The following is a conversation between me and Michael Malus.
Michael is an author, anarchist, and simpleton, and I’m proud to call him my friend.
He makes me smile, he makes me think, and he makes me wonder why I sound so sleepy all
And now, enjoy this conversation with Michael Malus in the Tupagalovi language that I’m
increasingly certain I’ll never quite able to get the hang of.
So Animal Farm by George Orwell is one of my favorite books.
It’s an allegory about, at least I think, about the Soviet Union and the Russian Revolution
So for people who haven’t read it, it’s animals overthrow the humans and then slowly become
as bad or worse than the humans.
So comrade, if we lived on this farm, in the book Animal Farm, which animal would you most
Would it be the pigs, the horses, the donkey Benjamin, the raven Moses, the humans, Mr.
and Mrs. Jones, the dogs, or the sheep?
I’m gonna go with the Milton answer, which is it’s better to rule in hell than serve
in heaven, right?
It’s better to rule in hell than serve in heaven.
Yeah, so I would have to go with the pigs.
So I guess I’d be a cop.
At the very top.
So the leader, the main pig, Napoleon versus like the others.
I would say it’s not, it’s sure it’s an allegory about the Russian Revolution, but I think
Orwell’s point was this is broader towards most totalitarian dictatorships.
I mean, it could very easily be read as an indictment of Mussolini or Hitler, or many
of these others.
I’m a huge George Orwell fan.
One of the things that I think people on the right need to appreciate is the courage of
many of these undisputably left wing voices who were the strongest ones to take on totalitarian
And the three I could think of top of my head who are all in my top 10 heroes of all time
are Emma Goldman, Albert Camus, and Orwell being the third.
Something that leftists like to throw in the face of people on the right who constantly
invoke Orwell is that Orwell said, and I don’t have the exact quote off the top of my head,
but something to the effect of every word I have written should be taken as a defense
of democratic socialism against totalitarianism.
So people like Truman was obviously very hardcore, in many ways anti communist.
We like to parse things out, you’re going to laugh, into binary fashions that left good,
right bad, or right good, left bad.
But historically speaking, it would just not fall away into these camps as easily as people
And I think it is important for those of us, it takes a lot more courage to fight the right
from the right or to fight the left from the left, because in a sense, a lot of your countrymen
or your fellow travelers are going to regard you as a traitor to the cause.
So every chance I get, I will sing the praises of these three figures, among others, who
not all even if they hadn’t done what they had done, just lived just amazing lives that
all of us can learn from and admire and regard as somewhat a role model.
what was the nature of their opposition to totalitarianism?
Is it basically freedom, the value of freedom?
Let’s go through the three of them.
So Emma Goldman, she was an early anarchist figure, you know, we’ll talk about her later,
I’m sure she got deported from the United States with her partner in crime, Alexander
Birkman, literal crime, he tried to assassinate Frick, who was Andrew Carnegie’s main man
in the Pittsburgh steel mill strike.
She got deported to the Soviet Union.
And they’re like, oh, you want socialism?
Because at the time, the anarchists were regarded as socialist, you know, go choke on it.
And she’s there.
And she was watching in great horror what was going on.
And she actually went to Lenin’s office and she goes, this isn’t what we’re about.
The revolution is about the individual and free speech and everyone working together
to further society.
And he told her that, you know, you know, free speech is a bourgeois contrivance.
And regardless, you can’t have these circumstances in the midst of a revolution.
And when she left the Soviet Union, and you know, she went to Britain.
And at the time, before the 1917, there was a lot of discussion among socialist circles
about what would the revolution look like, right?
Would there be the Bakunin anarchist model?
Would there be the Marxist model?
Obviously, the Bolsheviks ended up winning.
But even then, it wasn’t obvious because there was the Bolsheviks and the Mensheviks.
And what people, you know, you and I know what those words mean.
But Bolsheviks were kind of funny because Bolsheviks means bigger and Mensheviks means
The Mensheviks had the numbers.
It was sarcastic that they were called Mensheviks and the Bolsheviks were called Bolsheviks.
And Lenin, you know, destroyed all his foes in a very merciless way, obviously.
Beforehand, you know, there was the idea like, okay, with all these cockamamie ideas, we
have to work together.
You know, we don’t know what’s going to look like for the cause.
Then as soon as he sees power, he’s like, yeah, yeah, we’re not doing that kind of pluralism
This is going to be the right approach.
So she left the Soviet Union, as did Berkman.
She wrote a book that they titled, My Disillusion with Russia.
And I remember this one anecdote, which I’m going to discuss in the forthcoming book,
where she goes to Britain and the British were very red at the time, they really had
something called the Fabian Society, which was the predecessor to the British Labour
Party, which were like, all right, we’re going to get rid of liberalism and have a socialist
kind of nation.
And she gave talks, and there was this one time where she gave a talk and she started,
and there was a standing ovation, by the time she was done, you could hear a pin drop, because
she dared to look at these people in the face, something they’d been fighting for all their
lives and saying, you know, we’ve been to the future and it works.
And she’s like, guys, this is worse than the czar.
You know, people are under house arrest, you’re not allowed to have, you know, newspapers
are being shut down if they have heretical views, so on and so forth.
And you know, she was just even more of a pariah than she had been previously.
So she is, you know, deserves huge accolades in that regard.
I brought her up and we were talking about with our conversation with Yaron Orwell, I
think you don’t need me to explain what he has done and continues to do to use fiction
to demonstrate the horrors of a totalitarian state.
And Camus, who might be my all time great lighthouse, so to speak, in terms of being
a man of conscience, you know, he joined the Communist Party and for a lot of people in
the States, you hear, oh, you joined the Communist Party, so I need to hear, it’s all you need
to, he was a communist, all you need to know.
He joined the Communist Party because they were the main ones fighting the fascists in
France and other locations.
And he took Nazism, as did many others, of course, very, very, very seriously.
He wasn’t some committed communist, but this was just his mechanism to take on, you know,
be part of the underground in Vichy France, and so on and so forth.
So he had the quote, which is ascribed to him, which is kind of a misquote, Howard Zinn
is the one who actually said it, that it is a job of thinking people not to be on the
side of the executioners.
And he very much felt, if you read his speech when he won the Nobel Prize, I forget, in
the 50s, where he goes, it’s basically the job of writers to keep civilization from destroying
I don’t think I’m ever going to be a man on the level of Camus and what he’s accomplished,
but I think that vision of it is the job of writers to be the conscience and to point
out, you know, this is the leftism at its best when, you know, giving voice to the voiceless,
when you have the machine of the state crushing and marginalizing people, and they might not
be educated, literate, or have any power at all.
He’s the guy who’s like, you are ruining humans, these humans matter, and I’m not going to
let you look the other way and act like you don’t know what you’re doing.
So in this time, whether we look at the time of fascism, or we look at the fictional Animal
Farm, what’s the heroic action then?
So Camus joined the Communist Party, there’s a bunch of different heroic actions, some
more heroic than others, not just for the, you know, hero is the wrong word, in terms
of like effectiveness, what’s the effective action, I guess is what I want to ask.
As a writer, as a thinker, as somebody with a mind, what’s the heroic action?
That’s a tricky question, because a lot of times in the West, heroism is regardless intertwined
with martyrdom, right?
So it’s kind of this idea of like, you have to speak to, you know, Camus always talked
about justice, let justice be done though the heavens fall.
This is a common kind of motto among people with conscience, and that you have to do the
right thing, even the consequences might not be what you like.
And I think that is a good loose definition of heroism.
So if you meet, I’ll give you one example of heroism.
This was on Twitter, and I really feel bad that I don’t remember the guy’s name.
This was the line to Auschwitz, I believe it was, and you know, there’s the Nazi guards
keeping everyone along.
And if you were certain, I think if you were under 12, they killed you or something, there
was some age limit where some kids were killed or some were not, there was some circumstances.
And he asked the mom how old this kid was, and she’s like, he’s 14, and she’s like,
no, he’s 12.
And she’s like, no, he’s 14.
She goes, he’s 12.
And she realized what this Nazi was telling her even in that circumstance, and it ended
up saving the kid’s life.
So I think heroism in this context is defiance and standing true to values of liberalism,
humanism and venerating the sanctity of human life.
I think that, and I think it’s also important to pick your battles.
I don’t think if, you know, he got, that Nazi over there got in a bullhorn and said, hey,
this is the rules, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah, that’s not going to help anyone do anything.
So I do think, you know, people a lot of times attack me for my anarchist views, like, oh,
you know, would you call the police?
Would you use the roads?
Would you pay your income taxes?
You know, I got in an argument with Tim Pool, because there was that couple, I think it
was at Missouri or Illinois when they had their guns and they were being arrested and
they basically took a plea deal and he said, you should have fought.
I go, it’s a lot easier to say you should fight, but we don’t know what circumstance
someone is under.
And what these totalitarian regimes did very, very well, as you know, is if you were a target
and they can’t get through to you, that’s fine, you have a family.
So you can sit there, Lex, and gird your jaw and you can stand up to all the torture, cool,
what are we going to do about your wife?
What about your mom?
One thing Stalin did, he made it a law that kids up to 14 and up could get the death penalty
for certain crimes.
So after that, the rule was from the NKVD, if you were interrogating someone, they would
have death warrants for the kid’s child on the desk visible.
So I’m interrogating you asking you to commit to, I’m sorry, to admit to some crime that
you’re not committed.
And those piece of paper, it’s Svitlana, she’s got a death warrant.
You’re going to admit to any crime you want.
So this is something Americans, this is even the case right now in North Korea, which I
know you had Yonmi Park on, it’s something I talk about a lot.
Let’s talk about it instead of the hypothetical, but this is happening right now on earth.
You can look at the map on Google.
The great leader, Kim Il Sung, the founder of North Korea said, class enemies must be
exterminated three generations.
So North, when people talk about individualism versus collectivism, Rick Santorum from Ascender
says the family is the basic unit of society, unit.
North Korea takes that seriously.
The family is punished as a unit.
So if someone does something wrong, three generations have to pay the price and you
often don’t know who it is that got you all in trouble.
There’s not a trial.
This to Western minds is something almost incomprehensible.
It’s a lot easier to be brave when it’s just your skin.
It’s something when it’s your child, your loved ones, every man becomes a coward.
But also what bravery is there for me to write an essay for The Guardian to say, I don’t
There’s no consequences to me.
There’s no possibility of consequences to me.
This is the wonderful thing about living in a free country.
It would take a lot of courage to be in the Soviet Union and say, I’m not going to vote.
And what would that courage accomplish?
Heroism in the sense of kind of the suicidal stuff and taking a stance with no consequences
is a bit overrated.
There is some aspect, like the way I think about heroism is something like you said about
the Nazi soldier, which is quietly privately in your own life, live the virtues that you
want the rest of the world to live by.
So like without writing about it is not as heroic as living it quietly.
I’ll give you a great example of this.
I sometimes give talks on networking and I tell the kids, if you know someone’s in town
and it’s their birthday with nothing to do, take them out.
And I say, I do this for selfish reasons and everyone laughs and I go, think about it this
The guy who takes people out for their birthday is awesome.
That could be you.
Like you have that capacity to be that person and you’re making that day feel special.
They’re going to remember for a long time.
What’s the cost?
30 bucks, 25 bucks.
So it’s very disturbing to me how often people have opportunities to slightly move the needle
and make things a bit better at almost no cost.
And they just literally don’t think in those terms.
And one of the things Camus talked about, he’s often described as an existentialist,
which he did not like that term.
He regarded himself as an absurdist, is the idea that we’re basically blank canvases.
And this isn’t something that is dangerous.
This is an enormous opportunity.
And you have the ability to become the kind of man or woman that you admire and want to
You don’t have to be, I don’t know, George Washington or one of these great heroes of
But everyone out there has the capacity to be, excuse me, to be a hero to their kids
or to be a hero to maybe some, there’s nursing homes and there’s old people who are lonely.
I think that you take in a dog that’s on its last legs.
These are little things, Terry Shepherd does that a lot, I regarded him as a hero.
These are not Terry Shepherd, I’m blanking his name.
These are things that people do that aren’t heroic in the sense of Superman, but that
I find admirable extremely and I think are very underrated because these people aren’t
Is this some kind of weird, passive, aggressive and direct way for you to tell me that I should
take you off for your birthday on Monday?
Is that why you gave that whole speech?
That wasn’t it at all.
That was a joke, Michael.
No, it was a failed joke.
There was no punchline.
Without failure, we would not have triumph.
Can we stick on the Camus absurdism versus existentialism?
What do you think is the difference?
In your ideas about anarchism too, it seems like those are somehow intricately connected
because existentialism is connected to freedom and freedom is connected to anarchism.
But I mean, Sartre was a defender of the Soviet Union.
He said explicitly about things like gulags, like even if it’s true, we shouldn’t talk
What people don’t appreciate is how human beings can have contradictory ideas in their
minds at the same time.
One would think, okay, someone’s a Democrat, they think ABC, therefore they think DEF.
People would have all sorts of contradictions and it’s not at all clear and they’ll have
a clean conscience because the human mind is very sophisticated and is capable of doing
So Sartre, you would think he’s this radical individualist, this sense of ultimate freedom,
but he’s defending the Soviet Union.
Camus, on the other hand, would probably be, was very much like a social Democrat.
He didn’t really talk about what politics should be so much as it shouldn’t be.
His essay, Reflections on the Guillotine, is one of the great masterpieces of all time,
an attack on the death penalty, not in terms of no one’s evil or it’s wrong to kill murderers,
but in terms of what does it do for a society?
If you have someone who takes a person and locks them in a room and says, in two years,
I’m going to murder you and you lock them for that.
This is not someone we regard as moral, we regard this as someone who’s a complete monster,
but that’s what the state does with the death penalty.
And he challenges us to think, is this the kind of people we want to be?
And again, he’s saying, I’m not saying killing a murderer is wrong.
I’m not saying evil is wrong.
His entire career was dedicated to fighting the concept of evil.
But are we the kind of people who want to be doing these things that in any other context
we regard as torture or depraved?
So I’m much more of a Camus person than a Sartre person.
So he was probably against war in that same way.
So I don’t, I have to admit, I don’t know much about the political side of Camus.
Well, and I don’t think his political side is that interesting or relevant.
What I find, sorry to interrupt you, what I find fascinating about Camus and what I
think about on a daily basis from him is his insistence that you have to live a life based
on conscience, that you have to be accountable to yourself when you put your head on the
pelt at the end of the day and ask yourself, did I live a righteous life with integrity
true to my values?
Did I not needlessly cause harm to innocent people?
That kind of mindset, did I, if someone is weak, am I using that as an opportunity to
exploit them or to harm them?
Or do I feel a bit of sympathy or empathy for this person because maybe they didn’t
have circumstances that were as beneficial as other people had.
Well, how does that fit absurdism where everything is absurd, nothing has meaning, it really
borders on nihilism.
So he regards, his philosophy explicitly said is a response to nihilism and a attack on
He regards cynicism as the worst value people can have.
And I agree with him 100%.
A lot of times people call me cynical online and I push back very, very hard because to
be a, you know, I had this quote in the new write where I said, I’d rather be naive than
a cynic because a cynic is a hopeless man who projects his hopelessness to the world
Camus, this is the metaphor I use and I find it very inspirational.
I thought it was in his work, but I guess I thought if it described it to him.
There’s two types of people, you imagine you go to a mountainside and you see a blank canvas
on an easel standing in front of this mountainside.
One people be like, why is this blank canvas here, you know, what was this, what’s going
And just be confused.
Whereas the other type of person will be like, there’s a blank canvas here in this beautiful
countryside, what a great opportunity.
I can paint this river, I could paint that bird, I could paint my friends or myself in
the background, infinite choices.
And this is a gift that I have been given.
And I think that also ties very heavily into what I was, I went to yeshiva as a kid, which
is Jewish school.
What we were taught incessantly how to look at life is this beautiful gift that God has
given you and that God wants you to be happy.
He wants you to live to the fullest in a moral way.
I remember the first time I went into a church and they were asking questions about the Jewish
concept, the afterlife.
They weren’t familiar with Jewish thought.
And it took me a second because I didn’t really have answers.
And then I remembered what we were taught, which is, let’s suppose you’re at this banquet,
the best chef on earth, and the table is so heavy because you’ve got steaks and you’ve
got chicken and you’ve got sushi and the wine’s flowing and you’ve got your Dr. Pepper and
Mr. Pibb and the store brand, everything you want.
And you’re looking around at this amazing bounty, right?
And then you turn to this best chef on earth and you’re like, oh, so what’s for dessert?
I mean, the offensiveness of that is just so insane.
You have this, eat the meal.
I promise you, if I could deliver this meal, the dessert’s going to be okay.
So this focus on the afterlife when we’ve been given this amazing gift on this earth
is a very kind of different mindset from both the Jewish tradition as I’d been taught and
the Camus mindset.
Obviously, Camus was an atheist, didn’t believe in an afterlife.
This concept that life is meaningless, but that means you have that opportunity to find
value, to seek for truth, to seek for happiness.
And Camus has this quote, it’s ascribed to him, it’s like a meme.
I’ve never found the source, so maybe he doesn’t really say it, but he says, maybe it’s not
about happy endings, maybe it’s about the journey.
And I think when you have that mindset, and as you and I, I think you and I both found
this because neither of us, when we were kids, thought we’d be doing this, right?
But now that we are really fortunate.
And definitely that.
But now that we’re fortunate enough to do this, and that we’re blessed enough that there’s
people who find this of value and interest, and we could pay the rent doing this, there’s
not a day that goes by where I don’t think you and I think, this is pretty absurd, but
it’s also pretty wonderful.
And as a consequence of us thriving, it also shows other people that happiness is possible
on this earth.
And I think cynicism is the lie.
It’s not just the worldview, it’s a lie that happiness is not possible on this earth.
Or it’s only possible if you sell your soul and you’re a bad person, you screw other people
I reject that in every aspect.
As you said, my birthday is coming up.
I’ve been feeling just a lot of really great things have been happening very, very recently.
So it affects me very heavily emotionally, especially when I see the response it gives
to the kids.
So it’s one thing to say, this is what I’m for.
But when you can provide proof of concept that what you’ve been advocating does result
in positive responses.
I got a message from this kid who had tried to kill himself a year ago.
And then he was like, look, I found your work, I found some other stuff.
And now I realized I’m going to make something of myself.
I was born in a meth house, you know, whatever, 19, 20 years old, I should be in the garbage.
But I’m going to try to be a stand up because I have opportunity on this earth.
Even if he fails as a stand up, you know, he’s still such whatever he does, washing
dishes, there’s no shame in that.
Is it so bad to have a crappy job and a girlfriend who you don’t really like?
But as compared to the alternative of like, I’m going to kill myself.
This is heaven.
Well, I think there’s beauty to be discovered in all of it and all of those experiences.
So, but at the same time, so I often think about I just recently reread The Idiot by
I often feel like the idiot.
That’s why when I say I’m an idiot, I often think about Prince Mishkin, that kind of idiot,
which the world sees you as naive.
I don’t think he’s naive.
I don’t think I’m naive, but I tend to see the good in people and the good in every moment.
And the world often is cynical.
And in fact, especially in what we do, often the intellectual is supposed to be cynical.
This is very much an urban, elite, educated mindset, where if you write a book about someone
who’s, let’s suppose, a drug addict or a prostitute, that has heft and that’s valid.
But if you’re writing a book about like a love story, you know, two people fall in love
and they’re in roller coasters or carousels, that’s less legitimate.
I hate that.
I hate that so much because the message it gives to people is you have to choose between
thriving and happiness and silliness and seriousness and depravity.
And I’m not saying a drug addict or prostitute is depraved, but they’re basically their worldviews.
Unless it’s dark and twisted, it doesn’t really count as art.
And I despise that mindset, that subtext.
So the internet and people around me often will call me naive.
Because I don’t know.
I think the word they want is innocent.
Don’t you think?
It’s a better word.
But it’s not that innocent.
No, but innocent in that you genuinely in your heart, I know you fairly well at this
point, believe that goodness is possible and that people can, if not be good, at least
be better than they were yesterday.
See, even the word naive or the word innocent presumes that there’s not wisdom in that.
Presumes that somehow that’s, oh, isn’t that beautiful to live that life of a child who
sees the world with these bright eyes and is hopeful about the future, but just wait
until they grow up and realize that reality is much harsher than they think.
But that child might be wiser than all of the adults in the room.
And don’t you want to be, if the world is like that, don’t you want to be the guy who
takes it on and changes it for the better?
So it’s like saying, well, you know, cancer is everywhere.
Well, don’t you want to be the one who says, not anymore.
I’m here and I’m going to make that change and I can see it being better than it is now.
So I think you and I have the same analysis of your worldview and I don’t think that there
is a good word for it.
So I guess it’s this idea of inherent benevolence might be wordy, but I think that’s more accurate
because, you know, you and I did not have such easy lives growing up, to put it mildly.
You constantly talk about just horrific aspects of life.
So to claim that you kind of don’t know that they exist or you sleep under the rug is completely
not accurate to your work and your mindset.
Can we talk about World War II and the Soviet Union?
So on Sunday, June 22nd, 1941, Hitler launched Operation Barbarossa, which was the surprise
invasion of the Soviet Union.
If I could read to you a few lyrics from a song that for some reason is stuck throughout
It was a famous song during that time.
Двадцать второго июня ровно в четыре часа Киев бомбили, нам объявили, что
началась война, война началась на рассвете, чтобы больше народу убить, спали родители,
спали их дети, когда стали Киев бомбить.
The song talks about Kiev, like that moment as part of that operation that Kiev was first
bombed and it was announced on June 22nd.
The song says at exactly four o clock that the war has begun.
For some reason this song haunts me because the exactness of that time and this realization
that at any moment you can have this thing happen to you in your own personal life.
Maybe we had something like 9 11 happen where everything changes and it’s just like haunting
because it makes me think that at any moment something like that could happen that changes
everything and I just think about like normal life going on in Kiev at the time and then
all of a sudden the bombs are dropping and they announce that the war has begun and you
thought you were going to stay out of the war.
This is something that is very intensely emotional for me because you and I are both Russian
Jewish so to know that my grandparents and my great grandma were told that the Nazis
are coming and this wasn’t a dress rehearsal and that if they get here, which they do,
they did, Lvov is very western Ukraine, that 100% you and all your relatives are going
to be murdered.
There’s a monument now in Lvov where I’m from about this but I don’t think either of us
can imagine what it’s like to think that we’re about minutes or whatever hours or there’s
just the Russian army standing between us and everyone we are related to are going to
be murdered for no reason and what’s the closure here?
They evacuated a lot of people but they didn’t evacuate enough and to know that there is
this force coming to 100% murder you, this isn’t some kind of the TV news being hyperbolic,
they’re coming to kill you and if they get you, they will kill you.
We all think about war like, oh, we hope America wins in Iraq, but if America got their ass
get kind of in Vietnam, it’s not really going to affect America in the sense that you’re
going to have the body bags and all the kids being killed and that’s something that I’m
not super in the rug, but no one in America thought the Vietnamese are going to come here
and kill them, right?
They were secure in their person.
So to have that sense of we really need to win because if we don’t win, we are 100% if
we, they, the Russian army doesn’t win, we are 100% all going to be slaughtered and often
in not just a bullet to the head and in sadistic ways is something that to know that people
who share my blood saw and went through is very hard for me to kind of wrap my head around.
And there’s no possibility to delude yourself.
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Because I mean, they, they would, as the song also talks about, but that they would burn
So it’s basically saying we’re in the war now.
This is like, this is your life.
Like this is our life now.
You know how you, yesterday you worried about like, oh, I misplaced my pen.
Where is it?
Like, it’s like, yeah, this was paradise.
Most of us are going to just, our life now is that most of us are going to die.
And if we want to prevent all of us from dying, we, we have to fight.
And we also can’t sit down in some kind of weird, like, desert island or, you know, plane
crash situation and be like, let’s decide between us who’s going to be the first to
Maybe the like Titanic, the Titanic, right?
They sat down and there were like women and children in the lifeboats.
You know, they had this rational agreement.
You don’t have those choices in a war.
So it’s, it’s something that I, it’s, it’s just very chilling and it’s something I don’t
really have the emotional space to understand or grapple with.
Even, you know, obviously I’ve been to North Korea, you can see it and so on and so forth.
You and I can’t, or anyone listening to this, except for maybe on me and people like that,
you can’t imagine what that’s like to live it.
We can’t, I, we can’t imagine what it’s like to live in those situations where it’s not
like before Hitler came, everyone’s, you know, dancing around and having a great time.
I mean, imagine how, what that life is like where your preference to Hitler is starving
and waiting on line for hours for bread and to have the secret police and your friend’s
attorney went and your phones are all tapped and you’re a prisoner.
But to you, this is infinitely better than the alternative.
Like these are the choices that, you know, our family had to deal with.
It’s something that no matter how much you, it’s like a, let me put it in terms of people
can understand, you know what I mean?
It’s like your first bad breakup, right?
Like that’s a much simpler thing to wrap your head around because it’s like, if you’ve never
had it, you can’t really, but when you feel it, it’s just so intense, but you can’t tell
someone what’s like, we could sit down for days and hours and have people tell us, but
until it’s the totality of your environment and your life and your mindset, I remember
my grandma, she would talk about it like, when you’re that hungry, all you’re thinking
about is bread because your brain won’t like, you know, human beings, you know, we’re evolved,
we have instincts, whatever, and the mind is telling you food, food, food, food, food,
and that there’s kids thinking this and that they’re not going to get the food.
And imagine being a parent and you’re watching your kids without food and knowing they’re
not going to get the food.
And the fact that this happened in North Korea in the nineties, I met a refugee and he had
to watch his dad starve to death.
And thank you.
And we have no concept of what it’s like.
I mean, we kind of, you know, it’s just like last night here in Austin, all the places
were closed and I couldn’t get my protein powder.
And this is the extent of my suffering when it comes to food, you know, or if I couldn’t,
there was a restaurant that I went to in Brooklyn where for some faqaqta reason, they weren’t
serving sashimi, they only had sushi, so I had to have the rice and the carbs.
To live a life where that is the extent of your food problems as opposed to the choice
is either Hitler killing you or being hungry 24 seven.
You know, my grandma told this story of how they had a close call, it was her and her
brother and her mom, my great grandma who passed, and I think there was like either
helicopter overhead or something, and my great grandma jumped on top of my grandma’s brother
and not my grandma.
So she basically did a Sophie’s Choice, my grandma’s name is Sophia, and chose the brother.
And this is something that she felt, you know, all her life that her mom had chosen her brother
But these little things that happen, these little kind of decisions we have to make in
Or there’s a book I read called Five Chimneys, I think, this woman who was an Auschwitz survivor.
And what she talked about what people don’t appreciate, it’s not necessarily the slaughter
and the torture, it’s that there’s no rhyme or reason to it.
Like she talked about how they had a camp just for people from Czechoslovakia, and they
were treated better than the Jews, and then one day they just killed them all, right?
And she’s like, I still don’t understand why they’re giving them food and treating them
well, and then the next day they’re all killed, and we will never get answers, you know.
And things like she talks about how they decided to kill all the kids, and they didn’t really
either for some reason they didn’t have the courage to or they wanted to be cruel, so
instead of shooting them, they just kept walking them in the snow until they all died.
So it’s things like this, that the fact that you and I dodged these bullets, and that we
can be here and be doing this and, you know, running our mouths for a living, I think about
it all the time, and it’s just very disturbing to know, and I know you know this as well,
that there’s lots of places on earth where if people had a choice, they would kill us
on sight and be proud of themselves for it.
Yeah, there, I don’t know what to make of the contrast, you were talking about the fact
that you’ve been truly happy the last few weeks and months, there’s been a lot of moments
of happiness and joy, and that joy is built on a history of human suffering.
Like in your roots, in your blood, is a lot of people that were tortured that suffered,
so that you could have this joy, and you have both the, you have the responsibility to truly
be grateful for that joy.
But it also shows that there’s the happy ending, that it does end, and a good note that it
does get infinitely, infinitely better.
And that I think there’s a, I don’t like using the word responsibility, but there is an opportunity
for those of us who did dodge that bullet, to give testimony to these people.
And more importantly, to give testimony to the people who are going through this now.
So one of the reasons I talk about North Korea so much, why I wrote Dear Reader, is because
it’s very easy, and this is human nature, I’m not condemning people, I think that’s
just how people are wired.
When you see an Asian country with Asian people, and things are bad over there, I think in
the West it’s like, oh, Asia, they’re all crazy, they’re wacky, they eat dogs or so
on and so forth, some weird stereotype, and they think of them as kind of Martians.
So it’s important for people who aren’t of that kind of ancestry to kind of speak on
behalf of these people, because it’s very different how just people just naturally react
when you have a Westerner talking about this.
Instead of it becoming them over there, it becomes, you know, this could have been us
I have a friend, Peter Vahansky, great dude, and I was showing him photos when I was in
Pyongyang, and he goes, this looks like a Russian city with Asian people.
It completely disturbed him.
So that was one of the reasons I did go to North Korea, because that was as close as
I would get to see what your family went through, to see what my family went through, and they’re
still living under this regime.
And one of the things I fought very hard to do with Dear Reader, which I was successful
in amazingly, and I said, I could die now.
I feel like if you just move the needle a little bit, then you’ve kind of paid your
due for your time here on this earth, to have it change from being a laughing stock.
And I think Team America did a good job.
They made Kim Jong Il into a clown and they made a joke of it, but you’re going from nothing
So at least now people are aware of it that it exists, right?
And then I and many others took it from a joke to like, guys, this is really, really,
really bad, and none of us can even appreciate how bad it is.
And I think now there is an understanding, other than a few people who are just looking
at it through a Trump lens and wanting Trump to fail because Trump’s an asshole and that’s
fine, to be like these poor people.
And it’s really unfortunate because there’s a segment of Western culture who thinks that
correctly, often when you’re complaining about or discussing the plight of another country,
that’s just your prelude to war and an excuse to invade.
Like the Kurds in Syria, you know, we’re talked about, if we don’t in Syria tomorrow, it’s
going to be another genocide, blah, blah.
I’m not saying let’s invade North Korea and things like that.
All I’m saying is, you know, thank God that this isn’t your life.
I bring this up all the time.
The woman who was my guide when I was there, I’m aware of what she’s up to now.
She’s extremely rich by North Korean standards, but she’ll never be in a position to buy medicine.
She’ll never be in a position to go on a vacation.
Things that you and I just, you know, whatever, she can’t go on the internet.
She can’t get an encyclopedia.
She can’t better herself as a person other than through what the state allows and meaning
better yourself as a person in service to the state.
So I mean, it’s also frustrating because there’s only so much that I can do as an individual.
What’s your takeaway about human nature from looking at North Korea and looking at how
the rest of the world is looking at North Korea?
This is a great question.
I think about it fairly often.
I always say human beings are animals, right?
When you say someone’s an animal, it’s like a slur, like he’s like a beast.
Animals are capable of enormous kindness, empathy, sympathy.
You know, they look out for one another, groom one another.
There’s a thing with apes where they groom each other for parasites and even if there
are no parasites, they pretend there’s parasites just to have that kind of bonding.
You see infinite photos online of like cats raising puppies because the puppies, mom died,
things like this.
That’s part of being an animal.
Part of being an animal is also just the most monstrous cruelty.
Killer whales, you know, there’s this big PC move to not call them killer whales and
just call them orcas.
They will murder blue whale pups, calves, excuse me, and play with them and not even
So they just murder for the sake of fun.
Even cats, you know, kill birds all the time, things like this.
So it runs the whole gamut.
And I think it’s, you know, when Yaron and I were on your show, I don’t think Lord of
the Flies is accurate.
I don’t think Hobbs is how reality works when you’re in that kind of state.
But I think we’ve seen countless examples of human beings, especially when human beings
have power over someone who’s powerless, of allowing themselves to engage in not just
harm, but cruelty.
And that is something as Soviets, you and I are very painfully aware of.
It’s not just about the oppression, which as bad enough as it is, it’s that mediocre
person with that little bit of power.
And now they’re standing between you and your daughter having medicine, and they love it
to make you dance, to be like, oh, you need me to get this medicine?
Make you go through hoops?
Because now they feel like for the first time in their life, they’re in a position of strength
I think that is, in many ways, the more common nature of evil that what Hannah Arendt talks
about the banality of evil, then someone who’s like an SS guard, you’re shooting someone
in the head.
Like that, I think we could all wrap our heads around to some extent, like, okay, I’m a military.
It’s not easy.
I have to execute people pulling a trigger, you could kind of have this mental disconnect
between the finger and the victim.
But like that little day to day stuff, like, are you doing the right thing on a day to
day basis that I think is far more common, and far more disturbing aspect in certain
senses of the human psyche.
Yeah, there’s something especially disturbing about a weak man, given power, and just abusing
There’s something about not just weak, but like, mediocre at everything it does, or less
A great example of this, which I’m also talking about in the next book is Ceausescu, who was
the dictator of Romania.
So you know, the Cold War is still somewhat poorly understood in, you know, popular culture.
But the different countries in the second world, the Soviet bloc, some are more liberal
than others, some are more sane than others.
And Ceausescu, at first was one of the, you know, more Western friendly, more the free
Then he met the great leader Kim Il Sung from North Korea, and he had the idea to impose
a personality cult on Romania, and it’s the kind of things like forcing people to breed
because he wanted to make people taller.
I think he made like the biggest building in all of Europe, the People’s Palace, but
it was just for him, while there’s no electricity, you know, elsewhere.
But you look at this guy, you know, Stalin’s a badass, right?
He was a bank robber.
If you look at photos of him as a kid, he was a hunk.
Lenin was clearly intellectual.
These were powerful Trotsky, these were powerful men with huge egos, huge force of personality.
But you look at this Ceausescu guy, and you could, like for example, on my driver’s license,
instead of my address, I’m not giving my real address, being like 1, 2, 3, 4, 5th Avenue,
by mistake it says 1, 2, 3, 4, 5th Street, right?
So you can imagine him being in the post office and me giving him my ID to get my package
and him being baffled because this says street, this says Avenue instead of understanding.
And this, the look on his face, this dullard, that you can see how, you know how sometimes
I’m going to, can I curse?
So if you know, like how if you’re in the airport and you see someone and you look at
them and an adult and you think, okay, this person was born fucked up, just like on sight,
like something’s wrong with them.
How are they traveling alone?
You look at Ceausescu, you look at him, you’re like, something’s not right with this guy.
Not in the sense of like evil, but in the sense of he’s a simpleton, right?
And now he’s in charge of this whole country and everyone’s taught to regard him as one
of the great geniuses of all time.
And it’s this, the idea, this mediocre nobody, this guy would have in any other culture been
accomplished nothing or would have had an honest job where he’s like, okay, he works
at the mail service and he’s bad at it, okay, fine, he’s not hurting anyone.
And now as a result of this, he’s responsible for mass death, secret police, and incarceration.
And you know, one of the greatest things I’ve ever seen, which I’m sure many people see
as well, if you go on YouTube, it’s his speech, and it’s the first time the crowd turns and
his head kind of like, because they start booing him, which was unheard of.
And he was shot with his dog faced wife not that long after, it was just a great moment.
But it’s things like this, I agree with you, that mediocre, weak person is now in a position
of power over somebody else.
And that sense of vindictiveness, like I’m going to feel strong for once in my life,
but it’s going to be at your expense.
That I think is, you know, human nature, it’s most primal.
And every time I meet a person in this world, you’re the first person to get me to cry on
a fucking podcast.
Fucking the robot gets me to cry.
What the fuck is going on?
Every time I meet a weird person, somebody, to me, heroism is also taking a risk to rebel
Like in the most simplest of ways, like the license address, like taking a risk to break
the little bit of rule that nobody will know about, to take that little bit of a leap of
like that little protest against the bureaucracy.
Like that Nazi guard where he just spoke out, he’s like, hey lady.
That’s a big one.
Oh, that’s a big, sure.
I mean, like literally at the line at Starbucks or something like that.
Like even in the tiniest of ways, when I see people just like, it’s almost like that little
like glimmer in their eye, a wink, like we’re in this together, there’s all this conformity
all around us.
That’s at a different time could have been Nazi Germany, could have been a Stalinist
We’re in this together.
We’re going to rebel against that conformity by just taking the risk, that little bit of
risk against mediocrity.
I don’t know.
And then once again, I see this in companies too.
When I see the mediocrity, I see this, I used to work at Google, I see it in Google and
when the companies grow, that mediocrity is overwhelming.
The Peter principle, right?
The Peter principle.
My hope is that all of us have the possibility for that glimmer, that risk taking, the leap
of faith, whatever the heck that is, the leap out of the ordinary, out of the conformity,
out of the mediocrity.
So this is where you and I disagree.
I think most, a lot of people are not capable of that.
They’re accustomed to it.
I don’t know if they’re not capable.
I understand your position.
I’m disagreeing with it.
I’m saying I do not think they’re capable.
I think a lot of people effectively don’t have souls.
They do not have a conscience in this sense where they’re going to look at an issue, bring
their critical thinking and say, all right, I am going to do the right thing, although
I’m taking a risk.
Do you think thinking is involved or is it just taking that leap?
There’s something about that basic human spirit.
Forget the thinking part.
It’s just saying, I’ll take that risk, taking that adventure, the same thing that got people
to explore the seas throughout human civilization, explore land, explore the oceans, that exploration.
We’ve done stuff this way all this time.
I’m going to take a leap and that comes out of nowhere seemingly.
But those people are the heroes, but I don’t think that’s universal.
I’m going to use a very gauche example.
There was a show called Scare Tactics, which was basically a candid camera, but they would
They’d have vampires, whatever, a hidden camera and people’s reactions.
Sometimes the prank didn’t work out like they expected.
There was one where they were hiring the people who were the marks, the contestants so to speak,
was hired to be a security guard.
You have to watch this factory overnight and you get paid.
But the setup was some people were breaking out of the factory in the middle of the night
like in rags and they were saying they were keeping us prisoner here, blah, blah, and
just watch the person reaction to this.
There was one security guard where he basically forced them back into the building and they’re
working us 24 seven, we’re getting beaten.
He’s like, I’m here to do a job, get back in there.
You watch this and it never even enters his head to be like, something’s wrong here.
He was given his orders, he’s following his orders and to me, that is not uncommon and
that person, although they look like you and I, there’s something essentially human missing
Now, very quickly, the reaction is, well, it’s one step from there to Nazism.
I don’t think it’s something that, I’m not saying this person should be killed, but I’m
just saying to expect that every human being has the capacity to have that defiance, especially
at a cost to their own life, that I think is not realistic.
But at the same time, I feel like an octopus on the eighth hand, it is those few of us,
or if you want to include me in this, who do make these tiny little protests, who look
the other way when someone is hungry, who’s stealing food from the supermarket, right?
It’s like, all right, I’m going to pretend I didn’t see anything.
Those little elements of heroism are what move humanity forward and demonstrate the
validity of the human experience, whereas everyone else is kind of like scenery.
I think almost everybody in the world can derive deep meaning and pleasure from having
done those courageous acts, and I also think they have the capacity to do them, to discover
that meaning and happiness.
So you’re the cynic, then why aren’t they doing it?
They haven’t gotten a chance to, like I’ve never tried LSD or DMT, you haven’t gotten
the chance to try this amazing journey, which is taking the risk.
That’s nonsense, because as you just said two minutes ago, everyone has that chance
every day to do the right thing.
We have the chance to do a lot of things and we don’t realize.
There’s a lot of stuff right in front of our nose that we don’t realize, because you have
to kind of wake up to it.
Sometimes you need the catalyst, there needs to be some kind of thing that happens that
wakes you up.
The fact that most people don’t take the small acts of rebellion doesn’t mean they don’t
have the capacity to both do so and to derive a lot of meaning from it.
Then it’s a discussion about how to create societies that get more and more people to
be free actors and free thinkers.
That’s the question.
That probably leads us into a discussion of anarchism and so on, but I just think we are
very young as a species.
We’re trying to figure out how to get ourselves to first be collaborative, but at the same
time be free spirits.
I think both of those are within human nature for most of us.
I think another big concern is that there’s enormous disincentives, and this is Michael
Malus speaking, for human beings to be kind and for tenderness.
I think, especially when you’re young, you know what I mean, when you’re immature, a
lot of times someone will reach out to you with kindness or vulnerability and you think
it’s funny to kind of dunk their head in the water in a pool or something like that.
When you get older, there’s this one example of this.
This was in the 90s, and there was a woman.
She became a stripper or something like that or whatever it was, but she had this amazing
She was just gorgeous.
The show was, she was talking about how when she was in high school, she was bullied a
lot and that there was this football player.
He messed with her every single day.
One day, she even threw pickles in her hair and her hair smelled like pickles and it was
laughing at her.
This really screwed her up, I mean, up to that show.
They took her backstage and they brought out the football player, and now he’s a dad and
a regular dude.
He’s like, do you know why you’re here, and he’s like, no, and they’re like, oh, what
were you like in high school?
He’s like, I was kind of a jock, bully, whatever.
They brought her out, and he didn’t even remember her really, and she just starts crying about
the pickles and whatever, and this is something that affected her for 20 years, and I’ve never
seen a clearer example of someone who wanted to kill themselves than this guy.
The guilt on his face, and he’s looking at her, and he’s desperate to be like, what can
I do to take your pain away, to make it better?
He was just crippled by it because he knew there’s nothing he could do.
He knew he 100% did the wrong thing.
He knew he did the wrong thing unthinkingly.
You can imagine, I got to screw over this lady to feed my family, that’s fine.
At the time, it meant nothing to him, so of course he didn’t remember, and he was just
paralyzed by this sense of crippling guilt.
One of the reasons I always try to do the right thing isn’t because I’m an inherently
good person, which I do not think I am, I don’t think anyone is inherently good, but
because I will feel guilty about it for a very, very long time because if you do the
wrong thing, this is a very Camus idea, if you do the wrong thing to a good person, that’s
really, really bad because what kind of person are you?
In the same way that everyone can be that guy who takes someone out for their birthday,
everyone has that ability for someone who did the wrong thing to someone who’s a normal
person and do you want to be that guy as well?
My friend, Bittstein, he’s a big Bitcoin person, my biography ego in hubris is like $500 now
on eBay, it’s hard to find, came out in 2006.
He had told me that you can get it on torrent, it’s downloadable, and I’m like, oh, I thought
if you’re my friend, you’d want to buy it.
At the time, it was not $500, I assure you, and he goes, I did buy it, I’m just telling
you that you could also get it for free, this information that you might want to use.
And I snapped at this kid who was doing right by me and I felt, it just stuck in my head,
I’m like, you’re an ass.
And then years later, I apologize, he had no memory of this at all and I’m glad to be
able to reiterate the apology again.
But a lot of times I’m extremely aggressive on Twitter and in other venues, I always try
to and maybe I fail and that’s my moral failing, always do it as a counter attack.
If you’re going to start going personal, if you’re going to start being aggressive against
an individual, I’m not going to necessarily hold back when I reciprocate.
And it’s something that is very common on social media, but I don’t think it is normal.
Just because a lot of this, you’re talking about the quiet little rebellion, just because
everyone else around you thinks it’s okay to just go up to people and attack them in
the most personal ways, impromptu because of their views, really just take a step back
and realize what you’re engaging with.
Now, if that’s the fight they want, then my Soviet cruelty could come out and that’s kind
of why I don’t drink because I do enjoy it, but at the same time, be aware of what you’re
And again, this goes back to Camus’s sense that conscience really is what makes us human
That’s the thing I was saying, I don’t think most people think in terms of conscience.
They don’t think it, we are taught, this is that creeping cynicism that, oh, grow up.
When you’re an adult, you have to make sacrifices, blah, blah, blah.
And even if I buy that for a second, which I don’t, but if I have to make sacrifices
sometimes, that doesn’t mean it’s okay for me to make a sacrifice of my values in this
If I have to maybe be at work and my boss is a jerk to me and calls me names, I have
to be humiliated, but I got to put food on the plate.
That doesn’t mean it’s okay later if I’m at a party and I’m just extremely offensive to
someone for no reason.
My own flavor of a little bit of rebellion.
Sometimes I use the number two.
You know, you’re very witty on Twitter and Twitter likes mockery and wit and a counter
attack is, Twitter loves that, somebody who’s skilled at it.
My own flavor of a bit of rebellion is to say things very simply, bordering on cliche
with authenticity and like genuinely meaning the words I say, but knowing that those words
would be, are easy to attack.
And that sometimes those attacks can hurt because people would just mock me.
People don’t like earnestness because they’ve been taught to be too cool for school.
So there’s this pressure for me to be sound way more sophisticated.
Use bigger words, sometimes throw in a criticism of institutions or something like that, almost
as if I have a deep wisdom about the way the world is broken.
But when you speak very simply about beautiful things in life, it’s very easy to sound like
you don’t know what the hell you’re talking about.
And I kind of, I stick by that.
I don’t know where that’s going to end up, but it’s like the idiot from Dostoevsky.
It feels like that’s the right thing, even if it hurts when I’m attacked for it.
I do something similar sometimes, which is I’ll have some innocuous comment about like
I mean, just it’s not to be in political.
And a lot of times people will respond to this paragraph of just invective about like
blah, blah, blah, and then this, and you say this, and you’re an ass, and just really trying
to get at me.
And in those situations, there are very specific circumstances, I will respond and I mean it
every single time.
I will say, I wish your parents had been kinder to you or your mom or your dad.
Because even if I’m some idiot on Twitter, who’s just talking about bubblegum, and this
is your, I’m not talking about politics where I can see how people get emotional, COVID,
my grandma died, now you’re talking about her.
And I realize this isn’t about me.
Like I’m someone you’ve never met making some inane point about nothing, and you’re getting
agitated about this.
It’s clearly something else that’s going on here.
And someone taught you, someone had to teach you that this is how to respond in this kind
of very kind of harsh way.
And a lot of times they won’t say anything or get deleted.
And I hope every single time, there’s no asterisk here, that they take a second, and they realize
that the way that they were talked to growing up was not acceptable, that they don’t have
to carry this forward.
And that they don’t have to be kind to me, I’m nobody to them.
But take a second and ask if this is the kind of mindset you want to be your norm, as opposed
to a weapon you pull out of your pocket sometimes where it’s warranted or even when it’s not
I think there’s a lot of those people out there, and we forget how hard it is for a
lot of people to grow up, how they’re trained from their parents or the single parent, that
the only way they’re going to get attention is by acting out, that when they do good things,
it doesn’t get comment.
But if they do bad things, they get a smack upside their head.
That I think is far more common than we realize.
And it’s not hitting the kid that’s going to last, the pain is going to give five seconds.
But when you’re training this child, helpless child, is something that’s really, really
I don’t know if it always can be mapped to that.
I always wonder about them, what their motivations are.
And I just kind of, whenever I think about them, I think only positively.
And I don’t even think about the childhood thing.
I think, I don’t know.
I kind of imagine that all of us can go through that stage where we enjoy the derision of
We go through stages of being…
I enjoy the derision of others, but it has to be, you know, Billy Eide had that quote,
like, I like it when people are mean to me, I stop pretending to be nice.
But like, what’s the worst thing someone can say about you?
You’re not, what harm are you doing?
Maybe your podcast is garbage and the people are, the conversations suck and the people
No, the main thing I would say is I’m way more popular than I deserve to be.
What does deserve mean?
The reality is there’s people out there that just enjoy hating on others and I don’t fault
them for it.
Like, I don’t even think of them as haters.
I think of them as just people that in this particular part of their life are enjoying
this activity of deriding others on the internet.
I’m not sure what to do with that.
I just don’t want to, I don’t want to allow myself to think badly of them, I guess is
I’m the one saying don’t think badly of them.
I’m saying that I don’t think they’re inherently bad people.
I think that their thinking is screwed and that I’m steel mounting them.
I’m saying, let’s assume everything you’re saying about Lex is true.
This is an opportunity for you to outdo Lex.
No, but are you saying they should stop hating because I’m saying like, maybe they shouldn’t
I don’t believe in should, right?
I’m an anarchist, but I’m saying if this is your belief about Lex, you know what it is?
I made this comment in my book, The New Right, when people make fun of Andy Warhol and they’re
like, oh my God, he painted a soup can and now he became a millionaire.
I could do this.
Well, why don’t you?
So basically if I go up to you with a check and I say, I will give you a million dollars,
you could see the check, you got to paint a soup can, what am I waiting for?
So clearly there’s a disconnect in their thinking between what they’re perceiving and the reality.
Because if it was as simple or as, maybe not simple, but as possible for them as they perceive
it to be, why are they leaving comments instead of outdoing you?
How great would it be for them to have your bigger audience and drive you into the ground?
I don’t know how that would work because it’s not the NBA, but…
No, but you want to point out, you do this too on Twitter.
You want to point out the hypocrisy, the fraudulence of others, right?
Sure, but what are you, you’re not claiming anything other than this is, the following
is the conversation between me and Machique, whatever his name is, right?
I got the voice down, dude.
I got it down.
I’ve been walking around my house doing my Lex impression.
I’ve been leaking motor oil everywhere.
Yeah, but yeah, I don’t know.
I don’t know.
I don’t know what to make of it because I think there’s a more general statement to
Like I see Twitter this way too.
When I read a tweet, I try to read it with like the best possible interpretation, meaning
like what is the wisdom in this tweet, right?
As opposed to what I think a large number of people, not a large number, but some fraction
try to see what is the worst possible interpretation of this tweet.
And they want to, they want to destroy you for that worst interpretation.
Like they want to, there’s people, I’m already aware of this with me and certainly with a
lot of people, they’re waiting for me to fail.
They want me to be like, this guy talks about love all the time.
They want me to be some dark, like a Bill Cosby type character.
They want you to be in pain.
They want you to be in pain because they don’t.
I’ll tell you exactly why.
Because this is why I’m so for being white pilled and being for hope.
Because if you are black pilled, meaning if you think it’s pointless, we’re all done.
You’re just wasting your breath.
If you have any counter examples to this thesis, if there’s even a little bit of hope, your
entire hypothesis falls through, right?
So it’s kind of how like you have all these stories of people who are like painting swastikas
who aren’t Nazis, but just to show that, oh, there’s all this Nazism.
So I’m going to kind of force the conclusion.
So for them, when they see you thriving, you are as a mediocre person with a crappy show,
but you’re demonstrating that people can succeed.
This bothers them.
So you are.
Anyone can succeed.
That bothers them.
So because that, why haven’t they?
So now you’re a counter to their worldview and that is going to cause anxiety when you
have data that contradicts other data in your, in your worldview.
This is the, in your mindset, this is a big issue for them.
So to anyone listening to this, they’re annoyed by the look of my face.
Remember that you could probably do way better than me and you should.
But also what would you failing look like?
Like let’s suppose this podcast went from whatever views you had to 100 views an episode.
That’s still success.
You are talking to people you like, having conversations about important issues.
You’re having a good time.
They’re having a good time.
How is that a failure?
If I have dinner with a friend of mine, there’s zero viewers and we enjoy that time.
That is the height of human success.
When you are sharing happiness, joy, joy over love.
So what’s the difference between joy and love, Michael Malus?
Uh, I think joy is easier to attain.
It’s more common.
You could share it with everyone.
Give me an example of joy.
Like what was the moment of joy for you recently?
I could give you a great example of joy and this is part in the absurdist mindset.
I love having a bad meal at a restaurant and I’ll give you, you can see why.
You go with your friend.
It takes you 45 minutes to get seated.
Waiter’s not paying attention to you.
They bring your water.
It’s got a hair in it.
They get the food wrong.
It comes out again.
It’s ripe, but it’s cold.
At a certain point you’re like, okay, I’m hungry.
I’m living an anecdote.
This is something that you, if you were at dinner, we could talk about this for years
because how great is it that the worst thing that’s happening to me is I got to wait an
hour for this meal that’s going to be cooked wrong, right?
That to me is joy is a holding on to that idea that happiness and thriving are possible
even when in the moment it’s, uh, everything’s going the wrong way.
Doesn’t every moment have the capacity to, uh, fill you with joy then?
So it’s both the shitty moments and the good moments.
But that, see, that’s the way I usually talk about love is like, I love life.
And in that, because life can generate every, everything, the pain, the loss, but also just
like simple or complicated bliss, all of that, I just love all of that.
And that, because it fills me with a kind of, I guess, joy, but joy has a connotation
that it’s supposed to be somehow positive, like you’re supposed to be smiling.
To me, you know, man’s search for meaning with Viktor Frankl, you know, just it’s, you’re
in the Holocaust, you’re in a concentration camp, just having a little bit of food that
you didn’t expect you will have.
Or even just thinking about food.
Or what about there’s a kid there, you tell them a funny story and you crack them up.
Like you take away this child’s pain for like five minutes.
That is the height of joy.
So to me, like all of like life is like infinitely full of possibility for joy.
And that’s what I mean by love, because oftentimes like romantic love is what people think about
when they think love.
But to me, it’s all like part of the same thing.
And it’s almost like love, romantic love, or love with a friend, friendship is like
you both notice each other.
It’s like dogs, they look at each other and then they look at the thing they’re interested
You both notice each other and that moment of joy.
You share that moment of joy together.
Like the restaurant.
If you’re both almost without conspiring, notice the absurdity of how shitty this meal
And like that, again, that little glimmer of realization, that’s what makes life beautiful.
You mentioned your grandmother in Lvov.
You were thinking of returning there.
The plans got a little bit delayed, but what are you hoping from that trip of going back
to Russia, going back to Ukraine?
What do you hope to get out of it, but what do you think you will feel?
A lot of things.
First of all, I’m going with my buddy, Chris Williamson.
He hosts the Modern Wisdom Podcast.
He is one of my closest friends.
We’ve never met.
We’ve never met.
He’s in Britain.
He’s trying to get his ass over here to Austin.
He’s filling out his form right now.
He’s too good looking.
It’s a crime.
I call him Apollo and I’m Loki.
So right away you have a buddy comedy because we’re going to film it, right?
You have these two guys who on paper are very dissimilar, but we’re very, very close.
In which way are you similar and close?
I think we’re both very intense people, very strong emotionally.
We’re both very ambitious in the sense that, not in terms of career, but we want to grab
life by the short hairs kind of thing.
We are just both good experiences.
Did he bench more than you or like in the gym?
The guy’s jacked.
Because he’s so good looking.
I think he’d be one of those guys who’s mostly biceps.
Oh no, no, no.
If you go to his Instagram, Chris Will X is the handle.
It’s head to toe.
It’s just sculpted.
So he’s perfect in every way.
What flaws does he have?
Because I need…
He has bad taste in friends and his accent is all crazy.
He pronounces it…
He’s an underwear muddle, so now I spell it M U D L.
Just us two, British and American, and just two different dudes, it’s going to be a lot
Although, to be fair, as you know, I’m an underwear model now as well, so…
We’re going to talk that in a second, maybe, but yeah, sheathunderwear.com.
Yeah, this episode is brought to you by Sheath Underwear.
Are we going to get some pictures eventually?
I think we might.
Yes, I have them on my phone.
We’ll have them.
We could share them right…
You could slice it in right here.
So to be able to go with someone who is a very close…
I mean, we meet and talk like every day, right?
So to someone who generally cares about you, who’s…
He’s very, very grounded, right?
So like a lot of times I’ll have like some concern and he’s really good, and if you listen
to his show, at slicing through the noise and being like, hold on a second, I can’t
do the accent yet.
Have you considered A, B, and C because, you know, whenever I had this situation, this
is what I did.
He was really good with that.
So to have a…
First of all, just like two buddies on a trip is really a lot of fun.
Second of all, I know that it’s going to be very intense.
So for you, you left Russia much later than I did.
How old were you?
So you remember it, I’m sure, very, very well.
I left when I was one and a half too.
I don’t remember it all.
To go to the streets where, you know, my family had to go through this stuff to see the…
They came to Lviv, they slaughtered all the Jews.
I mean, to have that little memorial there that’s there now, and to just look around
and know, yesterday, basically, they came here, they rounded everyone up.
And also, from the other side, you had the Stalinists coming in and starving all the
It’s just to know that so much horror and death.
There’s this quote I saw once about a woman who went to Auschwitz and she just made the
comment like, grass grows here.
Because we think, you know, that when it comes to the nature of evil, that you’re going to
go there, there’s going to be this pits of hell or whatever.
There’s birds, you know, there’s, you know, robins hopping around looking for the worms
They think it’s perfectly nice and you stand there to understand that so much suffering
happened here or there is going to be very jarring.
I know that it’s going to be an issue because I speak Russian and not Ukrainian.
And to speak Russian to Ukrainians is like a big deal.
So that’s going to be a concern.
I’m also worried about going to Russia because every Russian has this idea that even though
they’ve just met you, they feel that they’re in a position to tell you what you’re doing
wrong with your life, what you should be doing, if they’re a cab driver, I have no tolerance
for unsolicited advice on it based at all.
That’s going to be horrible.
They’re going to be telling me I need to speak Russian better because ты говоришь по
русски как даунчик.
I’m not hearing it.
I’m not interested in hearing it.
So that I think, and also, you know, given my upcoming book, The White Pill and covering
what happened back in the day under Stalinism and later to see this was the Ljubljanka,
this was the basement where they would, you know, this is something that people might
There’s a superb film, The Death of Stalin, which is kind of, that’s what I do with North
Korea, you know, puts a humorous spin on it.
Then when you take a step back and you realize what they’re actually saying, it’s just like
it’s very, very disturbing how when Stalin was dying, he had a stroke, he’s laying there
in a pile of his own piss, he’s unconscious.
Right before he died, he thought the doctors were all plotting against him.
So they were being tortured to confess that they were trying to murder him.
They had to get the doctors out of the torture chambers to attend to him and they did it.
So this kind of thing to like go there, like Red Square and see this is where it happened,
to see Lenin’s body, like this is the guy who Emma Goldman yelled at.
It’s going to be really, because I’ve worked so much in this space, jarring and intense
And as intense as it is for me sitting here talking to you about it, to see it and to
see the faces and to see Cyrillic everywhere, you know, other than Brighton Beach in Brooklyn,
it’s going to, I’m sure it’s going to do a huge number on me because as Western and as
a Tupoi Mirikanyets as the Russians will say I am, this is still where I came from.
So no matter, to see it face to face, I don’t know how I’m going to react, but I don’t think
it’s going to be like, meh.
You’ve assembled a number of essays from anarchist thinkers in a new book called The Anarchist
You mentioned Emma Goldman.
What interesting things do these thinkers agree on and what do they disagree on?
The Anarchist Handbook.com is the website.
It covers from the 1790s to, I think my essay is the last one from 2014, which a friend
of mine who’s kind of a mediocre scientist is going to be reading for the audio book.
I never had, but it’s not a podcast anyone would have heard of.
It’s like Tom Woods but even worse.
So what they all agreed on was the illegitimacy of government and also the malevolence of
state actors and the consequences of governments.
So they range in terms that most people would easily regard as either left or right wing.
But it tackles the nature of government and also creates positive non state alternatives
from really many different angles.
The slogan I have is the black flag, which is the traditional flag of anarchism.
The black flag comes in many colors.
So they were really all over the map in terms of what they’re for, but their disagreement
is about the nature of state and the nature of power.
And it’s very edifying because this is an ideology that’s been in many ways swept under
I want to seriously grow up that I can allow people to sit down and read these essays and
see for themselves just how beautiful this tapestry over the decades and centuries has
been woven about people who genuinely believed in freedom as the most important and how to
maximize that for society.
So maybe it’s useful to talk about a few contrasting thinkers in there.
So one is Leo Tolstoy.
Who I think not many people know is an anarchist.
A Christian anarchist.
So he came to despise government for his deceit and his violence.
But to him, the Christian principles of nonviolence, I think are important.
And it’s kind of pacifist kind of mindset of, you know, it’s better to someone to punch
you than to punch them back.
So he’s in that way, at least I’ve read he influenced MLK and Gandhi.
What do you think about this flavor, color of the anarchist flag of nonviolence, nonviolent
I will put the caveat that it bothers me when people bring up MLK because he’s become so
corporate and everyone just brings him up without knowing about him.
One of the things that Martin Luther King did so very well was that he forced people
to face the consequences of what they were putting forward.
You want to be racist.
You want to be for Jim Crow.
You want to be for segregation.
It’s easy for you to do that from your living room.
Now turn on your news and you see men and women in suits being attacked by dogs, being
attacked by fire hoses and beaten by cops just so they could sit on the front of the
And now for a lot of people who were still racist, who were still had animus toward black
people are watching this and it’s going to be a lot harder to be like, I’m okay with
I’m okay with human beings, even ones I regard as somehow bad or inferior to be beaten and
attacked by trained dogs and they’re not doing anything in response.
That strikes to, I think, a very basic nature of, especially American, like, okay, whatever
you’re for, I’m not for people getting beaten and attacked when they’re not really doing
I think pacifism is something that’s very easy to make fun of, but people don’t underestimate
how powerful it is for someone to say, you can do what you want to me.
I’m not going to fight you back.
I just want to live peacefully and have the same rights as you.
And to say, screw you, you should get beaten.
That’s a hard pill for a lot of people to swallow.
So I think he was really, and Gandhi, of course, as well, were excellent in that regard.
There’s a little bit of Machiavellianism to it.
They’ve both been beatified in regard to saints, but their strategy worked very, very well
for their purposes.
So I think just all of us, when you see someone in this kind of Christian, I know you’re wrong,
obviously, it’s nothing very highly Christianity, but if he’s someone who’s willing to take
a punch and to say, you could do whatever you want to me, I’m not going to hurt somebody
else instinctively, and maybe this is kind of a hack.
Most people want to side with that guy, step in between and be like, oh, okay, let’s take
a step back, because whatever led to this is not tenable.
We need to go back to the drawing board if the consequence is people are having these
as a result of my decisions and actions.
So I think that aspect of anarchism is very, very, in certain contexts, healthy, and much
smarter and more sophisticated than people give it credit for.
And let’s also point out that Tolstoy wrote War and Peace, and he wrote Anna Karenina.
So this was not some naive or innocent, whatever word you want to use.
He knew the nature of evil.
He knew how bad things get.
So he wasn’t saying at all that human beings are inherently nice and kind.
He was saying it’s much more effective to not fight back and to force them to face that.
I’ll give you another example.
I was on the show Trigonometry, and I was talking to the host, and one of them talked
about how someone he knew had been the Gulag, or his mom was born the Gulag grandma.
And after Stalin died and the Soviet Union liberalized and lots of the people in the
Gulags were freed by Khrushchev and so on and so forth, I didn’t know this, many of
the, or some, let’s say some, of the guards of the Gulags killed themselves because they
had genuinely believed that everyone in these camps was there for a reason.
And when they found out that these people were completely innocent, didn’t even have
trials, and that they were the ones forcing them to work themselves to death and starve,
they couldn’t deal with that guilt.
So when you are a pacifist or non retaliatory and you’re forcing someone who’s using force,
like look what you’re doing, look what you’ve become.
For some people, some people don’t care, like the guy in Scare Tactics, like I mentioned
earlier, where for a lot of others, they’re going to be like, okay, is this who I wanted
to grow up to be?
They will have that little flame of conscience that you and I talked about earlier.
They will be like, how did I get to the point where there’s this lady who wants to ride
the bus and she’s lovely dressed, put together, and I have a, sending a dog on her?
What kind of person am I?
For some of those people, they’re going to be like, okay, I can’t be a part of this.
I don’t even understand the politics.
I still am racist, but I’m not going to take part in this atrocity.
Well, that was for him from the individual perspective, perhaps he calls that Christian,
but listening to that voice of conscience, like whatever that is in you.
So for Tolstoy, it seems like anarchism from the individual perspective is silencing the
rest of the world and listening to the, for him, probably God given voice of conscience.
And so that’s what it means to live, embody anarchism for him.
And to embody Christianity, I would think he would say.
But he would see those as basic.
So in terms of forms of government, the Christian government is one that’s no government.
What do you think about that as advice for an individual?
Turn the other cheek.
Do you think, I tend to believe that that’s a really good way to live.
I think it’s very underrated.
And this is me talking.
I think a lot of times when someone, let’s suppose you’re having an argument and, but
you have to pick your battles, right?
Let’s suppose you’re having a heated argument and someone says something very cruel to you,
where you have attempted to double down and hit back twice as hard.
But if it’s someone who at all cares about you, where they’re just in the moment and
you just stop and you just say, did you hear what you just said to me?
For some cases, that person will take a step back and be like, just like when I snapped
at Michael at Bitstein years ago, I’d be like, wow, okay, this is bad.
This is bad.
And they kind of, it’s kind of like they have to get to 10 before they control delete to
use your language.
I appreciate that.
And for some, they’re going to, they’re going to just twist the knife.
But I think this is a very useful technique.
And also you can also sleep well at night cause you could be like as much as this person
tried to hurt me, I still didn’t reciprocate.
And yeah, I, I took that punch and it sucks, but at least I never said anything that I
could feel guilty about.
Do you think that’s ultimately a good way to implement anarchy in your personal life?
Anarchy, implementing anarchy in your personal life just means respecting people’s boundaries.
It means not forcing people to do things they otherwise wouldn’t want to do.
I think you then have to take a case by case, like there’s so many human interactions that
are required for life and there’s tension and all those kinds of things.
It’s not always.
Am I being naive?
Are you innocent?
You’re being so naive.
Did you put the hat on?
The hat’s on the other head now.
Well, I had to take off the hat cause it’s like Frodo with the ring.
I was starting to feel like powerful.
I wanted to give you orders and I’m like, no, I just, I think there’s a ways of dealing
with the tensions that are natural to human interactions that can’t be simply, you know,
it’s not as simple as saying you want to respect the freedom of others and the boundaries of
It’s like you both have to agree on stuff and work something out.
And the mechanisms of that agreement, the game theory of that agreement requires different
hacks and strategies.
And the question is for an anarchist collective that’s well functioning, what kind of hacks,
what kind of ways of behavior are more likely to be productive and not, you know, that that’s
almost like the question, do you want to turn the other cheek or do you want to stand your
ground really firmly?
When somebody is an asshole to you, you walk away.
Or when somebody is an asshole to you, you turn the other cheek and give them a chance
to rise to the best version of themselves and then find a common ground kind of thing.
It’s an open question of how to form those collectives when there’s people with difficult
childhoods and all that kind of stuff.
Well, this also comes down to what is your relationship with this person?
Is this out of character?
If you and I got into a disagreement, all of a sudden, you started getting very personal.
First of all, I’d be very hurt.
But then I’d be like, this is out of character for Lex.
I’m sure I could be like, whoa, let’s take a pause here.
Like you’re getting heated.
I’m trying to work this out.
What’s going on here?
And you get a kind of a meta conversation.
But again, you and I have a relationship of mutual respect.
So as opposed to if it was a stranger who just wants a piece of you, it’s just like
you are coming at me not correct.
I don’t have to reciprocate in kind.
I’m not going to shoot you, but I’m not going to pretend that you deserve respect when you’re
treating me with such contempt.
I do defer, especially with people I know, because this is smart long term game theory
as well as the right thing to do.
I do try to give them the benefit of the doubt at first, right?
Because if you’re going to go aggro, you can’t go back.
You could always go from like, let me hear them out and then then I could go aggro.
So there’s a big asymmetry there.
And that’s, I mean, I don’t think anyone has the answer to this question is, is that the
To me, game theoretically, it seems the right strategy is to…
With reciprocity is what game theory says is the right strategy.
They did the prisoner’s dilemma and they found tit for tat is the one that’s the most advantageous.
So that’s for when it’s perfectly rational actors.
But when you have, I mean, there’s noise that there’s a, I think, benefit to just, even
if they keep being shitty to you, still being nice to them.
Well then there’s the inverse where girls are turned off.
Some people are like, if you’re in a relationship and not just girls, but like some people,
when you’re kind to them, they find you less attractive, right?
That is kind of this weird, what am I supposed to do?
Like you’re only into me if I’m mean to you.
I don’t want to be mean, but then I’m getting punished for doing the right thing.
That’s another tricky one.
And I mean, this is nothing that necessarily do with anarchism so much as like, you know,
human beings are infinitely complex.
We don’t often know the backstory.
Like for example, just yesterday, Jay, who’s here is one of my closest friends.
I had a dinner with a bunch of people.
I couldn’t bring a plus four, so he wasn’t invited.
He didn’t know the circumstances.
He just thought we were having dinner without him.
He was hurt.
Once I spelled it out, he completely understood and I felt horrible because for me to have
any of my friends feel left out is just a very, very cruel thing.
And I felt bad and I’m glad to apologize again publicly that that’s ended up being the circumstances.
But yeah, a lot of times we’re also in Plato’s cave.
When you’re dealing with somebody else, you have very, very limited information about
their background and circumstances.
And that’s why I will always, if it’s someone I even have a little bit of a relationship
with, try to give them the benefit of the doubt because I found, especially this comes
from being a coauthor, when you coauthor books and you’re walking in other people’s shoes,
you don’t know a lot of the information.
So a lot of times it’s just a misunderstanding.
But isn’t that a fundamentally anarchist question of how we figure out this puzzle
of human complexities in order to form voluntary collectives?
Like when you have to figure that out, how to make people feel good, how to make people…
I think not only anarchists have to think about this as my point, of course.
But we have to think about it more than others do.
I feel like I should try to argue against anarchism at some point, out of love, out
And so because people…
Out of joy.
People enjoy seeing me, what is it, when like Ben Shapiro argues against like a 20 year
Ben Shapiro destroys high school students with facts and legends.
This is this video of Michael Miles destroys a Marxist, Russian, communist pig.
So anarchism is opposed to hierarchies.
Well that’s left anarchism, anarcho communism, yeah.
But there are many hierarchies that are not the state.
We have a hierarchy here.
This is your show.
I’m differential to you.
Forced hierarchies is the…
So humans, when left on their own accord, they form hierarchies naturally.
Yes, inevitably in my opinion.
Which is why I disagree with the left anarchists.
I think it’s not a coherent thing to argue for nonhierarchical relationships, even in
It doesn’t make sense to me.
And I know the old school anarchists will call me stupid or uninformed, but I’ve never
been able to even wrap my head around this claim that you could have relationships without
So this is a certain sense in which we’re living in an anarchism now.
And I don’t mean just like, because the nations, as you’ve said, are in anarchism relative
to each other, but isn’t the United States just a collective that was formed in anarchy?
And this is just the collective that we’re operating under, this hierarchy that was naturally
Well, the United States was not naturally formed.
It was formed by force and by fiat.
But to your point, I stress this throughout the book.
I always say this anarchism is not a location, it’s a relationship.
So yeah, you and I do have a hierarchy and this is your show, but neither of us really
has an authority over the other.
Like I’m here voluntarily.
You can kick me out if you want.
I can leave it anyone.
Neither of us has the power to force the other to be in this relationship we’ve chosen.
My lawyer, I defer to his judgment.
He’s not forcing me to do it.
He gives me his advice and I could take it or leave it.
Same with the doctor.
So there is a clearly like who’s in charge and who’s not in charge, but they’re not in
a position to impose their will on everybody else.
And you could very easily see John is Stephanie’s lawyer and Stephanie is John’s doctor.
And in each of those contexts, one has this position of ostensible authority over the
So anarchism is in fact not some utopian crazy thing.
It is the norm of human relationships where you meet people.
You’re not necessarily equal.
Someone’s going to be taller, someone’s going to be stronger, someone’s smarter, wealthier
So you’re not at all thinking I am here and I could tell you what to do and you are legally
or morally obligated to follow my wishes.
That is the basis of anarchism.
So in what way is the United States imposing by force something on you, do you think?
If you leave your house, you will go to jail.
My money being taken from me via taxation.
But don’t you have the freedom to not operate under that?
No, but that’s like, yeah, like technically if someone comes up to you and mugs you and
says your money or your life, you are making a choice.
But what the anarchist argument is, they’re not in a position to force you to make that
That is not morally binding, even though they have practically the power to force you into
But you have the freedom to live under the United States or not.
Yeah, the argument is if you don’t like it, leave, right?
Not necessarily leave like geographically, but there’s ways to live outside the force
of the United States.
There’s ways, it’s just very difficult to operate that way.
But that’s like saying you could outrun the mugger, which is true, but the issue is does
that mugger have the right to tell you at gunpoint, you’re either giving me your money
or I’m going to shoot you or secret plan C, you get to run away.
Is that person a moral actor?
And the anarchist answer is never.
And just one more thing, the anarchist view is the difference between that mugger and
the government is only an air of legitimacy.
Literally they’re morally identical.
So is it possible that every hierarchy that gets big enough and successful enough such
that it can monopolize a bunch of services it provides, isn’t it always going to be amoral
in your sense, the way the United States government is amoral?
I don’t want to say just like the United States government is amoral because that implies
the United States government is uniquely or especially amoral.
Governments, I apologize.
I just want to clarify that because I know you didn’t mean that and I don’t want that
to be the implication.
Can you repeat the question?
So like won’t every Okay, so that’s right.
So that’s progressive economics.
So the argument is in any market at a certain point, things tend to centralize and then
that organization de facto can dictate price, can dictate so on and so forth.
That is completely historical.
If you look at any market, the trend is always towards decentralization, the music industry,
When we were kids, there were four or five record labels.
They were the ones who made all the songs that you’re going to see in the Billboard
Top 100 with a few exceptions.
Now anyone can go to direct to market.
If you look at TV stations, right, it went from CBS, NBC, ABC, then you got Fox, then
you had cable, which is 100.
Now you have satellite, which have sounds around the world and you have YouTube, which
is literally infinite.
So as technology improves and as wealth increases, which is a function of free enterprise, you
are going to always have more and more choice, even within a monopoly, Coca Cola, right?
This is an example I used, I think in the new right, when we were kids, every terrible
comedian would be like, oh, now that I’ve got diet caffeine free Coke, what’s next?
It’s like, yeah, that’s good.
You want to have, what was his name, Cayman, the guy who invented the Segway.
If you go, Dean Cayman, if you go into some restaurants right now, you will have those
You have like 80 kinds of Cokes and then you could have whatever flavor you want to add
Grape, cherry, lemon, lime, so on and so forth.
So in any field, you’re going to have more and more competition.
You’re going to have less competition and less choices when the state gets involved
because the state wants control.
The state wants one big neck with one leash around it and that way it could just pull
that dog in one direction or another.
And you saw this last year with the lockdowns, Carol Roth wrote this amazing book called
The War on Small Business and she talked about, we have seen for the first time in history
a massive wealth transfer from small and medium business towards organizations like Target
and Amazon who made trillions of dollars last year.
Whereas mom and pop, which to me at least is like the acme of American achievement.
You come to America, you have a fruit stand, a laundromat, you make socks, whatever it
is, you’re that unique artisan creating something special.
They’re the ones who didn’t last whereas Target and Amazon did.
So when you have the state involvement, it will always be in favor of Jeff Bezos and
for the simple reason that it’s going to be a lot easier for Jeff Bezos to get Nancy Pelosi
and Mitch McConnell on the phone than it is for me making socks on Etsy.
Your sense is that there’ll be less and less over time Jeff Bezos is like whatever industry
we look at, there’s be less, there’s a trend towards decentralization across all industries.
And when I say decentralization, I just mean choice, right?
So if you look at again, networks, you’re going to, if you were in the 80s and you had
a network just for LGBT issues, first of all, it’s going to be complete heretical.
That’s not going to happen and there’s not going to be enough necessarily people identifies
that to have an audience.
Then there was something called logo.
They have that and there’s lots of other shows like that in this way.
So more specific, look at websites.
I am positive that you and I, if we wanted to look up breeding guinea pigs, would find
thousands of websites about different breeds and all this other stuff 20 years ago, 30
years ago, like you’re going to have two books and they’re not going to be dynamic as these
new breeds are developed.
So at the same time it does, following on your argument, it does seem easier to move
and immigrate from state to state within the United States and to other countries.
Do you think that’s a form of freedom that embodies anarchism where you can resist the
force of state by choosing where you live?
To some extent, but the line of people, some of these boomers will go at me on Twitter
if I’m going after the police or something and be like, if you don’t like America, get
out of here.
And I tell them freedom means I do what I want, not what you want.
Freedom means I don’t have to move.
You don’t have to move.
Free speech is a good example.
It doesn’t mean I have to be on Twitter, right?
Twitter has the right to ban me.
But what I’m saying is I’m saying something and you don’t like it, too bad.
You’re the one who has to accommodate me because I have a right to do what I want with my person
as long as I’m being peaceful.
So I guess I’m trying to get to the difference between the state and what you would naturally
want in anarchy, which is like a security company, all of those things.
They will, as they become successful, start looking more and more like the state.
Because you get to elect, you give them money, they have leaders.
What’s the difference between a government and a very successful service provider in
Well, this gets a little confused in America as big companies necessarily are hand in hand
with the government ended up in bed with them.
The answer to this question is a long, complicated one.
And thankfully, it’s all in the Anarchist Handbook.
There was an essay by Murray Rothbard who Dave Smith, this is the essay that converted
So maybe it’s not as good as it could have been otherwise called Anatomy of the State.
And Murray Rothbard points out that state is the only agency in a country which gets
its goods through force.
The state is the only agency that is not a producer, but inherently a parasite because
it does not get its money voluntarily, but through taxation and by imposing its values
on a country.
That is what makes a state uniquely different from, let’s suppose, an Amazon or a Barnes
and Noble or a Target.
Jeff Bezos does not have the authority or the moral legitimacy to get an army and go
into somebody’s house, whereas Andrew Cuomo or Ron DeSantis, Donald Trump and Barack Obama
But is it possible that to reframe, so Jeff Bezos does if he hires a security force, also
is it possible to reframe taxation as a form of payment?
If it was done much better, if you could pay this collective that we call government in
ways where you could pay for things that you care for, your money would be much more directly
contributing to the things you care for.
If you care for a service like healthcare, you’ll be able to buy essentially insurance
from the government.
Why am I buying insurance from the government as opposed to insurance from an insurance
What do you perceive as the difference between a tax and a price?
Do you see the difference?
Yes, I know on the surface level, I’m trying to get deeply to say there’s a lot of similarities.
But what I’m saying is there’s one essential difference, which is taxes are imposed on
you and you have no choice.
Here’s an example.
My book, Ego and Hubris, my biography, it goes for $500 on eBay.
Someone paid for it.
Some crazy person.
People were showing me that it’s on Amazon for $3,000, something like that.
You could put a million for it.
You could charge whatever price you want.
The question is, is someone paying that $3,000 for it?
Is someone paying that million for it?
It’s actually the buyer who establishes the price because the seller can put any price
that he wants, $80 trillion.
But unless someone’s paying that amount and clearing the market, that price has literally
no real meaning.
It’s not an indicator of value or worth or market price.
Taxation, on the other hand, is by fiat.
I can decide it’s fair that you, Lex, have to pay 40% and Joe has to pay 45%.
Joe and Lex are in no position to be like, this price is too high.
Not only is that money set just completely out of their hands, for people who are employees,
it’s taken out of their paychecks before they even see it.
So they don’t even have the choice to be like, you know what?
I agree that the government has the right to pay taxation.
Here’s my check for 40%.
It’s going on.
It’s a completely different paradigm than you are when you’re paying for price.
The government provides a lot of services in the current system.
But there’s no service the government provides that would not be provided better, more efficiently,
and with more choices in a market.
That’s a hypothesis.
No, that’s very likely.
Well, that’s not a…
I can demonstrate this to you very easily.
I love it when you get flustered.
This is what people like.
It’s so cute.
Don’t make me put on the hat again.
The robot has a fire.
There’s smoke coming out of his ears.
What is price?
I will tax love.
I think of the government as a kind of subscription service.
That’s the anarchist view.
The anarchist view of private security would be a subscription service.
So that’s exactly correct.
But everyone hates when you sign up to a gym, and then you realize in the contract, it’s
very difficult to cancel that membership, and then they up the price.
There’s a lot of unpleasant things with a subscription service that then you can elect
to go to another subscription service.
Or you could go and Yelp and complain, and if there’s enough people to do that, the gym
will be receptive.
Look at the power of Yelp versus the power of the vote.
Well, we could talk about that too.
So you’re saying Yelp is more effective than voting.
The thing is, I agree with you, but you take a further step.
You say that Yelp is ethical and moral, and voting is amoral.
Or like not voting, but government is amoral.
So like it’s not only is one more efficient than the other, you’re saying like, because
I would say government sucks at doing what it does, and it’s gotten a lot better at it,
and I believe it can keep getting better as it gets smaller and it leverages companies
more and more.
But you’re saying, no, no, no, government is fundamentally as an idea gets in the way
of companies that should be doing those things anyway.
I just think that companies, when you take away government, will start looking like government.
Just because something looks like something does not mean it’s the same.
If someone puts out a yarmulke and tefillin and they go to shul, they’re not Jewish.
The basic objection you have with government, because you can leave, like I apologize that
this is that stupid Twitter cliche statement.
But your opposition to this idea of leaving the United States is that it’s just, it’s
a lot of effort.
It’s too much friction.
That’s not the option.
The opposition is in the introduction to the book, I say anarchism can be summed up in
You do not speak for me.
Everything else is application.
So the claim that somebody I’ve never met or who I voted against, let’s say, I hate
Donald Trump, I despise him, I want Hillary Clinton to be president.
Too bad Trump’s your president, that’s not what I want.
The idea that this person can come on me and make any claims onto one second of my time,
as opposed to try to persuade me, that is something that I, an anarchist, regard as
inherently evil and nonsensical.
But to operate large organizations, like you see this with cryptocurrency, there’s governance,
you have to make difficult decisions.
It’s a block size wars for Bitcoin.
So you will, there is a voting mechanism often with membership when you’re a subscription
But see, the thing is, you’re using these words and you’re switching definitions.
Because like, if I go to a store, I can technically say I’m voting for Tropicana orange juice
as opposed to another one.
But to kind of say, oh, well, you’re making a choice there for every choice is a vote.
I don’t, I think that that’s something that the Venn diagram is not.
No, I literally mean vote in this case, not money.
There’s some decisions, like, should Bitcoin have increases block size?
There’s a bunch of different, they’re called soft forks or hard forks.
Oh, I’m not saying you should never vote, like stockholders have to vote, right?
But there’s no pretense.
Here’s, let’s look at this.
If you want to build robots, right?
You would sit down with the company, you would, you guys would be like, we should do this
kind of robot, we should do this kind of robot.
The stockholders would have a vote or the board in proportion to their investment in
Me, who knows nothing about robots, the idea that I’m in a position to walk in and be like,
this is what you should do is crazy and bizarre and wrong because I’m not in a foreign position.
So what democracy does is it forces people who run businesses well to run businesses
poorly by people who don’t know how to run businesses at all.
That’s the, that’s one of the many concerns.
But you’re saying that’s the fundamental property of the state.
I have a sense that the state could become as effective as what we think of as companies.
I mean, as.
This is why they can’t, because the state does not have access to data the way that
And this is one of Ludwig von Mises’s great points, what he called the calculation problem.
If I’m looking at comic books, right, and I have Detective Comics, if Detective Comics
26 is a thousand and Detective Comics 28 is a thousand and Detective Comics 27 is 50,000,
that is telling me that even if I don’t know anything about comics, that Detective Comics
27 is either very, very scarce for some reason or very, very desirable.
It’s the first appearance of Batman, whatever, but you don’t need to know that to just look
at this data and be like, okay, this is the market, tell me something.
If prices are set by the government, which the government is a monopoly, I have no way
of picking those winners or losers.
I don’t have that data of supply and demand of an entire nation or a world of people making
individual decisions and having price be dynamic and informing me as the organization where
I should allocate my resources.
So the price is a really strong signal that allows you to operate a voluntary collective
where people get what they want and don’t get what they don’t want.
And it tells me what to produce, what not to produce.
And it also is great because if I see this podcasting industry, which didn’t exist five
years ago, and now these people are making bank, that tells me as someone who is an investor,
they’re making 50%, whatever, 10% profit on their capital.
In the plant industry, it’s 2%.
If I’m going to further my capital to this 10%, and that’s going to lower the profit
rate as that builds up.
And that is how markets are regulated, voluntarily.
But the word government, I just think it’s possible to have collectives of human beings
that represent others based on their voluntary…
Yes, of course, you have private governance.
Any company, you can have a CEO, you can have a board of directors.
But then you, I just, it starts to look very similar to me, a successful private governance
mechanism at a scale of the United States starts looking a whole lot like the current
government of the United States.
Even Amazon, I don’t think is anything close to the federal budget, size wise or budget
wise or power wise.
So you’re saying you just, it’s not even state, it’s almost like anything at that size.
You want to keep things smaller.
And I don’t, markets are not going to combine to that level of the state because Jeff Bezos
will never be in a position to tell everyone in America, I’m going to take 40% of your
money before you even see it.
That to me is actually unclear.
We don’t know that to be true, where that Google or Amazon can’t grow to the size.
If you take away the US government, I’m not so sure that Amazon can’t grow to the size
of the US government.
Okay, so worst case scenario is we’re back where we started, right?
That’s not worst case scenario.
But the concern is that Google is going to be the federal government?
That’s not the concern.
I’m saying like, this is what it looks like when Google is the federal government.
It’s not, it’s like, to me, the US government is our best attempt so far to have large scale
representation of people’s interest.
It really sucks, but it’s our best attempt so far and the question is how to improve
Like if you take away all, if you take away the US government, I’m trying to see how do
we improve on that level, that scale of representation of people’s interest.
Let me give you one example that people could wrap their hands around very easily.
I’m against government police monopoly, I’m for private security, right?
You don’t have to be an anarchist to understand this.
Can everyone agree, or at least as a hypothesis, everyone can wrap their heads around, here’s
a big concern, 911, right?
I’ve heard this 911 call, it’s very chilling.
There’s a kid in a closet, his family’s being murdered outside, right?
He has to call 911, he’s whispering.
It’s horrifying to hear.
There’s no reason why the number I call for my family’s being murdered is the same number
I call for the fire department is the same number I call for an ambulance.
What if instead it operated like Uber?
You have buttons on your phone, if there’s a real emergency, like someone’s gun flyers,
someone’s being killed, you press this and it sends instead of the one police district,
whatever company is nearby, you have a bunch of them and they’re the ones who are going
to come to your house to save you.
People can wrap their heads around that very easily.
That is one very clear way to go from having a government security monopoly towards having
a more free enterprise system.
So when you apply that to pretty much anything, it doesn’t become that complicated of an alternative.
So what I would, you’re going to criticize this, but I believe the government, it’s like
the parenting thing we’ve talked about earlier, I think it creates a safe space for gov, for
I’m for safe spaces, so I’m not going to laugh at you about that.
I want people to be safe.
But for a safe space for entrepreneurship.
So I believe that good government, hold on a sec, give me a sec, give me a sec.
I think government gives a opportunity for companies to out compete it.
UPS, FedEx, 100%, not a question.
So I believe you need to have private schools, government to give a chance for UPS, FedEx,
for SpaceX, oh there’s an X in there, to pop up and then government will naturally back
off from that place.
So like you, but you need the innovators to step in and build the thing.
Like you can’t just.
When has government ever backed off though?
That never happens.
I back, well, from FedEx and UPS, from SpaceX, from Amazon.
Wait, wait, hold on.
The US Postal Service still competes with FedEx and UPS.
So here’s the other thing.
Not well, but they still exist.
And the point is.
But UPS and FedEx are taxed.
So not only are they paying for their own company, they’re paying for this competitor.
This is the essential difference.
Imagine if you didn’t have UPS, excuse me, the federal government and no post office.
So you had FedEx, you have DHL, you have US Postal Service and many others.
How about in this scenario, UPS has the capacity to take 20% of FedEx’s DHL and couriers money
and put in their own pocket and they never have to do anything in return.
This is going to be an enormous advantage of UPS.
And then when you add the addition that UPS is not necessarily going to be more efficient
than the others, this is going to be a huge distortion in the market.
Can you imagine if your podcast, you just automatically got 20% of the views of everybody
I mean, would there be any incentive for you to be great?
Or you could just sit in your laurels and do whatever you want even more than now.
It’s hard to imagine more than now.
That’s because you’re a robot and lack imagination.
I think there just has to be, of course you can do it completely without government, but
That’s all I need to hear.
That’s all I need to hear.
What else you can do without government at the end?
Let us try.
The question is that safety net that’s needed for entrepreneurship, that’s needed for, I’m
sorry to say, but I have a sense that there needs to be a bit of a safety net for freedom.
I’m much more comfortable with saying you need a safety net for freedom than you need
one for entrepreneurs.
The beauty of markets is with your startup, if you have a startup and it completely fails,
the only person who’s screwed is you and your investors.
If I’m a government and I make a startup, the entire society fails, like the Iraq war.
If I have this cockamamie plan, everyone else doesn’t have a choice.
They are both funding it and sometimes even drafted or forced into it.
The safety net, the antlers, getting back to the early anarchists, one of the things
that I admire about them, the inaugural communists, the old school left anarchists, is people
don’t remember what context they were in.
They were in context without a welfare state, they’re immigrating in huge numbers from
Eastern Europe, you go to the Tenement Museum in New York, people like 12 to a room, kids
are working in factories, they’re either working in factories or they have to starve.
It’s not that their parents didn’t love them, it’s that the parents didn’t have birth control,
which was a felony, and they also were in a position to put food on the table for their
kids because they’re uneducated and the jobs are paying nothing.
You could understand why Emma Goldman, Alexander Berkman, Proudhon, and all these other figures
were like, this is untenable, we see Carnegie with 80,000 mansions, whereas this lady whose
husband died at age 30, who’s never been to high school or even junior high school, has
10 kids, how’s she going to put food on the table, it’s not going to happen.
You could understand why they would be like, all right, we need to seize this money and
distribute it around the people, that makes a lot of sense.
In a contemporary context, where food is much cheaper, where shelter to some extent is more
available, when medical care, we’re so oblivious to how bad things were that we see things
are bad now, so we assume that they were better than in some contexts.
They were much, much worse there in many contexts.
So if you’re going to make an argument for government, for me, the strongest argument
is like food stamps or like free lunches for children, because I agree that would be very
inefficient and it’s going to probably make them obese because you’re going to have Nabisco
lobbying to make sure that if you’re going to have this protein, you’re not going to
give the kids an Oreo, aren’t you?
These kids are poor, you want them to have some pleasure and that’s going to have deleterious
But if the choice is an inefficient government program and mass starvation, that is one where
as an anarchist, I could easily see making the argument for that one.
Even though I think very clearly private charity would be more efficient and distribute it
But at that point, I don’t really care about efficiency.
If you’re throwing out food to make sure these kids get fed, I don’t care.
So would engagement in military conflict be one of the biggest negative things about the
state to you?
Yeah, of course.
War is the state at its worst.
So if we take away war or make it defensive instead of aggressive, yeah.
I mean, wouldn’t that be a huge step forward if war instead of regarded, we’re always,
this is what drives me crazy.
We’re taught as kids in school that war is a last resort.
And I agree with that.
And yet when you look at the corporate press, war is always the first response.
And these people do not talk about what war means.
They’ll show examples during the Bush years of soldiers coming home in caskets, which
already is an unacceptable price in many cases for me.
But they don’t even pretend to care about the people overseas whose countries we’ve
ransacked and lives we’ve ruined.
And it’s just like, well, what are you going to do?
Not ransack those countries?
So that war to me is the state at its worst.
See, I think that there is value from small government that doesn’t engage in wars.
I do think that the kind of collectives that you imagine functioning well would look like
the best version of government that I imagine.
So I see them as the same.
I think a lot of it is just terminology.
I have no problem saying that I’m using the word anarchism incorrectly and to go for what
I have no problem with that or anything, really.
Because like I said, life is beautiful.
But nevertheless, you wrote the essay, why I’m not going to vote this time or ever.
Why I won’t vote this year or any other year or any year.
And the basic idea.
I hope you do a better job reading it than you just read that title.
I guess you’ll take as many takes as necessary.
I’ll read it in Russian and then pay somebody to translate it.
This isn’t even Russian at all.
He’s just making up words.
Where’d you find this guy?
You get what you pay for.
This is anarchy.
This is what you wanted.
Like your basic summary is, let me see, if pressed, the simplest explanation I have for
refusing to vote is this, I don’t vote for the same exact reasons that I don’t take communion.
No matter how admirable he is or how much I agree with him, the Pope isn’t the steward
over my soul, nor is any president the leader of my life.
This does not make me ignorant or evil any more than not being a Christian makes me ignorant
If I need representation, I will hire the most qualified person to do so.
Isn’t voting our current best developed way of hiring the most qualified person to represent
you on some things?
No, because if I have a lawyer and the lawyer screws up, I can fire him.
If I vote for someone, I don’t get who I want.
I get for who my neighbors want.
So that makes no sense.
Representation means I want you to speak for me.
Whereas voting is like, I kind of want you, but I’ll take what I can get and I’m going
to take what I could get regardless.
So what’s the point?
In governments, again, that’s what Bitcoin is.
You want to be represented in deciding what to do, but once…
Wait, Bitcoin isn’t picking a person.
They’re not picking a president of Bitcoin.
They’re picking an idea.
It’s more like a referendum.
And to me, a referendum is much more coherent and defensible than it is voting for a representative
because if I’m voting for Joe Biden, I’m saying this person speaks for me for abortion, taxation,
environmental policy, immigration, war, right?
The odds that unless you’re a complete NPC, that this one person will speak for you for
everything and will deliver what he promised and has the power to deliver what he promises
is not true.
Whereas if I have Brexit, if I say I want Britain to remain part of the European Union
to say yes or no question, that makes a lot more sense to me.
But even that is not pure democracy because going back to the idea of the circulation
of elites, which James Burnham talked about, Pareto and Moscow and all them, you’re still
going to have someone telling you what you can and can’t vote for and how these questions
So in contradiction to what the left anarchist said, some element of hierarchy is always
going to be inevitable.
So listen, I agree with this aspect very much so that we should be voting for ideas and
issues not voting for leaders, for leaders to represent us across the full spectrum of
It seems to make no sense.
Yeah, this is great.
But I do think there should be a leader, I do believe in voting for representatives to
debate, to be communicators of ideas to us.
But let me start to interrupt you, but you could have those two things.
For example, wouldn’t this be an improvement if they have that now, you have a referendum,
you want tax rates to be 30 or 40, whatever percent, you have the guy leading the campaign
for 50, fight for 50, then you have the lady leading the campaign for 40, fight for 40,
they’ll go out there, they can have debates, they can talk about the issue, but you’re
still not voting for one of them, you’re voting for the issue.
That makes much more sense to me than I’m going to vote for him and hope that he puts
forward 50 and that depends on 99 other senators.
But also, I mean, I do like the idea of voting for certain people to debate certain ideas.
Yes, I think that’s a major improvement.
But the final vote should be based on the idea.
So okay, so we agree.
That would be nice to have, plus no wars, and then you’ll stop tweeting so aggressively.
And to decriminalize things that don’t hurt people.
Drugs especially, prostitution is a big one.
And this is me talking, all cops are criminals.
There’s no one, or maybe other than abused children, who needs access to the police other
than sex workers.
They’re the ones who are the most likely to really put themselves in danger situation,
so they need to be able to call security, because that’s why they have pimps.
Because you’re a woman dealing with some strange dudes who are a lot of the time going to have
weird kinks, you want to be able to be sure, even if you don’t approve of prostitution,
think it’s horrible, that she’s not going to be raped and murdered and have no consequences.
And if you’re going to say, oh, well, she’s a prostitute, she can’t be raped.
Just think for a second, if you’re agreeing to sleep with somebody, and then he starts
choking you and beating the crap out of you and saying it’s now it’s a dom situation,
that is clearly beyond the pale of salt.
And the same thing with drugs, heroin, cocaine, crack.
The people that need help the most are the ones who are addicted to those drugs and putting
Let’s suppose you think drug dealers should be in jail, right?
It is very hard for me to say that someone who sells cocaine should be treated or in
the same building as someone who rapes children, or as a murderer.
These are not similar types of evil, even if you believe that that drug dealer is an
Yeah, I have.
I mean, there’s an essay in there called by Alexander Berkman, who was Emma Goldman’s
partner on prisons and crime.
And this is leftism at its best, forgetting the person is forgotten.
And the fact that we have the world’s largest prison population, the fact that so many people
are just like, oh, you commit a crime, just put them in jail, throw away the key.
At the very least, if you want to be totally immoral about it, it’s expensive.
And second of all, the concept that all criminals should be locked in a room together in these
kind of largely inhuman conditions, and that’s going to help people.
I don’t think that that’s the ideal mechanism.
Yeah, I tend to believe, I usually don’t speak so negatively about politicians, but I do think
that politicians have done more evil in the war on drugs than did the people that are
supposed to be the criminals in this picture.
And I’ll give you another example of how this is the anarchist critique of power.
Hunter Biden, and I’m not making fun of him, I’m not taking shots at him.
He had an article in the New Yorker, where he talks about when he was in LA, he was buying
crack and there was a misunderstanding or like he left the crack pipe in the Hertz car
and then blah, blah, blah, there’s an issue.
He’s admitting to a felony in writing to a reporter.
And I’m sure this was within the statute of limitations.
There was no possibility he was going to have consequences.
Kamala Harris, who was a cop, talked about when she was in college, she was smoking weed.
And it’s like, I don’t begrudge you guys smoking your crack or smoking your weed, but for other
people who are poor or maybe just had the short end of the stick, this is years of their
life being destroyed.
At the very least, even an arrest is a traumatic situation.
If you have a weed or cocaine or crack, you’re arrested, that’s really going to screw up,
it’s going to do a number on you being locked up.
So to have that double standard to me is completely unacceptable.
And that has nothing to do with Republican or Democrat.
George W. Bush was a coke head back in the day.
He talks about overcoming his addiction, and I’m glad that he did, more power to him.
But just to have this kind of, you know, it’s just really kind of disturbing to me, and
this is my anarchist brain, like how prevalent drug use is in college.
I think there’s a joke on South Park, like, there’s a time and a place to try drugs, and
that’s called college where people experiment.
But all those college kids, which are going to become next generation’s elite, don’t really
have that worry that if they get caught, then anything’s going to happen to them.
But that kid in the street who did not have that good upbringing, even if he’s a piece
of crap, like he’s not going to have a different punishment, I think that’s just really at
his base on American.
So in contrast to Tolstoy, let me ask you about Emma Goldman.
You wrote that if anarchism believed in rulers, then Emma Goldman would be the undisputed
What ideas defined her flavor of anarchism, would you say?
Emma was really an old school radical.
She was a radical among radicals.
I don’t know what ideas, I mean, what would define her was anarchism, obviously.
There’s the violence.
I mean, she was more open to the idea of violent opposition versus somebody like Tolstoy.
Oh, sure, for sure.
So basically, Emma and Alexander Berkman, their mentor was someone named Johann Most.
And Johann Most was a very early free speech, not very early, but he was a free speech concern
because he published a pamphlet in Europe that was translated in the States about how
to build dynamite.
Because his idea was, all right, you have this oppressive government, this oppressive
police force that use batons and bolts against us.
The only way for us as the working class to level the playing field is through dynamite
and here’s how you build it.
So the question is, all right, is this something that could be allowed to be legal now that
you’re allowing the layman to, in his own house, build bombs?
So Johann Most, basically, they had a big parting of ways because when Alexander Berkman
tried to assassinate Frick, Johann said, no, no, no, this is not something I’m for.
And in fact, they thought with this assassination, this failed assassination, this would be the
thing that’s fired off the revolution because you had the strike, the Pinkertons involved,
Pinkertons getting killed, strikers are getting killed.
This is what Marx predicted, they’re gonna light the spark and everything’s gonna come
He ends up going to jail for 13 years instead, Alexander Berkman does.
And then Goldman and Berkman had a big issue because when Leon Salgas killed McKinley
in 1901, it was really, it’s kind of humorous in retrospect.
He gets arrested and they’re like, why’d you kill the president?
He goes, I was radicalized by Emma Goldman and she’s like, oh, damn it, she’s on the
I don’t even know this guy.
And she made the point about like, why is it worse than the president being killed and
We’re all equal.
And you would think if you’re against capitalism, against the ruling class, this would be your
But Berkman, who went to jail, who tried to assassinate someone, he had said, McKinley,
this is your villain?
He’s just a party hack.
He’s like a symptom of the times, this is foolish.
And Goldman disagreed with him.
He thought it wasn’t necessarily justified, but it may have done something that was defensible.
So the three of them, you know, had their differences on the use of violence.
And in fact, when she came back from Russia and was denouncing it in her book, My Disillusionment
in Russia, My First Disillusionment in Russia, the last chapter she goes, look, I’m not saying
I’m against violence.
When there’s the revolution comes, we’re going to have to use force.
She goes, but it’s not the force of the state against the working class, against the masses.
This is exactly what we’re opposed to.
This is a complete obscenity to our principles.
So that was interesting.
The fact that she was a, her periodical Mother Earth was a clearinghouse for many prominent,
you know, ideas of the day that weren’t anarchist, but were certainly radical.
So she was a bit, and also she was like tiny, she was like 5.1.
So to have this little woman who was so feisty and…
Talk back to Lenin.
She took on Lenin, Woodrow Wilson, J. Edgar Hoover was the one who deported her.
Someone who just…
And the thing is, you have to be careful because I think just like war, it’s very easy to glamorize
violence and to regard it as something admirable or heroic, like you’re fighting for the cause.
But if you take it out of the romanticism, you’re like, you’re killing someone who had
You are, you know, killing someone with a family.
You’re making your, if you’re going to shoot someone, they’re probably going to retaliate
twice as hard.
Violence sings its own song and this is a very dangerous road you’re going down.
So you really need to be careful about what you’re preaching here.
And you know, she kind of had this mixed feelings about it, but that is certainly not Emma Goldman
Emma Goldman her best was about the ultimate freedom of the individual, of caring about
people who are desperately poor, who despised the corporate idea that we all had to be made
into cookie cutters and be interchangeable and all have to start work at the same time.
And basically our entire lives slave for corporation that have nothing to show for it while they
get wealthy and you have no opportunity for either productive work or creative work.
So that I think the valorization of kind of the lowest of the low is something I find
There’s a quote of hers, which I think even for those of us who are, you know, for property
rights is left anarchism at its best, but she goes, go and ask for work.
If they don’t give you work, ask for bread.
If they don’t give you bread, take bread.
So the idea that like, if you’re that poor and you’re honestly trying to work and work
isn’t available and you steal food to keep alive, that you shouldn’t feel guilt about
I don’t know that I would disagree with that.
I think that there’s something to be said at that point where it’s just like, you know,
if property rights come between that and mass starvation, it’s going to be very hard for
anyone to make the case for property rights.
Now, my argument is when you have free enterprise, food becomes so plentiful that now obesity
is an issue.
But at the time she did not have, of course, have that data to access.
Is there somebody you left out from the book that you thought about leaving in like some
Yeah, there’s a couple.
So Chomsky would have been one, of course, because he’s probably one of the biggest anarchist
thinkers in contemporary times.
I was on the fence about Herbert Spencer because he’s not an anarchist.
Chris Williamson’s reading the chapter for the book.
He coined the term Survival of the Fittest and the chapter is called The Right to Ignore
the State from his book, Social Statics.
It was deleted from later editions, but people found it and reprinted it.
And Randolph Bourne, he was an early progressive.
He was the only one or one of the very few fighting against entering the Great War.
And he had an essay called War is the Health of the State, which is basically about how
states love war because it gives them an excuse to increase their power.
And it’s very hard to argue against increasing state power in a time of war.
But since he was not himself an anarchist and there was plenty antiwar in there already,
I didn’t include him, but those would be the ones.
Is there some people that you think the public would be surprised to learn that they are
at least in part anarchists?
Like I saw that Howard Zinn is supposedly an anarchist.
I mean, is there, like, just like Tolstoy is an anarchist.
Is there some people like that that you think in our modern life that would be surprised
to learn they’re anarchists?
I can’t think of any off the top of my head.
I mean, you could say Carl Hess, who was like Barry Goldwater’s speechwriter from the 1964
campaign, but he’s hardly a household name.
I mean, I think a lot of people would not ascribe to that term, but are certainly informed
with this complete distrust of all authority.
Murray Rothbard had an essay, if I didn’t include anatomy of the state, I was going
to include this one.
It’s much, much shorter.
And his question was, who are our allies and who are our enemies?
And the point he made is there’s lots of people who would call themselves anarchists who are
of little use, whereas someone who is still like a minarchist or for government, but genuinely
hates the question Rothbard had is if there’s a button and you could press that you would
end the state, would you press it so fast your finger would get a blister?
Those are allies, even if they’re, you know, somewhat of a minarchist.
So I think that is kind of a better lens of looking at it.
And I don’t think anyone needs to really ascribe to anarchism as a whole ideology in so far
as you’re seeing right now, many people in certain fringe elements are just essentially
or are decreasingly fringe and increasing mainstream elements are realizing that this
idea that whatever the state does is somehow morally binding or legitimate is something
that at least bears strong questioning.
And I mean, I guess there’s a lot of groups like the libertarians, for example, have some
element of that.
I mean, I think that’s the beginning of the ways of government.
And also, I think what I love, I mean, if there’s one issue where I would want people
to have this kind of analysis, it is war.
And it is like, okay, are you really sure?
Because this is 100% going to result in a lot of people being killed, a lot of people
being traumatized, a lot of people who are never going to recover, children, innocent
Are you really sure this is the right thing to do?
And I think a lot of times if the answer is, well, it’s the profitable thing to do.
And that is, I think, again, government at its absolute most venal and worst.
You Michael Malice in many ways are a New Yorker.
I’ll give you one example.
I don’t know where Austin is on the map.
Not even kidding.
But does it even matter?
It doesn’t matter.
But nevertheless, you’ve decided to move to Austin.
Why do you think you’re moving to Austin, or why do you moving both to Austin and away
from New York?
This was one of the both, I hate it when people talk like this, but I’m gonna do it anyway.
This was one of the hardest and easiest decisions of my life.
It was hard because I’ve lived in New York since I was two, other than college.
It’s the only home I’ve known.
I know it intimately.
I know all the cool spots.
I love it with every fiber of my being or I did.
It was very much, you know, ingrained in my personality, my outlook about what cities
can be and can’t be and should be and shouldn’t be.
Deciding to move was not done.
But when you see your crew, your chosen family, one by one whittling away, it’s not easy.
They all left.
There’s just a couple of us left in New York.
And I don’t see any mechanism by which New York is going to improve.
Things are getting much worse all the time.
It’s just completely outrageous.
Here I would have a huge crew.
I didn’t realize how much cheaper real estate is than in New York.
This is another way.
So New Yorkers are the most provincial people on earth who are completely oblivious to the
rest of the country.
So for a long time, the argument was New York versus LA, right, for certain types of people.
And they would say LA is cheaper in terms of rent.
So in New York, let’s suppose the rent is a thousand, LA was 700, but you have to get
I’m like, this is kind of a wash.
So I assumed Austin would be like 80% of New York prices.
And I’m looking at these houses and for like 700,000, you could get a house here that would
cost like 3.5 million in New York.
And you could have a gun.
And it’s just like, I could have a yard and I could have a dog and I could have a three
bedroom and I could have, you know, aquariums and my weird plants.
So to have all that, and it’s just to have, I am very, very lucky that I have such a supportive
And they were also very smart because they sat me down and they said, whatever excuse
you have not to move here, we are going to make sure that doesn’t count.
So my buddy Matt said, because I have a huge library, he goes, I will go to your house
and I will pack every single book you own myself so you can get that as an excuse the
I don’t know how to drive and you do this, she’s like, we’re going to take driving lessons
There goes that excuse.
How do I find an apartment?
They’re like, we’ll go to with the realtor and we’ll take pictures for you.
We’ll report back.
You can trust our judgment.
And I’m like, that’s great.
I would do that.
That sounds like fun shopping for houses that have to buy them.
Then Matt just yesterday had the idea goes, come here, rent a furnished apartment for
a few months.
You don’t have the pressure of buying.
And it’s just, it’s going to be an easy transition.
The rent’s not going to be anything compared to New York.
I’m like, these are all very valid things.
Lots of other people.
Yeah, that’s what this is.
I made sure that’s renting month to month.
Oh, this is rental.
This is rental.
Oh, you didn’t realize this.
I thought you bought this.
No, no, no.
This is rental.
We can talk.
I thought you bought it.
No, it’s rental.
Well, I really value freedom.
Yeah, of course.
Who are you talking to?
I’ve heard of this thing, freedom, it’s really great.
But not everybody in the implementation of freedom is different for everybody.
I don’t want to make a statement about others.
I’ll just speak for myself.
I think when you buy a house, that is not just a wise financial decision or all those
kinds of reasons that people have, investment, all those kinds of things.
I think it’s also a hit on your freedom because the positive way to frame that is you make
it a home.
You have a deep connection to it.
But the negative way to frame it is you’re now a little bit stuck there.
And you may stay there way longer than you should when much better opportunities for
life come up.
There’s stages in life when you’re not sure exactly what the future will hold.
I would argue that’s very often the case, basically at every stage in life.
I just want to make sure I maximize the freedom to embrace the most ambitious, the craziest,
the wildest, the most beautiful opportunities that come by.
You’ve actually brought this up too, because I said I really enjoyed the conversation with
you and Yaron, talking to you and somebody else, and I think you make a really significant
You’ve said this before, but it really is true and it stands in contrast to other folks
who are also good conversation.
You really make an effort for that person to meet the person.
Oh, for sure.
You made me realize it’s kind of an art form, but it’s also just, it’s a thing worth doing
of putting in that effort and that leap of humanity to reach the, whether you’re talking
to Dave Rubin or Alex Jones or Joe or me, just those are different human beings and
they’re taking that leap.
I mean, do you have, how do you think about that?
I’m a huge introvert as you are, I think.
I feel very, very, very lucky that I get to get on a mic and run my mouth and for some
people, for some reason, people like this.
So I know what it’s like to have a good convo and I know what it’s like to have a bad convo.
So before I’ll do a show, I will have like some things I would want to talk about.
And then I’ll think about how to say them in an engaging way.
So I do my homework in that regard.
I’m also very good at, or I pride myself at taking people who are cerebral or intellectual
and making them a little bit silly, but also making them feel safe to be silly because
I’m not going to be making a buffoon of them that we’re having fun as opposed to disrespecting
I think we all saw that with Yaron, who’s very cerebral, very serious, but we were all
cracking jokes and he was having a good time and he knew even if I’m making fun of him
to his face, it is coming from a place of kindness and he’s in on the joke and we’re
all having fun.
That is something I try to do as much as possible.
I had an episode of my show a couple of weeks ago and someone who’s been a friend of mine
for a long time and someone I admire a lot, Elizabeth Spires, she was the founding member
of, founding editor of Gawker, she’s worked for the Observer for Jared Kushner, her resume
second to none and she was on my show and she was talking, her politics are pretty straightforward
like corporate journalist, blue pilled politics and my audience was very upset that I wasn’t
pushing back or whatever.
I’m like, my job, if someone is coming to a place where the audience is at least going
to be somewhat hostile, is not to make her have negative consequences for doing something
that she didn’t need to do.
My job is to make sure that the experience is a positive one for her as the host.
So when I’m the guest, I always feel that my job is to make the host look good and make
the host not feel like it’s work and the audience really likes that because instead of it being
an interview or intense, it is a conversation, nine of us know what’s going to happen and
so this is something I think about a fair amount and I try to apply and insofar as it’s
successful, I’m delighted and there’s times when it’s not successful and that’s a shame
but all we could do is do our best.
Yeah, I really enjoyed that conversation with her.
I was surprised by the dislikes and all that kind of stuff.
Well, one of the things I always talk about is I don’t care what my friends politics are.
I care about if I’m having a bad day, can I call them up and ask for advice and Elizabeth
has been there for me in the past and then when I do it on a camera in front of mics,
people freaking out.
I’m like, I’m practicing what I preach.
My, the relationships are more important than someone’s political views and it’s not hypocrisy
at all to demonstrate that and not to push back.
And there was great humor there.
You’re both a bit of trolls in very different ways but nevertheless, that connection, the
humor and the mutual respect and love that was all there, yeah, it’s just fascinating.
You’ve talked to Alex Jones a couple days ago.
I haven’t seen him many times before but you’ve had him on your podcast.
This week, yeah.
I was kind of surprised that he mentioned that human animal hybrids was like the number,
the main conspiracy that people should look into to open their eyes to the, you know,
to all this, to the globalists, to all the conspiracies that are out there.
Was that surprising to you?
No, because I came in there with questions and I was very focused on corralling him and
having it be like kind of a coherent intellectual conversation.
That was a really, really good, it was only an hour but it was a very good conversation.
Yeah, thank you.
I, the response was overwhelmingly positive and I’m like, all right, I’m in a unique position
because Alex, I met Alex, well, that’s not true, but I was on Alex, with Alex on Tim
Pool a couple of times.
It was mayhem, it was anarchy and I’m like, all right, let me get.
But the thing is what people enjoyed is I was the one who was basically able to translate
He’s obviously very performative and a lot of times Alex will say things that are not
really particularly controversial, but he’ll say them in such a way that it sounds crazier
than it is.
You know, I think Joe’s made this observation as well.
So what I wanted to have him on my show is, all right, let’s go through all these conspiracies
which have validity, which don’t.
And I knew if I asked him, because he’s got a lot of historical knowledge, even if you
think of a lot of it’s nonsensical, let’s sort out the wheat from the chaff, you know,
because everyone has someone crazy in them.
I have this expression, you take one red pill, not the whole bottle, you take the whole bottle
of red pills, you assume literally everything in the media is a lie, that’s just not a coherent
position to have.
Is the weather a lie when they tell you that temperature is going to be wrong tomorrow?
So that was fun to watch him go through that.
And he felt bad because he felt incorrectly, in my opinion, that he was needlessly aggressive
and disrespectful toward me on Tim.
I didn’t feel disrespected at all.
It got heated, but I didn’t take it personally.
People have heated debates all the time.
So I think he promised me he wouldn’t interrupt and would be deferential, but that because
he promised to be on his best behavior, that gave me an opportunity to address him seriously
and not to bring the clown aspect out of him, which is easy to caricature him.
My friend Ethan Suppley, who I’m sure people know, played basically a character based on
him in The Hunt, because Alex is kind of this cartoon archetype.
So it was really fun to get another side of him.
And also, it’s just fun being on his show, just him being bombastic and just trying to
be the calm voice of reason.
And for once, the trickster was Apollo.
Well, I like this thing he said before.
And that’s what makes me the most interested in Alex is the Nietzsche quote about gazing
into the abyss.
I think he said on your show that he has become the abyss or something like that.
I think that makes him fascinating that when you really take conspiracy theories seriously,
the kind of effect it has on your mind.
That to me is fascinating.
Well, can I say one thing, that term conspiracy theory?
If you ask any layman, look, it’s like this, you say, do you like puppies?
I hate them.
Do you like baby dogs?
Oh, they’re the best, right?
People, the human mind is capable of doing this.
So if you ask people, do you think extremely powerful people often get together and manipulate
data or rules in order to further their power and control and maintain it?
I think 90 plus percent of people would be like, of course.
Then you say, oh, so you believe in conspiracy theories.
Oh no, that’s for crazy people.
Those concepts are identical.
Now that term is used for people who are like, all right, there’s conspiracies in government
to experiment on people like Tuskegee.
This is not in dispute.
The CIA has unsealed things, Operation Mockingbird, so on and so forth.
And at the same time, conspiracy theory applies to people who say 9 11 never happened and
those are holograms.
Now it’s the same word for both, but these are not at all equal truth claims and they
do not at all have equal evidence to them.
But it’s very useful for powerful people to have that term in the zeitgeist because then
I don’t have to explain or defend.
It’s like, only lunatics are going to look further on this.
Do you really want to be a lunatic kid?
And that takes care of the issue.
Unfortunately the same problem applies, language applies to a lot of other areas.
100%, that’s the nature of language, yeah.
It’s used not just to communicate, but to obfuscate.
Obviously that could be fixed by coming up with different words to label conspiracy theories
that are much more likely to be true.
Yeah, like power elite analysis is another, is basically conspiracy theory.
This is the black pill versus white pill question with the abyss.
Do you think thinking about these things can destroy the mind, can make you deeply cynical
about the world?
Yeah, because if you are thinking that you are not aware of, or no one is aware of who’s
controlling things and that the level of their control, it gives you the sense of powerlessness
And my counter is the people in charge, one of the reasons I’m an anarchist, are nowhere
near as smart and crafty as you think they are.
And certainly maybe the ones complete in the shadow maybe are, but the ones who are in
the public face most certainly are not, as social media has demonstrated, when you look
at how senators and Harvard professors tweet, these are not, you know, intellects that you’re
in awe of, to put it mildly.
So I think that kind of takes the bloom off the rose to a great extent.
You mentioned that you’ve been doing a lot of amazing things, been truly joyful recently.
But I don’t know if you have a bucket list.
Is there items on the bucket list you haven’t done yet?
Are you pretty much satisfied and happy, and if you die today, if I murder you, you’ll
I could die today.
Is there an item on the bucket list you want to get done?
I don’t, yeah.
Deep Sea submersible.
That would be number one on the bucket list.
Because that’s where all the most interesting zoology is.
And to be in a place where like virtually no human being has been, and to see these
gods mistakes and their natural environment.
My friend coined that term gods mistakes.
If you look at deep sea creatures, you can imagine god making some animal being like,
oh god, this is hideous, I’ll just throw them on the ocean, no one’s gonna see this.
So that would be my number one bucket list thing.
I would say go to the White House as a guest would be a bucket list thing.
Russia, go to Russia would be a bucket list thing.
I want to go, these are secondary, like go to Eritrea would be a bucket list thing.
I’ve got a long list of books I need to write.
That’s that’s, I don’t know if that’s really a bucket list per se.
There’s not that much, what I’m at a point in my life is once you cross up certain things,
you basically, instead of driving the car, start surfing.
And just amazing thing, I talked to you about this medical thing, you know, before we started.
At a certain point, and I’m sure this happens to you, because your platform is a lot bigger
than mine, all sorts of things start coming your way that you never would have thought
And you’re like, this is pretty darn cool.
So to be, and that’s happening at an escalating rate.
Like I’m at a point now where I get stopped every day by people.
So that’s going to be a weird thing for me to get adjusted to.
Like without exception, everyone who has ever stopped me on the street has been cool.
And it’s been a pleasant experience.
There was one exception at an event where someone was genuinely on the spectrum and
they didn’t understand like distance and you don’t touch people and that, but that’s as
bad as it got.
So that is something that’s going to be weird for me to have to deal with over the next
couple of years.
But you know, it’s the price you pay and it’s hardly a small price when people come up to
you and say you’ve made my life better.
But it’s just weird when you go and like, like I was at the gym and then someone tweets
like, did I see you at the gym just now?
It’s kind of weird.
And I’m sure it’s the same for you when you’re walking around and you don’t think about it,
but people know who you are and you don’t know who they are that you’re being watched.
Even though it’s not malevolent, it’s still just, you don’t get prepared for that.
Michael, there were, there will be two really big names that wanted to do this podcast.
We’ll do this podcast that I considered to do episode 200 with.
But then I realized why the hell talk to somebody famous when I could talk to somebody I love
that nobody knows or cares for.
You just hit a random number generator.
Just, I listed all the Russians I know and who is the easiest to get.
Yeah, who’s the most desperate for camera stuff.
He’s got a shitty book out, we can talk about that for five minutes.
This garbage cut and paste that he did.
Uh, it turned out okay, I think slightly above average.
Michael, I love you.
You’re an incredible human being.
It’s an honor that you would talk to me and you’ll be my friend.
Thanks so much for doing this.
Uh, the respect that I got, uh, when you asked me to be the guest for the anniversary episode
was similar to the respect when my two friends, Josh and Zoe, they were going to get married
at city hall and they said, we want someone to witness at the Basque.
So it’s one thing when people tell you they like you and respect you, which I had growing
It’s another thing when they show it.
And this is something that I do not take lightly and I hope no one takes lightly.
And if someone does right by you and shows you respect, going back to kind of taking
out for dinner, thank them, buy them a candy bar, buy them a soda, do something to show
that you don’t take it for granted.
Because I think what you and I both want to do is increase human kindness as much as possible.
And I’m going to look at the camera, be kind to yourself, because a lot of you deserve
Thanks for listening to this conversation with Michael Malice and thank you to Gala
Games, Indeed, BetterHelp and Masterclass.
Check them out in the description to support this podcast.
And now let me leave you with some words from Jack Kerouac that perhaps begins to explain
the nature of and the reasons for my friendship with Mr. Michael Malice.
The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad
to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say
commonplace thing but burn, burn, like fabulous yellow Roman candles exploding like spiders
across the stars and in the middle you see the blue center light pop and everybody goes
Thank you for listening and hope to see you next time.