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Free Thoughts

Updated 10 days ago

Government & Organizations
News & Politics
Society & Culture
Non-Profit
Philosophy
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.

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

177 Ratings
Average Ratings
154
12
3
2
6

Incredible podcast!

By NCR Veteran Ranger - Aug 04 2017
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Aaron and Trevor are fantastic, and so is the podcast. Check it out!

Never miss an episode

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

iTunes Ratings

177 Ratings
Average Ratings
154
12
3
2
6

Incredible podcast!

By NCR Veteran Ranger - Aug 04 2017
Read more
Aaron and Trevor are fantastic, and so is the podcast. Check it out!

Never miss an episode

By Rplmd - Jul 19 2017
Read more
Probably the only podcast I never miss
Cover image of Free Thoughts

Free Thoughts

Updated 10 days ago

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.

Rank #1: 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
51 mins
Play

Rank #2: 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
40 mins
Play

Rank #3: 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
54 mins
Play

Rank #4: 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
53 mins
Play

Rank #5: How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life

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What drives us to be concerned about others? In The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith says people are basically self-interested, and this is what drives market economies. Does this mean he’s saying people are selfish? Smith has a pretty simple formula for happiness. “Man naturally desires, not only to be loved, but to be lovely.” What does he mean by that? Can the study of economics really be about finding better ways to care for others…by recognizing that people are self-interested? How does that work?

Show Notes and Further Reading

Russell Roberts, How Adam Smith Can Change Your Life: An Unexpected Guide to Human Nature and Happiness (book)

Adam Smith, The Weath of Nations (book)

Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments (book)

Oct 13 2014
52 mins
Play

Rank #6: Ayn Rand: An Introduction (with Eamonn Butler)

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Eamonn Butler joins us to discuss his new book Ayn Rand: An Introduction. Why does Rand’s work remain so influential? Her thinking still has a profound impact, particularly on those who come to it through her novels, Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead—with their core messages of individualism, self-worth, and the right to live without the impositions of others. Eamonn Butler is the Director of the Adam Smith Institute. In this episode, we discuss Ayn Rand, her work as a fiction author, and her fascinating life and history.  

Further Readings/References:

Find Ayn Rand: An Introduction now available on www.libertarianism.org

More about Eamonn Butler.

More about Ayn Rand.

More on Objectivism.

Excursions into Libertarian Thought - Series on Ayn Rand and Altruism

Apr 20 2018
50 mins
Play

Rank #7: The End of Socialism

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James Otteson is the author of The End of Socialism (2014) and is a professor of political economy at Wake Forest University. This week he joins us to talk about socialism and explains several problems with the philosophy’s methodology that makes it unworkable in the real world.

What exactly is socialism? What’s the distinction between socialism and corporatism? Why doesn’t socialism work?

Apr 13 2015
59 mins
Play

Rank #8: "Net Neutrality" vs. Internet Freedom

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Why is the internet community—and now, John Oliver—so irate about the state of the Internet? Berin Szoka says the debate over “net neutrality” stopped being about neutrality years ago, and has become a debate over something else entirely, with nothing less than the very nature of the Internet at stake.

With the Federal Communications Commission’s ruling earlier this year, are we going to see a less dynamic, less innovative, less consumer-friendly Internet?

Show Notes and Further Reading

TechFreedom’s website is a wealth of information on current issues in technology policy.

The Tech Liberation Front group blog is also a good way to keep updated.

This Free Thoughts episode is partially about common carrier obligations and how the world of public utilities that we now live in came to be.

Berin mentions this post from Dan Rayburn questioning Netflix’s assertion that ISPs were behind apparent service slowdowns last year.

Sep 25 2015
1 hour 3 mins
Play

Rank #9: Taxation: How the Government Funds Itself

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What would the American founders think of our taxation system today, given America’s origins? Daniel Mitchell answers this and other questions as we talk about the different kinds of tax schemes and the different incentives they offer taxpayers.

Why is doing taxes so complicated? Why are there so many exemptions, deductions, incentives, preferences, etc. in the tax code? Are the rich paying their “fair share” of taxes? What’s the Laffer Curve and how does it work? What are consumption taxes and why are they better for the long term growth of the economy?

Jun 15 2015
46 mins
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Rank #10: 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
53 mins
Play

Rank #11: Why Do Intellectuals Oppose Capitalism?

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Robert Nozick, in his essay “Why Do Intellectuals Oppose Capitalism?” proposed that many highly-educated public intellectuals tend to lean towards collectivism and authoritarianism because they expect society to work best in the way that schools and the academic system (which is the system they are most familiar with) operates. Was Nozick’s theory right? Why do academics, philosophers, journalists, sociologists, and other “wordsmith intellectuals” tend to skew left?

Show Notes and Further Reading

Robert Nozick’s influential short essay “Why Do Intellectuals Oppose Capitalism?

Friedrich Hayek’s essay along similar lines, “The Intellectuals and Socialism”.

George H. Smith also wrote about Hayek’s views on intellectuals in this column: “Intellectuals and Libertarianism: F. A. Hayek”.

Aug 14 2015
50 mins
Play

Rank #12: 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
1 hour 27 mins
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Rank #13: 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
46 mins
Play

Rank #14: 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
57 mins
Play

Rank #15: Against Democracy

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Most Americans believe that democracy is the most just, fair, and equal form of government we’ve come up with thus far. Is that overselling it? Does democracy produce the results we need? Can anything be done about voter ignorance?

What is the symbolic value of the right to vote? Is political participation good for us as individuals and as a society? What would a better system look like?

Show Notes and Further Reading

Jason Brennan’s newest book is Against Democracy (2016).

Brennan is also the lecturer for one of our Libertarianism.org Guides, An Introduction to Political Philosophy.

Sep 16 2016
57 mins
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Rank #16: 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
52 mins
Play

Rank #17: 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
1 hour 3 mins
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Rank #18: Hamilton v. Madison (with Jay Cost)

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Jay Cost joins us to discuss his new book The Price of Greatness: Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and the Creation of American Oligarchy. In the history of American politics there are few stories as enigmatic as that of Alexander Hamilton and James Madison’s bitterly personal falling out. Jay Cost is the first to argue that both men were right—and that their quarrel reveals a fundamental paradox at the heart of the American experiment.

Further Readings/References:

More about Jay Cost here.

Free Thoughts Podcast: Big Government and the Rise of American Political Corruption (with Jay Cost).

Jay Cost, The Price of Greatness: Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and the Creation of American Oligarchy (book).

Jun 01 2018
58 mins
Play

Rank #19: 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
52 mins
Play

Rank #20: The Austrian Tradition in Economics

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This week we are joined by Peter J. Boettke, who explains this history and tenets of the Austrian tradition in economics. Boettke traces the school’s history from Carl Menger through Eugen Böhm-Bawerk and Joseph Schumpeter, Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek, and Murray Rothbard to contemporary economists such as Israel Kirzner, Vernon Smith, and Mario Rizzo. He explains what Austrian economics does and does not do, and distinguishes between what he calls “mainline” economics and “mainstream” economics.

What distinguishes Austrian economics from other schools of thought in economics? How did the Austrian school come to be known as the free market school?

Show Notes and Further Reading

Peter J. Boettke, Living Economics: Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow (book)

Jun 01 2015
57 mins
Play

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