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: Economics, Philosophy and (Individual) Way Out of It

Giovanni Birindelli (guest lecturer)

Protectionism: Economics, Philosophy and (Individual) Way Out of It

Università degli Studi di Milano

Dipartimento di studi internazionali, giuridici e storico-politici

Corso di Economic Geography (Prof. Alessandro Vitale)

12/15 maggio 2017

.pdf file

Civilisation has Had its Day (English translation)

GIOVANNI BIRINDELLI (12.5.2013)

(Original Italian publication, 20.4.2013: L’IndipendenzaMovimento Libertario – Catallaxy Institute)

 
“Banking secrecy has had its day,” declared Pierre Moscovici, the French minister for the economy, in support of the attempt by the governments of ten (for now) European countries to put in place, “possibly within the year,” as the La Stampa newspaper reported, “a multilateral platform for the automatic exchange of bank account information which will make it possible to effectively curb tax evasion.” The history of principles that have ‘had their day’ is a long one and it invariably marches to the beat of the States’ ever-increasing need for cash.

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The ‘euro-crisis’ has a philosophical origin

GIOVANNI BIRINDELLI, 1 December 2011

(original publication: Catallaxy Institute)

If every night at the same time you looked at a planet in the sky you would notice that, night after night, its position generally tends to move Eastwards. At a certain point, however, that planet will gradually stop, invert the direction of its motion (it will start moving Westwards), then it will stop again and invert once more the direction of its motion (it will start moving Eastwards again), creating a sort of loop. This phenomenon, which is called “retrogression of the planets”, is caused by the fact that that planet’s orbit is around the (“steady”) Sun, not around the (moving) Earth from which you are watching it. There is no retrogression: this phenomenon is created by a reference system centred on the Earth rather than on the Sun. Before Kepler, that is in the geocentric astronomic model, this phenomenon was a problem, a very serious one. (Geocentric) astronomy was resting on the Platonic assumption of uniform circular motions. If the retrogression of the planets could not be explained, and could not be explained within the limits of that assumption, the geocentric astronomic model would fall – and with it cosmology, physics, chemistry, religion, culture, political power, scientific authority, etc. Continue reading