FreedomFest is “an annual festival where free minds meet to celebrate “great books, great ideas, and great thinkers” in an open-minded society. It is independent, non-partisan, and not affiliated with any organization or think tank with over 200 different speakers, over 125 general sessions, debates, panels, lectures and other presentations.”
Libertarian National Committee Chair Nicholas Sarwark appeared on the panel, “The Libertarian Outlook Here and Abroad,” Wednesday 11 July 2018 with Li Schooland and Thomas D. Walls.
Audio of the full presentation including comments by the other presenters and questions from members of the audience can be purchased HERE.
The following is a transcript of seclected portions of Mr. Sarwark’s remarks.
SARWARK: I am Nicholas Sarwark; I am chairman of the Libertarian National Committee. I am entering my third term in that position after having been reelected in New Orleans last week. I am the head of one of only three national political parties in this country, and the only one that’s growing, but also in the context of this panel has the distinction, to my knowledge, of being the first explicitly libertarian party in the world. When the Libertarian Party (of the United States) was founded in 1971 in Colorado, it was the first to say that individual liberty is the highest value, and that is to what we set our political ends. From that humble beginning, we have grown to a point where we own our own national office, just like the other two national parties that . . . are not as good. We have candidates on the ballot in all 50 states, or we are on track for all 50 states this election cycle. We have contested every presidential election since 1972. We are growing in numbers, dollars, candidates, members – people switching from their terrible old political parties to one that is more comfortable. Basically, everything is coming up Libertarian Party, right now.
SARWARK: But what I’ve been really heartened about . . . and Geoff Neale can probably tell me . . . how many Libertarian Political Parties have you identified around the world at this point?
NEALE: We have 21members of the International Alliance of Libertarian Parties. We keep identifying more. My estimate right now is that there is 15 to 25 additional political parties.
SARWARK: So like all good ideas, libertarianism is infectious and is spreading around the world; that’s why I am so excited to be on this panel.
. . .
SARWARK: I have the perspective of being the head of the American Libertarian Party. Our focus is that primarily we run candidates for public office and we try to displace one or both of the two old parties, whichever comes first. We’re not really picky on that. I have lots of reasons why you should all be Libertarians, why you should leave whatever old party you might be in. I’m going to bet it’s probably more Republicans than Democrats (here), just knowing the crowd. But whatever it is, today is always the best day for you to quit. But there is another reason, and it has more to do with what America really means around the world still in this context. When I was at Liberty International’s conference in Puerto Rico last year, people from actively communist countries like Cuba and Venezuela would come up to me and talk to me about how inspirational it was that there is an American Libertarian Party. The fact that we were able to stand up and go toe-to-toe with the leader of the free world and basically say that he is full of . . . something – in public and not be executed, not be jailed, not be imprisoned and not for a lack of trying, but to actually go out there and present these ideas boldly, inspires people around the world to do things that are incredibly dangerous. We were back-of-the-envelope planning a trip for me to Venezuela and figuring out how I was going to get there, probably without bringing my family for security reasons, and how I was going to get back out while still basically standing for everything that the regime does not stand for.
Our success within this country is a beacon to the world; it is one of the last redoubts of American exceptionalism – the idea that this is still a country where you can stand up and say that an individual’s right to live their life peacefully as they see fit is the greatest value that we have – it is the reason that this country exists and we are going to stand up for it regardless of what anyone tries to scare us with. That is a powerful message to send around the world. So your efforts, your willingness to stand up, your willingness to quit a party that doesn’t really represent you anymore, to give money to spread these ideas, and support these candidates does not just have an impact on the country that you live in here in the USA, but it has an impact on people around the world who you will never meet. So I think that is one of the things that is incredibly humbling to me, to meet people with those kind of stories.
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SARWARK: The very existence of everybody in this room, the existence of this country that we live in, is a revolutionary act; it is an act of rebellion for the good of man against the aggression of government. That is why American exists. We should never lose sight of that heart that we all have as Americans; as revolutionaries. Today to be a libertarian is to be a revolutionary. I’m going to let you all in on a secret – it ain’t beanbag; this is real. The government does not like us; we are on lists. We are listened to, we are tracked, we are attacked legally and extralegally. That is the nature of it. It is happening even more to our compatriots who are overseas who work within regimes where they do not have strong First Amendment protections. But really the First Amendment and any of our Constitutional protections are only as strong as the judges who hear those cases and whether or not they are willing to stand up to the government that pays their paycheck. My experience in criminal justice is that is a mixed bag at best.
So we need to do things like open our border for peaceful people to immigrate into the country. I am very proud of the delegates at our convention because we strengthened our free migration plank at convention to make it absolutely one hundred percent clear that we mean every word that is on the base of the Statue of Liberty, even if none of the other political parties in the country seem to remember what it says. We want allyouall to come here. It has been in the past frustrating for me – and maybe I’ll be less frustrated this year – that at a conference that is so dedicated to free markets, and is so dedicated to entrepreneurialism, and moving your money and your capital across national borders with no real respect for this idea that you should be subject to being stopped from moving your own personal capital around borders – that there are still people who think that the very capital that I have, for example, I am an attorney by training – my body is my capital in that career. The defense that I hear for the idea that somehow my capital should not be allowed to move across borders, but that my bitcoins, or my gold, or my bullion, or , my stocks, or my currency should be . . . I find it inconsistent at best. I think that one of the things that gets lost in the shuffle when we have these debates about what our immigration should look like, or if we should even have one, is the people who would fight against free markets in a labor market usually hold up something scary. They say that really bad people with really bad ideas are going to come into this country and do bad things. Newsflash – there are some bad people already in this country, they were born here, and they want to do some bad things, and shockingly many of them get elected.
SARWARK: But there are people like Leo Brito in Venezuela; there are people like dissidents in China. There are people around the world who believe in these very same revolutionary ideas who do not have the privilege that we have to be safe to speak out against their government, and those are the same people who are restricted from coming here whenever we restrict our market in human capital. So it is a moral duty that we have, like all good revolutionaries, to stand in solidarity with the others who are our ideological allies. We have a moral duty to people around the world to let them have the same liberties that we have if they are willing to fight for them and we need to stand up for them.
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SARWARK: Everyone at this conference knows this, governments do not want money to move; they don’t. That is not good for them unless it moves through their hands so they can take whatever they need. Prior to the advent of crypto, and the crypto wars back in the 1990s of which I count myself a veteran, the previous way that you could move money around the world in a very quick fashion was the hawala networks in the Muslim world. Shockingly the War on Terror decided those hawala networks needed to be shut down. These were networks where you could frictionlessly move cash across great distances at very low cost. They maybe forgot to tell the taxman how much money they moved that month. I find this both in the War on Terror and the War on Drugs, is that those will be the fear-based leavers that people will use in order to restrict fundamental human freedoms. To shut down a money moving service, they will say, “But terrorists use it!” Well, they use the bus; they use the lite rail and they use the roads too, but I think I should still be allowed to drive a car and have a gun.
We need to follow the Christian axiom of looking at how do you treat the lease of these? That’s how we judge our society. So find the most reviled group you can and what freedoms they have are the freedoms that you have. The ones that you are willing to take away from them will be taken away from you next.
. . .
SARWARK: The intellectual dark web, like most dark webs, has a lot of garbage I it. That is the nature of the Silk Road website that Ross Albrecht is sadly serving two life terms for. We passed a resolution at the convention asking the President to give him a full pardon. So cross your fingers that the President will start listening to us.
SARWARK: It is worth applause; it is unlikely he will listen to us until forced. I think it is good that we are having this resurgence in free speech. The Free Speech Wars are in a weird spot right now. I do not know if everyone in the room has heard – the ACLU has new case selection guidelines. It is not the crisis that some people have made it out to be, but they are more cognizant of what a lot of political organizations are, basically – who signs their checks? So they are being more careful about standing up for the free speech rights, at least publically, of people who are going to offend the people who write the checks so the lawyers can work. That is always a delicate balance in any advocacy organization. But what I’ve seen is that groups like FIRE, the Libertarian Party itself – other groups are filling that void because there will always be people who are committed to the free speech of people who maybe do not have good ideas, but they have ideas.
Like I was saying before, the way you treat the ideas that you most hate is the ceiling on the protection that your ideas have. So if you are not willing for example to let a Nazi speak without punching them, then you are not getting to speak without getting punched. So I think that it is good that there is a movement to protect that. I think that it is very important that we balance that with not being afraid to say, “Yes, this garbage-person should be allowed to say their garbage-things and not be restrained in speech, but it is still garbage.” It is very important for us as Libertarians to do that and make sure that our commitment to not prohibiting things is not seen as an approval of what is being said.
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SARWARK: Governments have this way of wanting to keep people inside their borders; it could have something to do with taxes.
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SARWARK: Information always finds a way. You want to talk about strange bedfellows? I was just in Grover Norquist’s meeting and the gentleman who spoke shortly after me is a man named Dennis Hoff who lives here in Nevada, who just won the Republican Primary and is going from a relatively clean business of prostitution into a somewhat less clean business of politics.
SARWARK: In that same vein, post Parkland in some of the reflexive, “Let’s trot out the gun control proposals we keep trotting out every time something bad happens,” YouTube took down a lot of their firearms enthusiast videos, where people would go out and shoot things and record it so that other people who like that kind of thing could watch it. So a lot of the gun videos now have moved to PornHub.com which is primarily for pornography, but they are already used to publishing things that not everyone wants to see and they are not everybody’s cup of tea. So we have to remember that regardless or not whether we’re necessarily friends, when it comes to these issues like free speech, we are all in this together.
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SARWARK: We were openly and loudly opposed to FOSTA and SESTA at the time. (Note: The Fight Online Sex Trafficking Act (FOSTA) and the Stop Enabling Sex Traffickers Act (SESTA) were signed into law by President Trump on 11 April 2018.) We raised the alarm when not a lot of other people would, that these were ostensibly to stop sex trafficking, but would in fact end up creating more harm within the legal sex-work movement and bring back the violence that you get when you have an underground pimp culture where sex workers are no longer able to share information about who might be a dangerous client. At our national convention just last week, we are now the only national political party with an explicitly pro sex-work plank for consenting adults to engage in any sex-work that they like.
SARWARK: Because much like my human capital is contained mostly within my body and not so much within my bank account, sex-work is work and deserves all the respect that any other occupation does. If you do not like it, don’t do it or buy it. But don’t make people be in danger going to do their job because you don’t approve of it.
Prior IPR coverage of FreedomFest can be found at the following links.