Feb. 24, 2023

CD92: Mandibles with Lionel Shriver

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TOPICS: Lionel Shriver is the author of The Mandibles - a book set in the United States in 2029 during a debt crisis that results in hyperinflation and economic collapse.

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(00:03:20) Introduction to the show and guest

(00:08:44) Discussion on the inspiration for the book and the 2008 financial crisis

(00:19:26) Concerns about the future and the impact of financial collapse

(00:30:26) Discussion on the role of bitcoin and government control

(00:40:00) The role of gold and gun control in the book

(00:48:59) The idea of utopia and the ending of the book

(00:54:46) Broken incentives in society

(00:55:30) Pros and cons of local governance

(00:57:47) Exodus from high tax states

(01:00:02) Bitcoin as a solution for convenience and accountability

(01:04:22) Bitcoin as a solution for lack of property rights and seizure resistance


03:20 - Introduction to the show and guest

08:44 - Discussion on the inspiration for the book and the 2008 financial crisis

19:26 - Concerns about the future and the impact of financial collapse

30:26 - Discussion on the role of bitcoin and government control

40:00 - The role of gold and gun control in the book

48:59 - The idea of utopia and the ending of the book

54:46 - Broken incentives in society

55:30 - Pros and cons of local governance

57:47 - Exodus from high tax states

01:00:02 - Bitcoin as a solution for convenience and accountability

01:04:22 - Bitcoin as a solution for lack of property rights and seizure resistance


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Okay. With all that, let's get that out of the way. Thank you for for

standing by with me, Lionel. We have Lionel Shriver

on the show today, author of Mandibles.

Lionel, welcome.

Lionel Shriver:

Pleasure to talk to you. It's been a while since I talked about this book.


This is all we talk about, Lionel. All we talk about is mandibles week in and week out.


I don't know where we should start. I mean, you wrote mandibles in 2016.

I'm curious

Lionel Shriver:

Or I wrote it earlier than that because that's when it was published.

Fair enough. Fair enough. I wanna get maximum credit for prescience.


When did you when did you start writing it? In 2015.

Lionel Shriver:

Probably started it in 2014.


And what was the inspiration?


2008 was the inspiration.

Lionel Shriver:

It's kind of obvious.


Yeah. I mean, that's fair enough. It was my

2008 shaped my youth and was one of the reasons why I found Bitcoin in the first place.

Lionel Shriver:

Well, it was,

it changed my feeling about the whole world,

and it made

it made the world seem so much more fragile than it had before. I had and I I have to say that previous to

the near collapse of the entire international fiscal system,


was extremely

bored by economics.

I thought,

you know,


rates and and


levels of currency in compared to each other, and it it just all put me to sleep. And I never read the business pages.

I only used them to clean the window of my wood stove.


then suddenly, economics got very interesting indeed.

And I'm always on the lookout for something new to be

fascinated by, so I didn't resist it.


during this




I bought a house in London, and that was really interesting

because, of course, it entailed

a big whack of my assets.

And just even moving around money at that

time felt extremely dangerous, and you weren't really advised to put more than

the amount that the government guaranteed as if the government could actually guarantee that much money across the board. So that's an that's

misguided and diluted to begin with,

that the government will ever make you whole if this shit goes completely

to hell.

Right. But, nevertheless, being

careful, I, you know, I only put, like, £50,000


into each

account. And I had to establish all these different bank accounts with all these different banks

because any of them could at any at any time simply collapse.

So, I mean, it would I I can't tell you how much bother it was. I don't have a lot of patience with paperwork.

Mhmm. And

and just shipping the money around

was a huge project.

And, and when I remember that period, that's what I remember is

is going from bank to bank along the the high street of my then neighborhood

and establishing

a new account at each one of them

just in order to make one transaction.

And it Yeah. Shook me up. And and so when I got the idea for this book, I started doing,

a lot of reading or what for me is a lot of reading in nonfiction because I have

little appetite for or I used to have little appetite for nonfiction. I'm a spoiled fiction writer who likes to read

made up fairy stories.


and I discovered that the the the new nonfiction in the economics

is anything but boring. It is it is apocalyptic.

It is about the end of the world.


I haven't completely kept up with what's out there

most recently because I don't have the same motivation.

And, you know, I naturally moved on to other books that had other topics.


I don't have any time for climate change. Okay? I'm not worried about the temperature of the planet, which has only increased

since the beginning of the industrial revolution, barely over a degree centigrade. And then and, you know, I'm sorry that that just doesn't scare the shit out of me.


and I don't confuse climate and weather,


the rest of the media.


I am terrified

of financial collapse,

and that has not changed. Sometimes when I write a book,

I kind of write myself out of my own anxieties.

I don't know. When I finished big brother,

my obesity book,

I think I stopped worrying about getting fat.

Okay. I was done with that.


I'm afraid that the anxiety that man that motivated the mandibles

has done nothing but accelerate

because the big the big concern, of course,

is burgeoning debt, and it just gets worse.


nothing was learned from 2,008

at all.

The overall debt burden worldwide


way bigger than it ever was.


at a certain point,

the Ponzi scheme, like all Ponzi schemes,

falls apart.

And what's

horrifying about

the death of this Ponzi scheme is that,

yes, it it entails


the almost theoretical loss of a lot of

wealthy people


didn't really create anything

or, you know, it's all numerical.

They're just lucky,

and then they're unlucky.

And that doesn't seem to matter

that much morally. It's still systemically

disturbing, but it's


you know, it's what comes around and goes around. But what we're all what we would also be looking at is the

loss of

life savings of people that did make something and believed in the system and

believed it was possible to save for their retirement and and made sacrifices for that and didn't get the newest computer and didn't

install a swimming pool or, you know, or didn't go out to eat every night. They they



the idea that money has value and will continue to do so.


I I just I just think that's

the the threat is

is across the board. First of all,

disorder and violence

and also just a complete

collapse of

of social faith


and and inevitably

a a very dangerous

Darwinian world in which

you no longer have social co cooperation. Money is one of the main


that create that creates social cooperation. It makes us makes it possible for us to trade apples for oranges.

You know? And

every time every time I want to get groceries, I don't wanna have to write a short story.

And I think I'd have to write a lot of short stories even to get a bag of apples.


it's massively more important for social order

and for

the kind

of complex systems we have constructed

than than the temperature

the temperature. It's just I'm sorry.

And I'm afraid that we more or less

learned the wrong thing from 2,008.

What what we seem to have learned is, oh, I see.

Everything almost fell apart, but it didn't,

so it won't.

No? And I'm sorry, but that's not that's not the lesson.

We were very lucky.

Government stepped in, and things fell apart on a scale that government was was

still capable

of influencing the outcome.

Right? So but


we're rapidly

approaching a time when the problem is government.


Yes. It is the government that doesn't have any money. It is the government that is producing

money that is completely worthless

in vast quantity,

you know, in order to cover its own backside.

And then government isn't the answer.

So I you know,

I'm very I have to say I'm very sympathetic

with the cryptocurrency



I love the idea of money that is taken away from government.

I I love the idea of of of a world in which the government actually has to borrow from an external

entity instead of from itself,

which is a contradiction in terms.

But I have been disappointed

in the


of of crypto,

and I have have not personally invested in it.

Out of a kind of

well, natural distrust of the new,

out of a distrust of what has proven very volatile

in a way that I don't have a stomach for. I'm one of those people who doesn't like to,

put a quarter into a

a a one armed bandit

because I might lose 25¢.


I am

really, like, protestant and safety, safety. And, if it were up to me, I wouldn't be in the, stock market at all. I would just be in a savings account that paid 5%,

not that you can get that even now.


I don't I don't like risk.


so far,

Bitcoin is still

seemingly very risky.


No. A 100%.

I mean, Lionel, there's a lot to unpack there.

First of all, I I would like to say that I agree with pretty much everything you just said. You sound exactly like a Bitcoiner.

I I mean,

you sound you sound like pretty much everyone in the audience can relate to you right now.

I think the first part that was really interesting to me is this idea of 2,008 being forgotten.

I don't even know if it was the wrong lessons were learned.

I almost feel like no lessons were learned. I I feel like people just swept it under the rug.

Lionel Shriver:

Well, it was unpleasant.

It's just like COVID.

Nobody wants to think about COVID anymore.

So we can't go we we we don't wish to go through the exercise

of realizing

that, idiotically,

we shut down

entire economies

for month upon month, really the better part of 2 years in some places. I'm in the UK right now. It was horrific, and they did themselves incredible damage. But nobody even wants to review that

because it was an icky time.

Yep. Right? Oh, I don't remember I don't wanna remember the icky time. So let's just shove it under the carpet,


we won't we're not gonna contemplate

the fact that, oh, it turns out that literally overnight, we were willing to sacrifice every civil liberty we ever had.

And I'm afraid that the

near financial collapse of 2,008 and it's interesting. We have all different names for it. There's never been we've never arrived at a name for it, and I think that's telling.

You know, it was a the great recession for a while, but you've noticed that hasn't stuck.

Right. Nothing is stuck. It started out here as the credit crunch,

which sounds like a candy bar.

Oh, the credit crunch. Do you want a credit crunch?

You want some with peanuts?

And and and it was so trivializing.

It was ludicrous.

But, no, we do not revisit it.

It's just an icky time.

And you're totally right. There were no lessons learned.

Slightly more capitalization of banks.

But when you're talking about funny money, what does it matter?

Right. And I have to say, you know, Mike, I

I I live with I live with this fear in a very

real world day to day way.

I have been, for a fiction writer, of all things, pretty successful,

And there aren't very many of us out there. And for half of my career, I made practically no money,


was still working very hard. I'm not going to be apologetic here. I get tired of people apologizing for having any assets.

I have some assets. I worked really hard for

them, and most of my walk in the market or any other kind of investment has been very poor.


steadily, what assets I am managing to accrue,

they don't grow in that way that that,

you know, you're told that they're supposed to. It just hasn't happened.


and I'm getting older for fuck's sake,

and I don't know how many books I've got more in me.

Maybe I'll run out of ideas.

I want I want to be able to buy a chicken and a bottle of wine until I'm


I don't ask much more.


when money becomes worthless,

you can't even buy a chicken and a bottle of wine.

And so,

you know, I'm I'm completely


by what to do with my investments.

Right now,

I've stuck some of it into,

you know, 3%


which is better than nothing. But I know perfectly well that I'm kidding myself because when you've got a a 10%

inflation rate,

you're losing 7%.

And then you have to pay taxes on the 3%.

So basically, you get dick.


And and my feel my feeling is, a, none of this is is fair,

and, b, why do I have to live with this constant anxiety?

I am constantly worried that the entire

fiscal world on which my assets are built, most of them still in dollars,

that it that it's just gonna collapse like a house of cards, and I will be left with nothing. And I wish I thought that this was neurotic,

but I don't think it is neurotic.

I'm just curious.

Did you happen to read


op ed? I hardly ever read op eds in the New York Times

for obvious reasons.

But this one was one of the guest essays, and

it was in the last week

about the entitlement programs in the US. Did not. Did you read it?

It was fucking


And it's based on recent,

you know,

what office of whatever

figures. They're not, you know, not some fringe group concocting scare stories. But by 2050, just

in terms of, you know, looking at the way the entitlements are structured now, if nothing is done,

we're going to be

I think the figure is a $117,000,000,000,000

in debt, sovereign debt.

That boggles the mind.




meanwhile, you've got Biden talking about how, you know, both programs are safe and he's not going to make any changes to them. And everyone's going to get their Social Security and everyone's going to be able to lift to a 110

and be dependent on Medicare

and get their knees replaced 3 times.


it none of it adds up.

The the age structure in the United States, it doesn't add up. And I don't I'm sorry. I don't care how many


cross the border.

That's not gonna change

the big economic picture that you're gonna have way too many old people like me,


on practically nobody working.


you know, this is not

a long term future.

It used to be that when you were talking about 2030

or 2050,

it was just

off in the distance. You know, who cares? Who cares? It was never going to happen to you.

I mean, I'll tell you one of the things that motivated me to write The Mandibles

because I've been reading

many, many figures, environmental

and economic figures that often, you know, stop at 2050. That's just because we're, you know, we're a society obsessed with base 10. Yeah. We like round numbers.

Yeah. We love we love round numbers and base 10.


and I I sat down

one day and I calculated,

if I lived, for example, as long

as my paternal grandfather did, who's 2 generations behind me,

so should

really have a

smaller life expectancy

than my own generation.

But if I lived to 96 as he did,

I'd live to


Fuck me.

And I'll tell you what, I was terrified

and disappointed. I didn't think, oh, goody.

I'm going to live to see, you know,

many more technological



and and I'll find out what what happens to all these exciting human stories that I've been following. You know, I'm going to live much more

much more into this century,

than I expected.

No. I was filled with dread and horror.

I don't wanna be alive in


much less at the age of


or, I mean, 93,

you know, barely able to walk or or string a sentence together.

I I don't want to be, as we say so incessantly now,


Right. At that time. Because it's if you look at all the figures, that's by then,

if not way before,

is is when everything is going to fall apart.


And Yeah. It might happen sooner. And and,

Lionel Shriver:


I think

the problem will be economic. Now

the the other thing to bear in mind if you're apocalyptically


is that Guilty. Most disasters do not occur in a vacuum.

They interact with other disasters

so that any economic collapse is inevitably going to entail




and possibly military conflict.


Always has.

Lionel Shriver:

I mean, I it was I tried to cover the bases in the mandibles, but the truth is that the mandibles is much

more modest in scale than I think the real threat


For one thing, I just wasn't really up for writing a novel that was based on the experience of a single family.



Lionel Shriver:

Did also,


the collapse of the entire world.


So I kept,

I kept the fiscal collapse to the United States.


And specifically almost in New York.

Lionel Shriver:

Right? Yes. Of course. And then we experienced that locally

Yeah. As one would.

But I would say that that's the one unrealistic thing about the plot, and I knew it at the time. I did this on purpose. It was to do myself a favor. I I just didn't wanna get into

India and Africa and Europe and all that shit.

Russia. It was, yeah, it was too much to take on. I'm not that ambitious a novelist.

So, artificially,

I kind of drew a

a circle around the United States, and I allowed the US to

operate in isolation.

And the rest of the world sealed itself off from the US with this new


and nobody's dealing with dollars anymore. I mean, I tried to put it together in a credible way, but

I actually believe it to be completely incredible. I do not believe that the way things are put together right now, the US can collapse economically

and not bring everyone else with it.


They were the reserve currency of the world.

Lionel Shriver:

So if we and we're already kinda seeing that. Right? That is what that is what that's what the book begins with, and I think that that's what Americans,

take for granted that the that the dollar is the international reserve currency. They don't even know what it means, most of them.

But but in not knowing what it means, they also don't know

how dependent they are

on being the reserve currency

and how much

the US gets away with murder economically,

and generates vastly more dollars than

than it should

possibly be be be able to without creating hyperinflation.

That's Right. That's really the secret, is the is the reserve currency. So that all over the world,

other countries and other banks

are using

dollars and therefore have dollars,

to trade in things like commodities,

oil, whatever, and to pay their own debts.

All all countries are not allowed to borrow in their own currency. A lot of them have to borrow in dollars. Right. Makes it possible for us to have generated vast numbers of dollars that are we are not using in the United States. If the US ever if the US dollar ever

lost that position, then all of those dollars

would flood our country

because it's like, I'm sorry. We don't use these anymore.

We don't need them. Take them back.

Guess what that would do to the the value of the dollar? And yet and yet

US authorities

who who do nothing but abuse the dollar,

think they can continue

continue to do that


because they are complacent

and arrogant

and stupid.

Yeah. And there's nothing to con there's nothing to prevent

a consortium of other countries

from coming along and saying,

we don't wanna use the dollar anymore.


Well, so the way I kind of look at it, currently, I'm, looking at everything unfolding

is is what we're what we're kind of witnessing right now is is the US is exporting our inflation around the world to all these lesser economies.

And so those economies, we're starting to see them falter first.

Then after they falter,

then it kind of comes home to roost here in America,

and then you you see, like, a whole global crisis kind of happen at the same time. And so then the question is, when trust breaks down in that situation,

where do financial markets move from that point forward? How do people do any kind of

financial transaction, whether that's nation states

doing, you know, 1,000,000,000 of dollars in trade or if that's a person going to buy chicken and wine?

Lionel Shriver:

Well, the whole system is actually based on trust. I'm sure I'm not telling you anything you don't know.

It's a kind of religious faith.

Right. The value of money

is created by everyone believing in the value of money. You know, I think that's in the mandibles that it's

a belief in Tinker Bell. Right. And that's what keeps Tinker Bell on the air is that everyone believes it. And the other great



is is self interest.

So it's not in our interest for money to be worthless, so we're going to continue to behave as if it it it has value.


that that has worked after a fashion and, in fact, better than you would have ever expected. Most of these currencies should have gone to shed a long time ago, including the dollar. But it's

but the that prospect is so horrifying.

Hold on.


You're good.

Lionel Shriver:

Just a second.

I'm sorry. It's probably my husband.

You're good. He didn't get my email.


Family's important.

Lionel Shriver:

Hey. Listen. You didn't get my email.


I told you not to not to FaceTime me right now.

Of course. I'm a podcast.

You're on TV.


I'm on

Lionel Shriver:

when? When? Okay. I'm gonna give me 45 minutes.


45 minutes. Okay. Bye. I can do that.

My cohost on my other show, his dad always calls while we're recording, and he gives weather updates.

Lionel Shriver:


Jeff says hey.


Thanks, Jeff. Sorry about that. You're good.

Where were we? Yeah. I mean, trust.


all our whole lives rely on different trust relationships, but especially money.

Lionel Shriver:

Yeah. I mean, that's that's what

really hit me hard

writing the book is how dependent we are on money. And

everyone thinks in terms of, oh, we're dependent on having enough of it

so that we can buy what we need.

But that's not what I mean,


We're dependent on the functionality of money, however much

we have of it,

that it still

it still buys things. It is still accepted

in trade for real things.


it's actually a kind of miracle

that money works at all and that

I can give you a piece of paper, much less

a a a purely

this and by theoretical

set of digits

with a little piece of plastic or by punching


and you'll you'll give me a car.

I mean, fucking hell. You'll give me a car.

And that that is

that's a miracle,

And that's that's a great creation, but it's like any kind of creation. It's it's hard to create. It's easy to destroy.

And, you know, ever since the advent of fiat currencies,

governments in particular have been out to destroy it,

to abuse it. Right.


And, yeah, and people don't realize it's a relatively new phenomenon, this idea of just government issued fiat.

Absolutely. Seventies. Yeah. Based on nothing.

Lionel Shriver:

And, you know, the the threat

initially was, of course, well, if

it's based on nothing and governments are unconstrained

from making up as much of it as they want, then what's to stop them from infinitely

creating more until it's completely worthless?

And it hasn't taken as long as you might expect, I. E. 5 minutes,


it's still happening.



Lionel Shriver:



debt thing,

it's still I mean, who who thinks

that the the US government is ever going to pay back

the, what is it, 3 31 and a half $1,000,000,000,000

that, strictly speaking, we owe? Is it ever gonna Same. Does that number ever come down?

No. Not with the entitlement situation we've got now. It's not ever gonna come down. If it's never gonna come down, it's never it's never being repaid.



yeah, I mean, that's never gonna happen. And the only safe assumption is that, of course, governments are gonna abuse their power, and, of course, corrupt individual in individuals in those governments will abuse their power.

And that's the only way you can operate is under that assumption, and that's what we're seeing play out in real time.

So, I mean, in mandibles in the mandibles,

gold plays a major I mean, you gave us one line on Bitcoin. You said Bitcoin.

Remember what happened to Bitcoin?

I do. The gold

Lionel Shriver:

I I haven't read the book in years.


You have a single line. It's like page 42 or something like that. It's just like,

just just

remember what happens to remember what happened to Bitcoin. You just kinda left us on that. But I I like to think that was If I may expand,

Lionel Shriver:

If I were writing it today, I'd probably give it a little more time, a little more space.

But the the danger that Bitcoin and any other rival currency has is that government does not want to give up


Agree. And it won't.

They won't.


they can take you over,

and they can

they can make trading in Bitcoin illegal

and arrest you. They can do whatever they want. I mean, that's the other thing in my


political maturity,

I have had to realize.

And we we we tend to be complacent about these things, but government can do anything. We want that's what we learned during the pandemic. Government can do anything.

It seems constrained by all these little constitutional


but that's just so much paper. In fact,

they've got the military,

and they can do anything.

And therefore, if you're doing something they don't like, they can make you stop.

So if the only thing that Bitcoin's got going for it right now is failure,

as long as it doesn't work,

like it's too volatile,

or it's too much trouble for

for vendors to accept,

or has failed to build the kind of trust we're talking about,

then they'll leave you alone.

But success

would be deadly.

The US government will not allow

a rival currency

outside of government

to thrive. It will not. It will stop. That's what's all this digital currency nonsense

from the Fed is all about.

It's like, no. No. We're gonna do it.


No. They're definitely gonna try.


So, I mean, I wanna unpack all of this.

But where I was going at first of all, I just wanna be absolutely clear. You somehow wrote the single best Bitcoin book that exists, and you weren't a Bitcoiner. You only mentioned Bitcoin once

in the whole in the in the whole book, but you somehow wrote

the Bitcoin book. And when I was talking about 2,008, how people forget, the reason I always talk about the mandibles is because

it's a really easy way for someone


to remember

the the issues we had with 2008 and kind of put it in a forward kind of actionable kind of thought process,

of of how they can think about

these situations

and these concerns,

and these systemic

failures in our society,

they can conceptualize it in their own world, right, in their their own world going forward.

But so

the the reason I think and I've noticed I've I've read a lot of commentary about the mandibles.

It's a very provocative book as,

especially since it's become more prescient lately, and people are starting to see the crumbling

issues with our societies.

People get very up in arms and and and they push back against it. And I think coming from a Bitcoin audience, we don't necessarily see it that way because

you didn't really explore the Bitcoin side of things. And and in your scenario, Bitcoin has failed.

But in our scenario, in our life today, Bitcoin is hope to us. Right? Like,

I was I was a a young kid

getting shaped by 2,008, getting shaped by the Snowden disclosures where I found out all the tech companies were also spying on us,

and they were complicit in all this government surveillance.

And I was very disenfranchised. Like, I did not

see a a situation where I could have children, that I could have a family, and that

that that things would be alright. Right? But then I discovered the the open source movement. I discovered Bitcoin. And to me, that gives me hope.

And and and that's why we're able to read the mandibles

in a

in a way that doesn't is not necessarily,

I don't wanna say, like, doomer. Right? Not necessarily, like, a negative light,

because we already see these systemic issues,

And Bitcoin wasn't around in this in this storyline. Right? But maybe in in in this future storyline, in reality,

Bitcoin actually lessens those blows. I don't think it will necessarily

stop chaos from happening and stop financial collapse,

but it will it will lessen the blow. It will allow the darkness to be shorter than it would have otherwise

because we'd have a money that doesn't require trust, that isn't run by governments, that isn't run by corporations,

that any individual can use to save, to spend

without permission.


maybe we haven't had the biggest target on our back yet,

but the target has been growing, and Bitcoin continues to truck on and continues to grow. And Bitcoin is built in a way

that is is adversarial


is built in a way that is is designed to survive in adversarial environments. And and and,

you know, I wanted to

you mentioned earlier about cryptocurrency hasn't lived up to its expectations and the hype and all this stuff.

The overwhelming majority of cryptocurrencies,

except for Bitcoin,

are not designed

to be robust and censorship resistant in an adversarial environment. They simply aren't. They are mostly there's a ton of Ponzi schemes,

Get rich quick schemes. They're centrally controlled.

They're easy to regulate. We're seeing regulations

pop up all over the place on centralized

entities that exist in the industry.

But Bitcoin is designed in a way that there is no central actor. So who do you pressure to stop it?

I don't wanna go I I I kinda want


there's so much to unpack here and not that much

Lionel Shriver:

time. But you mentioned Well, I mean, I have to say, look, I have not made

a special study of Bitcoin. I'm not

any kind of crypto expert.

You kinda are. All I can do is is wish you well,

with a certain skepticism

and to warn you about what could happen

if this client really starts to work.


So I what I wanted to talk about be allowed. Go ahead. But then, you know, I've got

Lionel Shriver:

I've got a paranoid streak.


So let's let's talk about the lens of gold in mandibles.

Right? So, obviously, gold was positioned as an alternative


the banker and the failing dollar.

And you basically set up that exact scenario that we're just talking about now with Bitcoin. Right? That the first thing the US government did was they went after gold holders and gold economy.

Lionel Shriver:

And you know that that that legislation


the 19 thirties is still on the books.


Yes. Well aware.

Executive order 6102.

Lionel Shriver:

Good for you.


It's one of our favorite executive orders here in in the Bitcoin space. Inhibits

Lionel Shriver:

me personally


investing in gold appreciably.



Lionel Shriver:

The the government keeps track of gold very carefully,

and they have the legal right to take it away from you. Yes. And that's not a good asset.

Of course,

as I was pointing out, since government can do anything, they have the right to take anything away from you.

Everything you own is provisional.

They can take your house. They can take they can commandeer

all the money in your account,

pass the law tomorrow,

you know, take the clothes off their off your back.

Doesn't bear thinking about all the time because who wants to live in that downer universe? But


All our rights,

so called, are provisional.

I mean, I I honestly came away

from that book thinking there

there was no resort. I envy you your

your feeling that you found 1.

Well, we have no choice. And I can see how that would make you feel


confident and powerful and independent

of all these systems that are now

so fragile.

And I do nothing but encourage you.

I don't

I don't know whether

crypto has the capacity crypto. Bitcoin.

Bitcoin. Sorry. I can see you're touching on that point.

I don't know whether you'd you'd effectively construct

a a financial bunker for yourselves and and other Bitcoin investors

if the world fell apart?


I came to the conclusion that

what what I'm afraid of is on such a scale that there is no

safe harbor.

And the only thing that I would have to comfort myself

is that I have already lived a really good life.

And so if it goes to shit, I I still it

it went better than most people's historically.

And that's about all I would cling to



even real things that you technically


in a situation of

total chaos

doesn't guarantee that you get to keep them. And that's what I tried to illustrate in the latter part of the mandibles before we get to the second part, which we I never discussed with anyone because I don't wanna blow the ending.

So we maybe we can get to that. But,

you know, technically,

the family still owns the house. Right? Right. But it doesn't matter


they don't have a gun.


someone with a gun can kick them out of their house.

So much for owning a house. You know? So much, oh, I've got this asset worth so much. And if I'm really desperate, I can always downsize or something.

Not necessarily.

I mean, that's just one more system that can break down.

So anything that you own, you know, even a pound of hamburger you're bringing home from the


can be taken away from you by somebody who has

a sock full of loose change with which he can wallop you over the

head. In fact, that's an interesting scene.

It's so small,

but it's the first time that our hero,

our stealth hero, as I like to think of him,

does something




Lionel Shriver:

Yeah. And,

you know,

he mugs a little kid, who's only about 10 years old,

for his


and it's unpleasant.

But it's an illustration

of, you know, no matter how virtuous

your character,

you're gonna cross

these lines

if it's a matter of survival.

And that's where Welling crosses the line.

And it's

a it's a touching and depressing

tiny scene, but I think it's it's morally and symbolically very important to the book.


No. I mean,

I felt that as well while I was reading it.

I mean, there's

it you know, ultimately, at the end of the day, Bitcoin is is a tool. Right? It is one tool in a toolbox.

There's a very

there's a lot of corollaries

in the Bitcoin community on just sustainability, localism,

self defense,

right, the right to bear arms in America, at least, among the American Bitcoiners.

And that's why I say, like, you kind of hit all the

you hit all the pieces.

Lionel Shriver:

Well, I should I should remark on that point in particular

that, previously,

I have been a,

I would say, a trite



gun control issues.


you know,

I made my reputation

on my 7th novel, We Need to Talk About Kevin, which is it's not about a school shooting,


Everyone often forgets that because they didn't wanna get into the gun control debate. Right. I was interested in looking at pure malice,

without worrying about what the weapon was, so he uses a crossbow.


I I've inevitably got dragged into all kinds of gun control

debates and generally fall on the

control side

partly out of sheer self interest


I don't wanna be shot

Right. By some lunatic. And my main concern with the whole second amendment thing is that the proportion of insane people in the human race

is simply too high. And in in the United States, it it's it's clearly about

about twice the percentage of any other country.

So when When

the mandibles. When I was writing the mandibles, I rather surprised myself because I didn't see how

my family was gonna surprise without a survive without a gun.

And Willing, being the

savviest of the lot,

is the one who goes and gets one.

And this is actually contrary to my standard politics because I don't like the idea of

necessarily encouraging people to arm themselves. But I thought that the the scenario that I had constructed,

that's what you would do. That was what you would have to do unless you were a fucking idiot.

So Yep.

So that's where they end up,

and that gun ends up being rather important.


Well, I don't know if it was intentional or not, but, I mean, it takes place in New York, which has, you know, very very strict gun control laws. Mhmm.

And and to me, I mean, maybe it was my own bias reading into it. Right? But it's a clear perspective


like, gun control laws, and you hear it all the time. It's, like, the most common narrative. Right? It's the most common messaging point on people

like myself that are

that are pro freedom in that regard

is that gun control laws do not stop bad people from getting guns.


And the only real protection you have is to learn how to use them yourself, get comfortable using them yourself,

and use them in a safe way, of course.

But, ultimately, it's just another tool to empower individuals. And, ultimately, I think, as a society,

the more tools we have that empower individuals

reduces power

of these

these small

centralized entities that exert tons of power around the world and are very often corrupt. So

maybe I

I kind of tend to view that we have a lot of, you

know, insane people in general. May I just maybe I shouldn't use the word insane, but just a a lot of crazy people. Along with the word insane.

Yeah. But it's like isn't it like a clinical whatever. But that's not my point. My point is,

yeah, that is true, but the alternative is a small group of people that are corrupt that are running things. Right? So my focus

for the last

10 years or so

has been tools that empower individuals because I think that brings the power back. And and just to talk about how, like, crazy the corollaries are with your book and our thinking, like, this show is called Citadel Dispatch.

I called it Citadel Dispatch because we have this idea of Bitcoin citadels, which is, like, extreme localism,

self sustainability,

small trade.

Right? Trade between different localities,

distributed power.

Right? And, of course, as I'm reading your book,

there is a farm that everyone thought he was crazy, and he named it Citadel. Right?

So you're, yeah, you're


there on everything,

Lionel Shriver:

except Bitcoin. One thing that this book rarely gets credit for is having a a happy ending.

And the

it was positively unlike me, but we can't forget that I


created a utopia



Yeah. And Nevada of all places.

And, well, perfect place


perfect place.

And, of course, my

my utopia doesn't have to do with everyone is in a community with everyone else, and

and everyone contributes everything that they can. And then there are all these people who can't contribute anything and are totally dependent.

You know, it's not a liberal utopia. It's a libertarian


And people take care of themselves,

and they

if they want to, they can take care of other people on an individual level.

But, basically, it's there's no welfare state.

You're on your own.


it's much more functional

than a society that that says, well, you know what? You don't really have to work. And if you don't work, we're gonna support you, and you can have a house, and we'll give you a salary,

and and then expects everybody work.

It's just hilarious.


So I, you know, I had, I had a I had fun

putting that together. And then, of course, in, in my

Nevada, which has seceded from the rest of the country,

it has a 10% flat tax. And I'm big on flat taxes.

I But then you yeah. I think progressive progressive taxes are


and also

unfair and

discourage people from earning money and also encourage people to cheat. So a flat tax that you really can't escape,

I I think it's brilliant.

One of the

countries that employs it is Estonia.

It's not 10%. It's 20%, I think. 20 or 21.

But it works great,

and it means that everyone



their communal


and and and that's quite different from having half the country

mooching off the other half.

Right. And it's it's it's a better

social relationship.

And it also means that if everyone is contributing something,

then they care about how the money is spent.


it's what government was supposed to be and hardly ever is.

So that's my, you know, that's my little utopia. And, of course, the very last line of the book

gives you the idea

when the flat tax goes up to 11%,


that this isn't gonna last. There's a crack in the utopia.

Lionel Shriver:

Yeah. The the utopias never last.

But it was

it was a it was fun after all the

all the agro, all the loss, all the people dying,

to have


more of a almost a fairy tale



Yeah. A little bit.

I mean, so

what do we unpack there? The

the idea


people think I'm, like, anti government. Right? I'm anti large

corrupt governments. Right? When you have smaller local governance, there's more accountability.

Right? And that's kind of what you captured at the end there is as they got larger,

as a result, the cycle starts to repeat itself again. And and it's

and Bitcoin is is this idea that I constantly hone in on is this idea of broken incentives. That if you look throughout society,

the majority of the issues we have

are are based somewhere along the line on some broken incentive.

And how can we make those incentives stronger? How can we make them more aligned? How can we make them more robust,

so that society actually can function properly and function fairly?

And and so when you have smaller governance,

in general, when the governance is more local,

those incentives are much stronger. Those are stronger, cleaner incentives.

And as a result, you have less corruption and you have more efficient governance.

Do you agree on that?

Lionel Shriver:

Up to a point, though.

I see this in the UK a lot.

There's another side to be argued in that,

there's nothing,

you never get

worse petty tyranny than

local government.

UK go

local government is,




and run by people who,

are are poorly qualified for making the kind of decisions they're making. So You you see that in, like, HOAs in America a lot,


where they're, like, tell you can't have

a homeowners association, where they, like, tell you can't have a bird feeder out front. Exactly.

Lionel Shriver:

No. You cannot

paint paint your

post box


This doesn't fit with our scheme. Right.

And you get a lot of that. And,

and I don't know a lot about local government in the US right now, so I will just vouch for

the British ones. And they're

they're they're tyrannical.

They're always out to make money. Like, they they'll they'll

give you

a 100 quid ticket for littering if you

if you drop the the wrapper around your chewing gum.


they they go after you for

you know, they make it impossible to park anywhere. And so that if you even stop, you get another 100 quid ticket. I mean, they're just



and often quite corrupt,

you giving planning permission for this, that, and the other thing only to their friends. So that's the other side of the whole localism thing. I'm of 2 minds about it. Theoretically, I like the idea of local government. In practice, I see it,

I see it as petty tyranny all the time. Yeah. I mean, it's definitely not


perfect. Everything has trade offs. And and it has something to do with competition, mobility.

There's something there in terms of, like,

account like, having proper accountability because those issues

seem to stem from, you know, there's being no accountability

there, no competition,

Lionel Shriver:

or or little competition. People don't Oh, well, I think one of the one of the

most exciting things that we've witnessed in the United States recently

just because of the way things are set up,

and we have,

for now,

freedom of movement,

is is this huge,

exodus from high tax states. Yep. And and and toward

low tax states and also states that are more interested in liberty.

So there's less regulation.

So, obviously, you know, Texas and

and Florida in particular



California and New York lose population


is Yeah. I did that myself. Very satisfying.

I moved from New York to Tennessee.

Lionel Shriver:

Did the same thing? The other state.



And I, good for you, and New York deserves it. Yeah. I mean, you nailed that part. I mean, that was very prescient. I mean, you also nailed the movement passes with the brain plant chip that they, like,

Lionel Shriver:

pushed on everybody. Oh, yes. Coming to a theater theater near you.


We saw that in 2020. I mean, they they were it was rudimentary at the time. Right? It's like paper passes.

Right. But if they could if they could put it in an implant, they would have done it.

Lionel Shriver:

Well, of course, this whole idea of chipping, I

probably didn't make it up. It was already clearly on its way,


I thought my my innovation was an important one,

and that's where it was forward looking. And that is

that the chips could also be implanted with your

assets, with your money, and therefore it's possible

for the government to extract

money from you,

basically, from the air.

So it's your money is in the back of your head,

and the government can just reach in and take it. And it's so convenient.

Isn't it?

In fact, a lot of a lot of the kind of top down tyranny that is being inflicted on us is in the name of convenience.

Yep. And people are suckers for it.


They really are.

They really are. That's something I've noticed

very much so. It's very obvious. And it's one of the things, like, with Bitcoin is that we're focused on is, you know, try and make it

it'll never be more convenient than the,

you know,

centralized, surveilled, controlled


but, try and make it as convenient as possible,

because, ultimately, as as long as there's friction there, less people will

use it.

We have 15 minutes left,

Lionel. I wanna talk with you more about Bitcoin.

Lionel Shriver:

Okay. Because That's why we need to do more of the the talking.


Well, you're there. So let's let's so gold.

First thing they did with gold was well, first thing in the book was cut off cut off the ability for Americans to move assets around the world. Right? Mhmm. They cut people off from doing that.

The way I like to look yeah. Go on. You're saying they have done that?

Or do you know In the mandibles, that's one of the first things they do. Capital controls. Right. Capital control. That's pretty easy to institute at a stroke.


Lionel Shriver:

And, by the way, it's already a little tricky to move American assets around the world. If you do anything with more than with $10,000

or more, you you have to report it to,

you know,


daddy. And it's getting automatically reported left and right. All of these systems are already surveilled and controlled. And,

Lionel Shriver:

And over here, you know, I just did my US taxes.

If you live abroad,

you are legally obliged

to report every single bank account. By the way, they don't want you to just mention it that you have bank accounts. You have to give the name

of the bank,

the address,

the exact

highest amount, even if it was only that high for 15 minutes,

and the closing amount,

and the and the account number.


I mean, that's you don't even have to you don't have to do that with US assets


But with foreign ones, they have to know everything, and the fines for not reporting that are fantastically



you know and and and furthermore,

there are a lot of countries where banks will no longer take

American depositors.

Right. Because it's not only the individual,

account holder who has to


report to the US government,

but so does the foreign bank who doesn't wanna have to mess with the fucking IRS.


Right? Yeah. Too much liability.

Lionel Shriver:

Yeah. Well, it's huge amounts of paperwork. It's not worth it. I mean, they're just not gonna make enough money

off of you to make up for the bother and irritation

of having to report to a a foreign government. So they just tell you that they won't hold your money, And it puts a lot of,



in a very awkward

position to the point where, actually, there there are countries where Americans

really can't function, can't live.

And, by the way, the other issue

is this business of the federal government,

telling American expats who may not even set foot in the United States all year

that regardless, they have to report their worldwide income

to the American government and pay taxes on it. Thank you.


the system by which you're not supposed to be double taxed is

highly imperfect and

perfect and patchy.


So And if you renounce your citizenship, you have to pay an exit tax equivalent to selling all your assets at the time of exit.

Lionel Shriver:

That's right. They've they've sewn that up too because the number of people who are Americans who are renouncing their citizenship is really starting to soar,

and so they're gonna make you pay. And this is, again, this is government

able to do anything?

So they could also tell you,


you can leave the country, but your assets can't. We're gonna keep them. So that's essentially what they're doing.

It's impossible to get away from these people.


Bitcoin fixes this.

Lionel Shriver:

So I


so you mentioned lack of property rights at the core of all of this.

The way I like to look at Bitcoin is that it enforces

property rights at the level of code.

It's code that enforces property rights. At the core, that's what it is.

We already see people using Bitcoin to escape capital controls. You know, China has has

famously banned Bitcoin,

25, 30 times.


nationals still to this day use to transfer money in and out of their country.

You can send it as easy as a text message.

That is

a core value prop of Bitcoin is this this ability to send without permission.

Another core property of Bitcoin

is that no one can change the supply of Bitcoin.

So you talked about earlier,

this idea that you work hard,

and you don't wanna be a financial planner. You don't wanna study economics. You don't wanna watch CNBC. You don't wanna pick stocks. You know? You just wanna

do what you love, work,

and be with your family,

and save up money for the future so that you're able to,

you know, buy the things you need to live, the necessities you need to live, and the things you want to enjoy.


because no one can change the supply because it's ultimately a fixed supply asset,

allows people to save in this

save in this asset, save in Bitcoin,

and long term hold that value without having to be a financial professional. Like, I hear that all the time. People like, oh, I don't, you know, Bitcoin doesn't interest me. I'm not interested in finance. Like, that's the point. The point is it's it's

absolutely insane

that people need to and feel the need to either be a financial planner or a higher one in order to save for their future. They should be able to just hold the money that

increases in purchasing power over time.

And people think I'm crazy when I say that about Bitcoin, but, historically, that has been the case. Now, there is volatility.

There's short term volatility, but it's a scarce asset going through an adoption phase. We have over 8,000,000,000 people on the planet.

Maybe 50,000,000 own Bitcoin.

Of course, it's gonna be volatile short term. The world is volatile.

But on a longer term basis,

Bitcoin's purchasing power has shown to increase. I expect it to continue that trend.

So it's a it's a great savings vehicle. It's a great spending vehicle.

And then now the third thing, and we saw this in the mandibles,

is seizure resistance.

This idea that governments will come and they will try and take your money from you in times of chaos.

We saw you had in the mandibles, you had police officers or military men come door to door and basically look for people's gold. They went that far.

Mhmm. Now can they do that with Bitcoin? Yes. They can do that with Bitcoin.

But you can use Bitcoin in a private way so that they, first of all, don't know you own Bitcoin.

And second of all, do know you own Bitcoin?

Because Bitcoin is code,

we have this ability

to essentially

split up the keys that require

that that that give you give you control of the Bitcoin. Right? So Bitcoin is

crazy rabbit hole, Lionel, and I look forward to you going down, and I'm happy to answer any of your questions after the show. But,

Bitcoin at at the core is is public key, private key cryptography.


we have this ledger, the blockchain, that is that is is keeping track of people's Bitcoin ownership around the world. It's not attached to a name, specifically. It's attached to this public key, and the private key is what's required to spend it.


without that private key,

no one can take your money.

So how do you protect that private key? Well, we have many different ways.

A lot of people like putting it on steel,

then it's water and fireproof. But, of course, you can have a military guy come in

and and take take that steel from you. We have this concept called multisig,

where instead of one private key, you have multiple private keys. You could have 5 private keys. It might require 3 of those private keys to spend. Those 3 could be located in different states. They could be located in different nations.

1 could be in a cloud

drive. 1 could be

on a piece of steel somewhere else. 1 could be buried in the backyard.

So all of a sudden, the seizure capability

of of these governments or other malicious individuals

gets significantly reduced.

So you have these three facets of Bitcoin, this ability to spend without permission,

this ability to save in an asset that increases purchasing power over time,

and this ability to secure the asset,

cross borders with this asset

in a way that has never been capable with any other money

in our history.

And all those things combined

lend itself to an adversarial environment where trust is eroded,

where governments are going after their citizens.

And to me, that is where

this hope comes from when I read something like the mandibles, or I look on the news, or just see how the world is going right now.

Lionel Shriver:


I'm much better on

what's wrong than how to fix it.

Yes. So

in a way, we've

broken up the job, and

you work on the positive side, and I'll just keep on

coming up with doomsday scenarios.


For my own part,

for me, this is partially an entertainment


the narrative of collapse is

is so transfixing, ask any

film director.

And, otherwise, I don't

I'm I am leery

of getting so anxious

about this kind of thing

that I

that I exhaust my energy on it. And I don't wanna spend

you know, I don't wanna be one of those people who

ends up

spending all her energy

on a

shelter in the backyard and making sure that it is full of, you know, 300

tens of baked beans. I mean,

it it our lives are finite,

and I don't wanna spend my life on that, digging a hole in the backyard. So Yeah. The only thing more scarce than Bitcoin is time.


So I am I am careful about the way I spend my time, and that is the ultimate currency of our of our lives. And,

I got a book out of it

out of my own anxiety,

which is a lot more than just a bunch more anxiety. And I'm very pleased that you seem to have got something out of it,

And I'm

also very pleased that the people

listening to this

seem to have enjoyed it and

and certain scenes stuck in their minds. And,

and you you you think you recognized my anxieties.


and there's a certain,

you know, there's a certain community in that. There's a satisfaction in that. And, you know, so

one of the fun things about being a novelist is sort of like putting a

a a plug in your head while you're dreaming and being able to share it with other people,

and that's what that is. And this happens to have been a nightmare, but,

I had a lot of fun writing it. I should share with you before we go that,

when I first submitted this book to my publisher, my editor absolutely hated it.


she showed it to the publisher,

and he hated it. He spent he spent 45 minutes on the phone with me

telling me all that what was wrong with it. He couldn't keep track of the characters,

and he thought it was incredibly boring.

When my editor

did edit the book, I already had a contract, so it was harder for they could've got out of it, but they didn't wanna alienate me. So they figured they'd just get over this terrible book.


then when my editor edited it, she basically edited it down to a pamphlet.

Right? There was nothing left. She hated it so much that she would just put these big x's through page after page. By the way, she was not interested in economics,

so this was not a book for her. Right?


I was told to edit the Economics down to nothing, which I did not do. I did pare it down. I think you probably enjoy the original even more because it had more economics in it,

Because that's really what makes the book


There aren't any number of dystopic

stories out there.

A lot of them are set in New York. So,

who cares an another, you know, society falls apart

story. But this was very particular. It is an economic dystopia,

and I tried as hard as I could to do my homework and therefore to put together a scenario that was genuinely credible,

and I and I think it is. And that's not something that my publisher



So when I got this edit, I completely ignored it.

I I I took none of none of the advice.

And even still, you know, when it got when this book got the cover of the New York Times book review, the publisher refused to put any money behind it. It's never had any advertising. Nothing.

It's you guys who have done the advertising

and and enthusiasts like you. This is almost

purely a word-of-mouth book


my publisher

has refused

to support it. And even through this, you know, the post Trump thing because, you know, it was earl later the same year


Trump was elected.

Right. And everyone was buying these dystopic


Did they put any behind it any money behind it then? No.

Or have has there been any effort to readvertise the book now that we really are suffering

serious levels of inflation,

which has directly to do with the overproduction

of money

in the federal system.



you know, it's it is incredible you know about this book because my publisher sure didn't go to any trouble that you would know about it.


Even to this day? It was not shoved down your throat, but it was something that you picked up on


by either accident or

or having a sharp eye.


I had a good friend that was a Bitcoiner who recommended it to me.

Lionel Shriver:

Good. Well, that's that's how most people come across this book. And you know what? Truth is, most of my books

have been popular because

of word-of-mouth.

I don't have publishers putting money behind them,


word-of-mouth means more to me than a pub

publishing budget.

Grassroots. And

it it's

it's real. It's not confected.

And so

I'm very heartened that you and your

your colleagues and supporters have latched on to the book.


I'm a proud owner of a first edition. My wife got it for me.

Lionel Shriver:


Well, if you if anything ever happens to it, come to me. I'll get you another one. I've got a lot of them in the attic. I appreciate that, Lionel.


And, likewise, if, you know, you ever have any questions about Bitcoin, you know how to reach me now. I'll come right to you.

I would love to, you know,

at least get you set up with a Bitcoin wallet, maybe send you a little Bitcoin so you can play around with it.

Lionel Shriver:



I'd be open to that. Great. I mean, I saw a bunch of people in the audience wants to send you some Bitcoin, so

it'd be great.

Awesome. Well, I don't wanna take up too much of your time. I know

time is precious.

Do you have any thank you for coming on. Do you have any final words,

for the audience?

Lionel Shriver:

I'd make one tiny plot apology

Hit us. That in truth,

the amount of gold that Nali puts on the back of Willing's bicycle

would be so physically heavy

that the bike would

fall over.


It's okay though because Bitcoin would fix that.

Lionel Shriver:

Right. So,

yeah, that's the one plot thing that I

I think I I was

guilty of using poetic license.



I mean, I failed to mention this earlier, but in

strictly adversarial scenarios when you're crossing borders or whatnot, you can store Bitcoin in a way where you just think it in your head as long as you remember

the words in your head. When you get across the border, you can then access your Bitcoin. So it's as light as that. You could do a full strip search,

and someone wouldn't even it could be $20. It could be a $100. It could be a $1,000,000,000,

and no one would find it. No one could take it.

Incredibly powerful.

Lionel Shriver:

Well, I wish you luck.


Thanks, Lionel. Likewise.

I appreciate you. Thank you for joining.

Huge shout out to

everyone in the audience. Thank you guys for coming. Thank you guys for being a massive part of the show and joining us in the live chat. If for some reason you haven't bought mandibles yet, consider buying it.

I will set up Lionel with a Bitcoin wallet, and I'll let you guys know her address if you wanna send her some money.

Thank you all for supporting the show.

Till next time. Stay on both StackSats.

Thanks, Lionel.

Lionel Shriver:

So long.