Writing competition winner

The Rose and Crown, Photographed by Ewan Munro

The Rose and Crown, Photographed by Ewan Munro

Last night’s gathering saw an excellent talk delivered by Richard Carey and much judging for the writing competition! Attendees had a final chance to read the stories before voting by way of adding coins – and even notes – to numbered pint glasses. Although it was unclear who the authors were – they were all submitted under fake names – there was a clear winner.

4th: Station Theta: Gamma

Jeremy Wells’ 9 page “epic” future-history described how ideas such as environmentalism, imposed cultural conservatism, and the ever present temptation to authoritarianism produced a grinding unending World War III that was resolved by a united – and heavily armed – new libertarian culture. Jeremy threw the kitchen sink at this story: mech, plasma power/rifles, world wars, asteroid-belt mining, beer, and ballerinas; but at 9 pages it was a sure loser. Shame, because the author had clearly listened to several of our talks and used them prominently in the plot.

Top quote “Now we’re mainstream”.

3rd: An isolated building

A short piece by pseudonymous (even to me) Rocco of Bogpaper fame, one of the stable of new writers contributing to Libertarian Home. Short and sweet could have done the job, but I think this one lost out on it’s negative tone. Rocco, we know who will build the roads – stop giving critics ammunition!

Top quote: “the strange, other-worldly tales they told one another had – whether by incantations and sorcery, or merely the peculiar twists and turns taken by the mundane – somehow become our reality”.

2nd: Rosie

A call to arms to arms for the various groups of London Libertarians to unite under a charismatic leader called Steve. This was the winner behind the bar as the idea of couples meeting and marrying in their pub really appealed to them. Another future-history, the story uses takes the opportunity to shamelessly name-check an excessively long list of Rose and Crown regulars in a cynical attempt to win votes. I guess it didn’t do too badly. The author has obviously been to the Rose and Crown before, but our “who-dunnit” effort proved futile.

Top quote: “Then there was the final discreditation of socialism – when France went bankrupt for the third time.” – if only it would.

1st place, our winner:

The Common, the Wizard and the Blockchain

Dr Zach Cope’s future-fantasy imagines the tragedy of a soggy common solved by wizardly blockchain technology reminiscent of Etherium. If your name is Paul Marks this will make a controversial winner touching as it does on communally managed land and components of Bitcoin’s system architecture. However, the cute, light-hearted style of the story charmed readers. This hopeful piece hinted at a world in which the population are largely fed up with politics and reach for technological innovation to replace it.

Top quote: “I wasn’t surprised when they threw him and his abacus in the well.” – okay yes that is rather violent, but then so are Dirty Harry movies.

You can congratulate Zach on Twitter at @DrZachCope

A last thank you.

The bad news is that all this fun was inspired but a bit of bad news for our land-lady Anna Quick who has to abandon her pub for financial reasons. Anna has looked after us really very well for very many years. She’s a popular land-lady who will be sadly missed. Voting resulted in a brilliant £95 being available to donate to Anna’s chosen charity the Chelsea Pensioners. The cash was handed over at the bar to Lisa.

Anna will be missed, but life for our meetups goes on unchanged.

 

Station Theta: Gamma by Jeremy Wells

The little river of condensation that ran down the side of his glass symbolised everything that was on his mind. Movement, life, health and happiness, clinging to the side of a glass of CO2 cooled Spitfire ale.

The beer was brewed by War Recreationists in the coastal region of Kent, a spec upon a spec on the far off planet Earth. It was shipped by Musk freighter all the way out to the asteriod belt. The Recreationists spent their days reproducing the food, clothing and lifestyle that existed during an ancient world war, the second of five he thought. Perhaps it was the first? Lifestyles barely changed between those two. Their idea was that by living that way, some of the values of that time would somehow rub off on them. Most people were skeptical, and even disapproving, but the Recreationists had done the best job so far reproducing the insanely popular Spitfire, so they bought it anyway.

It was the third world war that was the big one. Energy shortages were the trigger, but it was really a war over lifestyles. Bankers, faggots and foreigners, according to Recreationist historians. Whatever labels you put on them, it was over the right to be different. Differently rich, differently oriented sexually, or different from you religiously. That last one brought the other half of the world into the fight. For decades people murmered disapproval at each other, and sought to regulate each others lifestyle, stop you being too rich or too bigotted, or too tolerant, or too religious, or not religious enough.

Before the war some cultures had become egalitarian, and sought to impose a specific standard of living internally and then across borders, but the standard was always brought down. People struggled to cope with changable weather and hit out at people they blamed for pollution. They had thought of themselves as humble but assumed arrogantly that mankind had the power to change the climate by accident; in fact 75 years passed before the climate of Mars was successfully changed with a great deal of deliberate and very expensive effort, an effort that saw the asteriod belt colonised and mined. The job was not yet finished even now.

Quickly the egalitarians became the instrument of their own economic destruction, but by seeking to destroy the industry of more enlightened nations they brought an end to decades of peace. After the easy energy was gone whole peoples fought for fracking rights, seeking to maintain their petty empires by stealing the empires of others.

It was in the occupied states of the border areas that the most extreme religionists lost their patience and politicised their culture of intolerance, banning lifestyles of which they dissapproved. It made for popular policy and helped leaders to justify the privations needed to maintain a constant state of war. This was when the war against wealth that had become a war for wealth finally became a war for liberty.

Across the globe different strands of thought put aside their differences and focused on what they had in common. The theories of individual rights and self ownership were integrated formally, observations about economics, praxeology, and knowledge in a social context were reconciled with methodologically individualist epistemology. The “subjective” gave ground to the “contextual”. Ethics were refined and clarified and put in their proper place with regards to political science. An ideological committment to tolerance was not enough, it took a concerted effort to apply the ideas of good institutional design and reinvigorate theories of justice.

Meanwhile the various authorianians with their Oil empires stopped using the pursuit of their old morals as a justification for taking wealth. Instead they used a need for wealth as justification for a quest for the domination of their morals. Communist nations got in on the act and so the cultures of national and supernatural religion went to war with a new culture that seemed to have sprung from nowhere, a culture of people, of individualists and innovators: the little guys.

They won convincingly of course. It was now well established that a culture of free trading individuals was where wealth came from, the egalitarians and authoritarians and the religionists had all assumed that there was one true way, and failed to notice that wealth came from the constant discovery of new ones.

sci_fi_suit_by_randize-d5n2qjnThe final humiliation was at the Battle of Istanbul. Impoverished by their own policies, and military defeat, the retreating armies of religionists and Communists furnished their troops with clean cotton uniforms and bows made from sailing gear and industrial scrap. They went to war with a righteous mechanised army equipped with plasma rifles. The ancient vs the new. Energised particle beams flickered through dark smoke as the enemy cowered. At any earlier point in history the result would have been a massacre, but the New Model Army simpy obliterated every building and fortification until there was nowhere to hide. Casualties were minimal. Facing 18ft mech soldiers carrying rifles that had destroyed their fortifications had the effect of opening up a strange conversation. The armies sat down and discussed economics and ethics for a week and a day. No more perfect destruction of the enemy was required.

Freido looked up through the pain of glass in front of him, out at the vastness of space. He saw now miners dressed in mechanical space suits perched on the massive veins of a plasma catcher. The suits were leaner, stronger and moved more easily than their wartime equivalents. Data flickered on the miners’ arms as they watched a load coming in. They seemed to glow as the shadow of the asteriod passed over them and data feeds gave way to hi-viz yellow squares. Suddenly they leapt across the void to correct some tiny error in its trajectory, a simple effort of mechanical grace.

The Conference of Instanbul was brief, but it’s effects were explosive. An army of thousands left Instanbul knowing not only the humiliation of defeat, but the ideas that had caused them to be defeated and the warmth and benevolence of the soldiers that defeated them. As never before the link between ideas and life was laid clear. Run your society by the wrong ideas, and you will be defeated by those that run their society by the right ones, and the right one lets everyone get this wrong in their own way. It sounded like a contradiction, but people got it. Two thousand defeated soldiers ensured they got it.

Nation states protested, then whined, then bribed their populations in a desperate struggle to maintain their relevance. War was no longer tolerated. Athiestic libertarianism became mainstream, feeling to many like the obvious default in the new order. The minorities of religionists, both moderate and extreme clustered together in like minded groups and put up gates and fences around their homes and formed warm and prosperous communities away from sources of tension. Communists likewise retreated to communes, and stuck out a harsh living in the same old ways until technology – adopted second-hand – made it nearly impossible for them to starve.

These days the gates are mere decorated posts, an historic tradition, but the culture of groups defining their own spaces had stuck. Communities huddled inwards like children on a playground picking who was “it”; sometimes seeming unfriendly from outside but always vibrant within. Most of the fences were replaced by the contiguous walls of homes and business that once backed onto them. The walls softened and the security once acheived by physical bariers was now acheived by unity and cohesion. No longer did any minority believe it had the right to impose it’s views on the spaces around theirs. Communal zones are vibrant, sometimes rough, but usually civil.

The effort to make states irrelevant was a conscious project for many and this tended to happen in the communal zones where there was a boom in the Public Goods Industry. Insurance companies, medical charities and every kind of device for communal problem solving were established. The number of people employed in public goods rose, and working for nation states became frowned upon as the mark of weird ideological hold-outs. Free of politics the quality of social provision increased in transport, education, medicine, and art. Welfare for the sick and unfortunate was the last to benefit, exploited cynically by the bitterest of embattled nation states who threw away the last of their economic credibility just to make it stand still, while all the world accelerated away from them.

A vibration ran through the floor and the artifical gravity paused. The foamy surface of Freido’s Spitfire bowed upwards, stuck in the glass by surface tension.

“Yellow team will be the death of us. They think they are bloody ballerinas.” said an affable voice from behind him.

Freido turned to see Ginger, an historian and War Recreationist. His name his clothing and his manners were a throwback to the 1940s; two centuraries ago. He was surprisingly open minded, Freido knew, but that isn’t saying much for a Recreationist.

“Say, are you alright?” said Ginger, pointing. Freido checked himself and found a single drop of water on his cheek and a lump in his throat.

“My beer must have splashed” said Freido. Ginger said nothing and raised an eyebrow.

“Hmnn. Well I was watching Yellow team keep an eye on their load. They remind me of the time I piloted a suit like theirs”.

“Well. I suppose we might get on and talk about that, but I should say that frankly I don’t know why you chose to remember. You could be have been at rest 50 years ago. It’s not natural stretching yourself out for so long”.

“I am not wearing an evil ring, and do not feel stretched. I use the best life-extenders I can afford and avoid anything experimental. I feel great, physically”.

“Well, physically isn’t what I meant!” said Ginger, dressing his words as a joke. At 55 he was fraction of Freido’s age, but admirably direct. He occasionally did waste his breath on fake laughter but Freido expected he would save himself that courtesy by the time he was 70.

“You’ll be dead before me” said Freido, efficiently. The older man looked ten years younger than Ginger.

“Ha! I suppose I will. If you want to keep changing the subject, perhaps we can talk about the Conference first?”.

Freido regretted the double evasion, and how obvious it was to everyone but himself. “No”, he said, “to understand that you have to understand the battle, and the planning. Istanbul was not an accident”.

“I sort of knew that, but there has been a lot of discussion over how you managed it” said Ginger as he sat down and pulled out his notes.

“It was mostly luck, to be honest. We got intellegence that weapons were being moved away from the front to defend allied capitals. We’d have missed it except a freshman volunteer tuned into a datastream of plaintext intercepts. The rest of us were all focused on the 128ks”

“128ks?”

“That was the keylength they used for mid-level communication. The drummers gave us the highest levels in batches infrequently, but we managed to break the 128ks by observing patterns in recovered keys.”

“Yes,” mused Ginger. “But do you know how the patterns got there?”. Freido shrugged, he did not. “We believe the allied authorities introduced them deliberately, as a back door to spy on their own population”.

“They obviously couldn’t trust their troops to be as committed to their ideas as they were”, said Freido finding the notion ridiculous. “I guess they were proved correct, but they may not have been so humiliated if they had had more faith!” he laughed at the subtlety of the contradiction. Both men were familiar with the historical importance of faith, and they shared a wry smile.

“What was the freshmans name?”

“Bobby, I think. He was a bright chap, but like anyone on his first day in a war zone he was all over the place. It turned out fine though, you’ll agree. I think later joined the Recreationists, although he got on well with Gammans too, like yourself”. The Gammans were a later phenomenon; arch individualists uncomfortable with labels. United only by an intense passion for philosophy they chose a deliberately meaningless name and sought each other out in corridors transverses and accomodation pods designated G or Gamma. The Rose and Crown, where they were sat, was in pod Gamma of Station Theta – a cluster of pods around a large central facility where asteroids came to be ripped apart. The pods spun slowly, to create gravity, and the miners’ little slip earlier had caused the motion to slow.

“Bobby? Really?” said Ginger. He flipped through his notebook for a few moments and scribbed the name down on a separate page of writing. The name seemed to mean something to him.

“How did you get Johnny Foreigner to sit down and talk? You know many people claim you kept them prisoner, and worse”.

“I have heard the claims. Honestly I believe that they were in shock. At one time their cultures were not far behind ours, but they were impoverished and abandoned cobbling together weapons from scrap.”

“Not all of them carried bows though – right?”

“Correct. Many of them had rifles, and there was a little artillery, but very few rounds. About 30% had improvised various things, bows were popular with them. Many were focused on creating traps – exploding buildings and so on – but that made very little difference once we blew their cover. It was forgotten I guess.”

“Okay, go on.”

“We did have them trapped, and we gaurded them and kept them prisoner I suppose for a few days, but once we had said our prepared statements and conducted our exercises with them most of them stayed. We were feeding them, which helped, and we allowed them to speak to their families. They had been abandoned once already by their side so they were in no hurry. Many of them were simply very curious.”.

“Tell me about the temples”, a perculiar expression crossed Ginger’s face.

“That was a difficult problem. We did not want to destroy the temples. As you know two buildings of the kind were destroyed. Each time because troops had begun to move towards them. The policy of pepper spraying the others was effective”.

“Do you know anything about the children in those places” said Ginger artfully.

“You have obviously been doing your homework. Yes I do, for it was me that punched holes into three of those buildings and inserted the gas canisters. I’m happy to talk about this”.

“You don’t seem to feel bad about it.”

“I did, but a centuary later I got over myself. Life extenders are good for something. Some ghosts can be laid to rest.”

“How did you just get over it?”

“You know the answer. It was not the New Model Army that caused those deaths, although it was our weapons. There is no way that our gas weapons could have produced a death even in an infant if – if – the target was free to move or to be carried. With the fires that broke out it is impossible to prove, but I am convinced they were locked in. They must have been locked into the space directly behind the insertion point. I am not the person to ask why, but I have spent 50 years obsessed by that problem. There is no evidence to be gathered but I was there and the science that describes that gas is uncontroversial now. I have read all of it.” Friedo had spoken efficiently.

Ginger sat for several seconds observing Freido, appearing to think.

“What did you think of the religionists?”

“Sadly wrong. Tragically wrong, and the communists were no better. Wrong; but understandably so. We were desparate to explain to them what it was they were wrong about. It wasn’t us that started the shooting war but we thought we could end it, we just needed a captive audience. It worked.”

Ginger paused to mull over Freido’s words, his tone, his eyes. He sipped his beer before deciding to be frank.

“Sure, better than shooting the bastards I suppose…. Look Freido”, he hunched towards him and lowered his tone. His uneasiness came from the effort to sell his case. “You wanted me to tell your story, to get a book out. What is it that you think will be in the book to sell it? Sure, I can layout the facts and put in the ideas we have spoken about. I beleive them almost as strongly as you do, but the book will not sell without a new story to tell. If you sit there and tell me the conventional interpretation is correct then why would people bother to buy a new retelling of the same thing?” Freido knew Ginger was being insensere about his beleifs, but he knew Ginger was basically right.

“I was relying on you to answer that question.”

“Well I don’t have a clue. And the next Musk back to Earth is in a months time, so we had better find one.” The men sat and sipped their Spitfires for some time before speaking again. This was the tenth such meeting, the fifth stab at an inquistion over some controversy. Ginger was tired of it. They neded something new to talk about.

“When was it clear that the War of Ideas would become a hot war? Did you guess, before it happened?” asked Ginger.

“October 2013. I was sat in a pub, at one of these political events, and someone was arguing that the Industrial Revolution was the product of an ideological sub culture. This is accepted wisdom now of course, after the War, but it was new back then. People ascribed everything to economics, or natural resources, perhaps to religious philosophy, but not to philosophy per se. I figured if something good can come from ideological cultures then eventually something bad would come of it. The Industrial Revolution increased wealth in Britain by 1500% percent, a good thing that big…”

“You thought the pendulum would swing the other way.”

“I never thought history was that geometrical. That’s Marxist historicism talking – or poetry. No, but it did show the kind of massive change that ideas can make to life.”

They sat for a while longer. Freido turned back to the slowly spinning asteroid belt and just watched it for a moment.

Ginger picked up the thread again: “I asked by Grandfather the same question once, sort of, I asked him if people could have seen the wars coming. He didn’t know but he told me his father had thought it was obvious when C/2017 O3 hit the Sun that, I quote “all that green crap will be back now then”.”

“Ah.. the temperature changes”

“Yes exactly. And it seems he was right. I looked into it. By 2015 people were beginning to ask serious questions about the carbon theory. Temperatures were supposed to be up, but they had in fact crept down – within the margin of error – but you could see it on graphs. The archives are full of thousands of social media entries devoted to the topic. Eco-egalitarianism was waning as a philosophy and eco-egalitarian countries – mine included – were beginning to come under serious economic pressure. The kind of pressure that helps people change their minds. Then – boom! A comet whacks into the Sun and suddenly the temperatures are trending back up again. Of course, all the media and science content is focused on a load of new data about the composition and working of the Sun, and comet detection – that kind of thing. By the time the public start to think about climate the academic community have quietly forgotten there was ever a pause in climate variability and since everything is back on trend nothing changes. It’s spectacular that no-one put the two things together.”

“I remember people in the pub talking about this – same pub actually.” said Freido.

“People did. And the social data suggest people never stopped talking about it, but academia – silent. Then the politicians start to talk about how Johnny Foreigner is burning too much carbon and blaming Johnny Foreigner for trains and airports fouling up in the snow. Madness.”

Silence fell between them too. Freido contemplated how two people with very different views about how to live could end up with very similar views of history. He wondered if it was always that way.

Looking out through the glass he saw miners spin through the void outside the window and land gracefully on the plasma catcher. Red squares on their armour plates gave way to the familiar flicker of data. The shift had changed and another lump of rock and ice was on it’s way toward the facility’s gaping maw, ready to be split into ore for factories and gasses for the terraforming companies of Mars. The scale of the effort always amazed Freido.

“You know it is kind of geometrical.”, Freido blurted suddenly. “Sorry – history I mean. The Industrialists laboured out from the yoke of Tudor laws and society telling they were evil for wanting to do things quicker. Once they did it they improved lives for millions of people, but they let Corporatism and a dozen other silly ideas grow in the safety of knowing that times were good. People didn’t have to concrentrate on making sure things stay good. You know they didn’t even talk politics at dinner parties, it was taboo. Eventually, our new global order was tearing itself to shreds, letting it’s silly lazy ideas grind the world to dust and we had to labour out from under the yoke of bad ideas. We ended war – mostly – we ended poverty for pretty much everyone too and we persuaded people to respect ideas. For a century you couldn’t go anywhere without people checking you were sound. Thugs argued in dive bars over whether Mises, Menger or Hayek was the better economist. They don’t do that anymore, they argue about football. I haven’t heard arguments about football in bars for decades, more, it’s common now.”

“You’re worried something else is coming? Aren’t you?”

“I am. We are growing complacent. The Mars climate is half way there now and having a second planet to rely on is making us soft again. The Utilans think they have calculated that a docking tax will help people by subsidising work-clothes, and wet wipes. It won’t, it will just suppress demand for freighters and mess everything up again. This is why I came forward to create a book, with the amount of history I’ve seen I didn’t think I would need to worry about selling it.”

“I suggest we drink another one of these fine Kentish Spitfire Ales and see if two drunk bastards can’t think of way to do just that”. Ginger jumped up to go to the bar. “You want something else instead?”

“I’ve been drinking this since 2007, why stop now.”

“2007? Really? You drank original Spitfire in that pub of yours?” Ginger seemed unusually interested.

“In the Rose and Crown, sure. I’m in another old Rosie now, I guess nothing changes.”

“You’ll be surprised how many Rose and Crowns there were. Bloody thousands. But one that sold our beer in 2007? And you were there still in 2014?”

“Sure was, later than that even. Three landlords, one beer. Always.”

“Are you sure it’s a History of Ideas you wanted to talk about?”, asked Ginger, “I mean, we could work in some…”

“If you want to know why Spitfire is so ruddy popular, I can tell you. Libertarians drunk it until they wobbled responsibly home at an appropriate hour under their own steam. Now we’re mainstream, so is our beer.”

“I think you just solved our problems. Barman!”.

The Common, the Wizard and the Blockchain by Zach Cope

‘A tragedy, that’s what it is John,’ Bill moaned into his pint.

‘You upset about the Common again?’ John replied. ‘Can’t you just get used to it? So it floods for half the year, and our sheep don’t grow so fat, and the kids keep getting trench foot, but at least it’s ours again – we’re free!’

Bill sighed, ‘I suppose so, but I hoped freedom would be better than this. Obviously it’s better than when the council existed. I mean they were ok at first, with that caretaker Phil they paid for with our money. Most people didn’t mind paying, and grouchy Fred soon paid up when they called in their tax collector to rough him up a little.

 

© Peter Craine

© Peter Craine

The problem was that once Phil retired, the new caretaker wouldn’t work as hard, so they replaced him with two caretakers. And when that skinny one went off sick we ended up paying for three caretakers, and the yearly drainage repairs still took months to be done.’

‘I’m glad we threw them all in the well,’ mused John, ‘they had been telling us what to do for too long,’

‘Of course the next lot weren’t much better,’ John continued. ‘That company we hired seemed ok at first, with their flashy brochures and those presentations at the donkey racing track. ‘Let us use the common for 10 years and we’ll do the work and charge you to use the common,’ seemed a good idea at the time. They did a great job in the first few years, and we were all happy to pay them the fee to use the common. It was sad they were bought out and they had to send round that guy with the abacus.’

‘Yep he was a real magic bean counter,’ Bill replied. ‘I think the tipping point was when he decided they would focus the use of the common on hut owners only, increasing the charge so that the hovel owners couldn’t use the common. I wasn’t surprised when they threw him and his abacus in the well.

To be honest I’d be happy to pay more than my fair share to keep the common drained as it’s worth it to me. I just wish others would contribute a little.’

‘I remember that meeting we had to find out what people would pay,’ John said, ‘Only a few of us turned up. I later found out that lots of people didn’t want to reveal how much they would pay, particularly if it was less than others might pay, and they didn’t want to give up their groats until they were sure the maintenance project was going ahead. I don’t know what the answer is.’

A deep voice boomed from a corner of the Rose and Crown, ‘I have the answer.’

The two friends turned to the man they knew as the Wizard, who sat in front of several empty beer glasses and seemed to be lit by a small book that emitted a flickering light.

Bill shrugged, ‘We’ve tried everything else, what do you suggest?’

‘Payment first,’ Wizard growled, ‘do you have a Node?’

‘What’s a Node?’

‘A Connection then, do you have a Connection?’

‘What’s a Connection?’

‘Sand then, any Sand?’

‘Wizard I don’t know what a Node, Connection or Sand is!’

Wizard sighed, then his eyes narrowed and he tapped the empty beer glass. Bill nodded and signalled to the barman, whereupon the Wizard’s eyes brightened and he exclaimed:

‘I suggest an application of blockchain technology and escrowed anonymous contracts in order to create an algorithmic blind auction, based on the maximum amount each villager would be prepared to pay to prevent the common from flooding. If the required amount is not met this shortfall is announced and the villagers have the opportunity to increase their contribution until the required amounts are met. Payment is only released once the full amount is met, otherwise the groats are returned. Donators may implement rules, such as their donation only stands if a certain percentage of villagers contribute certain amounts, and these rules can be announced so that individual villagers can make decisions based on this. All rules and bids to donate money are entirely private in origin, reducing the incentives for villagers to throw low donators into the well.’

There was a loud silence for some time. The Wizard, apparently noticing the friends’ confusion, seemed to retreat into a fugue, and a solitary tear rolled down his muddy face. John did the only thing he could think of, and pushed a fresh ale across the table to the Wizard, whose sparkle seemed to reappear.

‘Never mind the detail chaps, just whisper the amount you would be happy to pay towards the maintenance on the Common into my magic book here, and make sure the rest of the villagers do the same.’

And so the magic book was used, and surprisingly to John and Bill, the villagers managed to pay for the maintenance of the common that year, and in subsequent years. Occasionally agreement would take some time but everyone seemed happy with the process. The Wizard never had to pay for drinks in the Rose and Crown, although still muttered about Connections, Nodes and Sand. Even the water tasted better as no one was thrown in the well.

15 years after the Wizard’s magic hat was instituted there was a significant shortfall in the amount raised. The community agreed individually and anonymously to increase their donations. The Commons were maintained, and everyone realised that the biggest donator, once he could do it privately and without compulsion, had been grouchy Fred, who had died earlier that year.

Rosie by Jay Begrims

A hovercar buzzed by outside. Steve glanced at the window, blinked twice, and the windows went into one-way blackout mode. He still wrestled with his decision not to leave the window in this mode permanently – but he was old-fashioned at heart and felt that if he could see out, other people should be able to see in. He was outgoing President of The Republic of England and Wales, and so he felt it was almost his democratic duty to let people see in. He felt it was one of the things that kept him honest.

image

It was one of the few days in the year that he found time to devote to himself, rather than the people he served. And so he turned to compiling his memoirs.

It wasn’t easy. Especially “The Early Years”. No one really keeps a diary when they’re young. But he could use his Microsoft GoogleBook posting history to remind him of some things, and could fill in the gaps from memory. How weird it was to have to actually read text in GoogleBook, rather than listen to postings or watch them.

He had already written of his education and parenting, but now his early political awakening needed documenting. It had started on a day in July 2014, over 40 years ago. It was the first Thursday of the month, as it apparently had always been.

The place? A long since demolished pub called the Rose & Crown. All that exists now of the momentus events that took place there is a plaque with the simple inscription “On this site once stood the birthplace of English Political Libertarianism, c2008”

His GoogleBook entry for that day stated:
“Going to a political thing with Rosie – at a pub ironically called the Rose & Crown. Expect to be bored. Oh the things I do for love”.

The entries for the following day were, in sequence:
09:00 “Hungover. Drinkfail”
10:34: “Quite a nice night last night. Suprisingly”
19:18: “Think this politics thing could be fun”

And that was it. No other mention of his embryonic political thoughts until the he went again two months later. And that’s when it all really began….

In August It was a talk on the futility of Libertarian politics. “Libertarianism and Party Politics are incompatible” went the headline for the evening. It was a talk by an anarchist, a special type of anarchist that believes in property rights, an anarcho-capitalist or AnCap. It was only his second meeting, but his reading since the first meeting and the pre-talk chat over a pint meant he was getting the hang of the language. He was also beginning to appreciate the seemingly irreconcilable differences between this highly diverse (although nearly exclusively male) group.

Steve had worked in his father’s marketing business and this made him a realist, and he realised that the only way to make any change was through organisation and actually doing things, rather than talking about theory. And a his second meeting he spoke for the first time. He asked the question “Surely it’s better to be organised and actually change things…”

There was some mumbling, some heckling
“We’ve tried that THREE times, it doesn’t work”.
“Herding cats” was another phrase bleated out.
And the ultimate insult.

“STATIST!”.

He didn’t go again until the Christmas social. Nice buffet. Although people complained that it wasn’t as good as the “old days” before the pub was taken over.

But it was in 2015 that things began to take shape.

He had counted fourteen different Libertarian groups and political parties: Two Liberatarian Alliances, five political parties, a think tank or two, and some other less formalised groups. All fighting for the same space, and sometimes (often) fighting against each other.

He tried to remember all the details for his memoir. What he thought, what he saw, who he met. But it was hazy at best.

It was almost a relief when his concentration was broken by a call. It was the Justice Secretary. There had been an attempted breakout from the London Prison but the Securiguard staff had prevented it. No one was hurt largely thanks to the Stunfall technology. There were only 1500 inmates – all in for violent crimes against people or property – and it was all voluntarily funded by the insurance industry. This setup was perhaps his proudest achievement and had swept away one of the few powers that the state had previously retained. This, combined with the People’s Courts, meant that justice was truly fair for the first time in history. And the rest of the world was taking notice and following his lead.

But back to 2015. By the end of the year, he had combined ten of the fourteen previous groups into a single entity. In 2016 the party was formed. And in 2018 the first council seat was won. Who would have thought that 15 short years later, they would become the second largest party in the country, and that 5 years after that they would be in government?

Steve knew that it was a combination of unpredictable circumstances that helped this all happen. Firstly there economic crash of 2028, which made the credit crunch of 2008 look like a gnat on a mountainside. This ripped asunder the old order – and created a vacuum to be filled.

Then there was the final discreditation of socialism – when France went bankrupt for the third time.

But most of all it was the internet. It enabled people to get together and solve nearly all their problems themselves, rather than rely on the government to mess things up as usual.

He spoke at length. He was still getting the hang of speaking for a book reader, rather than speaking to a person or an audience. A different tone was required.

As his spoken words scrolled onto the flexiscreen, he reached the end of the chapter. He called the Chapter “The Two Rosies that changed the world”. The Rose & Crown and his now wife Rosie who had taken him there that July evening.

Time for cabinet. He wandered down to where Simon, Richard, James, Rob, Michael, Andy, Olly, Nico, Clarissa, Rosie and Pavel were already seated.

First agenda item: Proposed reduction of the unitary corporate and income tax rate from 3% to 2.5%. All those in favour….

It was a no-brainer.

END

Writing competition and some bad news

The Rose and Crown, Photographed by Ewan Munro

The Rose and Crown, Photographed by Ewan Munro

This blog has benefited greatly from the warm welcome offered by Anna Quick at the Rose and Crown. The pub is effectively “the local” for anyone of a libertarian disposition regardless of where they live. We meet, we drink, we argue, we learn, we form friendships and even form romances within the walls of that pub, and under the care of Anna our land lady.

It is therefore unwelcome news that the operation there is bust. High taxes, the smoking ban and massive alcohol duties are the obvious factors, as are the regeneration and development of hotels apartments and offices locally. Anna tells me that many of these buildings remain empty.

Anna’s last night as landlady will be May 2nd, the day after Richard Carey talks on the English revolution of the 1640s. After that event, a new manager will be parachuted in by the brewery and there will be a two week closure at some point as the venue is refurbished. I’m told the bar staff will retain their jobs, and Anna herself will be well looked after.

Good News

anna-quickAnna has us pencilled in our booking carved in stone for the whole year, and we expect that since our business is highly valued the booking will be honoured. That said, talk of a refurbishment and new management does make me nervous. I do love the venue as it is so I’ll have to keep on top of the situation and will announce any changes in plenty of time.

Let’s celebrate

For now though, I think the priority is to celebrate the hard work Anna put in to make the place a cosy home for libertarians and I am hereby announcing Libertarian Home’s first writing competition. I am offering £50 for the person that best achieves the following:

A short story exploring a libertarian idea, set in a pub – anywhere in space and time, fictional or otherwise – that is called the Rose and Crown.

The winner of the £50 will be determined by placement of more cash into pint glasses at the Rose and Crown. At the end of the evening the fattest pint glass wins and the pint glasses will be returned to the landlady (I don’t suppose anyone will remember to empty them first). I hear Anna has a fondness for real ale, and a soft spot for the Royal British Legion. So yes that does mean a competition with two winners: win-win, you might say.

Entries should be submitted by email or the usual route for content, and will be published here as they arrive.