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October 25, 2002

Friedrich --

Curious about who the brainy, party-hearty British libertarians at are (here, as though I don't link to them often enough), I emailed Brian Micklethwait and asked what their story is. Here's his reply:

Samizdata happened for two reasons, as I understand it. One, there has long been a London libertarian scene based around the Libertarian Alliance ( which has been shovelling out pamphlets, essays, monographs, scholarly writings, call them what you will (I'm working on the next little clutch right now) since the early 1980s. Not that many people knew, but we kept at it.

In connection with that, I and a friend, Tim Evans, who now has a swank job at the Centre for the New Europe (I can't remember the www of that, but google will tell you - its basic remit is to try to libertarianise the EU as much as that can be done), have been holding Friday evening speaker/discussion evenings. Tim on the second Friday, me on the last Friday of every month. (It's all a bit like Peter Hall's description in Cities in Civilization of the evenings that Freud used to run, but alas, without a Freud to make it so historical, or not that I'm aware of. I.e. not everyone who comes is as clever as some of the people who come. There's one tonight, on philosophical themes.) These friday meetings have been going on for a decade or more, like clockwork, and since email came along they have been pretty much automatic to make work okay.

Okay, so there are these fridays. At them, some time during 2001, this character called Perry de Havilland shows up. He's already a libertarian, but not because of anything we in London said or did. He's a libertarian because of his time in America, which is where he picked up on it. Can't remember the details of how, but that's where he got it from. And Perry picks up various human pieces of the London libertarian scene, David Carr, Adriana Cronin (like many bloggers too busy to be writing huge great bits for the Libertarian Alliance, although she did manage a couple when she was at Oxford), me, Tom Burroughes (who works for the hated Reuters!), Antoine Clarke (bilingual in English and French, I wish we could persuade him to make more blogging use of that than he does), and probably some others I've forgotten. Well, yes, I forgot to mention Patrick Crozier and Natalie Solent, who run their own blogs but who are definitely part of our scene, and Alice Bachini who connected more recently through Sarah Lawrence and the T(aking) C(hildren) S(eriously) crowd. ( I think)

The other thing I ought to mention is the Libertarian Alliance Forum, one of those email chat room whatsits that the Libertarian Alliance runs that I never could get with, where people with no sense of shame or style can call each other arseholes for the crime of disagreeing with each other. That turned up some writing talent as well, and to be fair to it, which is not something I usually care to be, the LA-F still does turn up writing talent from time to time. The reason I mention that is: Dale Amon, whose contribution to Samizdata is computer-technical as well as as a writer. He first got into touch with us London libbos via the Libertarian Alliance Forum.

Perry is the presiding genius of Samizdata. He was the one who sussed out that links are the key to it, that a team would be a fine thing, and got it all together and started it up, around Nov 2001 as I recall. I joined a bit later. At first I didn't realise it was even happening, and with people "stolen" from my Fridays. Actually of course I'm chuffed as hell about how the fridays eventually lead somewhere of significance.

All very Cities in Civilization, in other words. As a New Yorker you'll know all about the vital importance of physically meeting people in order to get things done. However high tech and globally communicated it all ends up being, it's funny how the inner core of anything is always people who have met each other and who keep on meeting each other.

Well, now it's on the record! (Brian gave me permission to quote his email.) And who knew that England was crawling with libertarians? I thought the whole country was divided between quarreling gangs of Fleet Streeters, Oxbridge showoffs, ambitious actresses, soccer hooligans, Mike Leigh castoffs and rioting Muslims. How wrong we can be.



UPDATE Brian reads the above online and writes:

I just hope the LA-Forum people won't be too upset, and will clearly understand how completely partial and biased I am about chat rooms, which I hate because it keeps getting so nasty. Not all the time, of course, but every so often. The LA-F is not that bad, and often pretty good, and it must say something that I still passively subscribe to it and read whatever comes with a title that intrigues me. It's now mostly copy and pastes of interesting pieces in other places.

posted by Michael at October 25, 2002


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