Peter McCormack: So you really going to cut your hair off if Bitcoin hits $100,000?
Ragnar Lifthrasir: Oh yeah, absolutely! I’m dedicated. I mean when it hits $100,000 my hair’s the least of my worries.
Peter McCormack: How long have you had your hair long for though?
Ragnar Lifthrasir: Two years I guess. It’s taken about two years to grow it.
Peter McCormack: Well you can see I’m doing it at the moment. This has been seven months now of not cutting it.
Ragnar Lifthrasir: It’s starting to get in that stage where it’s not short or not long.
Peter McCormack: Yeah, so the hard bit is the bit where it just keeps falling down in front of you and it looks terrible. I’m now at the bit where I can tuck it behind my ears, it’s okay. But I can’t tie it up. So if I’m doing sports, it’s all in my face.
Ragnar Lifthrasir: David Beckham styles!
Peter McCormack: Yeah! Well look it’s good to get you on the show. We’ve had a few run ins, haven’t we?
Ragnar Lifthrasir: Once or twice!
Peter McCormack: I think we understand each other now a bit more.
Ragnar Lifthrasir: Yeah, I think so, but that’s Twitter for you.
Peter McCormack: Yeah and also I think you’ve got to meet people in person. You kind of realize everyone’s kind of cool, but I wanted to talk to you specifically because I want to learn more about guns, which is great because they’re a big part of you. One of the things I’ve taken from following you and seeing you on Twitter is that you’re all American! You’re all American and I do remember things and you’ve actually tweeted out about one of my shows once. Do you remember which one?
Ragnar Lifthrasir: I don’t. Jameson?
Peter McCormack: No, Andrew Torba.
Ragnar Lifthrasir: Oh yeah! I like Andrew, I respect him a lot.
Peter McCormack: So I’m kind of getting a picture of, if I want to learn a lot more about American values, culture, the Constitution, guns, because I’ve got some thoughts on guns and I want to learn about it. You’re obviously a great person to get on, so I think we’ll get into some interesting areas here and actually it’s quite timely. There was a shooting yesterday.
Ragnar Lifthrasir: Yeah in West Texas.
Peter McCormack: 7 killed, so it raises the debate again and I threw myself into the conversation previously and I think quite naively. I’ve spoken to other people since then and I’m trying to understand it. I don’t, and I’ll tell you where I’m at is obviously my opinion doesn’t matter, but I could never see in any way how guns could be taken out of America and I understand why. I understand why it’s part of the culture, but at the same time, I would never want it brought in, in my country in the same way.
I don’t think we could handle it. So let’s get into it and I’ve got some questions. Let’s start with, you are more than just a gun owner, you’re more than just a gun shooter. You’re actually in some ways a supporter of guns and the right to own a gun and this goes way into the Constitution. So let’s dig into this. You tell me about this, why it’s an important issue for you.
Ragnar Lifthrasir: Well, guns are important to me for the same reason that Bitcoin is important to me. It’s a matter of self-defence, self-sovereignty, being able to defend myself and not rely on other people. With Bitcoin, obviously you don’t rely on banks, central banks, credit cards, PayPal and guns to me are the same thing. Don’t rely on the police, the military, it’s sort of your last line of insurance.
So just like Bitcoin is sort of insurance against tyrants and you know, the big banks and all the bad stuff they do, guns are insurance against, the police not showing up, hey you actually do get attacked, hey there’s a war the State takes over. So it’s mostly about insurance and thinking of worst case scenario and independence. Both are also fun, Bitcoin’s fun, guns are fun and a lot of people don’t understand the culture of Bitcoin, they don’t understand the culture of guns. So I understand why both are controversial and are hard for some people to understand.
Peter McCormack: And I understand the alignment with them both as well. I’ve shot guns twice now. I just shot a gun out in Vietnam. But the first time I ever shot gun, do you know about this?
Ragnar Lifthrasir: I think I saw you tweeted about it with Jameson Lopp?
Peter McCormack: Yeah, so I’d never shot a gun in my life. It was my third episode, I emailed Jameson. I saw this picture of this dude on Twitter with a big gun with a hat on saying “Make Bitcoin Great Again.” I was like, “who’s this guy!” I was brand new and so I emailed him and said, “look, can I interview you and can you take me to shoot a gun?” And he did. The whole experience taught me a lot more about guns. It made me respect them more, because I didn’t realize how fucking powerful they are. It blew my mind.
But also speaking to the people there, I understood a lot more about the culture. I was chatting to one of the ladies who work there, she’s told me they got 37 guns in their house. The other thing about it was the experience. I’ve always said it was very much like going bowling, because it was a set of lanes and the people there, there was a couple, a husband and wife, there were two buddies there hanging out, there was somebody on their own.
This was just like, you know on a Saturday I’m going to go bowling or on a Saturday, I’m going to go and shoot a gun. So what was your upbringing with it? Is it a part of your family? Did your dad introduce you to guns?
Ragnar Lifthrasir: My history with guns is kind of complicated. I grew up around guns, my dad had a revolver on each nightstand, which looking back was probably not wise. You’re supposed to keep them locked in a case when you have kids around. But we just knew not to touch the guns, we were all afraid of my dad in a way, he was a big guy. So guns were never strange to me, I guess and of course all of our friends and family had guns, but it got complicated. When I was 16, my dad killed himself and he shot himself with one of his revolvers.
Peter McCormack: Okay, wow. Sorry, I didn’t see that coming.
Ragnar Lifthrasir: Yeah, I’ve never shared that publicly, but now that we’re talking about guns and I’m launching Guns N’ Bitcoin, I guess I should probably put it out there so that people understand that I understand the consequences of guns and I understand why people oppose them. I do think a lot about the shooting that just happened in West Texas, I think it was yesterday. So I’m not just some guy spouting off a libertarian idea. I mean this is real shit for me.
Peter McCormack: Wow, so you were 16?
Ragnar Lifthrasir: Yeah, 16.
Peter McCormack: Were you at school?
Ragnar Lifthrasir: This was during the summer, so I was actually surfing and I was walking back up and my mom picked me up. I didn’t have a car yet, I had just turned 16 and so I was walking up and my mom got out the car and said, “your dad is dead. He killed himself.”
Peter McCormack: Fuck! Okay, so obviously I’m not prepared for that. I didn’t know that was coming.
Ragnar Lifthrasir: It’s okay, I’d never shared that before.
Peter McCormack: Okay. I mean we’ll talk about that another time as well, I’ll probably have a beer with you about that. So at that point, did that not turn you against guns at all for a period?
Ragnar Lifthrasir: I kind of didn’t think about it because I was so overwhelmed with the whole event and things that led up to it. But yes, after that I didn’t get involved with guns again until college because my buddies all shot guns.
We’d go out on the weekends and shoot and it was fun, but it kind of caused me to have some nightmares thinking about some things like my dad and I didn’t then own a gun for several years because when I would pick up a gun I would think of him and what happened and just kind of bad visuals came into my head.
But eventually, healed a little bit and worked my way back into it and now I’m obviously very comfortable with guns. I love it, I shoot all the time.
Peter McCormack: Okay, how’s your mom doing?
Ragnar Lifthrasir: She’s fine, the family’s fine. Just like anything, you get tough and move on.
Peter McCormack: Okay, well thank you for sharing that because that’s obviously quite personal. So as an outsider, someone from the UK where we have very strict gun laws, people can own guns, but they have to go through a very difficult and stringent licensing process. They have to have their cabinets checked. It’s very rare for someone to own a gun and you don’t really see them about.
Here in the US, it’s obviously very different because it’s been part of the culture since… You could probably explain to me better. For those who don’t understand it, talk to me about the Constitution and how this is embedded in the Constitution and why this is so important to Americans.
Ragnar Lifthrasir: So it’s perfect that you’re British because I’ve seen a big disconnect between Europeans and Americans obviously. So it’s good that you’re British and we talk about this. Obviously America started because we were armed and we fought off the British.
Peter McCormack: You kicked us out!
Ragnar Lifthrasir: Yeah, and if it wasn’t for the guns and specifically citizens owning guns, we didn’t have the American army. It was just regular citizens having guns, there wouldn’t be America as we know it. We would still be a British colony or just British. We’d be part of the UK. So one reason why guns is so important here is because that’s what created America. If we think America is great, you have to say that one reason why we have what we have.
Peter McCormack: And people often talk about their last line of defense against the tyrannical government and I understand that point, but it feels a little bit outdated. I feel like if you had a tyrannical government, I don’t see how people with guns would be able to stop them because there’s like a different level of weaponry and military these days. Back then, it was guns versus guns and maybe the Brits had some, I don’t know, some cannons or horses.
I don’t know the full history of the war beyond what I’ve seen in Hamilton, but it’s very different now. But at the same time I have seen some of these kinds of groups, these militant groups who in certain areas, have kind of barricaded themselves in. Is that like an example? Is it more like it can be a demonstration or do you fundamentally believe that the people could rise up against a tyrannical government?
Ragnar Lifthrasir: Yeah, that’s a great question. I think that’s probably the first…
Peter McCormack: So militias.
Ragnar Lifthrasir: Yeah I think that argument that, “okay, why do you need guns against the State, because the State is so much more powerful”, it is kind of outdated or maybe somewhat ridiculous. So that’s I think that most common counterargument to the need for guns against the State. Actually the history for thousands of years has been smaller forces against larger forces and smaller forces using asymmetrical advantages against larger States.
So if you look at revolutionary war, Americans were outgunned, they weren’t a formal army and beat back the British. Vietnam, Afghanistan, these are all examples of much smaller forces defending and ultimately winning in a certain way against much larger forces. Iraq too.
Peter McCormack: I was just in Vietnam and we did the tour of the tunnels in South Vietnam and it was incredible. I obviously knew it was kind of a guerrilla army and that they didn’t have much money. I didn’t actually realize what they were doing is they were collecting the bombs that were dropped by the Americans and then reusing the metal to build weapons for their side. It was incredible!
Ragnar Lifthrasir: Yeah, so people just think in terms of weapons. Okay, like the government has missiles and jets and all you have is an AR-15, but Vietnam is a good example, where they were more motivated, they knew the lay of the land more, they were more willing to sacrifice themselves and they were more innovative because they had to be.
So yeah, smaller, poorly armed people can definitely defeat a larger army and especially in the US because we’re just so well trained and there’s way more people with weapons than there are police and military. Also the police and military in the US at least will only go so far.
So it’s actually less likely to have tyranny here, because we’re so well armed. So just a matter of deterrence. I think deterrence is kind of the key word when it comes to the State. For example, a couple of weeks ago, there’s a guy in Philadelphia and he was just running around the city shooting and he had the entire police department after him and he basically held up the entire city. One guy! So you could imagine what 30 guys could do. You could shut down a city with just two snipers.
Peter McCormack: Well yeah, and I’ve also seen with these militias, there is always a reluctance to actually, there’s a reluctance for a shootout. What was the other one? It was to do with a farmland or something?
Ragnar Lifthrasir: Yeah Vegas, I was just going to bring that up. So militias a great point. So obviously the revolutionary war, they were militias and now we still have militias to this day. So what you’re referring to happen outside of Las Vegas, Clive Bundy was his name. So he was a rancher who basically hadn’t been paying, I think it was grazing fees to the Federal government because it was Federal government land that he was leasing and he didn’t believe he needed to pay that, so that’s a different argument.
Anyways, so they were going to basically seize his land and kick him off, but these militias sort of came together from different parts, different States, and they were all well-armed and they basically said, “this is our stand. We are not going to stand for this. So when you send in the federal officers, we’re going to stand up to them.” Fortunately no shots were fired and the federal government eventually left because they were just trying to deter these militias.
Peter McCormack: So that’s a great example really.
Ragnar Lifthrasir: And that was only like two or three years ago and that was called the “Battle of Bunkerville”, even though no shots were fired. That also shows that federal and local law enforcement is actually very hesitant to do that because it’s immoral I think and maybe from PR perspective. They also know these people really are serious, they really will shoot.
Peter McCormack: But I found that an impressive episode. That wouldn’t happen ever in the UK like that, because we don’t have guns. Like I said, I still don’t want them introduced in the same way, because I think it’s too big a change and I think there are cultural differences. How would you feel though, say for whatever reason, say you married a British girl, you wanted to go and live in England.
We obviously have very different rules. Would you have the feeling that you would want the UK to change? Would you have the feeling that you think we should be the same and do you think all people should have this? Do you foresee it more as a human right than an American right?
Ragnar Lifthrasir: Yeah, that’s a very interesting question. If you’re a country that doesn’t have guns, then should they be introduced or why should they not? That’s also a good point you made, America already has guns, so no matter what you think, they’re not going anywhere. So that’s actually the reality. There’s no point in even talking about removing guns, because that’s never going to happen.
For the UK and most of the countries guns aren’t really there, so to answer your question, if I moved to the UK, would I want them to change, absolutely! I would want to be able to defend my life. I think that’s the first right, is being able to defend yourself and especially your wife and your family.
Peter McCormack: I guess that’s more relevant and more likely than a tyrannical government? We have incidents every day of people having homes broken into and being attacked. So I guess that’s a more likely scenario.
Ragnar Lifthrasir: Yeah, so it’s an interesting question. So crime statistically is more likely than the State imposing on you, definitely. But I would say the State being tyrannical is a greater existential threat. So it’s one of the classical cases of statistics versus the gravity of something happening. So crime more likely, but probably less overall threat. The State less likely, but a bigger existential threat.
Peter McCormack: Okay. Let’s talk a little bit about the mass shootings because they’re very emotional when they happen. We had one yesterday, it included a two year old ending up in hospital with glass from the shattering of a window. 7 people, I believe were killed now. We’ve had two other shootings quite recently that were in quick succession. We’ve had Sandy Hook, we’ve had lots of different incidents. Statistically they’re quite rare, but emotionally they trigger. How do you feel whenever you hear of one of these incidents?
Does it ever challenge your own views on guns or weaponry? Because I have heard you talk about the best defense against guns is another gun. But in the scenario yesterday when someone’s being randomly shot at from a car, there’s no time and you’re waiting for the police to come and end this, so it’s a different scenario. How do you process these and does it ever challenge your own thoughts?
Ragnar Lifthrasir: Yeah, these mass shootings are obviously incredibly tragic and I feel for them, having my dad kill himself with a gun. So yes, I’ve had to go through that emotional process because you’re right, it’s actually statistically rare. You’re much more likely to be killed by a bowling ball or something dumb or a car accident. So statistically they’re actually rare. Statistically this isn’t a big increase, it’s just more emotional, so it’s on the media.
How do I think and what I think of those? Yeah, it’s tragic. It affects me emotionally, but I also have to think logically. We have two parts of us, emotional and logical and we need to use both. So just like when my dad died, I spent years trying to process that and figure it out and I thought if there weren’t guns, if we were in the UK and he probably wouldn’t have owned a gun, would he still be alive today? I don’t know. I ask myself that all the time, but the conclusion I came to was, yes it’s terrible, but it doesn’t justify taking away the most fundamental right to defend yourself, even if it sometimes has very terrible consequences.
One comparison, and maybe it’s a bad one, is the internet. So look at all the great things the internet gives us, but people use it for awful things. Primarily I would say the worst is child pornography. Do we want to take away the internet because of these awful things? I think most people would say no. In fact, I think we have said no.
The difference with the internet is that it’s not a human right and you could say you don’t actually kill people with the internet, but you greatly harm people or you can organize terrorism or something. So yes, it’s terrible emotionally, no one wants to be see people killed. But let’s also look at the rational arguments, statistics, math, philosophy of rights and for me it comes out without any doubt that yes, we should still have guns.
Peter McCormack: Do you think there needs to perhaps be a change in the laws? Actually talk me through and explain to me, if I am an American citizen, I want to buy a gun today, I’m under the impression I can pretty much just go into a store and buy a gun, like I can buy can of soda. Is that true or is that a myth?
Ragnar Lifthrasir: That’s a myth. So most gun laws are at the State level and you see a lot of variation. Here in California, it’s the worst State for guns. I mean you have a two week waiting period, extensive background check. Now you have to have to do a background check just to buy ammo, so it varies a lot by State. But yes, in Idaho, Arizona you can go into a store, buy a gun and leave the store with that gun.
Peter McCormack: What ID do you have to show?
Ragnar Lifthrasir: Just a driver’s license.
Peter McCormack: Do you have to be an American citizen?
Ragnar Lifthrasir: Yes.
Peter McCormack: Okay, so I couldn’t just go and buy one?
Peter McCormack: Okay. What do you think is the best balance here in the laws? Because a two week delay sounds to me like a good thing. It sounds to me like if somebody is feeling irrational, crazy, like they want to go and do something stupid, it’s almost a bit of breathing space. It does feel like background checks are important, but also what are they looking for in the background to say you can’t have a gun?
Ragnar Lifthrasir: So for me the right balance is just to stick to the Constitution and what the Second Amendment says, which is these rights shall not be infringed. It’s the only amendment that says that, “shall not be infringed”, it was very explicit. So the right balance is having no infringements. What that means is that you take away that right after crime has been committed, not before.
So just like you don’t have a two week waiting period to use the internet or to be able to publish a book or to exercise any other rights, but that right can be taken away justifiably if there’s a crime committed. So to answer your question, I think you can take away guns. You could have definitely different laws around it, if someone was first found guilty, like maybe they abuse their spouse or any sort of violent crime, absolutely they be taken away. But you can’t take away a right before a crime has been committed.
Peter McCormack: So you don’t believe in the two week wait, but you do believe in punishment post action. What are the things in the background checks they’re looking for? Have you been to prison, is that a reason?
Ragnar Lifthrasir: So the background checks are any violent crime, actually any crime at all and I think any felony will disqualify you. It might depend on the State, but it’s generally criminal background, especially felons, especially violent felonies. But I don’t believe in the two week waiting period. First of all, it’s an infringement straight up. But I once dated a girl who was divorced and her husband had beat her several times.
She ended up in the hospital and she went to buy a gun. Fortunately there wasn’t a two week waiting period in Nevada and her husband came to her house. So what if she was in California, two week waiting period, her husband threatened her, she had to wait two weeks, but he broke into the house and beat her again before that happened?
Peter McCormack: Okay, you make a very good point there. What is the lightest felony that you could have that would prevent you from owning a gun? Are there any kind of like basic crimes you could’ve done?
Ragnar Lifthrasir: I don’t know. It might vary by State. I don’t know if it’s just any felony or it’s a certain violence.
Peter McCormack: Let me tell you the point I’m getting too. I understand if somebody has a history of gun violence, they should probably not have a gun. I understand if somebody has a history of maybe any form of violence, you would not want them to have a gun, but there might be somebody who’s committed a minor crime, but because of that, the background checks doesn’t allow them to have a gun and that feels like that therefore is still infringed upon their rights?
Ragnar Lifthrasir: Yeah, so again, I think it goes back to being consistent with how and when we can justify taking away rights. So yes, I think the crime has to be related to violence or anything that harms someone else. However, it starts to get murky. For example, I know someone who had a felony, but it was really just the cops who had trumped up the charges and basically screwed him over and he couldn’t get a gun for 10 years. So it starts to get into a grey area.
Peter McCormack: So you get into, I guess a disadvantage?
Ragnar Lifthrasir: Yeah and that’s the thing against the State is that once they have one thing against you…
Peter McCormack: We’ll get into the State, because I know you’re going to have some views on that! I’ve got a couple of other areas I wanted to cover though. Again, I understand the guns, what about these high powered crazy ass assault rifles? Do you think there’s no limit to the weapons that you should be able to buy or do you think there becomes a certain limit that the population should be able to buy it? Because with assault rifles, I understand why somebody might enjoy them. They might think that’s a cool gun and they enjoy shooting it.
But the thing that happened in Vegas, the shooting from the Mandalay Bay, that was with a high powered assault rifle. So where do you sit on that and is there an upper limit? Because I’ve heard people put out these crazy things like, I think I even did it just to test the water to say, “well if I should be able to own an assault rifle, can I own a tank?” Where do you put the limit?
Ragnar Lifthrasir: Yeah to me there is no limit, simply because you have a right to defend yourself from criminals or the State, so you should be able to be armed as much as possible. Then again, if you commit a crime, they should be taken away from you. So first about the high powered assault rifles, those are all kind of media words, so assault rifle is somewhat meaningless. Second, they’re not actually that high powered, like your classic AR-15, the round is not that powerful, it’s only a 556. There’s much bigger rounds like the 308.
Peter McCormack: What does that mean?
Ragnar Lifthrasir: So obviously every bullet has a certain size and power basically. So the common bullet in the AR-15 is not that powerful compared to even like hunting rounds. A bigger one would be the 308 and there’s much bigger, more powerful rounds, than what you’d find in AR-15. In fact, if you’re doing like an urban situation, like most of these shootings are with an AR-15 at a school or an office or a city, you actually don’t want a more powerful round for various reasons, such as it’s harder to shoot a more powerful round. So the whole assault rifle, high powered rounds it just has nothing to do with reality and from a tactical point of view. Kind of your second question is what’s the limit? I don’t see any limit because the State doesn’t have a limit on their weapons.
Peter McCormack: I thought you might say that. Okay, so if I want to buy a tank, if I want to put land mines around my house, if I want to buy a guided missile and nuclear bomb, do you see what I mean? It’s not going to happen, but within gun community, you’re obviously going to have a lot of friends who shoot. Do most people kind of align and feel the same or are there kind of factions where they have different views on guns and ownership and licensing? Do you debate this with your friends?
Ragnar Lifthrasir: Well there’s so many Americans that own guns, I can’t remember the figure, but obviously it’s a very large figure. So there’s a large variety of people with different opinions obviously. But I think most feel the same way that I do that it shall not be infringed. Generally I think that’s the dominant view and everyone that I know that I go shooting with, that’s their view as well.
Peter McCormack: So what would you say to people like where I’m from, from the UK or people who are going to be listening to this, who are going to be going, “you’re just a fucking crazy gun nut, this is bullshit, people are getting killed!” How can people educate themselves better? I’m going to throw one in; shooting a gun helped educate me better and going to a gun range, I became more open minded to it. But how do you respond to that? What would you say to people?
Ragnar Lifthrasir: Yeah, it’s a good question, like what if you live in a very safe place like New Zealand, Switzerland, the UK, but not so much lately. Then why do you need a gun if there’s actually little crime and your government is relatively benign, Norway, right? Low crime, pretty benign government. Well again, you could say it’s an insurance policy if things ever do change. This especially is true for Europe, I’m really surprised at the anti-gun sentiment in Europe, when you look at the history of Europe and how many times there’s been wars between countries and then themselves. So if anything the European should be very pro-gun, it’s kind of strange to me
Peter McCormack: It could be a little bit PTSD. It’s interesting the countries you listed there though because you listed New Zealand, that just very recently had a mass shooting and you listed Norway, which had possibly the worst mass shooting that I can think of. We had one in the UK years ago when I was a child in an area called Hungerford in the UK, a guy called Michael Ryan, he went on a rampage with guns and shot I think 15 people. So it has happened, we have Dunblane as well, which sends shivers down my spine.
That was the Scottish school where I can’t remember the guy. So it has happened and people who have wanted to do it, have been able to. We also have a massive knife problem in the UK at the moment. A really, really big knife problem, especially in London and it’s growing now in Birmingham. So we do have issues in these countries, we do have them. I myself would be reluctant to own a gun, but I think if I moved here, which I would love to do, it would be a consideration of mine.
Ragnar Lifthrasir: So this gets into a pretty controversial point, which is, yes, the mass shootings, we’ve already talked about the emotional aspects and statistical things, so we don’t need to talk about that too much, but I think we’re talking now about two things. One is the makeup of the people where you live, demographics change. So if you look at the number one predictor of crime, the number one thing is a fatherless home. A fatherless home is the number one predictor of all crime. So when we start talking about like the knife problem that has popped up or these mass shootings, the mass shootings generally tend to be people who are either mentally ill or if you look at the background, that’s the real issue.
So I think the more important thing is to talk about, the family and fathers and everything like that. That’s actually the core of most of these issues like knife violence, gun violence, everything else. But it’s a more complicated problems, so people don’t want to take that approach. You look at places, peaceful countries, the families are generally better and if you look at countries in the places in the US with terrible crime, families are in a totally bad condition. Brazil, Mexico, Latin America, all these violent countries have poor families.
Peter McCormack: Right, and that’s rarely brought up in the mainstream media. I’ve seen the debates every time there’s a shooting, it becomes this almost binary argument, “we need to change the gun laws.” People aren’t raising that as an issue in the mainstream media.
Ragnar Lifthrasir: Yeah, because it’s kind of boring and it’s a complicated subject and it’s a harder thing to solve. When you look at history, I’d say we have a real plague of mental illness in the country because it wasn’t too long ago where it was very common for everyone to own a gun. You can buy a gun through the mail.
They used to have shooting clubs in high school. With my parents, you’d go to high school and you’d be in the shooting club and you’d bring your rifle and put it in your locker. So guns haven’t changed, the same guns for the last 100, 200, 300 years. What has changed, I think is sort of the breakdown of the family and the lack of mental health resources, especially in the US, we’re really bad at that.
Peter McCormack: The other area of guns, which I’m really intrigued by and fascinated by, is the 3-D printing of guns. The ability therefore for somebody to be able to download something off the internet and print a gun. Now look, it’s not that easy now, but you can see the direction the technology is going. I think I saw a guy on Twitter, I saw him with a gun and his only problem was the last bullet was jamming. He put a round in and he’s got like 20 bullets, I’m not sure if I’m using the right terminology here, but this was a 3-D printed gun.
This seems to be a liberating idea, but also potentially a dangerous idea because it does circumvent any laws. For example, you agree that perhaps people who’ve got a violent past shouldn’t be able to get guns, this would allow them to circumvent that. How do you feel about this area? Because it’s kind of very interesting.
Ragnar Lifthrasir: Yeah I’ve gotten heavily into the 3-D gun printing world. I don’t own a 3-D printer, I don’t own any 3-D printed guns, but I’ve gotten heavily into it and I actually have interviewed several 3-D gun printing guys for my podcast. So I have a pretty good grasp on the technology and the implications. This is a great comparison to Bitcoin because now you’re able to route around the State and 3-D gun printing actually renders null gun control. You basically cannot really have it because you can make it at home, the State doesn’t know you have it, no one really knows you have it. So it changes the debate completely, just like Bitcoin is no longer about permission and registration, at your bank, you have to be registered, now it’s the same thing.
You have this technology that can do some really great things and liberating, but there’s going to be some bad guys now, who previously might’ve been stopped. So it’s a major parallel. Are 3-D printed guns scary? Yes, but the net result I think will be much better and the technology is getting better every day, like I can’t even keep up with what’s going on and I’m involved almost every day in the key based groups and they’re going to be just as good as regular guns eventually, if not better. Actually there’s more innovation now because guys in their garages are constantly innovating and tinkering.
Peter McCormack: Well I look at the cannabis industry. So it’s still illegal in the UK, I think it’s like 47 States in the US where it’s either now legal decriminalized and it’s really professionalized the industry in a different way. Before, if you want to buy weed, you meet a guy in a car park, you’d get a bag of weed, you go home, you smoke it. Now you’ve got unlimited delivery devices, you go to a store and it’s like an Apple store. You’ve got people behind the counter could advise you what you want for whatever reason you want to smoke for. There’s anxiety, whether you want CBD because you’ve got an injury.
I actually ordered online yesterday the packs and three of the cartridges and it was delivered in 20 minutes. This kind of innovation is interesting. I find the 3D gun printing kind of scary. I find it a bit more scary for me in the UK because it circumvents and changes the game in an entirely different way. All right, well listen look, I appreciate you being candid and especially opening up about your father, I didn’t know about that. We’ll probably have a beer and a chat about that sometime. I do want to talk to a bit more about the State and being anti-State. I would definitely have classified myself pre-Bitcoin as a statist, because I didn’t know any other option.
For me it was, we have the State, the State runs our country, I vote every 4/5 years in an election, which party I want and that’s the only way there can be. Bitcoin has obviously changed the game. It opens your mind to these libertarian ideals, opens your mind to actually how bad the State is, how many terrible things they’ve done. But I also find the transition to being anti-State quite difficult. There’re things I struggle with.
Firstly, I struggle with the fact that I think humans naturally organize themselves, they naturally do. I struggle with the idea of no State. I struggle how that will be, and I’ve spoken to different people. I think it’s Francis Pouliot is a minarchist, so he believes in a minimal State. I was chatting to Stephan Livera very recently about the possibility of no State. Where do you fit within this whole picture?
Ragnar Lifthrasir: Well like you said, people organize themselves and there’s always going to be a form of governance. Look at Bitcoin. With Bitcoin there’s no State, it’s not State money, it’s anarchy, but yet there’s a pretty powerful governance. So yeah, I’m definitely an anarchist. I don’t think we’re ever going to have anarchy across the country. I think anarchy occurs in very small communities, couple hundred, maybe a couple thousand.
An interesting example of this are Muslim communities actually in the UK maybe, they actually start to govern themselves. They have their own language, their own stores, their own courts as far as I understand it and to a certain extent some policing, although I’m not as clear about that. But just by being a tight knit community who have ways of repelling outsiders in the State, they’re functionally their own State in a way. So anarchy is just a small State at a smaller level with a different setup and Bitcoin shows that anarchy can work at a certain scale with certain conditions.
The one thing I never hear anyone talking about when it comes to anarchy, is the type of people you need, because the fact is there’s some demographics that can govern themselves better than others. That’s why like in Norway, they don’t have a lot of crime because Norwegians aren’t that dangerous. We’re dangerous in America! So anarchy also depends on the type of people that are going to do it.
Peter McCormack: Okay, one of the things that I’ve also struggled with is being a statist has been used as an insult. If you hold certain opinions at certain point, like you know me, I throw myself into the debates on Twitter because I want to learn and I’ll happily stand on one side of an opinion to see what people say and on the other. It’s really useful for me to learn, to research, to see different opinions and get guests. I’ve been called a statist a number of times and it’s definitely a derogatory term. So then I asked recently, I said “if you vote, are you a statist?”
Ragnar Lifthrasir: Yeah, if you vote, you’re a statist. That’s a little more complicated because on one hand you have to be practical. I would rather have one President be President than someone else be President and that person being President will affect my rights. So it’s always this sort of internal battle of how practical do I want to be, versus if I vote, I’m saying the State is legitimate and so it’s this complicated thing. I don’t vote, I don’t get involved really with politics much at all. I’m focused more on technology. For example, I was always like a one issue voter when I did used to vote and it was always gun rights.
But now with 3-D printed guns, I realize technology is what allows us to go past politics, same with Bitcoin. You no longer need to vote about the federal reserve or monetary policy because of technology, which just gets around all that. So for me with guns, I’ve pretty accepted that we are going to have worse and worse gun control laws because of changing demographics. So I’m just focusing now on 3-D printed guns and less about being politically active.
Peter McCormack: So you just kind of keep out of that now, that’s your issue, that’s what you’re dedicating yourself to and actually I really do see the alignment between guns and Bitcoin. I totally understand. I also see Bitcoin actually, it feels like a very American idea. It really does and I wrote it down here, it just it feels a very American thing. Let’s dig into Bitcoin a bit as well because you’ve obviously been around for a while. I don’t actually know your full background. Are you a 2011 Bitcoiner?
Ragnar Lifthrasir: Yeah 2011 is when I got involved in Bitcoin.
Peter McCormack: So you got involved in 2011. You’ve obviously seen a lot of change in Bitcoin. You’ve been here since pretty much the start, like eight years. Did you always have the conviction we would get to say where we are now, because it’s pretty impressive. Or did you just think it was just like a bit of fun at the time?
Ragnar Lifthrasir: I am surprised at how high the price is. I remember when we broke $1,000 and I was surprised. So the price now, I still can’t believe it. People are complaining, “it’s $10,200, it used to be $11,000, what am I going to do with my life!”
Peter McCormack: Get a fucking grip!
Ragnar Lifthrasir: Yeah, get a grip! I’m just happy it’s over $1,000. So I always knew it was going to stick around in some form. I didn’t think it was ever going to go to zero as people say. But I never knew the adoption or the price just because of the principles and how it’s designed and I’ve kind of dedicated myself to it. It completely changed my life to what I was doing before, but yeah, it has surprised me, especially on the price.
Peter McCormack: Where we are now in coming up to 2020, the price is interesting, I actually don’t check the price very regularly at all anymore. That was a mistake. I don’t check the price. I just still stack my sats as we’re meant to do. But as you followed the growth of the technology and the growth of Bitcoin, what are some of the most important things to you? I’ll throw mine in first. Mine is, I think we need to grow the pie. I think we as a Bitcoin community, I know we’re not meant to say that term, but I think we’re talking to each other a lot. I think we need to grow the pie. That’s where I’m dedicating myself for the future, is like how do we take Bitcoin to more people? What are the things that are most interesting to you at the moment with Bitcoin?
Ragnar Lifthrasir: To me, what interests me the most about Bitcoin has always been the same, I don’t think it’s changed. For me, it’s about being able to transact and not have that transaction be censored, number one and number two, privacy. So partly what got me involved in Bitcoin was I had a small construction business that I had just kind of started and my main form of payment was PayPal, because there was too much in cash, you know $10,000 at a time in cash didn’t work. I definitely wasn’t going to accept checks at those amounts, so PayPal was it. One day they closed my account, didn’t tell me why.
For me to find out I had to get a subpoena or basically a court order and that really did some damage to my business. So it’s always been being able to, again, kind of insurance, being able to transact, first of all, and second privacy. That’s my one big concern about Bitcoin is the lack of privacy. So my focus is more on privacy and I’ve talked about this on Twitter, especially lately about trying to get more local trading going on with people that you know, because everyone buys their Bitcoin on exchanges, 99% and that’s a huge, huge problem. The biggest threat and weakness in Bitcoin is that we’re all too lazy to give up that convenience.
Peter McCormack: So you believe there should be more person to person cash transactions? How do we organize that though?
Ragnar Lifthrasir: That’s how it started. So what I proposed on Twitter a couple of weeks ago is Meetup groups, they should set some time apart to just do some trades, $10, $20 people at the Meetup group and then events like conferences today, it would be great if they had set some time apart or a room where people can do that. Same with the Meetup groups, just making some friends, just getting to know people, people you start to trust.
I mean when I got into it, that’s how I bought Bitcoin for a long time, that was sort of the only way through LocalBitcoins and to this day, I do what I can. So to answer your question, how do you do that? Local Meetup groups, conferences, gain some trust with people and then you can transact across country, like you and I can buy some Bitcoins from you when you go back to to Europe.
Peter McCormack: Okay, so that’s the getting past the kind of onboarding/off-boarding, the bit where we can be tracked and then be traced. What about privacy built into the protocol? How do you feel about that at the moment? So I had a play with Wasabi wallet and I found it very confusing and CoinJoin and I just got lost in all that. Do you believe that we or the devs should be focusing on building on chain privacy or do you think that’s too risky?
Ragnar Lifthrasir: With Bitcoin it’s so hard to change the protocol. So I don’t think it’s realistic, at least at the base layer to do big changes in privacy, although that is coming with different technologies. In terms of relying on CoinJoin, Wasabi, even Samurai, all those techniques are pretty much hard to use realistically. So that solution, different wallets are always going to be limited to a very, very small number of pretty advanced users. So I don’t think that’s a great solution, although it’s very important, because I use it, but it’s not a big solution.
So that’s why I’m focusing on more person to person, OTC type of transactions because it doesn’t rely on technology, doesn’t rely on a lot of skill, it’s just like if I were to buy your bike from Craigslist, like you and I both know how to do that. Same with Bitcoin, it’s a very simple, elegant solution and it worked for a number of years.
Peter McCormack: Okay, how do you feel about Lightning and what’s your exposure to Lightning so far?
Ragnar Lifthrasir: I’m just not getting into Lightning. To me it’s very tedious and high risk. We just added it on the Guns N’ Bitcoin store. It wasn’t that easy to set up, so to me it’s still very experimental and I’m not that enthusiastic about it, just because I’m like the grumpy old man in Bitcoin. I’m a very like fundamental user but I definitely think it’s going to bring in new people like you were talking about.
Peter McCormack: Yeah, so I have mixed views on Lightning as well. I allow people to buy a subscription to the podcast without that ads and three people have paid with Lightning and the speed is brilliant. Seeing that speed is utterly brilliant. But at the same time I find it at the moment, too difficult to use. I almost feel like you’re having to learn Bitcoin again.
For me it’s not close enough to the experience of using the base chain and that’s something I struggled with because you know, even just the creating of an invoice, I had to create an invoice for somebody and then the invoice timed out. I much prefer a situation where they could just, “here’s an address, just send it to the address” that we have with Bitcoin. So the experiences are too different for me at the moment. But I also get nervous about being critical about Lightning because it’s like…
Ragnar Lifthrasir: Yeah, well being critical about anything in Bitcoin is tough. I’m the same and I think why people are so excited about Lightning is two things. Number one, it’s a new way to make money. You can build a business around it, you can build a reputation around it and the second reason is because it’s pretty high tech and people love new things and it’s very innovative. For me, where I am is I’m just trying to learn about it. We have it at Guns N’ Bitcoin. I had a bunch of people give me a hard time because we didn’t accept it and once we implemented it, no one has bought anything with Lightning. So that’s just how it is!
Peter McCormack: It sounds like the Roger Ver world where he pesters people to accept Bitcoin Cash and nobody uses it.
Ragnar Lifthrasir: And no one uses it yeah! So it’s a good development of Bitcoin, but I’m not too heavy into it.
Peter McCormack: Well listen, we’re here at Bitcoin Is, which is going to be a cool event. I’ve got two last things I want to cover with you. One of them is slightly controversial because it’s based on followers and tweets you sent previously. Bitcoin is very male dominated, it’s a very male dominated industry. I would say probably 90% of my guests have been male. There are some great females in here. There’s sometimes a push to try and improve diversity in Bitcoin events and a push to have, say more females given a platform. But you’re not 100% keen on this, are you?
Ragnar Lifthrasir: I’m not.
Peter McCormack: Do you mind talking about it?
Ragnar Lifthrasir: Absolutely, it’s actually one of my favorite topics!
Peter McCormack: Okay great, because I did want to talk to you about this, because as a podcast I interact with everyone. I try and speak to every person possible and I want to get everybody included. I’ve had a long chat with a few different females in this space about their experience. I don’t want to draw attention to it too much, but I’m interested in your opinion because I think diversity is a good thing. But I’m not always keen on diversity, which causes reverse discrimination as well, I’m aware of that point. But at the same time I am supportive of people who are trying to bring different cultures, people, races, genders into Bitcoin because you may bring in different use cases. But I know you’ve got an issue here.
Ragnar Lifthrasir: Yeah, I’m not afraid to speak my mind on this. What’s fun about talking about this is there’s a lot of subtleties actually to it and there’s a lot of contradictions to people who push it. So my view is this, you treat everyone equally, there’s no special treatment and what the goal should be is equal opportunity. That’s it. So when we talk about women in Bitcoin, women in Blockchain, we want to make sure that they’re given the same opportunities that we don’t… Some women just aren’t taken seriously by men, that’s just the way it is and that’s not right. Just because you talk to them, doesn’t mean they’re not technically proficient.
So I think comes down to several things. First, you treat people equally, you have to be aware how women are sometimes looked down upon and that’s not cool, that’s not good. At the same time, there’s no justification to say why there should be more women or less women in Bitcoin or Blockchain. It’s condescending in a way to say there should be more women in Bitcoin or Blockchain, because most women simply aren’t interested in it. So that’s one thing.
The second thing is the basic diversity thing doesn’t make sense to me. There’s no justification for that except for diversity of ideas and experiences, I believe in that. But people pushing diversity often are hypocrites, because they say, “treat people as individuals, don’t look at race, don’t look at gender”, but turn right around and say, “let’s get people in based on their gender, based on their race.” So you need to pick a lane. Either you treat people as individuals and not as a race or gender or you say everyone treat them as a race or gender,
Peter McCormack: But do you not feel that perhaps, and if there’s any females listening to this and I’m being condescending, I apologize in advance, but do you not feel like male dominated environments could potentially be intimidating? Potentially for some women they find it intimidating, there are naturally biological differences and therefore they might just veer away from wanting to have an opinion or having a strong opinion and that some attempts to just have some maybe, say more female dominated events.
We’ve got Crypto Springs coming up that is basically organized by a bunch of the best women in Bitcoin, bringing a bunch of people together and just empowering women to then maybe feel a bit more confident to be involved in Bitcoin. Again, I apologize if I sound condescending here because I don’t mean to be.
Ragnar Lifthrasir: No, that’s the reality, which is that women are intimidated because this is male dominated, we tend to be more aggressive and louder. I mean look at me and people like me, we’re definitely not like always soft and tender. So that is a reality and that does repel women. But this gets back to a good point, which is we actually do have to treat men and women differently.
We do have to be nicer to women if we want them involved in Bitcoin. So that’s admitting that men and women are different. Once you can admit that, then there’s consequences and there’s other implications that people want to then avoid about that reality that men and women are different.
Peter McCormack: Yeah, I mean it’s a murky area as well because I’ve recently been looking into the whole area of trans-females involved in female sports and the biological differences. There was a MMA fighter who ended up breaking the skull of another woman. There’s a cricket player now who is setting records way above. There was a Aussie rules player who ended up breaking someone’s leg, because there’s clear biological differences.
So we do start to get into murky areas, starting to talk about biological differences and sometimes I want to talk about this stuff and then I feel like even by talking about it, if I get one word wrong or say something wrong, someone’s going to be pissed off. I’ve gone on a tangent here, but taking it back, do you therefore have a problem with events that seem to be more directed towards women? What is the harm?
Ragnar Lifthrasir: Yeah, what I see is the hypocrisy and that’s what really bothers me. I really support women putting on all women events. I really support women saying, “hey, this happened a couple of weeks ago.” I won’t get back into it, but basically a well known female VC said, “hey, I’m looking for an intern and it’s all been guys, yuck!” I think is what she said. I fully support her only wanting a female intern. The problem is that it’s a double standard.
As a man, you can’t say, “I’m Peter, I’m looking for a male intern for my show.” So again, we have to be consistent. If you want to say, you can favor certain genders or give a hand to certain genders or have a certain event focused on a gender or race or whatever, I think it’s fine as long as that’s applied equally and it’s not. It’s only a one way street with special treatment and that’s what’s hard. Women need to be treated differently I think.
Peter McCormack: Do you think it’s perhaps happening because if you look historically, if you go back hundreds of years, society was dominated by men, there was a time where women couldn’t vote. So do you think there’s a historical thing here whereby women that have maybe started on the back foot, they’ve had a disadvantage and we’re not at a point where everything is equal or do you think we are equal now?
Ragnar Lifthrasir: I don’t think we’re equal. I think the pendulum has swung the other direction. I think men are at a big disadvantage. There’s no special anything for men where it’s… Like breast cancer raises a ton of money. Where is prostate cancer compared to that? It’s nowhere near that. So I think women actually have way more advantages, at least in the West. So it’s gone the other way. Male privilege is a joke. At least a societal government level, absolutely not.
So it’s gone way too far, so no, I don’t think women need more privileges. I think they have way more privileges than men and I think that’s very easy to prove. But look, I’m married, I have a wife, I have a sister, my non-profit, the only two Presidents I had were both women and I didn’t pick them because they’re women. It’s just that they were bad ass and they were the best!
Peter McCormack: Okay, I’m glad you answered that. I’ve got no idea how people are going to react to that. I’ve never approached gender before and I’ve been reluctant to, but I did want to bring that up because I know you were vocal about Crypto Springs. I’m attending that event, I know the people putting that on and you took issue with that event.
Ragnar Lifthrasir: Yeah and some of that was my misunderstanding. So they have an application process and I’m so suspicious of any application process, especially for Bitcoin. We’re supposed to have transparency and welcome everyone and the people behind the event have always preached about diversity and inclusion yet, who are they excluding and why? I talked to Elizabeth Stark about it and it was just kind of a misunderstanding. But in terms of Crypto Springs…
Peter McCormack: Are you coming?
Ragnar Lifthrasir: No, because I think it looks like a great event and there’s some great women running it and I think it’s wonderful for women. What I don’t want to see though is hypocrisy. I don’t want to see the people putting on this event going back and saying that men can’t have other male preferred events. So again, I think the point is that this issue is very complicated, but what isn’t is just consistency and a lack of hypocrisy.
Peter McCormack: But that happens and that happens at a race level as well. So for example, in the UK we have an awards ceremony called Music of Black Origin. I do feel like perhaps cultures, races, genders that have historically been discriminated against, have been empowered to maybe create events or awards or ceremonies that actually empower them. So I personally have never found that a problem. I don’t feel like me, even as a white male, I’m discriminated against. I feel like I’ve got every opportunity I need in life.
Ragnar Lifthrasir: That again goes back to being consistent and not being hypocritical. So I absolutely support whatever events like black music or you have Latin scholarships for Mexican Americans or something. I support anything where people support their own group, whether it’s Jewish Christianity, white, black, anything.
The fact is we’re tribal, tribes take care of themselves, I support that. We have a cable channel in the US called, I think it’s BTV, black TV, it’s awesome, people love it. The problem again comes back to hypocrisy. So if you want genders and races to be able to have their own thing, you have to apply that to everyone and that includes Christians, whites, men.
Peter McCormack: Okay. Well listen, thank you for being candid, I’m conscious of time. Let’s round up by talking a bit about Guns N’ Bitcoin. Tell me what it is you’re working on. Tell people who are going to listen to this, what you’re working on. How they find out more, it’s obviously very interesting.
Ragnar Lifthrasir: Yeah, so Guns N’ Bitcoin is my company that I started last year, more focused on bringing Bitcoin to gun owners and guns to Bitcoin owners, growing the pie!
Peter McCormack: Let me ask you something there, sorry to interrupt you. So you’re obviously talking to a lot of gun owners and introducing them to Bitcoin. Do they naturally just get it more than people outside of the gun world? Is it a natural fit or do you still have the same difficulty in explaining it?
Ragnar Lifthrasir: It’s interesting with the gun owners. So a lot of them aren’t that technical, because guns are quite different than technology, which is pretty nerdy. So gun owners are two things, either they’re not as technically adept, so they don’t get Bitcoin or they get it really fast because it’s a freedom thing, it’s against the State, all that kind of stuff. So kind of bipolar.
Peter McCormack: Anyway, finish up, sorry!
Ragnar Lifthrasir: Yeah, so obviously gun owners have recently faced a lot of censorship, especially financial censorship. They get kicked off of Shopify, YouTube, their channel gets demonetized, all sorts of things, Patreon. So part of Bitcoin is to help them be able to still make a living by accepting Bitcoin. So I’m really focused on kind of a censorship and self-independence for gun owners and especially gun businesses.
Peter McCormack: You’ve got a podcast coming?
Ragnar Lifthrasir: Yeah, launching hopefully this week if darn iTunes will accept us, but we’re going to launch it either way this week and we talk to everyone. We talk to 3-D gun printing guys, we talked to some women in Bitcoin who are pretty hardcore, we talked to some Bitcoin experts like Pavlenex from BTC pay servers. So it’s going to be pretty broad, but generally kind of edgier things.
Peter McCormack: When you say we, who’s involved?
Ragnar Lifthrasir: My co-host and co-founder Chanel Li.
Peter McCormack: So there’s two of you presenting. How are you finding the recording of interviews?
Ragnar Lifthrasir: Very tough. I respect you a lot more because I realize how hard it is to be a podcaster, especially post-production! But my co-founder Chanel, she’s awesome. Again, going back to the women thing, how many people have a female co-host and co-founder? But only because she’s awesome, not because I’m trying to do her a favor!
Peter McCormack: I think people were… You know I get a lot of shit and some of it very deserved. But I think people underestimate how hard it is to make a podcast, I think they think it’s just turn up, you switch it on. They don’t understand the trying to craft an interview, trying to get the right amount of content, do the production and get it live. It is harder than people actually imagine.
Ragnar Lifthrasir: Yeah I respect you a lot more than other podcasters. It’s hard work, but you get to talk to some really smart, great people.
Peter McCormack: It’s great, it’s the best job I’ve ever had! Well listen, thanks for coming on. Like I said, we’ve had our bounces back and forth, we blocked each other a couple of times, but I think we’re friends now. We should have done this sooner and yeah, in a few months I think we should do it again! There’s a whole bunch of other subjects I’d love to get into with you.
Ragnar Lifthrasir: Yeah I’d love to come back, so thanks for having me.