I'm hanging out here at the appointed time to discuss any of my recent books or articles, history, foreign travels, liberty and character, Real Heroes, think tank management or anything else on your mind.
1. What's the biggest fish you ever caught? Do you have pictures?
2. I've heard you're a movie buff. What's your favorite movie and why?
A small tarpon off the channels around Naples, Florida was the biggest. I’ll attach a picture. They get far bigger than the one I caught but it fought like crazy and took me 15 minutes to bring in. Threw him back to catch later when he’s much bigger, which really is my custom anyway, almost 100% of the time. Wish I had a dollar for every bass, trout, snook, catfish, carp, redfish, pompano, tripletail, ladyfish, bluegill, etc that I’ve ever caught. By the way, years ago it occurred to me that fishing, which I love, and socialism, which I detest, have a few things in common: First you offer something for nothing to the gullible and unsuspecting. Then you hook ‘em. Then you reel ‘em in. Then you eat ‘em.” --- Sorry, I just tried to load an image of the tarpon here but it won't "take."
For 50 years, I said it was “The Sound of Music” because of the huge effect it had on me as a 13-year-old (https://fee.org/articles/the-sound-of-freedom/). But I have to say that since the 2012 version of “Les Miserables” came out (Anne Hathaway, Hugh Jackman, Eddie Redmayne, etc), that’s now my favorite. Aside from the fantastic music, I love the message of both the novel and the film—integrity, honesty, forgiveness, redemption, love, compassion, even resistance to a corrupt State. It’s all there, in one movie.
Since you sent it to me separately, I'll attach it here:
You've recently experienced both ends of the spectrum concerning college activism: you've been booed by hostile audiences and given standing ovations by sympathetic crowds. Having seen both sides, what do you think the future holds for college campuses? How can students protect the most vulnerable populations of their student bodies from hate speech without infringing on free speech?
I think the current spasm of crazy, politically-correct stuff and snowflakism will pass and may even be peaking out now, but maybe I’m overly optimistic. I just can’t believe that this reprehensible behavior isn’t a big turnoff to large numbers of college alumni, donors, and students who just want a good education with a job at the end of it. And I’m excited about the innovative alternatives to traditional bricks-and-mortar college that are springing up, such as Praxis. Meantime, everybody needs to back off, practice a tolerant, “live and let live” approach and know when to simply turn the other cheek.
I've noticed that your writing is always easy and enjoyable to read, no matter what the subject may be. Do you have any tips on how to write about complex subjects and ideas effectively, yet not intimidate readers?
Thanks! When I write, the last thing I have in mind is a desire to impress anybody with my writing. So I don’t go out of my way to make it high-brow, esoteric or loaded with words most readers have never heard of. What’s on my mind is simply, “How can I communicate this thought to a broad audience?” That makes it flow naturally and easily, as if I’m in a conversation with someone. And when I’ve finished a draft, I go back over it and try to read it as if I’m in the shoes of the audience. That’s when I find myself breaking up long sentences, condensing excessive verbiage, breaking up paragraphs and making sure they begin with a thesis sentence, etc. I also read a lot, especially history and biography. As I do that, I try to be alert to what makes for good writing and make a mental note of it. Having edited a lot of studies and commentaries during my years at the Mackinac Center (and then editing student essays as a professor before that), my own writing benefited greatly as a result. Finally, there are some good books on the market that offer many useful tips; if you type “good writing” into Amazon.com, for instance, you will find many. The very first one that comes up is a bestseller by William Zinsser, and I strongly recommend it.
thank you for your time and devotion
1. Do your beliefs about God/religion inform your politcal philosophy? Or is it the reverse? Or do you consider them completely distinct and discrete?
2. Many libertarian organizations (FEE included) denounce the typical college route and call for, or endorse, alternative education and career paths - yet, these same organizations seem to favor students and graduates of traditional universities when it comes to funding, scholarships. hiring, resources, etc. Can you explain this?
3. Are there any major and particular changes you hope to see within the liberty movement? Corrections you hope will be made?
4. Can we expect another volumn of Real Heroes to be published in the next few years? Further, can we expect you to publish your own memoirs and story?
In one sense, yes, my views of God and Christianity do inform my political philosophy: Those beliefs prompt me to prioritize my values in the world around us, including politics and government. Specifically, they prompt me to elevate truth to the highest pedestal. Other values my Christian beliefs inform my political thinking include peace and non-aggression; doing unto others what I’d want others to do unto me; supporting political/social/economic arrangements that maximize wealth creation and minimize theft, envy and redistribution. My essay, “Was Jesus a Socialist?” might be useful in further addressing this question: https://fee.org/resources/rendering-unto-caesar-was-jesus-a-socialist/.
Regarding your second question: I can’t speak for other organizations but I don’t believe we at FEE practice such bias. We have had many employees and interns who were or are still involved in alternative education paths, such as homeschooling, Praxis (http://discoverpraxis.com/), etc. Nonetheless, I will undertake an internal discussion with colleagues at FEE to look into ways we might even be more inviting to those involved in such alternatives. We support the idea of alternatives immensely. In an effort to explain why perhaps there is still some resistance elsewhere to these alternatives, let me say there’s always some inertia that must be overcome when new things come along. Some people are more ready to embrace change than others who take a “wait-and-see” attitude.
I would love to see more emphasis within the movement to the importance of culture, and more to the point, to the personal character that forms the very basis of culture. This is critical to us at FEE, and always has been. It’s what our founder Leonard Read was referring to when he talked about the importance of “self-improvement.”
I would love to do another Real Heroes volume. It’s one of half a dozen ideas for “the next book” that I’ve been mulling over. My biggest problem is time, with my job requiring me to be on the road so much for speaking and fundraising. As to my own “memoirs,” a number of people have suggested that to me over the years but honestly, I cringe a bit at the thought. I would much rather talk and write about the great things other people have done than to engage in such self-focused stuff.
Having studied the Great Depression, would you venture an opinion on this claim that we have depression-proofed our economy? And what is your general instinct concerning the claims that an inflationary crash could be our fate?
The claim that our economy could ever be "depression-proofed" is, I think, totally spurious. First of all, nobody knows the future and depressions have a way of coming upon us from time to time without more than a handful of people even suspecting one. Secondly, the primary cause, at least of "cyclical" depressions, is still very much with us--namely, government manipulation and mismanagement of money and credit. I see no reason from the standpoint of economic science or historical experience to make the claim that governments--notorious for their harmful interventions--have somehow discovered how to prevent depressions in the future. And as to whether an inflationary crash is in our future: I just don't know. I certainly understand the case for expecting there to be a lot more price inflation, stemming of course from government expansion of money and credit, but I also would not underestimate the ability of government to screw things up in the other direction too, producing a deflationary collapse as it did in the 1930s.
What do you think is the most surprising thing about millenial culture?
To me, the most surprising POSITIVE thing about millennial culture is its embrace of technology and the sharing economy. That's been more robust than I expected. It speaks well of the future of personal independence and entrepreneurial attitudes, I hope. The most surprising NEGATIVE thing I've observed is still, I think, characteristic of a minority of millennials but it's the embrace of political correctness and hyper-sensitivity.
What have you found to be the most effective one-sentence explanation of your philosophical beliefs?
Wow, a one-sentence description! Well, here goes. My philosophical beliefs can be summarized this way: I believe that each and every individual is extraordinarily unique; that to be fully human, each person must be free to be himself, which means he therefore must be given the broadest latitude to live his life as he sees fit, without limiting in any way the same right of others to live their lives as they see fit, and without sacrificing the elements of personal character essential to the good life.
Who is your favorite business entrepreneur?
My personal favorite business entrepreneur of all time would be John D. Rockefeller. He was a massive wealth creator and America's first billionaire. He built a vast, worldwide enterprise from scratch. And I believe that almost all of the attacks on his person and reputation were unfounded and rooted in all the wrong motives, from envy to stupidity.
Of all your writings (books, essays, articles), which one...
1) was the most enjoyable to write at the time? Why?
2) do you think helped spread the message of liberty the most?
The most enjoyable of all the books I've written was my most recent ones, Real Heroes. That's because I had to read some great biographies of some truly inspiring people as part of the research process. If I had to pick an article that I most enjoyed writing, I suppose it would be "Great Myths of the Great Depression" because I love to poke holes in harmful misconceptions. The idea that capitalism caused the Depression and the notion that Roosevelt saved us from it are notoriously error-filled as well as popular. I think my essay has helped to correct the record.
Which of my writings has helped to spread the message of liberty the most? I think the Great Depression essay probably ranks first, in part because it's been published in various editions (each one longer the previous one) for 35 years now. Maybe a close second would be the various versions I've written of an essay on lessons from ancient Rome. Both have been widely translated into other languages. I suppose close behind might be my "Seven Principles of Sound Policy," which over the past 20 years has appeared in at least 15 languages around the world.
If you were a wild animal what would you be and why?
IF I were a wild animal?? What makes you think I'm not?! Ha! That's a fascinating question. Maybe if you ask me again in an hour I'll have a different answer but what comes to mind at the moment is a giraffe. It would be nice to be tall for a change, and I like the idea of being able to see what's coming from a long ways away. Plus I think giraffes have great, peaceful dispositions. I have actually fed them in Kenya and felt like I could have spent all day with them. A close second would be an orangutan. I had breakfast with one of them in Singapore. They're hilarious. I couldn't quit laughing at it.