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Sam Bowman’s Minimum Wage talk tomorrow – Dominic Frisby’s Bitcoin talk last Friday

Sam Bowman’s talk tomorrow at the Rose and Crown has been causing worries for Libertarian Home organiser Simon Gibbs, on account of Meetup not working properly. Simon has become unsure about how many people are going to show up, but urges us all to come anyway. (I definitely intend to.) He ends his report on all this by saying that …:

… the capacity issue sometimes looks tricky on paper, but it rarely is.

My experience, with my last Friday of the month meetings, which take place in a living room which is only about half the size of the room upstairs at the Rose and Crown, is that it is almost mystical how exactly the number of attenders seems always to suit the space available for them. It’s a kind of benign spacial variant of the original Parkinson’s Law. Last Friday, for instance, Dominic Frisby looked like he might be stretching my infrastructure beyond its limits. But then I emailed people to that effect, and there was a bug going round, and the weather turned nasty, the upshot of all that was that the number who showed was just right to fill the room in comfort, and just not enough to cause any discomfort. Amazing.

It’s like we really do not need to be planned or coerced by a central authority, but can just sort things out for ourselves.

Mine was a fairly Bitcoin-savvy gathering, and several of the Bitcoin-savants present have said that they were surprised at how much more they learned, both from Frisby and from each other. I was not one of those experts; I was merely there. For me, the main message I took away from the evening was that Bitcoin, in the opinion of many people, does have real value, because it makes electronic economic transactions far easier. Although some doubts were expressed, nobody present dismissed Bitcoin as a complete fraud and a bubble waiting to just burst and vanish. In general the mood about Bitcoin was very positive, more so than I had expected, and of course even better about the general principle of encrypted currencies generally.

The big news item was that Frisby reckons he has cracked the identity of the founding genius of Bitcoin, a mysterious figure who is currently only known by a Japanese alias. Who is he? Read my Bitcoin book, said Frisby. This will be available some time around late spring or early summer, and I will keep Samizdata posted.

The other thing I will remember about last Friday was that, for complicated reasons involving an NHS kidney operation that suddenly became available (after a huge wait) to his usual back-up canine custodian, Frisby asked if he could bring his dog with him. You don’t want mere attenders bringing dogs. But since the speaker would be the main victim if a dog attended and spoke out of turn, I figured that Frisby’s dog almost certainly would behave exactly as well as promised, and so it proved. Frodo, despite being rather obviously hungry and eager to make friends with potential food providers, behaved impeccably throughout the entire evening. Not a single bark, not one. Again: amazing.

Picture of Frisby and Frodo:


Sam Bowman’s talk tomorrow will be about the idea of a legally fixed minimum wage. The libertarian orthodoxy is that, just as we don’t want or need the government to be organising our social lives or our healthcare, a government-ordained minimum wage is a really bad idea. When I met Sam earlier in the week, this orthodoxy is what he told me he would be reinforcing in his talk, citing some recent evidence.

We also discussed the idea of Sam addressing one of my last Friday of the month meetings later in the year, on the far more contentious subject of “Bleeding Heart Libertarianism”. He is, or such is my understanding, and no doubt with various reservations and qualifications, for it. I am not now totally against Bleeding Heart Libertarianism but am strongly inclined that way. I am far less inclined to leave the definition of Bleeding Heart Libertarianism as the sole property of those now calling themselves its supporters. I also have a very high opinion of Sam Bowman. That should be another good gathering, as and when it happens.

26 comments to Sam Bowman’s Minimum Wage talk tomorrow – Dominic Frisby’s Bitcoin talk last Friday

  • bloke in spain

    Just a question, but do you people ever actually do anything apart from talk amongst yourselves?
    No doubt it’s all very reassuring to meet like minded people. And no doubt you all come away even more confirmed libertarians as a result.
    But what does it actually achieve?
    I attended socialist meetings in a bemused youth & a more dedicated bunch of navel gazers it’d have been harder to find. But they did also put a lot of effort into going out & preaching to the proletariat. With the results we regrettably see today. The Great Unwashed a bit unsavoury for your tastes?

  • You are not the only one to find Sam’s view on BHL objectionable, but I am yet to make up my mind. I doubt Rawls has much to offer nor the core BHL community but the idea that we should shift our focus to more positive and saleable aspects of the libertarian agenda is sound, as long as we do not permanently abandon the rest of it, nor short-sightedly disclaim it.

  • Brian Micklethwait (London)

    bloke in Spain

    Do you ever do anything else besides leaving sarky and wrongheaded comments here at Samizdata?

    And does it ever occur to you that all that Socialist “navel gazing” might actually have helped them to reach the masses? And that it is also helping us? How? Give it a bit of thought.

  • PeterT

    Quite so, Brian.

    My immediate reaction to BiS’s comment was shorter and had exactly two words.

  • bloke in spain

    “Do you ever do anything else besides leaving sarky and wrongheaded comments here at Samizdata?”

    When I see some evidence of you people thinking about how to disseminate your libertarianism to a wider audience, maybe. Not the what to convince people of. But the how. Strategies & tactics. If you believe in this stuff, surely it’s worth telling people. But you can’t simply dump a copy of Ayn Rand on them & expect them to see the magic of her glittering prose. You have to go out & sell it. How do you propose doing so? Try talking about that, for a change.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    Bloke in Spain, for ideas to spread it is usually important to discuss them first in a friendly environment first. So give the snark a miss. By your own logic you are wasting time on this blog and should be doing something more productive. Gander, meet goose.

  • Paul Marks

    Be nice people (not that I am ever am) at least the Bleeding Hearts have spared us the early theology of Rawls (how the Trinity proves socialism and so on).

    They also have some gall (courage is to be admired – even in an evil cause)in pretending that John Rawls “A Theory of Justice” (the arch work of the university collectivists) is “really” libertarian.

    bloke in spain

    So you want “Action This Day” – less of the talking to ourselves stuff?

    Well then support Steve Baker MP and Douglas Carswell MP who bring libertarianism to Parliament (“pearls before swine”?).

    And (if you want something bigger) I commend the campaign of Senator Rand Paul to be President of the United States – unlike his dad (who was basically messing about) Rand Paul is serious, he really wants to be President (one can see that in the man).

    “Which means he is unfit for the position” say my purist brothers and sisters….

    Oh bleep, bleep, bleep you bleeps.

  • Mr Ed

    I would like to remind Bloke in Spain that the Judean Popular Front eventually led to the establishment of Kibbutzim in Judea. It took a while, but they kept the flame going.

  • Paul Marks

    The Kibbutzim have been in decline for decades (and rightly so – they are a dumb idea), but I get Ed’s point.

    If people do not say “next year in Jerusalem” (without a break) every year – they never get to Jerusalem.

  • Sam Duncan

    “I am far less inclined to leave the definition of Bleeding Heart Libertarianism as the sole property of those now calling themselves its supporters.”

    Exactly. I think there’s still a danger, in that people may end up confused as to which kind of BHL you’re talking about, which plays into the hands of the “wrong” kind (i.e., those whom most of us wouldn’t consider libertarian at all), but the idea – that, contrary to popular opinion, many of us embrace individual liberty out of a concern for the less well-off – is perfectly sound.

    “If people do not say “next year in Jerusalem” (without a break) every year – they never get to Jerusalem.”

    Well put, Paul. 🙂

  • The kibbutzim have not been in decline – they actually ceased to exist a couple of decades ago, when the state subsidies stopped coming and they went bankrupt. The communities that now exist under that name are a vastly different creature.

  • Alastair James

    Bloke in Spain the libertarian and classical liberal movement in London is diverse and very active. Samizdata is indeed a site on which the converted converse but many others read it. But many of us are also engaged as activists or funders of organisations like the taxpayers alliance the institute of economic affairs the cobden centre better off out etc furthermore the progress that has been made in building libertarian societies on university campuses across the UK is very significant and a lot of the individuals who drove that learned their libertarianism on Brians Fridays

  • Paul Marks


    What a nice comment.

  • Laird

    Sam Duncan, the point I made in the earlier discussion of BHL is that since the creators of that blog are the ones who came up with the name, those of you who “embrace individual liberty out of a concern for the less well-off” would be better served to come up with your own unique name for it, not attempt to change an existing and established meaning of the term. That only breeds confusion and risks alienating potential allies.

  • Paul Marks

    Sam and Laird.

    It is a bit like Islam.

    If someone says “I am Muslim” it is natural for me to suppose they approve of the deeds of Muhammed.

    If someone says “I am a Bleeding Heart Libertarian” it is natural for me to suppose they believe in Social Justice, John Rawls and all that. And are actively working for these things to come to pass.

    If this is not the case (if they are not working for evil) they really should not use the term BHL – as I am only an old man, I can not be expected to understand these subtle distinctions.

  • PersonFromPorlock

    [B]loke in spain has a point: British libertarians should now be working to support UKIP (not just nodding politely in their direction) because that is as libertarian a forum as the real world is going to provide to Britons for a while. You do have to win to rule, even if your version of ‘ruling’ is Minarchism.

  • Sam Duncan

    Laird, I almost said that myself, actually.

    You know, I don’t discount the possibility that I’m flat wrong. 🙂 I wasn’t against Frisby using the term, because I wasn’t convinced that he understood the overtones. It seemed like a new, fresh – if slightly unfortunate – usage, unconnected with the past. However, looking at the site Brian linked to, there’s rather too much talk of Rawls and “social justice” for my liking (i.e., there is some). Certainly, to be fair, they’re debating whether their BHL should be about “social justice” or not, but it’s not quite the outright rejection that I would have hoped for. (On the other hand, Matt Zwolinski’s Three types of BHL gives us “contingent BHLs”, who sound perfectly reasonable to me, and are, in fact, exactly what I assumed we were dealing with. The others, not so much.)

  • PeterT

    Indeed, PersonfromPorlock. Much as I dislike their immigration stance (or rather the personal views on this issue of many UKIP supporters) I will support UKIP at the EU and general elections. Getting out of the EU is the biggest libertarian prize within reach. In my view it is exceptionally unlikely that even with an UKIP majority in parliament (not going to happen obviously) they would struggle to push through draconian immigration legislation.

    Hopefully the Clegg/Farage debate at the end of the Month/April will boost chances of eventual Brexit.

  • bloke in spain

    Yes, well that wasn’t very well received, was it.
    First, on a personal note. I became enamoured of what you call libertarian ideals a long time before most of you had ever heard of them. I’ve spent the past 40 years trying to reduce my personal interaction with the State, any State, to the irreducible minimum. It isn’t easy, because that means forgoing many of the benefits States provide. But I’m not willing to pay the prices demanded.

    On dissemination.
    You live in democracies & if you want a libertarian society it will presumably have to come about by democratic means. This may be intellectually offensive to some, but that will require explaining to a Mum on a sink housing estate why she should reject the comfort & security the State promises her, in favour of uncertain freedoms. But she is, above all, the person you need to convince. One of the people who have the least invested in the status quo. One of the people who has the most to benefit.
    It would be helpful to approach that woman with a Libertarian Primer. Not some piece of intellectual irrelevance on a Libertarian society built from the ground up. But a simple guide on where Libertarians can go from here & the advantages. The incremental path to Libertarianism routemap. For her & the millions of men & women like her. They need it.

  • Paul Marks

    I remember Matt Z. once downplaying “social justice” – but then he came out with the Hayek-Rawls trick.

    Not complex – Matt Z. quotes Hayek (in “Law, Legislation and Liberty”) saying something nice about John Rawls and implies that Hayek is saying something nice about the collectivist theory that Rawls presents in “A Theory of Justice” (the “justice as fairness” vileness). However, Matt Z. does not mention that ON THE SAME PAGE (of Law, Legislation and Liberty) Hayek says he has never read the by book by Rawls.

    I lost interest at that point.

    Life is too short (and I am too old) to waste my time on dishonest people.

  • Paul Marks

    Short version – the theory of the late John Rawls (fair shares) is the enemy, those who support the theory are the enemy.

  • Paul Marks

    The European Union elections are about the European Union.

    I will not vote for someone who is not supportive of taking the United Kingdom OUT of the European Union.

  • Paul Marks

    The E.U. is an extra layer of government as such libertarians (at least those live next to Mr Putin – and even there what protection is the E.U.?) should oppose it.

    I will only vote for someone who is favour of getting Britain out of the E.U.

    Both in the E.U. elections AND in the Westminster Parliament elections.

    I hope the above is clear.

  • A Cowardly Citizen

    Two things:
    1) Brian, the reason numbers work out has been explained in The Wisdom of Crowds. There’s a section on this very issue.

    2) Ignore the obvious MI5 plant trying to justify his expenses by talking up direct action. Note that he doesn’t want to throw bombs himself, just get the names of people who might be up for it.
    Next comes the “some of us think more extreme measures are called for”.
    Then “I know a friend who can get hold of some cool kit. And here’s a map showing where we’d like you to drop off this truck at…”