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 (2019)

Slides of the lectures on the subject of protectionism given at the Course in Economic Geography (Prof. A. Vitale) LLM in Sustainable Development, Faculty of Law, University of Milan.

To download the .pdf file click on image

Main changes from previous version (2018) include:

  • added section on the structure of thought (section: Introduction)
  • added section with data on new protectionist measures by US (global), between US and China, and between the US and the EU (section: 4.b)
  • added section on ‘free trade’ areas (section 4.h)
  • general revision and update

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 

 

  • .pdf version:

 

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Il rinascimento è Bitcoin, non la blockchain

Estratto (in italiano) dell’articolo It’s All About the Blockchain di Erik Voorhees

 Schermata 2015-11-04 alle 13.17

“Bitcoin ha reso il termine “fiat” una cosa, e quando qualcosa ha un nome, può essere criticata. Ogni giorno che Bitcoin esiste, dimostra la validità dell’idea ingenua che il denaro può funzionare senza pianificazione centrale. … Senza Bitcoin, una blockchain è semplicemente un database distribuito – non esattamente una tecnologia innovativa. … Rimane da vedere quanto tempo ci vorrà prima che il settore finanziario si renda conto che la vera innovazione di valore non è il registro distribuito della blockchain (che è già esistito in altre forme) , ma piuttosto la piattaforma aperta di inclusione finanziaria che non ha bisogno di una controparte o cartello di cui fidarsi (e questa è una cosa che non è mai esistita prima).  Continue reading

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

“Democracy” and Law are antitethical

GIOVANNI BIRINDELLI, 30.11.2013

Speech at the conference Interlibertarians 2013, Lugano (Switzerland) – Published by Interlibertarians, Movimento Libertario

EN - Slides Interlibertarians 2013 Continue reading