Peter McCormack: I was trying to remember if it was in that film “Banking on Bitcoin,” I’ve got this vague memory of your bit being shot outside” Were you on a bike? Had you been biking? I’m trying to remember it.
Erik Voorhees: No, I don’t want people to remember the stupid bike scene. Yeah, they wanted like B-roll and to take me out of the New York environment, “what do you like to do?” So I told them I like to mountain bike when I’m in Colorado. So we drove out to New Jersey, 30 minutes out of the city and just got B-roll footage of me on this bike and it was totally contrived and out of place.
Peter McCormack: It’s funny I can remember that. I haven’t seen the documentary for about two years.
Erik Voorhees: Well that’s the scene that stuck with everyone!
Peter McCormack: Yeah! But I was trying to remember, because on the way, I was doing my planning and I was trying to remember when I first heard of libertarianism. I’d obviously heard of it before but never paid any attention to it and it was never a political option for me in the UK, because there’s Conservative right wing, left wing Labour and all these strange liberals.
Erik Voorhees: That’s how most Americans feel too!
Peter McCormack: Well yeah, but I certainly think there’s an opportunity now for somebody.
Erik Voorhees: Yeah I don’t know. I mean arguably the founding of the US was basically a libertarian founding. So at that point, everyone is either a libertarian or a Brit. But since then,. pretty much most people in the US are dirty statists and they either vote D or R and that’s it.
Peter McCormack: Well that’s the funny thing. So with discovering Bitcoin, you can discover it and just think, “here’s something I’m going to make some money with” or start to learn about some of the properties of it that make it interesting and then you’re thrown into this whole libertarian, Austrian economics world, which I think takes more adjustment if you’re from the UK, than the States, because even at the moment I’m processing guns.
I’ve just done a show about guns with Ragnar which was super interesting and I’m definitely not where I was a year ago, where I was like “all guns are bad and they lead to mass shootings in schools.” I certainly have come to appreciate them both as a hunting tool but also for defense.
Erik Voorhees: I mean, neither of those are really the reason to support guns.
Peter McCormack: Are you going to go back to tyrannical governance?
Erik Voorhees: That is the reason and people scoff at it. But if you look at the entire 20th century, governments killed tens of millions of people. It doesn’t even compare to anything else really and the slight reduction in likelihood of tyrannical governments killing tens of millions of people if a population is armed, is worth defending the right of normal people to own firearms. That reason alone I think is not usually talked about. It’s not really for hunting, sure self-defense in your home is nice, but like the real reason is to prevent that kind of tyrannical mass murder that governments commit as a matter of course every decade or two.
Peter McCormack: So yeah, and I’ve just been out to Cambodia and Vietnam and I was in Cambodia, we didn’t go to Phnom Penh because of the age of my children. But we did go into Siem Reap into one of the museums and was trying to teach my children about what happened there with the Khmer Rouge.
I’m perfectly aware of plenty of places around the world now where people have weapons that maybe they could stand up against their government. There are arguments against this though, like this was a law in the time of muskets, now you’ve got armies. But I also see the other defense, when the US attack Vietnam, the Vietnamese weren’t well armed, but they were able to defend themselves.
Erik Voorhees: Yeah I mean ultimately it’s a question of, do you want all people to be able to own weapons or only government people to be able to own weapons?
Peter McCormack: It’s a funny one because even though you say that, and I couldn’t see a situation changing in the US right now, I mean I know there are some liberals who were talking about with the removal of AR-15s as one of their political agenda points….
Erik Voorhees: Yeah, which is weird because AR-15s that people can buy legally are just semi-automatic rifles. So if you can’t get an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle, there are many other types of semi-automatic rifles that are basically as lethal. It’s the semi-automatic rifle function, which is their concern. But the AR-15 looks aggressive and that’s why they want to ban that gun, because it’s the look which kind of demonstrates that the whole thing is really about show. Because if they were actually trying to get rid of the function of what the AR-15 does, they would be going after semi-automatic rifles.
Peter McCormack: So with Ragnar, I came into the conversation and said, “where’s the limit?” He said that there should be no limit, you should be able to have anything that the government has. So I said, “for example, if the government had landmines, should you be able to put landmines around your house?” And he said, “yeah!” I said, “okay, so if the government has a tank, should you be able to buy a tank?” And he said, “yep.” I said, “okay, so should you be able to buy nuclear weapons?” So it kind of gets into this unfortunate grey area.
Erik Voorhees: It always goes into a slippery slope, this discussion, right?
Peter McCormack: Well because you’ve got to test how far the theory goes. I understand why people have guns and want guns, but at the same time, I still strangely enough, even though I agree with the point, I don’t want the laws changed in the UK. I don’t want us to have the same gun laws as the US. I feel like we have our own issues, we’ve got massive knife crime problem in London, but at the same time I wouldn’t want us to have the same gun laws as the US.
Erik Voorhees: Yeah, it’s a tricky issue. So there’s utilitarian arguments about it, like whether it’s more helpful for more people to have guns and then there’s ethical and principle arguments, like if someone hasn’t hurt another person, do you have a right to forcibly take away something from them or prevent them from acquiring something? And that’s the argument that I find more persuasive. I think it’s a very bad precedent and basis for society, if you coerce peaceful people just because some people are bad and you harm good people because of that. That’s a very problematic basis on which to build a good civil society.
Peter McCormack: It might be a cultural thing as well though, as Americans might have the PTSD of kicking us out of the country and we might have the PTSD of being kicked out. So I want us to stay powerful and not to have weapons and you want to have the weapons.
Erik Voorhees: Well at least still in the US, there’s still a little bit of flame of individual liberty as a principle, in not assuming that a government or a nation should be in control of everything and that individuals themselves have a certain degree of protection that they should be afforded. That was certainly a radical notion back when the US was formed and it’s slipping away. I think libertarians are really the ones who maintain still that that should be the basis on which people organize.
Peter McCormack: I actually find it very interesting and almost quite exciting when I see these militias. I was talking about it to Ragnar, I can’t remember the actual one, but there was the militia trying to protect the farmland of a guy and I can’t remember what it was, where they were trying to tax him or they were trying to stop him do something and the militia stood up to them and I thought actually that was very cool.
Erik Voorhees: Yeah, I wish that kind of thing would happen more often. I wish groups of people would organize against tyranny from above. If that was a greater tendency, you would have less tyranny from above and again, going back to that mass murder question, if you’re just looking at body counts, the most important thing is to reduce the size of national governments because they kill by far more than any other possible type of homicide or murder.
Peter McCormack: Locally and internationally?
Erik Voorhees: What do you mean locally?
Peter McCormack: So for example, historically we can go and look the examples of many kind of Marxist governments who’ve killed a lot of people to enforce their Marxist principles or socialist principles, yet you haven’t had that kind of mass murder internally in the US in such a way.
Erik Voorhees: No, but that’s because the US has not yet slipped fully into a socialist type state. There’s a tendency, I think for populations to centralize power in governments. Some people can call that socialism, but it’s a tendency towards centralized power. That’s why national governments tend to always grow in their power and in their regulations and in the budgets that they spend. The only thing that really changes that or reverses it, is when the government collapses or some type of horrible revolution happens.
That pattern is seen all over the place, the birth of the US being just one of one of those examples. So yeah, it has not happened within the US and I would argue in part because there has been a decent tendency of Americans to resist centralized authority, but that’s weakening and certainly the US is becoming more and more socialist as time goes on.
Peter McCormack: But this happens externally by the US government in other foreign lands, when they’ve interfered with the foreign policy of other governments. Some you may say are justified, others, you may say aren’t.
Erik Voorhees: I would say basically none of them are justified. I don’t want the US government to exist at all.
Peter McCormack: Well okay, because this is a libertarian principle of either small or no government and certainly no foreign…
Erik Voorhees: The smaller the better, the more decentralized the better.
Peter McCormack: Okay, so we should get into that, because this is something that’s new to me, so it’s taken me some time to get my head around. It is very foreign to me, the idea of libertarianism, but I definitely find it appealing, really appealing, but I do struggle in some areas. But I tell you why I find it appealing because I’ve always felt trapped in politics, in that I’ve always felt both a little bit Conservative, but also felt like, not that I’m a socialist, but I certainly like a social fabric of considering others and helping others, and I’ve always felt lost between who I should vote for.
I tend to veer Conservative, I’ve never actually voted for a socialist party. Well, I voted for the Green party once, but I have voted Conservative for the majority of the time. I found this quote when I was preparing, you’ll like this, “liberals favor government action to promote equality, whereas conservatives favor government action to promote order. Libertarians favor freedom and oppose government action to both either equality order.”
Erik Voorhees: Yeah, that’s a good way to say it!
Peter McCormack: So it gives you the other option, but why do you think it’s never been a case where, or certainly not right now that libertarian parties are having such a voice, because they are very rational arguments to support a libertarian party.
Erik Voorhees: So I’ve done a lot of thinking on this and I think what it comes down to really is that most people have a hard time understanding the concept of spontaneous order. They have a hard time understanding that order can come about without being top-down controlled and created. So they see a government building roads and picking up the trash and forming a military and all these things that they think they want and they understand how that can happen. They don’t understand how rules can happen and order can occur without a government, because it’s weird and it’s hard.
Decentralization is not an element of life that people really appreciate, but it’s actually all around them. When you look into nature, you see decentralized order everywhere. There’s no central top-down authority that creates a tree. It emerges from various principles and patterns from the bottom up and political life can happen in that way also, but most people are not willing to allow it to.
Peter McCormack: And the emergence of language is an example.
Erik Voorhees: Absolutely, that’s a great one. The emergence of mathematics or language are both very good ones. The emergence of Bitcoin obviously is decentralized order, like Bitcoin has order to it. It has rules, it works in a certain way and that didn’t come from any kind of top down thing. It’s emerged from a distributed group of people. So it’s actually very common. People just don’t think about it in terms of like rules for society.
All of them market an economy is decentralized order. It’s like a company or a group of people that are building things and selling them to others. That all emerges without top-down coercion. It emerges from people’s cooperation with each other, from people’s mutual pursuits of profit. So order happens naturally all the time without top-down order. But people have this tendency to ignore that and want to impose it with violence, which is what government is and that’s usually where many of the problems in life come from.
Peter McCormack: Do you feel like that most people are conditioned to consider the government as their safety net? So a question I like to ask people if they’re… Often on Twitter, you’re getting insulted and called a statist, “don’t take away my guns, you’re a statist!” So I always like to throw a couple of questions back. So I like to ask that person, if they vote. More often, they’ll say, “no, I don’t vote because I’m not a statist.” So then I like to ask them, “if your house got robbed and burgled, would you call the police?”
I think almost in every scenario they would. So I think for most people who don’t have these libertarian ideals or who are not even exposed to it, I mean there are a vast number of people who aren’t. Most of my friends will not have heard of this. Do you think it’s that they see government as a safety net, because certainly in the UK you turn to the NHS when you’re sick and you get cared for, you turn to the government for education, you turn to the government for policing, if you’re out of work, you turn to the government for welfare, so they’re used to having this safety net.
Erik Voorhees: Yeah and this is the horrible trick that happens. Government mandates that it provides a certain service, people need the service, so they use it from the government and over time they get used to it becoming from the government. Somehow they start thinking that only government can provide the service. So like healthcare is a great example. In many places governments provide health insurance or flat out healthcare and so people think, “well healthcare comes from the government.
Thus if the government wasn’t doing it, we would not have healthcare.” But that’s very silly. Imagine if McDonald’s was the only place in the world with a license to sell cheeseburgers. Everyone likes cheeseburgers, you can imagine after a couple of generations, if the idea of, “well, McDonald’s doesn’t need to be around, we could have open competition in cheeseburgers maybe”, that would scare people. They’d be like, “but where would we get our burgers? They come from McDonald’s.”
That happens in basically every service that the government provides and most libertarians, if they’re radical enough, they basically would just say that anything that’s important deserves to operate in a market with competition. Healthcare is extremely important, thus it should operate in an open market with competition. Education is extremely important in this and should operate in a market with competition, instead of having a monopoly provider from the government.
Peter McCormack: So would you see the US model for healthcare is better than the UK model?
Erik Voorhees: The US model for healthcare is a total mess and it’s not a market, it’s a corrupted market. It’s part market, part government. It’s like this weird muting thing that doesn’t work, no one likes it. The UK system I imagine also has market elements and also state elements. Most countries have this weird hybrid kind of thing. So I don’t defend the US system, but it’s a weird combination of the two practices and actually that can sometimes be worse than just a government healthcare system.
Peter McCormack: I think with the UK one, the big advantage I always hear about is that having the government negotiate pricing tends to lead to lower prices for drugs and treatments than say in the US. That’s one of the few advantages. I see a radical difference between healthcare in both countries traveling back and forth, just speaking to friends. I think in some ways I prefer the US system, in other ways it scares the living crap out of me.
Erik Voorhees: I mean why shouldn’t the government do the same for cars? Should the government negotiate car prices?
Peter McCormack: It’s obviously a very fair point. I think what it is, is with healthcare there is a slight difference in that it can be your life.
Erik Voorhees: So can cars!
Peter McCormack: I think there are differences. I think there are nuances to this. So I think if you fall between the cracks and you can’t get healthcare and die, that is a big shame. I’m not defending and saying that we should have socialized healthcare, but I understand that there are people who are socialists who want to live as a group of people, organize together and believe that they want to have a socialized healthcare.
Erik Voorhees: Well, not just that, but they want to force people to pay for their system.
Peter McCormack: Well, so that was one of the interesting points I was going to get to, because I think humans naturally organize themselves. I’d always wondered if you could go full radical libertarian and have no government at all, which I think you’ll struggle with 250 million people, but just say you could. Then I think around certain services or things, humans are naturally going to start to arrange themselves.
Erik Voorhees: Yeah, it’s the spontaneous order.
Peter McCormack: Yeah, but will it then eventually evolve back to the same thing? Is this structure just a natural way that humans organize themselves?
Erik Voorhees: It is a natural structure that humans organize themselves if they ethically accept the premise of coercion against peaceful people. So if you think it’s okay to use force on someone to get them to do what you think they should do, if you believe that, and the society generally believes that, States and governments and nations will form. If you had a society of people who didn’t believe that using force on a peaceful person was ethically justified, you would tend to have smaller if any governments.
Peter McCormack: I agree with that, but aren’t we still just animals?
Erik Voorhees: We are, but also we can change opinions. I think that in a libertarian society you could have pockets of socialists who then all coerce each other into providing things by force. A libertarian would always tolerate a socialist in its society, but a socialist will never tolerate a libertarian in its society. A socialist will always force the libertarian to pay for its purposes, the libertarian will never force the socialist to pay for its purposes. That difference is really like the ethical fulcrum on which this stuff depends.
Peter McCormack: That sounds like the arguments I have with my brother. We’ve been arguing over Brexit recently. I’m pro-Brexit and he’s anti-Brexit and because he wouldn’t actually vote for Labour and Corbyn, I always called him a Marxist to piss him off. So we get into debates, but he gets really frustrated with my point of view and I’ve noticed that. I’ve noticed that for example, when I put something on Facebook occasionally just provocative to see how my friends react and those who are anti-Brexit tend to be more socialist and tend to be more angry about what we should do.
Erik Voorhees: They want to control! I mean the whole Brexit premise is that Britain should be more in control of itself. It is basically an appeal toward the decentralization of power and anyone who doesn’t want that to happen, is trying to centralize power. Kind of by definition, they want to pull some of the power away from Britain to Europe and it really comes down to whether you think it’s okay to use force on people. If you are okay with that, you’ll tend to coalesce power and you’ll get larger and larger governments and most people unfortunately are okay with that.
Peter McCormack: Okay. So one of the areas that I’ve found interesting where I was discussing with Francis Pouliot and he is a fan of minarchist states, whereby essentially law and order is provided by a very limited government. So police, law and military is provided. How do you feel about that? Because law and order is a central component of libertarianism, so that has to be enforced somehow, hopefully with consistency.
Erik Voorhees: Well yeah, so libertarians are a big group. It ranges from anarchists to you’re basically like, people who believe in most of what the government does, but just want lower taxes. That whole range might call themselves libertarians.
Peter McCormack: Where are you?
Erik Voorhees: I am very sympathetic to full anarchy where there’s no central State. I also think that I would much rather just reduce the government step by step and move in that direction and I’m willing to accept the fact that pure anarchy may not work. I think it would, but it’s so different from the world we live in, that I don’t assume it.
I just want to reduce the government and I want to keep reducing it and I think the world would get better and better and better. I think probably find yourself in anarchy then the world would be the best that it could be. But if it was something short of that, that’s an improvement also. So I’m a little more pragmatic about it.
Peter McCormack: Yeah and it reminds me of a tweet you sent quite a while ago. I remember you putting out one that said something like, “we should strive for less government, but every year we’ve had more government” or something on those lines.
Erik Voorhees: There’s never been a year in the US where the government shrank, other than the year immediately following World War II.
Peter McCormack: You could go full out anarchy, but if you went full anarchy, it would be anarchy. I think society would…
Erik Voorhees: Even if you did that immediately, just the adjustment would be violent and difficult and crazy. So libertarians always getting these discussions of like, anarchy or minarchy or something. I think those things kind of distract from the point that it would just be good if the government got smaller and I think most people agree with that. Just smaller, like let’s try 1% smaller!
Peter McCormack: I think even socialists would agree with that?
Erik Voorhees: Well I don’t know. If a Republican was in charge, I think a Democrat would want the government 1% smaller, but then they’d just swing back the other direction. I just want to see a government shrink.
Peter McCormack: Where would you start? What would be a good starting point?
Erik Voorhees: Just reduce all points of the budget by 1% next year, just start with that. Every single budget by 1%. Does anyone think that the world would fall apart? No. I mean you could get rid of like 30% of the government and it would be basically the size that it was back in 2000.
Peter McCormack: But a government doesn’t have to keep to budget, that’s a fundamental problem with that. You can reduce the budget of ShapeShift and…
Erik Voorhees: I just mean spending, whatever they spent this year, spend 1% less next year. Let’s just start there.
Peter McCormack: But I think that’s actually impractical because I think the way governments are now in competition, like everyone’s got the fear of having a currency crash before the other…
Erik Voorhees: Well they all want their currencies to crash! They are all trying to devalue their currency.
Peter McCormack: Sorry, devalue on the international stage. But what I’m saying is they don’t want a complete collapse of their currency and they will keep spending as and when they require it, for whatever purpose, they’ll just keep printing money. So I don’t think it’s practical, but I think a more practical approach would be, let’s change one aspect. Let’s change education, let’s change policing or let’s change regulations or let’s change part of welfare. If you actually pick something and change that, I think that’s practical.
Erik Voorhees: Maybe! I have zero faith in the political system. I’m very opposed to democracy in principle and certainly a lot of people try to just vote and get one part of the government to change and that could be a lifetime of work and nothing gets smaller. Again, the whole government just gets bigger and bigger and bigger and I don’t think that any amount of libertarian talking on the internet is going to change that phenomenon.
So that’s kind of fatalistic, but this is part of what got me so excited about Bitcoin, was that it was a way to take a piece of what the government was doing, which was money creation and management and just completely sidestep the government entirely. Not have to worry about voting, not have to worry about convincing any person to try it, Bitcoin was a brilliant way to just use something else and sidestep the government entirely.
Peter McCormack: So do you believe that Bitcoin is like a stepping stone to completely changing government structure and State?
Erik Voorhees: Yeah and I’ve held this since I first learned about it, which is I think that Bitcoin or some crypto or many cryptos will take over the world, people will tend to use them as their money instead of fiat because it can’t be debased and the other can. Over time people tend to hold value in the thing that can’t be debased, that seems obvious. At some point that means the government won’t be able to just print money to subsidize its spending, which means it will have to reduce its spending. So it’s like the single thing that could actually cause the government to spend less.
Peter McCormack: Because as Bitcoin becomes more powerful, the fiat currency becomes less powerful…
Erik Voorhees: Yes and at some point, fiat currencies will fall apart or collapse or go away. The world will transition into Bitcoin slowly or in a crisis situation and when that happens, the government will be taxing and spending Bitcoin, but it can’t print Bitcoin. So it’s sort of third tentacle of tyranny is reduced. It can’t print, so it has to shrink. It can only grow by what it can borrow or tax.
Peter McCormack: Because it’ll have budget constraints?
Erik Voorhees: Yeah! Right now it spends whatever it can borrow, tax or print. So you get rid of print and by definition you’ve forced the government to be smaller.
Peter McCormack: Do you genuinely believe an alternative cryptocurrency outside of Bitcoin can achieve this?
Erik Voorhees: Can? Yeah sure. Bitcoin is the obvious likely choice, Bitcoin’s the obvious one to put your money on as they say. But I don’t think anyone should assume that it is impossible that a different crypto surpasses Bitcoin.
Peter McCormack: Of course, but what I mean by that is like, are people focusing on Bitcoin in the right way to create this opportunity? You as a libertarian see the opportunity with Bitcoin, you see what it can do to separation of money and state. Do you think people are aggressively pursuing this in the right way or do you think…
Erik Voorhees: You mean Bitcoiners?
Peter McCormack: I think Bitcoin and crypto people.
Erik Voorhees: Well, the group is not homogeneous anymore. Early on, nearly everyone in Bitcoin was a radical anarchist or radical libertarian at least. As it’s grown and rightly so, it pulls in more and more and more people, people of different persuasions, a lot of people who are entirely not at all libertarian and that’s good! Bitcoin takes over the world by pulling 7 billion people into it and you’re not going to convince all those people to be libertarian, but it doesn’t matter. If the world is using Bitcoin, governments will have to shrink and it doesn’t really matter what portion of those people were libertarians.
Peter McCormack: So does the government naturally become libertarian?
Erik Voorhees: No it just shrinks because it can’t print money anymore. I don’t know that, let’s say 50 years from now, Bitcoin has taken over and it is the basic unit of money for the world, I don’t think that the portion of libertarians in the world will necessarily be any higher, but governments won’t be able to grow as much. That will be the most important win that Bitcoin could bring to the world.
Peter McCormack: Are there any downsides to this? Within libertarian circles, do any of you argue, like key differences?
Erik Voorhees: Between libertarians? Yeah, that’s all they do. They just spend their time arguing about like the differences between them.
Peter McCormack: What are the conflict points?
Erik Voorhees: The biggest one is always the minarchist versus anarchist question, which is…
Peter McCormack: I’m definitely minarchist.
Erik Voorhees: Before Bitcoin, I was part of the Free State Project, so I was around radical libertarians constantly and they spent all their time just arguing about this point between anarchy and minarchy. To me that’s like, “okay, do we want to get rid of 98% of the government or 100% of the government”. I don’t care! Let’s just get rid of some of it. So I think libertarians really had spent too much time debating that point and they should all realize that once we shrink the government a significant degree, then it’s time to have that debate. Do we shrink it all the way to zero or do we stop somewhere?
Peter McCormack: I’ve got to go to Crypto Springs later in the week and I’m doing a panel which is “1984 versus brave new world, dystopian futures” and prepping for that, I downloaded an interview with Aldous Huxley.
Erik Voorhees: Cool!
Peter McCormack: Yeah, very cool. I’ve never actually read the book. I’ve read 1984 and he, quite interestingly in that, this is a bit of a diversion, but he’s talked about two forces which encroach on freedom. One is overpopulation because of the demand on resources, therefore government has to grow to control and manage the people and also because as populations grow there’s more social unrest, therefore you essentially need more government for that.
Erik Voorhees: I disagree with both of those points, but go on.
Peter McCormack: And the other one, he was like, the over-complication through the advance of technology. Technology allows you to create more complicated systems and more complicated structures and that therefore also encroaches on freedom.
Erik Voorhees: Yeah, that last one is interesting. I guess it depends what he’s defining freedom as.
Peter McCormack: Well I think this interview was in the 50s, so it was very different technology back then and devices. I mean he’s talking about radio and TV, whereas we now have the internet and everything. But let’s deal with the first one, the overpopulation one.
Erik Voorhees: Yeah, I think most people worry about overpopulation. They think that’s a problem. I don’t think it’s a problem. I think the average human produces more resources than they consume and if you hold that, then more people doesn’t mean less resources, it actually means more.
Peter McCormack: Well not all resources, because some are scarce?
Erik Voorhees: Well that’s not that obvious. So take food for example. Obviously the world today has vastly more people than it ever has in history and it has vastly more food than it ever has in history. Clearly something there happened, and that’s because humans create more food than they consume. Would you grant that?
Peter McCormack: Yes without question.
Erik Voorhees: Something like water, at first seems scarce, but really water is the most plentiful resource on the planet. It’s really about desalinated water, but any water can be desalinated with energy. If you spend enough energy, you can desalinate water, so it’s really just a matter of cost. So a society wealthy enough, at any level of population could just desalinate enough water to use.
So water is not really a scarce resource either, it’s just a question of how wealthy the population is. Most resources actually are not scarce, they’re produced by humans. The US has more lumber and more trees and more forest coverage today than it did 100 years ago, even though its population is six times as high.
Peter McCormack: I never knew that.
Erik Voorhees: Yeah, people don’t talk about that! It’s because most lumber comes from lumber companies, which grow trees and they have an interest in creating and building forests. So there’s more wood today in the US than there was 100 years ago, even though the population is higher.
Peter McCormack: Can they not export that to the rainforest down in Brazil?
Erik Voorhees: Well, if they privatized the rainforest, I bet the rainforest would actually get a lot healthier.
Peter McCormack: Shit, that’s a different problem because they’re deforesting for farmland, more often growing soy for the burgers.
Erik Voorhees: Yeah, which gets you back into like government subsidies and people farming the wrong things due to those putting out bad incentives, but that’s a different topic.
Peter McCormack: So I’m going to go through some of the takes and some of the areas that I’m confused with or not totally sure. The first thing I actually wrote was that there were a lot of Bitcoiners who were libertarians who want free choice, but don’t seem to be completely tolerant of other people’s free choice, certainly on Twitter! There seems to be some, what feels like coercive behavior.
Erik Voorhees: So here’s where you have to define coercion, because to me coercion means you’ve forcefully made someone do something, like you’ve threatened physical harm or you threatened to steal from them or something like that, you’re coercing them. So governments coerce people all the time, that’s what they do.
They threaten to throw you in a cage for example, if you smoke marijuana. That’s very different than someone critiquing you, that’s not coercion, that’s critique. I think that’s a much lower level of interference and I think it’s perfectly fine for people to critique each other, which is one thing, but to coerce someone, that’s unethical.
Peter McCormack: Okay, that’s a fair point. Another thing I was considering was, if you think about property rights, do they in some ways create a… How would I put this, like a chronological disadvantage that as the population grows, you are at a disadvantage to those who’ve come before you, who have created wealth and given it to their families and perhaps created companies which are monopolies, perhaps less land. I mean we know there’s less land, it’s more expensive to buy houses now than it was previously.
Erik Voorhees: There’s less land, but there’s more property. So here again property is not…
Peter McCormack: Proportionally more expensive though, right?
Erik Voorhees: I don’t know. I mean you got to factor out inflation. Is a normal property for someone more expensive today in real terms, than it was 200 years ago. I would argue no, if you include all the luxuries that the properties have. Someone today with a house that has air conditioning, TV, internet, like all those kinds of things, versus someone who had a house a hundred years ago, which one’s more expensive in real terms? That would need some analysis, but I don’t think it’s obvious that it’s more expensive.
Peter McCormack: Would you agree that there is perhaps a chronological disadvantage or do you think everyone born today has as much as opportunity as someone 10 years ago, 15 years ago?
Erik Voorhees: Yeah, I mean no-one should assume that everything’s equal in the libertarian world. I think a libertarian simply acknowledges and recognizes that in the world, nothing is equal in the world. No two people are the same, no two properties are the same, no two life stories with the advantages and luck that the people got are the same, it’s all different.
Nothing’s equal and trying to coerce the world into equality, causes more harms than it solves. So yeah, there are certainly disadvantages and unfairness and inequity in a libertarian world, the way to solve that is through charity and being a good person, not through using a gun to force people to do something.
Peter McCormack: Okay, how about some of the additional benefits you get from a State? So for example, the regulations around providing access to facilities for those with disabilities. That is a big and important thing in the UK, without having any form of discrimination for those with disabilities, you have to have ramps etc. There is no guarantee that would happen in a world without a state. Is that tough luck?
Erik Voorhees: Sure, tough luck in one sense. But on the basis of private property, if you own property and you don’t want to build a ramp on your property, you shouldn’t be forced to build a ramp. Now, if you’re a business and you want customers, if you think that there are enough customers that find that ramp useful, it’s in your interest to build a ramp for those people.
Or maybe you just do it because you want to help those people, there are a lot of people are generous like that. Maybe some stores wouldn’t have a ramp and someone in a wheelchair isn’t able to get into those stores, but the point is that is it ethical to force someone to build a ramp or not? I don’t think it is. I think if it’s your property, you do what you want with it, as long as you’re not coercing or harming someone else, that’s your choice.
Peter McCormack: So you, on that basis, would have the option to refuse someone into your business based on their sexuality, their race?
Erik Voorhees: That’s freedom. No-one should be forced to interact with someone else. The example that people would frown at is like, a really racist person with a bakery who doesn’t want to serve a black person and everyone’s like, “oh, that’s awful.” Okay, flip it around. What about a black person who has a bakery and doesn’t want to serve the racist? I think both people should have the freedom to make their own judgment and if I knew that there was a racist baker in town, I’m not going to go buy his food because the guy’s a dick!
I’m not going to go there and he’s losing out on money because he’s not serving us a portion of the population. But it should be his choice, that is freedom and if you acknowledge that people have the right to their own property, it should apply in both cases, regardless of whether someone’s a jerk.
Peter McCormack: So how do you feel in a world therefore where someone like Twitter will censor certain comments and certain speech? Do you think that’s the perfect scenario and that there should be no censorship? Yet, Twitter has the right to censor in their own environment, so that’s fine.
Erik Voorhees: It’s their property.
Peter McCormack: Their property, so they can create the rules. There’s no public good? There’s no public service?
Erik Voorhees: I think whenever you bleed private property boundaries into some conception of public good, you get more problems than you solve. So Twitter should be able to make whatever rules it wants and any competitors should be able to create a competitor and do whatever they want with their own rules.
Peter McCormack: So it keeps coming back to almost two clear points, no coercion and a free market?
Erik Voorhees: Well yeah, the foundation is understanding private property and avoiding coercion. Those are the two principles of what libertarianism is based on.
Peter McCormack: Is this all kind of utopian? Has it really been tested? Do libertarians discuss if this was ever to be achieved, what the potential downsides are, almost like a risk analysis?
Erik Voorhees: I mean you can never have perfect scientific experiments on this stuff, which makes it hard. No one should think and certainly no libertarian should advocate that a free society is a perfect society. A Libertarian society will have all sorts of problems. It won’t be perfect, it won’t be a utopia. It might have problems that a statist society doesn’t have.
But I think on net, it will tend to be better and you will be respecting the sovereignty of an individual and I think as a foundation of society that is a much stronger basis on which to build something. The places where tests have occurred or seem to occur, things like North Korea and South Korea. One clearly more centrally controlled, one clearly more free, both were similar in their demographics, their people and their culture before the split. China versus Hong Kong, these kind of real world examples.
Peter McCormack: But that’s communism versus capitalism rather than…
Erik Voorhees: It’s centralized power versus less centralized power. This is something that I think people that get into libertarianism start to see, is that normal people see the world in like this left/right worldview, which I don’t think makes very much sense. I think a better way to see it is in how much coercive power or how much centralization you have. Both Republicans and Democrats in the US are high up on the centralized power and coercion scale versus a libertarian, who is much further down. So on an up/down scale of centralization of power, China is obviously much higher up than Hong Kong.
Peter McCormack: Is it not just like an ideal world for a rich person? Libertarianism seems to suit the wealthy over the poor.
Erik Voorhees: Why do you think that?
Peter McCormack: Because I think, in a similar way to the Bitcoin utopia seems to suit those who discovered it earlier more than those who are coming in late, because there are certain advantages.
Erik Voorhees: How many poor minorities are in prison for life because of drug offenses?
Peter McCormack: That’s a great example.
Erik Voorhees: How many poor minorities are addicted to welfare?
Peter McCormack: But I’m thinking more that has, especially that we saw in Brazil the rise of political parties who support workers parties, who support…
Erik Voorhees: I don’t know what that means, “workers”.
Peter McCormack: I mean it’s the working class.
Erik Voorhees: That’s one of those weasely terms.
Peter McCormack: I think certain people will associate it. It tends to be, those who are… I guess when you say working class, like lower earning factory workers and I think historically, these groups of people have grouped together, whether it’s unions or political parties, to fight for rights for them.
Erik Voorhees: Yes, I think that’s a problem. I think groups fighting for rights for their group is a problem. Groups shouldn’t have rights. There should basically be one right, which is to be left alone if you’re not hurting other people. That’s really the only right that humans have. It should be.
Peter McCormack: Okay, how about the argument that a truly free market is terrible for the environment, because without regulation, a factory can easily pollute the local lake without any fear of reprisal? I really struggled with this one.
Erik Voorhees: Fair concern and I don’t want to paint a picture here that a libertarian society has no environmental problems, it would. It’s a question of private property and contract law generally. So if you’re polluting a lake, you’re doing it maybe because the lake is not owned, it’s just public. If someone owns the lake, you can’t pollute their lake. Generally if areas are owned by private parties or consortiums of people, pollution is actually a contract violation and would be something that courts should settle.
You don’t have the right to damage other people’s property. Now land is easier to handle in that way than water and water is easier to handle in that way than air. Air is an interesting question, should someone have the ability to pollute into the air? I think that’s a fair point of debate and I don’t think any libertarians have great solutions there, but I don’t think States have great solutions there either. I think that in a world without government, markets would tend to advance faster and there’d be more wealth and wealthy people have the luxury of actually appreciating their environment.
You see this when countries rise through the industrial revolution. When you’re emerging from poverty, you do not care about the environment and you will pollute because you’re just trying to feed your family. When you become wealthy or you start to appreciate nature and the environment around you, and it’s the wealthy countries that pay more attention to their environment.
I think, for example, automobiles would have moved faster through the internal combustion engine, towards the Tesla type world of electric cars when you don’t have governments involved regulating everything. I think that you tend to move through those bad phases to better phases, faster. So it doesn’t mean that there aren’t environmental problems, it just means that they are dealt with in a decentralized market fashion versus a centralized government fashion.
Peter McCormack: What about the establishment of nuclear power factories? Should that be regulated? Is it the downside of not regulating nuclear power, the potential that a town goes up in a puff of nuclear smoke and the free market can’t fix that?
Erik Voorhees: Well, nuclear reactors are extremely safe first of all. I think a world with more nuclear reactors would be much less polluted, than one that currently powers by coal and oil and natural gas. So if a libertarian world meant more nuclear reactors, the environmental problem I think would be significantly less. Now, the risk of an environmental disaster when there is a nuclear explosion is obviously a huge one.
Nobody has more of a incentive to make their property secure than the owner of a nuclear power plant. The capital investment to build such a thing is massive. So all the incentives to make it safe are there, it doesn’t mean that there would never be incidents, but again, what are we comparing this to? The incidents that have happened to nuclear reactors, I think are few and far between.
Peter McCormack: But devastating when they have happened.
Erik Voorhees: Yeah, devastating in certain ways. Not nearly as devastating as much as the other things governments have done. So it depends on where you’re comparing it to.
Peter McCormack: Well, another area is also building regulations. So I haven’t done the actual research, but more often than not… So one of my favorite artists is Ai Weiwei, there was a certain area actually where there was an earthquake and because of the lack of following building regulations or lack of building regulations, all the buildings collapsed and he created artwork out of this. Do you not think for certain things that regulations are important to protect the safety of others?
Erik Voorhees: Most of that stuff, if not all of it, is accomplished by markets. So in the case of property and standards for safety, insurance comes into play. If you build a property in a place where there are earthquakes, you want insurance and an insurer has an incentive to want you to have certain building standards. Your insurance rates will be higher if you don’t have those standards. So there are natural mechanisms by which people will build safer homes where they should be safer, without a government involved.
Peter McCormack: You’ve debated this a lot haven’t you!
Erik Voorhees: Yeah, all of these topics always come up! I’m waiting for the roads question.
Peter McCormack: So that was funny because I wasn’t going to bring up the roads question, but that actually came up during a Twitter debate. But I was more actually interested when I was thinking about that, I was actually more interested in the railway, because I think practically the logistics of trying to build a railway, well it’s probably the same for roads, by coordinating all the different private land owners, it seems like that would be something very difficult.
Erik Voorhees: It might be difficult, but I think markets can solve difficult things. I mean there is nothing more complex than some of the things that markets already deliver. Imagine a world where there were no roads and no government. What would happen? If all the roads just vanished and there were no government and for some reason everyone didn’t want a government.
Peter McCormack: If I was your neighbor, I’d build a road to you.
Erik Voorhees: Well, people would start talking. They’d be like, “well, what the hell are we going to do? We’ve got to solve this problem. We need to move around. Who owns this land and how should we handle this?” People figure it out. If you can figure it out without coercion, the roads might look different, they might be built in different places.
Maybe there’d be more or less roads, the world wouldn’t look the same, but it’s not like the world wouldn’t have roads. Indeed much of the early history of American road building, it was actually private roads that got built. So it’s very silly to think that only through coercion can you build roads. I think that frankly without governments we wouldn’t need roads anymore, we’d probably already be in flying cars! I’m half joking about that, but half not.
Peter McCormack: Maybe, you might be right! Certainly someone will have built something like a drone-based kind of flying car.
Erik Voorhees: Well certainly the biggest impediment to drone technology right now is government regulation.
Peter McCormack: Okay, so I think the only area I’ve got you that is open for debate is pollution of the air.
Erik Voorhees: It’s a contentious point. Same with water, those are tricky issues.
Peter McCormack: Are there any other issues that you find tricky, that you struggle with?
Erik Voorhees: Yeah, so I personally think abortion should be legal.
Peter McCormack: What about the non-aggression principle?
Erik Voorhees: This is why I think it’s a fair question and I don’t think libertarians should agree on this. This is a point where the principle, which usually is clear, is not clear. So generally libertarians believes that you have property over your body and no one else does.
Peter McCormack: There’s clashing principles here.
Erik Voorhees: Exactly right. So obviously for a 10 year old, it’s very clear that their body is theirs and that’s not contentious. A woman who isn’t pregnant, that’s not contentious. But where from the woman who is not pregnant to the new child being born, does the body essence turn into the child So like the day after an egg is fertilized, is that a child deserving private protection or private property protection?
That seems silly but I don’t have a better answer of when it should be. The birth of the child is a certain point at which you could make an argument or the heartbeat. It is debatable and I think it’s a difficult issue. So even though I think abortion should generally be legal, I can totally sympathize with people who think that it’s murder.
Peter McCormack: There seems to be a kind of general agree… Because if you are anti-abortion you kind of have to, or if you’re going to regulate it, sometimes depended on whether you make it legal or not illegal or legal at certain stages. I think it’s about 24 weeks, it tends to be around that kind of age where babies have been born premature but have survived, they tend to have that as a starting point. I’m in this weird place where I always say I’m pro life but I don’t feel like I want to ever… I don’t think I’ve ever said that publicly, but I don’t think I’d ever want to enforce it on somebody.
Erik Voorhees: I think that’s a fair position. I’m pro-life but I wouldn’t impose that on someone else. I think that’s really fair. That is the principle of libertarianism, is to respect and tolerate other people’s view and certainly a woman and her family are much more appropriate to judge those things, than any kind of outside party.
Peter McCormack: Yeah I find abortion very sad though. So I got a girl pregnant at university and she had an abortion without telling me. She told me a year later and that was kind of devastating at the time just to find that out, because always in the back of my mind I’m like, right now I’d have a 22 year old, which would be fucking crazy and it does cross my mind occasionally, but I find it a very difficult subject to get into, it’s very emotional.
Erik Voorhees: Yeah, as it should be. It’s a tricky one and I think people that automatically assume there’s a right answer on it, I think that’s unfair. I think there can be areas in life that are grey and difficult.
Peter McCormack: What about the death penalty?
Erik Voorhees: Yeah, so on an ethical basis, if I knew that someone did something like murdering some children, something horrible, would I have any problem with them being killed? If I knew that they were guilty of it, no. The main problem with the death penalty is that I don’t trust the government to make those judgements. So I have no problem with people who have killed others being killed. I think that’s fair. I think they violated the right of others and they don’t deserve that reciprocal right themselves. At the same time, I don’t trust the government in its current form and the current court system to assess that correctly, so that’s a tricky one.
Peter McCormack: Another strange one I’ve got listed here is that with libertarianism, it’s about the freedom of choice to do what you want without imposing yourself or others or causing harm to others. I totally a hundred percent support free choice with drugs. But is there an argument with the free choice with drugs you can… So for example, if parents can cause harm to their children just by being drug addicts?
Erik Voorhees: Well, you have to define harm. Are they beating their children or are they just a bad role model?
Peter McCormack: Neglecting their children?
Erik Voorhees: Yeah, so that’s a difficult question. At some point, the neglect and the abuse of the child should be the crime, not the drugs. So that should be a clear point. So any person should be able to do all the heroin that they want. If they are abusing a child, it doesn’t matter if they’re on heroin or not, the abuse is what’s wrong. So I wouldn’t regulate drugs just because abuse of children is wrong. You should regulate the abuse of the children.
Peter McCormack: Of course, but again, I support free choice, but you so often see or hear stories of children being neglected because the parents are high on drugs. Also, I was watching a Louis Theroux documentary where they were going around treating overdoses. If we have the free choice to take as much heroin as we want, there is going to be bodies left everywhere. Who deals with the bodies?
Erik Voorhees: Bodies everywhere is probably an exaggeration.
Peter McCormack: But you are imposing yourself on people having to clear up your mess.
Erik Voorhees: Yeah, I don’t think that rises to the level of banning something just because some people will abuse it and then their dead body is inconvenience for someone to figure out, sure.
Peter McCormack: So anyone should be able to create any synthetic drug they want, to sell to anyone and anyone else should be able to take that drug if they want?
Erik Voorhees: Yes, now an important thing to point out is that I do not think it’s ethically okay to lie about what the thing is. If you tell someone that something is made of a certain thing and then you sell it to them and it’s poison or whatever and they die, that should clearly be illegal. I mean that falls under fraud. Fraud should be illegal.
Peter McCormack: So the crimes, because I remember it as murder, rape, fraud and theft?
Erik Voorhees: Yeah and there’s maybe some other few, but those are real crimes and if all the government did was prosecute that, there would be no libertarian movement because that would be reasonable. The problem is that is like 1% of what the government does, but it’s like 80% of what people think the government does.
Peter McCormack: Okay, it’s very hard to argue against most of this rationally, because all the points you make are entirely rational and they make sense. I still struggle to see practically how it would work, but then I’m with you on the goal, which is small to smaller bite sized chunks. Again, I’m just going to go back to an earlier question, why do you think libertarianism has struggled therefore to grow and gain adoption? Because it feels like it’s just a better, fairer way of allowing people to live.
Erik Voorhees: I mean I certainly think it is, but it comes down to people having a belief that it’s okay to use force on others or frankly not realizing that they’re using force. A lot of people that want to advocate making marijuana illegal, they think they’re doing good for society. They don’t really realize that all they’re advocating is to use force on people and throw them in cages for what is actually a peaceful act. They don’t think about it in those terms. I don’t know how to get them to think about it in those terms.
Peter McCormack: I think marijuana is a great example actually because of how it’s been professionalized since it’s been legalized.
Erik Voorhees: Oh yeah. We’re in Denver right now, now I can tell the audience that society here has not collapsed. I knew this city before it was legal and I know it after, everything’s fine! Now you can go into a store, there are people who can show you all these different packages of marijuana, they have different THC contents, you can know exactly what you’re getting and you walk in, you talk to someone, you get exactly what you wanted and then you leave. it’s just so much more civilized, so much more civilized than the whole black market kind of situation that’s happening in illegal drugs. Every drug should be like.
Peter McCormack: So last time I was here, I was in Boulder and I went to Brook’s store. So that was my first experience of going to buy and it was great because I don’t really like weed that much, but for the sake of making a show, I was going to buy for science! What ended up happening is, the only thing is that I get a little bit of anxiety sometimes. So the person behind the table was like, “well you don’t want that, you want this.” I was trying to remember the experience as a kid, trying to buy weed, it’d be like, “meet us in the Sainsbury’s car park. I’ll be there in half an hour.” You’d wait half an hour and they still wouldn’t be there, then they’re going to be 15 minutes and then an hour later you get your little bag.
Erik Voorhees: There’s no discussion of like, which product is better for a certain person. It’s just so obviously better and to have people thrown in prison because they chose something with their own body is absolutely absurd. I’m quite sure that society, 50 years from now, will look back on this practice as something completely horrible that used to happen.
Peter McCormack: So they could do it with cocaine. Well actually, we kind of had it proven with the Silk Road. I mean back in the depths of my cocaine addiction, I was buying on the Silk Road and it was a much better experience, firstly because of the ratings, which was brilliant and secondly, actually the other really useful thing was the forums. So at a time when I knew I was doing too much and it was becoming a problem, like a real problem, that’s where I went for help.
Erik Voorhees: Yeah a place to talk!
Peter McCormack: Yeah, I had a place to talk, to have advice, like I was having this weird thing where my chest was feeling hot, so they were talking about the potential risks and blah blah blah. But that was actually very helpful and when I was doing the show with Lyn Ulbricht, I ended up going and interviewing this lady Charlotte Walsh because she was quoted in an article from the Drug Policy Alliance where they were saying undoubtedly the Silk Road led to harm reduction and less violence.
Erik Voorhees: Yeah obviously!
Peter McCormack: Why does the government not get this though?
Erik Voorhees: There’s lots of reasons. There’s vested interests in the whole prison industrial complex, like that’s obviously part of it…
Peter McCormack: Because the Prison Guards Association have a massive…
Erik Voorhees: And the police who want their… Like if they can’t enforce drug laws, then there are less laws to enforce, which means the police force needed is smaller and their budgets should be smaller.
Peter McCormack: But the police force is already overstretched?
Erik Voorhees: Sure, but at any given level a police force always wants more money. So a world with more laws, is a world in which a police force gets more and more and more money. So there’s an entrenched interest there. But the real reason is just that a lot of people aren’t willing to publicly express political support for getting rid of these stupid laws. Fortunately, it’s slowly changing. It’s like the one area of American life that’s actually getting freer. So that’s great!
Peter McCormack: 47 States now legal or de-criminalized, is that correct?
Erik Voorhees: Or decriminalized maybe. The trend is so obvious!
Peter McCormack: As I believe it, I don’t know which States, but certainly magic mushrooms are now being decriminalized?
Erik Voorhees: I think here in Colorado they are decriminalized.
Peter McCormack: MDMA is being used to treat PTSD.
Erik Voorhees: Yeah, there’s a lot of bright lights in that regard. So society is not totally crazy, like sometimes it does the right thing in the long arc of human history, the tendency is obviously toward human liberty, but it goes through these cycles and a lot of noise in any given life span.
Peter McCormack: Why do you think it’s happened with cannabis?
Erik Voorhees: Most people have smoked weed, so it’s not an alien thing to most people. I think popular culture helps normalize it. Before weed was legal in a lot of States, there were lots of movies where weed just wasn’t that scary. It was just, some people would hang out, smoke some weed and laugh and eat some cookies. That’s pretty accurate! How long does society want to keep spending money throwing those people in jail, when they’re just eating cookies on their damn couch. But also there’s a lot of work from dedicated groups that have been working on this for decades. So it’s not like it just happened, it came after people spent their lifetime working on it.
Peter McCormack: Do you think one of the biggest changes that’s helped also is that with the internet we have more information, information is power. I was listening to I think Joe Rogan, who had Bill Burr on there and he was saying, because he’s a drummer, he was saying that now because of the internet, kids now are better drummers because there’s so much more information out there that they can follow and learn to drum from.
Do you think there’s so much more information out there now because of the internet, that people are starting to, without even speaking to each other, but collectively start to see a different world and a better world?
Erik Voorhees: In some ways. In others it’s getting much worse because of the internet.
Peter McCormack: In what ways?
Erik Voorhees: I mean obviously political discourse generally is much worse now. It’s more polarized, people identify with their group much more strongly and tend to vilify the other group much more strongly on the internet.
Peter McCormack: Quite interestingly, actually Aldous Huxley talked about that as well. He said the future is where the advertisers paint the picture of a politician to sell votes and not for what they actually are as a person. Have you watched The Loudest Voice?
Erik Voorhees: No.
Peter McCormack: Yeah, about Fox news, about Roger Ailes. That is fascinating. So I didn’t know the story of him.
Erik Voorhees: Is it on Netflix?
Peter McCormack: No, I think it might be like HBO thing because we had it on Sky. I didn’t even know the story, it was just cause it was Russell Crowe I watched it and it was a very interesting show because what happened was, when they were launching Fox News, he obviously took on the role of whatever, head of content or whatever. The first meeting where they were trying to talk about the content policy, they were talking about potentially being kind of like centrists etc and he said no.
He said if we’re centrists, we fight with everyone for the same people. If we go right wing conservative, then we can get 60% of the population, because they would just listen to us and that’s what happened. I was watching that and then seeing where we are today and I was just feeling that the media has absolutely destroyed political discourse.
Erik Voorhees: Yeah, but not just the media, people themselves through their Facebook posts and the non-face to face superficial discussion, which has made it really bad. The media has certainly amplified it, but when the government is involved in more and more of people’s lives, then of course the antagonism between people will get higher. This is another reason why government should just be involved in less things because there’d be less reasons to hate someone of a different party, if the party didn’t have as much control over your life.
If the federal government was much smaller, someone who hates Trump today would have less reason to hate Trump, he would be a less powerful person. I think that would be good for the world. At the same time, I think it’d be a better world if Obama had less power, but you can’t have one without the other and the problem is that each side wants more power for themselves. So when they’re in power, they get more of it and then the other side gets in power and they get more of it. Ultimately the government grows and grows and grows.
Peter McCormack: Yeah, I was about to ask you, because I think Trump’s insane and we have another election coming, he’s probably going to win, but equally I wasn’t a huge fan of Obama. I certainly wasn’t a fan of Hillary and nor Bernie. I was just thinking, well how do things get better? But again, you’re just going to come back to the same point; less government. Everything comes back to less government.
Erik Voorhees: Yeah, I mean how can you look at democracy well, when in the, US democracy yields its two prime candidates, they’re the cream of the crop that the democratic process has formed and it’s Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump! Those are the pinnacles of conservative and liberal ideology and that’s total nonsense. They’re both horrible people. I can’t imagine why people would support a system that yields that and yet they do.
Peter McCormack: Yeah I was interviewing Stephan Livera, I can’t remember what he said, but he was like, “democracy is soft socialism.” Does that sound about right?
Erik Voorhees: I haven’t heard that.
Peter McCormack: Yeah. but he’s an Austrian economist. Alright, well we shouldn’t finish without just finding out how things are going. How’s everything here at ShapeShift going? Because you’ve left me with loads to think about regarding libertarianism and I’m going to have to go away and try to wrap my head around this. But how’s everything going here?
Erik Voorhees: Yeah things are good. We had to do this huge pivot from our post-KYC world into the new platform.
Peter McCormack: Another attack on freedom!
Erik Voorhees: Yeah, don’t get me started on that!
Peter McCormack: What was it like when Snowden talked about that?
Erik Voorhees: Oh, that was surreal!
Peter McCormack: Have you ever spoken to him?
Erik Voorhees: No.
Peter McCormack: So that was just random, because I was stood next to you when that happened.
Erik Voorhees: Yeah, it was right after my panel and I was sitting in the back and Snowden gets up there and I was all excited to see him. He’s always been a hero of mine, but I’ve never talked to him. In his first minute he brings up ShapeShift and me personally, he said my name and I was just fangirling out there! It was cool, I think he was using ShapeShift as an example that government will try to impose its coercion through any medium it can.
So any centralized company is going to be somewhat vulnerable to that. Obviously I would’ve rather come up in a different context, but he’s right, we were forced to do that and it sucks and it’s wrong. I think if it can be a story for people to see that, that’s good. So yeah, it was definitely an honor! So his book recently came out and apparently the CIA or DOJ is suing him and trying to get the book stopped.
Peter McCormack: How are they going to do that? He’s in Russia!
Erik Voorhees: I don’t know, but I figured they might try to get Amazon to stop selling it. So as soon as I saw that headline I went on Amazon, I bought 10 copies and I think the Streisand effect is going to be in full force on that one.
Peter McCormack: Did you see his tweet, “Bitcoin solves this” or something? He actually tweeted out Bitcoin in reference to the book.
Erik Voorhees: Yeah, I mean obviously like the government can prevent Amazon from selling the book and VISA from processing transactions, but they can’t stop Bitcoin! It’s an echo of the whole Wikileaks thing that happened back in 2011.
Peter McCormack: If they banned it, it would actually be exciting. It’s too late anyway, the book is out now! What is the point.
Erik Voorhees: All they’ve done is drum up a whole bunch more attention to Snowden. That guy is such a deserved hero for what he did and that he can… He could have just done what he did and then gone into hiding and he would have been a hero.
Peter McCormack: Not everyone thinks that though, patriots don’t.
Erik Voorhees: Well you’ve got to define a patriot. I consider myself a patriot.
Peter McCormack: Statist patriot!
Erik Voorhees: Yeah people who advocate for the government, statists by definition. I consider myself a patriot, I love America, I love the people, I love the culture in some ways and I think what Snowden was incredibly patriotic, a huge risk to himself, to basically show how the US government was violating its own rules.
Peter McCormack: People are calling him a traitor though.
Erik Voorhees: It’s bullshit. He is a traitor to the US government. He should be a hero to the US people and we’ve gotten to a point now where the US government is at odds with the people and is adverse to the people. But this is always the inevitable outcome of centralization of power. The only way it solves itself is when the US government will go bankrupt through a bond market collapse, which will happen in our lifetime, probably relatively soon. I don’t know what will emerge on the other side of it, but no-one’s voting the government to get smaller, so it keeps getting bigger.
Peter McCormack: Anyway, sorry I interrupted that! So anyway, how are things going here?
Erik Voorhees: Yeah, good! ShapeShift, the new platform is basically a way to interact with your crypto in a self-custody way. This has been a personal mission of mine, to move people away from these custodians, all the exchanges and wallets that are holding people’s funds. I think there should be some custodians, but I think too many people use them and so we wanted to build a great UX that people could use and maintain control over their keys.
That’s the whole point of what we’re doing. So we are trying to rebuild after crypto winter and after the whole KYC thing and it’s been a huge struggle. But those who have been using the platform really love it, so the early feedback’s been good and I’m just glad to be building a project that’s part of this crypto movement, because getting back to libertarianism, the whole point of this movement is to help advance liberty in my opinion. So being able to build something toward that end is really fulfilling.
Peter McCormack: Anything out there particularly exciting you?
Erik Voorhees: Particularly exciting me, I think the De-Fi stuff is really cool. I know that the maximalists are hating on it because it’s built on Ethereum. They’d be loving it if it was built on Bitcoin.
Peter McCormack: They’re going to give me shit just having you on again.
Erik Voorhees: Yeah, I know. If I only liked Bitcoin, they’d like me! But I don’t, so they hate me, whatever. The De-Fi stuff’s awesome. It has lots of risks, like it is all alpha and beta software, some of it’s going to blow up spectacularly. There will be some DAO like incidents. Fine, that is pioneering finance when you’re building out on the edge of technologies.
So De-Fi having problems and risks does not mean it’s bad, but the ability of capital markets to form without any central party, where anyone in the world can be lending money to other people in the world and as that capital market forms, that’s going to be completely transformative to the whole world. People shouldn’t dismiss it.
They’re like, “oh, you can make 7% on your DAI deposits right now, that’s cute.” They don’t realize that over time the ability for people with capital to lend it to people without it and without any intermediaries, changes the entire financial system in the same way that Bitcoin changes it from a money perspective. This De-Fi stuff is super powerful and it’s a shame that a lot of the Bitcoiners are just dismissing it because it’s built on Ethereum.
Peter McCormack: Yeah, I’m not going to get into that now, but I tell you what I’m excited about, is I think we’re very close to that whole crossing the chasm now.
Erik Voorhees: We’re getting there!
Peter McCormack: If you look, so Snowden tweeting about Bitcoin in reference to his book, a lot of people are going to see that. We’ve got a premier league football club, Watford, who’ve got the Bitcoin logo on their shirt. We’ve got Russell Okung talking about it.
Erik Voorhees: There is an NBA player saying that he’s trying to tokenize his contract, so that people can invest in his future payouts in a token!
Peter McCormack: We’ve got countries wanting to do their own currencies, which I don’t hugely support, but I am seeing just Bitcoin seems to be just right on the edge of infiltrating pop culture in a big way once it becomes cool and it’s going to become cool.
Erik Voorhees: There hasn’t been anyone in at least a year, whenever they’ve asked like, “oh, what do you do?” And I mention Bitcoin. No one says, “what is that?” We are well past that. Most people, at least in the US, have heard of it, that’s incredible!
Peter McCormack: I was at the Human Rights Foundation Freedom Forum in Oslo and I asked a room, has anyone not heard of Bitcoin? not a single hand went up. I didn’t expect many, but I thought one or two might.
Erik Voorhees: Well there would have been one or two, but they would’ve been embarrassed and that’s telling, because it’s now embarrassing not to know about it. Whereas before it was embarrassing to talk about Bitcoin, now it’s embarrassing if someone doesn’t know about it.
Peter McCormack: Well, I can’t remember the last time I’ve said to somebody, “what do you do?” “I’ve got a Bitcoin podcast.” “Oh what’s Bitcoin?” Everyone’s heard of it. They still throw some of the FUD questions at you, but I feel like we’re there. I feel like we’re just about to cross the chasm.
Erik Voorhees: Bitcoin will keep growing sort of in this oscillating growth path until the next financial crisis and when that happens, it’s going to be crazy. The Blockchains aren’t ready to scale to handle that yet, but that’s okay. There is an alternative now and the amount of attention that alternatives to the fiat financial system will get at the next crisis, if it’s a serious financial crisis, will be immense.
Really I think it’s incumbent on the industry to realize that we’re in a race against time to get things built, so that we’re in the best position possible to act as that lifeboat when things fall apart and that will be when the chasm is crossed.
That will be when people make the habitual shift from what they’re using today in the fiat world to the crypto world and there’s going to be a whole bunch of misery that comes out of that. So I don’t like to glamorize the collapse, but we didn’t cause that collapse, the fiat system did and I think we’re building the solution. So I’m looking forward to helping people after we get rid of that stuff.
Peter McCormack: Well I think it’s pretty exciting! Okay, I think we’re about at our deadline. Do you want to just tell people how to find out more about what you guys are up to and find out more about you?
Erik Voorhees: Yeah, I’m always on Twitter @erikvoorhees and you can try out ShapeShift with a Trezor or KeepKey right now without any account at beta.shapeshift.com. Give it a try, I think you’ll find it’s a really great way to interact and store your crypto and maintain control of your keys. So try it out there and glad to chat!
Peter McCormack: Thanks for coming on again, that’s third appearance, nice one thank you Erik!
Erik Voorhees: Thank you Peter!