Speaker 0 00:00:00 Hello, everyone. Welcome to the 88th episode of the ALIS society asks. My name is Abby Behringer. I'm the student program manager for the Atlas society. We're the leading nonprofit organization. Introducing young people to the ideas of iron Rand in creative ways. There are animated videos, graphic novels, and Atlas university seminars with these two wonderful gentleman that we have here with us today. Uh, today we'll be discussing current events with Richard Salzman and Steven Hicks, two of our Atlas society, senior scholars. Uh, we will also save time at the end to take some audience questions. So if you want to post those questions into the chat on zoom, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, wherever you're at, post them as we go. And we will answer some of your questions with that. Thank you for joining us. And let's get started with our first topic. I will hand things over to Dr. Hicks. We're going to talk free speech in universities. Um, Dr. Hicks, I see the floor to you.
Speaker 1 00:01:01 Okay. Thanks Abby. Uh, good to see you again, Richard, and there'll be a fun hour. So perennial issue, free speech, uh, but then a piece of journalism in the New York times, that's pointing up an interesting angle on the free speech gait debates, where the classical arguments for censorship or for free speech, academic freedom and so on. Uh, but, uh, one of the issues that seems to be driving the current iteration of authoritarianism speech codes, and it also, in some cases mandated speech, it's not just that you can't say certain things, but rather you're forced to say certain other things is a, is an interesting gender, uh, imbalance. So there's a recent survey that was done. I think, uh, Lawrence or Abby will be putting this in the chat if you want to, uh, uh, check out the link as well, saying that, uh, almost by a two to one margin, uh, younger women are more likely to favor speech codes.
Speaker 1 00:01:59 Uh, that is to say banning certain words and mandating the use of certain other words, compared to young men who are in universities and that's a that's kind of striking. So the numbers were, uh, uh, look over here at my notes here that, uh, male students prefer free speech by a 61% margin to 39%. And then female students took the opposite position being willing to overturn free speech in order to achieve certain social, uh, social goals by 64 to 35. And that's a interesting question about why that is the case. Now my question as a philosopher is why it's not any more the case that 95% of students are saying we want free speech and only 5% are saying, no, no, we are going to be authoritarian for various sorts of reason. Uh, and that I think is an important question because 40 years ago, when I was a younger person, that was about what the demographics were.
Speaker 1 00:03:07 So there is a very interesting intellectual history question, a very intellect arresting, uh, institutional shift question about why, uh, we've gone from basically everybody signing onto some sort of free speech and academic freedom to, uh, one of the genders that's down to 60 something percent. And that's a, that's very significant. So the intellectual history is important. The intellectual capture is an important one other issue that's arising in the, uh, in the literature. Uh, the debates over this is, uh, uh, people wanting to argue whether we need to add, say an evolutionary psychology component to this as one thing to make the arguments abstractly for intellectual freedom, uh, to, to, to tailor those to universities and argue for free speech for the absence of speech codes or, or, or so on. But whether in addition to that, there are some subtle psychological differences between males and females that lead people to, uh, uh, to be more, uh, interested and willing to engage in the some but combative nature of free fall free for all arguments in a higher education context, versus those more likely to be nurturing and inclusive.
Speaker 1 00:04:27 Uh, and so on. I think that's interesting, uh, worth exploring, but outside of my area of expertise, I don't put a huge amount of credence to that because for many generations we know men and women, despite whatever their predispositions are psychologically, uh, are able to understand the importance to free speech and intellectual intellectual matters that need to speak for oneself, the principles of tolerance. So I think the more important issue is not that there's been some evolutionary, uh, button that's now being pushed. It wasn't being pushed before significantly, but rather it's been a matter of a couple of generations now of training, uh, to, uh, to de-value freedom, uh, particularly intellectual freedom. And that's what we are as what we are. We are seeing another interesting issue about how this is going to play out over the course of the next generation or so is a, there's another important demographic number in higher education.
Speaker 1 00:05:27 And that is that younger men are starting university at a lower rate than young men did start university in previous generations in the 20th century and younger women are starting university at higher rates. And so standard freshmen classes, the national average is that it's about 60% young women and about 40% young men. And also then if you attract, uh, the dropout rate or the attrition rate after a year younger men are dropping out of university at higher rates than younger women are. So all of this then, uh, is interesting in terms of the demographics of universities over the next 10 years, and then how that demographics is going to play out in terms of academic freedom is used in the next 10 years. Do we, uh, try to reform the universities? Do we, at some point give up on certain ins the universities and build parallel institutions, all of those practical issues follows as well. So discussion piece,
Speaker 2 00:06:32 Um, Abby, do I have a moment to comment on this great stuff? Yes, you do. You want to just go, we can go to questions if you want.
Speaker 2 00:06:45 I have a couple of things. It's a fascinating topic. This is a great survey to uncover. I think it's a survey from 2016. Nevertheless, the New York times felt the need to focus on it. Now the, the title itself interested me, the gender gap has taking us to unexpected places. When you read through the essay, it's not clear where the unexpected places and who's the unexpected. Who's not expecting this, but the other thing I noticed, you know, the standard professor Hicks, you know, this, the kind of standard do these days is there's no difference between the genders. Uh, you know, that maybe that's a biological physiological point, but here are the essays clearly about either ideological or other differences. I was struck by not so much the survey, but these academics like Dennis Chung from USC and Steven Pinker from Harvard Pinker, who I admire very much, they were interpretations of the survey and the interpretations are very conventional.
Speaker 2 00:07:41 They're almost like stereotypical. So here's a quote from Chong. Chonga from USC political scientists Trong says quote, he found broad value differences between men and women. Women score higher on values, defined by care, fairness, benevolence, and protecting the welfare of others and reflecting greater empathy and preference for cooperative relations instead of competitive in today's debates over free speech and cancel culture, these social, psychological, and value differences between men and women are in line with surveys showing now, get this. Now that women are more likely than men to regard hate speech as a form of violence, unquote, it just struck me as think of the conflict. You know, they're really more caring and benevolent and compassionate, but they want to strike down your right to speak. They interpret speeches violence. I, I'm not sure this is broadly true, but it, it it's almost like the writers didn't catch the conflict or the irony.
Speaker 2 00:08:41 Now Pinker Pinker from the battle, the better angels of our nature, quote violence, great book on violence by the way, the decline of violence over time. But he says violence mainly committed by men from the time they were boys males with more, more violently than females, they fantasize more about violence. They consume more violent entertainment. They commit the lion's share of violence on and on, and yet, and yet they seem a bit more liberal tolerant toward speech. I mean, that's a big test, right? Speech. It's not, not really violence, what's their view of it. So, um, I kind of leave it at that. I, I, I think it's also interesting that if the issue is what is this going to do for our speech rights, but maybe also our politics. I just want to bring to your attention something I've found out about 10 years ago.
Speaker 2 00:09:32 And it was really fascinating. I was conducting a seminar on growth in the last century about the size and scope of government. And we went through various theories of what might be causing this. And one of the theories uncovered, believe it or not is the women right to vote. So in America, the women's right to vote at the national level was what, 1920. They did have the right to vote at various states like New Jersey much earlier than that. But there's actually in the political science literature without trying to be sexist, poly side people who looked at and correlated the rise of the progressive era and the welfare state and the expansion of government, including the expansion of government in a warlike fashion to more women voting. So I only bring this up, cause I thought of that when I saw this, if this survey is telling us that despite their predilections, allegedly for care, fairness, benevolence cooperation, that there might be contributing to an illiberal politics, um, that is in the past literature. And in terms of, if you think of the expansive and redistributed welfare state as, uh, initiating force, this was a great, this was a great, uh, coverage. I really like it, professor X.
Speaker 1 00:10:50 And I think one of the, uh, point I wanted to, uh, just throw in is the survey couch things in terms of a dichotomy, are you in favor of free speech or are you in favor of inclusiveness? And now that's a false dichotomy. Uh, there was, should be harmonious values that, uh, you know, what we want inclusively is for everybody to be able to participate in the debate so that they can define their own beliefs, define their own values. And the only way that can happen is through, through free speech, but there is a rather subversive and kind of dehumanizing assumption built into casting it as a dichotomy. So the idea then is that certain target groups that we need to include the assumption then is if we have free speech, they're not going to be getting included or that they don't have the ability to step up and speak in their own voice and make their own arguments. And the only way we can kind of give them a seat at the table, so to speak and notice that paternalistic formulation, we need to give them a seat at the table so that they feel safe and included is by, uh, you know, hobbling other people and, uh, restricting other people's rights. So there is that subversive and paternalistic dichotomy, uh, based on, uh, on a false opposition. So that's worth flag.
Speaker 2 00:12:22 I also noticed the stereotype of, uh, embedded in this, you know, in the interpretation, you know, women are more prone to feeling they're more sensitive to feelings and sentiments and emotions, but then now it's very, well-documented that in the case of speech, that's critical speech, that's aggressive speech, speech, not actions. The idea that I feel offended, I feel triggered. I feel all of these things we've heard over the recent years, the, the transformation of feeling anxiety translated into your army mate. You're actually creating a physiological reaction in me and that's violence. Um, I, again, it seems stereotypical, uh, but the, the article doesn't pick up on that, it's not eager to say these seem like really old-fashioned stereotypes of women, but, but not just that, but therefore exonerating them from really kind of illiberal leanings. It's just something I noticed for
Speaker 1 00:13:30 Sure.
Speaker 0 00:13:32 Well, we do have one question now and it's going to have to call back something to memory here. So let's just tell us if you remember this, um, James Donegal on Facebook wants to know, how do you think this topic relates to the 2019 Superbowl commercial done by Gillette? I don't know if you guys remember that commercial that put down traditionally boy hood activities such as rough housing. Um, so how does that, uh, this topic relates to something like that?
Speaker 1 00:14:01 I have a vague memories of that Gillette commercial, and, uh, I think I have a softer interpretation of it when I know when I looked at it, what I saw primarily it was a call for men to be men in the best sense, not to be chauvinist, not to be piggish and not to think that, uh, being masculine meant that you had to be overbearing and so on. So to check men who were overstepping the line, uh, but at the same time I do, uh, if, if it's the same commercial we're talking about, I do know several people, uh, who were conservative, uh, who saw it as, uh, admonishing men for normal, healthy masculinity. But, uh, I don't, maybe I've been too desensitized by my university climate. I didn't see that, but I'm open to argument that saying that maybe in some subtle way, there is some of that in there.
Speaker 2 00:15:03 Uh, my personal personally, I do remember that, uh, uh, also, and the fact that Abby, the fact that it occurred in the super bowl, even going even further back, I'm the challenge. James is like a James, do you remember that in earlier years, uh, women's groups feminists took the opportunity to say that Superbowl day is when men are like most violent. They're watching this violent game, they're drinking beer and they're beating up their women. I mean, that was a very common theme and they allegedly had data for this. And, uh, and so it, it seemed to take on a, uh, uh, an importance of this is the super bowl let's and, and millions are watching. So let's kind of get in on the messaging. And I do remember that in 2019 now Gillette was critical. You know, gelato always had commercials about obviously shaving and, you know, it's manly, manly, blah, blah, blah.
Speaker 2 00:15:58 And I do think it was possibly the beginnings of corporate. Whoa, I think it was the beginnings of corporate Oak. Maybe, maybe not the first and only case, but Gillette, meaning Gillette being mostly a man's product company, personal products company, uh, it could be like the beginnings of woke. And remember also the term at the time, not as common today, toxic masculinity, you never hear about toxic femininity, but the phrase of toxic masculine, something about men poisoning, the environment or pores in, in men, women relations were very common. And, and I I'm wondering whether Julia was pushing back against that as well. But yeah. Talk about integrating James is listening to us today, Stephen and saying, Hey, what about that Gillette commercial? That's not, that's a nice, integrated attempt to integrate, um, what's your job
Speaker 1 00:16:51 Or Abby, if I could a segue to a question in the chat from Graham wood, it's on a similar evolutionary psychology premise, but it's what I would like to say is I'm open to all of these evolutionary psychology arguments, that there are a biological and physiological differences that give rise at various developmental stages to psychological differences in personality and any emotion. I don't want to pronounce on that. But as a philosopher, I want to say also that that should not be relevant to moral principles and political principles. If it's the case that some human beings are more quick to anger and other human beings are less quick to anger, uh, or if some human beings are more likely to have a, whatever chemical is secreted, when we are afraid, uh, then other human beings, it doesn't change. The fact that courage in that particular case is a necessary virtue for all human beings.
Speaker 1 00:17:55 All it will mean is at the individual level, some people will need to work a little harder to develop their courage. Other people will need it to work a little less hard in order to develop their, develop their courage. So the principles of virtues and the principles of values, including political virtues and political values should remain the same. And it's still not going to be very difficult for people to recognize as rational human beings, right? What those principles are, why those principles are important then to come to know themselves as unique individuals and then customize, right, whatever it is, you know, just to make a physiological example, it might be the case that some people, when they taste sugar on their tongues, get, you know, a hundred units of pleasure coursing through their veins. And other people only get 60 units of pleasure coursing through their veins, the principles of nutrition and developing good habits of eating are still going to be the same for all human beings, just customize.
Speaker 1 00:18:56 Right? And so on. So if we then cast that in terms of maybe there are differences between men and women physiologically and psychologically, and I put the word maybe in there, because I just want to leave that as a, as an open debate. That's not going to change the nature of the, of the ethical arguments. Now Graham's question or Graham what's. The question is, is interesting here. And I want to question whether it's true, it's, uh, uh, a case, not everyone. Is there. Could you talk about the fact that men push more for individual Liberty, but also integrate their aggressiveness into their beings? In contrast, women are not as aggressive, but easily put down individual Liberty, et cetera, et cetera. I'm not so sure that that's true because I think, uh, you know, at least the women, I know if you raise issues of individual Liberty with respect to religion or individual Liberty, with respect to their sex lives or individual Liberty, with respect to the abortion issue. My experience is that women are much more aggressive with respect to, uh, defending individual Liberty than the men that I know. So there might be some domain differences. Uh, I think we would need to get better data on that. So I'm not sure that this dichotomy is, uh, is quite true as, as, as Mr. Ward is putting it forth here. So I'll just leave it at that.
Speaker 2 00:20:20 Uh, I went quickly if I were to pose a question to professor Hicks, if it were true that say over the next decade, these kinds of stereotypes were, we pushed back against these kinds of stereotypes. And women were taught that you too are human. You're your essence two is rationality, rational, legalism, whatever the whole, uh, would this quotes. So so-called gap narrow. In other words, is this gap due to the kind of things feminists don't want to hear about we've, we've preconditioned women to, you know, play with dolls, not GI Joe to be caring and feeling not blah, blah, blah. And that very issue that very training is causing the gap. I don't know.
Speaker 1 00:21:09 Yeah. I think it's 99% driven by training in my view,
Speaker 2 00:21:15 And someone like John Jonathan, Jonathan Haidt is basically saying, no, it's great psychologist up at NYU, but Jonathan leans more in the direction of the evolutionary psychology, right?
Speaker 1 00:21:28 Hey, does it? He's, he's going back to an old kind of moral sentiments position of the 17 hundreds and giving a priority to, obviously we're not calling them moral sentiments anymore, but the updated psychological terms for the priority of, uh, the non rational, the rational.
Speaker 2 00:21:49 Interesting. I hope it's interesting.
Speaker 0 00:21:53 All right. Well, let's for now. We'll move on to our next topic. Uh, we have a few more questions we can answer at the end potentially on this note. Um, all right. Topic number two, uh, inflation is at 7% right now. Why? And what's next? And I think we'll hand this off to our resident economist, Richard to start.
Speaker 2 00:22:12 Hmm. Okay. Why? And what's next? Okay. Inflation is the kind of word where, when you say it, people's eyes glaze over and they say, especially you philosophers Dr. King, Hey, stop it. Stop torturing me with the, these inflation where it's okay. Here's why it's important. No, I'm all ears. You're not, I know. Are you okay? Okay. Uh, um, first of all, what the heck is it? Inflation is a decline in the value of money. I'm really proud of that actually, because most economists won't be that succinct. Let me, so let me repeat. Inflation is a decline in the value of money. So what's the value of money. What it can actually buy at the store, the stuff that you end up with, you know, when you at the checkout counter, how much food, how much goods, why would it shrink? Just because there's something wrong with the money, uh, that alone by the way, is a controversial view.
Speaker 2 00:23:12 And I'm going to give the other view, but first I'm going to give the true view. But so that's the thing. It starts with money. It's a decline in the value of money, but that's too abstract for people. So I'm going to just say the purchasing power of money. That's actually too abstract. So I'm going to say what you can buy at the grocery store now. Um, why, what causes it? The government is basically in charge of monetary creation under the gold standard. The private sector is, but we've long passed the gold standard. We're 50 years past the gold standard. So 0.2 is if inflation is a decline of the value of money, the point too is government caused a decline in the value of money, the money, it issues dollars. Euro's yeah. Now why, well, why would the value of the money they issued go down?
Speaker 2 00:24:04 Okay. Now this is basically supply demand stuff. If I said to you, I ignored money for a moment. If I said to you, a bunch of apples were supplied, a bumper crop of apples were supplied, and nobody really demanded more apples. What would you say the value of apples would do go down decline and a surplus of apples, right? The same thing is true of money. If a government issues too much money, what does that even mean? People want money right now. The issue here is not their income. The issue is how much money do you hold in your pocket in your bank account. It really abstract, but that's the issue. And when government issues too much money relative to how much money you want to hold, it causes the value of money to decline. It shows up in higher prices. So the prices are a derivative.
Speaker 2 00:24:57 They're a, they're a outcome. They're basically the messenger saying, hello. The value of money is lower. Meaning you have to give me more pieces of that thing to get your local bread. That's why prices go up prices going up amounts to saying, why do I have to give more dollars to get the same loaf of bread answer? Because each dollar is worthless, not worthless, worth less. Get the idea now, okay. Now the next level and see how abstract, this is really abstract stuff. And it leads to real. You need really strong epistemology to get this. And then the third question would be why would the government issue too much money? So the first point was too much money causes inflation. Second governments doing it. Government, not anybody else. Third. Why, why would they do this? If the cost of living is going up, isn't this a bad thing for a government official to admit, answer to that.
Speaker 2 00:25:56 Imagine this. Now, if the government wants to spend a lot of money, which it does and doesn't want to tax you, why? Because they'd lose elections. One alternative is just to print the difference. See the difference. You can raise money by taxing people, taking some of their wealth and saying, that's how we will finance the spending. But an alternative would be, and a very common alternative for a politician would be. I wonder if we can do this with no one noticing that we taxed them, we can create money. And that's kind of like a hidden tax. Okay? Now I'm going to flip to what do people think of inflation? They go to the grocery store. Prices are much higher than they were last month. My God, the grocer is exploiting. What is wrong with this grocer? This is what's ingenious about inflation. You, you blame the messenger.
Speaker 2 00:26:51 You blame the price setters, the price centers don't even know, like you go to whole foods and they're like, okay, a loaf of bread is now $3, not $2. They don't know the government did that, but you notice that the price is higher. You get angry at whole foods. Um, this is what's happening. Now. If you, if you see discussions of inflation notice, you will not really hear what I just told you. You'll hear things like the price of meat is up 26%. Uh, the price of food is up, blah, blah, blah. The price of gas is up. And in each case, the implication is the following. The gas sellers, the bread sellers are villainous. What are they doing? Um, and I'm going to talk tomorrow. If you guys want to join in, I have a clubhouse tomorrow on whether price controls are possible and likely the price controls a very dangerous answer, that answer to inflation.
Speaker 2 00:27:50 In other words, instead of stopping the excess money creation, what if government steps up and says, we're going to save the day. We're going to prevent people like grocers from raising prices. We're going to prevent gas sellers, and we're going to be heroes here because then you can afford it. Price controls are government interventions that ultimately lead to shortages. I'll go through some, I'll go through that more tomorrow. But my bottom line on this whole topic would be inflation is going up by the way, contextually, it's going up at the fastest rate in 40 years. This is no just blip. The 40 years means 1982. It's a long time ago. Uh, so 7% is very high. It could it go to a 10 or 11? Yes, it could because so much money has been created. And, uh, so it's a real danger, but I think the secondary danger is price controls. Cause this is basically blaming the messenger and saying, well, inflation much be a bunch of people raising prices. Uh, notice it's the effect, not the cause. So it's going after the effect, not the cause, but it's specifically targeting price setters, not the causers of inflation, like the federal reserve. Um, just
Speaker 1 00:29:05 And Richard, I have a, I have a longer comment I want to make, but right now it's a clarification question. Um, so prices can go up partly for inflationary reasons, but also prices can go up because there are restrictions on supply. Yes. And so the question is in the current mess, we know we're coming out of huge supply chain disruptions due to various other things. Are we able to tease out what percentage say of the inflation or inflation is not the right word there? The rising prices is due to disruptions on the
Speaker 2 00:29:41 Supply
Speaker 1 00:29:41 Side and what amount of it is coming from, you know, selling bonds, uh, for 20 years down the road with no idea. How
Speaker 2 00:29:51 So the ultimate answer to your question is can we tease out the difference? The answer is yes, the answer is yes, actually, and it's really, it's not easy, but, and the answer is important because absolutely right. If there's a crop failure, forget it, forget inflation and monetary suppose or just a crop failure. It's just a bad crop. And the price of corn goes up that I would say is not inflation, right? And economists, you know, Steven economists will say, that's just a micro economic phenomenon, meaning unique to that industry, unique to that product. That's what micro means in economics. When we speak of macro economic, macro, meaning the entire picture inflation is a macro phenomenon and therefore a phenomenon associated with the money supply growing faster than demand. And, uh, yeah, you can tease that out. And uh, but I'm, I'm what I'm saying is that is not what politicians tend to do, because imagine this, if Joe Biden got up and said, I'm really sorry that the cost of living is going up, which is what inflation is.
Speaker 2 00:30:59 I'm really sorry that the cost of living is going up. But the federal reserve has been creating a lot of money. And by the way, they were creating a lot of money under, uh, Trump as well. So there's this, uh, delayed effect and that we're going to try to stop that and we feel really bad about it. And we've misbehave. They would never say that instead, they get up and say, they actually said this. I, I I'm embarrassed even to repeat it, Jen, Masaki got up and said, meat prices are going up 26%. The problem is big meat. She actually said, Steven, if I said to you, you know, half of it is monetary inflation, you know, and half of it is supply chain problems or the economic lockdown prevented people from going into meat plants. That's actually what's happened. They, they can't get workers.
Speaker 2 00:31:49 Um, it is a combination of the two, but the political reaction usually is isolate and criticize those who set the prices. Why? Because it takes the, uh, the focus off of us, the cause the causal part of it and puts it on the effect. And that's, by the way, why price controls become plausible to people. They look out and they say, well, the problem here is people who were setting meat prices. Those are actually meat, producers slapped down what they're doing. Um, I'll, I'll leave it at that, but it's a it's, uh, I think inflation is one of the more complicated, uh, economic phenomenon in part, because it's monetary and Mon anything monetary itself as abstract. But then when you layer in the government's involvement in money and the reasons why it might create too much of it, it is one of the most difficult things for people to get their heads.
Speaker 1 00:32:53 Yeah. Jump in as a, as a moralist and talk about the morality or actually what I think of as the immorality of inflation. My, uh, my understanding of the economic story is as, as you've laid it out and, uh, the way I think of inflation as, as a kind of a tax on future productivity. So what they're doing is saying we're going to print more money and sometimes they do print more money, but typically what they do is they sell bonds, right? And the bonds that are going to come due 10 years, 20 years down the road, uh, and then we know that, uh, the American economy will be productive 10 or 20 years down the road. And then we'll have the tax revenues to roll over the bonds for the next generation. So that's all the economics of it, but it doesn't strike me that despite all of the abstraction people do understand a particularly politicians do understand money enough to know that they are functioning as immoral individuals in the following sense.
Speaker 1 00:33:55 If you strip it down to, this is a form of debt, I need to pay off in the, in the future. And we all understand the idea that if you take on debt with no clue how you are going to pay that debt off in the future, that you are acting in a profoundly irresponsible fashion. If I happen to have a credit card and I can charge up $20,000, but I know I have no, no income prospects. If I spend that $10,000, I am functioning as an immoral individual. So I would say any politician who is voting for multi-billion trillion dollar bills say, yeah, I want these goodies politically right now. And I have no idea how this is going to be paid for 10 years or 15 years down the road. That is an immoral individual. Another element that I think is a, is inappropriate doubly inappropriate here is, you know, if I, if I think, okay, I'm willing to borrow some money and money in effect is a analogous to an IOU, right?
Speaker 1 00:34:59 Uh, it's going to be a claim on something right in the, in the future. So I start issuing IOUs to people, setting aside the issue of whether I know I can make good on those IOUs or not in the good if in that IOU contract, I put a specification that if I don't happen to pay this off, don't worry, my kids I'm contractually binding my kids to paying this debt off to you. That is an additional right immortality. And we know that all of the politicians, they have to understand budgeting and money, at least to the point that they know it's their kids and their grandkids who are supposed to be paying for this. Nonetheless, they're taking the short-term political gains and saddling other people with the debt. So, uh, we all understand this as a, as a new morality at the individual level, but for some reason there's a double standard. We're willing to say, oh, it's just politicians, blah, blah, blah. We know what they are doing. So I think that double standard, that moral double standard is something we need to highlight. Uh, yes, we do need better economic education, but we need to hold politicians, moral feet to the fire on these sorts of issues.
Speaker 2 00:36:08 I liked that. And I like the idea that the voters themselves must know what they're voting for, because if apologies stands up and says goodies, goodies, goodies, goodies, spending, spending, spending, spending, most Americans still commonsensically say, Hmm, how are you going to pay for that? The only options are tax borrow print. And one of the reasons I love Steven Hicks is how can a philosopher, so know so much about economics? My gosh, and not just that he knows so much about public finance is that cause that's what Objectivists do. They have like a well-rounded knowledge?
Speaker 1 00:36:47 Well, we could ask how, when economists know so much about philosophy
Speaker 2 00:36:52 And, and let me just add one of the most fascinating things you said, which I didn't say, cause I thought this is way over their heads, but you said it. If the government borrows a lot of money, it's got to pay the money back in the future, right? What is inflation? I decline in the value of money. How immoral is that? These are people who borrow knowing darn well that the value of the money they pay at the end is lower. Wow. Then they notice that and the federal reserve knows that and all the specialists know it and they don't mind it. So think of this also, it isn't just an issue of the issue too much money and then blame the grocer or blame the gas, uh, the gas pump. They also know that they're piling up a massive amount of government debt. Oh my God, they're thinking, oh my gosh, how do we pay that back? We're never going to pay that back because we'd have to tax people. But if we print money, the value of what we have to pay back is lower. We're basically going to immorally, debase, lower the value of money. We pay back to people. Wow. That now that is way more abstract because now you're talking about inflation in debt, but that is definitely a factor. I'm glad you mentioned that. It's a good one. Thank you.
Speaker 0 00:38:17 All right. Well, we have quite a few questions. If you guys are ready to move on, But we'll start with Jennifer. Grossman wants to know, should the government raise interest rates and why or why not? And what will be the pros and cons of
Speaker 2 00:38:32 That policy. Thank you, Jennifer. I, I, I am very reluctant to say, Hey, the government should do this or that with some market price. I hate that. I hate the whole thing. On the other hand, I'm inclined to say yes. Why? Because when they artificially keep interest rates at zero, that is just so wrong, unnatural in a way, a moral, an interest rate is a reward to lending, right? So they're punishing lenders by trying to depress interest rates. Why are they trying to punish lenders? Lenders are dastardly, uh, capitalistic, greedy, say that they're always on the side of the borrowers, a Deere bar, or wouldn't it be nice to borrow at zero. Please vote for us. Now who's the biggest borrower, the government. So it's very clever because the federal reserve, I want you to keep interest rates at zero. Why? Oh, not I'm trying to stimulate the economy really stimulate the economy. No. To provide low cost funding for the economies borrowers and to penalize the economies. Lenders is total altruism as applied to public finance. But that's a good question in general. So I I'm reluctant to say to some central planner, please raise the price of something, but they should because it's really artificially low. So my answer is yes, they should raise interest rates. Okay.
Speaker 0 00:40:00 That's interesting exercise. When I remember the first time you said that on morals and markets about why the government wants to keep interest rates at zero. I had never heard that. So, so much for my econ 1 0 2 public union. No, that's very interesting. I don't, I don't think a lot of people think about that. So, um, next question from Jack on YouTube. What is the solution to modern day inflation? Would this solution cause illiquidity in the financial markets?
Speaker 2 00:40:30 Uh, the answer is no, it wouldn't cause illiquidity. This, the solution is to basically anchor. I think that's a good analogy. Anchor the money in some objective, uh, commodity, hint, hint gold. Uh, so this is a huge topic, but uh, I'll just come out for the gold standard, but you know, libertarians will sometimes say, Hey Salzman, why don't you just come out for free choice in money? And it might end up being the gold standard, but it might end up being Bitcoin. I have no problem with that. I think the key thing is to get government out of the money business. I mean the creation on manipulation of money and credit, but I have to say in a written on this at length, the main reason we have central banks issuing money without limit, the reason is we have a welfare state, which is out of control and politicians who smartly do not want tax people.
Speaker 2 00:41:34 And so they don't, but that means you have to resort to other methods of funding, this crazy spending. And one of the big ones is printing money. But what are the other ones as Dr. X's pointed out is borrowing money in neither case though, where they really issuing debt or money, that's credible. Why is it not credible? Because it's not backed by any productive prowess? What, when a company borrows money, you know, like if, uh, if Microsoft borrows money, it's got a product, it's got revenues that are productive and it turns around and repays the bank, the government is not fundamentally a productive enterprise. So if it borrows is basically acting in some parasitical way on the productive sector, it's not sustainable that are either going to have to default on it, literally stopped paying principal and interest. Or as Dr. Hicks pointed out, now they just print money and they don't technically default, but the money you get from them when you buy their bonds is worth substantially less at the end, which is a kind of default. So inflation itself is a kind of a default, but I hope that helps.
Speaker 1 00:42:42 Yeah. I wonder though, if, uh, because I sometimes wonder about who buys these bonds knowing they're coming due in five years or 10 years, and these are going to be very financially savvy people running majors, tuitions, and so on. Right? And so they're not going to buy these bonds unless they're pretty sure that they, uh, the interest on them and the principal's going to be repaid. So they are making a calculation, uh, having normalized the idea that governments can tax their citizens at whatever rate is necessary, uh, and or borrow in the future. But the other calculation they're making is about the state of the U S economy as a whole is going to grow with percent or 3%. So the productivity is out there, tax revenues are going to be higher and we can adjust the track for revenues and so on. And so it's still a safe investment. What do you think about that kind of calculation?
Speaker 2 00:43:33 That's a great question. Also, vet, most philosophers don't ask questions. Like that's a great question. And my short answer would be, they are conscious of the power of the government to, uh, borrow almost without limit. And one of the weirdest things about the United States is it's borrowing a lot and creating a lot of dollars, but relative to other countries, it's still considered a, a responsible government. If you look at it in isolation, it looks you're responsible relative to long-time us history, but what these, what these various do traders on wall street and elsewhere do Stephen is they look at well, what about government debt, us government debt, relative to German government debt, relative to Greek Grubman to relative to Canadian. So it's like having a, what is it, the worst house on the block? Um, but, or the best house I'm about the U S it's a relative thing. All the governments of the world are becoming profligate irresponsible, as you would put an immoral, but at varying rates and some would say the U S is less profligate than others. It's way. It's very odd. It's very weird. Yeah, but there's still probably good.
Speaker 0 00:44:59 We'll do one more question on this topic before we move on to the next, uh, David Kelly here on zoom wants to know, are there significant differences between inflation in the 1970s and now,
Speaker 2 00:45:10 Yes, David, great question. In the 1970s, the reason the inflation was much worse, I believe, and you and I will live through this. You are writing for Barron's at the time, it was much worse, but the U S had just gone off the gold standard in 1971. So it was a very chaotic decade. If you've been on the gold standard for 50 years as the world was, and as the U S was, and then you go off, it's very difficult for markets to figure out, oh my gosh, where's the dollar going? There's no anchor. It's literally like being a ship at sea. And then you throw it, you cut the anchor. You have to make an estimate of, oh my God, is this thing gonna float off to Asia? Is it gonna sink? Is it gonna, you know, be buffeted by the storms of blah, blah, blah, blah.
Speaker 2 00:45:55 And so the uncertainty, I would say David, in 1970s of where the dollar was going, made people doubt it even more. Now, of course, we're still off the gold standard now, but you have to confess that decades of being off the goal-set. There have been long periods of time when there hasn't been high inflation. And I would say that you would know this, this has surprised some of the Austrian economists the liquid by me. I love visas and others, but for years they've been saying, we're going to have a hyperinflate Peter Schiff will say that we're going to have a hyperinflation that's just around the corner. Why? Because MES has taught them that the longer a currency is off the gold standard. The more likely it's just going to go to zero, it's going to lose all its value. There's going to be a hyperinflation.
Speaker 2 00:46:42 And that hasn't really been true in the U S and it's a head-scratcher to a lot of free market economists are thinking, wait a minute, how can, uh, a purely thought money and convert? How can it hold its value? I don't mean it doesn't deteriorate. It does in places like two or 3% a year, it's been a surprise to them. But that's my answer as the difference in the seventies. And the question comes up all the time. Are we going to get an inflation, like the seventies in the coming decade? Well, that literally, that means 15, 20% a year, not seven. So it's no small thing. I don't think it's likely because as I said, I think the seventies were new unique, and it was like a earthquake where off the gold standard, go figure it out. That's not quite where we are today. Hmm.
Speaker 1 00:47:29 All right. Well, for now we will move on to our third topic and we will circle back to some of your guys's questions at the end. Um, third topic here, uh, pig, heart transplant. So, Steven, I think you're going to kick us off with this very interesting topic. Yeah, well, I'm trying to change my emotional set because the more Richard was talking the sad or I was becoming about all of the inflation stuff. Now this struck me a, I don't know if Lawrence or, or you can put the link up there, but there was a report on a successful transplant of a pig heart into a human being who needed a, uh, a, uh, a heart transplant. Now heart transplants in one, respect are an amazing achievement in the 20th century, but in a way they are old news. So the cross species transplant is, uh, is, uh, is a technical achievement.
Speaker 1 00:48:21 It's a, a scientific achievement and a medical achievement. Uh, but there's a couple of other interesting things. One is that the, uh, we've been facing organ shortages across the board chronically. Uh, and so this opens up the possibility of, uh, basically limitless supply of organs to, uh, to get to people who genuinely need these organs and so forth. One of the things, this is another piece of good news, that's had a negative lining to it is one of the reasons why we have an organ shortage is that, uh, driving safety has improved so much over the last 20 or 30 years. So instead of having 70,000 know car deaths per year, we're down to 30,000 cars per year. Wow. That's, that's really good news, right? Unless you a, you want an organ transplant. I never thought of that. Wow. That's great. Yes. Right. So, uh, that then is, uh, has meant that aside from that, the scientific input is to, to try to figure out to new knowledge and so forth, but there's been a lot of entrepreneurial activity around how to increase the supply, the supply of organs.
Speaker 1 00:49:34 I just wanted to mention that this is also a, uh, an achievement in genetic engineering, because it wasn't just take out the pink hearts, swap it into the human being. It required that the pig first be genetically modified, uh, for various markers so that they're compatible with human beings. So great advances in genetics and genetic engineering. And then obviously it's going to be a lifesaver for, for many human beings as a following some of the discussion around this. And there, there are some interesting side angles, uh, uh, of course there've been people who are distressed by all of this, uh, you know, the, the, the long standing automatic negative response to any sort of medical achievement, uh, you know, anesthesia surgery in the first place, uh, uh, et cetera, and even doing transplants, uh, has been a big controversial. Any sort of genetic modification has been been controversial.
Speaker 1 00:50:33 And there was an interesting issue for, for us to think about, I think about it sometimes is, but every time there is some sort of scientific slash technical slash medical achievement, there does seem to be this huge psychological divide between those whose first reaction is, this is cool. This is great. And they see the upside to it, and they recognize that, yes, there are risks. There are downsides, but their sense is those can be solved. We can handle those, right. At some point along the way, versus those every time that patient comes along and their first reaction is this is Frankenstein. This is evil scientists. This is Hollywood end of the world scenario. And they're only kind of vaguely aware of the potential upsides and so on. So, uh, uh, I'm interested in probing more deeply into what's behind those two sets. Uh, the people who always are kind of boosters with respect to the technology and those who are doomsters with respect to the, to the technology and the same thing is occurring here.
Speaker 1 00:51:38 And other interesting angle to this, uh, is this question about human identities. So there's a kind of longstanding issues about, uh, you know, we start to swapping out organs, you know, I get a liver transplant from somebody, and then I get a kidney transplant. Then I get a heart transplant. At what point do I kind of stop being Steven Hicks and start being this agglomeration of various other individuals whose, uh, whose organs I have in my, in my, in my bodies that require a brain transplant. Well, yes. And then we get to the, it gets with the brain, and then it takes a different variation of you start talking about artificial parts, right? So suppose I have a portable kidney dialysis machine, but I don't have my original kidneys anymore. I have a Jarvik 75 heart. They'll delete his artificial heart, or, you know, I have some sort of computer implants taking over various parts of my brain function to stop point, do I stop being a human being and start being an Android or a robot, right?
Speaker 1 00:52:37 And so there, there are those fun issues. But the interesting issue that came up in, in, uh, in one of the discussions here was people who were more disturbed by the pig, heart being transplanted into a human than say a Jarvik seven or a Jarvik 75 being transplanted into a human that they were more comfortable with the idea of a piece of plastic and Silicon technology taking the place of a heart rather than an animal, right? Like a pig taking the place of the heart. And so there are some interesting value issues built into what is it to be a human and, and what level of comfort a lot of people have. So I put that out there primarily as a good news issue to balance the two negatives, but also just one that raises kind of some fun questions about human, a human identity.
Speaker 2 00:53:28 Yeah. And Steven, did you ever come across the argument that, Hey, what are you arrogant humans doing sacrificing, and instead of it, so just the idea that, wait a minute, you have no say you can't be exploiting pigs
Speaker 1 00:53:42 For the animal rights. Activists will be all over that
Speaker 2 00:53:45 As well. Yes. That's in there as well. Okay.
Speaker 1 00:53:47 Wow. So the question then will be, uh, you know, to ameliorate that problem, whether it entirely lab grown pig hearts, genetically modified is going to be possible. Yeah.
Speaker 2 00:53:59 And I often say to students, you know, when it comes to farm animals, pigs, cows, chickens, the humans propagate them. So it's hard to think for self-interest reasons. So it's hard to think of humans as exploiting those species when they mass produce them right here. Kind of weird. Yeah.
Speaker 0 00:54:20 Um, so we have, well, here's a comment here at, it leads into a question from Scott Schiff. He says, promoting life extension is the future of a philosophy with life as the standard of good. Do you agree with that, Steven?
Speaker 1 00:54:35 Uh, yes. So though, yeah, the phosphor me immediately wants to get, uh, careful about that sort of say that life is the standard of good is not necessarily to say that life is always good. So we do raise those judgment calls about, you know, if life has the standard of good and we then detail that as individuals, what goods I'm going to be pursuing and under what circumstances my, my life is worthwhile, but the default position certainly is, you know, the more, the better. And so I'm going ho about all of the life extension potential realities that are out there.
Speaker 2 00:55:13 Yeah. So am I, so am I, and the whole idea of life extension, whether due to vitamins or other transplants that the gut guy, if you think of a capitalism as a system, which has enormously extended lifespans, just the system itself has, uh, yeah, but Steven and you know, what it reminds me of life extension sounds like years sounds like quantity and doesn't necessarily get to the issue of quality. Right. So if you had an extension of the quality of life, I'd be much more, which of course is true. I mean, that's part of what life extension people are doing. They're not saying please extend my life, you know, on a respirator. Um, but it does seem like a pro-life attitude, a focus on how comes humans live longer, live longer and healthier and happier. Yeah. That's just kind of, that is kind of cool.
Speaker 0 00:56:05 All right. Well, we have a number of questions in the chat going back to some previous topics as well. So I don't, I, uh, unless you have any last comments on this topic, I will go and, um, find some more questions for you guys to answer, right. Um, let's see. So going back to the inflation question, um, Kevin Roman on Facebook asks how much of this is caused. The inflation issue is caused by baseline budgeting.
Speaker 2 00:56:37 I'm Kevin, you know, that's way too technical. Um, I would say zero. That's my answer, Kevin, the email me though. So we can debate this zero baseline budgeting as a technical public finance issue. I don't think that's related at all.
Speaker 0 00:56:53 All right. And now going back to, um, the first discussion we were having, uh, let me see, I'm still scrolling up in the chat here to get to the question. Let's see. All right. So David Kelly wants to know, is it possible that college students don't appreciate that it is intended? Um, so we're talking about the free, the free speech issue that these are intended for discussion and debate. Seeing it rather as a social club college in which women tend to emphasize empathy, togetherness, um, don't be rude, quote unquote. Um, it's cetera. So to what degree do college students not appreciate the intention?
Speaker 1 00:57:37 Yeah. Yeah. That's a, that's a good question. It's a hard question. I would say, not only college students, but also faculty and administrators. Uh, the question is what is the core value or the top value of a university? And there are lots of things we want universities to do, uh, including socialization, uh, we've pursued lots of social values, uh, and so on job training, cognitive training, finding the meaning of life, uh, becoming independent from your parents, right, et cetera, et cetera. So there's a long list of things that, um, universities over the course of the 20th century strove to add to the package and universities came to be these very full service, uh, service operations. And that, that did lead to some slippage in, uh, in the idea. But what exactly of all of these values that we're trying to promote are the top values in which ones are the secondary values as well, adding to all of that, there are ideological differences.
Speaker 1 00:58:39 People, some people are not that interested in cognition, but they are interested in social engineering. Some people do in fact go to university just to get married and other people and, uh, or just to get a job. And they're not really interested in the meaning of life and, and, and so on. So, so yes, but I would just say that's part of the ongoing mission of the university is to do self-examination why are we here? And to have that conversation going, uh, with the faculty and the students and the administration, uh, but then in, in that mix, uh, my argument is always going to be the pursuit of truth is the ultimate value and the others should be subordinate to that.
Speaker 2 00:59:22 David, it might interest you that. And a related survey, very interesting. The survey was done a couple of years ago. I think a 15,000 college students, uh, would you be willing to be, have a roommate who's the opposite political party of you? What do you, what do you think the survey said are Republican freshmen more tolerant of their liberal roommate answer? Yes. And then it guys would go the other way around the liberal that does not really like ending up with a conservative roommate, but now drill down. What do you think the woman Democrat or liberal, even less tolerant, very interesting and somewhat dovetails with the essay that Steven pointed or the survey Stephen pointed out today. So that's kind of more personal. Like what, who are you willing to be with on campus? Not just be with live with. Here's another interesting, just an anecdote. I will often ask students if you have a minority view. And today that usually means pro capitalist pro American pro constitutional, do you get more pushback from professors or students? Because the conservatives have constantly say, the professors are terrible. They're punishing kids for, and they're downgrading them at the answer. Universally from these students is other students. They do not say professors are punishing them that conservatives libertarians and Objectivists are saying others, students are ostracizing them, isolating them, denouncing them. Very interesting.
Speaker 1 01:00:59 Yeah. Have you just for one more comment, just piggybacking on what Richard just said, it is interesting in the 1990s on this free speech issue. If you look at all of the speech codes that were being promulgated, all of them were directed at students. They were crafted by professors saying, and almost always explicitly students are not allowed to discriminate or be empowered with respect or engage in hate speech with respect to this. So the idea was that the professors or the enlightened ones and the students needed to have the training wheels put in place in order to keep them on track. And then what happened over the course of the next generation is that students learned that lesson very well. By the time we got into the 20 teens, the table was turned and all of the high profile cases involve students raising complaints against their professors and students raising complaints against other student groups, uh, exactly along the lines that Richard is
Speaker 2 01:01:53 Highlighting. Interesting. Wow.
Speaker 0 01:01:57 Yeah. Anecdotally, I would say that was true. When I was in university, it was primarily putting the pressure. Sometimes it felt like professors were even a little bit scared to go against what the students were saying. Think that, um, I would say anecdotally, I think is true. So as always, this is an amazing conversation. You guys are both not just an economist and a philosopher, but a in other multidisciplinary, I suppose I should say so very impressed with all that you guys know. I hope to be as knowledgeable someday. So I'm, I want to thank you, Richard and Steven for joining us. Thank all of you for joining us again. I'm Abby Beringer. If you enjoyed this video or are a fan of our other material, please consider making a [email protected]
slash donate and be sure to tune in next week when Ahmad massage will be our guest for the next episode of the Atlas society asks. And lastly, tomorrow don't forget Richard's clubhouse that was posted in the chat. And we also have morals and markets with Richard next Thursday and Atlas intellectuals on February 9th. So there's, there's very much, you will get emails about it. Get on our email list if you're not already to stay up to date on all of our webinars and events. So
Speaker 2 01:03:07 Thank you, Abby. Thank you, Steven. Thank you. Thanks.