Collectivism v Individualism with Robert Breedlove
“What the fuck is society? Is it this group of people? Is it that group of people? It’s a useful fiction – we’re describing a group of people with a fictional term, like society, or collectivist, or communist, or whatever the term is, and you don’t know who’s included and excluded from that group so you can never have clarity of conversation; whereas if you focus on the individual, that’s very clear where the individual starts and ends. ”
— Robert Breedlove
Robert Breedlove is a philosopher within the Bitcoin space. In this interview, we discuss useful fictions used for collective organisation, slavery as the violation of property rights, Bitcoin changing the logic of violence, and the reality of an anarcho-capitalist world.
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Cooperation across large groups is the basis for the rise and evolution of human civilisation. As the historian Yuval Noah Harari espouses, such cooperation has been enabled through the exploitation of useful fictions (i.e. religion, national identities) by elites throughout time. The rights of the individual were crushed under the weight of the demands and cohesiveness of the group.
A rebalancing of power between collectives and the individual occurred during the enlightenment. It began with the development of a theory of natural rights, where individuals were determined to deserve access to “life, liberty, and estate (property)”. The French and American revolutions in the 18th Century were premised on this belief.
A modern theory of universal human rights has developed since WW2. And yet, many feel we still have a long way to go before we achieve true liberty for the individual. Even the most open democratic societies work under an implicit social contract, where certain rights are foregone in exchange for political order. Coercion and control are less explicit, but still apparent.
So, what is the extent of the libertarian ideal? Is it an anarcho (i.e. without a leader) capitalist state? Or, is a hierarchy of power a necessary evil to thwart the chaos of natural law, which Hobbes stated would result in human life being “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short”? The problem has been that states throughout history have tended to extend their control.
Maybe the question isn’t a binary choice between an inevitable creep of state control over anarchy, but a balance that aims to achieve the benefits of both approaches. In such a situation individuals would need the power to ‘dethrone’ the ruler(s) without resorting to violence. Does Bitcoin enable such a balance?
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