Speaker 0 00:00:00 Hello everyone. And welcome to the 104th episode of the Atlas society asks. My name is Jennifer Angie Grossman. My friends call me JAG. I'm the CEO of the Atlas society. We are the leading nonprofit, introducing young people to the ideas of iron Rand in fun, creative ways like graphic novels and animated videos. Uh, today we are joined by professor Jason Brennan. Before I even begin to introduce professor Brennan. Um, I wanna remind all of you who are watching us on zoom, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, or LinkedIn, or YouTube. Use the comment section, typing your questions, get 'em queued up now, and we'll get to as many of them as we can. Jason Brennan is a philosopher and a business professor at the McDonough school of business at Georgetown university. He has written dozens of articles and papers for both scholarly and popular magazines, uh, and has authored 20 books. I think, um, he's, uh, right up there as, uh, setting that record for, for our guests, uh, including the ethics of voting against democracy. Why not capitalism and why? My personal favorite? Why it's okay to want to be rich. Jason, welcome again. And thank you for joining us.
Speaker 1 00:01:18 Thanks. Thanks for having me.
Speaker 0 00:01:20 So first, uh, let's start with your origin story. Um, where did you grow up? What influenced you and, um, your interest in philosophy in politics?
Speaker 1 00:01:31 Thanks. Uh, I'm from the Boston area, I'm actually the only person in my family that doesn't have a Bostonian accent. My twin brother sounds like Ted Kennedy. Um, I don't know where I lost it. Uh, and so I'm like from that area, uh, I think my first exposure to philosophy was really in ninth grade, I had a history teacher who pushed the idea that ideas were driving history. Um, and so at one point I won this contest, which came with a gift certificate to a bookstore, and I went to the bookstore and bought, uh, John lock's second treatise and Carl Marx's communist manifesto. Cause I thought here are two opposing philosophies that seemed to have a lot of historical influence. So I started reading P philosophy, um, because of that. Uh, and then in 11th grade, um, my economics teacher exposed me to Henry Haslett's economics and one lesson.
Speaker 1 00:02:18 Um, I applied for some scholarship with regard to that, got some money from it. Um, and I think that was really my big transition philosoph, even though it was an economics book philosophically because of the method that it taught me to think with. And, you know, thinking through the long term consequences of something, not simply looking at the intentions of the people who PO it. Um, so I think, I think it disab abused me of a lot of that naivete that most of us have when we're at that age. Um, and then from there it was on to other things and, um, I first read, uh, iron Rand in 12th grade. Um, I read wow. <inaudible> um, and I think, I think it was, uh, there was a scholarship contest associated with it. I don't, I never applied for it if there was. Um, but I do remember there was someone told me about that.
Speaker 1 00:03:03 Um, so I read the fountain head and then I read ATLA shrugged, and me the living and, uh, Anthem shortly after that and started reading some of the, the non-fiction, uh, and you know, that was a, I was an economics and philosophy major as an undergraduate. So it just all seemed natural, uh, in terms of becoming a philosopher. Actually I can, I remember the, the moment I decided to do that, I could tell you the date. It was May 2nd in the year, 2000. Uh, I was at my university and I, I knew I needed to take time off, to go work basically in a factory, uh, to make enough money to go back to college. I, I was paying for college outta my own pocket. I ran out of cash and, um, I was literally clearing out my room in my fraternity house. And even though I wasn't at the time a philosophy major, I had, you know, maybe 50 philosophy books and I'm just like, what does it take to become a philosophy professor? How do you go about do that? So I, before packing my computer, I Googled it. And I found out that when you go to grad school, it's not only is it free, but they pay you to go. So I'm like, oh, I can afford to do it. Uh, so that was May 2nd, 2000. I made this plan, like, I'm going to go back, I'll, I'll get, uh, finish, I'll get a, I'll do a philosophy major. Uh, I'll get a PhD philosophy and I'll go from there. So that was, that was it. That was the moment.
Speaker 0 00:04:13 Where did you do your, your studies, your,
Speaker 1 00:04:16 Uh, so PhD was at the university of Arizona with David Schmitz. Uh, Arizona had been for a long time. It was the number one program in, in political philosophy in the English speaking world. It had just world class faculty. A lot of people kind of moved and so on since then, but, uh, it was like the place to be when I was there.
Speaker 0 00:04:34 All right. Well, um, I read your book, uh, on libertarianism and, uh, at the outset, you, you had a categorization that I have not heard before, uh, of libertarians classical liberals and neoclassical liberals. Um, and I think hard libertarians, right? So there was the three categories. What are the primary differences between these groups and what category best describes you?
Speaker 1 00:05:05 Yeah. Um, in that, to be honest, I'm not sure if I really like that distinction anymore, that I was drawing back then. Um, I think I might have moved away from that, but, you know, that was, since the book came on 2012, that was 2011. I wrote it. I guess the idea is supposed to be something like this classical liberal is the broadest most inclusive category. And with any, when you think of like any ism, you know, you're gonna have a lot of people who might agree to certain conclusions, but have different kinds of reasons for it, right? That's, that's the common thing where people might share, they might share some part of their philosophy, but they don't share everything, right. It's like, not, it's not that common that like, if my neighbor and I might agree, it's something we agree on every part of, of metaphysics or epistemology or whatnot.
Speaker 1 00:05:43 So I'm using kind of classical liberal as like the broad category. Um, and generally speaking, classical liberals are people who are, who believe that there should be strong rights of economic Liberty that think that we should have overall a fundamentally market based economy, that people should have fairly strong rights of personal autonomy and so on, but they might have all sorts of different reasons why they might agree on those conclusions and they might be stricter and less strict about it. Um, I was using the word libertarian, uh, and this again, it's, it's a little bit of a term of art to try to capture how people are talking, but it's it's to some degree of stipulation, uh, hard libertarians, I think of are people like maybe Murray Rothbard or Robert Sik and so on who have a view that fundamentally what makes Liberty just is that is a down to logical argument.
Speaker 1 00:06:29 We owe this to one another and to ourselves, it's not about the consequences of the structure that determine whether it's good or bad. It's simply that this is what it takes to respect. One another is to give people these rights. And so those are people who might say things like Liberty though, the sky falls, and you see that with someone like Mary Rothbard, where he would say, you know, Hey, if you have, if you have an infant and you put him right at the end of your property, just, just rate right out of reach, can, I'm allowed to take a step onto your property to like save the infant. And he go, no, you can't. Or, uh, if I kick some dust onto like pollution, doesn't that cause a problem? Like, how do we deal with the externalities of pollution? He's like, well, it's not really clear.
Speaker 1 00:07:05 We can, we might have to shut down the whole world. And he'll sometimes make these really extreme claims like that. I was thinking of neoclassical liberals as people who are sort of halfway between that, um, for them, they, they do think yes, as a matter of respecting one another, as a matter of principle, we are owed Liberty. Um, we are not here to be sacrificed for one another. We're not tools for one another's use. However, it does matter in the justification of the system that the system works a certain way. Um, so a good way of putting it is like, imagine contrary to fact, Carl Marks were right about how economics works. He's not, he's wrong about everything. Interesting. He says is mistaken, but, uh, imagine he were right. And that it turned out that a capitalist system led to the commiseration of almost everybody in mass poverty and only a small number of people would have any property at the end of the day.
Speaker 1 00:07:55 And it would just be a total disaster. Would you still, if, if you were right about that, would you still advocate a capitalistic system? If you're inclined to say yes, then you might be a hard libertarianism using the term if you're inclined to say, well, look, I don't think it would. Yeah, it won't work that way. I agree. But if you're inclined to say, if it did work that way, contrary to fact that would be a strong count against the system, then you're probably more of a neoclassical liberal because you think the consequences of the system and its ability to produce human flourishing are part of what justifies it.
Speaker 0 00:08:26 So maybe, um, the classical or neoclassical would be more, a little more utilitarian and looking at the outcomes.
Speaker 1 00:08:34 Yeah, I think in a way, uh, you don't have to say utilitarian, cuz that that comes loaded with a lot of baggage about how much you're willing to sacrifice one person for another or trade their welfare. But if you think part of the justification for this system is that it promotes everyone's welfare. It creates conditions under which human beings are able to flourish. That if you think that's important for its justification, then I think you're, that's a kind of concern about consequences. And I think that's part of, uh, what would make you more neoclassical liberal as opposed to, uh, a hard libertarian
Speaker 0 00:09:08 And what category best fits you or, you know, not sticking hard and fast to the categories, but how would you describe yourself in that kind of spectrum?
Speaker 1 00:09:17 Yeah. I mean, given that kind of terminology, I would call myself a neoclassical liberal, but again, uh, these are to some degree it's, it's a little bit of a stipulation. The reality is that these are words that are used differently by different people. And so in writing the book, I have to basically say there are words that are out there they're sort of indeterminate to some degree because different people are gonna use the words slightly differently, just so that you and I can communicate. I'm gonna let you know that I'm gonna use the words to, to carve up the world this way. And if you don't like using the words that way, that's fine. We're having just, we could use different words. If we wanted to, we could call them type a type B type C libertarians. If we wanted to. Cause sometimes people use libertarian as a very broad category.
Speaker 1 00:09:59 Sometimes they use it as a very narrow category. Sometimes people use classical liberal as a broad category as a narrow category. Um, that often happens when, especially when you have words that are philosophical, but they get out there to the public, the words start to change their meaning quite a bit. And then you have the problem. Like the word liberal is like that when the word liberal was just a word for philosophers and economists, it had a pretty defined meaning. Now when I, if I say to my father, like the word liberal, he pictures, something very different from what I picture, because that's a word that has become, uh, that now means, you know, left wing in the us. But in Europe it doesn't really mean that it means more right wing in Europe. It means like more closer to what we mean by libertarian.
Speaker 1 00:10:40 So that's just a problem in general, if the word metaphysics is like that, uh, in Tucson where I used to live, there was a store called the metaphysic shop. They didn't sell philosophy. They sold like crystals, crystals. And, uh, you knows and things like that. Right? So sometimes we have this issue where you're trying to communicate with people who are getting a word that's been used and misused by others. And you just have to some degree stipulate, this is what I'm going to use this word to mean. If you don't like that, that's fine. Just substitute something else.
Speaker 0 00:11:09 Makes sense. All right. Well, I can already see that we've got some questions, uh, beginning to queue up. I wanna encourage all of you who are joining us across our various platforms. Come on in and dive in with a question or two. Um, this is a really wonderful opportunity, particularly now we are hearing, uh, from Democrats and those on the left, that democracy is under assault. Um, professor Jason Brennan is, uh, has written extensively about democratic theory and the ethics of voting. So, um, I wanna dive in with your view on that whole debate, how do you interpret the complaint? Is it, uh, valid and what do we do about it?
Speaker 1 00:11:54 I mean, a lot of what they're saying is, is frankly posturing. And I respect them enough to say that they know it. I mean, it's not even being mean to them to say that, uh, in a way that, you know, that I think is many times people who claim to be ardent Democrats have the following behavior. If democracy votes in a way they don't like they immediately claim that it was sabotaged in some way. So for instance, I'm not a Trump supporter. I don't like Trump. Um, I'm not glad that he won in 2016, but, uh, when in 2016, when he won and he did legitimately win by the rules of the game, he won fair and square. Lots of people who claim to be aren't in Democrats said, obviously the system was sabotaged. It was sabotaged by the Russians. They still believe that. Now, even though like that's been investigated thoroughly, it's bunk, uh, scientific papers have come out in, you know, Amer political science journal showing that Russian influence did not win him the election.
Speaker 1 00:12:44 We know that, but they still believe it even now, uh, in the same way that on the right, you'll see people do the same kind of thing where when they, it doesn't go their way, they'll often claim that the system was sabotage. So I, I think there's a tendency for people to not really believe in democracy, despite having an almost religious attachment to it. The grain of truth of it is this is that there are kind of ways of measuring how democratic countries are. And to some degree there's been a phenomenon of democratic backsliding over the past 10 years where the various indices that political scientists produced to sort of measure the degree of democratic. You might say that if the world were getting a 70 overall in, in the year 2010, maybe it's like a 67 right now. Um, there's been some movement towards, uh, some countries have, you know, say like they take Turkey, for instance, it's become less democratic over the past few years, they've aggregated some of the democratic powers and given more power to the executive, a few other countries have done that. So I do think there is a global sense in which democracy is backs sliding. I wouldn't say it's necessarily under assault. I think that's just a rhetorical device people use, um, because it gets people energized and let's go fight it out.
Speaker 0 00:13:53 All right. Well, um, I've seen the argument associated with you that perhaps most citizens should not be voting or they may, uh, even have a moral obligation to not vote. What's what's your reason. I reasoning behind that.
Speaker 1 00:14:10 Yeah. It's, it's almost strange that we think otherwise to be honest, um, we would never say something like you don't know anything about brain surgery, but it's important that you make your cut or you don't know anything about plumbing, but it's really important that you go fix some pipes. Generally speaking, we recognize that society works best when there's a division of labor, people specialize in different tasks, they make different kinds of contributions. We honor them for their different ways of being productive. And yet we pretend for some reason that everyone is good at politics, even when they aren't. And it's obviously false. Um, when it comes to politics, most people know less than nothing. Uh, ignorance would actually make them better off because they're systematically misinformed about many, just very basic facts. So I tend to think, look, what would be the argument for you voting?
Speaker 1 00:14:56 Well, it's gotta be you're using when you're voting your vote. Doesn't matter very much. But ultimately what we are doing is trying to take this thing that has a monopoly on violence and coercion in our society and manipulated in various ways. I think a very basic point of that has to be, if you're going to exert power on other people you need to do so competently in good faith. I don't say those are sufficient conditions, but I think they are necessary conditions. So an analogy I like to use is something like, alright, imagine, um, imagine that your, uh, on trial for capital murder, first degree murder, and we are the jury and we, during the, during the trial, lots of information is given to us. We don't pay any attention to any of it. We just ignore it. And then we go back to deliberate.
Speaker 1 00:15:41 Now, suppose we decide to find you guilty because I heard that she's an iron rans fan. We hate people like that. Or we find you guilty because, uh, you know, we don't like your hair color. We find you guilty because you own a rival. We own like a rival line ran group, and we wanna put yours out business. We, we put you, we find you guilty because we're, we don't pay attention to the facts. We just flip a coin. Oh, came up, tails. You're guilty. Or suppose we actually pay attention to the evidence. But we process this in evidence in an incredibly irrational way where the evidence points to one thing. But we just, we, we come to conclude, you must be a secret lizard person from outer space. And there's no reason to think that if we did any of these things, and you could show that to the judge, you would be entitled to a new trial, the jury in order to exert this power over, you has to act in good faith.
Speaker 1 00:16:27 They have to be trying to find the right answer. They have to be acting on the motive of promoting justice and they have to be competent. I think that idea that you have to act competently in good faith, applies to anyone who exerts power over anyone else and any kind of high stakes thing. It applies to the president. It applies to the vice P vice president has anything. It applies to Congress and every, it applies to generals. It applies to your county tax collector. And I think it applies to the public as a whole. The thing that people resist about that is they say, oh, but it can apply to the public as a whole, because you are deciding for yourself, you have the right as an individual to hurt yourself. If you want, if you decide to, I don't know, eat six pounds of Cadbury, mini aches every day, starting now you'll probably get diabetes, but that's your right.
Speaker 1 00:17:11 You have the right to harm yourself that way. If you want to shave your head and put a facial tattoo or something, you have the right to do that. You can do whatever you want to yourself. So don't, we, the people have the right to do whatever you want to. We, the people. And of course, given this audience, you can probably see what's flawed about that. It's not, we, the people as one individual entity hurting itself, it's always a small subset of people hurting everybody else, including themselves. And often, because they don't know what they're doing. It's an incentive problem having to do with the structure of democracy analogy I like to use is if you were taking a class, say at, uh, university of California, Berkeley, where I think the, I think the introductory biology class tends to have something like a thousand students in it because everyone takes it.
Speaker 1 00:17:53 Um, imagine a professor came in on the first day and said, I'm I'm egalitarian. So what I'm going to do is all of you will get exactly the same grade 14 weeks from now. You'll take one final exam. The final exam will be worth a hundred percent of your grade. I'll average all of your grades together. You'll all get that you'd expect under those conditions that the average grade would be an F. And in fact, experimentally, that's what you find. It's not cuz necessarily people are stupid or bad, but because the incentive structure is messed up. Everyone reasons as if I work really hard and study really hard and I personally get a hundred on the test that has, I still fail the class. If I slack off and do nothing, I still fail the class. I might as well just enjoy my time. Watching Netflix, not bother study.
Speaker 1 00:18:33 That's what's going on effectively. What an election is, is like a big, final exam on economics, criminal policy, environmental policy, history, sociology, it's, you know, political science, the dynamics of political parties and a bunch of other things held every four years where you have potentially up to 210 million other people taking the exam with you and all of your tests get averaged together. So not surprisingly people behave quite badly. So I say, look, if you are an ignorant misinformed or irrational voter, you're not doing yourself a favor by voting and you certainly, aren't doing me a favor. You should very least stay home. Do something else, make a different kind of contribution. The average person does a lot more for society by fixing motorcycles than they do by, uh, voting.
Speaker 0 00:19:16 Well, I feel better because there have been years, including 2016 when I just didn't vote. Um, and uh, maybe I was doing the right thing. So, uh, alright. I have so many more questions for you professor, but I've got some really good ones coming in over the Transo. So if with your permission, I'm gonna get to a few of those.
Speaker 1 00:19:34 Sure. Sounds good.
Speaker 0 00:19:35 All right. Uh, Instagram, Tara Bryce says, uh, professor, in your opinion, does the world need more philosophy professors? I see a lot of grad students who wanna go down that path.
Speaker 1 00:19:47 Uh, no, it probably doesn't, uh, unfortunately not to be means in my field, but look, I, I love philosophy. I think it's really interesting. I think it's a great career if you can get it. Um, and I think it's worth doing and worth doing well, but I, I wouldn't say the average person who's likely to pursue it is going to do it well. Uh, I don't think the typical philosophy article is worth reading. Um, it's, it's difficult to, well, I wouldn't say it's difficult, but it's difficult to get a job just because it's a saturated field. There isn't a huge amount of demand for it. So maybe a better way of putting it. Maybe this is what you would you have in mind is I think what the world needs is more good philosophy. It doesn't need more philosophers per se. Um, and given the dynamics of academia, academia has a strong tendency to select for kind of conformity, sort of doing other people's work, finding the end digit in someone else on a variable in someone else's equation and getting rewarded for that. So if we saturated the world with more philosophers, we, we would get some people who are doing really brave stuff and interesting stuff. We'd get a lot more of those people. So yes, I think the world desperately needs good philosophy. Uh, I'm not sure adding more philosophy. Professors would really do it though.
Speaker 0 00:21:00 All right. Um, from Facebook, Korean Tramel is asking about the modern LP. She says it seems to act, uh, as a big umbrella for a bunch of different ideas that might even clash. Do you think that classical neoclassical liberals no longer have a spot in the LP or is that an area that you've looked at?
Speaker 1 00:21:18 It's a great question. I think the LP, the problem with the libertarian party is that they're never going to be a viable party and it's not really their fault. It's that the deck is stacked against them. Third parties in the us generally are fairly silly. All of them are even when they have a real ideology that could make them less silly. And that's because, uh, parties have no chance of winning. So Google this, uh, Jay's law. So I say dive Jay's law, it's pronounced different ways. Um, basically there's this thing we have what's called first pass the post voting in the us, whoever gets the most votes wins, statistically that predicts that you'll have two major parties, right? It's possible for a third party to win. But for various statistical reasons, you can look on Wikipedia to explain it to you. Um, it's likely that you'll only have two major parties and when a third party comes up, it will replace one of them, you know, sort of like the wigs were replaced by the Republicans and that kind of thing.
Speaker 1 00:22:07 Uh, because of that, anyone who is really trying to influence policy and actually do anything will almost always try to work within those two parties, the parties, by the way, know this that's why will, it's very unlikely they'll ever change the voting system. They're well aware that this voting system leads to a duopoly. And even though they hate the other party, you'd rather just be a monopoly. They certainly want to put in a change. So someone said to me, how would you try to fix the libertarian party? I'd say, oh, I would try to put in, uh, proportional voting or some other voting system in the us that makes it so that more than two parties are viable. And once these other parties have a real chance of winning because of the way the voting system works, then people who are really trying to do something will actually join those parties and work within them. So right now I think a lot of what you're seeing with third parties is largely expressive behavior, protest behavior, weirdos that wanna hang out with each other because they have a niche interest. That's true of the LP. It's true of all the other parties. And so the way, not really their fault it's, uh, the system is loaded against them.
Speaker 0 00:23:07 Interesting. All right. Um, on Facebook, J Carver asks, do you think that words becoming more fast and loose in their meaning is part of the reason why people fall into the subjectivist philosophy trap?
Speaker 1 00:23:24 Yeah, it probably does. Uh, because in a way, if you start thinking that words can mean whatever you want them to mean, it's, it's not too far from there to first, I can just lead you to be confused. And I think a lot of subjectivism arises out of confusion, but also it's pretty quick from there to saying the world is whatever you want it to be. You know? I mean, no one ever, no, one's a pure, subjectivist all the way down about metaphysics. All you have to do is threaten to punch them in the face and they go, objectiveist real quick. But, uh, you know, there is a kind of language gain that goes on with this. Uh, once you, I think part of what happens too is if you can convince people that reality is a social construction, then you start making it. So having a mob of your people gives you power over others, and you can claim that, you know, you can do whatever you want and people can't argue against you.
Speaker 1 00:24:13 I do think that there's a kind of our well thing that happens and people use Arol all the time, but if you can make it difficult for people, if you can create sort of linguistic traps for people that make it difficult for them to think their way out of, then it prevents them from like seeing your BS. It prevents them from seeing what you're doing wrong. Like an example would be, uh, if you say, take woke philosophy, that's so prevalent and we see all TV and so on all the time, a lot of what they're trying to do is identify our view just is what it is to be anti-racist, which means that if you disagree with us, you must be racist, right? You either agree with us or you're racist. It's bad to be racist. So therefore it's bad to disagree with us to make this argument.
Speaker 1 00:24:50 It's a linguistic trick. They're wrong. I think John McWaters right about them. And that he says they're actually racist. I think he's right about that. Um, but because they are good at pulling off this linguistic trick, it prevents people from being able to think their way out and it makes it easy to manipulate people. I think, I think a lot of that is going on with, with others. So yeah, one of the good things about philosophy is oftentimes it insists on a precision of language use, including by the way, recognizing that natural language is imprecise. And so sometimes we just have to say, look, I'm going to divide the world up this way. I'm gonna try to use these categories this way. Hopefully that's helpful. Here's what I'm doing. I'm gonna be really, really clear about what I'm saying and why. And I'm open to being criticized about that. Even just doing that can make it more likely to see what the truth is and less likely that get stuck in the way that most people do.
Speaker 0 00:25:38 Okay. Um, I'll take one more then I'm gonna go back to my questions, but guys keep them coming. Cuz these are really great questions. Facebook map, L B asks, do you think people are misinformed and voting more so today because politics feels more removed from our daily lives. So maybe, um, first, I mean, are we more misinformed or has it been relatively, you know, constant and uh, what, what might be driving that, is it ation and malformation?
Speaker 1 00:26:12 Good question. Uh, I would say speculatively, I do wonder in a way in the years say 1815, um, because the government did less, it was less difficult to be me. It was easier to be informed about it back then. Cause it was doing less, there's less to be informed about. Um, but even then people had all sorts of crazy political views and they were crazily misinformed going, putting it is that the scientific study of voter behavior really started in late fifties when they first started genuinely surveying people to find out what they know, what they think, giving them quizzes and asking them questions. Like, can you, can you name, do you know what NATO is? Or do you know like who the president is? Do you know who your Congress person is? Can you identify some laws that your Congress person voted for? Can you tell me within five percentage points, what the unemployment rate is and started asking people these questions and basically since they started studying this ignorance has been a flat line, uh, which is surprising because we all have these devices that give us instant information, uh, access to almost all the information in the world and the preponderance in these devices has not made us more informed.
Speaker 1 00:27:16 Um, at the same time though, we've gotten probably more biased and irrational in the sense that politics is more and more today, not about policy it's about expressing your identity. It's a good way of thinking about it's like I'm wearing a Georgetown shirt right now. Right? I work there when I wear this around and people look at me and go, oh, he's having some affiliation with Georgetown. That's prestigious. Oh, I might look at him a certain way because of that. We're con we are doing that all the time with our symbolic behavior, right? Uh, so if I wear like sports stuff from the new England area, like the red Sox or the Patriots or something, the people in that area know that I'm one of them, I'm sort of expressing my loyalty to my area. They're more likely to be my friend more likely to, uh, date me more likely to employ me.
Speaker 1 00:27:59 They might chat me, chat with me at a bar or something like that. Effectively. What we're doing with politics for most people is that it's different identity groups for kind of random reasons get associated with one party or another. And then once they do that by strongly expressing attitudes about supporting that party, you get these social benefits and it doesn't really matter what the party stands for. In fact, we know that because, um, when you do scientific studies and like survey people like, Hey, you're a Democrat. You always vote a Democrat. What does your party actually stand for? Most people get the wrong answer. You can lie to them and say, this is what the Democrats stand for. Do you agree? And they'll say yes, even though you've lied and given them the Republican party platform and the Republicans do it too. Um, if the Democrats will, or the Republicans change their platform in a short period of time, people will switch and immediately start supporting that too.
Speaker 1 00:28:51 Right? So an example, this would be like, uh, before Trump came to be the presumptive nominee in 2016, most Republicans said that they were pro free trade. When he became the presumptive nominee, they switched to being anti-free trade political scientist, surveyed them and said, why did you change your mind? And the most common answer was I didn't change my mind. I always thought this, which is what exactly would you see in sports, Tom Brady? He's the greatest of all time until he left and went to Tampa bay. Now I've always thought he was overrated. So that's what's going on. Uh, I think a lot of our political behavior is about showing it's an expensive signal to one another that we are part of the group and policy is beside the point for people. Um, it's it's that maybe has gotten worse. I don't think it's social media, that's doing it because the trend of it getting like that started really in the sixties. I think it has to do instead with people started separating, they live based upon their politics Democrats live here, Republicans live here. The result of that is you never interact with somebody who isn't part of your political tribe. And then that leads to, in order to have the signal that you're a good member, your tribe, you have to become more extreme and more loyal, and that just gets worse and worse.
Speaker 0 00:29:58 Interesting. All right. Well, I wanna return to your book, why it's okay to want to be rich, uh, in it you take issue with the idea that the love of money is the root of all evil. It's a position of course, near and dear to our hearts here at the out society. So, uh, tell us why do the moralizer get it backwards? What is the root of all evil from your perspective and, and what is the root of all? Good.
Speaker 1 00:30:25 Yeah. Great question. I'm not sure if there's one root of either of those things, but, uh, I do, I do try to argue in the book that it's okay to want money, uh, and want more of it. It's okay to make it. And, uh, it's okay to keep most of what you make. You're not, you're not in perpetual debt to the world for having made it. So, uh, I mean the, I think the arguments will overall be pretty familiar. I think a lot of what I'm trying to do is write for an audience that's extremely unsympathetic to that position, you know, start from where they are and try to move them over in my direction. Uh, so, you know, I think the typical person, when they picture money, making what they have is a, they have an idea that there's a fixed amount of pie.
Speaker 1 00:31:03 And what it is to make money is to take money from others. What it is to become rich is to make other people poor. So I try to show in the argument that that's actually not true. In fact, there's a lot more pie in the world and they're now in the world. And it was 50 years ago, a hundred years ago, 200 years ago, people are genuinely making it that when you're making a profit under a market system, the fundamental thing you're doing when you're making a profit is creating value. And you get to keep some of that. In fact, for people who are incredibly innovative, we know the number it's about, you only get to keep about 2% and the other 98% red downs upon others. How can we say, they're not paying their fair share when we get all the benefits and they hardly get anything.
Speaker 1 00:31:39 Um, so I try to show that to people. I try to explain like why money's worth wor wanting by proving to people, how fungible it is and how important it's for getting all the things that make life good and worth, and like lead to flourishing things like the availability of light. So you can read to your children, the availability of books, longevity, the quality of our marriages, the quality of our friendships, uh, the degree to which we feel respect for one another, even things like our moral behavior. So people have this view, which is mistaken that introducing money tends to make people nasty and cruel and mean, and AOUS and so on. And the reality is, um, money. When you, in a lot of things, when you have strangers and you introduce money into the relationship that actually makes them more trusting and kinder towards others.
Speaker 1 00:32:23 In fact, a lot of stereotypically moral behaviors having to do with your tendency, to be honest, your tendency, to avoid deception, your chance to avoid cheating others. Um, your willingness to, you know, assist people who are in an emergency, et cetera, cetera, these things are correlated with having money and they're anti correlated with being poor, um, and around the world. Uh, so money's worth wanting. And then finally, you know, there's these arguments that basically say, if you're rich, you should give it all away because how can you live high while other people die? And one of the things I do with that is to point out that the reason some of us are living high is in part because we haven't get worked on this attitude of you just need to give it all away. So it is true that there are people that are starving right now, and you could save them.
Speaker 1 00:33:08 Um, there are people who are blind and you could save them. Um, I'm not saying you shouldn't. I think, I think it is worth helping some of these people in these circumstances, but the reality is the why don't we give it all away. Attitude has never made a con put people in a position where they're in a position to help, right? Uh, so, you know, back in 1971, the philosopher Peter singer, uh, writes a paper arguing that you should give away almost all of your income to help others. And basically no one listens listens to Peter singer. And as a result, South Korea goes from being a poor country to being a rich country in 25 years because people didn't listen to him and said they bought VCRs and cars and stereos and other kinds of things. So it's important to recognize that trade and investment are the things that actually liberate people to be rich and put them in the position to wonder how much they should help people. Uh, the let's help everyone can, you know, it's like, it's like that, that never actually succeeds in lifting a country out of poverty, never actually succeeds in creating prosperity. What it does do is stop people in some cases from starting to death, and we should be aware that that's all it really does.
Speaker 0 00:34:10 What do you make of arguments advanced by Michael Sandell in what money can't buy? Uh, that adds you, describe it, putting a price on certain things, sex, kidneys, naming rights for stadiums is inherently disrespectful.
Speaker 1 00:34:26 Yeah, I don't buy it. Um, in fact, Peter, uh, Peter jasky one of my colleagues and I wrote an entire book called, uh, markets without limits, which is a response to these anti commodification arguments. And we, we try to systematically go through everything. These people say, we classify the arguments they make. We show what's really at stake. Um, cuz sometimes people are just confused. Sometimes their are arguments are really about, I don't think you should have this thing. Not that it shouldn't be bought and sold. And then we try to debunk all of their major arguments, including that. And, and sandal makes really two major arguments. One is that, uh, the introduction of money tends to corrupt us and we go through the empirics and show. No, that's not actually correct. Um, by the way, we weren't the first ones to say this to him.
Speaker 1 00:35:06 Others have pointed this out to him like during debates and he never changes his tune. So I don't know if he's read the empirical evidence finally and just didn't find it convincing or, or what else might be going on with him. Uh, and the other thing is he says money has this symbolic thing to put a price on something is to basically say that it's not important, right? So like they might say something like, well, you know, if, if you purchased your dog and your dog costs $3,500, then that's kind of like saying your dog, the value that your dog has is the value that, you know, 3,500 packs of Wrigley Spearman gum has isn't that way of denigrating your job. So there's this thought that like to put on price on something is to lower its status. So we end up arguing is actually no what's really going on here is in the west and really is surprising.
Speaker 1 00:35:53 Cause you think of the west as being the pro capitalist place. But this, this attitude towards money is not universal. It only tends to appear in the west in the west. There's this idea that the meaning of money is negative. It's profane. It is, is to say that something has a price it's to say that it, uh, it's just, all it is, is about experiencing pleasure for yourself. And it can be interchanged with anything else. And given this baggage that Westerners currently bring to the concept of money, when they put a price on something, they regard that is denigrating it to put a price on something is sort of give it the middle finger. We go, well, okay, why do we have to stick with that kind of way of thinking about money, right? So we give this analogy. Um, so right now, uh, if I were to stick up my middle finger, that would act that would be expression of disrespect.
Speaker 1 00:36:37 Or if I were to say, go to hell, that would be an expression of disrespect. But suppose we discovered something, suppose we discovered that every time I say go to hell, that creates weird vibrations of atoms, which when they hit your body cure you of cancer, what we would do is change the English language. And we would make, go to hell a greeting. We'd be like, go to hell. Yeah, you go to hell, right? <laugh> if we discovered that saying, I respect you has the opposite effect and causes SIDS and kills infants, we would stop saying that we would change the language. So we argue is this way of thinking about money that Westerners happen to have right now, they didn't always have it by the way, they've only sort of developed it fairly recently. Um, it's only become sort of universal fairly recently. There's a, a sociologist named Vivian Alazar at har uh, Princeton who writes about this and can show you how this is true.
Speaker 1 00:37:22 Uh, this kind of Western negative conception of money is dysfunctional. It's hurting us. It's making our lives worse. What we should do is get rid of that conception of money. Not forbid these markets, cause I mean, in a way that's very abstract in the paper, in the books and stuff go through that, uh, kind of carefully, but a simpler way of thinking about it is imagine like you need a kidney and someone is willing to sell you. Like, if you're you're sick hitting, you need a kidney and someone's willing to sell you a kidney, but you can't get one for free. And that person is willing to do it for quite a bit of money and I'm willing to pay for it. And then along comes Michael Sendell saying, well, you know, putting a price on a kidney, that's kind of like giving the middle finger to life.
Speaker 1 00:38:00 And I'm not sure if we should do that. Maybe, maybe you should just die. I mean, how can that be respectful of life? And if they go, but, but you're selling the body. Well, we're all selling our bodies. I sell my body all the time, right? What do I do for Georgetown? I sell my body. I sell my labor. I sell my work. What's so special about a kidney versus, uh, the way that I sell my body, which is I have to put on a suit and tie and like stand up in front of people and do this once in a while or great papers or go, go to some place I don't want, I just went to a faculty meeting yesterday. Like that sucked. It was boring as hell. Like that's telling my body, I didn't want to be there. We're all doing that. So what's so special about kidneys. They don't really have an argument that distinguishes kidneys from anything else. It just comes down to this. I think money is dirty. And to put a price on something is to say that it sucks. Well, that's the problem with you. It's not a problem with the money. It's not a problem with the price.
Speaker 0 00:38:50 Where, where do you think those attitudes come from? Is it, uh, a function of religion? Christian doctrine?
Speaker 1 00:38:57 Yeah. I, I do wonder if it ultimately comes from Christianity, but I'm not sure because Christianity has had different attitudes towards money for a long time. You know, if you think about, uh, and, and it is varied throughout its history. If you think about, say the sale of indulgences, which people treat as, oh, how, how could you possibly buy your way out of heaven? Buy your way into heaven. I mean, I don't, I don't accept that metaphysic at all, but it's not, it's not absurd. If you think something like, imagine that you have to be this good to get into this place. And one thing you could do to show your good is to make a sacrifice of your money, right? To help other like you're, you know, if you, if you have this certain ethics where you have to help other people to get in, well, one way of doing it is to like give up some money.
Speaker 1 00:39:39 And now you're showing that you're concern. I mean, putting a price on something does mean something. It does show concern. It does show does show commitment. I mean, just think about the, the ritual of, um, giving an engagement ring when you propose, why do we do that? Well, it's because talk is cheap. If I just say, will you marry me? I really, you know, we're really hitting it off right now. Why don't you say you and I get married? Like you have no idea if I'm joking, you know, but if I actually spend $10,000 and buy a trinket, that's useless. It's really strong evidence that I'm concerned. Well, similar, you know, we have this problem of not being able to understand other people's motives and sometimes spending money is strong proof of our motivation. That's kind of what the Catholic church is thinking. That's the, that they're good justification for this part of just cause they wanted money, but that's not entirely absurd to say, well, maybe if you were to give some of your money to help other people, that's actually costing you something.
Speaker 1 00:40:31 And now we know you mean it. Whereas if you were other things you might do, we don't know what your motivations are. And if we're trying to test your motivations, that matters. So in the west, I mean, that's just one example, but in the west attitudes, even among Christians towards money have varied over time, certain denominations of Christianity have thought one thing and they might change over time. I, I'm not really sure why the west has settled on this view of money. Um, and having read a lot of papers on it. I'm still not really sure why.
Speaker 0 00:40:59 Well, one driver, I think is this, um, obsession with the idea of income inequality. That's one of the main tenants of, uh, this whole social justice movement that there's something inherently imoral about income inequality. And that it's politically unsustainable. I wonder if you've taken a look at that and if you have a perspective,
Speaker 1 00:41:22 Uh, well, you know, this attitude towards money has been around a while and inequality's been around forever. Um, I, I don't know if that's causing either. I do think that most arguments, I think for egalitarianism turn out not to really be arguments for egalitarianism, um, when you really delve into it, oftentimes they're just a complaint about the mechanism by which money is distributed about. They're often about fairness or merit instead, they might think, well, you are rich and that person's not, but it's not because you were meritorious or earned it. But because like, you know, the system was unjust in some way, you benefited from like an economic rent and they didn't, then it's kind of like, you're, you're complaining about inequality, but really your complaint is about the process. Um, sometimes I think the complaints about inequality are really about priority. Um, and that's why you the whole, so leveling down our argument against egalitarianism, so powerful and you say, okay, this person's rich and this person's poor.
Speaker 1 00:42:15 Would you be happy if everyone were poor? And they say no, like, okay, well then you're not really, you're probably not really concerned about that, about the inequality you're really cuz I, I fixed the inequality. You're actually just concerned about the person being poor. So maybe you want to do something about that and well, what would we do what's causing that poverty? Is there something we can do to alleviate it? Um, I, I think, you know, so I, I think oftentimes these arguments are not really well placed. I think, I think people are in the same way that I think when it comes to moral, TISM one of the most common arguments that people make in favor of moral relativism is, oh, I should be tolerant of people with different attitudes and different lifestyles. Therefore I should be a relativist and philosophers are quick to point out. No, what you've actually just argued is that you should be an objectiveist about tolerance. And so you're confused. I think similarly people are like, I'm sad that some people are poor. Therefore I should be an egalitarian. It's like, no, you should, you should advocate the system that alleviates and reduces poverty, which turns out not to be systems that make create equality.
Speaker 0 00:43:14 All right. Well, uh, you had mentioned suffering through a very boring and tedious, uh, faculty meeting recently and it calls to mind another guest that, that we had on this show, professor Dorian Abbott, who, uh, is a geophysics professor at the university of Chicago. And, um, he, uh, started kind of bubbling up some ideas in faculty meetings about, uh, is the diversity inclusion and equity agenda is that actually accomplishing the goals that we want to have. And, um, he, uh, didn't get much traction in his, uh, meetings. So he started making some, uh, YouTube videos of it. And uh, when he was, he received a very prestigious invitation to speak at MIT, the, uh, staff and students, uh, got wind of it and, um, led to his canceling of, uh, the invitation and uh, a whole bunch of other problems for him. And in discussing this with him, he mentioned that he noticed some changes in his department.
Speaker 0 00:44:25 Again, we're talking the geophysics department about five years ago and then accelerating, uh, after 2020. And I, we talked briefly before we went on air about, um, your experience. And I, I don't know if it's just that Georgetown is a, uh, is a, is a saner place. Or if you're just a guy that puts off a don't mess with me vibe. But, um, you know, I know you, haven't had a lot of personal experience with people and maybe it's also because you, you just were like, Hey, I'm not gonna do the social media thing, but have you noticed changes in, uh, students in, in faculty in terms of some, um, more intolerance or dogmatism or yeah. What, what have you, what's your experience been?
Speaker 1 00:45:17 Yeah, like, yeah, we were talking about earlier. I've been lucky that despite being a person who writes controversial things, I mean, I wrote a book called against democracy and, um, I write, I write critiques of like prevailing attitudes among, among the places that I work. I write an entire critique of, of higher education as an institution. Uh, I haven't had any attempts to cancel me and it's not because Georgetown is a Saint or plays overall. Uh, if you Google Georgetown law, you'll find out that despite us having a very strenuous and strict free speech code, um, nevertheless, the Dean of our law school manages to find ways to circumvent that DEC stifle speech that he dislikes. Um, and that's sort of ongoing. Uh, in fact, you know, there's a case right now, that's not clear what's gonna happen with regard to that. So I wouldn't say that I'm, I'm lucky cuz I'm in a place that's particularly sane.
Speaker 1 00:46:06 Maybe the business school at Georgetown is relatively sane compared to say the law school, which I think is, uh, quite a bit worse. Uh, so, and I, I just, maybe there are few topics that just have become sort of sacred. Like you're not allowed to challenge trans like theories of what it is to be a trans person without drawing the ire of a lot of activists who will come after you. Uh, Peter singer had mentioned before, he's famous for arguing that, uh, if a disabled infant is born, it would cost a million dollars to save that infant's life it'd be better to euthanize the infant and cent take that thousand million dollars and spent and save 600 infants over here because he said that back in the eighties, um, everywhere he goes, he gets well, not literally everywhere, but he gets protested all the time and he's someone who's really on the left.
Speaker 1 00:46:51 Um, so that's a topic that's often treated as sacred. Uh, I think it it's interesting why they focused on the DEI stuff, but I, I have a kind of pet theory of academia that goes like this. You can think of higher education as having two sets of actors with different sets of interest faculty and administrators. It is true. They have genuine ideologies. Like for instance, administrators tend to be much farther to the left than faculty tend to be. Um, we have some evidence of that in the book cracks in every tower we showed some reasons to think that's true, but you could think of 'em as fighting for power in resources within the organization. And anytime like money goes to one group, it doesn't go to the other. When, when faculty have complete freedom and stuff about academic freedom and all these rights that comes to the expense of admins and admins would rather control that.
Speaker 1 00:47:39 So anything admins can do that gives them power over faculty and makes faculty interchangeable makes their lives easier. So that might include things like if we can mandate they structure their classes a certain way. If we can do things to assess their teaching, like almost every university in the country uses student teaching evaluations of teaching to assess faculty and they use it to hire and fire people. We know for sure that these are not valid methods of, of assessing faculty. By the way, I get great student evaluations. I tremendously benefit from them, but they are complete and total bullshit. They do not assess teaching FA effectiveness. We know that we have overwhelming evidence of that, but they give admin power over faculty, uh, the DEI stuff. If we can make it in a, in order for you to be a professor, you basically have to get permission from the secretaries, like about what you're allowed to say.
Speaker 1 00:48:27 And when you're going to say it, they get power, they get resources. It's beneficial for administration. If faculty are kind of complacent, quiet, say the same things, predictable interchangeable, et cetera. And the admins rule over them, the admins are supposed to serve the faculty, but you're getting, you've really been moving for the past 30 years to a system where the admins, uh, control the game. Now there's a good, it's a hyperbolic book. Um, in some respects, there's some things that are maybe not perfect about it, but there's a nice book called the fall, the faculty by GE Benjamin Ginsburg, which talks about some of these dynamics. So I think that's not to say that they don't believe the DEI stuff, but it is to say there's a kind of Machiavellian thing going on here where even if you didn't believe it, it would be useful to push it as a way of getting power for yourself.
Speaker 0 00:49:12 All right, we've got about 10 more minutes and uh, I wanna get to back to some of these wonderful questions. Um, Instagram Georgian asks, who are your heroes and villains in philosophy,
Speaker 1 00:49:26 Uh, who are my heroes and villains? Uh, I guess here are some of my heroes, uh, despite disagreeing with Peter singer on so much stuff. I mean, I think he's one of my heroes because of his method, what I think he tries to do. And I don't think this is just about manipulating people. I think it's about really what it takes to communicate is it's like you and I have some common ground, we'll start by talking about what are, what, what do we both understand is true? And then what might that imply that surprising? Right. And I think that's a good way of doing a lot of philosophy. It's like, we know this, this stuff is clearly true. What follows from it? That's not so obvious, right? Not, I like that method of his and he writes in a very clear way. Um, I, I really hate it when people write an obscure way. Uh, I think they're very rarely is an obscure writer obscure because they're deep, usually they're obscure because they're muddy. <laugh> uh, so,
Speaker 0 00:50:17 And they muddy the waters to make them
Speaker 1 00:50:19 To make themselves team deep. Absolutely. So I like that about him. He's one of my heroes, my advisor, David Schmitz. He's one of my heroes still. I think he's a great person and a, a great philosopher. He's great at integrating so many things together and discovering something new. Um, his method of like philosophy philosophy by itself. Isn't good. You need philosophy and the social sciences and the natural sciences, you have to integrate all this stuff. Um, Michael humor, um, he's been a great influence on me, Brian, Kaplan's been another influence from my economics, uh, Henry Haslet, uh, I mean, there's a whole host of people like co and Becker and others who I've learned a tremendous amount from, uh, you know, I like David Hume a lot. I like his sort of methodology of, um, you know, trying to keep philosophy close to the sciences rather than just trying to do philosophy by itself.
Speaker 1 00:51:04 So those are some of my heroes, uh, in terms of villains, you know, I, I'm kind of lucky in that. I think the people who I regard as villains are, they kind of don't really matter. You know, they're just sort of sniffling people that kind of are irritating and get in the way, but they don't stop me. They don't really make my life worse. They're uh, you know, I don't wanna say I'm like, I'm a, a Howard work kind of person like, oh, but I don't think of you cuz I do sometimes think of these people, but I kind of gotta laugh at them and then I move on with my life. Um, so there's no one who I think, you know, there's, there's been some terrible philosophers. I think, you know, marks I think was just awful. Uh, I think he was a bad writer and he was very confused and he made the world the worst place. Uh, but, but beyond that, you know, the, the villains sort of the, the right thing to do with the villains is just sort of ignore them or, or use them to create, use them to help you learn something. Right. They're wrong about things. And maybe they're dishonest sometimes they're not just wrong, but dishonest, but like you can use that to like learn something from it. Right. And that you can, that's good. At least.
Speaker 0 00:52:06 All right. Um, here is a good question from Twitter Owens BS asks with all the empirical evidence out there. Why do more youths seem to flock to socialism?
Speaker 1 00:52:22 Well, uh, in part, because, you know, as we mentioned before, people don't have much incentive to have their beliefs about, uh, politics match the way the world works, right? Like if, if you're about to cross the street and you see a truck barreling towards you at 60 miles an hour, you wouldn't dare indulge. The belief that it's not, it's optimist prime for the transformers coming to take you in an adventure. Because if you are wrong about that, the world will punish you instantly for your mistake. So in certain domains of our life, the world punishes us for being wrong and rewards us for being right. And we are disciplined to be rational, certain beliefs that we hold beliefs about the afterlife beliefs about spirits and metaphysics and so on and beliefs about politics. You can afford to be completely wrong about these things and you won't be punished for it.
Speaker 1 00:53:10 And in fact, what only will happen is you'll get punished a reward by your peers for whether you agree with them. And so then what ends up happening is we are liberated by, uh, by the world in effect cuz our individual inputs matter so little to use these things as signaling devices and the way that you prove sincerity within a group is often to believe something stupid. Stupid is the point of politics. If we're think, think again to the sports metaphor, if you and I are both red Sox fans and we're watching a game and then like, let's say a ball comes in our, our teammate, our, our red Sox player is clearly out at the home plate, but I go, oh, the umpire must be blind. He's safe. You might think, eh, I mean he's out, but you also think he really is. One of us.
Speaker 1 00:53:55 He really cares about our group. He's he's committed. The red Sox, me being stupid about this increases my status within the group. This is what happens with regard to politics, being stupider about your team increases your status and you get social benefits. So there's, there's that's going on. And that's why for almost every ism that most of the people who believe in that ism, or just kind of clueless and dumb about it because dumb is the point. Dumb is how you get those rewards. Uh, as far as like why socialism versus capitals? Why didn't they fixate on capitalism versus socialism? I mean, socialism is such a, is such a simplistic way of thinking. It's just you picture the world as being like a small family of like mommy and daddy and the couple of the kids. And we just have the dynamics of that kind of relationship.
Speaker 1 00:54:39 It wouldn't it be great if the whole world were like that, it's, it's like kind of UN it's an unwillingness to understand how complex systems of interaction work. It's trying to take the model of simple models of interaction amongst small numbers of people and trying to say the world behaves like that and should behave like that when it doesn't. So I think it's the same thing that makes people resistant to understanding, say evolution, cuz they don't understand how ecosystems work makes them resistant to understanding markets because they don't understand how the ecosystem of the market works. They wanna replace it with a small system of intentionality. Everything that happens is the result of someone's intention. It's if we have good feelings and good motivations, good things will happen. Then the world doesn't work that way and they don't, they don't want to know it.
Speaker 0 00:55:21 All right. We're running out of time. I'm going to squeeze in one last question from Instagram, especially given all of the, the, uh, debate around whether or not to forgive, uh, college loans or, or have those subsidized in some way, star bright, uh, 99 asks. Do you think college does more harm than good financially, intellectually aside from a few specific degree paths. And I guess my add on to that would be, what do you think of people like Isaac Morehouse or Peter teal? Um, almost encouraging people to try an alternate path.
Speaker 1 00:55:56 Yeah, great question. Uh, I, I used to teach, I often teach what are called freshman seminars at my school and I will often spend the first couple weeks of those disabusing people of many of their magical notions of what happens in higher education. I'll show them data proving to them that they won't really learn very much and they won't really develop their human capital skills. Uh, they won't develop their soft skills. They won't develop their hard skills. And I work in a business program, uh, where we normally teaching people skills that they'll use on the job. So overall I think my advice to people as an individual is this, uh, if you are in the top 20% of people academically, your expected return on investment by going to college is positive. Especially if you avoid majoring in things like art history or, uh, you know, certain other kinds of studies.
Speaker 1 00:56:40 But if you major in like something mathematical, you have a high, positive, expected ROI. It's individually rational for you to do it for next 20 to 20 to 30%, you kind of are expected to break. Even if you're at the bottom 50% of students, you probably shouldn't go to college. Your ROI is negative. You're expected not to finish and you lose money. That's how it works for an individual. But systematically, I think what goes on is it's mostly redistributive. Um, it's a signaling mechanism by which you prove to people that you're a smart perseverance conformist. You get rewarded for doing that. The investment is sort of a MI the social investment in is a MIS investment as my friend, Brian Kaplan, who, if you wanna read the proof of this, read the book, the case against education by Brian Kaplan. Um, his metaphor is imagine we're at a classical music concert and one person stands up to get a better view.
Speaker 1 00:57:28 And then other people react by standing up to get a better view. Soon we're all standing up and none of us really have a better view. We'd be better if we were sitting down, I think college is mostly about signaling and not that much about learning. And as a result, it'd be better if fewer people went to college. So if I could wave my magic wand and cut the number of people who go to college in half and cut the amount of money going towards college in half, I would, I personally, when I learned all these horrible empirics about how little people learn, I, and like what actually takes to make people learn, I'd radically change the kinds of projects I give people in class and what I have them do. Uh, but it's depressing. And professors mostly put their heads in the sand and ignore it because they don't wanna admit that a lot of what they're selling is snake oil
Speaker 0 00:58:13 With that. Um, I know that you are selling something very different. Uh, I know you're also not on social media. So, um, for those who want to follow professor Jason Brennan, I suggest you go and you, uh, follow his author page at, um, Amazon would be a good way. And, uh, just start by, um, reading his books and top of list for me, as I mentioned before is why it's okay to wanna be rich, uh, professor Brendan, thank you so much for making the time to speak with us today. I really, really appreciate it.
Speaker 1 00:58:47 Thanks. Thanks for having me. It's a great talk. Good to meet you.
Speaker 0 00:58:50 All right. And everyone else. Thanks for joining us. Thanks for your great questions. Uh, if you enjoyed this video, if you are enjoying this series at the Atlas society, please consider supporting us with a tax deductible donation and tune in next week. Uh, our senior scholar, professor Steven Hicks and senior fellow Rob tr are gonna be talking about objectiveism and art. So we'll see you there. Thanks.