Episode 7: “It’s Not About Race” with TK Coleman

Is police abuse and misconduct a result of racism, or other institutional problems?  Does absence of minority characters on movies and TV reflect consumer preferences, or racist producers?  Does praising rags-to-riches stories imply blaming the down-and-out for their own suffering?  Should some people just keep quiet on the topic of race?  Do we talk too much or too little about it?  Is being ‘color blind’ a good thing?

TK Coleman joins me to discuss these and many other related issues on this episode of the podcast.  If you’re like me, you tend to shy away from conversations about race because it’s such a loaded subject, but this was a very enjoyable and enlightening conversation.

Mentioned in the episode:

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The Problem of School

The great problem of school is that it’s a constant search and effort to teach children all the things they’d learn naturally if they were not in school.  School removes children from the world – the natural learning environment – hence kids don’t pick up the skills and knowledge they need and want. Schools then struggle and attempt all manner of convoluted methods to replace the knowledge they prevent kids from acquiring.

None of these methods work as well as freedom. Remove kids from schools and the purported purpose of schools – educated children – will be realized.

Of course, it will be realized in great abundance, depth, and diversity. This flowering of individual plans and ideas is messy and threatening to moral busybodies and power hungry social planners. It prevents mass control and threatens the status quo with wild beauty and innovation. Liberty upsets patterns. That is precisely why it is so important.

Episode 6: Scapegoats, Sacrifice, and Stable Systems

[Note: I’ve made episodes 1-6 live on SoundCloud, iTunes, and Stitcher just to front-load the podcast to get started.  I’ll be sharing individual posts about each episode this week, and then back to the every Monday schedule for new episodes.]

After being intrigued by references to René Girard (including from a seemingly unlikely source in tech founder/investor Peter Thiel) I finally picked up a copy of The Scapegoat and read it.  There was a lot to digest, but one of the primary insights that stuck out to me was the way in which ritualized collective violence can act as a stabilizing force in some societies.  Do not in any way mistake this statement to mean that violence of any sort is good, let alone ritualized mob executions and banishment.  They are terrible.  The insight is that, because they serve some kind of equilibriating purpose as perceived by members of the society, you can’t simply put an end to them through legal decree or forced conversion.

I see the same insight from a totally different approach in the work of economist Peter Leeson.  His work focuses on the unlikely ways in which order can emerge even in the most extreme circumstances, and the often odd or seemingly irrational mechanisms used to generate order – from insect trials to self-immolation.  Again, stability or equilibrium does not mean good.  But it should queue us in to the fact that, if we want social change, we need to understand why perverse practices exist and what function they serve in order to get to the root.

I’ll be bringing Leeson on a future episode to discuss his work and these themes in more detail.  Check out his phenomenal book, Anarchy Unbound: Why Self-Governance Works Better Than You Think (Cambridge Studies in Economics, Choice, and Society).

The Real Education Podcast with Blake Boles

Can you combine liberal arts and work experience?  Can you combine virtual and real-world?  That’s what Praxis is all about and what I discuss with Blake Boles on this episode of his Real Education Podcast.

Blake is an author and pioneer in the world of self-directed learning.  He’s got his hand in numerous projects and programs and his podcast is one of my new favorites.  Give a listen to the episode, and check out Blake’s stuff at his website.

Episode 5: TK Coleman on Self-Help, Sports, and Some Lies

[Note: I’ve made episodes 1-6 live on SoundCloud, iTunes, and Stitcher just to front-load the podcast to get started.  I’ll be sharing individual posts about each episode this week, and then back to the every Monday schedule for new episodes.]

TK comes back to the show to discuss the self-help genre, respond to objections to sports, and share lies that he believes and why.  I am not a fan of self-help generally, and TK loves it.  We discuss what it is, the good and the bad, and what can be gleaned from it.  I play devil’s advocate and ask him why he’d indulge in irrational biases and waste time and energy on sports.

Why I Don’t Care About Income Inequality


In the 1980’s if I told you for only a few hundred dollars anyone could have a $1 million asset in their pocket you’d call me crazy.  But here we are.

The chart above (actually a picture of a chart taken with my iPhone and uploaded to this blog with an app to further emphasize the point) is from the book Bold: How to Go Big, Create Wealth and Impact the World by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler.  It illustrates why I think worry about and policy efforts aimed at changing differences in income between rich and poor are dumb, destructive, and miss the point by being stuck in a dead paradigm.

The above chart only scratches the surface.  It’s hard to comprehend just how much wealth (not income) we have today compared to 20, 30, or 50 years ago, let alone a century or two ago.  Anyone who complains that income gaps are growing misses the miracle under their nose of wealth exploding, and more accessible to individuals at any income level than ever before in human history.  50 years ago, it could take a hefty sum to launch and run a basic advocacy organization, for example.  You would need a secretary, long-distance phone line, office space, filing cabinets, a travel agent, a print shop that you’d have to visit to approve runs of literature (at least several thousand at a time), space to store them, shipping cost, etc. ad nauseum.  Today you can setup a WordPress website, bid out for design work on Fiverr or 99 Designs, get VistaPrint to run a few hundred after proofing a digital copy, book your own travel, store your own files, run email campaigns with MailChimp, etc. ad nauseum for a few hundred bucks.

Anyone can write and record songs, publish books, start businesses, sell goods and services, learn anything in the world, or meet people across the globe for free or close to it with a phone and some WiFi.  These things are equally accessible to rich and poor.  Wealth – as measured in opportunities and fulfilled desires, the real end of money – is greater than ever and flatter than ever.

The biggest obstacles are those erected by the wealthy to stymie competition from upstarts taking advantage of all this accessible capital.  Licensing requirements, regulations, wage laws, tax laws, immigration restrictions, intellectual monopoly status on non-scarce resources, and subsidized education and idleness are the biggest hurdles to the poor seizing the newly available wealth and creating a better life.  It’s not about income or even net worth.  It’s about what you can do and the value you can create and consume.  The chart above and the world around us indicate that there has never been a more broad and deep spread of wealth.

GDP doesn’t matter.  Neither does income.  Opportunity matters.  Value matters.  Times have never been better across the board, which is exactly what most threatens those precariously perched at the perceived top.  Don’t worry about them.  Let the doomsayers and wannabe warriors of equality clamber for an illusive goal that doesn’t make anyone better off.  Take advantage of the exponential growth in opportunity all around you.