David D. Friedman: Asteroid Colonies, Medieval Cooking & Romani Law

by | Jul 7, 2023 | Podcast

“Developing the technologies that would let people live in space habitats.. it’s not trivial, but it’s a whole lot easier than colonising a planet when you’ve got to get down and up.

If we could get to the planet for free. I mean, if we had cheap transportation, if you had teleportation or something, then colonising Mars becomes an interesting project.

David Friedman 1 scaled

Today’s guest on the podcast needs no introduction. He is an esteemed economist, legal scholar, and libertarian thinker who has for many, redefined their understanding of individual liberty and the dynamics of human society.

But did you know he was also a connoisseur of medieval cooking? Well, you’re about to find out as I sit down for an hour with David Friedman.

As you would expect our conversation makes many twists and turns and we cover a fair bit of ground. From the intricacies of Romani legal codes and the judicial system in 10th century Iceland to the conversational faux pas one might encounter in a 21st-century Bardic circle and even, ‘What are the most feasible governance models that could be employed on an asteroid colony?’.

Plus, as you will hear, David is quite candid when it comes to expressing his concerns with the Free Cities model.

This podcast was recorded in a room full of people, so listen out for cameos by David’s daughter Rebecca and FCF’s Peter Young.

Enjoy the conversation.

Automatically Generated Summary

00:00 Introduction

Section Overview: The host introduces the podcast as the official podcast of the Free Cities Foundation and mentions the upcoming Free Cities Conference in Prague.

Welcome to the Free Cities Podcast

  • Host: Timothy Allen
  • Official podcast of the Free Cities Foundation

Free Cities Conference in Prague

  • Less than 100 days away
  • Showcasing more Free Cities projects than ever before (at least 12)
  • Theme: “Opt-in to Freedom”
  • Networking opportunities and practical advice

01:21 Guest Introduction

Section Overview: The guest is introduced as an esteemed economist, legal scholar, and libertarian thinker who has redefined understanding of individual liberty and human society dynamics.

Introduction of Today’s Guest – David Friedman

  • Esteemed economist, legal scholar, and libertarian thinker
  • Redefined understanding of individual liberty and human society dynamics

02:18 Topics Covered in Conversation

Section Overview: The conversation covers various topics including Romani legal codes, judicial systems in 10th-century Iceland, conversational faux pas in a bardic circle, and governance models for asteroid colonies.

Topics Discussed with David Friedman

  • Intricacies of Romani legal codes
  • Judicial system in 10th-century Iceland
  • Conversational faux pas in a bardic circle
  • Feasible governance models for asteroid colonies

03:19 Poem Discussion

Section Overview: The host shares a poem by Kipling called “Hymn to Breaking Strain” and discusses its relevance as evidence that Kipling was a modern poet.

Discussion on Kipling’s Poem – “Hymn to Breaking Strain”

  • Poem about breaking strains in engineering
  • Evidence of Kipling’s modernity as a poet

04:00 Conversation Reminder

Section Overview: The host reminds the guest about a conversation with someone named Rafael Lima in Brazil, where the guest mentioned people dressed in suits at a rural event.

Reminder of Previous Conversation

  • Guest spoke about people dressed in suits at a rural event in Brazil
  • Guest does not remember the specific conversation or the suits

04:52 Medieval Reenactments

Section Overview: The host mentions that the guest is a fan of medieval reenactments and discusses their mutual interest in photography and capturing such events.

Guest’s Interest in Medieval Reenactments

  • Guest has been involved in medieval reenactments for 50 years
  • Has a medieval cookbook on Amazon with 300 recipes
  • Daughter wearing pendant based on 15th-century design
  • Host shares interest in photographing medieval reenactments

05:37 Dressing Up and Characters

Section Overview: The host asks about the guest’s attire during medieval reenactments and whether he portrays a specific character.

Attire and Character Portrayal in Medieval Reenactments

  • Guest part of an organized group for reenactments
  • Does not portray a specific character, but dresses according to the group’s theme

06:57 Role-playing as a Medieval North African

Section Overview: The speaker discusses their persona and role-playing as a North African from the 1100s. They mention adopting the perspective of their character, making references to the Muslim world, and dressing in garments based on historical sources.

Persona and Dress

  • The speaker’s persona is that of a North African from around 1100 AD.
  • They try to imagine themselves as someone from the Maghreb who entered a world of multiple kingdoms.
  • The speaker occasionally makes references to the “Civilized world” or “lands of Peace,” which refer to the Muslim world.
  • Their dress is based on a garment found in the Royal Ontario Museum, believed to be Egyptian from that time period.
  • While they lack specific information about Maghriby Garb, they strive for consistency with their chosen persona.

08:35 Historical Background and Interactions

Section Overview: The speaker explains their view of being part of a recreation group focused on multiple kingdoms. They describe how different individuals have different backgrounds within this organization and how dates are not emphasized during interactions.

Background within the Organization

  • The speaker has been part of this recreation group for a long time and has developed their own modern history within it.
  • They lived in various kingdoms within the group and engaged in different activities.
  • Other members also have unique perspectives, such as one person imagining themselves living in a castle in France but interacting with people from different backgrounds at events.

Dates and Interactions

  • Within the organization, it doesn’t make sense to talk about specific dates due to participants being from different times.
  • People rarely introduce themselves with their real-world identities or time periods during events.
  • The speaker mentions having socially interacted with individuals involved in similar groups while in the UK but did not attend any events there.

09:16 Role-playing and Personal Beliefs

Section Overview: The speaker discusses the fun and interest in role-playing as a different person with different beliefs. They mention specific aspects of their persona, such as not wearing glasses and adhering to customs like eating with the right hand.

Role-playing Different Beliefs

  • The speaker finds it enjoyable to imagine being a different person with different beliefs.
  • At events, they do not wear glasses to maintain a medieval appearance.
  • They try to eat only with their right hand, following the custom of Muslims during that time period.
  • Petting dogs is done with the left hand since the right hand is considered clean.

11:17 Activities within the Organization

Section Overview: The speaker highlights various activities they engage in within the organization, including cooking research, jewelry making, storytelling, and memorizing poems.

Cooking Research

  • The speaker has been involved in researching and recreating recipes from a 10th-century Middle Eastern cookbook.
  • Some of these recipes are regularly prepared for dinner at home due to their quality.

Jewelry Making

  • Jewelry making is another enjoyable activity for the speaker within the organization.
  • They aim to recreate period jewels based on historical references.

Storytelling and Poems

  • The speaker participates in storytelling at SCA events during summer camping trips.
  • They spend evenings around a campfire sharing medieval poems and stories as the host.
  • Many of these poems and stories are committed to memory by the speaker.

12:20 Conclusion

Section Overview: The speaker concludes by mentioning that their involvement in this organization provides opportunities for activities that may not have roles elsewhere. They express enjoyment in exploring history and imagining life from a different perspective.

Unique Opportunities

  • Involvement in this organization allows the speaker to engage in activities that may not have roles or outlets elsewhere.
  • Examples include cooking research, jewelry making, storytelling, and hosting campfire sessions.
  • The speaker finds enjoyment in exploring history and imagining life from a different perspective.

Note: Timestamps are approximate and may vary slightly.

13:22 10th Century Classic Recipes and Signature Dishes

Section Overview: In this section, the speaker discusses 10th-century classic recipes and their signature dish. They mention lentil dishes and a particular recipe involving lentils, onions, oil, vinegar, sugar, and saffron. The speaker also mentions the availability of different types of bread.

Signature Dish – Lentil Recipe

  • Lentil dish with chopped onions cooked in oil, vinegar, sugar until lentils are done.
  • Saffron is added to enhance the flavor.
  • Another version includes poached eggs in the dish.

Availability of Bread

  • Four kinds of odyssia (flatbread) mentioned.
  • One type is easily available on every street corner in Baghdad.

14:56 Recipe Sources and Class Distinctions

Section Overview: This section focuses on the sources of recipes and class distinctions associated with them. The speaker mentions that historical recipes tend to come from aristocratic sources. They also discuss a French book called “Le manage” written for an upper-middle-class audience. The speaker compares it to Mrs Beaton’s household management manual.

Recipe Sources

  • Historical recipes mostly come from aristocratic sources.
  • French book “Le manage” written for an upper-middle-class audience.
  • Includes a variety of recipes along with other instructions.

Class Distinctions

  • Recipes may have been eaten by ordinary people but sourced from upper-middle-class or aristocratic households.
  • Some common dishes might have been available on every corner in Baghdad.

16:05 Household Management Manuals

Section Overview: This section discusses household management manuals and their relevance. The speaker mentions “domus Troy,” a Russian medieval cookbook equivalent. They highlight that medieval European recipes often lack specific details like quantities, temperatures, and times. The Islamic recipes tend to provide quantities by weight.

Household Management Manuals

  • “Domus Troy” is a Russian medieval cookbook equivalent.
  • Medieval European recipes lack specific details like quantities, temperatures, and times.
  • Islamic recipes often provide quantities by weight.

18:18 Medieval City-States

Section Overview: This section briefly touches upon medieval city-states. The speaker mentions limited knowledge about Italian city-states but highlights the existence of poly legal systems in the medieval period. They also mention the presence of German merchants in Slavic areas with different laws.

Poly Legal Systems

  • Poly legal systems existed in the medieval period.
  • German merchants in Slavic areas were under different law.
  • Limited knowledge about Italian city-states.

Note: The transcript does not provide enough information on this topic. Further research is recommended for a more comprehensive understanding of medieval city-states.


The transcript provides insights into 10th-century classic recipes, signature dishes, recipe sources, class distinctions, household management manuals, and brief mentions of medieval city-states. However, further research is needed to delve deeper into these topics.


Section Overview: In this section, the speaker discusses the concept of free private cities and how they arise. They also mention examples of different legal authorities in medieval times.

The Emergence of Free Private Cities

  • 19:52 The speaker expresses uncertainty about their knowledge on city-states but is interested in hearing opinions on the emergence of free private cities.
  • 20:17 In the Middle Ages, kings would sell tax exemptions, and Jewish communal authorities had legal authority over Jews, who did not individually pay taxes to the crown.
  • 20:47 In Moorish Spain, royal authorities were willing to enforce criminal penalties ruled by Jewish courts against Jews and even penalize informers who revealed Jewish secrets.
  • 21:08 Some groups, like the Romani in Western Europe, claimed to have been given authority by the Holy Roman Emperor to rule and judge their own people. They had independent institutions for enforcing their own rules.
  • 22:29 Different people in the same place could be under different laws. For example, Welsh law may not have covered criminal law but rather marriage and inheritance.
  • 23:03 The Romani settled disputes through a council of adult males where consensus was reached and enforced with religious pollution or exile from the group.

Examples of Legal Authorities

  • 23:25 The speaker mentions that Amish communities in the US enforce their own rules on their members despite being theoretically under US law. They won a Supreme Court case allowing them to violate compulsory schooling laws.
  • 24:10 While federal laws should theoretically apply to Amish communities, some may be harder to enforce due to their aversion to criminal law approaches.
  • 26:02 The speaker refers to Romanichal (Romanichal) travelers who have their own legal system, which the speaker describes as a primitive version.

Note: The transcript provided does not include specific timestamps for each bullet point. Please ensure that the timestamps are accurately associated with the corresponding content when creating the final markdown file.

26:40 The Feud System in the Sagas and Romanichal System

Section Overview: This section discusses the feud system in the Icelandic sagas and the Romanichal system, highlighting their similarities and differences.

The Feud System in the Sagas

  • The sagas describe a feud system that was prevalent during that period.
  • By the 13th century, there were written descriptions of this system.
  • It was a system where there were laws and courts, but no government enforcement of law.
  • If someone wronged another person, they could sue them and get a verdict, but it was up to them and their friends to enforce it.

The Romanichal System

  • The Romanichal system is described as having norms that people agree on rather than a formal legal code.
  • If one person wrongs another, compensation is demanded, and it is understood that if the claim is valid, their friends will support them.
  • There is no written tradition in this oral system.
  • Claims of being harmed are tested by third parties who come to a consensus based on community opinion.

29:00 Consensus-based Dispute Resolution in Different Cultures

Section Overview: This section explores consensus-based dispute resolution methods in different cultures such as Icelandic sagas, Romani communities, Kazakh tribes in Mongolia, and American Romani.

Icelandic Sagas

  • In Icelandic sagas, disputes are resolved through meetings involving everyone concerned.
  • A relatively small number of people typically participate in these meetings.
  • The arbiter’s role is to represent the opinion of the community.

Romani Communities

  • In Romani communities (Gypsy law), disputes are resolved through discussions among community members who know each other well.
  • Questions are asked to establish clarity about what happened and whether it constitutes a wrong or not.
  • The arbiter’s role is based on the consensus of the community.

Kazakh Tribes in Mongolia

  • In Kazakh tribes, disputes are often resolved by older gentlemen who come up with a plan that both parties must follow.
  • Disputes usually involve marital issues and deference is given to the elderly members of the community.

American Romani

  • In American Romani communities, disputes can arise from bride purchase transactions.
  • Disputes may be resolved through feuds or negotiations to reclaim money or resolve conflicts between families.

30:19 Informal Dispute Resolution Methods

Section Overview: This section focuses on informal dispute resolution methods observed in different cultures.

Consensus-based Resolution

  • Consensus-based resolution methods are common in communities where everyone knows each other well.
  • Seeking out state intervention is not necessary as disputes can be resolved within the community itself.

Involvement of Elderly Members

  • Elderly members often play a significant role in resolving disputes and coming up with solutions.
  • Their wisdom and experience are valued in making decisions.

Intertribal Disputes

  • Intertribal disputes may involve fighting and violence, especially when there is no established consensus or shared norms between tribes.

31:55 Bride Purchase System and Feuds

Section Overview: This section discusses the bride purchase system and feuds observed in certain cultures.

Bride Purchase System

  • The American Romani culture involves a bride purchase system where conflicts can arise if the bride refuses to fulfill her expected role.
  • These conflicts may lead to feuds as one party tries to reclaim their money.

32:18 Introduction to Free Cities

Section Overview: This section briefly introduces free cities as a topic for further discussion.

Free Cities

  • Free cities are a subject that will be explored further in the video.
  • The speaker admits to being relatively new to this topic but has spoken to others about it.

Note: The transcript provided does not contain enough information to provide a comprehensive summary of the entire video.

33:05 Government and Free Cities

Section Overview: The risks associated with dealing with host governments and the importance of keeping free cities in check.

Risks with Host Governments

  • Host governments may offer attractive terms initially but can change them after large capital investments have been made. 33:05

Importance of Mobile Capital

  • Having mobile capital allows for flexibility in case a city government starts to go bad. People can easily move to another city if needed. 33:30
  • Intelligent, productive people are key to a high-income society, not just expensive factories.33:50

Constraints on Governments

  • Migration acts as a constraint on governments’ actions.34:56
  • Enforcing contracts against sovereign states is difficult.35:16
  • Reputation plays a role in enforcing agreements, but international courts lack the means to enforce their decisions.35:41

36:02 Enforcing Contracts and Free Trade Agreements

Section Overview: The challenges of enforcing contracts against sovereign states and the role of free trade agreements.

Enforcing Contracts Against Sovereign States

  • Enforcing contracts against sovereign states is unlikely to be an option due to the lack of enforcement mechanisms like an army or police force.36:02
  • A possible solution could be for governments to deposit a large sum of money with a trusted third party as collateral in case they renege on their agreements. However, this is not commonly practiced by governments.36:42

Prospera and Free Trade Agreement

  • Prospera is part of the Central American Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement, which includes the US as a signatory. This provides some protection for investors in Prospera against government interference or expropriation.37:04
  • However, the Free Trade Agreement does not prevent Honduras from taxing land and incomes in Prospera or enforcing disputes in Honduran courts.37:23

Limitations of Free Trade Agreements

  • Free trade agreements may limit expropriation of investments and property, but they do not necessarily prevent governments from treating commercial disputes involving free cities differently.38:14


Section Overview: In this section, the speaker discusses the importance of mobility in making a new city concept work and shares personal experiences related to mobility and settling in different places.

Mobility as a Key Factor (0:39:49 – 0:40:28)

  • Mobility is crucial for the success of a new city concept.
  • The speaker believes that the more mobile people and assets are, the easier it is to maintain the city.
  • Personal experience of having a family influences mobility decisions.
  • The speaker mentions their own experience of temporarily leaving England during COVID lockdowns but ultimately deciding to return due to family ties.

Settling in New Cities (0:40:48 – 0:41:46)

  • Discussion on whether people will settle and consider a new city as their home.
  • The speaker acknowledges that while some individuals may be willing to settle elsewhere, factors like family connections can limit mobility.
  • Comparisons are made between settling in a free city versus moving to random parts of Honduras or Welsh countryside.
  • Free cities are seen as potentially offering a more comfortable environment with legal rules based on anglo-american common law.

Prospects and Optimism (0:42:04 – 0:44:32)

  • Speculation on the demographic makeup of people likely to be interested in free cities, with an emphasis on young individuals.
  • The speaker expresses optimism about free cities being a viable alternative compared to seasteading projects.
  • Competition among small governors within free cities is seen as beneficial, enabled by technological advancements and global connectivity.
  • Possibility for increased mobility due to wealth, internet access, and close commercial relations across borders.

Security Concerns (0:44:56 – 0:45:19)

  • Discussion on security concerns regarding free cities.
  • Emphasis on host countries providing security rather than free cities having their own military.
  • The speaker suggests that a small number of free cities can still provide security within the framework of the host country.

Note: The transcript provided does not cover the entire video, and these notes are based on the available content.


Section Overview: In this section, the speaker discusses the concept of seasteading and its potential as a solution for creating a more attractive political system. The speaker also highlights the challenges associated with seasteading in territorial waters and on the high seas.

Seasteading Challenges

  • 46:18 There are two different ways to approach seasteading: in territorial waters or on the high seas.
  • If seasteading is done in territorial waters, it faces similar problems as free cities. The advantage is that if things get bad enough, one can call tow boats and find another location.
  • On the other hand, if seasteading is done on the high seas, there is a risk of valuable resources being stolen by others.
  • Living on giant rafts linked together could resemble a city or town, but it may be challenging initially for the first settlers.
  • The idea of living on Mars was also discussed briefly, with the speaker mentioning that it would depend on how well it worked and if transportation to Mars became more accessible.


Section Overview: In this section, the speaker talks about the challenges of space colonization and suggests alternative options such as colonizing asteroids or building space habitats.

Space Colonization Challenges

  • 48:01 The primary challenge for developing a serious space civilization is reducing the cost to orbit significantly.
  • Dumping into another gravity well after spending great expense to leave Earth’s gravity is not practical with current technology.
  • One option could be colonizing asteroids or building space habitats in stable Lagrangian points within the Earth-Moon system where orbits don’t decay.
  • Developing technologies for living in space habitats is easier compared to colonizing planets like Mars due to logistical challenges of getting down and up from a planet’s surface.
  • The speaker mentions that if transportation to Mars becomes more accessible, colonizing the planet could become an interesting project due to its available resources.
  • Asteroids also have resources, but they may not be as easily accessible as those on a planet’s surface.


Section Overview: In this section, the speaker discusses the possibility of establishing a new frontier in space rather than on Mars and explores the idea of underwater colonization.

New Frontiers

  • 50:03 The speaker suggests that the next frontier could be in space rather than on Mars.
  • Underwater colonization is also mentioned as a potential frontier if technologies for extended periods of time underwater are developed.
  • The search for freedom and the exploration of what lies beyond are possible motivations for pursuing new frontiers.
  • Initially, resource extraction would likely drive underwater colonization efforts due to the abundance of resources in the ocean depths.
  • If underwater colonization becomes more feasible and common, it could lead to the growth of colonies or even countries in those regions.


Section Overview: In this section, the speaker expresses skepticism about current technology’s ability to significantly reduce costs for space exploration and colonization.

Cost Reduction Challenges

  • 51:32 While there is optimism about private sector involvement in space exploration, it is unlikely that current technology can achieve significant cost reductions necessary for practical space colonization beyond near-Earth orbit.
  • Elon Musk’s achievements with SpaceX are acknowledged, but even he may not be able to lower costs enough with existing technology.
  • To make space colonization more practical and feasible, a substantial reduction in the cost to orbit is required.


Section Overview: In this section, the speaker discusses the concept of Earth’s orbit and the possibility of life on other planets.

Earth’s Orbit and Distance from Sun

  • The Earth is in an orbit around the Sun, just like other celestial bodies.
  • However, our distance from the Sun varies as we orbit, resulting in different distances between Earth and other planets.
  • Near-Earth asteroids exist but have different orbits than Earth, so they do not constantly collide with our planet.
  • The main asteroid belt is located outside the orbit of Mars and contains numerous rocks of varying sizes.

Governance Model for Asteroids

  • For a bunch of asteroids, it may be plausible to have anarchy or no government since there might not be a need for governance.
  • The speaker suggests that societies without governments have existed historically, such as Saga period Iceland and certain Indian tribes.
  • While it is possible to have a modern developed society without a government, it remains uncertain if it would be successful.


Section Overview: In this section, the speaker discusses what they would do during a one-year sabbatical if all costs were covered.

Personal Interests during Sabbatical

  • The speaker mentions that they already live their ideal lifestyle and engage in activities such as growing fruit trees and dedicating time to writing projects.
  • They express interest in life extension but note that there haven’t been any recent significant developments in that field.

Note: No specific timestamps were provided for this section.