Three years ago, at the age of 19, Chanyang Ju escaped the North Korean regime and started her new life as a free woman in South Korea. On the last night of the 2014 Asia Liberty Forum, Chanyang spoke to us about her experience, life in North Korea and the importance of controlling her own life. She is in the middle of the picture below.
This was just one of the many great talks that we had over two and a half days of lively discussion, debate, and networking with old and new friends. Over 200 people came from over 30 countries to hear from distinguished intellectuals, effective activists and community leaders.
The conference started with an inspiring talk by successful Indian businessman and author Gurcharan Das, who spoke about the “dharma of capitalism”. In Hinduism, “dharma” means the duty to act with honesty and decency towards others, and Das pointed out that the duty of dharma is at the core of a lot of everyday transactions, such as catching a taxi without first signing a contract.
Other academic talks included Professor John Tomasi (Brown) talking about free market fairness, Professor Feng Xingyuan (Chinese Academy of Social Sciences) discussing the importance of enterprise in economic development, and Professor Razeen Sally (NUS) explaining the economic evolution within Asia. And of course the wandering libertarian polymath Tom Palmer, who manages to show up at all the best freedom events around the world.
We also learnt about the success of think-tanks around the world, with talks from Parth Shah (India), Peter Wong (Hong Kong), Kris Mauren (USA), Rainer Heufers (Singapore), Sonam Tashi (Bhutan),Wan Saiful (Malaysia), Medeni Sungur (Turkey) and other inspiring liberal leaders. There was also a popular session on women in liberty, including infamous trouble-maker Baishali Bomjan (India) as well as Arpita Nepal (Nepal), Cindy Cerquitella (USA), Li Schoolland (USA & China), and Tricia Yeoh (Malaysia).
On the lighter side, after the Azadi journalism awards we had several excellent performances from conference participants, including Russian Opera singing from Pavel Koktyshev (Kazakstan), rapping by Casey Lartigue (USA & Korea), singing from Chanyang Ju (Korea) and the awesome oddity of Sadaf Hussein’s strange sounds. We also enjoyed learning more from dozens of activists during speed networking, and listening to spontaneous sessions, coordinated by the always interesting Andrew Humphries.
More than just an academic conference, the 2014 ALF was a coming together of open-minded and kind-hearted people from around the world in a spirit of tolerance and learning. The Asia Liberty Forum is now established as one of the “must do” events on the libertarian calendar. I look forward to going back next year, and you should come too.
Last year, American funny-man Jon Stewart asked a series of questions to libertarians. Since then, plenty of people have responded, giving fairly comprehensive answers. I agree with some of those answers, but I thought I’d put together my own “short answers” anyway… only six months late.
1. Is government the antithesis of liberty?
We need definitions. If “liberty” means people being allowed to act voluntarily with each other (as I define it) then the antithesis is involuntary behaviour — e.g. violence, coercion, theft, murder. The government certainly does all of that, but they are not the only example (eg mafia, rapists). Further, some libertarians will suggest that if a limited government is able to decrease “private” violence & coercion, then they might even be a force for good. (This idea is known as the “night-watchman government” or “minarchism”.)
It’s worth quickly noting that government does not mean “governance”. You would still have much governance in a libertarian society (for example, cricket rules).
Soon to be added… Macedonia, Serbia, Romania, Qatar, and maybe Burma, Moldova and Ukraine
People talk. That’s what we do. And sometimes we talk about each other, and sometimes people tell stories that aren’t necessarily fully accurate. I have always found it quite amusing when I hear strange stories about myself, and thought I’d put together a “best of…” for rumours about me.
For the past two weeks I have been in Cambodia working on my little project here. I started the Human Capital Project (HCP) back in 2007 as a non-profit organisation that provides “personal equity” finance for poor rural students so that they can go to university. Every year around September I treck back to meet with the continuing students and interview new applicants.
But these trips are also a good opportunity for me to do some reading, exploring, thinking and life planning. Yesterday (Sunday 19/09) I managed to finally get over to Kratie to see the rare Irrawaddy freshwater dolphins and on Friday (24/09) I’ll be playing a game of soccer for a team that is in the national 3rd division. I’ve enjoyed exploring maths, philosophy and art with Hofstadter and read economic papers by Fischer and Potts.
Travelling is also good for my soul. My “wandering years” (2005-08) are behind me now, but it’s still good to get away from the computer and current affairs and routine and the usual crowd, and have more time for my mind to wander.
But it will also be good to get home. The week after I get back I will join my parents, Karen & Ash on a trip to NZ to celebrate my mum’s 60th birthday, and then I’ll go straight over to Sydney for the Mont Pelerin Society meeting and to catch up with friends.
Last week Aidan McLindon and Rob Messenger quit the Liberal National Party (LNP), and have decided to stay in the Queensland parliament as independents. I don’t know the people involved, and I don’t know the background, so I’m not going to comment on that.
But one thing that did catch my attention was Aidan’s “seven principles” of government. In summary, his “philosophy” is that the government should help people and do good stuff. Amazingly, those fluffy buzz-words were actually reported with a straight face. I think Aidan missed a few, so I thought I’d help him out…