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Libertopia 2011: Four Days in the Freest Place on Earth

Libertopia 2011: Four Days in the Freest Place on Earth

By: Lawrence M. Ludlow

October 2011 witnessed a jarring contrast between East Coast and West Coast. In the East, at the headquarters of the Evil Empire in Washington, D.C., the pimple-shaped dome of the Capitol bubbled over the low-lying buildings nearby, swollen to bursting as a symbol of theft, murder, and coercion. On the West Coast, a very different phenomenon was in full bloom. Libertopia 2011 found a welcome home next to the waters of San Diego Bay. There, more than 400 people discovered what it meant to be part of the World’s Largest Gathering of Voluntaryists.
Members of Libertopia 2011 came from every region of the United States and as far away as Japan, Germany, and the Netherlands. Until they arrived, Libertopia was only a state of mind. But in San Diego from Thursday October 20th through Sunday the 23rd " in a city otherwise dominated by the military-industrial-surveillance complex " these same people discovered that Libertopia could, indeed, be a real place.
Acting as both an anchor and backdrop for the weekend was the fabulous stage of Humphrey’s Concerts by the Bay " offering a full roster of live bands, impromptu performances, speakers, and artistic creations that included an evolving canvas painted by a local artist. While some visitors filtered in on Thursday evening to mingle in the bar, register at the hotel, play hipster ghost in the dark, or watch a screening of the offbeat Star Trek: Of Gods and Men in the Lysander Spooner Room nearby, Libertopia hit the ground running on Friday morning. The day began with a rousing challenge by Stefan Molyneux of Freedomain Radio. Stefan, whose podcasts have enraged and inspired more than a few people over the years, played host throughout the weekend. On Friday, he cranked things up by reminding Libertopians that now is the time to speak up and act on one’s belief in liberty " not at some “perfect” time in the future.
He was followed by Butler Shaffer, who teaches at the Southwestern University School of Law. After reminding Libertopians that he studies law in the same way biologists study cancer " and for the same reasons " he reminded us of something important: liberty requires all kinds of people to be truly “balanced.” In other words, it requires both the left-brain types who prefer to think in a logical, sequential, analytical manner as well as the right-brain types who prefer a more random, intuitive, synthetic (holistic) style.

And both types were certainly out in force. There were 42 exhibitors " including precious metals dealers and their customers (Liberty Coin and DelValley Silver); a helping of lawyers (including Libertopia sponsors Liberty Legal and Marc Victor); booksellers and dozens of think-tanks and institutes with tables groaning under the weight of books, tapes, and films of every type; volunteer first-aid providers; filmmakers; Students for Liberty; mortgage companies; publishers; the Ladies of Liberty Alliance; plenty of causes with t-shirts and calendars for sale, and the folks from visiting from points beyond. All this and the scheduled comedians and guest speakers and presenters " all 49 of them!
One of the most humorous moments of the weekend came on Sunday at about noon " while the Sovereign Awards Banquet was underway in the Marina Ballroom. For some reason, the San Diego Harbor Police got it into their heads that there was some kind of Ron Paul gathering taking place. Who knows what was going through their heads. Maybe it was all that talk of gold. Maybe they suspected that someone was licking a toad, which is illegal in California. Or maybe they heard about the impromptu Karaoke performance of the folks at on Saturday night.
The Karaoke was a clever rendition of Cee Lo Green’s * You! For whatever reason, this small gang of water-lily cops in funny clothes tried to crash Libertopia. They were met by the all-volunteer Libertopia Security Force, which kept them at bay. They were politely informed that entrance to Libertopia cost $200 per person and that they were welcome to fatten the purses of Libertopia. This seemed to confuse them. They complained until they were allowed to cross Libertopia to get to the Humphrey’s business office. On the way, they paused briefly at an exhibit sponsored by " guess who? " the local members of For those of you who don’t follow their activities, the folks at CopBlock have a habit of shooting and posting digital videos of policemen…without their permission. Needless to say, the Harbor Police did not linger. Figure it out: cops and cameras; vampires and garlic. ‘nuf said.

But Libertopia 2011 didn’t just happen. Fifty-seven people had been volunteering for several months to put it together. In addition to the many people who emailed their friends, holding down the fort in San Diego was a group of local voluntaryists who meet weekly at Café Libertalia for their Mises Mondays events. Together they provided audio-video services, registration and hospitality arrangements in the lobby, on-site security, retail-booth information, registration packets, logistical support throughout the weekend; advertising and communication services; photography; and help with the generation of up-and-coming voluntaryists located nearby in the Kidz Zone.

For most of the Libertopians who came together to make this little pocket of San Diego a better, freer place for the weekend, Libertopia is usually just a state of mind. Like the rest of us, they live in some corner of this Leviathan state most of the year and long for a chance to escape. But just as Saint Augustine had his City of God and Thomas More had his dream island of Utopia, we voluntaryists have our dreams, too. And for four days, Libertopia was more than just a dream.

Film of Libertopia:


Lawrence Ludlow is a freelance writer in San Diego. His nonfiction essays and satires have appeared in newspapers, magazines, and web sites. For the last 20 years, he has providing marketing and technical writing services at

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