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Free Thoughts

Updated 3 days ago

Rank #185 in Politics category

News
History
Politics
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A weekly show about politics and liberty, featuring conversations with top scholars, philosophers, historians, economists, and public policy experts. Hosted by Aaron Ross Powell and Trevor Burrus.

Read more

A weekly show about politics and liberty, featuring conversations with top scholars, philosophers, historians, economists, and public policy experts. Hosted by Aaron Ross Powell and Trevor Burrus.

iTunes Ratings

213 Ratings
Average Ratings
186
14
4
3
6

Never miss an episode

By Rplmd - Jul 19 2017
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Probably the only podcast I never miss

Really enjoy this podcast

By W.C. Olmsted - Jul 05 2017
Read more
Thank you so much for production of fascinating show, with interesting guests.

iTunes Ratings

213 Ratings
Average Ratings
186
14
4
3
6

Never miss an episode

By Rplmd - Jul 19 2017
Read more
Probably the only podcast I never miss

Really enjoy this podcast

By W.C. Olmsted - Jul 05 2017
Read more
Thank you so much for production of fascinating show, with interesting guests.

Listen to:

Cover image of Free Thoughts

Free Thoughts

Updated 3 days ago

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A weekly show about politics and liberty, featuring conversations with top scholars, philosophers, historians, economists, and public policy experts. Hosted by Aaron Ross Powell and Trevor Burrus.

Wealth, Poverty and Politics: An International Perspective

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What are some of the geographical factors throughout history that lead to unequal outcomes? Can we tease out a causal direction for something like cultural dishonesty? Is isolation—cultural, geographic, and otherwise—always bad for a society? How does all of this relate to the ongoing income inequality debate in America?

Show Notes and Further Reading

Thomas Sowell’s newest book is Wealth, Poverty, and Politics: Revised and Enlarged Edition (2016).

Sowell mentions J. D. Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis (2016).

Freedom on Trial is our new courtroom drama that takes viewers into the heart of the everyday issues that arise when an employer’s desire to hire more employees runs into the barrier of minimum wage laws, and when the government’s plans to “solve” income inequality only makes things worse. 

Nov 04 2016

40mins

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The Ideas of Friedrich Hayek

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Nobel laureate Friedrich Hayek was one of the world’s foremost intellectuals in a variety of fields, including legal theory, economics, constitutional theory, and neuroscience. This podcast episode provides an introduction to his academic and popular writing.

Steven Horwitz joins us for a discussion about Hayek’s life and ideas. What does it mean to think “Hayekian”? What is spontaneous order? Why doesn’t planning work?

Show Notes and Further Reading

Steven Horwitz, Hayek’s Modern Family: Classical Liberalism and the Evolution of Social Institutions (forthcoming book)

F. A. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom (book)

F. A. Hayek, “The Use of Knowledge in Society” (essay)

F. A. Hayek, Law, Legislation, and Liberty (book series: Vol. 1, Vol. 2, Vol. 3)

Jun 08 2015

53mins

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Robert Nozick's "Anarchy, State, and Utopia"

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Julian Sanchez joins Trevor and Aaron for a discussion on the political philosophy of Robert Nozick. Nozick’s 1974 book Anarchy, State, and Utopia is a classic of modern philosophy. In it, he argues that the rights we all have as human beings dramatically limit what the state’s allowed to do.

Nov 11 2013

1hr 27mins

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How Free Trade Creates Wealth

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Daniel J. Ikenson explains the idea of free trade between nations on this week’s show. We discuss how Enlightenment-era economists like Adam Smith and David Ricardo saw trade as a non zero-sum game and what their theories mean for continued economic growth today. We discuss in detail the idea of comparative advantage, and talk about the effects of regulation on trade.

What is a trade surplus? What’s a trade deficit? Is one good and the other bad?

Should we be worried about the loss of manufacturing jobs in America? What about job losses from trade? Will “Buy American” laws fix this?

What are “anti-dumping” laws and how do they work? What’s the distinction between free trade and managed trade? Should advocates of free trade support free trade agreements?

Show Notes and Further Reading

Daniel J. Ikenson, “Did the Profit Motive Spark the Recent Asian Factory Fires?” (Cato @ Liberty blog post)

Jason Dedrick, Kenneth L. Kraemer, Greg Linden, “Who Profits from Innovation in Global Value Chains? A Study of the iPod and notebook PCs” (academic paper)

May 11 2015

57mins

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The Limits of Utilitarianism

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This week we discuss the philosophy of utilitarianism and it’s relationship with libertarianism.

What is utilitarianism? How is utilitarianism related to economics? What makes utilitarianism seem to work so well when applied to economic thinking? And where does it go wrong?

Show Notes and Further Reading

Adam Gurri, “Morality, Economics, and the Problem with Preferences” (column)

Adam Gurri, “Liberty with Dignity, Mutual Respect, and Morality” (column)

Jeremy Bentham and J. S. Mill, Utilitarianism and Other Essays (collection)

Lorraine Hansberry, A Raisin in the Sun (play)

Alfred C. Pigou, The Economics of Welfare (book)

Ronald Coase, The Firm, the Market, and the Law (book)

Dec 01 2014

52mins

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Liberty and Coercion: The Paradox of American Government from the Founding to the Present

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What are historians to make of the paradox of American government? On one hand, Americans claim to value freedom from government interference in their lives, but on the other, Americans have also clamored for government interventions that have done everything from redistributing wealth to imposing a particular set of views on marriage, abortion, and religion.

Gary Gerstle gives a chronological history of American governance from the founding of the country to today. How has governance changed in America over the years? What role has the Constitution played in this?

Was the Constitution meant to protect liberty, or establish federal power? How did an early reliance on agriculture affect governance in early America?

Show Notes and Further Reading

Gerstle’s book is Liberty and Coercion: The Paradox of American Government from the Founding to the Present (2015).

Aug 19 2016

1hr 3mins

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How the Federal Reserve Works

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George Selgin joins us again on Free Thoughts for a conversation about the origins and role of the Federal Reserve.

What is the Federal Reserve? What does it do, and what authority does it have? Why was the Fed created, and what was it’s role in the 2008 financial crisis?

Show Notes and Further Reading

Here is Selgin’s newest study on the founding of the Federal Reserve.

Here are our previous Free Thoughts episodes with Selgin:

Dec 29 2017

57mins

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"Ideological Dorks"

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“Your hero economists are my hero economists.”

We talk about a variety of topics on this episode, including cultural conservativism and libertarianism, whether libertarians are more at home on the right or left, Goldberg’s 2009 book, Liberal Fascism, and the rise of outsider candidates on the political right and what they may (or may not) be signalling about the preferences of the electorate.

Show Notes and Further Reading

Goldberg’s books, The Tyranny of Clichés: How Liberals Cheat in the War of Ideas (2013) and Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Change (2009).

Charles C. W. Cooke’s new book The Conservatarian Manifesto: Libertarians, Conservatives, and the Fight for the Right’s Future (2015).

The History News Network’s Symposium on Liberal Fascism.

David Oshinsky’s New York Times review of Liberal Fascism.

Oct 09 2015

57mins

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Why Not Capitalism?

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This week Jason Brennan joins Aaron and Trevor to discuss his newest book, Why Not Capitalism?, which is a response to G. A. Cohen’s 2009 book Why Not Socialism? Brennan says that Cohen commits the fallacy of comparing idealized socialism with perfect actors to real markets with imperfect actors, and offers an illustrative example as proof that when comparing idealized capitalism to idealized socialism and real capitalism to real socialism, it is capitalism—not socialism—that claims the moral high ground.

Is there anything to the argument that “socialism would work if we were just better people” and had perfect information?

Jun 23 2014

46mins

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Can We Reduce the Footprint of the Fed? (with George Selgin)

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Prior to the 2008 financial crisis, the Federal Reserve had a long-standing policy of maintaining a minimal footprint on the credit system. According to Selgin, the Fed use to be a “lean and mean” player in the credit system. However, on the eve of the 2008 financial crisis they made some changes to decades’ old policies that they believed would aid the financial instability of the country at the time. In retrospect, we can now deeply analyze where the Federal Reserve misstepped. 

What is the Federal Reserve? What are mandatory reserves? What is the chevron deference? What did emergency lending have to do with the 2008 financial crisis? Is the Fed more constrained than private banks?

Further Reading:

Floored!: How a Misguided Fed Experiment Deepened and Prolonged the Great Recession, written by George Selgin

Anniversary of a Fed Blunder, written by George Selgin

Interest on Excess Reserves: The Hobie Cat Effect, written by George Selgin

The Fed’s Recent Defense of Interest on Reserves, written by George Selgin

Related Content:

How the Federal Reserve Works, Free Thoughts Podcast

The Gold Standard Won’t Be Coming Back, Free Thoughts Podcast

Jan 11 2019

55mins

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Libertarianism and Christianity

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Doug Bandow joins Aaron and Trevor to talk about the political philosophy of libertarianism and and the religion of Christianity. What, if any, is the relationship between the two? Are there things within the Christian tradition—within Christian scripture—that support libertarianism?

Show Notes and Further Reading

Doug Bandow, Beyond Good Intentions: A Biblical View of Politics (book)

Charles Murray, Losing Ground: American Social Policy, 1950-1980 (book)

The Bible (New International Version)

Jul 21 2014

52mins

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From the Magna Carta to Brexit (with David Starkey)

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David Starkey explains the origins of UK Parliament so that we can understand how it differs from the U.S. government. He claims that Parliament is not too dissimilar from Congress. However, one key difference from the system in the UK and our own is the position of Prime Minister. Unlike our President, the Prime Minister is not subject to a general election for that specific position. Towards the end of the episode they also discuss what is going on with Brexit.

What is English common law? Is English government known for being too nice? What impact did the Magna Carta have on the structure of the English government? Why doesn’t the separation of powers in government work?

Further Reading:

David Starkey explains simple but infuriating reason behind Brexit impasse, written by Martina Bet

Dr. David Starkey - Uncut: Assaults on Brexit, British Identity & History, So What You’re Saying Is Show

Six Wives of Henry VIII, BBC Documentary

David Starkey’s Magna Carta

Related Content:

Magna Carta Influence in the U.S. Constitution, written by David Edwards

The Ancient Rights of Englishmen, written by David Edwards

Radical Weirdness in the English Civil Wars, podcast with Anthony Comegna and Caleb O. Brown

Oct 25 2019

49mins

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The Case Against Education

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Bryan Caplan gives us the case against traditional education and how employers reward workers for costly schooling they rarely if ever use, and why cutting education spending is the best remedy. Why have decades of growing access to education have not resulted in better jobs for the average worker but instead in runaway credential inflation?

Further Readings/References:

The Case against Education

Encyclopedia of Libertarianism: Education

Free Thoughts Podcast: The Education Apocalypse

Free Thoughts Podcast: The State of State Education

More about Bryan Caplan’s work

Feb 16 2018

52mins

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The Problem of Political Authority

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Professor Michael Huemer claims that if normal people acted like governments do, we would generally be horrified and find their behavior morally contemptible…so why do most people intuitively feel that government is justified in its actions? Professor Huemer, Aaron, and Trevor tackle problems of political obligation, political legitimacy, and political authority, and explain the differences between each of these terms.

Show Notes and Further Reading

Michael Huemer, The Problem of Political Authority: An Examination of the Right to Coerce and the Duty to Obey (book)

Michael Huemer, Ethical Intuitionism (book)

Prof. Huemer’s personal web site.

Sep 15 2014

52mins

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The Bourgeois Era

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For most of human history, most people lived in abject poverty and cultural and technological stagnation. Only in the past 200 years or so has humankind seen a flourishing of new ideas that has led to our current state of relative health, wealth, safety, and happiness.

Deirdre McCloskey says the difference lies in the power of market institutions and a burgeoning respect for those that participate in them. Celebrating innovation—not protecting people from it—is the key to explaining this exponential growth.

Show Notes and Further Reading

The Bourgeois Virtues: Ethics for an Age of Commerce (2007)

Bourgeois Dignity: Why Economics Can’t Explain the Modern World (2011)

Bourgeois Equality: How Ideas, Not Capital or Institutions, Enriched the World (2016)

May 27 2016

53mins

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Laughing about Politics (with P.J. O'Rourke)

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P.J. O’Rourke offers comedic relief about the state of our politics from his unique journalistic perspective influenced by the “sunshine” of the 1960s. O’Rourke has worked for many notable publications such as the National Lampoon and Rolling Stone Magazine. He has had two New York Times #1 Bestsellers; Parliament of Whores and Give War a Chance. He is currently a correspondent for the Atlantic as well as the H.L. Mencken Research Fellow at the Cato Institute.

Why does show business and left-wing politics have an affinity for each other? What happened to politics in the 1960s? How did the baby boomers ruin the world? What does O’Rourke think of the state of journalism today? Are we more divided today, as a society, than we were in the latter half of the 1960s?

Further Reading:

None of My Business, written by P.J. O’Rourke

All the Trouble in the World: The Lighter Side of Overpopulation, Famine, Ecological Disaster, Ethnic Hatred, Plague, and Poverty, written by P.J. O’Rourke

It’s Worse than Vulgar, It’s Trendy, written by P.J. O’Rourke

Related Content:

Is Liberalism in Danger?, Free Thoughts Episode

Harambe to Trump: 2016 was the Worst, Free Thoughts Episode

King Obama, King Trump: The Dangers of an Imperial Presidency, Free Thoughts Episode

Sep 21 2018

30mins

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The Changing Role of Criminal Law

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What’s the proper scope of criminal law, from a libertarian point of view? Why does America lead the world in incarceration rates? How is the federal War on Drugs affecting our legal system?

Burrus and Lynch explain how policies like mandatory minimum sentencing and three strike laws erode civil liberties and talk about the proliferation of strict liability standards in criminal law. They also discuss the effects tactics like police militarization and no-knock raids have on small communities like Ferguson, Missouri and the more generalized problem of police misconduct in America.

Oct 06 2014

52mins

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When FDR Took Americans’ Gold (with Sebastian Edwards)

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Sebastian Edwards joins us today to discuss why we abandoned the gold standard. Edwards recently published American Default: The Untold Story of FDR, the Supreme Court, and the Battle over Gold.

On April 5, 1933, FDR ordered Americans to sell all their gold holdings to the government. This was followed by the abandonment of the gold standard and the devaluation of the dollar. American Default is the story of this forgotten chapter in America’s history.

Further Readings

Learn More about Sebastian Edwards

Read the book American Default: The Untold Story of FDR, the Supreme Court, and the Battle over Gold

The Gold Standard Won’t Be Coming Back - Free Thoughts Podcast

Jul 13 2018

57mins

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An Introduction to Public Choice

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This week Peter Van Doren joins us to explain the economics of decision making in politics. What is public choice theory and how does it explain what happens in a majority rules democracy? Is public choice a type of macroeconomic theory? How does ordering a series of votes change their outcome? What’s rent-seeking? What does the phrase “concentrated benefits and diffuse costs” mean? What’s the median voter theorem and how does it affect our politics in America?


Show Notes and Further Reading

Kenneth Arrow, Social Choice and Individual Values (book)

Anthony Downs, An Economic Theory of Democracy (book)

Mancur Olson, The Logic of Collective Action: Public Goods and the Theory of Groups (book)

James Buchanan and Gordon Tullock, The Calculus of Consent: Logical Foundations of Constitutional Democracy (book)

Michael E. Levine and Charles R. Plott, “Agenda Influence and Its Implications” (article)

Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) (Wikipedia article)

Say’s Law (Wikipedia article)

Pareto Efficiency (Wikipedia article)

Jan 12 2015

58mins

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Why Schools Haven't Changed in Hundreds of Years

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Kevin Currie-Knight joins us this week to discuss why we can’t seem to change the way we educate schoolchildren. Is there one best way to educate kids?

Where did our current system—splitting kids up by age, dividing knowledge up into subjects, having teachers stand at the front of the room and give lectures, testing knowledge with exams, summer holidays, etc.—come from? Why does education still look pretty much like it did hundreds of years ago when everything else in our modern world has changed?

Show Notes and Further Reading

Currie-Knight spoke on a Kansas Policy Institute panel on this topic.

Here’s Currie-Knight’s video series about education, Schooled.

He also mentions The Independent Project (here’s a Huffington Post article about it), High Tech High, and an upcoming documentary about High Tech High called Most Likely To Succeed.

Trevor mentions a lecture (and Free Thoughts episode) he gives called The Statrix.

 

Dec 09 2016

53mins

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Government-Created Segregation (with Richard Rothstein)

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The Color of Law, written by Richard Rothstein, has been described as the “powerful and disturbing history” of how American governments deliberately imposed racial segregation on metropolitan areas nationwide. He helps us understand twentieth-century urban history. A history that provides insight as to why our cities are still facing residential issues today.

When the government created segregated housing systems, did they think it would persist much through the 20th century? What obstacles did blacks face in the Jim Crow era when they were buying a house?

Related Content:

The Color of Law, written by Richard Rothstein

The Road Not Taken, written by Stephen Menendian and Richard Rothstein

From Ferguson to Baltimore, written by Richard Rothstein

Further Reading:

Black History and Liberty, written by Jonathan Blanks

Looking Back to Look Forward: Blacks, Liberty, and the State, written by Jonathan Blanks

Why Aren’t There More Black Libertarians?, Free Thoughts Podcast

Dec 13 2019

41mins

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Becoming a Whistleblower (with Patrick Eddington)

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Patrick G. Eddington’s tenure at the CIA spanned the transition from the Cold War to the new era of American interventionism in the Persian Gulf and the Balkans. In his book, Long Strange Journey: An Intelligence Memoir, he tackles a whole slew of questions; Why was President George H.W. Bush so surprised that Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait? Did America’s intelligence community fail to warn him of the threat, or did he ignore their predictions of an invasion? Why did the CIA and the Pentagon deny so vehemently for so long that sick Desert Storm veterans were exposed to Iraq’s chemical agents?

Should we be weary of surveillance technology that our foreign intelligence uses overseas? What if that technology was used domestically? What is it like to work with America’s intelligence community? What was Gulf War syndrome? How do you become a whistleblower?

Further Reading:

Long Strange Journey: An Intelligence Memoir, written by Patrick Eddington

The Uncounted Enemy: A Vietnam Deception

Crisis of Conscience: Whistleblowing in an Age of Fraud, written by Tom Muller

Related Content:

The CIA Listens to Free Thoughts, Free Thoughts Episode

The Inhumanity of Torture, Free Thoughts Episode

Deconstructing the Surveillance State, Free Thoughts Episode

Dec 06 2019

1hr

Play

The Case for Open Borders (with Bryan Caplan & Zach Weinersmith)

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Bryan Caplan and Zach Weinersmith join the show today to talk about their non-ficton graphic novel; Open Borders: The Science and Ethics of Immigration.

American policy-makers have long been locked in a heated battle over whether, how many, and what kind of immigrants to allow to live and work in the country. Those in favor of welcoming more immigrants often cite humanitarian reasons, while those in favor of more restrictive laws argue the need to protect native citizens.

Why is immigration a horrible injustice that no one seems to be talking about? Why do we frame immigration as charity? How do you change people’s minds on immigration?

Further Reading:

Open Borders: The Science and Ethics of Immigration, written by Bryan Caplan

The Case against Education: Why the Education System Is a Waste of Time and Money, written by Bryan Caplan

The Myth of the Rational Voter, written by Bryan Caplan

Look to Milton: Open borders and the welfare state, written by Robert Rector

Related Content:

You Are Now Free to Move About the Planet, Free Thoughts Podcast

The Truth About Immigration, Free Thoughts Podcast

Myths and Facts of Immigration Policy, written by Alex Nowrasteh

Nov 29 2019

55mins

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How to be Epicurean (with Catherine Wilson)

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Catherine Wilson teaches us that there is more to Epicureanism than eating, drinking, and being merry. Epicureanism is not an excuse for having a good time, it stresses the importance of living a good life. Epicureans maintain a philosophy that promotes reason, respect for the natural world, and respect for fellow human beings.

What is Epicureanism? Who was Epicurus? How did Epicureans become utilitarians? Is Epicureanism just utilitarianism? Was Epicurus an atheist? What is the scope of Epicurean influence?

Further Reading:

How to be Epicurean, by Catherine Wilson

Using Epicurean Philosophy for Finding Happiness, written by Jodi Clarke

Epicureanism at the Origins of Modernity, written by Catherine Wilson

Related Content:

Buddhist Ethics Does Not Advocate State Action, written by Aaron Ross Powell

Stoicism, Encyclopedia of Libertarianism

Epicureanism, Encyclopedia of Libertarianism

Nov 22 2019

50mins

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The War on Tobacco (with Jacob Grier)

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The cigarette is the most lethal consumer product in history, but how has smoking changed in the last 30 years? Smoking is banned from many restaurants, bars, parks, and places of work. The moral panic has ensued around smoking and the fear is only increasing. But, what if there is a better way for smokers to have what they want without burdening them with regulations?

Why did the cigarette take over the tobacco world? Should there be places that people should go to enjoy smoking tobacco together? How did second hand smoke become a property rights issue? Why is smoking so stigmatized? What is thirdhand smoke? Does anyone want a safer cigarette?

Further Reading:

The Rediscovery of Tobacco: Smoking, Vaping, and the Creative Destruction of the Cigarette, written by Jacob Grier

King James I, A Counterblaste to Tobacco, 1604

Christopher Hitchens on Audio, Cato At Liberty

Christopher Hitchens May Be Dying Of Cancer, But He Has No Regrets About Smoking And Boozing, written by Joe Pompeo

Barbara Ehrenreich Doesn’t Have Time for Self-Care, Isaac Chotiner

Related Content:

Chasing the Scream: The First and Last Days of the War on Drugs, Free Thoughts Podcast

Is the DEA Trippin’? (with Rick Doblin), Free Thoughts Podcast

Nov 15 2019

49mins

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Why Liberalism Works (with Deirdre McCloskey)

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According to Deirdre McCloskey the greatest challenges that humankind faces are tyranny and poverty. McCloskey is a firm believer that if we were to return to true liberal values it would be good for everyone. For examples of true liberal values she refers to philosophers Locke, Smith, Voltaire, and Wollstonecraft.

What is the connection between liberalism and democracy? How is liberalism non-coercive? What fights should libertarians prioritize? How can you be principled advocate for the poor? Who influenced Deirdre McCloskey?

Further Reading:

Why Liberalism Works: How True Liberal Values Produce a Freer, More Equal, Prosperous World for All, written by Deirdre McCloskey

The magic washing machine, Hans Rossling TED Talk

Bourgeois Dignity: A Revolution in Rhetoric, written by Deirdre McCloskey

Related Content:

The Bourgeois Era, Free Thoughts Podcast

Liberalism 1.0, Free Thoughts Podcast

A Review of Bourgeois Equality: How Ideas, Not Capital or Institutions, Enriched the World by Deirdre McCloskey, written by David S. D’Amato

Nov 08 2019

57mins

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Finding Meaning in an Age of Individualism (with Clay Routledge)

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Clay Routledge joined the show today to talk about how our society has become increasingly individualistic, and how we are still learning the consequences of that. It is human nature to look for some sort of meaning in life. We are social animals, but that isn’t what makes us particularly unique. What makes us unique is that we maintain cultures and practices that make us seem, at least in part, larger than ourselves.

Why do we search for meaning in our lives? How do we know if our life actually means something? Do people feel lonelier than the used to? Why is Western society becoming more secular?

Further Reading:

Human Progress

Supernatural: Death, Meaning, and the Power of the Invisible World, written by Clay Routledge

Why do we feel nostalgia?, Ted-Ed Talk by Clay Routledge

Related Content:

The Collapse of the Local Community (with Tim Carney), Free Thoughts Podcast

Do Socialists Mean Well?, written by Grant Babcock

No Man Is an Island (Not Even Libertarians), written by Aaron Ross Powell

Nov 01 2019

45mins

Play

From the Magna Carta to Brexit (with David Starkey)

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David Starkey explains the origins of UK Parliament so that we can understand how it differs from the U.S. government. He claims that Parliament is not too dissimilar from Congress. However, one key difference from the system in the UK and our own is the position of Prime Minister. Unlike our President, the Prime Minister is not subject to a general election for that specific position. Towards the end of the episode they also discuss what is going on with Brexit.

What is English common law? Is English government known for being too nice? What impact did the Magna Carta have on the structure of the English government? Why doesn’t the separation of powers in government work?

Further Reading:

David Starkey explains simple but infuriating reason behind Brexit impasse, written by Martina Bet

Dr. David Starkey - Uncut: Assaults on Brexit, British Identity & History, So What You’re Saying Is Show

Six Wives of Henry VIII, BBC Documentary

David Starkey’s Magna Carta

Related Content:

Magna Carta Influence in the U.S. Constitution, written by David Edwards

The Ancient Rights of Englishmen, written by David Edwards

Radical Weirdness in the English Civil Wars, podcast with Anthony Comegna and Caleb O. Brown

Oct 25 2019

49mins

Play

How Mao Broke China (with Frank Dikötter)

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After the economic disaster of the Great Leap Forward that claimed tens of millions of lives from 1958–1962, an aging Mao Zedong launched an ambitious scheme to shore up his reputation and eliminate those he viewed as a threat to his legacy. He called this The Cultural Revolution. Trevor and Aaron ask Frank Dikötter about Mao’s legacy and how he came to power, which leads to a larger discussion about the nature of dictatorships.

Where did Mao come from? What is the history of the Communist Party of China? What happened in China during the Great Leap Forward? Why does communism lead to millions of deaths? Why do dictators hate ideology? How unfree is daily life in China?

Further Reading:

How to Be a Dictator: The Cult of Personality in the Twentieth Century, written by Frank Dikötter

Mao’s Little Red Book

The Cultural Revolution: A People’s History, 1962―1976, written by Frank Dikötter

‘The Cultural Revolution: A People’s History, 1962-1976,’ by Frank Dikotter, book review in the New York Times

Related Content:

China: The Annihilation of Human Rights, written by David Hart

Chinese Communism and the Economic Revolution, written by Leonard P. Liggio

Fifty Years after the Cultural Revolution, written by David Boaz

Oct 18 2019

47mins

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What is Liberalism? (with Helena Rosenblatt & Daniel Klein)

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Helena Rosenblatt and Daniel Klein debate the origins of liberalism. Rosenblatt believes that Klein misuses Adam Smith. However, there is no way to know how Adam Smith would have acted in today’s political climate.

What is liberalism? What is the political meaning of liberalism? How old is the idea of liberty? Was Edmund Burke thought of himself as a conservative? Is it a mistake to think that libertarians are part of the liberal tradition? At what point for example, does John Locke become called a liberal?

Further Reading:

The Lost History of Liberalism, written by Helena Rosenblatt

Liberty Between the Lines in a Statist and Modernist Age, written by Daniel Klein

The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith

Related Content:

Was Adam Smith a Libertarian?, written by Paul Mueller

Self-Interest and Social Order in Classical Liberalism: Thomas Hobbes, written by George H. Smith

The Levelers: Libertarian Revolutionaries, written by Nicholas Elliott

Oct 11 2019

51mins

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Being Nice and Self-Reliant: A New England Libertarianism (with Dan Moller)

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It is often assumed that libertarianism depends on thinking that property rights are absolute, or on fetishizing individual liberty. But, Dan Moller argues that the foundations of libertarianism lie in widely shared, everyday moral beliefs, especially regarding restrictions on shifting our burdens onto others.

What does it mean to shift burdens? Where do rights come from? Why do some people find redistribution of wealth appealing? Why is utilitarianism self-deception? How utopian should you be in your political philosophy?

Further Reading:

Governing Least: A New England Libertarianism, written by Dan Moller

Locke and Nozick on the Justification of Property, written by Matt Zwolinski

Related Content:

A Libertarian Model of the Social Safety Net, written by David S. D’Amato

Government Money and Bureaucratic Control, written by Grant Babcock

A Libertarian Perspective on the Modern American Welfare State, written by Michael D. Tanner

Oct 04 2019

43mins

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The Ascent of Jacob Bronowski (with Timothy Sandefur)

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Timothy Sandefur comes back to the show to talk about John Bronowksi. Bronowski had a wide array of interests. He invented smokeless coal and was a friend to Leo Szilard, the inventor of the atomic bomb. In fact, he led the mission to assess the aftermath of the atomic bomb in both Hiroshima and Nagasaki. There was not much this famous scientist, philosopher, and poet didn’t do and Sandefur was the first author to write a biography of him.

Who was John Bronowski? Why was Bronowski a socialist? Should politics stay out of science? What scientific research was conducted by the Nazis?

Further Reading:

The Ascent of Jacob Bronowski: The Life and Ideas of a Popular Science Icon, written by Timothy Sandefur

Frederick Douglass: Self-Made Man, written by Timothy Sandefur

The Ascent of Man, BBC Documentary

The Disestablishment of Science: I, written by John Bronowski

Related Content: 

Science Doesn’t Need Public Funding, Free Thoughts Podcast

Bias in Scientific Research, Free Thoughts Podcast

What Role Should Science Play in Public Policy?, Free Thoughts Podcast

Sep 27 2019

48mins

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Talking Across Political Divides (with Arnold Kling)

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We welcome Arnold Kling back on to the show to talk about the new edition of Three Languages of Politics. He hits on how many people talk about politics within certain axes. Progressives operate on a oppressed vs. oppressor axis, conservatives on a barbarism vs. civilization axis, and libertarians on a coercion vs. liberty axis. These axis bind us to a frame of mind that is not conducive to talking to individuals of an opposing viewpoint. If we are aware of our own frame of mind and those of others, we could be better communicators of our ideas.

How do we talk about politics? How should we talk about politics? Why do Trump supporters believe they are being oppressed by the elite? What is pluralism?

Further Reading:

Dunbar’s Number: A Key To Networking, written by Ken Makovsky

Book Forum on the Three Languages of Politics Held at the Cato Institute

Media Bias and Asymmetric Insight, written by Arnold Kling

Related Content:

[The Three Languages of Politics](The Three Languages of Politics, Free Thoughts Podcast), Free Thoughts Podcast

The Three Languages of Politics, Third Edition, written by Arnold Kling

How We Polarize Ourselves, written by Arnold Kling

Sep 20 2019

52mins

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Why is Populism So Popular? (with Tom Palmer)

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There is no doubt that we are in a global tend of authoritarian populism. Tom Palmer joins the show today to discuss how populism comes in many kinds of poison. He points to our disorderly immigration system as one of the reasons that populist rhetoric thrives in the United States. As there is more havoc at the border, it is perceived as an invasion rather than a flaw in our system. Do you think that the Republican Party is the new Populist Party? 

What is populism? Is there a clear distinction between democracy and populism? What is the idea of the ‘loyal opposition’?

Further Reading:

Animal Farm, written by George Orwell

The Terrifying Rise of Authoritarian Populism, written by Tom G. Palmer

The Virtue of Nationalism, written by Yoram Hazony

Related Content:

What’s Wrong with National Conservatism?, Free Thoughts Podcast

Vice in The Virtue of Nationalism, written by Akiva Malamet

Is Liberalism in Danger?, Free Thoughts Podcast

Sep 12 2019

47mins

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How the World's Poorest are Educating Themselves (with James Tooley)

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While researching private schools in India for the World Bank, and worried he was doing little to help the poor, James Tooley wandered into the slums of Hyderabad’s Old City. Shocked to find it overflowing with tiny, parent-funded schools filled with energized students, he set out to discover if schools like these could help achieve universal education.

Do private schools exist across the world in the poorest of areas? In third world countries, how do you find private schools? Are there low-cost private schools? How much does teacher engagement matter in education?

Further Reading:

The Beautiful Tree: A Personal Journey Into How the World’s Poorest People are Educating Themselves, written by James Tooley

Low-Cost Schools Are Transforming Africa, written by Tom Vander Ark

Related Content:

The Education Apocalypse: How It Happened and How to Survive It, Free Thoughts Podcast

Private Lives and Public Education, written by Jason Kuznicki

The State of State Education in America, Free Thoughts Podcast

Sep 06 2019

54mins

Play

What's Wrong with National Conservatism?

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The National Conservatism Movement is trying to continue Trumpism long after Trump is out of the White House. Recently, they held a conference in D.C. in order to streamline their message. The keynote speakers were Tucker Carlson, John Bolton, Josh Hawley, Peter Thiel, and Yoram Hazony, whose speech announced that “today is our independence day”. In this episode, Aaron Ross Powell, Paul Matzko, Jason Kuznicki, & Matthew Feeney analyze Josh Hawley’s America’s Epicurean Liberalism by defining what it means to be an American. 

What is the religious angle to national conservatism? What civic virtues does Joshua Hawley value? What does it mean to be American? Should society have a purpose?

Further Reading:

America’s Epicurean Liberalism, written by Joshua D. Hawley

Planned Parenthood v. Casey

The Man Behind National Conservatism, written by Daniel Luban

Related Content:

Social Media’s Moral Panic (with Milton Mueller), Free Thoughts Podcast

What Senator Hawley Gets Wrong about American Identity, written by Aaron Ross Powell

Aug 30 2019

46mins

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Young Radicals in the Age of Trump (with Robby Soave)

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Since the 2016 election, college campuses have erupted in violent protests, demands for safe spaces, and the silencing of views that activist groups find disagreeable. Robby Soave has gone in to the trenches to catalog these young radicals in order to better understand the climate at universities across America.

When did college campuses become sites of harsh public discourse? How has the culture around safety changed on college campuses? Is there a crisis on college campuses? Are we chilling our professors in order to not hurt students’ feelings? What is intersectionality? Why are students claiming that their professors are triggering their PTSD?

Further Reading:

Panic Attack: Young Radicals in the Age of Trump, written by Robby Soave

Penn law professor faces backlash, petition to resign over ‘repugnant’ comments on race and immigration, written by Owen Daugherty

Do controversial figures have a right to speak at public universities?, written by Holly Epstein Ojalvo

Campus Rights, FIRE

Related Content:

The Coddling of the American Mind (with Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff), Free Thoughts Podcast

Campus Freedom, Free Thoughts Podcast

Conformist Students Fear Disagreement, written by Natalie Dowzicky

Aug 23 2019

45mins

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Social Media's Moral Panic (with Milton Mueller)

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As social media platforms grow it is apparent that they will never be able to make decisions that will appease everyone. We should also recognize that calls for government-induced content moderation will make these platforms battlegrounds for a perpetual intensifying conflict over who gets to silence whom.

What is a moral panic? Why are people panicked over fake news? How addictive is social media? What is Section 230 and what implications does it have for social media companies? What is a social media platform?

Further Reading:

Challenging the Social Media Moral Panic: Preserving Free Expression under Hypertransparency, written by Milton Mueller

False Assumptions Behind the Current Drive to Regulate Social Media, written by John Samples

What Senator Hawley Gets Wrong about American Identity, written by Aaron Ross Powell

Related Content:

What Made the Internet Possible?, Building Tomorrow Podcast

Free Speech Online: Unfriended, Building Tomorrow Podcast

The Problem with “Fake News”, written by Ryan Khurana

Aug 16 2019

49mins

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Remaining Grateful with Steve Horwitz

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Steve knows the world has truly gotten better for human beings. Not enough people recognize or appreciate that. We hope that this episode inspires you to help a neighbor or call a friend.

How does gratitude compare to resentment? Do we have the mental space to be thinking about the welfare of everyone else? How different are you on social media compared to real life? Why do GoFundMe’s work? Is the demand curve for chemotherapy vertical?

Further Reading:

Suicide of the West, written by Jonah Goldberg

Related Content:

Teaching Economics (with Steve Horwitz), Free Thoughts Podcast

The Dismal Science, Liberty Chronicles Podcast

The Two Sides of Every Regulated Economic Exchange, written by Steve Horwitz

The Best Work/Family Arrangements Come from Families, Not Governments written by Steve Horwitz

Aug 09 2019

51mins

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Education in the Marketplace (with Kevin Currie-Knight)

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Kevin Currie-Knight joins our podcast to talk about the libertarian case for markets in education. His book, Education in the Marketplace, explores the variety of arguments that libertarians have made in the past as well as the impact that they each have had on the ever-evolving education system

What is the government’s role in education? How decentralized did our school system use to be? When did our K-12 education system get so structured? When did we first start seeing grade levels for schooling? Who was Albert Jay Nock?

Further Reading:

Our Enemy, the State, written by Albert Jay Nock

Education in the Marketplace: An Intellectual History of Pro-Market Libertarian Visions for Education in Twentieth Century America, written by Kevin Currie-Knight

The Case against Education: Why the Education System Is a Waste of Time and Money, written by Bryan Caplan

Related Content:

The Case Against Education, Free Thoughts Podcast

Private Lives and Public Education, written by Jason Kuznicki

The State of State Education in America, Free Thoughts Podcast

Aug 02 2019

54mins

Play