On Sunday, November 21, one of the most important intellectual references of our time left us, Antonio Escohotado. In 2019 she received the Award for a life dedicated to the defense of freedom, awarded by the Juan de Mariana Institute. The director and deputy director, friends, commissioned me one of the encomios. As I said then, despite having met on several occasions and having spoken with him several times, I have not been a great friend, like others. Nor have I interviewed him or held academic debates with Escohotado. Before the figure of him, I have always considered myself an apprentice.
I’d rather listen than ask. And, if I have learned anything, apart from his writings, it is from his attitude. It is not possible to understand the legacy of Antonio Escohotado without the enormous but silent work of his son Jorgewho I went to on several occasions to put him in contact with friends from other countries, or to see if he could give a talk or an interview.
One of the legacies that his death has revealed is his enormous generosity towards the whole world, towards the people who approached him, took photos, sat down to talk, asked him questions, young or not so young, but always curious and wishing to learn. All those who today show that it was his humanity, as well as his intellect, that really hooked. The nameless orphans of him.
As I stated in the commendation of 2019, I have been encountering Antonio Escohotado throughout my intellectual life, no matter the disparity of topics that I studied. But what is truly relevant, the pinch that always challenges you, is his own vital example. He paid a price for being free that many of us who chatter, debate with more or less finesse on dense topics, often far from the day-to-day reality, would not pay.
It was uncomfortable for the political power that imprisoned him for a victimless crime, such as drug use
It was awkward for the academy that miserably ignored him. For the political power that he imprisoned him for a victimless crime, such as drug use. For the mediocre moralists who populate our country. For the intellectual softness that refuses to change his mind, while he affirmed that all his effort was to open his mind to be able to change his ideas and evolve. He was, in short, an ambush, as he defined it in the spirit of comedy: someone who feels and acts as a singular sovereign person.
Their defense of free trade It took many years and led to enemies of tradethree volumes packed with lavishly documented discoveries that few people will have the patience to read cover to cover.
His general idea is to contrast two types of companies. On the one hand, that of non-voluntary relationships, the empire of the “sublime achievement of conquest” and religious prejudices. A society where the anti-property regime prevails, and anti-trade, that communist ideal, also associated with religions. On the other, the society guided by voluntary relations, trade, the kingdom of what he would call “the vassalage deserters”, the blacksmiths who mint coins, the caravaneers who trade by land, the sailors who do it by sea. They are, for Escohotado, the seed of the entrepreneur.
And, precisely, as the culmination of the progress of these societiesthe company, the great giant of our time, that “is neither mental nor extramental” and that “coordinates the actions of many around a single goal, which is always the same: to multiply the cheapness of goods.” This lever of change, which allowed the great qualitative and quantitative leap in all societies, requires, for its establishment and perpetuation, certain security and survival requirements that, unfortunately, are not guaranteed.
Life is always dynamic and uncertain, for better and for worse. So it is imperative to monitor and ensure that these conditions exist, that there is a minimum framework in which the entrepreneur operates. I believe that, today, we are failing in that mission.
He had discovered that words like negotiator had gone from being mentioned 10,000 times in the 5th century to none in the 9th century.
Escohotado recounted in a talk at the Gustavo Bueno Foundation that, after a thorough investigation of the works published between the 5th and 9th centuries, he had discovered that words such as negotiator had gone from being mentioned 10,000 times in the 5th century to 14 in the 6th century to none in the 9th century. And the same was observed with respect to others, such as profit or remuneration. The reason is that they were considered profanities, obscenities, terms that no decent person would write.
We are back to taboo. Again we meet the pointing out economic heresies, like saying that the regulation of the markets by the government, on many occasions, is a way of appropriating the benefits of the markets and increasing control over individuals. Or how to affirm that ‘The Treasury is not all of us (honey)’. Or how to say that the search for individual wealth, even if it is for the sake of showing off, generates employment and economic activity. Or how to question the work of central banks. Putting these issues on the table implies being singled out as selfish and immoral. You are accused of being vassal of powerful (when it is just the opposite, because the new master is the State), and to forget about the others.
Escohotado says when describing who is the “ambush” that his reservation of the decision in medicine, ethics and compliance with the laws, should not lead one to think that he is a person who forgets others. Quite the contrary: “reserving the decision is demanding that it be reserved for others and for the whole”, with no more harm than the Leviathan of our times.
Defending your freedom is also defending the other’s and everyone’s. And he wonders “Are we not experiencing a grandiose rejection of freedom as enjoyment, precisely when freedoms seem most conquered?” And he reminds us that whoever “throws himself into the forest” does not beg for assent or approval. He wants to annihilate fear “and his bet is to achieve it with a poetic and eminently natural convergence of his duty and his pleasure”. And in this way, Escohotado leaves the marked path. Thanks, teacher.