Middle East

Reason.tv: Libertarians Without Borders—An Interview with Tom Palmer about the Arab Spring


"The kindling, the material that has burst into flame in Syria, or Egypt, or Libya or Tunisia, are all different cases. But the spark that went from one to the other was common," says Atlas Economic Research Foundation's Tom Palmer.

Palmer speaks to Reason.tv's Matt Welch about liberty on a global scale, particularly in reference to revolutions in the Middle East this past year. "It's been a movement of astonishing courage and bravery," he says, "It has shown a demand for dignity."  

Held each July in Las Vegas, FreedomFest is attended by roughly 2,000 libertarians and advocates of limited government. Reason.tv spoke with over two dozen speakers and attendees, and will be releasing interviews over the coming weeks. For an ever-growing playlist, go here now.

About 9 minutes. Shot by Zach Weissmueller and Jim Epstein, and edited by Tracy Oppenheimer.

Go to reason.tv for downloadable versions and subscribe to Reason.tv's YouTube Channel to receive automatic notifications when new material goes live. 


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  1. I think libertarians ought to keep their powder dry on the “Arab Spring.” While Mubarak and Gadaffi were authoritarian scumbags and we should not lament their departure from the scene, it doesn’t necessarily mean their replacements are going to be Jeffersonian liberals. Most likely, quite the contrary.

    1. Well, it seems that those who are taking over are turning out to be worse than the people they replaced. It’s quite vomit inducing.

      1. But since Obama helped put them in power, they’ll be our friends, right?

    2. What jeffersonian said on wheels.

    3. You get to change the channel once in a while, but not to decide what program will be on.

      1. I did a long paper on the Khmer Rouge as part of my post-grad coursework. When the KR rolled in Phnom Penh, the citizenry cheered them wildly – after all, what could possibly be worse than the lunatic Lon Nol?

        Well, they found out what was worse than Lon Nol.

    4. Yes, you can thank Jimmy Carter for Iran.

  2. The jury’s out on what it was a demand for.

  3. It has shown a demand for dignity.

    Unless you’re a Coptic Christian in Egypt or a black African in Libya, then it’s shown a demand for being live target practice.

  4. Am I free to gambol about plain and forest?

    Or are there still artificial borders established and maintained by government to enforce privation property and restrict the free movement of free people on the Land?

    1. …to protect property rights restrict the freedom to gambol.

      Government for me, but not for thee.

      1. But only the ones they like.

    2. WTF.

      Come on man, if you’re going to do you’re asshole-schtick, at least have it semi-relevant to the topic.

      1. But only the ones they don’t like to talk about, which are never relevant to the topic. Because they say so.

        1. Fibertarians do like borders

          You could also add, “progressive liberals, greens, religious conservatives, fascists, maoists, Whigs, Tories, Labor, Kadima, National Bolshevik Party, Social Democrats, The People’s Front of Judea, The Greenbacks, The Know Nothings, The Agrarian Movement, Hezbollah, and People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals”…

          …as a start.

          Its only you that has some kind of hard-on for returning to paleolithic society.

          1. …just as well as “progressive liberals, greens, religious conservatives, fascists, maoists, Whigs, Tories, Labor, Kadima, National Bolshevik Party, Social Democrats.”


            Thanks, Gilmore, for clarifying that.

            Libertarians are just like every other statist; i.e., government for me but not for thee.

            1. …thus your argument is invalid.

              Thanks again, there, Gilmore; it proves how intellectually bankrupt you are.

              Is it truth by consensus now?

              Look around how things are going.

              How’s that working out for you?

              1. I’m sorry = was the idea that *your* version of ‘anti-statism’ is the only viable one?

                1. …and 99% of your ancestors lived in non-state society.

                  So it’s not a version of a fantasy like your bullshit.

                  1. 99% of your ancestors were dumber than rocks. And you haven’t improved the stock at all.

  5. “It’s been a movement of astonishing courage and bravery,” he says, “It has shown a demand for dignity.”

    “That’s not 7.62×39 in the back of your skull, Mommar. That’s *dignity* talking. Now excuse me while I toss you in an unmarked ditch and proceed to go on a murder-spree of my political rivals, just like *you did* when you came to power!.”


    Nearly 300 bodies, many of them with their hands tied behind their backs and shot in the head, have been collected from across Sirte and buried in a mass grave. The new government has been slow to confront allegations of atrocities by rebel fighters, despite repeated calls for them to do so.

    See, but this war? This one was done *right*..not like that mess Iraq. This was was brought to you by Hope and Change.

    1. Well, I sure HOPE I’ll have at least some CHANGE left after the taxman cometh.

  6. I’m very glad to have witnessed the overthrow of those bastards.

    Syria, Iran, Bahrain, etc. — I hope you’re next, fuckers.

    1. Being played for a sap by the Bush administration is one thing. They were responding to volatile conditions on the ground here in the US, so its almost excusable, but to be played by this administration and its media pawns? Why would let yourself be drawn into that?

      1. just because we shouldn’t be involved and the replacement might be worse doesn’t mean we can’t be happy that murderous dictators have been overthrown.

      2. What does this have to do with the U.S. administration? This has to with the people of those countries.

  7. “It has shown a demand for dignity.”

    Wrapped in a chewy sharia crust.

  8. Wow, Palmer’s understanding of what’s going on is really fatuous.

    Meanwhile in the real world…

    1. He gave me an intimidating look and hissed, “Whomever speaks ill of this flag, we will cut off his tongue. I recommend that you don’t publish these. You will bring trouble to yourself.”

      I already hate them for their freedoms.

    2. You win a big prize for not having listened to what he said. Go back and listen again. People are fighting over the future. Should we be surprised by that? He explained why changes happened and said it is not possible to predict the future. He also said that military intervention is a bad idea. Why is that fatuous?

      1. Oh, I heard what he said. His explanation as to how the “spark of liberty” ignited the various MENA revolutions is extremely fatuous. While the one libertarian in Tunisia may have self-immolated, it would be as intellectually dishonest to claim that his cause motivates the majority of the revolutionaries as much as it would be to claim that the Viet Cong were and army of zealous Buddhist revolutionaries.

        Looking at the current direction of events in the MENA region and feeling a sense of “cautious optimism” as opposed to unmitigated horror is fatuous in the extreme.

        1. “Looking at the current direction of events in the MENA region and feeling a sense of “cautious optimism” as opposed to unmitigated horror is fatuous in the extreme.”

          Why? Is it not a good thing when dictators are overthrown by their own countrymen?

  9. Meanwhile in the real world…

    Well yeah but that picture is on the internet, and it was taken with somebody’s phone?I mean, what could like Torquemada or Hitler have done while people were taking pictures with their phones? nothing bad!?so it’s a libertarian flag.

    1. I’m convinced that the new totalitarianism will be ushered in by students… using twitter.

  10. Or not?


    1. …frolic?

      1. And if not, why not?

  11. He looks the same as 30+ years ago, but he sounds different. Did Tom Palmer become Swedish, have a stroke, or what?

  12. “It’s been a movement of astonishing courage and bravery,” he says…

    But sadly, he knows not what he says about.

    Mexico has shown this same “astonishing” little “spark of liberty” on and off for what, over 200 years now. They have yet to establish a government that was worth rat shit.

    But I’m sure “Arab Spring” will be much different and better and greaterer than what those Mexicans did.

  13. This is more like an Arab Winter than Spring…Tunisia is electing an Islamist government, Libya is adopting Sharia law, Egypt is run by a military junta that is allying with the Muslim Brotherhood to stay in power, Syria is killing thousands, Yemen is sliding away, Turkey has been cosying up to Islamism to curry favor in the region, Lebanon is dominated by Hezbollah and the Palestinians are run by theocratic terror thugs who want war. The only real pro-democracy movement in the region, in Iran, was shunned and starved of moral and material resources by President Obama who basically sided with the Mullahs against the Iranian people. I see little hope for peace, and see lots of war clouds on the horizon in that region.

  14. “The only real pro-democracy movement in the region, in Iran…”

    What makes the protests in Iran any different or more ‘pro-democracy’ in your mind?

  15. I’m a libertarian

  16. It’s been a movement of astonishing courage and bravery,” he says, “It has shown a demand for dignity.

  17. This seems to look very interesting. .

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