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Protesilaos Stavrou

Protesilaos Stavrou

EU policy analyst. Philosopher. Front end developer. Free/libre software contributor. // Refer to my website for the specifics.

Articles by Protesilaos Stavrou

On culture and the ‘more Europe’ cliché

2 days ago


Writing for Social Europe, professor Gijs de Vries argues that Europe
must reimagine its cultural
in order to cope with the challenges of our era:

We live in a time of growing intolerance and increasing
nationalism. Europe’s social fabric is fraying at the edges. To
restore a sense of unity, of trust and direction, and to reconnect
minorities and majorities we need to imagine and deliver a common
European future. Only if we harness the power of culture can we do so.

Notwithstanding the professor’s lofty language, I feel that culture
cannot be reduced to a finite quantity that must be managed between the
national and European levels. The EU has the propensity to think of
every case as a matter of distributing competences, because that is how

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The structural aspects of public health

July 14, 2021


Public health has now become synonymous with how we cope with the
pandemic. Though it is understandable that the focus is on containing
the spread of the corona virus, it is important to remind ourselves of
the underlying reality that renders COVID possible and potentially
dangerous. The pandemic has exposed the systemic flaws of modern
society, which can be summarised as (i) urbanisation, (ii) inconsiderate
eating practices, (iii) lack of exercise in the form of longer-term,
daily habits coupled with an ethos of physical wellness (iv) excessive
confinement to closed spaces such as offices with heating or air

Urbanisation has increased the density of human populations, while
simultaneously downgrading their everyday environment. Cities

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On the rainbow flag and EU value tokenism

July 3, 2021


Writing for Social Europe in Beyond waving rainbow
(2021-06-30), Evelyne Paradis notes the following about Hungary and

The political machinations in both countries are as well-trodden as
they are clear. The Hungarian prime minister, Viktor Orbán, and the
Polish president, Andrzej Duda, want to create internal enemies to
distract from
their own
and thereby maintain power. The internal enemy they have largely
created is LGBTI people, and now they are instrumentalising the same
minority to turn their populations against the European values
everyone in the ‘forward thinking’ part of Europe is defending. In
using the rainbow flag as an instrument to castigate whole countries,
we might thus unwittingly contribute to isolating LGBTI

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Comment on democratic legitimation

June 25, 2021


I received an insightful comment on my video presentation about the
nation-state, democracy, and
(2021-05-29), which inspired me to elaborate on my rationale for some of
the issues raised therein. The comment’s author preferred to remain
anonymous. The text of the exchange is reproduced verbatim and is
shared with permission.

Hi Prot. Thanks for this video. I share your concerns with the current
trends in governance. If I’m allowed to make one suggestion, then I
would ask to please make these briefer if possible, otherwise the
point is lost in the details.

Thank you! Yes, I will try to keep them short going forward. 1-hour
long presentations are a bit tiring (and I record them in one go as with
all my videos, which makes them

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On the nation-state, democracy, and transnationalism

May 29, 2021


Raw link:

In this video presentation, I talk about the nation-state’s claims on
legitimacy, the concept of national sovereignty, supranational affairs,
and their tension with democracy.

What follows is the text of the presentation:

#+TITLE: On the nation-state, democracy, and transnationalism
#+AUTHOR: Protesilaos Stavrou (

Hello everyone! My name in Protesilaos, also known as Prot. In this
video I will talk to you about the tension between democracy as a system
of collective decision-making and the nation-state as a form of
legal-institutional arrangements that depend on—and promote—a
modicum of homogeneity among the subjects of government.

I will

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Comment on collective autonomy

April 26, 2021


Nathan Benedetto Proença added the
following comment to the video of my presentation on Moral lessons from
free software and GNU
(2021-04-16). I think this is worth sharing, so I asked for permission
to do so:

Great talk, Prot!

I do have a question. When you talked about “geeks vs normies”, you
seemed to be talking more about emacs than autonomy in general.

But talking about the general case, do you think it is normal to give up
autonomy? I believe that autonomy is the exception, precisely for its

Although I am autonomous with my computer, I am not with a car: I have
no proper idea of it’s inner workings and could not fix one without
help. For another example, I am not autonomously when I eat, as I live
in the shadows of who

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On the contradiction of non-interventionism

February 9, 2021


Reading Ludwig von Mises’ lecture notes on Politics and
Ideas reminded me of the contradiction
that is present in classical liberal thought or within certain
libertarian circles: the idea that a government committed to
laissez-faire is either (i) not political, (ii) somehow less political
than its opposing forces, or (iii) political yet objectively correct.
The contradiction takes the form of a deeply ideological yet ostensibly
unbiased double standard where certain types of government regulation
are deemed appropriate and, thus, do not qualify as much-maligned
“interventionism”, while others are treated as necessarily evil,
inefficient, or corrupt and, hence, interventionist; a distinction that
collapses into itself in practice.

Mises notes:


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On platformarchs, the demi-state, and deplatforming

January 26, 2021


The rule of law with fundamental rights rests on the distinction between
public and private spheres, while recognising common and personal goods
(res publica and res privata). The rights of an individual are
protected against infringements from other persons and are equally
guarded against violations from the state: the apparatus that operates
in the name of the public good. As such, a rules-based system that
enshrines fundamental rights for its subjects has as its telos an
equilibrium between the wants of the person and those of the collective.

In concrete terms, one cannot be alienated from their right to free
speech by the unilateral act of another person, for that would undermine
the principle of equality between the two in the face of the law.

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On the appropriation of Europe

September 28, 2020


On 21 September 2020, Christine Lagarde, the chief of the European
Central Bank delivered a speech at the Franco-German Parliamentary
Assembly titled Jointly shaping Europe’s
Lagarde’s theme was in line with what the title implies and what one has
come to expect from central bankers, namely, how the ECB helps forward
the agenda of a more powerful political centre in the European Union,
casually passing the unprecedented upward wealth distribution that the
ECB’s policies lead to as just another step towards a decisively
‘European’ future.

The symbolism of the event offers us stimulus for contemplation.
Lagarde, an elite Eurocrat at the helm of the most powerful technocratic
institution in the EU, addresses a body that is the vivid realisation of

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On the underlying values of superhero culture

September 17, 2020


Culture embodies values and imprints them in the collective conscience
as models of acceptable or desirable states of affairs. To think of
cultural artefacts as mere entertainment, a transient exhibition with no
further consequences, is to ignore the social-political function they
perform. This is more so for works that are conceived, designed, and
delivered in a top-down fashion, where a handful of power elites wields
the authority to effectively dictate the narratives that inform the
quotidian life of people.

A case in point are Hollywood’s superhero movies. The tropes and
stereotypes they rely on and perpetuate are characteristic of the
underlying value system that their corporate overlords consider
appropriate for the preservation of their status qua

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Communitarianism and the self-institution of divinity

August 1, 2020

A new left can be pro-religion in the context of autonomy


A thoroughgoing re-institution of society will inevitably have to deal
with the issue of religion. The revolutionary platform must formulate a
stance that stands as an antipode to the machinations of the ruling
class while providing an alternative for the longer term success of the
cultural shift such re-institution would both partially presuppose and
provide the impetus for.

Should we break with tradition or insist on the methods of earlier
social movements? Is religion itself a convention that humanity can
live without, or must there always be some form of religiosity in every
society, no matter the particularities?

The old left has historically held an outright atheist view of the world

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Protesilaos Stavrou

May 29, 2020

Jekyll2020-05-28T06:23:51+00:00 Stavrou: Political writingsProtesilaos StavrouComment on resisting techno-digital dystopia2020-05-21T00:00:00+00:002020-05-21T00:00:00+00:00 was asked for my opinion on the challenges raised by potentially
repressive technologies. The idea is how can one protect themselves
from the seemingly omnipotent state, especially in light of the
technological means at its disposal.

The following is my initial take on the subject. I am sharing it with
the proviso that I do not consider it a comprehensive analysis and may
still elaborate further in some future essay.

I think we need to frame dystopia that is powered by digital technology
as yet another form of

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Comment on resisting techno-digital dystopia

May 21, 2020


I was asked for my opinion on the challenges raised by potentially
repressive technologies. The idea is how can one protect themselves
from the seemingly omnipotent state, especially in light of the
technological means at its disposal.

The following is my initial take on the subject. I am sharing it with
the proviso that I do not consider it a comprehensive analysis and may
still elaborate further in some future essay.

I think we need to frame dystopia that is powered by digital technology
as yet another form of tyranny. This is not to trivialise it—if
“trivialising” can ever apply to tyranny—, nor to downplay its
potential for destruction or otherwise equate it ideologically with
other totalitarian regimes. By understanding it as a tyranny, we

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Comment on elections in general

May 10, 2020


In a private exchange I was asked for my opinion on the act of voting.
The following is my basic idea about the subject. Some parts have been
edited in the interest of privacy. Note that I am posting this with the
proviso that I do not consider it a comprehensive take on the matter and
may still elaborate on it in some future essay.

I have never voted. I am not against it per se. It just seems to me
that elections cannot deliver auto-nomy (self-government), because the
“constitutional subject”, the people, is nothing more than an

Party politics are an integral part of representative democracy, which
in turn is a facet of a system of centralisation of authority. When the
nation-state started taking form, this centralisation meant that

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Crises, transnationalism, and the demi-state

May 1, 2020


In an April 29, 2019 article titled The Virus that Changed the
Joschka Fischer highlights the shortcomings of the international
institutional architecture, while pointing at the supposedly pressing
need to rekindle the spirit of transnationalism. As the author puts it:

While nation-states will remain indispensable in providing good
governance and contributing to global efforts, the principle of
nationalism will only exacerbate future systemic crises. The pandemic
must be followed by a new age of international cooperation and a
strengthening of multilateral institutions. This applies to Europe,
in particular.

Now more than ever, we need to reclaim the spirit of 1945. We need
the twenty-first century’s two superpowers, America and China, to

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On crisis and statecraft

April 1, 2020


The polity can be understood as a system of rules. An architecture that
consists of tacit and explicit codes that govern, regulate, frame, or
otherwise influence the behaviour and expected role of their subjects.
The polity is a superstructure of rules with a global or local scope:
those that apply to particular cases and those that perform a
foundational function of delineating the scope of other rules.

Humans institute their polity in pursuit of a set of ends. The midpoint
or common denominator of all rules within each given scope is the
scenario, narrative, idea, phenomenon that compels, determines, or
informs the process of polity-institution in its totality or in parts

This object of reference has to be interpreted as external to the

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More ECB QE will not stop the Coronacrisis

March 21, 2020


On March 19, 2020 the European Central Bank announced a new round of
asset purchases (Quantitative Easing or QE) that are specifically
intended as a response to the economic downturn caused by the
coronavirus pandemic. From the

[…] the ECB’s Governing Council announced on Wednesday a new Pandemic
Emergency Purchase Programme with an envelope of €750 billion until
the end of the year, in addition to the €120 billion we decided on 12
March. Together this amounts to 7.3% of euro area GDP.


We are making available up to €3 trillion in liquidity through our
refinancing operations, including at the lowest interest rate we have
ever offered, -0.75%. Offering funds below our deposit facility rate
allows us to amplify the stimulus from

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On trust, global inter-dependence, and sustainability

March 17, 2020


The pandemic has highlighted two truths about politics that are
otherwise easy to overlook, underestimate, or altogether ignore:

Political organisation rests on trust. Without it we have no
institutions, no law and order, no money, no morality, nothing.
Our lives on this planet are intrinsically inter-linked.
Isolationism is an illusion, as you are never truly sheltered from
We know at least since the time of Thucydides (see the Milean
Dialogue) or Plato (refer to Book II of the Republic on the Ring of
Gyges, etc.) that the human animal is contained and rendered moral by an
equilibrium of power. What we experience as peace and prosperity is a
state where no person or group thereof is preponderant. Otherwise we
default to the state of

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I signed the Public Domain Manifesto

January 10, 2020


All my works, whether they are writings or programs, are provided under
terms that respect your freedom.1 The rights of end recipients
to use, modify, share each work or its derivatives are prerequisites of
decentralised and interpersonal creativity; of culture at-large.

I believe that many of the problems in our economy or politics in
general spring from the misinterpretation of intellectual property and
its consequent weaponisation by oligopolistic interests. The logic of
exclusivity and the concomitant practice of artificial scarcity force
people towards becoming individualistic, which ultimately benefits the
establishment that wants us weak and divided. Cooperation is
discouraged so that corporations can further increase their profits,
typically to

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The untenable capitalist case against billionaires

December 30, 2019


In the historical case for abolishing
Linsey McGoey formulates a capitalist argument against inequality and
billionaires, by alluding to the relevant views of intellectuals of yore
such as Adam Smith. While I appreciate any effort that undermines the
conservative narratives, and am aligned with McGoey’s underlying values,
I am not convinced this approach can be effective.

The fundamental problem is the very notion of a capitalist critique of
billionaires. I hold that, upon closer inspection, it leads us to the
untenable position of a “capitalist critique of capitalism”, because it
ignores the political dynamics at play.

The quintessential institution of capitalism—the conditio sine qua non
of this system—is property rights. No rich person,

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Technocratic communism is not the answer

December 29, 2019


I read with great interest the December 27, 2019 Project Syndicate
column of Yanis Varoufakis, titled Imagining a World Without
While I think that Varoufakis’ heart is in the right place, and his
critique of capitalism as essentially anti-market is spot on, I cannot
subscribe to his technocratic outlook.

What Varoufakis outlines as an alternative to the established order is
yet another form of gigantism. It requires a massive, omnipotent state
apparatus that would need to have access to vast amounts of data in
order to perform the function of ironing out inequalities between
people. The notion of a central bank overseeing everyone’s income
implies that there must be commensurate checks in place: a counter-party
treasury, a government, a

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Notes on the “Joe Rogan Experience” episode #1393

December 7, 2019

On being dubitative and inquisitive


I watched with great interest the entirety of the Joe Rogan Experience
episode that features James Wilks and Chris Kresser talking about the
documentary The Gamechangers. That is episode
In this post I want to share some thoughts and observations with regard
to what I feel is an inconclusive debate.

In terms of appearances, James is the clear winner of the debate. He
was more prepared, had references for all his arguments and, most
importantly, found Chris to be downright wrong on a number of issues.

Chris’ own credibility started to fall apart when he admitted to not
know a particular research method: how to read a “forest plot”. This
made him look like a charlatan, which allowed James to attack him on

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The shadow play of “populism”

August 29, 2019


I listened to the Project Syndicate podcast Understanding Economic
(published on 2019-08-27). The title is misleading because it does
not offer any real insight into the specifics of the topic at hand.
The discussion revolves around the tenuous binary of liberalism vs
populism, where the former ostensibly represents prudent policy-making
with an eye for its longer-term implications, while the latter stands
for opportunistic measures that simply feed off of people’s fears.

The impression I got out of listening to this episode is that I have
heard these same arguments a hundred times over. As such, the present
essay will address the topic without being limited to the specifics of
the given podcast. Here are some general remarks before I delve

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No optimism for the European Union

July 5, 2019


A euro-optimist is someone who may have certain reservations about the
course of the European integration process, who will not hesitate to
criticise policies that run contrary to the greater good, but will
ultimately accept the status quo in the hope that it will adjust at
some future point. This is the kind of person who expects better
things from the EU; who believes that a Europe-wide democracy is both
possible and desirable for the moral progress of the continent.

Examined in abstract, euro-optimism looks like a sensible position.
You do not take everything at face value, while still expressing your
support for the potential benefits of “ever-closer union”. As such,
you can dismiss everything that transpired during, say, the years of
the economic

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Against the secularised theology of statecraft

June 14, 2019

I reject nation-statism


This article is a continuation of my previous posts. Read them to get
a sense of the context:

The central ideology of statecraft and of international relations in
general is nation-statism, i.e. the conferral of personhood to the
construct of the nation-state. Nation-statism combines the three
present entities of the nation, the state, the homeland into an
imaginary being. The nation-state is thus perceived as the unit of
international affairs, the bearer of sovereignty, the embodiment of
popular will and the incarnation of the national interest.

The nation-state is thought as having a personality of its own, as
expressed in quotidian language where “America demands”, “Germany
intends”, etc. Against this backdrop,

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After Capitalism

May 31, 2019

No more delusions of progressivism


In a May 30 column for Project Syndicate titled “After Neoliberalism”
eminent economist Joseph Stiglitz propounds a view of reforming the
established political order in an effort to address its failures. The
alternative is touted as “progressive capitalism”. It hinges on the
basic idea that the state shall have a one-way relationship with the
market, manipulating it without ever succumbing to its pressures.

While I appreciate Mr. Stiglitz’s observations about the state of
affairs, I find the essence of “progressive capitalism” fundamentally
flawed. It does not deviate from the core tenet of conventional
statecraft: gigantism.

Progressives delude themselves into thinking that the problems in the
current order

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The extreme right is the new right

April 23, 2019

The conservative life cycle is in its authoritarian phase


Virtually every day there some analyst raising the alarm about the surge
of the far-right. While there is much to worry about, the phenomenon
itself should surprise no one who sees the bigger picture. The
cumulative effect of social, economic, and technological change points
to the inexorable shift of conservative forces rightward, as they
enter the repressive phase of their life cycle.

To begin with, the ultimate telos of conservatives is the preservation
of the capitalist organisation of society. Capitalism is the political
order that is designed to promote the interests of the capital

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Note on supporting free culture

April 1, 2019

Do not allow copyright to be a tool for tyranny


I get asked to comment on the EU’s copyright reform, specifically the
infamous “Article 13”. Because I think the legal technicalities might
obscure the broader issue at play, I will address not them—we already
know they are bad. Instead, I share my thoughts on copyright itself and
why we should support free/libre culture as an antipode to proprietary

Please bear in mind that this is a mere “note” and that I plan to
revisit the topic at greater length once I have enough time at my

The backlash to “Article 13” has revealed the pitfalls of
propertarianism which, in this case, manifests as

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On Gigantism

February 27, 2019

Against the core belief of conventional statecraft


Conventional wisdom holds that centralised control can yield efficiency
gains without any noticeable downsides. It facilitates decision-making
at scale. It opens up possibilities of horizontal integration, of
drawing linkages between different phases of the distribution mechanism,
to deliver a singular, more coherent offering. Going big{-er} is always

This is gigantism: the belief in the inherent value of aggrandising
the scale of operations while concentrating control. Everything should
ultimately be determined at a single locus of authority or, at least, as
few as possible. Corporations

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Changing ways: the real bread paradigm

February 3, 2019

You too can help reform the world


We must stop with our busy schedules and think things through for
a while. Our choices as consumers have a profound effect on how the
economy works. You keep buying a product, then the company selling it
grows stronger. Lower your demand for it and the producer has to adapt
accordingly or go out of business.

You as an individual control a fraction of the total power consumers can
wield. So if you alone change your ways, nothing noticeable will
happen. But if you can coordinate your efforts with your local
community or people online, things will start moving.

This is another way of thinking about the

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