Is Liberty.me a Scam?
by Ethan Glover, Sun, Oct 12, 2014 - (Edited) Thu, Oct 20, 2016
- A trick, a ruse; a swindle, a racket.
A recent forum discussion over at Liberty.me (not available to the general public) said everything that needs to be said about this new social network and its current state. It's even complete with the kind of raving mad man who thinks everyone is against him, usually only found in places like Reddit and YouTube. First problem with Liberty.me? Turns out, paywalls don't stop stupid. There will still be people who make an effort to troll and insult everyone around them without realizing that they're all on the same side. While I tend to enjoy the thoughts of 99% of people on L.me (compare that to the 0% of Reddit and YouTube) I'm afraid this one benefit is not good enough. This level of quality is probably only attributable to the sites relatively small size and participation. That all being said, let's go through Liberty.me features one at a time.
Table of Contents
- Publishing Site
- Liberty Guides
- Curated Books
- Everything Else
- A Note on LFB
- Steer Clear
ExpertsBack to Contents
"It's a place to meet experts and get your questions answered."
Many great, known people have accounts at Liberty.me, but like everyone else, most of them are not active. If you send a private message to Robert Murphy, Wendy McElroy or Stephan Kinsella, will they answer? Probably. Then again, they'll probably answer their email too. (Note that Wendy McElroy is not listed in that link, this is because no one expressed her as a major influence when it was created, in light of this article, it's on my to-do list.)
Is Liberty.me a place to meet experts and get your questions answered? Not at all. If you want to meet experts on the internet, you're better off going to their personal websites. Reading their books and blogs, and utilizing comments and e-mails are still the way to go. Liberty.me is simply not an active enough place for this statement to be true.
Publishing SiteBack to Contents
"It's an effortless publishing site to share your ideas with the world."
Liberty.me's publishing platform is sub-par. Basically you get a [sitenamehere].liberty.me blog that utilizes a very restricted version of WordPress. You can set your own discussion settings and open up comments to the public (although I was scorned for doing so, it seems they don't know how to turn that off), and you can change your "theme" by picking a color. That's about it. From there you can post blogs at your will which may or may not appear on the buggy homepage full of (oh my god, sliders???).
WordPress, Blogger, Tumblr, TypePad, Squidoo, Live Journal, Google Sites, GitHub and many others all provide a superior service to Liberty.me. Liberty.me publishing is highly restrictive and buggy. (BETA) The truth is, you're better off looking elsewhere if you want to publish. It simply cannot compete with the hundreds of competitors out there.
Liberty GuidesBack to Contents
"It's a series of practical Liberty Guides that improve your life across the board."
The Liberty Guides are short, quickly written PDF's that range on subjects from laundry to peer-to-peer lending. Unfortunately, for those who bought into the obvious and reportable scam service Laissez Faire Books (we'll get to that later) you may notice that some of the Liberty Guides are copy/pasted straight out of the book "A Man's Right to Happiness". That's not even where they originated, these stories on using TSP for laundry and lending club as an investment have been reblogged by many authors belonging to the LFB club as part of the "Laissez Faire Letter". Want to read Tucker's laundry Liberty Guide? Try this Mise's Daily article from 2011. (To the skeptics, I realize that the Liberty Guide covers more subjects, that doesn't change the fact that everything in there has already been blogged or published for free elsewhere, probably years ago.)
This is the truth about Liberty Guides, the authors are repeating what they have already said in the past in PDF form and passing it off as something exclusive to L.me. This is the case for every single one of the 20 now available guides. Nothing exclusive. Is this feature worth paying for? Not a chance.
Curated BooksBack to Contents
"It's a growing library of over 120 curated books and newly published works."
The Liberty.me library seems to be the best thing the site has going for it when it comes to value for value. However, when I looked at the first 10 books listed in the library, I found that three of them are rehashed, old blog or newsletter posts like the Liberty Guides. One of them is available in the public domain, one of them comes from the Mises Institute, and one of them is just a list of Jeffrey Tucker's 25 favorite books. The other four are $10 eBooks.
This is just the top of the list, as you scroll down, the books tend to get older. Most of them, if not all, are either on the public domain, available for free at the Mises Institute already, or common in any library. Again, there's no value for your money here. Who needs "over 120 curated books" when you've already got hundreds of thousands available to you at no cost? Especially when liberty blogs around the internet already do plenty of reviews and mentions that cover the "curation".
"It's a universe of specialized groups connecting people on hundreds of topics."
"It's an in-depth discussion forum on philosophy, investing, education, entertainment, and more."
As mentioned above, the discussions on Liberty.me are sparse and mostly inactive. Even where there are active conversations they're incredibly boring. I mean no offense to any members, but the only back and forth I see is about religion and minarchy v. anarchy. Wait… I change my mind, those conversations seem to have died out. It's over, nothing's left. Liberty.me is already an echo chamber as predicted. Take a look at this screenshot from the latest discussions:
This makes me yawn. Again, the only popular discussion here is, "Is God a Libertarian?" Everything else is full of people agreeing with each other and nodding, or is talking about how much social networks suck. (Both Facebook and Liberty.me are represented.) There's certainly nothing worth paying for here. If you want to have discussions online, it's best to find a forum somewhere else. You won't see anything that'll keep you awake on Liberty.me. Unless of course you really do enjoy talking about whether or not god is a libertarian and telling people what you know about bad statistics even though they probably already know.
ClassesBack to Contents
"It's an expert-led academy with classes for adults almost every day of the week."
Oh, Liberty.me U, such wasted potential. The classes at Liberty.me essentially consist of 30 minute, unprepared live videos of authors talking about their books and websites so that you may go and buy or read. It's advertising. You're not going to get the same kind of experience you get out of the Mises Academy. In fact, you're not going to get as good of an experience as you might from watching interviews or podcasts on YouTube.
The classes usually take place late at night at like 8:00PM and for people like me with slow internet at home, it's impossible to watch them. I was told that the videos would be available for download, but it's simply not the case. I got an e-mail that this issue had been solved from support and basically there is only one class held weeks ago that can be played on an online video player. It seems they've gone back on their word and changed their mind based on the way they're responding to this in the forums, but I don't want to jump to conclusions. Honestly it doesn't matter because the classes aren't worth anything anyway.
If you want to learn from the people who are teaching these classes, subscribe to their blogs or YouTube channels. You won't hear anything on Liberty.me that isn't already out there available to everyone else. No value here.
Everything ElseBack to Contents
There are a few other things to explore on the site, I thought I might quickly mention them.
- Articles: Publically readable, generally written as a novelty, there's not a lot of quality.
- Podcasts and Videos: Publically viewable, generally lower quality than other material around the web.
- News: A never used Reddit style news page (without the option to comment). Only two people post to it (I believe staff) and no one votes on anything there, it doesn't seem anyone uses it. TopLibertarian (Now Discontinued) is better curated.
- Events: A calendar of events that mostly contains Liberty.me U classes and a "reading group" via Google Hangouts that no one attends. There are some listed conferences but most of them come from Students for Liberty. Others like PorcFest, aren't exactly hard to hear about.
- Chat: Everyone is automatically logged into chat and the box annoyingly pops up at the bottom of the screen no matter where you are on the site. There are usually about 50 people "online" at a time and about two or three talking at any given moment. Even then the chat box is always full of either GIF's or support problems.
- Karma: This feature doesn't work like it does on places like Reddit or YouTube. On blogs and discussions there is an "appreciate" button. It's the same as the like button, totally useless. If you get a lot of "appreciates" you may get a badge, or your article may appear in a special box on the homepage.
- Organizations: A list of companies. I have no idea what the point of this is.
A Note on LFBBack to Contents
I noted earlier that Jeffrey Tucker's other venture, Laissez Faire Book's is a reportable scam. Honestly, the sales page alone should be the biggest tip off. It's reminiscent of a ClickBank "squeeze page." (Exhibit A - Exhibit B) In fact, the Liberty.me sales pages is exactly the same way.
The Laissez Faire Letter, which is the cheapest "plan" for LFB, is a very short, two-page item that looks like a newspaper but just has a few blogs that are freely available on the LFB website. The blogs themselves are often rewritten from the past, just like Liberty Guides and the books in the Liberty.me Library. Different authors will literally rewrite what another said in the past and republish it. In addition to the Laissez Faire letter, you get an occasional e-mail with aggregated news links freely available on the web.
From looking at Jeffrey Tucker's two ventures I gather that full LFB membership includes eBooks that are freely available elsewhere, and the "12-minute executive summaries" are a rehashing of what's already been said on blogs and YouTube.
Steer ClearBack to Contents
I like Jeffrey Tucker. He's a great author and a great guy. But these little ventures he's running aren't worth much of anything. Liberty.me is kind of cool, but it certainly isn't worth any money. I tried for a long time to excuse its downsides. "It's in beta." "They'll add more features later." "Support is really quick to respond and willing to say, 'That's a good idea.' Or 'We're planning something similar.'"
Maybe one day it'll be worth the cost, but from what I've seen, that's damn near impossible. Liberty.me is not on a path to gain value. Its foundation isn't worth a penny and any additions such as meet up groups or... um... bug fixes... don't make things any better.
Don't buy into it. They were right. I hate to admit it, but Liberty.me is an echo chamber that'll take your money and give you free products. Liberty.me is indeed a scam.P.S. If you're looking for something to aggregate all your YouTube videos and blogs, I recommend Feedly.
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