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Berkeley City Council Member Ben Bartlett on civil rights and defending democracy

Berkeley City Council Member Ben Bartlett on civil rights and defending democracy

Aug 17, 2020

Ben Bartlett has done a lot in his life. The former Vice Mayor of Berkeley, a serial entrepreneur who lives at the intersection of government, law, and technology, joins Alex for this week's episode of Follow the White Rabbit. Currently a member of Berkeley's City Council, he works closely with institutional investors and policymakers to ensure that technology and policy come together to empower innovators.

Widely recognized as a trailblazer in the blockchain space, Ben is the architect of Berkeley's tokenized debt offering (TDO), a node of his Smart Path blockchain investment thesis. And if that's not enough, he's a member of the State of California's Blockchain Working Group, which makes policy recommendations for the state's economy and government.

For Ben, decentralized technology and blockchain-powered finance are an essential part of a long, unfinished story. "The human dynamic is woven into the blockchain story," he says. "All these tools are meant to promote freedom."

Ben's work bringing the most powerful capabilities of government, technology, and business together in the cause of freedom is informed by the story of his own family. His ancestors, who migrated to Berkeley before the Civil War, have fought for justice and furthered the cause of freedom for generations.

Ben's grandfather broke barriers by becoming one of the first Black realtors in the Bay Area. Working with the state's first Black assemblyperson, William Byron Rumford, he helped pass the California Fair Housing Act, which outlawed the practice of redlining and became the basis for the federal government's own Fair Housing Act. His uncle was a founder of the Congressional Black Caucus, and the first Black person to chair the House Armed Services Committee.

Ben's mother was a founding member of the Black Panther Party, and Ben attended the Black Panther school. It was here, he says, that he learned how to think like a free person and how to understand freedom itself. This understanding -- that freedom is innate to every person -- is what drives all of his activities, including his work advancing blockchain-based solutions.

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"Freedom is everything," he says.

You're born free. Freedom is integral, and I really want people to get back into the word freedom, and relish it. We've got to get back into the promotion of democracy and freedom. That's the only way we're going to make it without falling into total despotism and destruction."

Follow us down the rabbit hole: listen to the conversation here or on your favorite streaming service.

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Feb 22, 2021
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