Video: What is the Libertarian Movement For?

There a few people in the world of libertarianism that require as little an introduction as Brian Micklethwait. As somebody who has been involved in promoting the cause of liberty for a rather long time there is no wonder that when he speaks, people listen.

Brian began his talk with a short exhibition of different books written by libertarians. Including Tom G Parker, Innes Bowen, Alex Singleton and Dominic Frisby. This is one of the great things about listening to Brian, he is an enthusiastic promoter of not just his own ideas but of the British libertarian community. An idea that we would do well to adopt if we are to move forward.

After this impromptu book review, Brian began his talk with the assertion that the libertarian movement is alright. A surprising and welcome vote of confidence given the small number of libertarians in the UK.

When did the libertarian movement begin?

The first point Brian made was that libertarianism in Britain has deep roots. All the way back to the seventeenth century in fact. His reasoning for this is that although many later thinkers of the Enlightenment eschewed the levellers as somewhat embarrassing zealots their ideas this was a mistake. There are many reasons for this. The first being that the questions that people in the seventeenth century were trying to answer were profoundly different to the sorts of questions we are asking now. Whereas in modern Britain we are trying to figure out how much power should the state have, the levellers were preoccupied with the conundrum of ‘who should the state be comprised of’. This profound difference along with the role religion played in that era make it seem distant and incomprehensible but it is not.

Brian went on to say that the ideas of the Levellers came to fruition during the Industrial Revolution. The concept that one has property, and It can be used as the individual sees fit was not invented by the industrialists of the nineteenth century, they inherited an already old and noble tradition.

History aside, Brian makes an important point here.  Libertarianism is an ideological tradition that stretches far back and has greatly improved society. He brings us up to the present day by saying that somewhere in the early 1960s Marxists stopped believing in progress. Instead, they opted for environmentalism and anti-consumerism.  Libertarians are still arguing the case for progress hundreds of years after the smoke began to rise out of Brian’s factories.

How to do libertarianism

Brian’s second point is that in order to do libertarianism well we must avoid the pitfall of ‘we must’. In order to make the movement progress, we should understand that our morals are not for somebody else to follow, but for ourselves. The focus should be on how we plan to make libertarianism better. These combined acts of devotion to the libertarian cause make more of an impact than simply commanding other activists to do as you wish.

He also makes a point about the shape of British Libertarianism. Brian is a decidedly ‘big tent’ libertarian. Willing to embrace others who do not subscribe to his own particular worldview. Having had the opportunity to speak to Brian on many occasion, I know he is not somebody that shies away from expressing an opinion. Yet there is a certain ethos of ‘stop blabbering and just get on with it’ that is rather refreshing.

Conclusion

Ultimately Brain’s talk ended on an uplifting note. He stressed that people should at least enjoy themselves while doing libertarian things. Although applying yourself is important, ploughing all of your life savings into founding a radical anarcho-capitalist magazine and then complaining endlessly when it goes bust after three issues is not going to help the cause of other libertarians. Brian makes the important distinction between bread and babies; bread, when sliced into smaller parts, is still valuable. Whereas babies that are sliced into small chunks are not so valuable…

Essentially make sure that your long-term goals are divisible and achievable by small individual acts. Rather than investing your time and energy on a once in a lifetime splurge. And you might as well have fun while you are doing it!

Libertarian Home in 2018

There is an interesting fact circulating the internet. All living adults were born between 1900 and 2000 – an era that mostly predates the internet and both Facebook (2004) and Twitter (2006). All children were born since 2000 and their earliest memories therefore include a fully matured internet (1983) and world wide web (1991). They have all survived school with Facebook on their iPhones (2007).

Pre-internet adults are therefore running things for post-internet children, and that is something which is also going to change very rapidly from here.

One of the major effects of the internet is to allow people to exist in a bubble defined by their beliefs, surrounded by the people and opinions that they prefer to click on. It is critical that libertarians are equipped to break into those bubbles to find allies and to engage enemies. To do this we must be able to appreciate and even respect people who are in awe of viewpoints we find abhorrent. We must understand why they continue to believe silly things. You won’t change their minds if you don’t.

We must also understand who our friends are, which groups have goals compatible with our own. We must get to know what they need in terms of political and cultural change, and find ways in which our ideas and energies can be made to service common goals.

So the theme for speakers this year is that I want hear from friends about what they need and how we can help, and I want to bring forward critiques and debates on political ideas that are incompatible with our own.

Dose of Liberty Pod Cast

I am delighted that a team of Libertarian Home activists have launched “Dose of Liberty” a new regular podcast. Jordan, Bruno and Tamiris will cover three topics in 30 minutes every month.

Follow them on Facebook.

Last year in video

In the last year we had 14 meetups and published 9 new videos. Here are some of lastest and most relevant we uploaded recently:

Two Revolutionary Philosophies

The Borg’s Philosophy

What is the Libertarian Movement for?

Porn : The New Left’s War on Free Speech

We are all smokers now with Dave Atherton

Power of Fiction with Marc Sidwell

The Twilight of the Wonks with Marc Sidwell

Brexit Makes Progress

Localism 2.0 with Gintas Vilkelis

Religion vs Morality with Andrew Bernstein

Trump And The Decline Of America

Ways to Help

There is now a fascinating archive of older meetup videos which require editing, publishing and summarising. Time and money are both useful in getting these things done. If you are able to donate either then do be in touch.

Editing a video requires a minimum of two hours, a decent computer, and a modicum of technical skill (which I am willing to teach you). Summarising one requires good writing ability, an email address, the ability to watch and follow the content, and an appreciation of the strategic landscape libertarians occupy.

Writing for the Libertarian Home website is a great way to get your views across to committed libertarian activists. Libertarians must get to know each others suggestions, ideas and insights.

Blogging as a group also has positive externalities where your contributions enhance the value contributed by others. Each article creates an audience for the next one, so in general you will receive more from other’s than you give to others.

Email me to get involved.

Donating Money

The website, venue and promotional tools represent a regular expense. I am appreciative of regular donations to help cover these costs. The tip jar is open.

Video: The Power of Fiction with Marc Sidwell

I don’t know who wrote this summary at YouTube for the video of Marc Sidwell’s talk, entitled The Power of Fiction, but he or she got it very right:

Marc argues that stories have a secret super-power. Properly formed, they can reach new audiences with world-changing ideas, and do so in a uniquely compelling way.

Towards the end of it, Marc himself supplied a slightly longer summary of what his talk was about:

Politics is downstream of culture.

Really, what I want to say mainly is just to make people think more about how powerful stories can be.  If they’re trying to talk to people and persuade them, it’s much better to say to them: here’s a story, here’s an example, here’s an anecdote, often, than: here’s a chart, here’s why you’re wrong, you’re an idiot, you’re evil, that’s a stupid idea.  But it’s quite hard to do that.  It’s quite counter-intuitive because, you know, data is better than anecdote, formally, as a proof, but not as persuasion.

The talk lasted only a bit over a quarter of a hour, but it covered a lot of ground.  It was topped by a story about 1980s Romania, involving Rocky 4, and tailed by another tale set in North Korea, involving Desperate Housewives.  The point of each story being that even shows that seem inconsequential and to present a rather negative view of life in the West can, for people living in less happy places, show that life could be lived better and more heroically.  We should be telling stories, rather than just offering arguments:

I think libertarians are people who have unusually good imaginations, because is the face of a world that’s very different from the one we’d like to see, and in the face of most people not seeing an alternative, we see a different way the world could be, how it can be even better, and also imagine ways to get there …

Other examples of influential stories that got mentioned included movies and TV shows like: Firefly, The Prisoner, Wonder Woman and Yes Minister; and writings like American children’s stories about inventiveness during the first half of the nineteenth century, Uncle Tom’s Cabin, The New Atlantis by Francis Bacon, a novel that inspired the creation of Israel, the writings of Ayn Rand, George Orwell, Robert Heinlein and Arthur C. Clarke

More recently, two libertarian-inclined academics, Russ Roberts (novels) and Glen Whitman (TV shows) have done some libertarian storytelling, but there’s not been so much of this lately.  There is a strong strain of anti-authoritarianism in popular culture, but there’s not beem much in the way of imagining a more specifically libertarian future.

The “narrative transportation theory” got a mention.  This means that when engrossed in a story you are transported into a different mental state, which often results in you being transported also to the wrong part of town because of you missing your stop on the bus.

But my absolute favourite moment of this talk, heavy with what was surely quite deliberate comic irony on Marc’s part, was when he referred to a chart:

This chart concerns those early nineteenth century children’s stories about children being inventive.  The chart shows a strong correlation, and at least implies a strong causative link, between the graph for when and in what numbers these stories where published and read, and the subsequent and similarly shaped graph which shows America’s actual inventiveness.  It is a chart about the limitations of charts, and the superiority of stories.

So if you are a libertarian and you think that logic and arguments and charts count for more, from the persuasion point of view, than storytelling, well, here’s a chart, here’s why you’re wrong, you’re an idiot, you’re evil and that’s a stupid idea.

Fellow libertarians: accept the logic of Marc Sidwell’s arguments for stories.  Follow Marc’s example and make stories as well as arguments.

If you are interested in persuasion by means both of arguments and of stories, you might like Marc’s book about Trump.  Because he always mentions it at the end of all his blog postings.

Video: Religion vs Morality with Andrew Bernstein

The structure of the talk was a tripartite one, as follows:

• Professor Bernstein identified the philosophic essence of religion

• He then explained the fundamental requirements of human life

• He demonstrated, point-for-point, how these clash.

Part 1: The hazards of organised religion

The idea was presented that a proper ethics, required for the flourishing of human life, requires a wholesale rejection of religion, of all its premises, tenets and consequences. The mediaeval world embraced religion as the basis of fundamental truth and the source of moral guidance. Religion prescribed doctrine and proscribed free thinking. As a direct consequence, the world witnessed theocratic dictatorships that advocated (some which still advocate today) the torture and killing of heretics and non-believers.

Religion’s answers to life’s fundamental questions are, in a nutshell:

• What is the nature of the universe? It is created and governed by God and exists in two dimensions, the supernatural (spiritual) and the natural (corporeal), the corporeal being governed by the spiritual.

• What is the nature of human beings? Man is a dualistic being, flesh and spirit; part godly and good, part human and sinful, a being torn by the soul/body conflict.

• How do human beings gain knowledge? They do so by the means of faith in the truth of God’s word presented in holy texts.

• What is the good? It is obedience to God.

• What are the principles of a good society? They are whichever principles are espoused by the expert interpreters of God’s word.

Part 2: What are the requirements of life on earth?

A rational, fact-based theory of morality was expounded by Rand. Prior to Objectivism, philosophers rejected the ideas that morality could be deduced from facts. Rand was the first philosopher to state that any rejection of reason for an alternative is a rejection of mankind’s survival instrument, and thus is a rejection of man’s life. This is in direct conflict with Hulme’s repudiation that an ‘ought’ proposition can be derived from an ‘is’ proposition. Consequently, morals are subjective with no logical connection to the physical world. Man’s struggle in life do not contain any fundamental good.

Rand’s three questions and answers pertaining to moral philosophy were:

1. What is the standard of moral values? The factual requirements of human life.

2. By what means are human beings to attain those values? Fundamentally, by means of the rational mind.

3. Who or what should be the primary beneficiary of those values? The individual acting in pursuit of those values.

These 3 principles constitute her ethical code of life. They must be embraced and upheld if we are to prosper in life.

Part 3: How are morality and religion irreconcilable?

Tragically, religion stands in opposition to Rand’s list of three requirements for moral philosophy. Religion is irreconcilable with that which is required to sustain life because religion subordinates reason to faith. This is the primary reason of its destructive power, and ultimately, its evil. Faith morally requires and often physically coerces a person to accept the precepts of a received text. Religion forbids any questioning and attempting to find rational answers about the fundamentals of human life. Religion squashes the free-thinking mind, retarding progress in areas such as the arts, philosophy, science, medicine, technology.

Andrew then referred to the example of education: for most of the Middle Ages, under the aegis of the Catholic Church, the majority of the population was fully illiterate. In the modern day we see parallels with Islamic fundamentalism, e.g. the Taliban threatening violence such as shooting and throwing acid in the faces of girls who dare go to school.

Andrew also took issue with the religious idea that thoughts, rather than actions, are sinful and must be punished. The idea that thinking impure thoughts about another man’s wife can be morally damning (even if they are resolutely not acted upon in accordance with one’s own principles) was rejected.

These examples illustrated the fundamental principle in religion that man’s life is subordinated to God’s will. Egoism, the rational quest for value, is anathema to religion because on a God- based ethics virtue was achieved by means of selfless service to the deity. Countless actions that are rationally self-interested, such as charging interest on loaning money, drinking (even in moderation), sex (interestingly, Andrew uses the phrase “making love”) out of wedlock and so forth.

One of the most striking arguments made by Andrew about Objectivism was its very modern understanding of the importance and psychological significance of human sexuality. Andrew rejected the puritanical impulses of religions to police the dress and behavior of women. There run parallel streams of thought in the major religions that men are lustful creatures who are slaves to their impulses and women are the guardians of virginity. Any female enjoyment of bodily pleasures must be renounced, in favour of purity and obedience to God. The burden of guilt on women who enjoy sex is a very destructive one. The failure to incorporate healthy sexuality into its world view is therefore a great failure of religion.

Conclusion

Many good people pay lip service to religion but are in fact of mixed spirituality. By analogy, the United States has a mixed political system, a combination of individualism and collectivism, of Capitalism and Socialism, of freedom and statism. The free Capitalist elements lead to greater achievement and prosperity and the controlled statist elements lead to stagnation and suppression. Similarly, many religious people have a mixed intellectual system; a combination of reason, self-interested policies and, of course, religious self-sacrifice. The degree to which religious beliefs are renounced is the degree to which a person’s life is successful.

Bad Brexit pushes out good Brexit

This speech was delivered at the People’s Charter Brexit “splinter protest” on Saturday 21st January. Video follows below.

Check against delivery.

Hello. I am Simon Gibbs. I am a libertarian and I voted leave.
Since part of what I do is representing the interests of other libertarians, I want to mention that not all libertarians voted leave.

Some felt that leaving now would cause chaos and it was better to wait.

Some felt a government that we hate is better for us than one we love.

Most of us, including myself, have very little sympathy for the notion of borders.

Others felt that Brexit, justified on the basis of that EU immigration is a bad thing, would uncork the bottle on pent up racism and cultural resentments.

Some of those arguments have merit and are important.

What is of primary importance is that the will of the people is enacted. I don’t always like democracy but democracy is our system and a vote has been taken.

But.

There will be another vote. The biggest danger that I sense to the referendum result is that the people will change their minds.

This movement needs to keep itself strong. It needs to “work together”, yes. Kum by ah and all that.

But.

To win again The movement also needs to be seen to be decent and good.

Theresa May’s red line on control of immigration is not helping. It associates Brexit with immigration. It makes her and us seem mean.

It is as if she believes immigration control to be the biggest demand the public has. As if she believes the media narrative that we are all mean nasty racist scum.

But.

Immigration control is not the biggest demand the public has.

If you look at actual polls you see that immigration is the second most important consideration after democracy.

Across the population it is the primary concern of less than one fifth of the population. At least one quarter of us said, quite plainly, that democracy was more important than immigration.

Domestic control of domestic affairs is this movements key demand.

I fear that May’s Brexit will leave us subordinate to some set of obscure trade rules and will make being mean to foreigners a priority instead.

Well not in my name!

How we are portrayed and how we are discussed does not reflect who we are. First we must be clear in our minds hat if we get democracy, then all else can follow and we must be united on that key priority.

Second we must be clear when we speak to others and when others speak about us to ensure the truth about us is visible to the public outside our movement. To the people who also have a right to be represented in the forthcoming vote.

We are not mean, stupid or evil. We are good decent people focused on the key ethical and political principles and on the big picture.

We need to stand up, speak clearly, and demand that we are treated fairly.

Video begins at 4m 20s

Video: Trump and the Decline of America

Yaron Brook started his narrative history of the rise of Trump with Sir Isaac Newton, backtracking later to implicate Plato and praise Aristotle…

His first argument was that Trump is a product of the philosophical mess that is currrent mainstream political discourse. “People know that the political elite is full of crap”, and are not trained by any other influences to be able to process and oppose rationally the insane positions flung at them. The only cultural reaction that is possible is, therefore, an emotional one and this is what Trump has channeled in his favour.

Yaron then outlined the good parts of the Western philosophical tradition and improved upon it for the audience, while detailing how this philosophy was discarded and diminished by left-wing and right-wing philosophical influences – and, in particular, the right’s failure to influence effectively or accurately.

Yaron then reviewed Trumps approach to the campaign and showed how it followed the pattern of autocratic demagoguery. 

He finished by imploring libertarians to differentiate themselves and capitalism from the positions Trump takes. He argued that the capitalism is not confused with positions taken by the left but is, and may continue to be confused, with right-wing policy including those of Trump.

It is up to libertarians and objectivists to fight the right and make a compelling positive case for capitalism.

Live Stream “Donald Trump and the Decline of America”

The election of Donald Trump has both shocked – and divided – the libertarian community. His election reflects a tangled web of factors – his personality, the state of mainstream politics, people’s feelings about race and culture. Even hard data paints a confusing and contradictory picture.

Our event on Monday Dec 5th will be addressed by Yaron Brook, himself horrified by Trump’s victory, who will explain his reaction from a uniquely philosophical perspective and describe how best to analyse events of this kind. What matters most? Image or Policy? Does Trump’s success reflect the decline of America or symbolise it?

The real-life gathering is now full. Please register for the live stream.

The stream will be available to tune into at 1830, for a 1930 start, on Monday December 5th and will conclude by 2030.