short speech from Dr Gulcin Hoppe, accompanied by Orff’s ‘O Fortuna.’ The effect was very dramatic indeed.

How to sum up PFS? Andy Duncan has said it is like being outside of the asylum for a week. Stephan Kinsella describes it as ‘the land of perpetual hangovers.’ I think the best description yet, though, was from Gulcin Hoppe’s speech on day one: it is the ‘club med’ of conferences!

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