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Gabriel Calzada on Spanish libertarianism

Last night I attended a fascinating talk about the libertarian movement in Spain, hosted by Tim Evans in Putney, and given by Gabriel Calzada, who had been known to me before last night only as the author (maybe – I was unsure) of this essay.

The message Gabriel delivered to a small but very attentive group of London libertarians can be briefly summarised as follows: the Spanish libertarian movement is extraordinarily big and is doing extraordinarily well.

Gabriel started his talk with some history, concerning the Salamanca school of Natural Law theorists, mentioning the names of Francisco de Vitoria, Francisco de Suarez, and Juan de Mariana. Here is a famous Mariana quote:

Taxes are commonly a calamity for the people and a nightmare for the government. For the former they are always excessive; for the latter they are never enough, never too much.

But that was a very long time ago, and that kind of thing only influenced modern Spain indirectly, via its influence on the Austrian school.

It became very clear as the evening went on that the enormous Spanish anarchist movement that flourished about a century ago is crucial to any understanding of the current Spanish libertarian movement. Anarchism as a political force in Spain was eventually decapitated by the supposed allies of the anarchists, the Communists, for being insufficiently obedient to Stalin, but the climate of opinion – what we here at Samizdata call the meta-context – of anarchism lived on in Spain. Whereas the typical political question in other countries is something like: How shall we govern ourselves?, in Spain the question is: How shall we be free? How, as it were, do you do freedom? With a question like that, it makes sense that the libertarian answer to that question (one word summary: property) would attract a mountain of enthusiastic attention, and it has.

Perhaps another reason for the dramatic impact of libertarianism in Spain is that Spain has, until challenged by the libertarians, been intellectually dominated by Communism. Anarchism having been wiped out, and anti-Communism having become so tainted by Francoism, that left the lefties ruling the media roost in Spain, in the form of such mass media giants as El Pais, the biggest national newspaper in Spain, which makes the Guardian seem to Gabriel like a centrist/liberal kitten by comparison. Lots of libertarians are converts from leftism, and Spain is very full of people who have been raised in a leftist manner but who are looking for different answers.

It may also have helped the rise of libertarianism, although this was not mentioned by Gabriel or in discussion, that Spain is now economically so vibrant, compared to earlier times.

Gabriel, interestingly, preferred to focus on the achievements of two individuals: Jesus Huerta de Soto, and Federico Jimenez Losantos. Huerta is the key scholar, and Jimenez is a key media performer, and both are men of “contageous enthusiasm”, a phrase Gabriel used several times.

He also mentioned the vital role that the Internet has played in this story. Again, summarising brutally, whereas the Communists owned the old media, the libertarians own the Internet, to the point where the Communists are getting seriously worried.

Gabriel mentioned two internet sites in particular, liberalismo.org (scholarship) and Libertad Digital (current affairs). Both have astronomical hit rates, of the order of a million a month (sorry but I am bad at numbers). When those Communists type any Spanish ‘issue’ into their search engines, time and time again, the first few hits are libertarian analyses. No wonder they are so anxious, and have been saying that something ought to be done about controlling the Internet.

Jimenez is also doing extraordinarily well on the radio.

I could attempt to go on, on the basis of my scribbled and inadequate notes, but I will leave it at that for now, hoping that Gabriel will regard this report as better than nothing. (Antoine Clarke, also present, might like to comment about all the things I missed, and maybe clarify some of the numbers involved in this story, people, hit rates, etc.) I will add only that whereas there are now no Spanish libertarian sites which also present themselves to the English speaking world in English, this is apparently about to change. There will soon be an English language site devoted to Spanish affairs, written by Spanish libertarians. Gabriel has promised to inform us as soon as it gets going.

Altogether a fascinating, and most encouraging evening.

Afterwards we had a late supper at Tim and Helen’s, which is where I took this photo of Gabriel.


Hayek (on the left in black and white) is saying: what is that greenery doing in front of me? Gabriel is a great enemy of greenery, having recently penned a denunciation of the Kyoto Treaty, so particular apologies for that blemish.

Oh, and did I mention that Gabriel Calzada has also just been made a Professor at the University of Madrid?

If ideas have consequences, and they definitely do, then Spanish libertarianism is going to have some very big consequences indeed.

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14 comments to Gabriel Calzada on Spanish libertarianism

  • Jacob

    Seems to me (I’m not sure) that anarchists in general, and Spanish anarchists in particular advocated the abolition of private property. Therefore they aren’t close to libertarianism.

  • Carlos

    For those of you interested in listening to Federico Jimenez Losantos, he is on Cope Radio, from 6 am to 11 am (Spanish time)

  • bandersnatch

    The spanish anarchists were a pretty nasty bunch themselves. Thugs with zero intellectual weight. Their only merit was to have been wiped out by even worse nasties.

    I think the current spanish libertarians (here they use the word “liberal”) come more form conservative positions. In fact Jimenez Losantos collaborates in a radio channel property of the clergy, even though he was an anti-Franco communist militant in his youth, before getting disenchated with socialism.

  • There is actually an English language Spanish libertarian blog. Here it is:

    Barcepundit’s English edition

  • Joel Català

    Beware of the disguised Spanish old guard:

    Mr. Jimenez Losantos never condemned Francoism.

    Mr. Jimenez’s role is directed from FAES, a Spaniard nationalist “think tank” with huge fascistic stains. In example, they never condemned Francoism, and praise some “policies” of that dictatorship.

    Do you think President Aznar is a liberal? In the late 70s, after the death of Franco, he publicly opposed democratic reforms.

    Overall, taking history into account, I think a good deal of Britishmen know Spanish opposition to Britannia in her mostly liberal-inspired path to rule the waves.

  • Libertad Digital served 15.660.416 pages in November. In that month, Liberalismo.org served 684.638 pages. And Red Liberal, the link central for Spanish libertarian blogs in Spanish, 330.867 pages.

    >Mr. Jimenez Losantos never condemned Francoism.

    He was too busy opposing it, I suppose; he was a Maoist then.

    And, as of now, Aznar can be said to be more or less 15.728.217 times more libertarian than Zapatero. Or all those times less anti-libertarian, which is a more decisive way to put it.

  • Joel Català


    Zapatero is 0 Libertarian, so using your own definition Aznar is 0 Libertarian, too.

    The Latin peoples are hardly capable of understanding individual freedom in a sane way, possibly due to the Catholic church.

  • Joel, more means más, not por. So 15.728.217 + 0 = 15.728.217. The Latin peoples are perfectly capable of knowing that.

  • Live To Believe: I fear that, by saying “A is N times more Q than Z”, I did mean that Q(A) = N·Q(Z).

    But, Joel, we can say that Aznar is “0 libertarian” only using my factor and your estimate for Zapatero’s libertarianism index. My own estimate is some very small number, but not a mathematical zero.

    (By the way, you missed a golden opportunity: had you assigned a negative libertarian index to Zapatero, you could have accused me of saying that Aznar is much less libertarian than him).

  • Joel Català

    [Marzo] My own estimate is some very small number, but not a mathematical zero.

    Apparently I have a tougher Libertarian threshold than you.

    And I don’t buy your last idea of a negative index. Good markets are based on trust.

  • I think that liberals is Spain we are very concernet about the current political times. Many of us wiped away many radical ideas since the 11S and we concentrate in the support of the war against terror, either this is something you like or not (I don´t know the position of this blog on this).

    The terrorism and their supporters in Spain and the rest of Europe is something that, In Spain, we feel very close, moreover upon the discovery of obscure spanish forces behind the terrorist attack in Madrid the 11M. these “obscure forces” may include some groups organised by the past leftist gobernment of Felipe Gonzalez. Please Stay tuned on that.

  • yomesmu

    Spains Libertad digital’s sister website, libertarian current affairs with a spanish focus


  • X

    Jimenez Losantos a libertarian?

    Heck, it’s hard to believe he’s even a Liberal, no matter how hard he tries to pass himself off as one.

    Losantos and his gang are plain old guard european conservatives of the God-Motherland-Family kind.

    As for the People’s Party they openly support… no hopes here, matey. Despite some timid steps towards a liberal speech, they chose to go back to their conservative roots after the ellectoral debacle on march 04, and so they remain ever after.

    As of today, there’s no liberal scene in Spain to talk about, therefore no libertarian movements of any kind… Just two gangs of autoritarian plunderers fighting over the loot, and the media empires backing them… Move along, there’s nothing to be seen here.

  • I’m trying to give an overview of what’s happening in Spain from a libertarian perspective. However, actual characteristics of the blog are 1) poor english 2) not every-day libertarian news