71R Exclusive: Interview with Polish Libertarian Konrad Berkowicz

By Daniel Szewc | Poland

Konrad Berkowicz is the Vice Chairman of the biggest libertarian party in not only Poland, Europe, but arguably the world, when it comes to support within the country. The “Liberty” party reached a peak level of support at close to 5% during the last parliamentary election. It only appears to be growing, as the party that took most of its votes is diminishing. Mr. Berkowicz, an energetic 33 year old, is running for President [mayor] of Kraków. “The point is not to change the prison guard, but to walk out of prison towards liberty!”

• Hello. First things first, I’d like to ask you- Which libertarian theorists reflect your views the best?

Berkowicz: My views are best reflected, from the canonical theorists of libertarianism and liberalism [In Europe, “liberalism” is the equivalent of “Classical liberalism” in the USA], by Hayek. When it comes to his actual propositions and style of solving problems, not so much. As for the, let’s say, philosophical and economical basis, definitely the Noble prize winning F. A. Hayek. But the development of the theory of the free market, as well as economical essays by Rothbard, are also priceless. I also largely appreciate many elements of Ayn Rand’s objectivism.

• So you probably wouldn’t support a negative income tax, proposed by Hayek?

Berkowicz: Absolutely. Actually, I’m talking more about the very important theoretical base created by Hayek- for example, his theory of spontaneous order, or even the theoretical development of freedom itself. As for his policy proposals, they should be looked at via the prism of what they were intended to do, as well as through the historical context. Hayek wasn’t only just some theoretical philosopher, but a Nobel prize winning economist, who had a real influence on how world leaders implemented policies

• Do you think that [EU] internet censorship has died alongside Article 13, or will it pass via some other legislative method, bypassing the European Parliament?

Berkowicz: You mean “Acta 2” [The unofficial name for the mainstream censorship law]

• Yes

Berkowicz: Well, the parliament will be voting on it again, in September. (…) Of course, it is very much possible for the commission to do this, since this governmental body is, in contrast to how it is painted by the media, very undemocratic, and they love using authoritarian methods. The establishing of the EU itself was originally supposed to happen through referendums in member countries. They were originally scheduled in the [Euro-integration] “sure” countries- France and The Netherlands, where the vote for a European constitution ultimately failed. After this, the method and name were just changed, and the European Union [in it’s current form] was established. I wouldn’t be surprised if such a backdoor method was used this time too, but I hope it won’t happen.

• And of course, the EU constitution was sent into space [by the European Space Agency].

• Where do you think that the relatively high support for the libertarian movement stems from in Poland? I’ve spoken to many people from Spain, Italy, etc- there, these movements have a one in a thousand support in society, in comparison to the Polish 5%.

Berkowicz: I think that for the most part, it is because of what this movement is usually criticized for, even by many libertarians themselves. What I mean, is that there is a person in Poland who uses very controversial methods, which are both- a blessing, and a curse, in a sense. What I mean, is that a person who doesn’t limit himself to using politically correct intellectual formulas about freedom, because using politically correct intellectual formulas causes you to be only understood by intellectuals, and that’s just about the amount which often times participates in libertarian parties in Europe, but he is a person who says, in such a provocative and controversial form, many things which can interest people not necessarily intellectually interested in politics, who often then join and strengthen libertarian and economical think tanks.

Besides, thanks to that, he can use his personality to convince people who aren’t proficient in libertarianism – he manages to touch onto their natural instincts of freedom, and engage them to vote for us. So I think that it’s mostly the controversies, for which Janusz Korwin-Mikke is criticized for – he is accused of creating a glass ceiling with his speeches, because of which we won’t get through. But as we can see, there’s no better method – the market has verified it. There’s no better representative of liberty not only in Poland, but in all of Europe.

• Do you think that calling Janusz Korwin-Mikke a Polish libertarian Trump would be correct?

Berkowicz: Well, if we add “libertarian”, then yes. But “Libertarian Trump” is not Trump anymore unfortunately [laughs]

• What plans for the future does the Liberty party have?

Berkowicz: Now we’ve had the longest non-electoral period, so it was very easy to shush us out. Even so, we managed to, using many campaigns, cause the latest polls to show that we garnered support at just below the electoral threshold [5%]. Now, an electoral marathon is upcoming. As a matter of fact, the last 2-3 years were full of preparations for this marathon, arranging a party oriented propaganda machine- now we’ll be using it. In the upcoming time, we will participate in local elections [Poland has all local elections at the same time], which aren’t actually that important for us- we cannot change the system much through local governments.

We also aren’t the most attractive party in this election- people going to vote locally do so to find someone to fix their roads, not to make a revolution in the system. Either way, we want to achieve a decent result, and get a few people into local positions of power. Besides, the Libertarian Party in the USA too has some people in local executive branches. On the other hand, the following important election is the one to the European parliament. It’s not influential because actually getting our people into the European Parliament is important, but because we are the strongest there, as the most expressive and substantial Union-skeptic [They refuse to use “Euro-skeptic”, because the EU itself is anti-European in values] power in Poland. If we get a good result, then on the wave created by it, we will surely manage to get into the Sejm [lower chamber] in the parliamentary elections. I’m positive about this.

• In which regions in Poland do you expect to get the best results?

Berkowicz: In which regions do we expect to get the best results in the local elections? I look onto the city of ?ód? with hope as well as on Subcarpathia. Surely in Krakow too, nobody is a good judge in their own case, but in Krakow we are very strong, because as a candidate for the President of Krakow [the Polish equivalent of a mayor of a big city], I have better results than the party itself does nation-wide. Therefore, there is a base to build up on, and I believe that we will manage to use this properly. Also, in Kielce – where our national party committee member had a great result in the last parliamentary election [in 2015 – 5th in a non-First-past-the-post system], which I hope he repeats.

Oh, and I’m counting on Janusz Korwin-Mikke to get a good result in Warsaw. We’re also yet to see who will surprise us positively.

• Do you see any benchmarks in international libertarian movements, which the Liberty party could adapt into it’s structures in Poland? Or maybe should they learn from you?

Berkowicz: I think that we should all learn from each other. In some places in the world, such as the USA, libertarian movements are very well organised- with think tanks, they are quite meritocratic and very factual. For example, Mises institute- which is also developing rapidly in Poland. We must remember working with the grassroots and intellectual work isn’t everything though. Of course, developing an elite group is important, but you must garner support from people who won’t read The Constitution of Liberty, or Human Action.

Oh, and we must respect and admire how Petr Mach lead the Svobodní (Free Citizens’ Party) in Czechia [They received 2.4% in the last election] – Svobodni is the second largest libertarian party in Europe, after us, therefore you can observe and learn from how they do it too.

• Now, a bit more broadly – what are the biggest difficulties in fighting Marxist organisations on the global scale?

Berkowicz: Right now, the biggest difficulty is that Marxist and para-Marxist organisations, are wise enough for now not to boast directly about what type of organisations they really are. For example, masses of people who are in charge of the European Union do not use the term “Marxism”, and aren’t brave enough to talk about Marx himself, yet the solutions they propose are exactly that – only named differently, hidden under a slightly different narrative, with new vocabulary, and so on.

In relation to this, the danger is that like every other socialist idea, they base it on, simply put, the principle of human envy. What I mean, is that it’s easy to get to someone if you tell them that someone has it better, and that you’ll make it so that you don’t have it worse- that’s the biggest problem. Our task is to show, as our great poet Aleksander Fredro said, that “Socialism will take down everybody equally, with laughter- tomorrow it will strangle the rich, and the poor the day after” [Poetic interpretation of “Socialism will smear the noses of everybody equally- it will strangle the rich tomorrow, and the poor the day after tomorrow- it rhymes in Polish]

• What arguments would you use to convince a libertarian that neither republicanism, nor democracy can withold liberty in the long term?

Berkowicz: Very simply- in every country, either para-capitalist or post-capitalist, there’s no enforced system for a company to obey. For example, in Poland anybody can make a firm which is run democratically, one in which – let’s imagine a corporation – in which, starting from the cleaner, the janitor, every simple worker, technician, the manager, up to the management team, everyone meets up, let’s say, twice a year, and votes on the path that the company should take, how high the wages should be.

You’d see how quickly a three day work week would be installed, they’d vote for a double raise of the wages, and lastly, the firm would fail. That’s why there isn’t a single corporation on the market that’s run democratically – all that do exist are “market monarchies”, possibly aristocracies. Even the most die-hard socialists and other leftists or democracy proponents somehow don’t run their companies democratically, because such firms have no chance on the market. Therefore, countries run democratically also have no chance in the global market of countries, which causes them to fall sooner or later. That’s why democracy is just a dust particle on the pages of history.

• Do you think that libertarians could organise themselves the way Marxists did on their political internationals, to get into power?

Berkowicz: I suspect that the problem results from the difference in the type of people libertarians are, in comparison to socialists. Libertarians are often individualists. Libertarians are often people with natural urge towards natural elitism. I’m unconvinced that libertarians are capable of such formula, for example used by the Bolsheviks. So I would be skeptical of such an idea. For example, when we had the leftist long march through the institutions, [German: der lange Marsch durch die Institutionen, an idea coined by Rudi Dutschke, a German socialist activist], I reckon that such a march by libertarians would not work, because an anti-statist cannot create a revolution by becoming a state employee.

However, when I’m looking at what’s happening in schools, I feel that after high school, many people have quite healthy views, yet after university, in which economics are taught by Keynesians, and sociology is taught by lefties, then in the time following the higher education, after having such authority figures, remembering how popularly available studying has become, therefore it’s not just an exclusive, elite problem, most come out of it brainwashed.

So maybe, our chance is not so much a long march through the institutions, but a march through higher academia. We have a lot of very intelligent, well learned people, who are educating themselves in think tanks and foundations. Meanwhile, I think that they should all be getting PhD’s, and I’m positive that they will take over any leftists intelligence wise, and after some time, paradoxically, universities – even public ones – can become workshops for the forging of freedom.

• Which country do you think will fall the fastest by failing to experience a so called “rewakening” of its people, for example because of China or Muslims?

Berkowicz: I think that the USA is in the biggest danger. The higher you are, the harder the fall. For now, the USA is the strongest power in the world, but it’s position is under an ever increasing question mark. If its slip towards socialism continues, then it has no future. The fall of such an empire is a very serious, severe and tragic event.

• Do you think that it’d be more optimal for Poland for China to reach the status or global hegemony, or for America to somehow keep this status?

Berkowicz: It all depends on what America, and what China, simply put. Because of cultural reasons, it’d be better for us if the USA suddenly came back to its roots, back to what the Founding Fathers said, and the USA is such a beautiful country, that it was built upon, factually and constitutionally, the ideas that we are fighting for. All we need, is for the US to go back to it’s roots, to basics thanks to which they became an empire, to keep it’s hegemony.

Because they are culturally very similar to us, they are part of the same civilization. It’s better to have an ally from the same civilization. But if the USA is to become a new leader of a let’s say, statist bloc, then it’d be better for a free market China to prevail. Although in China, after the “turn in the right direction” [the expansion of bureaucracy in China, as well as the increase in state market intervention and increases in welfare in the last few years], it’s starting to worsen a bit, so I hope it will be be better than worse.

• Let’s imagine that Liberty comes to power tomorrow. How would you make sure that Marxists never come back to power, or that they won’t ever get into academia, universities or state institutions?

Berkowicz: Well, we’d first of all privatize all the universities, but everyone would be able to teach any ideologies they’d want. Of course, there are some boundaries, because supporting many Marxist ideologies is plainly calling for robbery, theft, rape and insults, so this would have to be stopped by an iron hand. I’m not an absolute advocate for freedom of speech – if someone was to urge publicly for people to rape women, then I’d lock him up. So if someone was publicly inciting the re-installment of an income tax, I’d have to think about it…

• There’s the risk that sitting next to each other, they’ll have something to talk about.

Berkowicz: Well, we can lock them up separately.

• Don’t you think that this could cause some sort of sympathy throughout the citizens?

Berkowicz: The problem is that we are always in danger of the masses becoming sympathetic with such voices, calling for a socialist revolution. I personally think that Kisielewski’s [a Polish free market economist] motto “Grab them by the neck, and install [classical] liberalism” is right, in so far as we’ll never manage to convince the majority of the masses to the idea of the free market, because very few people even understand it. Yet if we already install the free market, then people won’t let others take it away from them so easily again.

• Well, at some point the free market did exist in the West, and they did agree to it, at least partially, didn’t they?

Berkowicz: Exactly, that’s what we must act to counter balance. That’s why it isn’t as simple as just installing the free market, and leaving it to itself.

• What is your general opinion on Hans-Hermann Hoppe’s idea of physical removal of societal leftists, communists, for example via bottom up market discrimination?

Berkowicz: As a free market supporter, i’m neither against socialists discriminating against capitalists via market methods, nor against, let’s say, conservatives discriminating homosexualists, or vice versa – homosexuals discriminating against conservatives. So when it comes to libertarian tools of ostracism, then they should definitely be able to flourish. As I understand, you mean having the ability to economically discriminate people who promote one or another ideology – then yes, you should be able to organize as you wish, yet you must remember that this can go both ways.

But what I can say is the superiority of the idea of liberty over all other ideas, is that in a system of liberty, and this can be some sort of a catalyst of [left wing] revolutionary movements, in liberty, if someone necessarily wants to live in socialism, then he can join a socialist association or company, give in half of their money, and that company will do anything it wants with them.

So we aren’t for the banning of someone from building themselves a communist Kibbutz, within the liberty itself – as long as they don’t force anybody to take part in it. Meanwhile, the socialist idea does not assume the possibility of us making ourselves a ring of freedom, we have it forced onto us. That’s why our idea is morally superior. Everyone can organize like that- however, if someone would want to support the forceful imposition of market or legal discrimination, by means of coercion, of Laissez-Faire supporters or Marxists, then it isn’t libertarian anymore.

• Anarcho-communists could possibly agree to such an order of things, but they’d have to pay some sort of taxes – for example a land tax – which would probably cause them to disagree with the universal nature of liberty.

Berkowicz: Yes, of course – within the ramifications of the state, they’d have to – I mean, I’m a minarchist when it comes to it, and within the minimal state that I deem necessary to exist as to uphold liberty, everyone would have to pay very light taxes. What I am talking about is the other way round – if someone sees compulsory insurance as good, then they should join an association of people forced to pay insurance, so they can force themselves. Nobody’s banning people from doing it.

• What types of taxes d you think are the best- the ones that need the least bureaucracy, and cause the least trauma on the citizens?

Berkowicz: Probably a poll tax for example. The taxes must be easily collectable, and cannot be abusable. It can be, let’s say a para-tax on real estate, it’s up for debate. But when it comes to all sales taxes, income taxes, or any other type of taxes that would force people to have to explain who gave who, when and what amount of money are unacceptable.

• What role do you see the army having in the state run by Liberty?

Berkowicz: The role of the army is to, first and foremost, defend the citizens inside from aggression from other citizens – meaning that they must defend their liberty – as well as defend them from harm coming from external sources, and that’s all. Unfortunately, there are situations in which to defend the country from foreign aggression, you have to join some pacts against the aggressors. But we certainly shouldn’t because of some imperialist incentives, try invading other countries ourselves, but sometimes for the sake of maintaining liberty, you must engage in some conflicts.

• So you do see potential use of organisations like NATO in the future?

Berkowicz: Yes, of course. There are multiple means of international cooperation between states, it’s purely a technicality on how, with whom and under what principles should you make deals with to maintain peace and freedom.

• Assuming that Liberty comes to power, would private police and private armies form? To what extent would the freedom to bare weapons extend? For example, the stereotypical, anarcho-capitalist nukes?

Berkowicz: Well, the evaluation of real dangers, such as someone creating for example nuclear weapons should be done by the special services, finding out about such radical cases, so I don’t think it’s necessary to state it in the law that nuclear weapons are illegal [laughs]. If somebody really wants a nuke, the fact that it’s either legal or illegal won’t really affect his choices. This would be an action that could harm the whole country, and even elsewhere, therefore I think that a common sense approach rule that anybody can have a few automatic rifles and a cannon would be ok.

• People sometimes meet with the opinion from some Keynesians and centrists, that if it wasn’t for the laws installed at the end of the 19th Century and onward, because of which some companies/corporations gained unfair monopolies on the market, that it’d be ok to install the free market, yet because of them now growing to enormous sizes, it’s now impossible for small companies to rival them.

Berkowicz: That’s nonsense, the complete opposite is true. What I mean, let’s start purely theoretically – a monopoly can only exist when an element of socialism exists – when the state doesn’t intervene in the market, monopolies do not exist as a rule of thumb. There can exist a currently dominating company, but that does not mean they are monopoly holders – because there is a free market, and even if the firm is large, it cannot exert force on the market, therefore it is always endangered by all possible competition. Even the biggest giants have fallen, because as a side note, large companies are much harder to manage.

So in truth, on the free market, they are always, I mean always, threatened by small businesses, unless the government intervenes in the economy, at which time they go to the government having money and power, and then they shape the law in such a way, for them to always stay afloat. If we have, for instance the company Google, and we assume that we have a free market, then there’s no problem in the fact that Google is basically the only popularly used search engine, because Google must do it’s best for us, as to keep this position.

It isn’t a wrong doing against anybody that Google is the only one, as long as it must always do it’s best to keep it’s customer. And the only way to assure that they will keep doing their best, is if nobody can force us to use any given search engine. It’s actually been modern socialism that has caused the dictatorship of corporations, and we don’t really have any real capitalism as they say, but a dictatorship of corporations.

Giant corporations can afford bribes, lobbyists, etc. And that’s exactly why giant corporations want law to be as complicated as possible- the more complicated the law is, the more the small players can’t get through. “Law is like a web- a bumble bee will squeeze through, whilst a fly will get lost in it.” [Quote by Miko?aj Rej]. The simpler the law, the smaller the taxes, the less state intervention in the economy, the smaller the chance the giants will survive. So it’s an argumentation completely opposite of what reality is.

• Last question- when it comes to the right to property, how can we determine who should own for example real estate that was left by the original owner, and taken by a new one. After how many generations, how much time must pass, for the old family’s right to the property to be stripped from them, because the new family has taken care of the property over said time.

Berkowicz: So as I understand, someone leaves their house, and someone else comes over, lived there and builds a fence… In this scenario, I assume there are no original heirs?

• No, the heirs exist, but they have had no interaction with the property for a long time, whilst it was modified by the new line of succession.

Berkowicz: I think that this type of situation cannot be settled by philosophical measures, because we cannot determine how many generations must pass philosophically, or if a week or three must pass. We must just accept some reasonable, common sense solution, in short- we must decide on some standard, perhaps searching back into some tradition for this, and just keep to it. Then, if we for example accept that after 2 generations, the new owners take over legally, then if 2 generations in fact don’t do anything, then they would have legally given up the property. I think it must be decided upon through a Jury for example, but one thing is certain- the law must be clear, known and unchanged.

• Thank you for the interview.

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