About theartfuldilettante

The Artful Dilettante is a native of Pittsburgh, PA, and a graduate of Penn State University. He is a lover of liberty and a lifelong and passionate student of the same. He is voracious reader of books on the Enlightenment and the American colonial and revolutionary periods. He is a student of libertarian and Objectivist philosophies. He collects revolutionary war and period currency, books, and newspapers. He is married and the father of one teenage son. He is kind, witty, generous to a fault, and unjustifiably proud of himself. He is the life of the party and an unparalleled raconteur.

Re-print: A Letter to Young Black Americans

THE ARTFUL DILETTANTE

This essay is specifically written for young black Americans who believe or have absorbed the incessant message that the ghetto and life on the margin are their destiny, that success is unattainable, and that dreams are only for white people.

Before you are halfway through the essay, many of you will be condemning and ridiculing me as simplistic, unrealistic, idealistic, and naive. But you ignore my message at your own peril. It is very demanding. Anything worth having is very demanding. Your friends may ostracize you and ridicule you as “trying to be white.” If that’s the case, are they really friends worth having? And so I begin.

You can’t change history. Government-enforced slavery happened, government-enforced Jim Crow happened, government-enforced segregation happened. I don’t mean to minimize it or make light of it. It is a tragic, three-hundred-year long chapter in our history. But you can change the future. I’m not suggesting you ignore the past, but that you make the future the primary focus of your life.

What do you want to do with your life? What do you want to become ? Take stock of yourself. List your assets and your shortcomings. Chart a course.

When’s the last time you asked yourself, “What am I gonna do when I grow up?” Perhaps it’s time.

Focus on yourself. Avoid group identity in your search for meaning. We are all islands of consciousness. We are defined by the virtues and values we embrace, not our race, nor our gender, nor any other unearned qualities. Black leaders and community organizers are quick to urge, “Organize, organize, organize !” Organizing via the political process is what people do who lack marketable skills in the productive sector.

What they should be encouraging us to do is “Learn, learn, learn, read, read, read, work, work, work.” Remember—community organizers and social justice warriors are just nice terms for people who aren’t gainfully employed. Few have any meaningful private sector accomplishments. Remember—anybody can work for the government. All you have to do is show up and have a pulse.

Pulling down Confederate statues may assuage your anger and impress your friends. But it also betrays a shallow understanding of American History and the Civil War. The Civil War, like most major events in history, was a very complex event. Abraham Lincoln was no saint, and Robert E. Lee was hardly the monstrous ogre his detractors would have us believe. Before you embrace the lopsided, simplistic, politically motivated “It was all about slavery and racism” mantra about the Civil War, do your homework. Get the facts, peel away the layers of the onion, ask probing questions of those who pretend with absolute certainty to know everything about American history.

We are all products of our times. Earlier generations of Americans, including the Founders, viewed the world and human nature much differently than our own. Feudalism was still the dominant socio-economic system in Europe. Much of Great Britain still consisted of large manorial estates staffed by indentured laborers. Titles of nobility were still prevalent in rigidly stratified societies. Darwin’s “Origin of Species,” the epic of evolutionary biology proving scientifically that all men WERE indeed created equal, would not be published until 1859, years after our Founding and almost as if by Providence, only three years before the beginning of The War Between the States.

The first Anglo-American settlers brought these values and assumptions, however warped they may seem to modern Americans, to our shores. The American Revolution could correctly be called both the Last Act of Feudalism and the First Act of the Enlightenment. Before we blindly assail our forebears, we would be well advised to attempt to understand the world as they saw it. By the way, library cards are free.

Unless you’re caring for your aging parents or are fortunate enough to have found a decent job, get out of the ghetto. Immediately. Do not pass Go, Do not collect $200. It’s a cesspool, a dead end. As long as you stay there, you’re probably going nowhere, except maybe prison. Risk is essential to success, and mobility is a form of risk. Successful people embrace mobility. They are willing to leave safe harbors to pursue opportunity and seek a better and brighter future. Think the Pilgrims. They had no government assistance—no food stamps, no rent subsidies, no nothing. The Pilgrims were not into immediate gratification, nor dependency. They survived with relentless hard work, unbridled persistence, and their Faith.

Two centuries ago, a popular piece of advice was, “Go west, young man.” In other words, go where the jobs and opportunities lie. Take the Bakken oil boom centered in Williston, North Dakota. African Americans from all walks of life and geographical areas are finding jobs in North Dakota. Blacks now hold ten percent of all jobs in the shale petrochemical industries. But industry experts predict that blacks will soon hold one-third of all jobs in the industry. Bottom line—don’t be afraid to leave home. You have nothing to lose but your despair.

One of the persons I most admire is Dr. Ben Carson. Born and raised in a Detroit ghetto he went on to become the world’s premier pediatric neurosurgeon. His mother imposed strict discipline in the household and made him read, read, read. The black establishment has rewarded him by shunning him and calling him an Uncle Tom, much the same as they treat Justice Clarence Thomas or anyone else who dares to leave the plantation and write their own narrative. Dr. Carson should be addressing inner-city high school students everyday and welcomed with opened arms. Urge your school to invite him to speak.

Stay off the junk. Drugs and alcohol are but a temporary escape from a life bereft of hope and meaning. It won’t shorten your sentence in the ghetto or improve your situation in any meaningful way. Why do you think they call it junk ?

If you can’t afford to go to college, learn a trade. Despite all of the advances in technology, the world will still need plumbers, carpenters, landscapers, welders, machinists, hair stylists, and electricians for the foreseeable future. As my plumber friend likes to say, “As long as people have to use the toilet, I’ll always have a job.” (He used more colorful language.)

If you can’t afford to go to college, get a job, any legal job. Dealing junk doesn’t count. I used to patronize a popular fast-food franchise near my old neighborhood, not because I liked fast food, but because my adolescent son and his baseball teammates did. They hired a black guy likely right out of high school who was clearly on the ball, very fast, courteous, and diligent. After a while, he became a team leader, after that a shift leader. Before you knew it, he was an Assistant Manager. Just before we moved out of the neighborhood, his name tag read, “MANAGER.” This progression of promotions happened over a period of about three years. If he’s still with the company, he’s probably a District Manager or better. If not, he’s probably fishing off the Keys with a cool babe.

Almost all minimum wage jobs are temporary. Most minimum wage employees either find better-paying opportunities, or like our fast-food guy, stay with the company and move up the ranks through good old-fashioned hardwork and diligence.

Stop making babies you have no intention nor means of taking care of. Proper parenting is a lifetime, and yes, somewhat costly adventure. Unless you have a nanny, it tends to cramp your style. Unless you’re prepared to make this most serious of commitments, just drop the whole thing. Why any woman, of any color, would want to shack up with some guy without any visible means of support, is beyond me. Have you no self-respect? Have you given a smidgen of thought to bringing another child into the world without a live-in, loving father with a steady job. Just tell these losers, “Unless you’re prepared to put a ring on my finger, take a long walk off a short pier.”

Stop the blame game and stop embracing victimhood. Blame is the refuge of cowards, the ignorant, and those who would refuse to accept personal responsibility. Blaming others for your situation in life might make you feel better, but will accomplish little else. It’s not going to fatten your wallet by a farthing, that’s for sure. Even if everything you say about racism, the police, and the legacy of slavery were true, how is that going to improve your life? Demand that you be held accountable to the same standards as everyone else. Would you rather get ahead because of your race or because you’re the most qualified ? Those who push this rubbish are trying to use you like a cheap condom to advance an obsolete, self-aggrandizing ideology where they win and you lose. They are part of an ossified, parasitic, predatory political order which preys upon your misery and despair to maintain and advance their political power at your expense.

If blame you must, then blame the criminally negligent and woefully ignorant public-school system for much of what ails the black community. Those who run this system should be strung from a lamppost. Our schools are not supposed to teach us WHAT to think, but HOW to think. They are supposed to impart critical thinking skills like logic, rhetoric, and deductive reasoning. These skills will carry you much further than a daily dose of climate studies, gender-bender philosophy, and that whites are the root of all evil. If you teach kids how to think, they can learn anything and they’ll be able to separate fact from fiction. If possible, take your kids out of public school. Public schools are only the mouthpiece of our corrupt, ossified establishment.

Every high school student should be able to understand this essay and discuss the concepts therein. If you don’t understand the essay, that’s just more evidence of the failure of our public education system.

Speak English. I was born and raised in a quasi-civilized place called Pittsburgh. I managed to survive. Pittsburghers have a very thick and easily identifiable accent called “Yinzer.” But with practice I have taught myself how to turn it on and off like a lightswitch. If I’m around my Yinzer friends, I speak Yinzer n’at. If I’m with normal people, I speak the King’s English. Again, if you can’t switch from street lingo to the King’s English, it’s time to flunk the public education system.

Stop baring your ass in public. It’s rude, disrespectful, and completely undignified. It speaks volumes of your character and yes, your upbringing. If I had walked around like that in my youth, my mother and father would have slapped me senseless. My mother had strict standards when it came to the clothes I wore in public. How ’bout yours ?

Again, I can already hear the howls of protest in reaction to this essay for reasons already specified. But I speak from the heart, however critically. Don’t tell me you can’t do it because you must. Failure is not an option if you are ever to break the cycle of poverty and despair.

Reality is a harsh mistress. The universe doesn’t give a rat’s ass about your feelings and sensitivities, let alone the amount of melanin in your skin. It operates blindly according to fixed, immutable laws. There are no safe spaces and no one is coming to your rescue.

The Artful Dilettante

The Great Books of Liberty

The founder of Liberty Fund, Pierre F. Goodrich, had a long standing interest in the Great Books program which goes back to the creation of the Great Books Foundation in 1947 by Dr. Robert M. Hutchins, the chancellor of the University of Chicago. Goodrich was a member of the Foundation’s National Board between 1947 and 1955 and was Chairman of the Indiana State Committee of the Foundation.[1] However, Goodrich had a falling out with the National Board over the kind of texts which should be included on their list of “Great Books”. Given his interest in political, economic, and individual liberty, Goodrich had a more political focus than his colleagues, so in 1957 he began to plan a way to implement his own version of the Great Books, which would become in effect “The Great Books of Liberty” and which would become a core component of the OLL online collection of texts.

His vision took the form of a seminar room which he paid to be built in the Lilly Library at Wabash College, Indiana. The names of the authors on his list of great books (along with some names of texts) would be engraved on the wall of a large seminar room which had an oval table in the centre and book cases around the perimeter of the room. The list of names and titles ended with the American Declaration of Independence of 1776. The two images below will give some idea of what it looks like.

Goodrich’s intent in designing the room in this way is well described by Hans Eicholz:[2]

The room provides the students of Wabash College with a practical tool for understanding and interpreting the historical evolution of the idea of individual liberty. Etched into limestone slabs set in its walls are important names and developments of significance in the history of freedom that stretch back in time from the Declaration of Independence to the epic story of Gilgamesh and the Sumerian reforms of Urukagina of Lagash in the third millennium B.C. The room itself is of grand proportions, as it must be to accommodate the great span of time over which the idea of liberty developed: thirty-eight feet from north to south and fifty feet from east to west. The ceiling is eighteen feet high with inset lights that illuminate the discussion table below and the stone inscriptions on the walls.

Beneath the limestone inlays Mr. Goodrich placed the primary works and histories of each entry plus other writings that have contributed significantly to our understanding of liberty. The collection of books thus extends the story of humankind’s struggle against tyranny well beyond the Declaration of Independence and into the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

In the middle of this vast collection of materials is a large oval table that can be broken down into smaller stations to accommodate conversation groups of various sizes. When one considers the room as a whole, the intent of its designer becomes evident: the idea of liberty, which was developed and transmitted from generation to generation, is seen as a long historical conversation of which the students themselves are a part.

The lighting of the room first calls the student’s attention to the walls, where he or she views in brief the long chain of names and dates. Then, wherever his interest may draw him, the student is encouraged to explore further by consulting the appropriate books below the etchings. And should other students be present, the table and chairs invite them to converse about the subjects at hand.

As noted by Mr. Goodrich in the introductory letter following this foreword, the whole chamber forms a link between the present and the past in the exploration of liberty. In the hands of an able teacher, the potential of the room is tremendous. Those who use the Goodrich Seminar Room as its founder intended immediately sense that they are indeed part of a long conversation that includes not only those who sit around the table but also all those whose works are on the shelves and whose names are etched into the surrounding walls.

We have tried to show the relationship between the names on the four walls of the Goodrich Seminar Room here.

In addition to the names on the walls of the Goodrich Seminar Room, Goodrich drew up other lists of great books and authors from time to time. In the list of texts provided below we use the following abbreviations to indicate which list the author or title came from:

“GSR” for those names and titles which appear on the walls of the Goodrich Seminary Room at Wabash College (there are about 100)
“Other” for those names which appeared on other lists Goodrich drew up from time to time
“ADD.” for those “additional” names we have added from books published by Liberty Fund or on whom Liberty Fund has organized academic conferences.
What makes Goodrich’s list of the “Great Books” a bit unusual is that he begins with ancient India, China, and Sumeria, which shows that he was interested in more than just the “western tradition”; he has a larger number of medieval authors than one might have expected; he stops (at least in the Goodrich Seminar Room) with the American Declaration of Independence of 1776 and not, again as one might have expected, with the American Constitution; that there is a relative paucity of texts from the 18th and 19th centuries.

Please note, that our lists of texts for the 19th and 20th centuries are more political and economic in their focus than the previous eras.

The Great Books of Liberty
List of Historical Periods
Ancient Asia
Ancient Greece
Ancient Rome
The Medieval Period
Renaissance and Reformation
Early Modern Period
18th Century
19th Century
20th Century and Beyond

Ancient Asia [other authors from this period]
China

Author Source Other Guides
Confucius (551 BC-479 BC)

The Analects
GSR

Lao Tzu (c. 570 BC)

The Texts of Taoism
GSR

Mencius (371-289 BC)

Life and Teachings
GSR

Mo Tzu (c. 470-391 BC)

GSR

Shih Ching (520 BC)

GSR

India

Author Source Other Guides
Bhagavadgita (c. 200 BC)

GSR

Buddha (6thC BC)

The Gospel of Buddha
GSR

Mahabharata (1400-1000 BC)

The Ramayana and the Mahabharata
GSR

Rigveda

A Vedic Reader for Students
GSR

Upanishads (c. 1000-650 BC)

The Thirteen Principal Upanishads
GSR

Sumeria and Middle East

Author Source Other Guides
Ur-Nammu (ca. 2050 B.C.)

Code
GSR

Gilgamesh

Epich of Gilgamesh
GSR

Hammurabi’s Code (1792 BC-1750 BC)

Code
GSR

Old Testament

Isaiah (8thC BC) – text
Jeremiah (7th-6thC BC) – text
Job (6thC BC) – text
Moses (13thC BC) – Genesis, Exodus, Deuteronomy
Psalms (King David)
Hosea – text
Micah – text
Amos (8thC BC) – text
Samuel – text
GSR
Moses
Amos
Hosea
Isaiah
Jeremia
Job
Micah
Psalms

Urukagina (c. 2350 BC)

Code
GSR

Zarathushtra (628 BC-522 BC)

The Teachings of Zoroaster
GSR

Ancient Greece [other authors from this period]
Author Source Other Guides
Aeschylus (525 BC-456 BC)

The Lyrical Dramas of Aeschylus
Prometheus Bound
GSR

Archimedes (c. 284-211 BC)

Works
GSR

Aristophanes (446-386 BCE)

The Comedies
ADD.
Aristotle (384 BC-322 BC)

Nicomachean Ethics
The Politics
Poetics
GSR

Euclid (c. 365-300 BC)

Elements
GSR

Herodotus (484-425 BCE)

The History
ADD.
Hesiod (c. 700 BC-c. 700 BC)

Poems
Works and Days
GSR

Hippocrates (c. 460-377 BC)

Writings
GSR

Homer (9thC BC-9thC BC)

The Iliad
The Odyssey
GSR

Plato (427c BC-347 BC)

The Republic
Dialogs
The Laws
GSR

Socrates (470 BC-399 BC)

Dialogs of Plato
Apology, Crito, Gorgias, Meno
GSR

Sophocles (496 BC-406 BC)

The Tragedies
Antigone
GSR

Thales (624-546 B.C.)

History of Greek Mathematics
GSR

Thucydides (460c BC-400 BC)

The Peloponnesian Wars
GSR

Ancient Rome [other authors from this period]
Author Source Other Guides
Ambrose (339-397)

On the Mysteries and the Treatise on the Sacraments
GSR

Augustine, Saint (354-430)

Confessions
The City of God
Concerning the Teacher
On Music
GSR

Aurelius, Marcus (121-180)

The Meditations
ADD.
Cicero, Marcus Tullius (106BC-43BC)

On Moral Duties
Treatise on the Commonwealth
Treatise on the Laws
GSR

Epictetus (55-135)

Discourses
GSR

Gaius (130-180)

Institutes of Roman Law
GSR

Galen (129-199)

Writings
GSR

Origen (185-254)

Contra Celsum
De Principiis
GSR

New Testament

Jesus Christ (3 BC-30)
Matthew, Saint (1stC) – text
Mark, Saint (1stC) – text Paul, Saint (10-67) – text
John, Saint (1stC) – text
Luke, Saint (1stC) – text
GSR
Jesus Christ
Matthew
Mark
Luke
John
Paul

Plotinus (205-270)

Ethical Treatises
GSR

Plutarch (46c.-125)

The Morals
The Lives
GSR

Tacitus, Publius Cornelius (56-120)

Annals
History
GSR

Virgil (70 BC-19 BC)

The Aeneid
The Georgics
GSR

The Medieval Period [other authors from this period]
Author Source Other Guides
Anselm, Saint (1033-1109)

Proslogium
Monologium
GSR

Aquinas, St. Thomas (1225-1274)

Summa Theologica
Summa contra gentiles
Of the Teacher
Treatise on Laws
GSR

Averroes (Ibn Rushd) (1126-1198)

Tractacta
GSR

Avicenna (980-1037)

Writings on Philosophy
Writings on Medicine
GSR

Bede, Saint (672-735)

Ecclesiastical History of the English Nation
GSR

Benedict, Saint (480-547)

The Rule of St. Benedict
GSR

Beowulf (8thC-)

The Tale of Beowulf
GSR

Boethius (470-524)

The Consolation of Philosophy

GSR

Chaucer, Geoffrey (c. 1340-1400)

Troilus and Criseyde
The Canterbury Tales
GSR

Dante Alighieri (1265-1321)

The Divine Comedy
De Monarchia
GSR

Francis, Saint (1181-1226)

Writings
GSR

Al Ghazali (1058-1111)

The Alchemy of Happiness
GSR

Groot, Gerhard (1340-1384)

Writings
GSR

Heimskringla (1220)

The Heimskringla
GSR

Kalidasa (5thC-5thC)

Shakuntala
GSR

Thomas á Kempis (1380-1471)

The Imitation of Christ
Other
Magna Carta (1215)

Magna Carta
GSR

LM: Justin Champion, “Magna Carta after 800 Years” (May, 2015)
Maimonides, Moses (1135-1204)

A Guide for the Perplexed
GSR

Mohammed (570-632)

The Quran
GSR

Petrarca, Francesco (1304-1374)

Sonnets
GSR

Rhazes (ca. 865-923/32)

The Spiritual Physic
GSR

Roman (Gregorian) chant

Gregorian Chant
GSR

Saga of Burnt Njal (c. 13thC)

Saga
GSR

Wyclife, John (1330-1384)

Tracts and Treatises
GSR

Gerard Zerbolt (1367-1398)

The Imitation of Christ
Other

The Renaissance and Reformation [other authors from this period]
Author Source Other Guides
Boetie, Etienne de la (1530-1563)

The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude (1576)
ADD.
Calvin, John (1509-1564)

The Institutes of the Christian Religion
Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul
GSR

Copernicus, Nicolaus (1473-1543)

On the revolution of celestial spheres (1543)
GSR

Erasmus, Desiderius (1469-1536)

The Colloquies
The Complaint of Peace
In Praise of Folly
GSR

PP with Machiavelli, The Prince (1513)
Huss, Jan (1372-1417)

The Church
GSR

Luther, Martin (1483-1546)

The 95 Theses
Commentary on Galatians
An Open Letter to the Christian Nobility
A Prelude on the Babylonian Captivity of the Church
A Treatises on Christian Liberty
Hymns
GSR

Machiavelli, Niccolo (1469-1527)

The Prince (1513)
History of Florence (1525)
Discourses on Livy (1517)
Other
PP with Erasmus, The Education of a Christian Prince (1515)
Melanchthon, Philipp (1497-1560)

The Loci Cummunes (1521)
GSR

Montaigne, Michel de (1533-1592)

Essays
ADD.
More, Thomas (1478-1535)

Utopia (1516)
ADD.
Reformation Chorale

Luther’s Hymns
Bach’s Chorals
GSR

Savonarola, Girolamo (1452-1498)

The Triumph of the Cross (1497)
GSR

Zwingli, Huldrych (1484-1531)

Selected Works
GSR

Early Modern Period [other authors from this period]
Author Source Other Guides
Bacon, Francis (1561-1626)

The Advancement of Learning (1605)
New Atlantis (1627)
ADD.
Bayle, Pierre (1647-1706)

Historical and Critical Dictionary (1697)
A Philosophical Commentary (1686)
ADD.
Coke, Sir Edward (1552-1634)

Institutes of the Laws of England (1608)
The Petition of Right (1628)
GSR

Descartes, Réné (1696-1650)

Discourse of Method (1637)
Meditations (1641)
ADD.
Galilei, Galileo (1564-1642)

Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems, Ptolemaic and Copernican (1632)
Dialogues Concerning Two New Sciences (1638)
GSR

Harrington, James (1611-1677)

The Commonwealth of Oceana (1656)
Other

The English Revolution

PP with Hobbes, Leviathan (1651)

Hobbes, Thomas (1588-1679)

Leviathan (1651)
Behemoth (1668)
Other
PP with Harrington, The Commonwealth of Oceana(1656) and Leveller Tracts and Cumberland, A Treatise of the Laws of Nature (1672)
Hooker, Richard (1553-1699)

Of the Laws of Ecclesiastical Polity (1594-97)
Other
Grotius, Hugo (1583-1645)

The Free Sea (1609)
The Rights of War and Peace (1625)
GSR

LM: Fernando R. Tesón, “Hugo Grotius on War and the State” (Matrch 2014)

Lilburne, John (1615-1657)

The Third Agreement of the People (May 1649)
ADD.
PPwith Hobbes, Leviathan (1651)
Locke, John (1632-1704)

Two Treatises of Government (1680-83)
Essay Concerning Human Understanding (1686)
Letter Concerning Toleration (1689-92)
GSR

Eric Mack, Introduction to Locke’s Political Thought

On John Locke

Debate on The Divine Right of Kings

LM: Eric Mack on “John Locke on Property” (Jan. 2013)

PP with Filmer, Patriarcha (1680)

Milton, John (1608-1674)

Areopagitica (1644)
The Tenure of Kings and Magistrates (1649)
The Ready and Easy Way to Establish a Free Commonwealth (1660)
Paradise Lost (1667)
GSR

The English Revolution

Newton, Sir Isaac (1642-1727)

Principia (1687)
GSR

Overton, Richard (1631-1664)

An Arrow against all Tyrants (1646)
ADD.
PP with Hobbes, Leviathan (1651)
Pascal, Blaise (1623-1662)

Thoughts (1669)
ADD.
Pufendorf, Samuel von (1632-1694)

The Elements of Universal Jurisprudence (1660)
On Natural and International Law (1672)
The Whole Duty of Man According to the Law of Nature (1673)
ADD.
LM: “Pufendorf on Power and Liberty” (January, 2017)
Robinson, John (1575-1625)

Farewell Address to the Pilgrims (1620)

GSR

Shakespeare, William (1564-1616)

tragedies: Hamlet, Othello, King Lear, and Macbeth
historical dramas: Richard II, Henry V and Julius Caesar
GSR

LM: John E. Alvis, “The Corrupting Influence of Power in Shakespeare’s Plays” (July 2016)

Sidney, Algernon (1622-1683)

Discourses Concerning Government (1698)

Spinoza, Benedict de (1632-1677)

Tractatus Theologico-Politicus (1670)
Tractatus Politicus (1675-76)
Ethica
ADD.

18th Century [other authors from this period]
Author Source Other Guides
Beccaria, Cesare (1738-1794)

An Essay on Crimes and Punishments (1764)
ADD.
PP with Bentham, Panopticon (1787)
Blackstone, William (1723-1780)

Commentaries on the Laws of England (1753)
On the Nature of Laws in General
GSR

Burke, Edmund (1729-1797)

Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790)
GSR

PP with Paine, Rights of Man(1791)
Condorcet (1743-1794)

On the Admission of Women to the Rights of Citizenship (1790)
Outlines of an historical view of the progress of the human mind (1795)
ADD.
Diderot, Denis (1713-1784)

The Encyclopedia (1751)
ADD.
LM: “How Radical Was the Political Thought of the Encyclopédie?” (March, 2018)
Ferguson, Adam (1723-1816)

An Essay on the History of Civil Society (1767)
ADD.
Gibbon, Edward (1737-1794)

Autobiography (1795)
The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (1776)
ADD.
Godwin, William (1756-1836)

An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice (1793)
Of Population (1820)
ADD.
PP with Malthus, An Essay on Population (1798)
Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von (1749-1832)

Faust (1808)
Egmont (1788)
GSR

Hume, David (1711-1776)

Treatise of Human Nature(1739)
Enquiry Concerning the Human Understanding(1748)
Enquiry Concerning the Principles of Morals (1751)
History of England (1778)
Essays Moral Political (1777)
GSR

LM “The Place of Liberty in David Hume’s Project” (January, 2018)
Kant, Immanuel (1724-1804)

Critique of Pure Reason (1781)
Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals (1785)
Critique of Practical Reason (1788)
Perpetual Peace (1795)
Metaphysics of Morals (1797)
GSR

Madison, James (1751-1836)

The Records of the Federal Convention of 1787
Other
Montesquieu (1689-1755)

The Spirit of Laws (1748)
The Persian Letters (1721)
My Thoughts
Other
LM: “Montesquieu on Liberty and Sumptuary Law” (Nov. 2015)
PP with Destutt de Tracy, A Commentary (1806)

Paine, Thomas (1737-1809)

Common Sense (1776)
The Rights of Man (1791)
The Age of Reason (1795)
ADD.
PP with Burke, Reflections on the French Revolution (1790)
Rousseau, Jean-Jacques (1712-1778)

Discourse on Inequality (1754)
Emile (1762)
Social Contract (1762)
ADD.
PP with Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759)
Shaftesbury, Earl of (1671-1713)

Characteristicks of Men, Manners, Opinions, Times (1711)
ADD.
Smith, Adam (1723-1790)

Theory of Moral Sentiments (1759)
The Wealth of Nations (1776)
GSR

PP with Rousseau Discourse on the Origin and Basis of Inequality (1754) and Mun, England’s Treasure by Forraign Trade (1644)
Turgot (1727-1781)

Observations on the Importance of the American Revolution (1784)
Reflections on the Formation and the Distribution of Riches (1770)
ADD.
Voltaire (1694-1778)

Philosophical Letters (1733)
Candide (1759)
Philosophical Dictionary (1764)
Toleration and Other Essays
Other
Wollstonecraft, Mary (1741-1820)

A Vindication of the Rights of Men (1790)
A Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792)
ADD.
PP with Burke, Reflections on the French Revolution (1790)
Political Documents
Jefferson, Thomas (1743-1826)

Declaration of Independence (1776)
Rough Draft
Frohnen’s ed.
GSR

Key Documents of Liberty
Topic: The American Revolution and Constitution
Hamilton, Alexander (1757-1804), James Madison (1751-1836), and John Jay (1745-1829)

The Federalist Papers (1787-88)
Other
The Anti-Federalists

Pamphlets (1787-88)
ADD.
United States Constitution (1787) and Amendments (1791)

1787: US Constitution
1791: US Bill of Rights (1st 10 Amendments)
Other
Topic: The American Revolution and Constitution
The Founders’ Constitution (2001)
Key Documents of Liberty

Nineteenth Century [other authors from this period]
Author Source Other Guides
Acton, Lord (1834-1902)

Acton-Creighton Correspondence (1887)
Inaugural Lecture on the Study of History (1895)
The History of Freedom and Other Essays (1907)
The History of Freedom in Antiquity
The History of Freedom in Christianity
The Massacre of St. Bartholomew
The Protestant Theory of Persecution
Other
Bastiat, Frédéric (1801-1850)

Petition by the Manufacturers of Candles (1845)
The State (1848)
The Law (1850)
Economic Harmonies (1851) FEE ed.
ADD.
LM: “Bastiat and Political Economy” (July 1, 2013)
PP with List, National System of Political Economy (1841) and Marx, The Communist Manifesto (1848)
Bentham, Jeremy (1748-1832)

Defence of Usury (1787)
An Introduction to the Principles of Morals and Legislation (1823)
Plan of Parliamentary Reform (1817)
The Book of Fallacies (1824)
Constitutional Code (1827-30)
Other
PP with Beccaria, An Essay on Crimes and Punishments (1764)
Böhm-Bawerk, Eugen von (1851-1914)

Capital and Interest (1884)
Karl Marx and the close of his system (1896)
Other
LM: “Assessing Böhm-Bawerk’s Contribution to Economics after a Hundred Years” (April, 2015)
Burckhardt, Jacob (1818-1897)

Force and Freedom (1847)
Other
Clausewitz, Carl von (1789-1831)

On War (1832)
Other
Constant, Benjamin (1767-1830)

The Liberty of Ancients Compared with that of Moderns (1819)
Principles of Politics Applicable to a all Governments (1815)
ADD.
LM: “Limited Government, Unlimited Liberalism. Or, How Benjamin Constant was a Kantian After All” (May, 2018)
Darwin, Charles (1809-1882)

The Origin of Species (1859)
ADD.
Dicey, Albert Venn (1835-1922)

Introduction to the Study of the Law of the Constitution (1885)
Lectures on the Relation between Law and Public Opinion in England (1905)
ADD.
Emerson, Ralph Waldo (1803-1882)

Essays
ADD.
Humboldt, Wilhelm von (1767-1835)

The Limits of State Action (1792)
ADD.
Malthus, Thomas (1766-1823)

An Essay on the Principle of Population (6th ed. 1826)
ADD.
PP with Godwin, Of Population (1820)
Marx, Karl (1818-1883)

Manifesto of the Communist Party (1848)
Capital, vol. 1 (1859)
ADD.
LM: “Marx and the Morality of Capitalism” (October, 2018)
PP with Bastiat, The State (1848) and John Stuart Mill, Principles of Political Economy (1848)

Mill, James (1773-1836)

Government (1815)
Liberty of the Press (1825)
The State of the Nation (1835)
ADD.
LM: “James Mill on Liberty and Governance” (Sept. 2014)
Mill, John Stuart (1806-1873)

Principles of Political Economy (1848)
On Liberty (1859)
Considerations on Representative Government (1861)
On the Subjection of Women (1869)
Other
LM: “Reassessing the Political Economy of John Stuart Mill” (July 2015)
PP with Stephen, Liberty, Equality, Fraternity(1874) and Marx, Das Kapital vol. 1 (1867) and Herbert Spencer, Principles of Ethics (1879)

Say, Jean-Baptiste (1767-1832)

A Treatise on Political Economy (1803)
ADD.
Shelley, Percy Bysshe (1792-1822)

Poems
A Philosophical View of Reform (1820)
ADD.
Spencer, Herbert (1820-1903)

Social Statics (1851 \
The Principles of Sociology (1876)
The Principles of Ethics (1879)
The Man Versus the State (1884)
ADD.
LM: “Herbert Spencer’s Sociology of the State” (November 2014)
PP with John Stuart Mill, Utilitarianism (1861)

Spooner, Lysander (1808-1887)

The Unconstitutionality of Slavery (1860)
No Treason I, II, IV (1867-70)
Vices are Not Crimes (1875)
A Letter to Grover Cleveland (1886)
ADD.
LM: “The Significance of Lysander Spooner” (Jan. 2016)
Sumner, William Graham (1840-1910)

Folkways (1906)
The Forgotten Man (1883)
Protectionism (1885)
The Conquest of the United States by Spain (1898)
Democracy and Plutocracy (n.d.)
ADD.
LM: “William Graham Sumner – Liberty’s Forgotten Man” (July 2017)
Tocqueville, Alexis de (1805-1859)

Democracy in America (1835)
The Old Regime and the Revolution (1856)
ADD.
LM: “Tocqueville’s New Science of Politics Revisited” (May 2014)
Webster, Daniel (1782-1852)

Speech on the Draft (1814)
Other

Twentieth Century [other authors from this period]
Author Source Other Guides
Buchanan, James M. (1919-2013)

The Calculus of Consent (1962)
The Limits of Liberty (1975)

LM: “James Buchanan: An Assessment” (March, 2013)
Hayek, Friedrich A. (1899-1992)

The Road to Serfdom (1944)
“The Use of Knowledge in Society” (1945)
The Constitution of Liberty (1960)
Law, Legislation and Liberty (1973)
Other
LM: “Hayek’s Epistemic Liberalism” (September, 2017)
PP with Beveridge Report (1942)
Mises, Ludwig von (1881-1973)

Socialism (1922)
Liberalism (1927)
Human Action (1949)
Other
LM: “Ludwig von Mises’s The Theory of Money and Credit at 101” (January, 2014)
LM: “The Misesian Paradox: Interventionism Is Not Sustainable” (March 2016)
PP with Lenin, The State and Revolution (1917) and Carl Schmitt on Dictatorship (1921)
Read, Leonard E. (1898-1983)

Government, an Ideal Concept (1954) FEE
I, Pencil (1958)
Other
Röpke, Wilhelm von (1899-1966)

A Humane Economy (1960)
Other

Last modified June 26, 2019
Copyright ©2004 – 2020 Liberty Fund, Inc. All rights reserved.

Application designed and developed by Walter Davis Studio.

Home
Titles
Groups
People
Ideas
About

Take Your Masks and Shove it

The following was written by another reader of mine who prefers to remain anonymous. It summarizes precisely how many of us think and feel:

At least two car accidents have happened when morons were overcome by CO2 because they wore their masks while driving. Alone. In a car. Unfortunately neither of them took themselves out of the gene pool when they crashed. Masks are becoming a symbol of how much you care about other people: “Look how good I am because I care about you. Now care about me in return. I SAID CARE ABOUT ME, DAMNIT, OR I’LL PUNCH YOUR FACE!”

The refusal to wear a mask is the refusal to submit to ignorance and irrationality. It’s the refusal to allow someone else’s panicky fear to direct your choices. I will not help people pretend that there is a reason to be afraid of a germ with a 99.97% survival rate and I will not help them feel better about their own inability to assess risk. I will not make their self-victimizing into a virtue. That is the fight I’m going to pick, because Nathan Hale didn’t die so a bunch of pansies frightened of germs could make me wear a symbol of their cowardice.

Masks are a “minimal imposition”? You, buster, don’t get to define “imposition” for anyone but yourself. Masks are a symbol of idiocy and ovine docility. They’re a symbol of an utter failure to think critically. Pointing to politicians who wear them doesn’t help your case. It’s proof that masks are about optics, not reality. The only thing masks achieve is to give the wearer a fraudulent sense of moral superiority he can’t get legitimately through independent thinking. They’re about appearance and intentions, just as every disastrous government program and every economy-wrecking politician are judged by their intentions, no matter how ruinous their actual results. Intentions matter, not reality. Reality gives these people a sad, and masks give them a happy.

Masks are to the general public what the TSA is to airports: security theater. They miss 95% of everything that goes by them. N95 masks are “up to” 95% effective when donned, worn, and removed correctly, but their efficacy varies by manufacturer and can be anywhere from 50-95% and is also dependent on the concurrent use of other PPE types. Even N95 masks don’t filter tuberculosis bacteria, which is much larger than any coronavirus at .2-.5 microns wide. Properly fitted and worn masks can filter out particles as small as .3 microns. Human coronaviruses are between .1 and .2 microns. So now you have the added spectacle of alleged medical professionals, who should be educating people, instead telling patients that if they don’t have a real mask to wear to an appointment, they can use a handkerchief or scarf. Any doctor who says that stamps himself as a quack. That’s the definition of security theater: Doing something 100% pointless and telling yourself that it’s a virtue because your intentions are good.

Medical-grade masks are intended to be worn in conjunction with other protective gear, including full face shields, gloves, and gowns, and they’re made to protect medical personnel from pathogens in blood, feces, and other body fluids. That’s why doctors suit up in trauma bays and operating rooms, but don’t put masks on their patients. That’s why medical examiners wear masks: to protect themselves. They don’t wear masks during autopsies to protect the stiff on the slab. In any case, you’re taking advice from the same clods who wear their scrubs and street shoes outdoors and then clomp back into the hospital to treat patients. How much do you think they really care about introducing bacteria and viruses into patient settings?

You know what it means when 50-90% of people with Wuhan flu are asymptomatic? It means those people don’t get sick. That’s how scary this germ is: It doesn’t make most people sick. What are you having a meltdown over, exactly? Corona is 99.97% survivable. 99% of the fatalities are in elderly people with co-morbidities who can just as easily be killed by the common cold. If you are in close, extended contact with an elderly person with comorbidities then you should already be taking precautions to prevent spreading *any* bacteria and viruses to that person. But putting masks on healthy people when they’re confronted with something that’s less lethal than seasonal flu is ignorance, not virtue. I will not help you pretend otherwise.

What is Entrepreneurship

We shall concentrate on the capitalist-entrepreneurs, economically the more important type of entrepreneur. These are the men who invest in “capital” (land and/or capital goods) used in the productive process….

The capitalist-entrepreneur buys factors or factor services in the present; his product must be sold in the future. He is always on the alert, then, for discrepancies, for areas where he can earn more than the going rate of interest. Suppose the interest rate is 5 percent; Jones can buy a certain combination of factors for 100 ounces; he believes that he can use this agglomeration to sell a product after two years for 120 ounces. His expected future return is 10 percent per annum. If his expectations are fulfilled, then he will obtain a 10 percent annual return instead of 5 percent. The difference between the general interest rate and his actual return is his money profit (from now on to be called simply “profit,” unless there is a specific distinction between money profit and psychic profit). In this case, his money profit is 10 ounces for two years, or an extra 5 percent per annum.

What gave rise to this realized profit, this ex post profit fulfilling the producer’s ex ante expectations? The fact that the factors of production in this process were underpriced and undercapitalized—underpriced in so far as their unit services were bought, undercapitalized in so far as the factors were bought as wholes. In either case, the general expectations of the market erred by underestimating the future rents (MVPs [marginal value products]) of the factors. This particular entrepreneur saw better than his fellows, however, and acted on this insight. He reaped the reward of his superior foresight in the form of a profit. His action, his recognition of the general undervaluation of productive factors, results in the eventual elimination of profits, or rather in the tendency toward their elimination. By extending production in this particular process, he increases the demand for these factors and raises their prices. This result will be accentuated by the entry of competitors into the same area, attracted by the 10 percent rate of return. Not only will the rise in demand raise the prices of the factors, but the increase in output will lower the price of the product. The result will be a tendency for a fall in the rate of return back to the pure interest rate.

What function has the entrepreneur performed? In his quest for profits he saw that certain factors were underpriced vis-à-vis their potential value products. By recognizing the discrepancy and doing something about it, he shifted factors of production (obviously nonspecific factors) from other productive processes to this one. He detected that the factors’ prices did not adequately reflect their potential DMVPs [discounted marginal value products]; by bidding for, and hiring, these factors, he was able to allocate them from production of lower DMVP to production of higher DMVP. He has served the consumers better by anticipating where the factors are more valuable. For the greater value of the factors is due solely to their being more highly demanded by the consumers, i.e., being better able to satisfy the desires of the consumers. That is the meaning of a greater discounted marginal value product.

It is clear that there is no sense whatever in talking of a going rate of profit. There is no such rate beyond the ephemeral and momentary. For any realized profit tends to disappear because of the entrepreneurial actions it generates. The basic rate, then, is the rate of interest, which does not disappear. If we start with a dynamic economy, and if we postulate given value scales and given original factors and technical knowledge throughout, the result will be a wiping out of profits to reach an ERE [Evenly Rotating Economy; for more see chapter 5] with a pure interest rate. Continual changes in tastes and resources, however, constantly shift the final equilibrium goal and establish a new goal toward which entrepreneurial action is directed—and again the final tendency in the ERE will be the disappearance of profits. For the ERE means the disappearance of uncertainty, and profit is the outgrowth of uncertainty.

A grave error is made by a host of writers and economists in considering only profits in the economy. Almost no account is taken of losses. The economy should not be characterized as a “profit economy,” but as a “profit and loss economy.”

A loss occurs when an entrepreneur has made a poor estimate of his future selling prices and revenues. He bought factors, say, for 1,000 ounces, developed them into a product, and then sold it for 900 ounces. He erred in not realizing that the factors were overpriced and overcapitalized on the market in relation to their discounted marginal value products, i.e., to the prices of his output.

Every entrepreneur, therefore, invests in a process because he expects to make a profit, i.e., because he believes that the market has underpriced and undercapitalized the factors in relation to their future rents. If his belief is justified, he makes a profit. If his belief is unjustified, and the market, for example, has really overpriced the factors, he will suffer losses.

The nature of loss has to be carefully defined. Suppose an entrepreneur, the market rate of interest being 5 percent, buys factors at 1,000 and sells their product for 1,020 one year later. Has he suffered a “loss” or made a “profit”? At first, it might seem that he has not taken a loss. After all, he gained back the principal plus an extra 20 ounces, for a 2 percent net return or gain. However, closer inspection reveals that he could have made a 5 percent net return anywhere on his capital, since this is the going interest return. He could have made it, say, investing in any other enterprise or in lending money to consumer-borrowers. In this venture he did not even earn the interest gain. The “cost” of his investment, therefore, was not simply his expenses on factors—1,000—but also his forgone opportunity of earning interest at 5 percent, i.e., an additional 50. He therefore suffered a loss of 30 ounces.

The absurdity of the concept of “rate of profit” is even more evident if we attempt to postulate a rate of loss. Obviously, no meaningful use can be made of “rate of loss”; entrepreneurs will be very quick to leave the losing investment and take their capital elsewhere. With entrepreneurs leaving the line of production, the prices of the factors there will drop and the price of the product will rise (with reduced supply), until the net return in that branch of production will be the same as in every branch, and this return will be the uniform interest rate of the ERE. It is clear, therefore, that the process of equalization of rate of return throughout the economy, one that results in a uniform rate of interest, is the very same process that brings about the abolition of profits and losses in the ERE.

A real economy, in other words, where line A yields a net return of 10 percent to some entrepreneur, and line B yields 2 percent, while other lines yield 5 percent, is one in which the rate of interest is 5 percent, A makes a pure profit of 5 percent, and B suffers a pure loss of 3 percent. A correctly estimated that the market had underpriced his factors in relation to their true DMVPs; B had incorrectly guessed that the market had underpriced (or, at the very least, correctly priced) his factors, but found to his sorrow that they had been overpriced in relation to the uses that he made of the factors. In the ERE, where all future values are known and there is therefore no underpricing or overpricing, there are no entrepreneurial profits or losses; there is only a pure interest rate.

In the real world, profits and losses are almost always intertwined with interest returns. Our separation of them is conceptually valid and very important, but cannot be made easily and quantitatively in practice….Do profits have a social function? Many critics point to the ERE, where there are no profits (or losses) and then attack entrepreneurs earning profits in the real world as if they were doing something mischievous or at best unnecessary. Are not profits an index of something wrong, of some maladjustment in the economy? The answer is: Yes, profits are an index of maladjustment, but in a sense precisely opposed to that usually meant.

As we have seen above, profits are an index that maladjustments are being met and combated by the profit-making entrepreneurs. These maladjustments are the inevitable concomitants of the real world of change. A man earns profits only if he has, by superior foresight and judgment, uncovered a maladjustment—specifically an undervaluation of certain factors by the market. By stepping into this situation and gaining the profit, he calls everyone’s attention to that maladjustment and sets forces into motion that eventually eliminate it. If we must condemn anyone, it should not be the profit-making entrepreneur, but the one that has suffered losses. For losses are a sign that he has added further to a maladjustment, through allocating factors where they were overvalued as compared to the consumers’ desire for their product. On the other hand, the profit-maker is allocating factors where they had been undervalued as compared to the consumers’ desires. The greater a man’s profit has been, the more praiseworthy his role, for then the greater is the maladjustment that he alone has uncovered and is combating. The greater a man’s losses, the more blameworthy he is, for the greater has been his contribution to maladjustment.

Of course, we should not be too hard on the bumbling loser. He receives his penalty in the form of losses. These losses drive him from his poor role in production. If he is a consistent loser wherever he enters the production process, he is driven out of the entrepreneurial role altogether. He returns to the job of wage earner. In fact, the market tends to reward its efficient entrepreneurs and penalize its inefficient ones proportionately. In this way, consistently provident entrepreneurs see their capital and resources growing, while consistently imprudent ones find their resources dwindling. The former play a larger and larger role in the production process; the latter are forced to abandon entrepreneurship altogether.

There is no inevitably self-reinforcing tendency about this process, however. If a formerly good entrepreneur should suddenly made a bad mistake, he will suffer losses proportionately; if a formerly poor entrepreneur makes a good forecast, he will make proportionate gains. The market is no respecter of past laurels, however large. Moreover, the size of a man’s investment is no guarantee whatever of a large profit or against grievous losses. Capital does not “beget” profit. Only wise entrepreneurial decisions do that. A man investing in an unsound venture can lose 10,000 ounces of gold as surely as a man engaging in a sound venture can profit on an investment of 50 ounces.

Beyond the market process of penalization, we cannot condemn the unfortunate capitalist who suffers losses. He was a man who voluntarily assumed the risks of entrepreneurship and suffered from his poor judgment by incurring losses proportionate to his error. Outside critics have no right to condemn him further. As Mises says:

Nobody has the right to take offense at the errors made by the entrepreneurs in the conduct of affairs and to stress the point that people would have been better supplied if the entrepreneurs had been more skillful and prescient. If the grumbler knew better, why did he not himself fill the gap and seize the opportunity to earn profits? It is easy indeed to display foresight after the event.

Author:
Murray Rothbard

The Chicago School vs. The Austrian School

People often ask me, “How are the Austrians different from the Chicago School economists? Aren’t you all free market guys who oppose big-government Keynesians?”

In the present article I’ll outline some of the main differences. Although it’s true that Austrians agree with Chicago economists on many policy issues, nevertheless their approach to economic science can be quite different. It’s important to occasionally explain these differences, if only to rebut the common complaint that Austrian economics is simply a religion serving to justify libertarian policy conclusions.

Before jumping in, let me give a few obvious disclaimers: I do not speak for all Austrian economists, and in this article I will be discussing modern Austrian followers in the tradition of Ludwig von Mises and Murray Rothbard. (On methodology in particular, the Austrians in the Rothbardian camp differ somewhat from those who look more to Friedrich Hayek and Israel Kirzner for inspiration.) It’s also important to note that not all Chicago school economists think alike. Even so, I hope the following generalizations are representative.

Methodology
The Austrians are oddballs among professional economists for their focus on methodological issues in the first place. Indeed, Mises’s magnum opus, Human Action, devotes the entire second chapter (forty-one pages) to “The Epistemological Problems of the Sciences of Human Action.” There was no such treatment in the last Freakonomics book.

Although most economists in the twentieth century and our time would disagree strongly, Mises insisted that economic theory itself was an a priori discipline. What he meant is that economists shouldn’t ape the methods of physicists by coming up with hypotheses and subjecting them to empirical tests. On the contrary, Mises thought that the core body of economic theory could be logically deduced from the axiom of “human action,” i.e., the insight or viewpoint that there are other conscious beings using their reason to achieve subjective goals. (For more on Mises’s methodological views, see this and this.)

In contrast, the seminal Chicago school article on methodology is Milton Friedman’s 1953 “The Methodology of Positive Economics.” Far from deriving economic principles or laws that are necessarily true (as Mises suggests), Friedman instead advocates the development of models with false assumptions. These false premises are no strike against a good theory, however:

The relevant question to ask about the “assumptions” of a theory is not whether they are descriptively “realistic,” for they never are, but whether they are sufficiently good approximations for the purpose in hand. And this question can be answered only by seeing whether the theory works, which means whether it yields sufficiently accurate predictions.

Although Friedman’s analysis sounds perfectly reasonable, and the epitome of “scientific,” Mises thought it was a seductive trap for economists. For a quick illustration of the difference in perspectives, let me relay an example from my teaching experience.

It was a principles of microeconomics class, and we were using the (excellent) textbook by Gwartney, Stroup, et al. In the first chapter they have a list of several guideposts or principles of the economic way of thinking. As I recall, these are items such as “People respond to incentives” and “There are always tradeoffs.” These were noncontroversial things that every economist would agree were important for getting undergrads to “think like an economist.”

However, the one guidepost that stuck out like a sore thumb announced, “To be scientific, an economic theory must make testable predictions.” I explained to the class that even though this was a popular view among professional economists, it was not one that I shared. I explained that everything we would learn the entire semester from the Gwartney et al. textbook would not yield testable predictions. On the contrary, I would simply teach them a framework with which they could interpret the world. The students would have to decide whether the framework was useful, but ultimately their decision wouldn’t boil down to “Did these tools of supply and demand make good predictions?”

After I went through my spiel, one of the students made the excellent observation that not a single one of the other guideposts was a testable prediction. He was right! For example, how could someone test the claim that “People respond to incentives”? I could say to a person “I’ll give you $20 if you cut off your big toe.” Regardless of what happens, my claim is safe and secure. If the person doesn’t cut off his big toe, it just shows that I didn’t offer him a big enough incentive.

This is not mere philosophical grandstanding. Mises stressed that the important heritage of sound economic thought is not a collection of empirically tested claims about the behavior of economic variables. Rather, economic theory is an internally coherent framework for interpreting “the data” in the first place.

It’s true that certain applications of economics involve historical evidence—such as investigating whether the Federal Reserve played an important role in the housing bubble—but this is a far cry from the typical mainstream economist’s justification for mathematical model building.

Booms and Busts
Another major divergence between the Austrian and Chicago schools is their explanation for booms and their policy prescriptions for busts. The readers of this article are likely familiar with the Austrian view, so I will omit another discussion.

Chicago school economists obviously have nuanced views, but generally speaking they subscribe to the “efficient markets hypothesis.” In its strongest form, the EMH denies that there could even be such a thing as the housing bubble (see here and here). Given their assumptions of rational actors and markets that quickly clear, and given that they lack a sophisticated theory of the capital structure of the economy, the Chicago school economists are forced to explain recessions as an “equilibrium” outcome due to sudden “shocks.”

Historically they didn’t consider the distortions caused by below-market interest rates (which of course are the key ingredient in the Austrian theory of the business cycle). However, recently more and more Chicago school critics of the Fed have been pointing out the dangers of Ben Bernanke’s zero interest rate policy.

Ironically, the policy area where the Austrians and the Chicago school differ most is in regard to money, the issue in which Milton Friedman specialized. Friedman (and coauthor Anna Schwartz) famously faulted the Federal Reserve for not printing enough new money in the early 1930s to offset the decline fueled by bank runs. In our time, some Chicago-trained economists—who justifiably point to Milton Friedman himself for vindication—blame the crisis in the fall of 2008 on Bernanke’s “tight money” policies. Naturally, these views are anathema to modern Austrians in the tradition of Murray Rothbard, who think that the central bank should be abolished.

Law and Economics
Finally, most modern members of the Austrian and Chicago schools have vastly different ideas when it comes to the field known as “law and economics.” Whether based in natural law or the traditional inheritance from the common law, Austrians tend to think that people objectively have property rights, full stop, and that once we specify these rights the economic analysis can begin. In contrast, some of the more extreme applications of what could be called “the Chicago approach” would say that the assignment of property rights themselves should be determined on the grounds of economic efficiency. (In Walter Block’s reductio ad absurdum, a judge decides if a man has stolen a woman’s purse by asking how much each party would be willing to pay for it.)

Mises Academy: Robert Murphy teaches Keynes, Krugman, and the Crisis
This is a particularly subtle area that I cannot adequately summarize in this article. Suffice it to say that Austrians and Chicago school economists alike can appreciate the amazing insights—and challenge to the standard Pigovian critique of the market—contained in Ronald Coase’s famous article. However, the Chicago school tradition has taken Coase’s work to conclusions that many (perhaps most) modern Austrians find repellant.

Conclusion
On typical issues such as the minimum wage, tariffs, or government stimulus spending, Austrian and Chicago school economists can safely be lumped together as “free market.” However, in many other areas—particularly issues of pure economic theory—the two schools are entirely different. As a self-described Austrian economist, I would encourage free market fans who only know Friedman to add Ludwig von Mises and Murray Rothbard to their reading lists.

Is this what our Boys Died For?

You don’t live in a free country if your rights can be turned on and off at any time by a dictator.

“Reopening”? It’s a joke. Everything is now state-run. That’s not freedom. You can kid yourself that your freedoms have been restored, when and if they ever are. But your freedoms are not a light switch. Your rights are inalienable. That’s the term our founders used. Rights are inherent to your nature. A government may be hired to protect those rights. But no government (state or federal) may turn those rights on and off. Rights are part of you; and always were.

We’re told it’s all for the sake of our health. But “health” can be used to justify anything. People die on highways every day. Should your car be taken away, until the curve of automobile deaths is “flattened”? People die of cancer and obesity. Should your diet be run by the government, and fast food chains closed, until the curve is “flattened”? Many more die of cancer, obesity and automobiles than will ever die from coronavirus. So the health motivation is B.S. They know it. And they have noted the fact that most of us won’t say it.

The instant these lockdowns were ordered, and the moment our rulers realized we would tolerate those lockdowns — even indefinitely, months later — is the moment our freedom ended. The only way to get our freedom back is to fight the idea that it was ever theirs to take away in the first place.

I am sick and saddened. Many agree with me, but will never say so publicly. They might make someone angry. Heaven forbid! Most of the country seems to be under sedation. Most don’t want to face that their freedom is lost. They wait patiently for their state governments to restore their right to do simple things that have always been part of the American way — things like getting a haircut or going to the local pub or restaurant. Even most unfree countries have permitted these things. Stalin let you get a drink, and Hitler let you get your hair cut.

We are staring into the awful reality of a totalitarian regime, one that may turn rights on and off for any reason whatsoever. Coronavirus will be the excuse to take your guns, curb your speech and abolish your few remaining rights. If you doubt this, you’re truly a fool. You’re also not listening. When they tell you “it’s the new normal”, they really mean it. As millions put on their masks, elite officials know they will get uncritical compliance with anything.

Your rights are yours. The career politicians in our governments are the least morally and intellectually qualified to do anything. Is this what our veterans died for in all those wars — the right to be controlled by petty imbeciles and worthless twits who never could have made it outside of a career in politics?

Say it isn’t so. Especially on Memorial Day.