Book review: Edward Snowden’s “Permanent record”

GIOVANNI BIRINDELLI, 26.11.2019

(Italian version here)

While reading Edward Snowden’s Permanent Record, I was astonished by the qualities of the author. Notwithstanding his understatement, these qualities clearly emerged from the details of his story: his courage, above all. His intelligence. His computing abilities, which to me seem almost supernatural. His rectitude. His profound kindness that is revealed in every line of his book. His great humaneness.

While each one of these qualities in itself would have already been extraordinary because of its intensity, the contemporary presence of all of them in the same person at the same time made me rethink the limits of what I once considered to be humanly possible.

In this article I will not discuss these qualities. I think that the best way to appreciate them is to buy the book and read it.

I’m so much humbled by them and by Snowden’s purely heroic gesture that I’m instinctively inclined to censor my own criticism of some aspects of his thought that I believe are logically inconsistent. In fact, in relation to the choices, the capabilities, the actions and the qualities of a hero of this magnitude, these inconsistencies have such little importance that they appear to be almost negligible. However, they are about the very ideas on which his gesture was based: namely, the very concept of privacy and the difference between what is legal and what is right. Therefore, perhaps a discussion of these inconsistencies may be not entirely useless. In addition, I do not believe that self-censorship would be the best way to homage the person who, at the beginning all alone, has defied the most powerful nation in the world (and its allies) to denounce its mass surveillance programs and start a debate on these issues.

Criticizing from the comfort of one’s desk, on a theoretical level, the ideas of someone who risked his own life to defend them (and who’s living in exile for having defended them), is not usually an aesthetically beautiful thing to do, I believe. However, in this particular case, I consider this criticism a tribute to the man who has risked his own life to start a much-needed debate on privacy and on the difference between what is legal and what is right. This criticism is for me a way to acknowledge the debt that I, together with my family, have with Edward Snowden and that I know I will hardly ever manage to pay back.

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Protectionism

GIOVANNI BIRINDELLI, 4.5.2018

Slides of the lectures held at the Course in Economic Geography (Prof. A. Vitale) – LLM in Sustainable Development, Faculty of Law – University of Milan 

 

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Glenn Greenwald and civil libertarians’ ‘double paradigm’ syndrome

GIOVANNI BIRINDELLI, 30.6.2015 Publication in English: Mises Canada: https://mises.ca/posts/articles/glenn-greenwald-and-civil-libertarians-double-paradigm-syndrome/

Lecture at Liberi Comuni d’Italia

GIOVANNI BIRINDELLI, 4.5.2014

(English translation of the lecture which took place at Liberi Comuni d’Italia – Siena, Italy, 4.5.2014)

 

Decadence manifests itself in an extremely real, concrete, tangible way: an entrepreneur committing suicide, a company closing down, a person losing a job, a family not managing to make ends meet, an olive grove being abandoned to itself. Therefore, it is instinctive and even reassuring to try to counter decadence in an equally real, concrete, action-oriented manner while, at the same time, avoiding and even making fun of philosophical chatter. However, even though the decadence we are seeing manifests itself in a very real and concrete way, its ultimate cause is purely philosophical: it consists of the abstract idea of law which, in the Italian case, has been imposed by the Constitution. Continue reading

Huerta de Soto: how to clear the public debt

GIOVANNI BIRINDELLI, 3.12.2013

(Original publication: Mises Italia, Mises Canada)

A recent editorial by Alberto Alesina and Francesco Giavazzi in the Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera has spurred me to illustrate a proposal to reduce the public debt put forward by Professor Huerta de Soto. Since Alesina and Giavazzi’s article is the same old statist story, discussing it would be a waste of time and space were it not for the fact that it so perfectly represents the non-thought of those statists who consider themselves and inexplicably are considered to be ‘liberals’ because they are in favour of ‘privatization’. Huerta de Soto’s proposal is not immune from criticism, but it offers an opportunity to see what it means to think in economic terms outside the intellectual boundaries imposed by political power (in other words, what it means not to be a megaphone for the regime); what it means to reason about problems in terms of their structural causes rather than their effects; and finally what it means, in this intellectual desert of the so-called “élites”, to have ideas. For these reasons, and because overall I consider it to be a good proposal (though improvable), I think it worthwhile to call attention to it and discuss it. Continue reading