Bringing pareto distributions to drunken philosophising

Avid followers of Libertarian Home will know of a tension between the amount of time people want spent on history and abstract philosophy and the amount spent on concrete political policy and the everyday problems

encountered. Between talking to ourselves in pubs and talking to the public at large. This tension is, in my view, a false dichotomy. In truth we need more, lots more, of all of it. It seems, however, that since most libertarians are working hard on being happy that they have little extra time to dedicate to that effort. Libertarians have a resource shortage that is a bigger issue than any issue with resource prioritisation.

What to do about the resource shortage?

Well, one thing we could do is to make more libertarians – by way of persuading non-libertarians – until we have enough libertarians to get everything done. This is begging the question since effort is required to make the extra libertarians.

One of the things we do manage is lots of drunken philosophising. I have a lot of time for drunken philosophising and one of the reasons for that is that I do not think it is as useless as people imagine. It is also not always drunken philosophising, sometimes it is drunken strategising. Furthermore,  time spent drinking together is time in which communities are built and ideas shared.

That community is the fertile soil in which more impressive enterprises are grown. Those ideas are the seeds being scattered upon that soil. The hope is those randomly scattered seeds sprout into something wonderful.

The process is, however, somewhat inefficient. How many times have the conversations in a pub moved away from something exciting and insightful and onto the thing that the guy with the loudest voice has an anecdote about? Those moments do not ruin social evenings but they are as frustrating as they are unproductive.

In the facet of our universe concerned with business management there is an intellectual school called “Lean”. Look it up, it offers interesting insights into how to avoid waste. One of it’s insights is something called “LeanCoffee” which is simply a format for semi-formal meetings held in coffee houses in the early hours. I have been to a few and found them fun. The description of the format can be a bit wordy, so I’ll leave it out. Understand only that is it not as formal as it sounds. It is actually quite lightweight and relaxed, even with coffee involved.

What the format does is it quickly surfaces the interests of the attendees and exploits natural pareto / power-law distributions in the topics they are interested in. Focusing the conversation on the mutually interesting topics means the non-starters are filtered out. That boring anecdote is gently suppressed.

The other thing it does well is it dedicates some time to each of the attendees’ common interests. This ensures that the right amount of time is spent on each topic (where “right” is also defined by the attendees).

So, the least interesting conversations cannot take the spark of life out of the more interesting conversations until the appointed hour is reached and then only by consensus. That this remarkable feat can be managed without excess administration is really quite impressive.

Can you imagine the impact on our resource shortage if the resources we presently invest in drunken philosophising were an order of magnitude more productive? What would happen if the deeply-interesting and popular conversations dominated the evening and the merely fun and merely-of-normal-interestingness were put aside for a while?

I think this meeting format will be interesting and fun to try out with beers rather than coffees, and with politics rather than business management.

Let’s do it this evening in Westminster

Who’s in?


  1. People who get the philosophy wrong are not likely to get the policy right.

    Clear thinking (not “drunken” thinking) about basic principles, is not a distraction from policy – it is the foundation of good policy.

    For example are humans – beings? Are we sentient – can we choose to do other than we do? Do we have (are we) free will? Are we beings, subjects, or just objects – as in the philosophy of Thomas Hobbes and David Hume?

    If we are not human beings (if there is no real free will “I”) then our political freedom is of no importance (as we are just objects – not subjects) and the “euthanasia of the constitution” can be looked upon with indifference (which is why David Hume was not concerned about it).

    What does it matter if Britain is free if the people in Britain are not really people (not human beings) anyway.



    1. The “drunken” bit is intended to be lighthearted, to signal that this is a friendly relaxed experience. If we were actually pissed as farts then it would not be possible to learn anything.



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