Notes on Freedom: Part 5

Last week we talked about capitalism and its alternatives, based on the Earn a Living video series and the first part of a documentary on anarchism, both produced by ARTE, a French-German cultural/intellectual TV channel.


  • We started by discussing Universal Basic Income: from the nationwide, randomised pilot in Finland, which just completed its first year, it doesn’t appear to stimulate employment, but it does seem to make people happier, which might not be a bad outcome. See an article about it here.
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Freedom: Part 5

Here are the notes on our 4th February 2019 meeting, during which we discussed Thaler’s views on libertarian paternalism.

Optional Materials

We’ll look at two video series, both from ARTE. In the first series, Earn a Living, the videos are each around ten minutes (x6 ~= 1 hour). We’ll also look at the first part of ARTE’s series on anarchism (52 minutes).

  1. Earn a Living. Six videos. ARTE, 2018.
  2. Ramonet, Tancrède. No Gods, No Masters: A History of Anarchism. “Part 1: The Passion for Destruction (1840–1906)”. YouTube. ARTE, 2016.
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Freedom: Part 4

Here are the notes on our 21st January 2019 meeting, during which we discussed Friedman’s speech on the role of government in a free society. The notes for our 14th January meeting, about Hayek’s “The Use of Knowledge in Society”, can be found here.

In our next meeting, we’ll be continuing on the topic of economic freedom, with a focus on behavioural economics. 

Optional Materials

We’ll discuss the idea of libertarian paternalism and nudging, proposed by behavioural economist Thaler and law professor Sunstein, and finish the Adam Curtis documentary. Most people in attendance will have looked at these materials. Don’t be dissuaded from coming if you don’t have time however.

  1. Cass Sunstein & Richard Thaler, “Libertarian Paternalism“, 93 Am. Econ. Rev. 175 (2003).
  2. Cass R. Sunstein, “Nudging: A Very Short Guide“, 37 J. Consumer Pol’y 583 (2014). 
  3. Curtis, Adam. “The Trap: Part 3. ‘What Happened to Our Dream of Freedom.’” YouTube. London: BBC, 2007.

Notes on Freedom: Part 2

This week we met to talk about economic freedom, based on the following documents:

  • An essay by Hayek on the use of knowledge in society, and how this determines that decentralized, market-based pricing, rather than a centrally planned economy, is the best economic system
  • The first part of the Trap, a documentary by Adam Curtis on how politicians used post-war economic ideas like game theory to build a more stable world order based on individualism and mutually assured destruction
  • A blog post, also by Adam Curtis, which argues that most think tanks are a right-wing invention to manipulate the public opinion into perpetuating the economic and political status quo, thus stifling the development of alternative systems and ideas

We began the discussion with individual freedom and collective freedom:

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Notes on Freedom: Part 1

Last night was our second Darkly event, and it was a great success, with ten people taking part in a lively discussion on freedom. It centred on Isaiah Berlin’s essay “Two Concepts of Liberty” (PDF), which divides the concept into two types: Negative freedom is freedom from coercion, constraints, or interference, whereas positive freedom is freedom to act according to one’s free will, and to self-actualise thereby.

Berlin argues that while these two conceptions of freedom largely overlap, there are points at which they conflict, and that these conflicts can have dire political consequences. While some found this distinction arbitrary, and potentially not the most useful way to divide up the concept, the essay still served as a fruitful starting point for discussion.

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First meeting

We met on 27th November 2018, and discussed logistics and possible methods of structuring the discussions. The consensus was that there should be questions or themes for structure, enough to get a conversation started, but not so much that it would restrict the dialogue. Continue reading “First meeting”