S9 E6: Ben Arc on Anarchism’s Left-Wing Origins

Ben Arc is one of the very few bitcoiners who openly adhere to the left-wing socialist ideology. In a space that’s dominated by minarchists, anarcho-capitalists and libertarians, he dares to be different.

However, as soon as you start listening to him you’re going to have to redefine all of the terms related to socialism and what it entails. Because, in spite of the contemporary tendency of left-wing parties to advocate for more government intervention in all aspects of life, Ben Arc takes his political leanings to the very roots of anarchism. He’s all for decentralization and the dismantling of big inefficient governments – but instead of cheering for corporations and a world of self-interested private ownership, Ben Arc advocates for cooperatives as a way of enabling public access to goods and services.

The ideas of Ben Arc are anarchistic in the most classical sense: he cites from Pierre-Joseph Proudhon and goes through the meaning of popular slogans such as “property is theft” and “no gods, no masters”. He also explains the ways in which he tried to put his ideas into practice, while praising the open-mindedness and inclusiveness of the Bitcoin community: admittedly, the other prolific contributor to the LNBits project believes that socialism is a disease and takes pride in his anarcho-capitalist ideas.

Ultimately, our philosophical inquiry is living proof that the words that we use to describe political ideologies are meaningless in the absence of proper context and description. Anarchism doesn’t refer to the absence of rules, but to a system of no rulers and same-level cooperation. Socialism isn’t about creating an Orwellian state, but should aim for more voluntary cooperation between individuals and more sharing.

Throughout this 140-minute interview, we also talk about LNBits, Bitcoin banks, El Salvador and the issue of bitcoin adoption from above. It’s a natural continuation of the conversation I’ve started with Ben in May 2021, after he launched the Bowser hardware wallet and he shared some strong opinions about being a hobbyist who develops free open source software. Only that this time it gets more ideological and more contrarian – you won’t hear us agreeing too many times, which ultimately is helpful in the Bitcoin podcasting space. We need more real debates.

Listen to Ben Arc on Apple Podcasts and Spotify!

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If you want to opt out from big tech and listen to the episode with Ben Arc in a way that doesn’t track you and is friendly with your privacy, you can use my free player. Open the episode in Tor browser and you will be able to get this kind of revolutionary information even if you live in an authoritarian government which bans Bitcoin. Not only that, but you also get a free download button so you can enjoy the interview on an offline device while hiking or doing some other outdoors activities.

Last but not least, you also have the podcasting 2.0 option on platforms such as Podcastindex, Breez wallet, and Sphinx chat. They offer the kind of experience which allows you to boost content and also send me Lightning tips for my work. So if you’re into that, here are more details on how to listen while following the principles of value for value.

This episode is sponsored by Vaultoro & Wasabi Wallet

Joshua from Vaultoro is a big fan of the show and I’m happy that he sees potential in my work and supports it without caring about numbers and growth statistics. So I must thank him for his generosity and invite you to check out Vaultoro – the exchange where you can trade with honest money (bitcoin, gold, and silver). 

None of this is financial advice from me, but I’m pretty sure that the shiny rock is a better store of value than any fiat currency or “stablecoin”, so maybe it would be wise to use this commodity to preserve your purchasing power during bear markets and get back into bitcoin as soon as you’re convinced that the downwards movement are over. You can also have the gold bars delivered to your house… because you know, if it’s not in your safe then it’s stored somewhere in Switzerland where you can’t touch it whenever you please. For more information, check out Vaultoro’s website.

Also, Joshua from Vaultoro is sponsoring a Lightning Network faucet – he hopes that Bitcoin’s second layer will one day become potent and popular enough to replace the smart contract and tokenization features of Ethereum. And he also supported Giacomo Zucco’s layer 3 RGB Spectrum experimentation from 2019. So if you’d like to get 10 bits/100 sats on the Lightning Network, you’re gonna have to listen to the latest Bitcoin Takeover Radio broadcast and be the first to figure out the secret.

And if you would like to increase your network-level and transaction privacy, you should download Wasabi Wallet on your computer. It routes your connection through the Tor network to hide your IP, it downloads block filters so you validate your own transactions locally without appealing to a trusted third party, and it also connects to your own full node to boost your financial sovereignty. Extra features include advanced hardware wallet integrations, easy UTXO management, address reuse prevention, and even a lurker wife mode.

Wasabi is best known for its link-breaking CoinJoins, which are giving a hard time even to the EuroPol. Use the wallet to increase your financial sovereignty, but don’t do any illegal stuff – use your financial sovereignty with responsibility (also read the Wasabi terms of service).

Time stamps:

01:41 – Introduction

03:56 – Nostr social network & Schnorr signatures

05:52 – The left-wing origins of anarchism and libertarianism

07:56 – The limits of liberty and property

08:55 – Ayn Rand, Milton Friedman, and libertarianism 

12:35 – From corporations to DAOs or cooperatives

17:30 – Socialism, state control, and the means of production

19:36 – The NHS was originally an anarchist society

21:30 – Free markets and successful cooperatives

22:30 – Cooperatives and self-interest

26:10 – How would cooperatives work differently from publicly-traded companies?

31:59 – What is anarchism today?

37:55 – First principles (don’t kill, don’t steal)

40:40 – Free markets and making cooperatives work (Wikipedia, Linux)

44:20 – Production automation and human employment

45:00 – Keynes’ buffering approach

46:46 – The criticism of anarcho-capitalism 

47:40 – Bitcoin’s role in changing the way in which we produce

49:30 – East India company vs 2008’s big bank bailout 

50:35 – When is state intervention and monopoly desirable? 

52:00 – When states become unnecessary

55:40 – Big government becomes corrupt

59:35 – A voluntaryist post-taxation society

1:04:11 – Taxes and alienation

1:08:40 – Anarcho syndicalism in Northern Syria

1:10:36 – Opting out from politics with Bitcoin

1:14:56 – Anarchism is democracy from the ground up

1:20:00 – Self-interest, rationality and human behavior

1:22:00 – Bitcoin being used as legal tender in El Salvador

1:35:30 – Bottom-up bitcoin adoption and the history of El Salvador 

1:45:00 – The apolitical nature of Bitcoin is the ultimate feature

1:48:00 – State-funded universities and their merits in development

1:50:05 – There’s not enough people building tools for Bitcoin

1:51:30 – People with polar opposite political views working on Bitcoin without caring about their differences

1:55:55 – Bitcoin banks

1:57:01 – What kept Ben Arc going as a Bitcoin hobbyist and developer? Why didn’t he branch out into Ethereum or another project which has more left-wing supporters?

02:01:59 – Why Ethereum 2.0 sucks

02:06:40 – Drivechains (BIP 300) and Hivemind

02:09:45 – Bitcoin conferences in Europe vs the USA

02:10:14 – Floyd Mayweather and his NFTs

02:11:30 – Hacking spaces at conferences

02:13:40 – Germany has the highest amount of Bitcoin nodes per capita

02:16:00 – Coding for LNBits

02:18:20 – Follow Ben Arc at @arcbtc on Twitter and GitHub

Vlad Costea

I'm here for the freedom, censorship-resistance, and unconfiscatability. What about you?

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