Yesterday was the first meeting for the first Students for Liberty club in Honduras. I spoke briefly about the Zonas de Empleo y Desarollo Economico (ZEDEs). There followed a wide ranging discussion about the advantages and pitfalls of the ZEDEs. While the students seemed to grasp the potential, they feared the political process would corrupt the outcome, worrying that the ZEDEs might end up being used to enrich politicians at the expense of everyone else.
Afterwards I had a few drinks with Christian Betancort, a SFL representative from San Pedro Sula who had also been present at the talk. It was my first extended discussion with a libertarian in Honduras and helped clarify my thoughts about the different social dynamics in moving to Honduras.
To put it bluntly, the culture shock of leaving the DC libertarian bubble has been far greater than the culture shock of living in Honduras. Libertarians, as I imagine most social groups, have their own assumptions about knowledge, and even language, that is particular to them. For a basic example, libertarians have a fairly particular definition of freedom.
I realized what has been most difficult for me socially is shifting out of the libertarian mindset. Most foreigners in Honduras work for NGOs or teach. Competition and commerce is not immediately assumed to be good. Public choice problems are not implicit in discussions of government. Cultural reference points for libertarians, and even DC residents in general, don’t exist. People don’t know what a think tank does.
While I have spent most of my adult life in the libertarian bubble, I realized it was a bubble. What I didn’t realize is how differently it functioned from other social organizations. I had assumed other societies had similar bubbles. There would be a progressive bubble, a Silicon Valley bubble, etc. What I now realize is that such well defined bubble are the aberration, not the norm. The NGO bubble is far less clearly defined than the libertarian bubble. The sense of shared ideas and mission are weaker. The social bonds function in a different, weaker, way.
I am not sure why this is. It could be a testament to the power of libertarian ideas. It could be due to libertarian organizations. To some extent, it is probably due to both, though it is unclear why libertarians should have advantages in over other goal oriented social groups. I would have expected development workers to have a similar canon of books, a similar private language, a similar sense of shared mission.
I now believe the libertarian movement is more unique than I did before. Its social organization seems superior. I am very excited to help extend this circle to Tegucigalpa and beyond.