ISIL 2006 Conference, Prague, Czech Republic
by Steve Cobb
The International Society for Individual Liberty (ISIL) is an international network of libertarian individuals and organizations, and they have a conference every summer. I first attended in 2003 in Vilnius, Lithuania, and in fact that was my first time attending a libertarian gathering ever. After many years of living in Western Europe, surrounded by socialists and the charred ruins of the Enlightenment, I found it intoxicating to be surrounded by like-minded libertarians. That it happened in Lithuania was icing on the cake: my previous visit to that country was in 1990, a hopeful but tense period when they were threatening independence and under Soviet blockade. I went to the 2006 ISIL conference in Prague to get more of the same, but I also had three other goals: to present copies of the Esperanto translation of "The Adventures of Jonathan Gullible" to Prof. Ken Schoolland, to represent the Free State Project, and to enjoy the pleasures of Prague, which I had not been to in some seven years.
You probably know that Jonathan Gullible is a hugely successful tool for libertarian outreach that has been translated into about 40 languages. Since libertarians and Esperantists share some personality traits (I have met Esperantists by chance only in libertarian venues), I thought that the Esperanto translation would be popular. An important side benefit was the Esperanto version of the Flash animation "Introduction to the Philosophy of Liberty". This presentation takes its text from the epilogue of Jonathan Gullible, and it has to be the most persuasive libertarian outreach tool ever invented.
A few of us are involved in providing the presentation in many foreign languages; you can find them at www.jonathangullible.com/media.htm.
The ISIL has devoted an entire page to Esperanto-language information about libertarianism: www.isil.org/libereco
I really didnÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t expect to do any serious FSP recruiting; after all, this was an international gathering. The FSP canÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t help people immigrate, though we do welcome foreign citizens to sign up as foreign friends. I did give away 100 FSP lanyards, and people wore them throughout the 3.5-day conference. I brought a small amount of other merchandise, and the discs attracted the most attention. People frequently approached me to ask how the FSP was doing. A surprising number of non-US citizens knew all about the FSP: one of the young Czechs had been an intern at Cato (where he discussed FSP with David Boaz), another Czech student was the only Czech FSP participant, and a third was a big fan of Free Talk Live.
The program was largely speakers throughout the day, always two in a row followed by a coffee break or meal. Those breaks allowed for the most important activity: networking. Most evenings there was some activity, e.g. a trip to a touristy restaurant. There were about 120 attendees, of whom maybe 20 were Americans. The rest came from all over the world. It seemed to me that about a quarter were students.
This year's conference was hosted by the Czech Liberalni Institut. The speakers were generally interesting, and the usual mix: most spoke about theory, although they were generally preaching to the choir. A few spoke about practical efforts, reporting from the front line in their own countries. There were only two vendor tables, both books. I added FSP stuff to one of them, which provided the only color in the room.
ISIL 2007 will take place in Richmond, Virginia, probably in August. This is unusual, as most ISIL conferences that I know of occurred in Europe. Although fewer people might come from the poorer countries, more will come from Europe and the Americas: the ISIL leadership is expecting 500 attendees. I strongly suggest that the FSP provide a significant presence. That would mean speakers, a table, and perhaps volunteer help.
Since any East Europeans who make it to ISIL 2007 will likely be short of cash, perhaps some people on the East coast could volunteer to put them up for the night if they want to travel around a bit? IÃ¢â‚¬â„¢ll suggest the idea to the ISIL organizers, and ask them for their ideas about where we could help.