Objectivist and libertarian communities often discuss their utopian potentialities, so the prospect of the Libertopia Festival —by its name alone—seemed a good location for The Atlas Society to reach out to attendees with information about Ayn Rand and the philosophy of Objectivism. I managed a table at the conference along with a friend, Caitlin Ewing, who helpfully gave her time.
We handed out essays, stickers, palm cards, and copies of TAS's new pamphlet, Myths About Ayn Rand (now available as an ebook for $0.99 ). Many people approached the table to take materials, tell us about their favorite Ayn Rand works, and learn more about The Atlas Society.
The fourth annual Libertopia took place August 28 through September 2 in San Diego. Its producer was Sky Conway. The event is hosted by the Libertalia Foundation, a nonprofit “dedicated to spreading the principles of free-market economics and voluntaryism.” The Libertopia Facebook page describes the event as “an annual festival of peace, freedom, music, community and ideas that will change the world.”
The emphasis of the 2013 conference, in particular, was that personal freedom precedes political freedom. For instance, many libertarian lecture-based conferences organize their speaker topics by “culture” and “politics” simply for clarity. But Libertopia used its “tracks” (“Relationships,” “Off The Grid”…) to demonstrate how individual lifestyle choices might directly affect the political sphere. Courses on practical matters such as communication, home-birthing, or Krav Maga (a form of Israeli martial arts) were touchstones for a more political speech called “Alternatives to Government Institutions,” by Roderick Long . “We abolish the state not by smashing a concrete thing,” said Long, “but by interacting differently with each other.”
Speaker James Peron , in his talk “The Culture of Liberty,” reflected on Hayek’s desire for a culture which embraced change courageously, warning that conservatives and timid people alike would use the government to prevent change. In “Misogyny, Homophobia, and Empire,” Angela Keaton argued that abusive power structures in society mirrored a larger structure of state abuse against citizenry. Other key presenters included Jennifer Grossman, CEO of Jag TV ; Matt Amberson of DeadEasyLife.com ; Michael Badnarik, author of Good To Be King: The Foundation of our Constitutional Freedom ; Jeff Berwick of The Dollar Vigilante ; and Jayant Bhandari , entrepreneur and investment advisor.
In addition to the talent and diversity of the speakers, there was an interesting make-up of attendees. If mainstream libetarianism is already a fringe movement, then the Libertopia crowd is the fringe of the fringe. Here were the intellectual suits and the pressed linen of the West coast entrepreneurs, as expected, but also rugged rural anarchists and sweet California star-children, drawn to libertarianism as much for its “peace and love” as for its economic feasibility.
In the evenings, after sessions were over, Libertopia featured formal dinners, casual social time, an open mic, showings of libertarian movies such as The Silver Circle, and performances by singer Tatiana Moroz . There was also the presentation of the annual Sovereign Award, given this year to J. Neil Schulman, writer of the Agorist novel Alongside Night.
Objectivists attending Libertopia would have noted that speakers often worked from the premise of anarchy. While Rand argued for vast reductions in government power, she held that government had a legitimate role in maintaining the objective application of force. But the spirit of individual initiative and problem-solving at Libertopia was highly in line with Objectivist principles, as well as the program's focus on embracing change and innovation.