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Mixing Science and Politics (and Economics)

So many of you have taken the time to respond to my blogs thoughtfully that I feel I should comment in kind. In looking through the many comments, however, I see that most of what I would say has already been said by people who responded to my critics. Nevertheless…

First of all, why is it okay to mix science and religion (with atheists eagerly do in debunking religious claims) but not okay to mix science and politics/economics? Why is it okay for liberal atheists to stick it to religious believers and twist the knife slowly, but when it comes to getting your own (political/economic) beliefs challenged, that’s off limits — NOMA (nonoverlapping magisterial) for science and politics? I don’t see how they are different in principle. Skeptic is a science magazine, not an “atheist” magazine; nevertheless, we routinely deal with religious claims and no one ever complains about that. The closest we have come to political/economic issues is environmentalism (Vol. 9, No. 2 — sold out), overpopulation (Vol. 5, No. 1), and global warming Vol. 14, No. 1). For all three we published several articles; in Vol. 14, No. 1, for example, we published articles both skeptical of global warming and accepting of global warming. So I don’t see what would be wrong with publishing articles pro, con, and neutral on political and economic claims.

One person wrote me a private email that said he thought of me as the next Carl Sagan, but now that I’ve gone to the dark side (turning Right, although I’m as critical of the Right as I am the Left), because Carl was “apolitical.” Carl Sagan was many things, but apolitical was not one of them. Carl was a Liberal and proudly wore his politics on his sleeve, such as when he marched in protest at nuclear sites or testified before Congress about the dangers of nuclear winter. I admire him for having the courage of his convictions, which intimately blended his science and (Left) politics. If you think Sagan was apolitical it is because you happen to agree with his politics and so those ideas seem simply correct, not political. If you don’t share his politics (I share about half of them), then it’s obvious that Sagan was not apolitical.

The liberal bias in the skeptical community was identified by many people in the comments section of my blog, for example by “DR,” “James,” and “Devil’s Advocate”:

… Sadly, there is a lot of hatred toward libertarianism at JREF [he means TAM]. I can be an atheist, believe gay marriage is ok, think nothing of smoking pot, and I won’t get half as much grief from a conservative that I do from an American liberal who reels and squirms when I say that the welfare state is immoral or that free trade and voluntary transactions in capitalism promote fair and just outcomes. It’s like the only reason why I have rationalized this set of morality is because I’m a supremely evil person and must be wrong… —DR

… I’m disappointed, but not surprised by the large group of liberal skeptics. I’ve talked to too many Democrat-card-carrying skeptics that spout the same unoriginal, canned rhetoric and continual spewing hatred of Republicans. For a group that supposedly supports tolerance, they’re anything but tolerant …

I’ve three times over twenty years joined local skeptic groups and all three times there was a presumption that if I was a skeptic, then of course I’m also liberal in my politics. Two times I tried to be what I am but was marginalized, treated like a Goldwater (or Reagan, or Bush) mole. The third time I tried to avoid political discussion, but it was not possible, so, unwilling to lie, I left. My refusal to come over to pure liberalism clearly wasn’t going to be tolerated. All I wanted to do was examine UFO claims and crop circles, but… —Devil’s Advocate

Another critic named John D. Draeger makes a good point that I wish to acknowledge: “He [me] does NOT believe that political persuasions and different economic models for how societies should be run are moral value judgements…. Social services can be paid for in different ways, and in a democratic society it’s up to the majority to define how that is done. Social services can be paid for in different ways, and in a democratic society it’s up to the majority to define how that is done.” That’s true, in a democracy the majority rules how to divvy up public funds for social services, and that tends to be more of a value judgment than a science. But as someone else wrote just below that, quite cleverly I think…

First of all, democratic societies can still be evil, as the famous saying goes: “democracy is two wolves and one lamb voting on what to have for lunch.” And then in another famous quote (attributed to several), “A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. Thus our founding fathers gave us a republic … if we can keep it.

Even this is a value judgment, I agree, but surely we can apply some forms of social science to inform our value judgments. For example, we may as a society make the value judgment that it would be good if every child received a basic K–12 education. I agree with this value judgment, and would add to it the value judgment that it would be equally important for every child to have a computer and Internet access because that is the future of education. So we share that value judgment. However, the next question is a pragmatic one: who is going to pay for this education (and computers/Internet)? Parents? Churches? NGOs? Charities? Government? If the latter — the value judgment we have made — then do parents get to choose among the various government schools of where to send their children? (No.) Do parents who choose to send their children to private schools have to also pay for government schools? (Yes.) Is that fair? You make that value judgment. I don’t think that it is fair. To be consistent, if you are pro-choice on abortion you should also be pro-choice on education. The deeper value judgment here is being pro-choice about everything. Choice = freedom.

Some correspondents hated the political diagram because it seems to elevate libertarianism above the traditional left-right spectrum. Okay, then you come up with something other than the left-right linear spectrum to visualize where someone would fall on that line who is socially liberal and fiscally conservative. You draw it and I’ll publish it in a future blog.

Some people hate the word “libertarian.” I’m not crazy about it either, but haven’t thought of a better label. Labels are useful because they enable people to take cognitive shortcuts, but they also lead to shortcuts to nuanced thinking about what someone believes. “Oh, you’re one of those…” full stop. We all do this, of course, but I call myself a libertarian for the same reason I call myself a feminist, an atheist, and a pro-choicer — because it is the accepted language and we have to communicate ideas with language. But I much prefer to be assessed on specific issues.

Several of you said that I am a victim of one of my own central tenets of baloney detection: the confirmation bias, where we look for and find confirmatory evidence for what we already believe and ignore the disconfirmatory evidence. Yes, I will admit, I do this. Everyone does, and we must guard against it, especially when it comes to religion, politics, and economics. To combat this problem, I read the conservative Wall Street Journal and the liberal Los Angeles Times. I listen to such conservative talk radio hosts as Hugh Hewitt and Dennis Praeger as well as the very liberal Bill Maher. I have read Karl Marx’s books as deeply and carefully as I have read Adam Smith’s books. I have read a host of books from liberal and conservative and libertarian authors on the current economic meltdown. And although I have a few libertarian and conservative friends, because I work in the sciences and in publishing, the vast majority of my friends, acquaintances, staff, co-workers, and colleagues are liberals who I can assure you are never shy about letting me know where they think I’ve gone off the political or economic rails.

Finally, let me add that one of the appealing things to me about the libertarian worldview is that it is optimistic, uplifting, and most importantly (to me) anti-elitist. I’m in favor of doing whatever we can to allow the little guy to succeed and to break up power blocs that prevent the average Joe or Jane from reaching their full potential. The Constitutional divisions of power in our Democracy — emulated by many others around the world — are a huge improvement from centuries past that allowed or enabled some to succeed at the expense of others. That was a zero-sum world. Over the past 200 years the spread of democracy and capitalism has done more toward achieving a Nonzero world than anything else — more people in more places more of the time have more power and liberty and wealth than any time in the previous four millennium. Therefore, the more we can spread democracy and capitalism the better off more of us will be more of the time.


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Fear & Loathing (and Freedom & Skepticism) in Las Vegas

photo by Daniel Loxton

TAM7 boasted over 1000 attendees.

The Amazing Meeting 7 and Freedom Fest were both held over the same weekend in Las Vegas, the former at the new and beautiful South Point Hotel and the latter at the classic old Bally’s hotel and casino. I spoke at both and attended as many talks as I could fit in while shuttling back and forth between events. Some impressions:

Business is definitely down in Vegas. Every taxi driver I asked put the downturn at about 35% lower than normal, and between the two casinos we passed the new MGM-backed casino under construction but now abandoned due to lack of funding to complete construction. There were never any taxi lines and room rates at both hotels were well below the normal too-high rates. Nevertheless, there seemed to be plenty of folks at the slots and tables, trying to recover their 401K losses, obviously having never taken a basic course in probabilities (my system: I give the casino $500 and ask if I can play for a couple of hours: “you’re going to get the money anyway and I just want to have some fun.” I’ve never had success with this sytem.).

TAM had about 1000 people in attendance, while FreedomFest had about 1500. Shortly after I arrived I was called up for a private meeting with Randi, who later announced to the group that he had recently undergone a serious medical procedure to rid his body of something that wasn’t suppose to be there, and it looks like they got it all but just in case he’ll have to undergo chemo treatment after TAM, just to insure that there are no renegade cells floating about. When I saw Randi in his hotel room, his voice was a little weak and he seemed frail, yet the next morning when he stood at the podium to address his fans, he came to life, energized by the standing O he received, and suddenly his voice switched to his rich sonorous self as he regaled the audience with tales of his latest exploits among medics and psychics. Randi is such an experienced and professional entertainer that he just comes to life when there’s an audience. At age 80, I know that Randi is going to have a tough time of it (chemo is nasty business indeed), but he’s one of the toughest guys I know so I’m confident that we’ll have Randi around for many more years.

Randi, Penn, Teller, Ray Hyman, Jamy Ian Swiss. Only the scientist has two names; the magicians have either one or three names. Um…

Randi, Penn, Teller, Ray Hyman, Jamy Ian Swiss. Only the scientist has two names; the magicians have either one or three names. Um…

On Friday afternoon I spoke at FreedomFest on myths about Darwin, including: that Darwin was an atheist (he was an agnostic); that acceptance of evolution theory leads to atheism (obviously not since 40% of American scientists — all of whom accept evolution — believe in God); that Darwin was always an evolutionist and got that from his grandfather Erasmus (Darwin was a creationist before and during the voyage of the Beagle and didn’t become an evolutionist until nearly a year after his return); that Darwin was a racial egalitarian (he was against slavery, and although he was very progressive in his social attitudes about race compared to his contemporaries, compared to people today Darwin, like his birthday twin Abraham Lincoln, did not believe that the races were biologically equal); that evolution is progressive and is “leading” somewhere (it isn’t leading anywhere — there are certain convergences in evolution, such as locomotion, hearing, seeing, etc., but there is nothing inevitable about, say, human intelligence); that evolution is “red in tooth and claw” and is nothing more than nasty, competitive, brutish, and bloody (a successful strategy for survival among social animals is pro-social, cooperative, and involves mutual aid among members of a group); and that conservatives should not accept evolution because it doesn’t explain human nature as Christians see it (in fact, as I argued in Why Darwin Matters, the Christian view of human nature is very similar to that of a Darwinian human nature). My talk seemed to go over well, perhaps because I share similar political and economic beliefs as the conservatives and libertarians at FreedomFest, so to have “one of their own” explain why it’s okay to accept evolutionary theory perhaps makes it all easier to swallow.

diagram by David Nolan

diagram by David Nolan

Likewise, I think that my talk at TAM Saturday morning, entitled “Rise Above: Toward a Type I Civilization,” was equally well received. At least everyone who said something to me afterwards seemed positive about it (perhaps my critics will just email me later). Even the famed magician Jamy Ian Swiss, who is most definitely not a libertarian, said he liked my talk. When I said “really?”, he responded, “yes, absolutely; of course, I still disagree with you on many points,” which I took as a compliment. During my talk I put up a side of a well-known heuristic diagram for classifying yourself politically, that moves beyond the traditional left — right spectrum.

I then asked for a show of hands among the 1,007 people in the audience of who identifies themselves as left of center (I estimated about 80%), libertarian (I estimated about 20%), and right of center (a grand total of 4 people raised their hands!). I then reviewed the standard left-right stereotypes of what liberals think of conservatives, and vice versa:

Conservatives are a bunch of gun-totting, Hummer-driving, hard-drinking, Bible-thumping, black-and-white-thinking, fist-pounding, shoe-stomping, morally-hypocritical blowhards.

Naturally, this received a huge round of applause, along with hooting and hollering in agreement. But, to my surprise, so too did my characterization of what conservatives think of liberals:

Liberals are a bunch of tree-hugging, whale-saving, hybrid-driving, sandle-wearing, bottled-water-drinking, ACLU-supporting, flip-flopping, wishy-washy, Namby Pamby bedwetters.

I then suggested that we need to “rise above” such stereotypes, and proposed a solution based on the research by the University of Virginia psychologist Jonathan Haidt and his model of morality that allows us to avoid being trapped by such linear left-right thinking in which one side is right and the other side is wrong. You can read my summary of Jonathan’s research in last week’s blog, but recall that Haidt argues that there are 5 foundations of morality:

  1. Harm-Care (do not harm others, people should be cared for)
  2. Fairness-Reciprocity (justice for all)
  3. In-group Loyalty (we live in a dangerous tribal world so we need group unity)
  4. Authority-Respect (a free society depends on the rule of law and law-and-order)
  5. Purity-Sanctity (conservatives: sex, drugs, rock’n’roll; liberals: food, environment)

Instead of one side being right and the other wrong, I think we would all be better served if we recognize that liberals and conservatives emphasize different moral values: Liberals are high on the Harm-Care and Fairness-Reciprocity dimensions, but low on Loyalty, Authority-Respect, Purity-Sanctity; whereas conservatives are about equal on the 5 dimensions (although slightly less on Harm-Care and Fairness-Reciprocity, slightly higher on Loyalty, Authority-Respect, Purity-Sanctity).

photo by Daniel Loxton

Volunteers Jason Loxton and Jillian Baker staff the Skeptics Society table.

As an example of this difference between emphasizing individual v. group morality, I showed a clip from one of my favorite films, Rob Reiner’s 1992 A Few Good Men, in which Jack Nicholson’s character — the battle-hardened Marine Colonel Nathan R. Jessup — is being cross-examined by Tom Cruise’s naive rookie Navy lawyer Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee. In the context of Haidt’s moral dimensions, I think of Kaffee as the liberal and Jessup as the conservative. Kaffee is defending two Marines accused of killing a fellow soldier named Santiago at Guantanamo base on Cuba. He thinks Jessup ordered a “code red,” an off-the-books command to rough up a lazy Marine trainee in need of discipline, and that matters got tragically out of hand. Kaffee wants answers to specific questions about the incident. Jessup wants to lecture him on the meaning of freedom and the need to defend it. The ensuing dialogue includes Jessup’s penetrating testimony about the true nature of human nature:

Jessup: You want answers?!

Kaffee: I want the truth.

Jessup: You can’t handle the truth!

Jessup (continuing): Son, we live in a world that has walls. And those walls have to be guarded by men with guns. Who’s gonna do it? You? I have a greater responsibility than you can possibly fathom. You weep for Santiago and you curse the Marines. You have that luxury. You have the luxury of not knowing what I know: That Santiago’s death, while tragic, probably saved lives. And my existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, saves lives.

You don’t want the truth. Because deep down, in places you don’t talk about at parties, you want me on that wall. You need me on that wall. We use words like honor, code, loyalty … we use these words as the backbone to a life spent defending something. You use ’em as a punchline. I have neither the time nor the inclination to explain myself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very freedom I provide, then questions the manner in which I provide it. I’d prefer you just said thank you and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you pick up a weapon and stand a post. Either way, I don’t give a damn what you think you’re entitled to.

Who is the man and what is he thinking? Write your answer in the comments section.

Who is the man and what is he thinking? Write your answer in the comments section.

The fact is we need all five moral dimensions. Personally, I tend more toward the liberal emphasis on individual fairness and justice and freedom, and I think our inner tribalisms are divisive and set people against one another, and so overemphasizing loyalty to group and nation can be dangerous. But ever since 9/11 I’ve come to see that we do live in a world with walls, and that those walls need to be guarded by men with guns. And when it comes to religious tribal fundamentalisms I think liberals agree with me on this point (certainly Sam Harris in The End of Faith and Richard Dawkins in The God Delusion make the point that fundamentalist religions are dangerous, and both are liberals).

In the long run, however, we need to rise above all this tribalism, and that’s what I mean by my lecture subtitle: “toward a Type I Civilization.” Next week I’ll outline the Kardashev scale of typing civilizations and suggest how we can move from where we are now to a global Type I civilization.

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Left, Right & Center

Liberals, Conservatives & Libertarians

In last week’s post I mentioned my trip to Santiago, Chile, for a conference on evolutionary economics hosted by Alvaro Fischer, in conjunction with the year-long series of celebrations of Darwin’s 200th birthday.

The three main speakers at the conference were Ullrich Witt, a liberal economist from the Max Planck Institute in Jena, Germany (part of the old Iron Curtain East Germany), Kevin McCabe, a conservative economist from George Mason University, known for its free market leanings (unlike most universities and colleges in America), and myself, a “radical for liberty” (pace Ayn Rand’s self-description as a “radical for capitalism”). Our talks were formal, professional, and technical, but the lively action was in the table talk over meals. I very much enjoyed hearing the opinions of these learned economists, even while vehemently disagreeing (mainly with Witt). Since McCabe and I mostly agreed on everything, I’ll briefly summarize Witt’s lecture, which I think explains how he and I differ on the issue of the collective v. the individual.

Witt’s Lecture

Ullrich Witt’s talk was entitled “Animal Instincts and Human Sentiments: On the Origin and Evolution of Economic Institutions.” What is an institution? Do institutions have something in common? How similar/different are the post office, the government, or the law? Does a Darwinian perspective help us understand the origin and evolution of institutions? Yes. Proto institutions arose in early hominids: instinct based and subject to natural selection and adapted to the environment. How do we know? No fossils! Observe higher animals to infer what most likely developed in early hominid bands.

For example, hunting requires cooperation, and many mammals employ joint chasing tactics (conventions), have a set of rules about feeding dominance/subordination, show rules for food sharing, and the like, and these are all examples of proto institutions (genetically fixed, shaped by natural selection, adapted to survival conditions similar to those of early hominids).

The scope of cooperation in social situations is constrained by social structures. Proto institutions in proto humans probably began with coordinating hunts, uniting to fight against rival clans, etc. Observational learning is a way of transmitting knowledge and cultural adaptations in interactions and these proto-institutions. Genetically based forms of proto-institutions emerged in human evolution to ease the coordination (when conflict is absent) through recognizing self in others as well as the intentionality of others.

Cultural success accrued to populations when we needed to settle down and make the transition to agriculture. It was here, during the Neolithic Revolution, that informal institutes spontaneously emerged from our genetic architecture for cooperation. Formal institutions must be purposely created for the coordination of behavior in interactions. Natural domination leads to proto institutions as a way of preventing others from contesting domination (thereby preserving the domination rent from competition).

Thomas Hobbes’ “Leviathan” is an institute grounded in a social contract that legitimizes authority and enforces constitutional constraints on personal power. This governmental leviathan was necessary as populations grew too large for informal institutions to be effective in governing behavior. The concept of human rights is a radically new social model deviating from inherited dispositions and yet presupposes nonetheless formal institutions with coercive power.

At Wit’s End with Witt (and other liberals)

At the core of our disagreement, I think, are several fundamentals: Witt emphasizes the institution, the society, the collective. I emphasize the individual, the person, and the fundamental rights of the individual from abuses and usurpations of the collective—what John Stuart Mill called “the tyranny of the majority” and for which our founding fathers brilliantly constructed the Bill of Rights. The danger of collectives is mob psychology. It is so easy to convince ourselves, especially when we are in a group, that we are right and “they” are wrong.

Most liberals would agree with me on this point (I’m socially liberal myself, agreeing on free speech, separation of church and state, pro-choice, etc.), but would differ on what the individual has a right to. Here I make a distinction between liberty rights and benefits rights. Liberty rights are the rights we have not to have our liberties taken away from us: the right to believe what we want, the right to free speech, the right to protest, the right to practice whatever religion we want (or even not to practice any religion at all!), the right to own private property, the right to a fair trial, etc. At the core of liberty rights is what I call the Principle of Liberty: the freedom to think, believe, and act as we choose so long as our thoughts, beliefs, and actions do not infringe on the equal freedom of others.

Where I (and most conservatives) disagree with liberals is on the issue of benefits rights, that is, the right to have certain things given to individuals by the state: the right to an education, the right to a living wage, the right to paid vacations, the right to three square meals a day and a roof over our heads, the right to retirement pay (Social Security), the right to healthcare (Medicare and Medicaid and whatever is coming next), etc. I think people should have the liberty to procure these benefits themselves without interference from other people or the state, but the problem with the state granting them as “rights” is that someone has to pay for all these benefits, and that someone is all of us, adding the always inefficient government as a middle-man to deliver these goods and services, which can almost always be done more efficiently through the private sector.

A Solution to the Left-Right Dilemma

One conceptual solution to this left-right difference has been nicely outlined by the University of Virginia psychologist Jonathan Haidt through his model of morality that allows us to avoid being trapped by what he calls a “moral matrix.” Haidt argues that there are 5 foundations of morality:

  1. Harm–Care (do not harm others, people should be cared for)
  2. Fairness–Reciprocity (justice for all)
  3. In-group Loyalty (we live in a dangerous tribal world so we need group unity)
  4. Authority–Respect (a free society depends on the rule of law and law-and-order)
  5. Purity–Sanctity (conservatives: sex, drugs, rock’n’roll; liberals: food, environment)

In a study encompassing over 23,000 subjects from countries all over the world, Haidt found:

  • Liberals are high on the Harm-Care and Fairness-Reciprocity dimensions, low on Loyalty, Authority-Respect, Purity-Sanctity.
  • Conservatives are about equal on the 5 dimensions (slightly less on Harm-Care and Fairness-Reciprocity, much higher on Loyalty, Authority-Respect, Purity-Sanctity.
  • Liberals question authority, celebrate diversity, keep your hands off my body. Liberals speak for the weak and oppressed, they want change and justice, even at the risk of chaos.
  • Conservatives emphasize institutions and traditions; they want order even at the cost of those at the bottom. Edmund Burke: “The restraints on men, as well as their liberties, are to be reckoned among their rights.”
  • Liberals and conservatives both bring something to the table. Libs and Cons as yin/yang.
  • Vishnu the Preserver (stability–conservative) and Shiva the Destroyer (change–liberal).

Haidt cites a study by Ernst Fehr and Simon Gachter, (“Altruistic Punishment in Humans,” Nature, 415, 137–140, 2002), employing a cooperation game in which people can give money into a commons. When there is no punishment for “free riding” (not giving but receiving the benefits) they discovered that cooperation decays fairly quickly within the first 6 rounds. But in the 7th round Fehr and Gachter allowed the subjects to allocate some of their money to punish free riders, and this they did, which immediately triggered a rise in the levels of cooperation and giving. Conclusion: it helps to have some sort of punishment to encourage people in big groups to cooperate.

One of these sources of control and authority and punishment is religion. The other is government. Conservatives prefer the former, liberals the latter. The problem we libertarians have with both institutions is that our moral minds evolved to unite us into teams, divide us against other teams, and convince ourselves that we are right and the other group is wrong. And that has dire consequences, from 12/7/41 to 9/11/01.

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The Other ‘L’ Word: Why I am a Libertarian

In a nutshell, I am a libertarian because conservatives are a bunch of gun-totting, Hummer-driving, hard-drinking, Bible-thumping, black-and-white-thinking, fist-pounding, shoe-stomping, morally-hypocritical blowhards, and liberals are a bunch of tree-hugging, whale-saving, hybrid-driving, sandle-wearing, bottled-water-drinking, ACLU-supporting, flip-flopping, wishy-washy, Namby Pamby bedwetters. There’s a better way. Libertarianism.

Michael Shermer’s recent Skepticblog posts about libertarianism have drawn an enormous volume of commentary. To better assess the tone of the comments, Junior Skeptic editor Daniel Loxton sat down with Skepticblog webmaster William Bull to undertake an informal content analysis for internal review.

This was a lengthy, brute-force task. All of Michael Shermer’s posts were parceled out to a team of volunteers (one reviewer per thread) who read every single comment — and assigned each of those thousands of comments a positive, neutral, or negative rating based on simple guidelines (“NEUTRAL: Too close to call, a non-sequitur, or expresses something not directly related to the topic of the author’s post”).

Individual commenters were allowed only one unique “vote” per thread.

The results of this back-of-the-envelope analysis (current to May 8th) are presented below, along with Dr. Shermer’s thanks for the constructive comments.

click thumbnail to view a graphic display of all unique positive, negative, and neutral comments

click thumbnail to view a graphic display of net audience reaction (positive minus negative)

Okay, now that I have your attention, let me address the constructive comments posted in response to last week’s blog post on how I became a libertarian, and this week explain why. But first, what is a libertarian? I hate labels, and as you can see from the comments people make certain assumptions based on the label instead of the person and particular beliefs. Nevertheless, labels are cognitive shortcuts, so the shortest thumbnail is this: a libertarian is socially liberal and fiscally conservative. It’s an alternative to the standard left-right linear spectrum, and it allows one to nuance positions on different issues. For example, I am pro-choice, pro gay marriage, and pro separation of church and state, which makes me a card-carrying liberal, right? Well, I am also in favor of lower taxes, cutting welfare programs, privatizing social security, and replacing the income tax with either a flat tax or abolishing it altogether and replacing it with a national income tax, which makes me a card-carrying conservative, right? So what am I?

(Parenthetically, I find it troubling that most atheists, agnostics, skeptics, free thinkers, humanists and secular humanists are liberal. The reason I find this troubling is not because I am not a liberal (although as noted above, I agree with liberals on many issues), but because most people think that the skeptical/humanist movement is (or should be) politically neutral. If it were, there would be roughly a 50/50 split of liberals and conservatives. But it isn’t, and I think that’s a problem. Humanists, for example, are supposed to be in favor of all humans, but when virtually our entire constituency votes Democratic, that means we are missing half the human population! There’s something wrong with this picture. I’m not saying that we should all be libertarians; only that a more politically diversified membership would indicate that our movement is more politically balanced. When I point out this discrepancy to my liberal friends and colleagues, they predictably explain the left-leaning bias as due to the fact that liberals are right! Of course… My conservative friends say the same thing when I note the conservative bias in businesses and commerce related organizations.)

Basically, libertarians are for freedom and liberty for individuals, and we prefer not to have the state involved in either our bedrooms or our boardrooms. This is not a simple hedonistic “I want to move to Idaho and smoke pot and watch porn and the rest of you all be damned” (although I’m sure there are libertarians who want precisely this). Rather, libertarianism is based on the principle that individuals should be free to choose for themselves. Libertarianism is grounded in the Principle of Freedom: All people are free to think, believe, and act as they choose, as long as they do not infringe on the equal freedom of others.

There is a very simple reason why libertarians do not like government: it is not just that government is so inefficient (although it is), or that it elevates graft and corruption to new levels of bureaucratic efficiency (although it does), or that it treats its citizens like we’re a bunch of juvenile helpless pinhead morons in need of a nanny to take care of us from womb to tomb (we aren’t and we don’t); it is because it infringes on our freedoms to choose.

Of course, the devil is in the details of what constitutes “infringement,” but as I outlined in The Mind of the Market, there are at least a dozen essentials to freedom:

  1. The rule of law.
  2. Property rights.
  3. Economic stability through a secure and trustworthy banking and monetary system.
  4. A reliable infrastructure and the freedom to move about the country.
  5. Freedom of speech and the press.
  6. Freedom of association.
  7. Mass education.
  8. Protection of civil liberties.
  9. A robust military for protection of our liberties from attacks by other states.
  10. A potent police force for protection of our freedoms from attacks by other people within the state.
  11. A viable legislative system for establishing fair and just laws.
  12. An effective judicial system for the equitable enforcement of those fair and just laws.

Under our current system of politics government clearly has a role in most (but not all) of these 12, but only in the capacity of what we might call Preventative Rights: preventing others from infringing on our freedoms (taking my property, preventing me from speaking or writing or associating, inhibiting my freedom to exchange with others on a voluntary basis, etc.). By contrast, government should not be in the business of Providing Rights: providing goods and services that require the infringement of our freedoms (e.g., taking my property through taxes to pay for someone else’s education, health care, vacations, paternity leaves, etc.).

Basically I believe in individual choice and responsibility. You make your choices and you are responsible for the consequences of those choices. Of course, we are not just individuals living in isolation; we are spouses and significant others, we are members of families and extended families, we are constituents of social communities, and we are citizens of societies. As such, we have a moral obligation to take care of those who cannot take care of themselves (children, the elderly, the infirm), to help those who cannot help themselves (the mentally ill, severely handicapped), and to give aid and comfort to victims of natural disasters and totalitarian regimes, but through private choice and charity.

It is none of the government’s business who I choose to help and give aid and charity to, and I find it deeply morally repugnant that bureaucratic agencies have the legal right to confiscate my wealth through force or the threat of force (taxes), launder my money and waste most of it to run the government organizations that process my money (with dollops allocated for paying for bridges to nowhere and prostitutes for politicians), and redistribute it to people who I do not know. Libertarians are not uncharitable selfish hedonists; we just want the freedom to choose.

Okay, I know, you’re all sick of hearing about the other “L Word,” so for next week’s blog I’ll write about my experiences at the Thinking Digital conference in Newcastle Upon Tyne, the UK’s version of TED.

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How I Became a Libertarian

In reading through the many critical comments in response to my occasional foray into issues political and economic, readers seem to think that there are two Michael Shermers: Mr. Rational Skeptic and Mr. Kooky Libertarian. I will respond to the specific comments, but let me say at the outset that I do appreciate your skepticism of my libertarian beliefs (hey, we should be skeptical of the skeptics, or else we’re not true skeptics, right?!). Perhaps if I provided some background to how I became a Libertarian you can see that there is just one Michael Shermer, and even if you still disagree with my economics, you’ll at least understand where I’m coming from. And do remember that we libertarians are social liberals just like you (I’m presuming that the vast majority of readers of Skeptic, eSkeptic, and Skepticblog are liberals, which itself is a troubling bias in our readership that I’ll address another time). In the meantime…

In the mid-1970s I was an undergraduate at Pepperdine University, a Church of Christ institution with a strong conservative bent at a time when liberals ruled academe. I matriculated there because I was an evangelical Christian who wanted to be a college professor, so theology seemed like the most appropriate field and Pepperdine had a strong theology department (it didn’t hurt that the campus is located in the majestic Malibu hills overlooking the Pacific Ocean). But I soon discovered that in order to earn a Ph.D. in theology one had to master four dead languages — Hebrew, Greek, Latin, and Aramaic — and since I found even Spanish to be taxing, this made my career choice problematic. When my advisors also warned me about the questionable university job market for theologians, I switched to psychology, where I discovered the language of science, which I both enjoyed and mastered. Theology is based on logical analysis, philosophical disputation, and literary deconstruction. Science is founded on empirical data, statistical analysis, and theory building. To me, the latter seemed like a better method to tell the difference between what is real and what is not, what works and what doesn’t, and in any case meshed will with my cognitive style of thinking — for whatever reason, I can sort through data sets and scientific charts much better than I can logical syllogisms and thought experiments.

My introduction to economics came in my senior year when many of the students in the psychology department were reading a cinderblock of a book entitled Atlas Shrugged, by the novelist-philosopher Ayn Rand. I had never heard of the book or the author, and the novel’s size was so intimidating that I refused to join the ranks of the enthused for months, until social pressure pushed me into taking the plunge. I trudged through the first hundred pages (patience was strongly advised) until the gripping mystery of the man who stopped the motor of the world swept me through the next thousand pages.

I found Atlas Shrugged to be a remarkable book, as so many have. In fact, in 1991 the Library of Congress and the Book of the Month Club surveyed readers about books that “made a difference” in their lives. Atlas Shrugged was rated second only to the Bible.1 What scientist or scholar wouldn’t find resonance with proclamations such as this: “Man cannot survive except by gaining knowledge, and reason is his only means to gain it. Reason is the faculty that perceives, identifies and integrates the material provided by his senses. The task of his senses is to give him the evidence of existence, but the task of identifying it belongs to his reason, his senses tell him only that something is, but what it is must be learned by his mind.”2 Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism was so compelling that it took me two decades to discover what I consider to be the shortcomings in its founding principles, which Rand once outlined (“while standing on one foot”) as: 1. Metaphysics: Objective Reality; 2. Epistemology: Reason; 3. Ethics: Self-interest; 4. Politics: Capitalism.3 I am most troubled by Rand’s theory of human nature as wholly selfish and competitive, defined in Atlas through the famous “oath” pronounced by the novel’s heroes: “I swear — by my life and my love of it — that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.” Science now shows us that, in fact, in addition to being selfish, competitive, and greedy, we also harbor a great capacity for altruism, cooperation, and charity, the evidence for which is now overwhelming from a variety of fields from anthropology to neuroscience. But reading Rand, and absorbing the logic of her case for economic freedom and political liberty (she called herself a “radical for capitalism”), led me to the extensive body of work on the science of markets and economies and the philosophy of liberty and freedom, all of which resonated deeply with my personality and temperament.

I cannot say for certain whether it was the merits of free market economics and fiscal conservatism (which are considerable) that convinced me of its veracity, or if it was my disposition that reverberated so well with its cognitive style. As it is for most belief systems we hold, it was probably a combination of both. I was raised by parents who could best be described as fiscally conservative and socially liberal, which today would be called libertarian, but there was no such label when they were coming of age in the 1940s and 1950s. Products of the depression and motivated by the fear of returning to abject poverty, my parents skipped college and worked full time well into their later years. Throughout my childhood I was inculcated with the fundamental principles of economic conservatism: hard work, personal responsibility, self-determination, financial autonomy, small government, and free markets. Even though they were not in the least religious (as so many conservatives are today), my parents were exceedingly generous to those who were less fortunate — greed is good, but so too is charity.

After Pepperdine, I began a graduate program in experimental psychology at California State University, Fullerton, by which time I had abandoned my religious faith and embraced in its stead the secular values of the Enlightenment and the rigorous methods and provisional truths of science.4 But after two years of enticing rats to press bars in proportion to the frequency and intensity of the reinforcements we gave them, my enthusiasm for practicing this type of science waned while my wonderlust for the real world waxed.5 I went to the campus career development office and inquired what I might do for a living with a Master’s degree. “What are you educated to do?” they inquired. “Train rats,” I replied sardonically. “What else can you do?” they persisted. “Well,” I searched, “I can research and write.” The employment book included a job description for research and writing at Bicycle Dealer Showcase, the trade magazine of the bicycle industry, about which I knew nothing. My first assignment was to attend a press conference hosted by Cycles Peugeot and Michelin Tires in honor of John Marino, a professional bicycle racer who broke the transcontinental record from Los Angeles to New York. I fell in love with the sport, entering my first race that weekend, and for the next two years I learned the business of publishing and the sport of cycling. I wrote articles, sold advertisements, and rode my bike as far and as fast as I could. At the end of 1981 I left the magazine to race full time, supported by corporate sponsors and an adjunct professor’s salary from teaching psychology at Glendale College.

One day in 1981, Marino and I were on a long training ride during which he told me about Andrew Galambos, a retired physicist teaching private courses through his own Free Enterprise Institute, under an umbrella field he called “Volitional Science.” The introductory course was called V-50. This was Econ 101 on free market steroids, an invigoratingly muscular black-and-white world where Adam Smith is good, Karl Marx bad; individualism is good, collectivism bad; free economies are good, mixed economies are bad. The course was popular in Orange County, California (labeled by our neighbors in L.A. County as the “Orange Curtain”), and the time was right with Ronald Reagan as President and conservatives on the ascendant. Where Rand advocated for limited government, Galambos proffered a theory in which everything in society would be privatized until government simply falls into disuse and disappears. Galambos defined freedom as “the societal condition that exists when every individual has full (i.e. 100%) control over his own property,” and a free society as one where “anyone may do anything that he pleases — with no exceptions — so long as his actions affect only his own property; he may do nothing which affects the property of another without obtaining consent of its owner.” Galambos identified three types of property: primordial (one’s life), primary (one’s thoughts and ideas), and secondary (derivatives of primordial and primary property, such as the utilization of land and material goods). Thus, Galambos defined capitalism as “that societal structure whose mechanism is capable of protecting all forms of private property completely.” To realize a truly free society, then, we have merely “to discover the proper means of creating a capitalist society.” In this free society, we are all capitalists.6

Galambos had a massive ego that propelled him to a successful career as a private lecturer, but led him to such ego-inflating pronouncements as his classification of all sciences into physical, biological, and his own “volitional sciences.” His towering intellect took him to great heights of interdisciplinary creativity, but often left him and his students tangled up in contradictions, as when we all had to sign a contract promising that we would not disclose his ideas to anyone, while we were also inveigled to solicit others to enroll. (“You’ve got to take this great course.” “What’s it about?” “I can’t tell you.”) And he had a remarkable ability to lecture for hours without notes in an entertainingly colloquial style, but when two hours stretched into three, and three hours dragged into four, his audiences were never left wanting for more. Most problematic, however, was any hope of translating theory into practice, which is where the rubber meets the road for any economic or political principle. Property definitions are all well and good, but what happens when we cannot agree on property rights infringements? The answer was inevitably something like this: “in a truly free society all such disputes will be peacefully resolved through private arbitration.” Sounds good in theory, but turning theory into practice is never as easy as it sounds in the theory stage.

Nevertheless, I stuck it out to the end, learning more in that one course than I learned in dozens of college courses, absorbing the principles and attempting to apply them in both the academic and business worlds, which I straddled for many years. Marino and I (and our cycling partner Lon Haldeman) turned our cycling passion into a business by founding Race Across America, Inc., with corporate sponsors and a contract from ABC Sports, as well as the nonprofit sanctioning body, Ultra-Marathon Cycling Association. Several appearances on Wide World of Sports gave me the additional recognition and confidence to open Shermer Cycles, a bicycle shop in Arcadia, California. Meanwhile, I expanded my teaching duties by creating new courses in evolutionary theory and the history of ideas at Glendale College.7

Galambos had a protégé named Jay Stuart Snelson, whom I met shortly after taking V-50. Snelson taught courses at the Free Enterprise Institute, but after a falling out with Galambos (a common occurrence in Galambos’ social sphere that also plagued Ayn Rand), Snelson founded his own Institute for Human Progress. To distance himself from Galambos, Snelson’s theory of a free market society was built on the shoulders of what is known as the Austrian School of Economics, most notably the work of the Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises. Mises’ most important work was Human Action, and Snelson’s course was self-consciously built upon it, as gleaned from its title, Principles of Human Action. Snelson demonstrated through a series of scientific principles and historical examples that free market capitalism is unquestionably the most effective means of “optimizing peace, prosperity, and freedom.” As Snelson explained, outlining the countless and varied governmental actions that attenuate freedom: “Freedom exists where the individual’s discretion to choose is not confiscated by interventionism. The free market exists where people have the unrestricted freedom to buy and sell.” Although thieves, thugs, muggers, and murderers confiscate our freedoms, congressmen, senators, governors, and presidents restrict our freedoms on a scale orders of magnitude greater than all private criminals combined. And they do so, Snelson showed, with the best of intentions, because they believe that the “confiscation of the people’s freedom to choose will achieve the greatest satisfaction for the greatest number.” With such good intentions, and the political power to enforce them, states have intervened in business, education, transportation, communications, health services, environmental protection, crime prevention, free trade overseas, and countless other areas.

How these services could all be successfully privatized was the primary thrust of Snelson’s work. He believed that the social system that optimizes peace, prosperity, and freedom is one “where anyone at any time can choose to produce or provide any product or service, hire any employee, choose any production, distribution, or sales site, and offer to sell products or services at any price.” The only allowable restrictions are from the market itself. So employed, systematically throughout the world, a free market society would, as a plaque posted at the Panama Canal (that also served as the Institute’s motto) proclaims, Aperire Terram Gentibus, “to open the world to all people.”

These were heady words for a heady time in my life before formal commitments to career and family were congealed. For several years I taught Snelson’s principles course, along with my own courses on the history of science and the history of war. I also developed a monthly discussion group called the “Lunar Society” — after the famous 18th-century Lunar Society of Birmingham — centered on books such as Human Action. As a social scientist in search of a research project, I accepted Ludwig von Mises’ challenge: “One must study the laws of human action and social cooperation as the physicist studies the laws of nature.” We were going to build a new science, and out of that science we would build a new society. I even penned a “Declaration of Freedom” and a speech entitled “I have a Dream II.” What could be grander?!

Well, as Yogi Berra once said: “In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. In practice there is.” I soon discovered that Berra’s principle applies in spades to the economic sphere. We live in a world rather different from that envisioned by my visionary mentors, so I turned my attention to the writings of economists from the Austrian School, and their protégés at the University of Chicago, who were decidedly becoming more mainstream in the 1980s as the country began a systematic shift toward the right.

In 1987 I decided that if I wanted to make an impact on the world through ideas I was going to have to give up my competitive cycling career and complete my graduate studies. I switched fields from psychology to the history of science, and in 1991 I graduated from Claremont Graduate School with a Ph.D., the union card and entrée into academe and professional science. I began teaching at Occidental College, a prestigious four-year liberal arts college in Los Angeles, where I discovered that 1960’s-style liberalism was still thriving. As a young faculty member without tenure, I kept my libertarian mouth shut, and on the weekends joined Jay Snelson in teaching seminars on free market economics at his Institute.

Through Snelson’s institute, and the ideas proffered by the Austrian and Chicago schools, I found a scientific foundation for my economic and political preferences. The founders of the Austrian and Chicago schools of economics penned a number of books and essays whose ideas burned into my brain a clear understanding of right and wrong human action in the sphere of economics. One especially influential essay on my thinking was the wickedly raffish The Petition of the Candlemakers, by Frédéric Bastiat, in which the French economist and social commentator satirizes special interest groups, in this case candlemakers, who petition the government for special favors:

We are suffering from the ruinous competition of a foreign rival who apparently works under conditions so far superior to our own for the production of light, that he is flooding the domestic market with it at an incredibly low price…. This rival … is none other than the sun…. We ask you to be so good as to pass a law requiring the closing of all windows, dormers, skylights, inside and outside shutters, curtains, casements, bull’s-eyes, deadlights and blinds; in short, all openings, holes, chinks, and fissures.

Bastiat also taught me the difference between what is seen and what is not seen when governments intervene in the marketplace. A public-works bridge, for example, is seen by all and appreciated by its users; what is not seen are all the products that would have been produced by the monies that were taxed out of private hands in order to finance the public project. It is not just that individual liberties are violated whenever governments interfere with freedom of choice in the economic realm, but that, in fact, the net result is a loss not just for the individuals, but for the collective for which the government action was originally intended.

I read Friedrich Hayek’s The Constitution of Liberty and The Road to Serfdom, I absorbed Henry Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson, an exceptional summary of free market economics, and I found Milton Friedman’s Free to Choose to be one of the clearest expositions of economic theory ever penned, and his PBS documentary series by the same name — introduced by the most muscular libertarian in history, Arnold Schwarzenegger — was so powerful that I purchased the series on video and watched the episodes over and over. And first among equals in the giants of libertarian thought who most shaped my thinking was Ludwig von Mises, the spiritus rector of the modern libertarian movement, most notably his magisterial work Human Action.8 Mises’ story is as instructive as it is inspirational. Mises was born in 1881 within the then powerful Austro-Hungarian Empire, and studied law and economics at the University of Vienna under Friedrich von Wieser and Eugen von Böhm-Bawerk, both followers of Carl Menger, the founder of the Austrian School of Economics. After serving as an artillery officer on the Russian front in World War I, Mises earned international recognition for his first major book, Socialism, where he spelled out the problems with “economic calculation” in a planned socialist economy. In capitalism, prices are determined from below by individuals freely exchanging in the marketplace and are in constant flux; in socialism, prices are determined from above by government fiat and are slow to change. In fact, Mises demonstrated that socialist economies depend on capitalist economies to determine what prices should be assigned. And they do so cumbersomely.9

In March, 1938, Hitler marched into Vienna, and Mises promptly marched out to the United States, where he began his long and lonely struggle against economic and political tyranny, a lone advocate of freedom in an increasingly socialistic society. The problem, Mises argued, is that interventionism leads to more interventionism. If you can intervene to protect individuals from dangerous drugs, for example, what about dangerous ideas? The following passage resonated with me because his analogue from the physical to the ideological is so effective in conveying the central message of freedom and liberty:

Opium and morphine are certainly dangerous and habit forming drugs. But once a principle is admitted that it is the duty of government to protect the individual against his own foolishness, no serious objections can be advanced against further encroachments. A good case could be made out in favor of the prohibition of alcohol and nicotine. And why limit the government’s benevolent providence to the protection of the individual’s body only? Is not the harm a man can inflict on his mind and soul even more disastrous than bodily evils? Why not prevent him from reading bad books and seeing bad plays, from looking at bad paintings and statues and from hearing bad music?10

At the end of almost 900 pages of mind-opening economic revelations, Mises concludes Human Action triumphantly:

The truth is that capitalism has not only multiplied population figures but at the same time improved the people’s standard of living in an unprecedented way. Neither economic thinking nor historical experience suggest that any other social system could be as beneficial to the masses as capitalism. The results speak for themselves. The market economy needs no apologists and propagandists. It can apply to itself the words of Sir Christopher Wren’s epitaph in St. Paul’s: Si monumentum requires, circumspice. [“If you seek his monument, look around.”]11

Although capitalism may not need apologists and propagandists, it does need a scientific foundation. In this sense, then, my entire career has been building toward this project, and my tenth book, The Mind of the Market, lays down a scientific foundation for capitalism through three new sciences: behavioral economics, neuroeconomics, and evolutionary economics. It is my goal now to continuing construction on the libertarian edifice, and perhaps one day even attempt to translate theory into practice through politics … libertarian politics of course.


  1. ^ After the Bible and Atlas Shrugged were The Road Less Traveled by M. Scott Peck, To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien, Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, The Book of Mormon, The Feminine Mystique by Betty Friedan, A Gift from the Sea by Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Man’s Search for Meaning by Victor Frankl, Passages by Gail Sheehy, and When Bad Things Happen to Good People by Harold S. Kushner.
  2. ^ Rand, Ayn. 1957. Atlas Shrugged. New York: Random House, p. 1016.
  3. ^ In my 1997 book, Why People Believe Weird Things, I devoted a chapter to the cult-like following that developed around Rand and her philosophy (“The Unlikeliest Cult in History” I called it), in an attempt to show that extremism of any kind, even the sort that the eschews cultish behavior, can become irrational. I cited the description of Rand’s inner circle by Nathaniel Branden, Rand’s chosen intellectual heir, where he listed the central tenets to which followers were to adhere, including: “Ayn Rand is the greatest human being who has ever lived. Atlas Shrugged is the greatest human achievement in the history of the world. Ayn Rand, by virtue of her philosophical genius, is the supreme arbiter in any issue pertaining to what is rational, moral, or appropriate to man’s life on earth. No one can be a good Objectivist who does not admire what Ayn Rand admires and condemn what Ayn Rand condemns. No one can be a fully consistent individualist who disagrees with Ayn Rand on any fundamental issue.” (Branden, Nathaniel. 1989. Judgment Day: My Years With Ayn Rand. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, pp. 255-256.) Many of the characteristics of a cult, in fact, seemed to fit what the followers of Objectivism believed, most notably veneration of the leader, belief in the inerrancy and omniscience of the leader, and commitment to the absolute truth and absolute morality as defined by the belief system.
  4. ^ My religious conversion and deconversion are recounted in Shermer, Michael. 2000. How We Believe: Science, Skepticism, and the Search for God. New York: Henry Holt/Times Books.
  5. ^ Shermer, Michael. 1978. Choice in Rats as a Function of Reinforcer Intensity and Quality. “A Thesis Presented to the Faculty of California State University, Fullerton, in Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Arts in Psychology.” I was testing the “matching law,” which predicts that organisms will apportion behaviors in direct relation to payoffs; in our experiment, for example, a 16 percent sucrose reinforcement (sugar water) on the left bar should produce twice as many bar presses as the 8 percent sucrose reinforcement on the right bar. It almost did, requiring a slight modification to the matching law equation. I had a hard time seeing how I was going to change the world doing this kind of science.
  6. ^ Galambos never published his long-promised book in his lifetime, so my summary of his theory comes from my own extensive notes from the V-50 class, and a series of three-by-five leaflets he printed called “Thrust for Freedom,” numbered sequentially and presenting the definitions quoted here. In 1999, Galambos’ estate issued Vol. 1 of Sic Itur Ad Astra (The Way to the Stars), a 942-page tome published by The Universal Scientific Publications Company, Inc. Galambos’ dream was to be a space entrepreneur and fly customers to the moon. In his logic, in order to realize this dream he believed that space exploration had to be privatized, which meant that society itself, in its entirety, would have to be privatized.
  7. ^ I recount my cycling experiences and the founding of the Ultra-Marathon Cycling Association and the Race Across America in: Shermer, Michael. 1985. Sport Cycling. Chicago: Contemporary Books; and in Shermer, Michael. 1989. Race Across America: the Agonies and Glories of the World’s Longest and Cruelest Bicycle Race. Waco, TX: WRS Publishing.
  8. ^ Bastiat, Frédéric. 1995. “The Petition of the Candlemakes” and “What is Seen and What is Not Seen,” in Selected Essays on Political Economy. George B. de Huszar, ed. Irvington-on-Hudson, N.Y.: Foundation for Economic Education.

    Hayek, F. A. 1944. The Road to Serfdom. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    Hayek, F. A. 1960. The Constitution of Liberty. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

    Hazlitt, Henry. 1946 (1979). Economics in One Lesson. New York: Harper and Brothers.

    Friedman, Milton. 1980. Free to Choose: A Personal Statement. New York: Harcourt.

    Mises, Ludwig von. 1949 (1966). Human Action, 3rd ed. Chicago: Contemporary Books.
  9. ^ Mises, Ludwig von. 1981. Socialism. Indianapolis: Liberty Classics. See also: Rothbard, Murray. 1980. The Essential Ludwig von Mises. Auburn, AL: The Ludwig von Mises Institute of Auburn University.
  10. ^ Ibid., p. 860.
  11. ^ Ibid., p. 854.
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