Introducing the New Director
Re: Introducing the New Director
Sean has repeatedly said to me “I’m not a leader.” I disagree. I think he has done a fine job as Director of the Libertarian Alliance. However, he is now keen to do other things, other things which will be made easier without the baggage of being the head of a libertarian organisation. Sean has wanted to do other things for some time, but no one has been either willing or able to relieve him of the burden of the directorship of the Libertarian Alliance. Until now.
I was first offered the Libertarian Alliance by Sean just over two years ago at a café on the campus of the University of Manchester. Why was I there? I was there firstly because David Davis, having picked me up, had kindly driven me all the way there. The occasion was a debate on the legacy of the British Empire. Sean was there to give his usual rehabilitation of the Empire. I was there because some Tory councillor had pulled out at the last minute and no one else would do. At the café – Starbucks I think – we were dividing up our arguments. Sean was to make the more general and abstract case that all nations, when strong enough, will tyrannise weak nations, and that the British are not the first and certainly not the last to do this. I was to argue that the Empire, while providing us, the British, with no tangible benefits, brought many incidental benefits to the conquered peoples. I’ll be honest with you: I didn’t like the argument then and I don’t like it now – and it showed in my performance. Having used only half the allotted time, and quite rightly sensing that the audience, a nasty pack of undergraduates with too much time on their hands, wanted to lynch me, I sat back down. We lost the debate, and we deserved to.
Enough of this episode. It was, if nothing else, a baptism of fire in terms of public speaking at universities. Since then I have done more of this sort of thing, with no repeats of that disaster. Since then, and always with Sean’s offer of the LA at the back of my mind, I have spoken in London, Bodrum, and elsewhere, I have written essays, often for quite distinguished publications (including The Salisbury Review), published a book, and been admitted to Cambridge University where I have just taken a First in my Preliminary examinations. If I am unsure exactly what they are, I have since demonstrated some merits, some skills, and some talents. Indeed, I already had a copyrighted essay to my name nearly two years before the speech to the Manchester Debating Union. And so there are two, not necessarily mutually exclusive, explanations for Sean’s decision to hand everything over to me: first, that, on the basis of everything I’ve already done, I might do something half-decent with what has been given to me; and second, that there really is no one else.
Regrettably, the only assets of the Libertarian Alliance are: the Libertarian Alliance Blog (thelibertarianalliance.com); the Libertarian Alliance Archive Website (libertarian.co.uk); a number of videos; and the limited company itself. The Libertarian Alliance Ltd is not mine. Since it is a legal structure for which I would have no use, I do not want it. Apart from that, the rest is mine, with no conditions imposed by Sean.
Therefore, there are to be a number of quite dramatic changes. The first change is that the organisation I now own will not be called the Libertarian Alliance, but the Ludwig von Mises Centre (or Mises UK), and it is this that I am asking you to get behind. There is already a new legal structure in place, which is that of a charitable company limited by guarantee. We are to seek, as the Libertarian Alliance obtained, educational charity status, and the main website of Mises UK will be the former Libertarian Alliance Blog. This website will in due course become tidier, more streamlined, more rational, and more aesthetically pleasing, but this will be not an event but a process. There will be new people, new writers and speakers, and to some extent a new audience or constituency. There will be, above all, a new, clearer message: Austrian Economics, freedom, and peace. Unlike the Libertarian Alliance, Mises UK will be primarily within the Austrian, and specifically Misesean, tradition.
At the same time, there will be continuity. While I own the assets listed above, and am perfectly at liberty to dispose of them, the archival material of the Libertarian Alliance shall be preserved and ultimately incorporated into the main website of Mises UK. While there will be new writers and speakers, if you are currently involved with the Libertarian Alliance you are welcome to be a part of Mises UK. And while there will be a noticeable Austrian School reorientation, this will not come at the expense of the often valuable, essentially heterodox essays for which the Libertarian Alliance was known. In other words, alongside what I may regard to be the more intellectually robust Austrian tradition, other traditions – High Tory, classical liberal, Public Choice, mutualist, Georgist, even ‘Bleeding Heart Libertarian’ – will take their place in the output of Mises UK.
I am aware of the risk of starting a new organisation where an old, more established one already exists. Anyone who knows a bit about marketing will tell you to stick with a long-established ‘brand.’ Let the old brand live on, both in the Mises UK archives and in the work of the Other Libertarian Alliance run by David McDonagh et al. But I am convinced that the time is now ripe for Mises UK, which has been a long time coming. Yes, it will take time to establish itself. Yes, there will be teething troubles. And yes, not everyone will be happy about it. But given time and energy, I feel sure that I’ll be proved right on this. Of course, money helps too, but we don’t plan to become your average Big Government and Big Business-friendly ‘policy institute’, so this does mean continued reliance on small donations, out of which we shall pay bills, web developers, writers, venues, speakers, podcasters, and cover other incidental expenses. The bigger picture behind all this is a vision of an active, innovative, and intellectually rigorous Austro-libertarian movement in this country which provides an alternative to the nonsense of mainstream politics. That movement is like a dormant volcano waiting to erupt.
And so I invite you to help, in whatever capacity, me, Sean, Andy Duncan (who spoke earlier this month at Mises Brasil), Godfrey Bloom (as Honorary President), Andy Curzon (a fellow Property & Freedom Society member), and others out in this new venture. Send your ideas, articles, etc. to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or through the Mises UK Facebook page.
In closing, I would like to thank Sean for his leadership of the LA, for his friendship, and for the trust he has placed in me.
Director, The Ludwig von Mises Centre (UK)