Stuck.

This might be more of a rant than a legitimate post. Bear with me, kids.

I love self-improvement everything. Books, podcasts, Twitter personalities – you name it. (If you’re on Twitter, please follow Ed Latimore. We’re not affiliated at all, but he’s the bomb dot com – great for hard-ass inspiration.) I love thinking about what I can do to be a better person, a better friend, family member, coworker, etc. If you read my post about podcast recommendations, you probably already figured this out.

I have devoted a serious portion of my life over the last couple of years to being better and doing better. To say that it has been easy would be a lie because it has involved some difficult points of facing down my own shadow, and I’m definitely not finished with it yet. Well, you’re never done with the shadow. But I have made a lot of progress, and I’m happy to say that good things have happened in my life as a result of my commitment to being better. Or maybe I just see the good things more easily.

I would say that probably the biggest problem for most people, including me, is procrastination and general inaction. People have wishes, not goals. They say things lie, “I wish I could go to Bermuda this year,” or, “I wish I had a great boy-/girlfriend in my life.” They don’t realize that you have to put in work to get these things. I have bemoaned my seemingly eternal singleton state, but the honest truth is that I’m divorced with three kids and I’m fat. The guys aren’t going to be beating down my door. The kids are non-negotiable, so I figure my best shot at getting laid regularly is to become a workout MILF. Truth hurts, man.

I do love to procrastinate, but my main problem is that I’m an intensely cerebral person. Please don’t take that to mean that I think I’m smarter than everyone else because I really don’t. I do think I’m a bit more inquisitive than average, but being intellectual does not equal having a high IQ. Basically, I just live in my head. I could read and write all day and be a mostly happy person. I do enjoy some socialization sometimes, but I’m happiest when I’m sitting somewhere comfortable with a stack of books, reading and learning about things that interest me. I would say that I should have been a professor, but the way college campuses are going, I think I’d end up being tarred and feathered.

The other side to my inaction is fear, which is true for pretty much anyone. Taking risks doesn’t usually mean that someone is unafraid, but rather they refuse to let fear hold them back, and that is all the difference between success and failure. If you never try, it is certain that you will never succeed. Even when I really want something, I have to force myself to face down my fear of rejection. Yes, rejection. I am afraid of failure, for sure, but I’m far more afraid of social rejection, which drives me completely insane. I hate the idea that I might be beholden to someone else’s opinion, and I know that I am.

Nevertheless, I push forward. I am working on something in my private life that is going to require some amount of rejection straight from the get-go, and it is going to be hard and will undoubtedly entail many awkward moments. But it is something that I want to do, and so I’m going to do it. I am not going to let someone else’s attitude bother me. The subject is too important.

In light of all of this, I have a couple of things that drive me completely batshit crazy anymore: negative attitude and shooting down potential options before research. I can’t stand people complaining about things that are easily amended, especially when it’s due almost entirely to a lack of self-awareness, and I think it’s ridiculous that there are so many folks that are down on the world. We live in an amazing time, and people need to find their gratitude. They also need to stop making lame excuses for why something won’t work.

When I start making suggestions to people when they are complaining about something, and they shoot down all of my ideas without offering up something in its place, I know immediately that they aren’t serious about making a change. This is frustrating and disappointing, but ultimately there is nothing that you can do to help or save someone else. They must make the choice to save themselves. Most people will not make that choice.

I have had to make some tough choices lately. I have had to do some things that I didn’t want to do in order to free up time and money to devote to getting ahead. But I consider that it will be sacrifice well made, and I will make amends for any harm done. I made that promise a long time ago.

There is this stereotype about libertarians generally and anarcho-capitalists most particularly that we are greedy, money-hungry bastards that want poor people to die without medical care and children to starve in the streets. That is a gross mischaracterization and blatantly untrue. This libertarian is only sad that she can’t do more. I give to United Way, I volunteer for a couple of organizations, and I’m cleaning out my pantry tonight for a food drive. It’s the least I can do. I’m lucky.

So I don’t have a lot of patience for ideas perpetually shot down. I don’t have a lot of patience for negativity or backbiting, and I don’t have a lot of patience for inaction. If you want something – really want it – you have to go for it. You won’t let the possibility of embarrassment or failure stop you. But most people will, and that’s a shame.

This is what’s on my mind tonight. I’m going to go clean out that pantry now and hope that this cold, October evening finds all of you safe, comfortable, content, and achieving. And if you’ve put achievement aside for the evening, at least enjoy a cup of Tension Tamer Tea and Stranger Things 2.

What Is a Flag For, If Not To Burn?

I have been listening to Scott Adams quite a bit lately.  I gave his Periscope videos an honorable mention in my list of favorite podcasts, but he’s creeping up the ladder.  I still don’t agree with him on everything – not by a long shot – but he makes me think, and I appreciate being pushed in different directions than I might not normally be inclined to venture on my own.

I was listening to a couple of archived videos while I made dinner today, and he was talking about the Colin Kaepernick/NFL/take a knee controversy that was the talk of the town until Las Vegas happened.  He said something interesting with which I did not initially agree, but having given it some further thought as I have gone about the duties of the evening beyond dinner, I’m not sure that I disagree.  Minimally, I don’t think I disagree to the same extent that I imagined a few hours ago. 

“Flaggot” is not an unknown slur in Ancapistan.  A flaggot is someone that is a flagrant statist and flag worshipper, someone clearly incapable of rational thought and worthy of being mocked.  It is more commonly used against the police and military that like to speak about duty to country and that sort of thing.  Most all ancaps recoil in disgust at the thought of such things.  I will admit that there is not much love in my heart for agents of the state, but I pity their ignorance more than anything else. 

What is the American flag?  As Nelson Muntz of The Simpsons fame put it in the classic episode Mr. Lisa Goes to Washington, is it, “Six red stripes, seven white stripes, and a helluva lotta stars?”  Is that all there is?  I think most people would argue that the flag is certainly something more.  It is a symbol of American greatness.  E pluribus unum.  Freedom.  Autonomy.  Success.  Green grass, apple pie, outdoor concerts, Fourth of July parades, and a youthful, plucky spirit.  A tad naïve, perhaps, but with the best of intentions.  The flag is something that everyone is supposed to be able to rally under, something that pulls the masses together as individuals and unites us as a whole. 

It should come as no surprise to anyone that, being an anarchist, I balk somewhat at the thought of belonging to any group.  It’s a strange conundrum sometimes, the fact of being an anarchist.  All of the ancaps that I have met are naysayers and individualists down to the core that seem to resent the notion of belonging to any unit larger than a family.  There is even some reticence at belonging under the label of anarcho-capitalist, and I can safely include myself in that number.  I don’t like labels, as such, and I don’t want to get too comfortable with something, even though I have a fair idea of my place in the world right now.  I think when you get too comfortable with things, you rule out the possibility of change and forward momentum, and if you aren’t evolving, you’re dying on the vine.

The thing about all anarcho-capitalists, whether they lean socially liberal or socially conservative, they all value certain things.  Individuality.  Free markets.  Ideas.  Freedom of expression.  Sound money.  Free trade.  And perhaps above all things, anarcho-capitalists value peace.  Peace is at the core of all of these things.  I have long made the argument that peace and sound money and fiscal policy are inextricably linked, that anyone that believes that we can have world peace before we fix economic problems is living in a world of wind and ghosts. 

Looking at the list of things that ancaps value, you might wonder what the difference is between that list and the one above.  In what version of America do those values not belong?  Friend, I’ll tell you: today’s America. 

We have been at war in Afghanistan for 16 years now.  The government are so many tens of trillions of dollars in debt – is it $20tn or $30tn, and does it mathematically matter? – that it can never repay it.  It is actually impossible to repay the current debt.  When you start realizing that we fight unjust wars in far-flung places to service a debt that can’t be repaid to fund a lifestyle that we cannot afford, it gets harder and harder to stand for “The Star-Spangled Banner.” 

Some libertarians stand because of the principles on which the government was founded.  They maintain that the Constitution was the greatest document ever written by man, and I would be somewhat inclined to agree.  Unfortunately, by making the Constitution a “living document,” we render it worthless, and the government so long ago ceased to even pretend that it mattered that it seems almost laughable to me to bring it into the conversation when we talk about shrinking government.  I think, in all honesty, it was fair to say that, although the experiment was great for a time, the so-called “Great Experiment” has failed.  The United States is no longer a republic, but a democracy grown too large to for the pygmies in charge.  Democracies are a thinly veiled reiteration of “might makes right,” and although I think people feel that this is true, they don’t know that it’s true.  They still believe they can vote themselves to freedom.

I still feel pangs when I see the flag at major events, but it is a pang of sorrow for a place that I once felt was deserving of such a powerful anthem and such a lovely flag.  But I know now that the government that flag represents does not represent me, and I know that there are millions and millions of Americans that feel the same thing.  Even if they cannot identify it with perhaps the same precision that I can, they sense that something is wrong.  They can feel the rot creeping out of the swamp.  As the tentacles slip up out of the ichor of the Potomac and roll slowly and quietly across the landscape, we can smell it coming, that wet, fishy smell, but we don’t know how to stop it, and most of us can’t even name it.  We only know that it’s bad, and that we don’t want it, that it doesn’t represent us.

A lot of ancaps may argue with me and say that the flag is just a symbol of the government and that you cannot have a symbol like that represent so many different people with so many different ideals.  There will always be dissidents, but the fact remains that, at one point, there was enough cohesion in this corner of the world that people could rally around the flag.  The flag was not just the government; it was a set of ideals.  It was a broad set of ideals, but everyone could agree on freedom, the pursuit of happiness, and ice cream at a ball game. 

I have often entertained the idea of buying an anarcho-capitalist flag and hanging it off of my back deck.  I may yet do it.  Although I have a tense relationship in my heart, with one side pulling towards being an iconoclast and the other desiring to belong to a structure that suits my sensibilities, I have discovered lately that there is value in structure.  A group has to have a set of mores in order to function.  There must also necessarily be a dissenter or two, to point out the little imperfections and to force us to recheck those same sensibilities and perhaps readjust as circumstances change. 

What is a flag for, if not to burn?  What is a flag for, if not to worship?  We worship when the ideal we have in our mind matches the embodiment of the philosophy that we see around us.  The flag encapsulates what is around us, be it good, evil, or indifferent.  When the embodiment ceases to reflect the ideal, sparks start to fly, and folks, it has been a hot, dry summer.

Agnostic In All Things

I had a short but interesting conversation with a coworker today.  This particular coworker is somewhat liberal, and semi-vocally so.  Most of my office is relatively if not outright conservative, since I work in ag, which tends towards conservatism.  When you look at the farm bills, Republicans support aid to farmers while Democrats push for food stamp aid and things of that sort, as the parties are hashing things out.  Anyway, suffice it to say that this particular coworker is something of a standout as a liberal.

We were chatting about nothing of any particular importance, and the conversation turned unexpectedly towards politics.  She despises Donald Trump, which is unsurprising, as I have met exactly zero liberals that have anything but flagrant disdain for the man in charge.  And since she is not a “good liberal,” meaning that she isn’t capable of thinking outside the politically normative binary (did I just find my Tom Woods-esque tagline?), she exhibited some preference for Hillary “Because I’m a Woman” Clinton.  There are good liberals, by the way, but they’re fewer and farther between than they used to be.

I pointed out, as I often do to gauge the cognitive dissonance of the person across from me, that Donald Trump is a great persuader, regardless of your feelings about him.  In probably 99% of these discussions, the liberal in question will blame the lack of intelligence in Trump supporters as the reason for his success.  In general, people are inclined to think of those that disagree with them as less intelligent, I think, but liberals have an especially obnoxious habit and technique when it comes to making this opinion explicit.  Conservatives seem, in my experience, to dismiss liberals more on the basis of youth, lack of job experience (which is similar), and deviant or poor lifestyle choices, which they generally construe to be the same thing due to an overall lower tolerance for offensive things.

Now, to be clear, I am not a great fan of Trump, but I don’t totally despise him, either.  I like him if for no other reason than liberals can’t stand him and have utterly no idea how to combat him, at least not at a corporate or media level.  Breaking out into hysterics certainly hasn’t done helped them.  I think Trump has been a fantastic lesson on how to be virulently hated and still succeed. 

Returning to the conversation, this person did exactly what I expected, which was to completely deny any potential intelligence on Trump’s part and denigrate those that support him.  I am personally of the opinion that it is highly unfair to cut in such wide swaths as to say, “Everyone that supports Trump is a brain-dead yokel,” and it’s also unfair to say, “All Hillary supporters are SJW shrews.”  It is also unfair to assume that all of those people are stupid.  It is undeniably true that there are untold numbers of intelligent people on both sides of the debate. I hear people lament the lack of brains in America, and having lived abroad quite a bit, I am fond of replying that no country in the world has a monopoly on assholes or idiots.  The same can be said of political groups.

I don’t consider myself to be on any side other than my own, and sometimes I think even that is debatable, since I have done things in my life that obviously did nothing to further my own self-interest.  Of course, I align most closely with anarcho-capitalism, but I ask myself at least once a week if whether or not what I believe is even real.  Of course I doubt myself.  Michael Malice put it quite well, I believe it was in his interview with Joe Rogan, but it may have been with Woods, when he said that he was pretty well sold on anarchy, but less so on capitalism.  (Now that I’ve thought about it for a moment, I think it was with Woods.)  I was quite glad to hear someone express, in clear terms, something that I had long felt but been unable to articulate.  This isn’t to say that I don’t believe in capitalism or don’t think it is the best-known economic system.  To the contrary, it is the only one I have happened upon that makes sense and seems to provide the best benefits to the greatest number of people.  But therein lies the asterisk: I remain open to new information. It is possible there is another way whose acquaintance I have yet to make.

I tell people that I am agnostic in all things.  This doesn’t mean that I don’t have a set of beliefs.  I consider myself an agnostic theist peppered with occultist leanings.  I am not a practicing occultist, although I dabbled in it for some time and decided it was not the path for me.  I believe that there is a God and a unifying force in the universe, but I do not pretend to totally understand it, and I am open to the idea that the material world is all there is.  I hope that this is not the case, but I am willing to accept the fact that God is, to quote Ani DiFranco, “just an idea someone put in your head.”

I am similarly agnostic about anarcho-capitalism.  I am emotionally invested in it, as an ideology, but I am open to the possibility that I am wrong.  Just because something makes sense to my tiny mind does not make it essentially true.  And I am, if nothing else, in search of the truth.  As it turns out, the search for truth is at once a lonely one and one that may leave a person forever wanting.  “I am like the blue rose…”

Because of my own professed agnosticism, I balk internally when people are so set on their interpretation of the world as being the only correct one.  It stuns me that people are not willing to entertain the idea that what works for some may not work for others, and that what some people want is repugnant to another slice of the population.  It is wild to me that someone that generally adheres to post-modernist ideals (dystopian ideals, but ideals nevertheless) can be so quick to dismiss someone else’s set of morals as inherently incorrect. 

I’m about to lay out a theory that even some an-caps don’t agree on: Morality is 100% subjective. Ethics are 100% objective.  Let me repeat that.  Morals are subjective; ethics are objective.  Allow me to illustrate.

Let’s say that your neighbor has a dog penned up in his backyard with no shade.  It is 105 degrees outside, and the dog has no water.  The neighbor has gone on vacation and left the dog to die.  You elect to break off the lock and release the dog in order to feed it and give it water.  (For the sake of the exercise, let’s say there is no Humane Society in your community, although the same set of rules would still apply to them.)  You have violated the person’s property rights by destroying a portion of lock and pen to free the dog.  This is not debatable, as the pen is not your property.  Whether or not this is ethically correct is cut and dried; the property was not yours to damage.  However, the morality is debatable.  Most people would say that you have some obligation to save a creature that is suffering unnecessarily.  Others would say that it is not your place to intervene.  Whether or not you agree with either position is somewhat irrelevant to the exercise.  The point that I seek to make is that not everyone will view the situation in the same moral terms.  Something can be ethically wrong but morally “right.”  How communities handle the above scenario has the potential to vary widely.

Something else to bear in mind is that there are certain morals that have provably better outcomes.  For example, I do not care if someone does a lot of drugs and has promiscuous sex.  It is no business of mine.  However, I maintain that a sober life with fewer partners will lead to better outcomes for the vast majority of the population. One could view this as making a particular set of morals more desirable while not necessarily making them universally right.  Ultimately, it is up to the individual to decide what morals best suit his/her life.  In short, one size does not fit all.

For this reason, I find it intellectually lazy for anyone of any political stripe to become so enamored with their own worldview that they refuse to ever entertain for an instant the idea that maybe these other people aren’t crazy.  Perhaps it is a rational choice for someone near retirement age to vote Trump because he promises to protect Social Security.  Perhaps an asylum seeker views Hillary as his/her best chance to remain in the US long-term.  Whether or not you and I agree with them being able to have what they want doesn’t change that being a rational choice for them with the information they have available.  I may have an alternate interpretation because my learning and political leaning inclines me to view things differently, but that is irrelevant to the other person.  We all make do with what we have. 

We all have beliefs.  Whether or not those beliefs serve us and the world at large is another story, but we all have beliefs.  To the best of my ability, I try to base my beliefs out of truth.  Note that I do not say facts.  Facts and truth are not the same thing, as anyone that has studied statistics can readily tell you.

The truth of the matter is that I have far more respect for those people, right or left, that are willing to admit that their beliefs benefit them in some way.  My beliefs benefit me because they encourage me in my pursuit of knowledge and truth, which appears to be my ultimate goal in life, with money being a semi-close second.  Some people value security.  Others value the good feelings that altruism brings them.  To the last one, I urge some caution, for when people tell you that they do something because “it’s the right thing” or “it’s the compassionate thing,” most often they are being disingenuous with themselves. 

I will come back to this same theme in later posts, I’m sure, but I can tell you for absolute certain that there is rarely honor in saving someone else, especially if you’re trying to save them from themselves.  One of the greatest lessons an individual can learn is that we can only save ourselves.  Do not chase the blue rose. You will not find her, and you could not save her, if you did.  This is the greatest truth I have discovered in my own life.  My most noble virtue will appear when I save myself. 

…I think.

Pod-Post: What's In My Ears Today

I spend quite a bit of time at work listening to podcasts and books on Audible.  For one thing, it keeps me abreast of what’s happening in the world, but for another, I just don’t have a lot of time to read, frankly.  I’m a single mom with three kids, and I’m studying for the LSAT.  Reading is one of my all-time favorite things to do, but after two hours staring at logic problems, my eyes cross. 

I love the wide world of podcasting.  I feel as though it’s a callback to the days of the steel belt radio, only the choice of programs is almost limitless, and you can listen from literally anywhere.  Podcasts are one of the reasons that I’m convinced that the real revolution will take place slowly and while nobody is looking. 

I have some podcasts that I genuinely love.  I actually can’t believe that I wasn’t listening to some of them a year ago.  I remember what life was like before them, but it looks like black and white by comparison.  That’s how far I’m willing to go in my endorsements. 

If you haven’t gotten into podcasts, I strongly advise you to do so.  I’m going to list some of my favorites here with reviews.  To all the folks that made it to this list, congratulations.  I’m hard to please. 

 

The Tom Woods Show

If you are a libertarian, but most especially if you are an anarcho-capitalist, and you don’t listen to this show, I can’t help you.  Tom Woods is one of the greatest authorities in the liberty movement, and he deserves to be.  The man has hustle.  Woods is a wonderful combination of egghead and entrepreneur, which I love.  He cuts across a gamut of subjects, from Rothbard to argumentation ethics, Roman Catholic liturgy to T. Harv Eker and back again. 

I can’t quite remember when I first got “acquainted” with Woods, but it was prior to the 2012 campaign cycle, though not much in advance of that.  I liked him a lot from the get-go because he was incredibly smart in his analyses while remaining accessible to relative newbs like me that didn’t know their Bastiat from their backside.  I knew we could jam when he ripped Jesse Benton a new one in a YouTube video.  I fell in love when he confessed his affection for Porcupine Tree. 

Woods is smart.  Woods covers a lot of ground.  Woods is accessible, and he has a common sense approach to most things that I find appealing.  I have been listening to his podcast almost from the beginning, and if you are just getting started or have questions about a certain topic, dig into his show archives.  You’re bound to find something in there that will point you in the right direction.

 

Unregistered with Thaddeus Russell

I am unabashedly in love with Thaddeus Russell.   I found him through Tom Woods.  He trips my trap so hard.  I think they were at Columbia at the same time.  I really should have worked harder and gone Ivy League.  Coulda, woulda, shoulda.

Russell comes off like a left-leaning anarcho-capitalist at times, and he acknowledges the libertarian audience, it seems like, but I’ve never heard him explicitly state what exactly his beliefs are.  I expect he may be reluctant to do so, if for no other reason than he seems open to changing them in the face of evidence that would force him to discard a given system of thinking. 

If you like über-intellectual discussion, Russell’s got it.  If you like über-intellectual discussion with hookers and drug dealers, he’s got that, too.  Russell has a keen interest in social deviants, which isn’t entirely surprising, given his leftist heritage.  He holds a space open for these people that really are outside “the 3x5 index card of allowable opinion,” as Woods would say.  Frankly stated, his talks are fucking fascinating. 

I have a tough time gauging what other people think of Thaddeus Russell.  I bet people love him or hate him.  Probably the left hates him.  The funny thing is that he has all of these leftist sensibilities.  He has a high tolerance for deviance and doesn’t seem to be made uncomfortable by things that polite society finds repugnant, which is a distinctly leftist characteristic, given that the left generally has a far higher threshold for that sort of thing.  On the other hand, he seems to be completely anti-government and supportive of the free market, which throws him back the other direction. 

Whatever the case, he is a highly intelligent individual that brings other highly intelligent, autodidact types onto the show, and if you want to hear people philosophize about porn, the occult, race relations, and drugs, his podcast is the place to be.  I have gotten more deep down brain tingles from him than anyone else.  I honestly cannot recommend this podcast highly enough.  I don’t care who you are – he will force you to look at “bad” things through a totally different lens.

 

The Joe Rogan Experience

I’m a relative newcomer to Joe Rogan.  Joe Rogan, in case you don’t know, is a standup comic who moonlights as a podcaster and MMA commentator.  Joe is one of those guys that feels like everyman, even though he’s really pretty far from it.  He’s the guy that you’d want to watch football and chug beer with.  He’s smarter than he’ll ever give himself credit for on the air, and he has a certain common sense about him that we call common but is, again, anything but. 

Joe Rogan, believe it or not, is a liberal, but he’s not stupid about it.  He sees the ridiculousness of the SJW crowd and calls it out.  In a nutshell, he’s a liberal that I can respect.  And I do respect old school liberals.  I don’t agree with them politically, but I understand why they believe the way they do, and I like to get together with them on certain issues.  They are, sadly, a dying breed. 

I strongly recommend that if you never listen to another Joe Rogan podcast, listen to his interview with Jordan Peterson.  Jordan Peterson has literally changed my life.  I would actually rank Ron Paul, Murray Rothbard, and Jordan Peterson as the three most influential thinkers in my life because they all brought me forward in a significant way.  Anyway, at the time, Rogan said that was his favorite show that he had ever done, and I highly recommend you listen to it.

I do not listen to all of Rogan’s podcasts because there are, for one thing, so damn many of them.  I have incredible admiration for the consistent quality of content.  When you hold that up against the amount of content, it’s really marvelous.  Anyway, he sometimes interviews guests about things I’m just not interested in, like MMA, but he has also had Scott Adams, a couple of ex-Scientologists, Jocko Willink, Sturgill Simpson, and a list of others too lengthy to name. 

If you want to laugh your ass off, check out his podcast with Alex Jones.  Watch it on Youtube.  YOUR WELCOME.

 

The Tim Ferriss Show

If podcasters could be measured like drugs, Tom Woods was my first beer, and Tim Ferriss was my first joint.  A friend of mine recommended Tim to me a little over a year ago, and I was instantly hooked. 

Tim Ferriss interviews people that are at the top of their game in a given industry or sport.  He teases out their secrets to success, and he seems to have fun doing it.  Interviews are by turns hilarious, smart, sad, entertaining, and informative.  Tim didn’t make it into the top three for life-changers, but I would say he is probably in my top five.  Tim Ferriss makes me want to do better, and he shows us how.

Some of the standout interviews for me have been Jamie Foxx, Coach Christopher Sommer (GST works, you should do it), Debbie Millman, Jocko Willink, and Tony Robbins.    

 

The Jason Stapleton Program

I go to Jason when I need tough love.  Jason Stapleton is ex-military, and it shows.  He has that hard-ass attitude that undoubtedly comes from having been brutalized in basic and then having had to shine his shoes every day for several years.  He’s sensible, he’s direct, and he has crazy hustle.  I like it.

Stapleton is sort of my “news” program.  He covers a lot of current events things, although the podcast hasn’t been as regular lately because he’s been traveling a lot for business.  Nevertheless, I can count on him to give a straightforward, from the hip analysis of whatever nonsense is getting peddled in the media on a given day. 

Must-listen: his interview with LP president Nicholas Sarwark.  Stapleton took him to task, and he needed it. 

 

Honorable Mention: Waking Up With Sam Harris

Sam Harris is another liberal that I like.  I am neither an atheist nor a liberal, and I don’t necessarily share Harris’s view on much else, but he is wildly intelligent, and I appreciate his valuable insights.  Regardless of whether or not you agree, he makes sound, thoughtful arguments, and he presents them well. 

I don’t generally agree with his thoughts on Islam as a whole, simply because I think he misses the crucial foreign policy points sometimes and allows his general dislike of religion to blind him to other causes for the troubles in the Middle East.  I’m not saying he’s wrong, only that I don’t totally agree with him. 

I nevertheless enjoy his podcast, and I like hearing him debate.  He’s a true intellectual, and I wish we had more of those. 

 

Honorable Mention: Patterson in Pursuit

Steve Patterson focuses largely on questions of logic.  He delves into math, religion, love, feminism, race, and a host of other topics.  At face value, he’s coldly logical, but I have warmed up to him over time.  He has made me rethink some ideas I had, particularly about math generally and irrational numbers specifically, and I’m still not quite sure where I stand.  I love it when they leave me hanging!

 

Honorable Mention: Scott Adams’ Periscope videos

Dilbert and The Far Side were my favorite comic strips growing up, which should tell you a lot about me straight away.  Scott Adams is an interesting guy.  I can’t quite tell if I like him or not, although that doesn’t really matter.  He has trained as a hypnotist and “master persuader,” and he has had a lot of unique insights about Donald Trump that have boosted him to greater prominence lately.

Scott Adams is the only unabashed statist that I listen to regularly.  I do not agree with him on many things.  I do not like a lot of the policy recommendations that he throws out.  I don’t always think his predictions are going to come true.  But all that said, I think he’s worth listening to because he has been right on a lot of things lately, and I think I can learn from him.  Well, I’m sure I can.  The fact of my disagreeing with him makes it all the more obvious to me that I can, actually. 

 

There are other podcasts that I subscribe to, but I don’t listen to them as frequently, and there are still others from which I will occasionally cherry-pick episodes.

-       Jocko Podcast

-       Lions of Liberty

-       Dave Smith’s Part of the Problem

-       Liberty First by KrisAnne Hall

-       Contra Krugman

-       The Lara-Murphy Show

-       The Scott Horton Show

-       Dangerous History Podcast

-       The James Altucher Show

Contra Krugman probably should have gotten bumped into the podcasts that I actively listen to, but I’m not as regular with it as I am with the others.  Also, I sort of assumed that since I’m a rabid Woods listener, those in the know would immediately assume I listen to Contra Krugman, too. 

I’ve tried to branch out away from political and business podcasts, but I just don’t enjoy anything else as much.  I tried “S-Town,” but after the first couple of episodes, I got restless.  I’ve taken recommendations from my coworkers and found myself at “My Perfect Murder” and “Natch Beaut,” but I’ve discovered something: I don’t like listening to a lot of claptrap.  I have an exceedingly low tolerance for undirected conversation, and a lot of podcasts feature untold amounts of it.   All of the ones I have listed are professional and generally remain directed.

I hope this has been at least moderately informative.  I highly recommend that, if you have long commutes or if, like me, you’re simply bored constantly at work and need additional spots to focus your brain, you check out the wide world of podcasts.  There is so much good stuff out there, and I’m sure there are great shows I haven’t discovered yet.  I will try and remember to update this post if I find new ones that I really enjoy.  I’m sure Michael Malice’s show will make it on here, if I ever decide to suck it up and pay.

Enjoy!

 

 

 

 

Who To Be or Not To Be

There is an age-old adage – or it seems like it should be, if it isn’t – that you should just be yourself. Having crossed paths with more than one true character in life, I’ve often wondered if this might not be the absolute worst advice that you could give to some people. Think about the craziest person you know, and then ask yourself if you would give them the advice to just be themselves. Sometimes that answer takes the form of, “Maybe you could tone it down a notch in front of my folks.”

The thing about being different from everyone else is that it doesn’t always work in your favor.  Think of the weirdest guy you knew in high school.  I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that he wasn’t the hottest, most popular dude from the athletics department.  He was probably the king of all nerds, revered and respected in the AV or comp sci department.  He probably wore sandals year-round, and you could discern the approximate temperature based on whether or not he was wearing socks and the thickness of material if he was.  His mom probably let him and his friends have LAN parties in the basement from Friday night through Sunday evening, and she’d dutifully get out all 15 fans that she’d purchased for just such occasions and order about 15 boxes of pizza. 

I don’t know how the hot jock wound up.  I’ve known some that went on to do nothing, some that went on to do awesome things, and some that just went on more or less normally.  Almost all of the computer geeks I knew either bombed out spectacularly and became total burnouts or got two degrees in four years and went on to make way more money than me. 

You might think about these different scenarios of these people that you have known in life and think that the advice to just be yourself hasn’t worked out so well for some of these people, while it seems to have been a great move for others.  Well, I’m here to tell you that you’re wrong, and here’s why: There is a big difference between being the best version of yourself and the worst.  Most of the time, when people have gone wrong somewhere in life, it is either because they have tried to be something that they are not, or because they became a less-than version of themselves. 

Think of what it feels like when you hang around with people that wouldn’t normally be to your taste.  Maybe they’re too conservative or liberal, maybe they’re secular while you’re religious – we could go on and on about this.  Suffice to say that we are all familiar with the feeling of being out of our element.  Maybe you smile and nod and say something you wouldn’t normally say just to make polite conversation and fit in a little bit better.  You try the shoe on, but it’s not comfortable. We all know what happened when Cinderella’s stepsisters tried to shove their feet into the wrong-sized shoes.  Keeping that visual in your head, let’s pivot.

There has been a healthy amount of kerfluffle as of late over what exactly libertarians should be doing and saying. It is no secret that the leadership of the Libertarian Party has lately leaned toward what has been called “thick libertarianism,” and they have certainly been aiming away from taking any hardline positions about much of anything.  That the party selected Bill Weld to run as the vice president in this past election cycle speaks volumes about what they are trying to do.  In a nutshell, they are jockeying for statist approval by putting up increasingly statist candidates.  It appears to me that the hope is that, by watering down the message, the Libertarian Party will finally get full ballot access and be allowed into the debates. 

When I think back on the moment that brought the most libertarians together, Gary Johnson had nothing to do with it, and certainly Bill Weld was out of the picture.  Ron Paul was the man that brought hordes of people under one umbrella, and he did not do it by trying to be popular.  I love Ron; the man changed my life, and decidedly for the better. He’s not textbook “cool,” though.  He isn’t a great public speaker, he has a reedy voice, he was the oldest candidate on the podiums by quite a margin, and he gives the vague impression of frailty on TV, though he’s anything but in real life.  That was our guy, and he won so many people to libertarianism not by trying to be cool.  Far from it.  No, friends, he won the day by being himself. 

Ron never watered down the message to make consumption easier.  He went after the warmongering, he went after the drug war, and he went after government intervention into medicine.  Nobody else on the Republican ticket was talking about getting out of Iraq, Afghanistan, or anywhere else.  It would have been easy – too easy – to get up there and hit on the soft subjects.  But Ron hit on the big stuff: war and finances. He stayed true to himself and the message, and he got people to willingly read economics books, yours truly included. 

How did that work?  How did a man, who by his detractors has been called doddering, crazy, a racist, a kook, an ineffective congressman, and a lightning rod for the lunatic fringe, get kids to read economics books?  He was true to himself, he was true to his principles, and he challenged everyone listening to go and find out for themselves. 

Think about that.  I mean, really think about that.  Ron Paul offered the one thing that nobody else did: He offered us all the blueprint for saving ourselves.  Everyone else on the Republican primary stage told the audience that they were best qualified to save us.  It was no different with the Democrats.  But Ron?  No.  Ron gave us the keys to our own salvation and told us to go and make it happen.  Ladies and gentlemen, that’s the secret.  The secret is that nobody else can save you.  To demand that another person save you is to ruin yourself and damn them in the process.  No matter how much you might wish it otherwise, you are the only person that will ever hold the keys to the door out of the dungeon. 

And so Ron saved me.  He didn’t give me the key, but he gave me the map, and I found the key myself.  I will never forget the day I started reading For A New Liberty by Murray Rothbard.  That book changed my life forever.  I had to put it down so many times, I lost count.  It was like explosions of light illuminating the darkest inner sanctums of my mind.  To say that it was anything other than a book of revelation would not do it justice. 

Rothbard’s message is not for the faint at heart.  His words moved me, but they also frightened me.  I knew there was no coming back from where I was going, but I went willingly.  Rothbard was analytical, frank, and often humorous, which is how I have heard him described by those that knew him personally.  He was, in short, himself. 

So now I bring the question back around: What do we have to gain by being other than what we are?  How can we expect to win libertarians by becoming Republicans?  It is not a win if we give up what makes us unique in order to win the numbers.  It is also not a win if the ranks swell with people still holding traditional Republican or Democrat beliefs.  If we become the very thing we wished to avoid, I cannot believe anyone would call that a win. 

If numbers cannot then, by sheer logic, be the initial goal, what is the initial goal?  It is, in short, ideology.  This is a battle that must be fought on an ideological playing field.  We cannot win the political game because the Republican and Democratic machines have been doing it far longer, and they have strength in numbers. 

I think sometimes on the wars that we have won and lost.  World War II was won by sheer numbers and brute strength.  The Russians overran the Germans from the Eastern front, and we nuked Japan to shut down the Pacific theater.  Numbers.  Force.  If you translate that to politics, the Republicans are the Americans and the Democrats are the Russians.  Either way, you’re going to end up raped or radiated. 

Think now about Vietnam, which is overwhelmingly viewed as a loss and can hardly be viewed in other terms.  What was different about Vietnam?  It was not a traditional war; it was a guerrilla war.  It is effectively impossible for an invading force to win a guerrilla war over the long term.  You know who else knew that?  The rebels in the American War of Independence. 

Big machines can’t pivot.  The Greek phalanx was eventually defeated because it was too clunky.  Think of the Republicans and Democrats as a phalanx.  They have an agenda, and they are too concerned about maintaining their images and holding onto the ground that they’ve got to be able to pivot.  A Greek phalanx is helpless against guerrillas that pick them off one-by-one as they march.  The trick is to get the phalanx to walk through the scary woods.

I hope the lesson is shining through somewhat, at this point.  You cannot play someone else’s game if you really want to win big.  That’s as true in politics as it is in war or in “real life,” as though life doesn’t feel like a war sometimes.  You should strive to be yourself, and more than that, you should strive to be your best self.  Everybody has a unique skill stack.  Everyone has the potential to be great.  I guarantee though, if you go around trying to be just like everyone else, you will be destined for a life of mediocrity. 

Find your passion.  Figure out your values.  Think about what you are good at.  Think of what you want to do, and then go do it.  Don’t give too many fucks about what other people think.  Most people are mediocre, and people don’t spend that long thinking about one opinion before moving on to the next, anyway.  Don’t ever give someone’s opinion more time than they gave in having it.

The way forward will be unique, and it will be individually based.  Some people feel pessimistic about the future, but I think it looks pretty good.  There are so many more options available through the blessings of technology and innovation than at any point in human history.  You have something to give that is uniquely yours, and I encourage you to cultivate it to the best of your ability.  Be so good that they can’t ignore you.  And for God’s sake, whatever you do, whether you’re sane or crazy, a writer or a programmer, a jock or a bookworm, be yourself.  Be your best self.  There is nobody else that will be a better you than you.