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Gennady and Wendy Stolyarov Interviewed by Justin Loew of LongeCity Regarding “Death is Wrong”

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The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
April 16, 2014
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Justin Loew of LongeCity recently interviewed me and my wife Wendy Stolyarov regarding our illustrated children’s book Death is Wrong and our Indiegogo campaign to spread this book to 1000 children, free of cost to them. The audio broadcast of our excellent conversation has been posted on this thread on the LongeCity forum. Here is a link to the MP3 file: http://www.longecity.org/media/LongeCityPodcast_Stolyarov2014_A01.mp3.

Gennady and Wendy Stolyarov

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Ludwig von Mises on War

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The New Renaissance Hat
Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973)
April 15, 2014
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The following are quotations on war by Ludwig von Mises (1881– 1973), who was the leading economist of the Austrian School. This list was first published as an article on the Mises Institute website and subsequently published on Le Québécois Libre.
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History has witnessed the failure of many endeavors to impose peace by war, cooperation by coercion, unanimity by slaughtering dissidents……. A lasting order cannot be established by bayonets. (Omnipotent Government, p. 7)  
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War……is harmful, not only to the conquered but to the conqueror. Society has arisen out of the works of peace; the essence of society is peacemaking. Peace and not war is the father of all things. Only economic action has created the wealth around us; labor, not the profession of arms, brings happiness. Peace builds, war destroys. (Socialism, p. 59)

The market economy involves peaceful cooperation. It bursts asunder when the citizens turn into warriors and, instead of exchanging commodities and services, fight one another. (1st Ed. Human Action, p. 817 ; 3rd Ed. Human Action, p. 821)  
  
Economically considered, war and revolution are always bad business. (Nation, State, and Economy, p. 152) 
  
The market economy means peaceful cooperation and peaceful exchange of goods and services. It cannot persist when wholesale killing is the order of the day. (Interventionism: An Economic Analysis, p. 67)  
  
[A]ggressors cannot wage total war without introducing socialism. (Interventionism: an Economic Analysis, p. 70) 
  
War prosperity is like the prosperity that an earthquake or a plague brings. The earthquake means good business for construction workers, and cholera improves the business of physicians, pharmacists, and undertakers; but no one has for that reason yet sought to celebrate earthquakes and cholera as stimulators of the productive forces in the general interest. (Nation, State, and Economy, p. 154)  
  
War can really cause no economic boom, at least not directly, since an increase in wealth never does result from destruction of goods. (Nation, State, and Economy, p. 154) 
  
Whoever wishes peace among peoples must fight statism. (Nation, State, and Economy, p. 77) 
  
Modern society, based as it is on the division of labor, can be preserved only under conditions of lasting peace. (Liberalism, p. 44) 
  
Wars, foreign and domestic (revolutions, civil wars), are more likely to be avoided the closer the division of labor binds men. (Critique of Interventionism, p. 115) 
  
Modern war is not a war of royal armies. It is a war of the peoples, a total war. It is a war of states which do not leave to their subjects any private sphere; they consider the whole population a part of the armed forces. Whoever does not fight must work for the support and equipment of the army. Army and people are one and the same. The citizens passionately participate in the war. For it is their state, their God, who fights. (Omnipotent Government, p. 104)  
  
The existence of the armaments industries is a consequence of the warlike spirit, not its cause. (1st Ed. Human Action, p. 297; 3rd Ed. Human Action, p. 300)  
  
What basis for war could there still be, once all peoples had been set free? (Nation, State, and Economy, p. 34) 
  
The statement that one man’s boon is the other man’s damage is valid with regard to robbery, war, and booty. The robber’s plunder is the damage of the despoiled victim. But war and commerce are two different things. (1st Ed. Human Action, p. 662; 3rd Ed. Human Action, p. 666)  
  
It is certainly true that our age is full of conflicts which generate war. However, these conflicts do not spring from the operation of the unhampered market society. It may be permissible to call them economic conflicts because they concern that sphere of human life which is, in common speech, known as the sphere of economic activities. But it is a serious blunder to infer from this appellation that the source of these conflicts are conditions which develop within the frame of a market society. It is not capitalism that produces them, but precisely the anticapitalistic policies designed to check the functioning of capitalism. They are an outgrowth of the various governments’ interference with business, of trade and migration barriers and discrimination against foreign labor, foreign products, and foreign capital. (1st Ed. Human Action, p. 680; 3rd Ed. Human Action, p. 684)  
  
What has transformed the limited war between royal armies into total war, the clash between peoples, is not technicalities of military art, but the substitution of the welfare state for the laissez-faire state. (1st Ed. Human Action, p. 820; 3rd Ed. Human Action, p. 824) 

Under laissez-faire peaceful coexistence of a multitude of sovereign nations is possible. Under government control of business it is impossible. (1st Ed. Human Action, p. 820; 3rd Ed. Human Action, p. 824)  
  
Of course, in the long run war and the preservation of the market economy are incompatible. Capitalism is essentially a scheme for peaceful nations. (1st Ed. Human Action, p. 824; 3rd Ed. Human Action, p. 828)  
  
What the incompatibility of war and capitalism really means is that war and high civilization are incompatible. If the efficiency of capitalism is directed by governments toward the output of instruments of destruction, the ingenuity of private business turns out weapons which are powerful enough to destroy everything. What makes war and capitalism incompatible with one another is precisely the unparalleled efficiency of the capitalist mode of production. (1st Ed. Human Action, p. 824; 3rd Ed. Human Action, p. 828)  
  
Modern war is merciless, it does not spare pregnant women or infants; it is indiscriminate killing and destroying. It does not respect the rights of neutrals. Millions are killed, enslaved, or expelled from the dwelling places in which their ancestors lived for centuries. Nobody can foretell what will happen in the next chapter of this endless struggle. This has little to do with the atomic bomb. The root of the evil is not the construction of new, more dreadful weapons. It is the spirit of conquest. It is probable that scientists will discover some methods of defense against the atomic bomb. But this will not alter things, it will merely prolong for a short time the process of the complete destruction of civilization. (1st Ed. Human Action, p. 828; 3rd Ed. Human Action, p. 832)  
  
To defeat the aggressors is not enough to make peace durable. The main thing is to discard the ideology that generates war. (1st Ed. Human Action, p. 828; 3rd Ed. Human Action, p. 832)  
  
Social development is always a collaboration for joint action; the social relationship always means peace, never war. Death-dealing actions and war are anti-social. All those theories which regard human progress as an outcome of conflicts between human groups have overlooked this truth. (Socialism, p. 279) 
  
But what is needed for a satisfactory solution of the burning problem of international relations is neither a new office with more committees, secretaries, commissioners, reports, and regulations, nor a new body of armed executioners, but the radical overthrow of mentalities and domestic policies which must result in conflict. (Omnipotent Government, p. 6) 
  
For only in peace can the economic system achieve its ends, the fullest satisfaction of human needs and wants. (Omnipotent Government, p. 50) 
  
If men do not now succeed in abolishing war, civilization and mankind are doomed. (Omnipotent Government, p. 122) 
  
If you want to abolish war, you must eliminate its causes. What is needed is to restrict government activities to the preservation of life, health, and private property, and thereby to safeguard the working of the market. Sovereignty must not be used for inflicting harm on anyone, whether citizen or foreigner. (Omnipotent Government, p. 138)  
  
Only one thing can conquer war – that liberal attitude of mind which can see nothing in war but destruction and annihilation, and which can never wish to bring about a war, because it regards war as injurious even to the victors. (Theory of Money and Credit, p. 433) 
  
The first condition for the establishment of perpetual peace is, of course, the general adoption of the principles of laissez-faire capitalism. (The Ultimate Foundation of Economic Science p. 137) 
  
He who wants to prepare a lasting peace must……be a free-trader and a democrat and work with decisiveness for the removal of all political rule over colonies by a mother country and fight for the full freedom of movements of persons and goods. (Nation, State, and Economy, p. 86) 
  
Liberalism rejects aggressive war not on philanthropic grounds but from the standpoint of utility. It rejects aggressive war because it regards victory as harmful, and it wants no conquests because it sees them as an unsuitable means for reaching the ultimate goals for which it strives. Not through war and victory but only through work can a nation create the preconditions for the well-being of its members. Conquering nations finally perish, either because they are annihilated by strong ones or because the ruling class is culturally overwhelmed by the subjugated. (Nation, State, and Economy, p. 87)  
  
Whoever on ethical grounds wants to maintain war permanently for its own sake as a feature of relations among peoples must clearly realize that this can happen only at the cost of the general welfare, since the economic development of the world would have to be turned back at least to the state of the year 1830 to realize this martial ideal even only to some extent. (Nation, State, and Economy, p. 151) 
  
The losses that the national economy suffers from war, apart from the disadvantages that exclusion from world trade entails, consist of the destruction of goods by military actions, of the consumption of war material of all kinds, and of the loss of productive labor that the persons drawn into military service would have rendered in their civilian activities. Further losses from loss of labor occur insofar as the number of workers is lastingly reduced by the number of the fallen and as the survivors become less fit in consequence of injuries suffered, hardships undergone, illnesses suffered, and worsened nutrition. (Nation, State, and Economy, p. 151 – 52)  
  
There are circumstances which make the consumption of capital unavoidable. A costly war cannot be financed without such a damaging measure….There may arise situations in which it may be unavoidable to burn down the house to keep from freezing, but those who do that should realize what it costs and what they will have to do without later on. (Interventionism: an Economic Analysis, p. 52) 
  
It is not the war profits of the entrepreneurs that are objectionable. War itself is objectionable! (Interventionism: an Economic Analysis, p. 74)

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War is the Worst Choice for Ukraine and the World – Article by G. Stolyarov II

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The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
April 14, 2014
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As I write this, people have already been killed in the confrontation between pro-Putin militants of the self-proclaimed “Republic of Donetsk” in Eastern Ukraine and the “anti-terrorist” forces sent by the interim Ukrainian government to suppress the insurgents. (Calling them “rebels”, “separatists”, “militants”, even “provocateurs” may be legitimate – but the use of the label “terrorist” here only further eviscerates any meaning that term once had in referring to people who deliberately kill civilians to make a political or ideological point.) It is not precisely clear what is happening on the ground – who is prevailing, and who is responsible for the initiation of force. What is clear, however, is that a deadly tragedy may be about to occur – unless reason, common sense, and every longing for peace and civilization are marshaled against it.

I have no love for Vladimir Putin or his regime. He is clearly an authoritarian despot, with little respect for the rights of his own people or those of others. He will pursue an agenda of personal power and aggrandizement through nationalistic rhetoric and attempts to rekindle the alleged glory of Imperial and Soviet Russia. Yet, despotic as he may be, one would hope that Putin is not suicidally stupid. It was one matter to seize control of Crimea, with its majority Russian-speaking population and popular support for annexation by Russia. Occupying the rest of Ukraine – in which even many ethnic Russians have no enthusiasm for union with Russia – is another matter entirely. A protracted occupation of Ukraine, amidst an unsympathetic populace – to say the least! – would bog down the Russian military and imperil an already precarious economic situation.  It would also risk the lives of many Russian soldiers in a prolonged partisan uprising, much like the one that the Soviet regime had to deal with for decades in Ukraine during the last century.  A reasonable person would hope that Putin recognizes this and does not stray from his characteristic modus operandi – which, however ruthless, is nonetheless marked by caution and pragmatic calculation.

Until the uprisings that led to the declaration of the “Republic of Donetsk”, it seemed to me that Putin’s conduct of “military training exercises” on Ukraine’s Eastern border was a strategic bluff. While the cover of military exercises affords Putin plausible deniability, he could also sincerely agree to withdraw the troops in subsequent negotiations, in exchange for the West’s recognition of the legitimacy of the Crimea annexation and a more loosely federated Ukraine. If Putin had pursued this approach, he would have likely gotten away with annexing Crimea after nothing worse than some griping and minor sanctions levied by Western governments.

Yet it is now unclear whether the separatist uprisings in the Donetsk region were orchestrated by provocateurs employed by Putin’s regime (as many in the Ukrainian government and foreign-policy hawks in the West allege), or whether they largely arose from local Russian nationalists who were inspired by the Crimea annexation and sought to repeat it in Eastern Ukraine (as many of the separatists do appear to be ordinary civilians). Nonetheless, Putin’s regime has officially endeavored to maintain plausible deniability – which means that an escalation of military force against the separatists by the Ukrainian government would give Putin exactly the pretext he would need to invade Eastern Ukraine, if that is indeed his goal.

The “anti-terrorist” operation by the Ukrainian government of President Oleksandr Turchynov and Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk is – like any attempt by Putin to even consider an invasion of Eastern Ukraine – an act of suicidal folly. Not only do Turchynov and Yatseniuk undermine their own legitimacy in the eyes of Eastern Ukrainians by treating their own citizens as “terrorists” (), they also create the actual war that they accuse Putin of fomenting! Logic suggests only two possibilities: either the separatists are Russian provocateurs, or they are not. If they are indeed Russian provocateurs, then Turchynov and Yatseniuk have effectively initiated hostilities against Russian forces. If the separatists are not Russian provocateurs, then Turchynov and Yatseniuk are deploying military and “counter-terrorist” forces against their own people, instead of dealing with any insurgent or criminal behaviors via the police and the civilian justice system. Either way, the Ukrainian government is not doing itself any favors and is itself engaged in dangerous brinksmanship, which, unless restraint wins the day, could cost the lives of at least thousands of innocent Ukrainian civilians.

If this crisis were merely an episode of competing follies between two Eastern European regimes, I might have left the matter at that. Unfortunately, prominent neoconservative war hawks such as John McCain and certain NATO generals, such as Supreme Allied Commander Philip Breedlove, remain unable to transcend the insane era of the Cold War, when the civilized world was never far from nuclear annihilation due to the geopolitical rivalry between the United States and the Soviet Union. They continue to call for “harsh” and “forceful” measures to be taken against Putin’s regime – whatever that means. Economic sanctions would, of course, be wholly counterproductive and would further impoverish Russian civilians, driving more of them, in desperation, to further embrace Putin’s nationalistic agenda. But military action of any sort by NATO or the United States would be an absolute calamity for human civilization – risking not just another cold war, but World War III between the world’s two major nuclear powers. Such a war would paralyze the progress of humankind for decades and lead to the eradication of much of the infrastructure needed to make comfortable, prosperous lives possible.

The neoconservative and NATO hawks are the Western mirror image of Putin’s nationalistic aggrandizement. They warn of the United States’ weakening image in foreign policy, of a perceived softness of the Obama administration’s response. They fear, in essence, a loss of American “national honor” and “national pride” if the United States were to withdraw from its role as global policeman and global human-rights enforcer. But they overlook the essential question: Why should the United States government be involved in the situation in Ukraine? There is no danger to American citizens, to whom the United States government’s duty of protection is owed, even in the worst-case scenario of Putin’s troops occupying all of Ukraine (which, as explained earlier, will not happen unless Putin is suicidally stupid). There is no compelling “national security” rationale of any sort for military or even extensive policy intervention in an area of the world separated from the United States by an ocean and most of the European continent!

The United States government is drowning in runaway debt, and the country is only beginning to recover from disastrous decade-long occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan. Thousands of American troops have been killed in the prior interventions of this millennium; tens of thousands more have come home physically and mentally scarred forever.  And the hawks want them to fight in yet another part of the world which most Americans understand nothing about, for no tangible gain, in the name of the geopolitical posturing of regimes whose leaders care not at all about them and will not bear a single physical cost of the massive killings, tortures, property destruction, and other atrocities that war inevitably brings with it? War is always fought at the behest of and for the benefit of corrupt, power-hungry leaders, and all the costs are always borne by innocent civilians and by very young armed men who know not what they fight for and who kill one another senselessly, even though they could have been good friends in other circumstances.

As the Wikileaks revelations about the conduct of some American troops in Iraq and Afghanistan showed the world, the US military is not uniquely righteous or humanitarian; torture, sadism, and perversity in the conduct of war marred the US military record, too.

The description of the horrors of war and the immense beneficence and moral imperative of peace by the great Renaissance humanist thinker Desiderius Erasmus is just as true today as it was in the early 16th century when these words were written:

Peace is at once the mother and the nurse of all that is good for man; war, on a sudden and at one stroke, overwhelms, extinguishes, abolishes, whatever is cheerful, whatever is happy and beautiful, and pours a foul torrent of disasters on the life of mortals. Peace shines upon human affairs like the vernal sun. The fields are cultivated, the gardens bloom, the cattle are fed upon a thousand hills, new buildings arise, riches flow, pleasures smile, humanity and charity increase, arts and manufactures feel the genial warmth of encouragement, and the gains of the poor are more plentiful.

But no sooner does the storm of war begin to lower, than what a deluge of miseries and misfortune seizes, inundates, and overwhelms all things within the sphere of its action! The flocks are scattered, the harvest trampled, the husbandman butchered, villas and villages burnt, cities and states that have been ages rising to their flourishing state subverted by the fury of one tempest, the storm of war. So much easier is the task of doing harm than of doing good — of destroying than of building up!

As with the remarkable surge of grassroots opposition that prevented US intervention in Syria in 2013, it is time for the American public to vociferously denounce any military intervention in Ukraine. It is not surprising, as a recent Washington Post article highlighted, that “The less Americans know about Ukraine’s location, the more they want to intervene”! Education of Americans, not the inflammation of their zeal, should be the priority. The conflict in Ukraine today is a clash between two extremely ugly nationalisms – and ignorant neoconservative jingoists would add their own third flavor of nationalism to the mix. It is time for civilized individuals everywhere to reject all nationalism and all war. All of us humans – in Ukraine, Russia, the West, and everywhere else – face a choice for the next several decades. If we pursue the path of peace and non-intervention, we can become a spacefaring, cosmopolitan civilization. We are on the verge of major breakthroughs in life extension, robotics, artificial intelligence, nanoscale manufacturing, and ubiquitous, affordable energy. If we pursue the path of war, then humankind will instead become suffocated in the muck of jingoistic tribalism, with a promising future washed away by rivers of blood and consumed by an inferno of bombs.  The next few weeks will indicate which of these futures we face.

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Norman Borlaug Saved a Billion Lives – Article by Bradley Doucet

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The New Renaissance Hat
Bradley Doucet
April 13, 2014
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Wheat
A statue honouring Norman Borlaug was unveiled in DC earlier this week on what would have been the celebrated biologist’s 100th birthday. Borlaug’s work developing and promoting high-yield crop varieties is credited with averting the mass famines that were predicted in the 1960s and saving as many as a billion people in the developing world from starving to death. Yes, that’s “billion” with a “b.” In 1970, he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his history-altering humanitarian efforts.
Born in Iowa in 1914, Borlaug lived through the Dust Bowl, whose effects he noticed were less severe where newer, high-yield farming methods were in use. In the 1940s, he went to work for the Rockefeller Foundation in Mexico, teaching Mexican farmers the latest agricultural techniques and leading a research effort to perfect a high-yield, disease-resistant strain of wheat. In the 1960s, he moved to Pakistan and India, where he also successfully promoted the use of modern farming and high-yield wheat.

Yet this Green Revolution, as it came to be called, met with serious resistance from environmentalists, who to this day bemoan the need for inorganic fertilizers and industrial irrigation. Many greens promote the preservation of, and indeed a return to, traditional subsistence farming, even though it requires more land to grow an equivalent amount of food. Realistically, the choice humanity faces is between a) modern farming, b) razing our forests to make room for traditional farming, or c) mass starvation. And actually, without modern farming methods, razing our forests probably would not be enough to prevent mass starvation.

Thanks in part to the well-meaning but ill-conceived opposition of greens, the Green Revolution has barely begun to reach sub-Saharan Africa, the one part of the world where dire poverty is not hastily retreating. Thanks to too many people romanticizing traditional farming and demonizing modern agriculture, millions continue to suffer and die needlessly. As Borlaug himself once said, “Some of the environmental lobbyists of the Western nations are the salt of the earth, but many of them are elitists. They’ve never experienced the physical sensation of hunger. They do their lobbying from comfortable office suites in Washington or Brussels. If they lived just one month amid the misery of the developing world, as I have for fifty years, they’d be crying out for tractors and fertilizer and irrigation canals and be outraged that fashionable elitists back home were trying to deny them these things.”

Penn and Teller called Norman Borlaug “the greatest human that ever existed.” On his 100th birthday, let’s honour his unparalleled achievement by embracing agricultural technology and moving beyond simplistic and misleading fear-mongering. Let’s try to complete the glorious Green Revolution and spread prosperity across the globe—and save the world’s forests in the bargain.

Bradley Doucet is Le Québécois Libre‘s English Editor and the author of the blog Spark This: Musings on Reason, Liberty, and Joy. A writer living in Montreal, he has studied philosophy and economics, and is currently completing a novel on the pursuit of happiness. He also writes for The New Individualist, an Objectivist magazine published by The Atlas Society, and sings.

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For the Love of Money? – Article by Gary M. Galles

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The New Renaissance Hat
Gary M. Galles
April 13, 2014
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It’s not unusual to hear market systems criticized for relying too much on money, as if this comes at the expense of the altruistic relationships that would otherwise prevail. Ever heard the phrase “only in it for the money”? It’s as if self-interest has a stink that can corrupt transactions that generate benefits for others, turning them into offenses. So this line of thinking suggests reliance on market systems based in self-ownership would be tantamount to creating a world where people only do things for money, and lose the ability to relate to one another on any other terms.

People Don’t Do Everything for Money

One need not go far to see the falsity of the claim that everything is done for money in market systems. My situation is but one example: I have a Ph.D. in economics from a top graduate program. It is true that, as a result, I have an above-average income. But I did not do it all for the money. One of my major fields was finance, but if all I cared about was money—as my wife reminds me when budgets are particularly tight—I would have gone into finance rather than academia and made far more. But I like university students. I think what I teach is important, and I value the ability to pass on whatever wisdom I have to offer. I like the freedom and time to pursue avenues of research I find interesting. I enjoy the ability to tell and write the truth as I see it (particularly since I see things differently from most) and I prefer a “steady job” to one with far more variability.

Every one of those things I value has cost me money. Yet I chose to be a professor (and would do it again). While it’s true that the need to support my family means that I must acquire sufficient resources, many things beyond just money go into choosing what I do for a living. And the same is true for everyone.

Ask any acquaintances of yours who they know that only does things for money. What would they say? They would certainly deny it about themselves. While they might apply this characterization to people they don’t know, beyond Dickens’s Ebenezer Scrooge and his comic book namesake, Scrooge McDuck, they would be unable to provide a single convincing example. If market critics performed that same experiment, they would recognize that they are condemning a mirage, not market arrangements.

Confusing Ends and Means

Beyond the fact that all of us forego some money we could earn for other things we value, the fact that every one of us gives up money we have earned for a vast multitude of goods, services, and causes also reveals that individuals don’t just do things for the money. Each of us willingly gives up money up to further many different purposes we care about. Money is not the ultimate end sought, but a means to a vast variety of possible ends. Mistakenly treating money as the end for which “people do everything” is fundamentally flawed—both for critics of the market and for the participants in it.

To do things for money is nothing more than to advance what we care about. In markets, we do for others as an indirect way of doing for ourselves. This logic even applies to Scrooge. His nephew Fred’s assertion that he doesn’t do any good with his wealth is false; he lends to willing borrowers at terms they find worth meeting, expanding the capital stock and the options of others.

That an end of our efforts is to benefit ourselves, in and of itself, merits neither calumny nor congratulations. Money’s role is that of an amoral servant that can help us advance whatever ends we ultimately pursue, while private property rights restrict that pursuit to purely voluntary arrangements. Moral criticism cannot attach to the universal desire to be able to better pursue our ends or to the requirement that we refrain from violating others’ rights, only to the ends we pursue.

To do things for money in order to achieve world domination could justify moral condemnation. But the problem is that your intended end will harm others, not the fact that you did some things for money, benefitting those you dealt with in that way, to do so. Using money to build a leprosarium, as Mother Teresa did with her Nobel Prize award, does not justify moral condemnation. Similarly, using money to support your family, to live up to agreements you made with others, and to try not to burden others is being responsible, not reprehensible. Further, there is nothing about voluntary arrangements that worsens the ends individuals choose. But by definition, they place limits on ends that require harming others to achieve them.

It is true that money represents purchasing power that can be directed to ends others object to. Money is nothing more than a particularly powerful tool, and all tools can be used to cause harm. Just as we shouldn’t have to forego the benefits of hammers because somebody could cause harm with one, there’s no reason to think society would be better off without money or the market arrangements it makes possible just because some people can use those things for harmful ends. And if the ends aren’t actually causing harm, then the objections over them come down to nothing more than disagreements about inherently subjective valuations. Enabling a small class of people to decide which of these can be pursued and which can’t makes everyone worse off.

Those who criticize people for doing everything for money also do a great deal for money themselves. How many campaigns have religious groups and non-profit organizations run to get more money? How much of government action is focused on getting more money? Why do the individuals involved not apply the same criticism to themselves? Because they say they will “do good” with it. But every individual doing things for money also intends to do good, as he or she sees it, with that money. And if we accept that people are owners of themselves, there is no obvious reason why another’s claims about what is “good” should trump any “good” that you hold dear, or provide for another in service through exchange.

Criticizing a Straw Man

Given that the charge that “people do everything for money” in market systems is both factually wrong and logically lame, why do some keep repeating it? It creates a straw man easier to argue against than reality, by misrepresenting alternatives at both the individual and societal level.

At the individual level, this assertion arises when people disagree about how to spend “public” resources (when we respect private property, this dispute disappears, because the owner has the right to do as he or she chooses with it, but cannot force others to go along with or allow it; “public” resources are obtained by force). The people who wish to spend other people’s confiscated resources in ways the original owners disagree with claim a laundry list of caring benefits their choice would provide, but foreclose similar consideration of the harms that would be caused to those they claim care only about money. That, in turn, is used to imply that the purportedly selfish person’s claims are unworthy of serious attention. (Something similar happens when politicians count “multiplier effects” where government money is spent, but ignore the symmetrical negative “multiplier effects” radiating from where the resources are taken.)

This general line draws support from a misquotation of the Bible. While more than one recent translation of 1 Tim 6:10 renders it “the love of money is a root of all sorts of evils,” the far less accurate King James Version rendered it, “the love of money is the root of all evil.” When one simply omits or forgets the first three words, it becomes something very different—“money is the root of all evil.” Portray those who disagree with your “caring” ends as simply loving money more than other people, and they lose every argument by default. Naturally, it’s a seductive strategy.

At the societal level, criticizing market systems as tainted by the love of money implies that an alternate system would escape that taint and therefore be morally preferable. By focusing attention only on an imaginary failing of market systems that would be avoided, it allows the implication of superiority to be made without having to demonstrate it. This is a version of the Nirvana fallacy.

By blaming monetary relationships for people’s failings, “reformers” imply that taking away markets’ monetary nexus will somehow make people better. But no system makes people angels; all systems must confront human flaws and failings. That means a far different question must be addressed: How well will a given system do with real, imperfect, mostly self-interested people? And it shouldn’t be necessary, but most political rhetoric makes a second question nearly as important: Does the given system assume that people are not imperfect and self-interested when they have power?

Given that the utopian alternatives offered always involve some sort of socialism or other form of tyranny, an affirmative case for them cannot be made. Only by holding the imaginary “sins” of market systems to impossible standards, while holding alternatives to no real standards except the imagination of self-proclaimed reformers, can that fact be dodged. But there’s nothing in history or theory that demonstrates that overwriting markets with expanded coercion makes people more likely to do things for others. As Anatole France noted, “Those who have given themselves the most concern about the happiness of peoples have made their neighbors very miserable.” And as economist Paul Heyne wrote, “Market systems do not produce heaven on earth. But attempts by governments to repress market systems have produced . . . something very close to hell on earth.

Money at the Margin

Money is not everything. But changes in the amounts of money to be earned or foregone as a result of decisions change our incentives at the many margins of choice we face, and so change our behavior. Such changes—money at the margin—are the primary means of adjusting our behavior in the direction of social coordination in a market system.

Changes in monetary incentives are how we adapt to changing circumstances, because whatever their ultimate ends, everyone cares about commanding more resources for those purposes they care about. It is how we rebalance arrangements when people’s plans get out of synch, which is inevitable in our complex, dynamic world. In such cases, changing money prices allow each individual to provide added incentives to all who might offer him assistance in achieving his ends, even if he doesn’t know them, doesn’t know how they would do so, and doesn’t think about their well-being (in fact, it applies even if he dislikes those he deals with, as long as the benefits of the arrangements exceed his perceived personal cost of doing so).

For instance, consider a retail gas station faced with lengthy lines of cars. That reflects a failure of social cooperation between the buyers and the seller. Those in line are revealing by their actions that they are willing to bear extra costs beyond the current price to get gas, but their costs of waiting do not provide benefits to the gas station owner. So the owner will convert those costs of waiting in line, which are going to waste, into higher prices (unless prevented by government price ceilings or antigouging directives) that benefit him. That use of money at the margin benefits both buyers and sellers and results in increased amounts of gasoline supplied to buyers.

Further, people can change their behavior in response to price changes in far more ways than “outsiders,” unfamiliar with all the local circumstances, realize. This makes prices, in turn, far more powerful than anyone recognizes.

Consider water prices. If water prices rose, your first thought might well be that you had no choice but to pay them. You might very well not know how many different responses people have already had to spikes (ranging from putting different plants in front yards to building sophisticated desalinization plants). Similarly, when airline fuel prices rose sharply, few recognized in advance the number of changes that airlines could make in response: using more fuel-efficient planes, changing route structures, reducing carry-on allowances, lightening seats, removing paint, and more.

If people recognized how powerful altered market prices are in inducing appropriate changes in behavior, demonstrated by a vast range of examples, they would recognize that the cost of abandoning money at the margin, which enables these responses by offering appropriate incentives to everyone who could be of assistance in addressing the problem faced, would enormously exceed any benefit.

Massive Improvements in Social Cooperation

If we could just presume that individuals know everyone and all the things they care about and the entirety of their circumstances, we could imagine a society more focused on doing things directly for others. But in any extensive society, there is no way people could acquire that much information about the large number of people involved. Instead, this would extend the impossible information problem that Hayek’s “The Use of Knowledge in Society” laid out in regard to central planners. You can care all you want, but that won’t give you the information you need. Beyond that insuperable problem, we would also have to assume that people cared far more about strangers than human history has evidenced.

Those information and other-interestedness requirements would necessarily dictate a very small society. But the costs of those limitations, if people recognized them, would be greater than virtually anyone would be willing to bear.

Without a broad society, the gains from cross-pollination of ideas and different ways of doing things would be hamstrung. The gains from comparative advantage (areas and groups focusing on what they do best, and trading with others doing the same thing) would similarly be sharply curtailed. A very small society would eliminate the incentive for large-scale specialization (requiring more extensive markets) and division of labor that makes our standard of living possible. Virtually every product that involves a large number of separate arrangements—such as producing cars or the gasoline to power them—would disappear, because the arrangements would be overwhelmed by the costs of making them without money as the balance-tipper. As Paul Heyne once put it,

The impersonal transactions that constitute the market system . . . have, over the course of a few centuries, enormously expanded our ability to provide [for] one another . . . while at the same time vastly extending our freedom both by offering us a multitude of options and by freeing us from arbitrary restrictions on our choice of life goals and on the means to further those goals. To reject impersonal transactions as unethical amounts to rejecting the foundation of modern life.

Conclusion

A pastiche of false premises leads many to reject out of hand what Hayek recognized as the “marvel” of market systems, which, if they had arisen from deliberate human design, “would have been acclaimed as one of the greatest triumphs of the human mind.” This is great for those who seek power over others—they have an endless supply of bogeymen to promise to fight.

But it’s a disaster for social coordination. The record of disasters inflicted on society demonstrates what follows when voluntary arrangements are replaced by someone else’s purportedly superior vision.

But it’s often forgotten. We must continue to make the case.

Gary M. Galles is a professor of economics at Pepperdine University. He is the author of The Apostle of Peace: The Radical Mind of Leonard Read. Send him mail.

This article was originally published by The Foundation for Economic Education.

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Ft. Hood: An Avoidable Tragedy – Article by Ron Paul

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Categories: Politics, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
Ron Paul
April 13, 2014
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Two weeks ago we saw yet another tragedy at Ft. Hood, Texas, as a distraught Iraq war veteran killed three of his fellow soldiers before killing himself. It is nearly five years after the last Ft. Hood shooting, where 13 people were killed. These tragedies are heartbreaking, and we certainly feel much sympathy for the families of the victims.

While there is much focus on the mental illness that appears to have driven many of these men to murder, what is left unsaid is the cause of the tragedy. Federal officials and the media only talk about the symptoms that lead to these tragic events. They will tell us that there are people who get post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and kill themselves and others. They will all call for more government intervention into the lives of those in the military to root out and “treat” mental illness.

But they will never question the two causes of these tragedies: the disastrous decade-long US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that have destroyed the minds of so many service members, and the government psychiatrists who prescribe extremely dangerous psychotropic drugs to treat these damaged soldiers.

On the drugs, it is true that in almost every story we read about these kinds of mass killings, whether on a military base or in a school, the kids or veterans have been treated with these dangerous drugs. When will the medical profession wake up and realize that these drugs are often worse than the illness they are designed to treat?

We need to understand that the problem of veterans returning home with serious mental illness is increasing at an alarming rate. We are not talking about a few thousand people returning from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We are talking about a hundred thousand people. And according to government statistics, about 20 percent of returning vets will suffer from PTSD, and a further 20 percent will suffer from traumatic brain injuries.

The numbers are significant and they are frightening. While some will ignore these statistics and point out that these wars are producing far less deaths than previous ones, the fact is these brain injuries and disorders are a living death for the victims. And increasingly, those living in such horrific circumstances, full of deadly drugs that are supposed to treat the problem but only make matters worse, are striking out against those in their communities or committing suicide.

But what of the other main cause of these tragedies? What no media or government representative will admit is that US military members are suffering horrible mental illnesses because they have been sent over and over again into senseless wars overseas. That is the real cause of this crisis. The real horror comes when these soldiers return to the US to realize that the wars have not been won and all of the suffering and dying on both sides has been in vain. Just think of how many individuals over the last 15 years would not have suffered death or injury — or post-traumatic stress disorders or brain injuries —  if we didn’t go to war unnecessarily!

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan may be winding down, but the war against our veterans continues.  Why are the people who are really guilty, those who lied us into war, not being called to task?

Unfortunately, the truth is that these same people who lied us into war in Iraq are still getting us involved unnecessarily overseas, in Syria, Egypt, Libya, Ukraine. The problem, the interventionism that creates these deeply troubled service members, continues to thrive, unpunished. And even worse: these people continue to plan our future disasters even though they will not suffer the fate of those they send to be broken on foreign battlefields.

We must end the aggressive wars that break our military, and end the dangerous drugs that turn deeply-troubled victims into killers. Let’s have no more Ft. Hoods!

Ron Paul, MD, is a former three-time Republican candidate for U. S. President and Congressman from Texas.

This article is reprinted with permission from the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity.

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A College Degree Does Not Make You a Million Dollars – Article by Andrew Syrios

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Categories: Economics, Education, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
Andrew Syrios
April 13, 2014
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It is becoming substantially less difficult these days to convince people that college is not a sure fire way to the good life. Even Paul Krugman has conceded that “it’s no longer true that having a college degree guarantees that you’ll get a good job.” You can say that again: 53 percent of recent graduates are either jobless or underemployed. Unfortunately, myths die hard. Many people still believe as Hillary Clinton once said, “Graduates from four-year colleges earn nearly an estimated one million dollars more [than high school graduates].” This may sound convincing, but this figure — based on a Census Bureau report — is about as true as it is relevant.

After all, isn’t it true that the most hard-working and intelligent people tend more to go to college? This is not a nature vs. nurture argument, the factors behind these qualities are unrelated to the discussion at hand. If one grants, however, that the more ambitious and talented go to college in greater proportion than their peers, Mrs. Clinton could have just said “the most hard-working and intelligent earn nearly an estimated one million dollars more than their peers.” I think the presses need not be stopped.

For one thing, the Census Bureau estimate includes super-earners such as CEO’s which skew the average upward. Although some, such as Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates, didn’t graduate college, most did. This is why it’s better to use the median (the middle number in the data set) than the mean or average. It’s also why Hillary Clinton and other repeaters of this factoid don’t.

Furthermore, just because most smart people go to college doesn’t mean they should. They may earn more money, but what they keep is more important than what they make. Financial columnist Jack Hough created a very illuminating hypothetical scenario with two people, one who chooses college and one who enters the labor force after high school. Hough then uses the average cost of college as well as U.S. Census Bureau data for the average income of college graduates and non-graduates, adjusted for age. He assumes both save and invest 5 percent of their income each year. By the age of 65, how does the net worth of each look?

  • College Graduate: $400,000
  • High School Graduate: $1,300,000

When one thinks about the common narrative of college vs. no college, it truly becomes absurd. Indeed, who exactly are we comparing? We’re not only comparing Jane-Lawyer to Joe-Carpenter, but we’re also comparing financial analysts with the mentally disabled, medical doctors with welfare dependents, building engineers with drug addicts, architects with pan handlers, marketing directors with immigrants who can barely speak English, and university professors with career criminals (whose earnings, by the way, are rarely reported). Many of these troubled people didn’t graduate high school, but it is shocking how they shuffle kids through the system these days. Some 50 percent of Detroit high school graduates are functionally illiterate and it isn’t that much better for the country on the whole. And something tells me that these particular non-graduates need something other than four years of drinking and studying Lockean (well, more likely Marxian) philosophy.

It certainly could be a good thing to earn a college degree. If one wants to be an accountant, engineer, or doctor, a degree is required. And those jobs have very high incomes. But can one really expect to make a killing with a degree in sociology or Medieval-African-Women’s-Military-Ethnic Studies? Pretty much the only jobs those degrees help one get, in any way other than the “hey, they got a college degree” sort of way, are jobs teaching sociology or Medieval-African-Women’s-Military-Ethnic Studies. And that requires an advanced degree as well (i.e., more money down the tube).

Furthermore, a college degree does not even guarantee a particularly high income. CBS News ran an article on the 20 worst-paying college degrees. The worst was Child and Family Studies with a starting average salary of $29,500 and a mid-career average of $38,400. Art History came in 20th with a starting average of $39,400 and a mid-career average of $57,100. Other degrees in between included elementary education, culinary arts, religious studies, nutrition, and music.

These are decent salaries, but are they worth the monetary and opportunity costs? With the wealth of information on the Internet, many skills can be attained on one’s own. Alternatives to college such as entrepreneurship and apprenticeship programs are often ignored. Indeed, apprentices typically get paid for their work while they are learning. The average yearly wage of a plumber and electrician are $52,950 and $53,030 respectively. That’s better than many college degrees and comes without the debt.

And that debt is getting bigger and bigger as college tuition continues to rise. In the last five years, tuition has gone up 24 percent more than inflation. Including books, supplies, transportation and other costs, in-state college students paid an average of $17,860 for one year in 2013 (out-of-state students paid substantially more). And despite all of that, many students don’t even finish. According to US News & World Report,

Studies have shown that nonselective colleges graduate, on average, 35 percent of their students, while the most competitive schools graduate 88 percent. Harvard’s 97 percent four-year graduation rate might not be that surprising … [but then] Texas Southern University’s rate was 12 percent.

12 percent is simply ridiculous, but the 35 percent for nonselective schools is extremely bad as well. Even the 88 percent for competitive schools leaves 12 percent of their students with no degree, but plenty of debt.

Given all of that, it can’t be surprising that the default rates on student loans (which cannot be wiped away in bankruptcy) appear to be much higher than is typically reported. According to The Chronicle,

[O]ne in every five government loans that entered repayment in 1995 has gone into default. The default rate is higher for loans made to students from two-year colleges, and higher still, reaching 40 percent, for those who attended for-profit institutions …

[T]he government’s official “cohort-default rate,” which measures the percentage of borrowers who default in the first two years of repayment and is used to penalize colleges with high rates, downplays the long-term cost of defaults, capturing only a sliver of the loans that eventually lapse …

College is good for some people. If you want to go into a field that has high earning potential (engineering, medicine, accounting, etc.) or you really like a certain subject and want to dedicate your career to it even if it may not be the best financial decision, go for it. But don’t go to college just because as Colin Hanks says in Orange County, “that’s what you do after high school!”

Andrew Syrios is a Kansas City-based real estate investor and partner with Stewardship Properties. He also blogs at Swifteconomics.com. See Andrew Syrios’s article archives.

This article was published on Mises.org and may be freely distributed, subject to a Creative Commons Attribution United States License, which requires that credit be given to the author.

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More Attention for “Death is Wrong” – Article by Reason

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Categories: Education, Science, Technology, Transhumanism, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
Reason
April 12, 2014
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I like to see advocates setting forth to create small scale initiatives like the children’s book Death is Wrong and the associated fundraiser to distribute copies. At the large scale a broad advocacy movement for a cause in medical research isn’t a monolithic thing; it is made up thousands of such efforts, a tapestry of individual who each thought enough of the cause to stand up and do something about it. More of this is always a good thing, and working towards a cure for degenerative aging is the most worthy of causes that I know of.

Donating to the right sort of cutting edge research is one approach, and the one I favor, but equally we have to get out there and persuade more people to do the same. Money has to come from somewhere. There is always a balance between raising research funding to get the job done versus funding the cost of gathering more supporters and thus making it more likely that greater amounts of research funding can be obtained. Research results help to convince more people to fund more research, but there is never enough support in the early crucial stages – the really large amounts of research funding arrive after the most important work is done, as is the case for every trend.

The starting point for large amounts of future funding and rapid progress towards actual, real, working rejuvenation treatments is some mix of research funding and advocacy initiatives today, however. All such efforts should be encouraged, as it is through them that the longevity science community finds its way to a louder voice in the public sphere, a taller soapbox from which to persuade and educate. Aging is a horror, the greatest cause of pain and suffering in this world of ours, and we stand at the verge of being able to do something about it – but only if many more people come to think that this cause has merit and make their own contributions to help out.

Praise for Death is Wrong, a delicious transhumanist book for children – Review by Guilio Prisco

Quote:

Death is a disease, and hopefully future scientists, perhaps including the young readers of the book, will find a cure. Previous generations thought that death is inevitable, and invented delusional fake philosophies to make death easier to accept. This reaction is understandable – if you can’t avoid something, you look for ways to accept it – and explains all usual rhetorical babbling in praise of death: “overpopulation, make room for the young, death is a tool of evolution, boredom after a long life,” and the utterly idiotic “death gives meaning to life.” The book deconstructs all these fake “arguments” and calls them what they are: understandable but pathetic attempts to rationalize the inevitable.

Provocative strong messages get heard, and teaching children that death will be cured is very provocative in today’s dull, defeatist, politically correct cultural climate. I think writing for children forces to keep things clean end simple, without big words and endless caveats, cutting through the noise and getting to the point. Clear, clean, and simple communication focused on the core message, with qualifications and caveats (if they are really needed) in footnotes, is something that transhumanists should practice more, and writing for children is a good way to learn.

Spreading the Word That Death is Wrong

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Who could have thought a month ago that an illustrated children’s book on indefinite life extension would become a fiercely, passionately discussed phenomenon not just in transhumanist and futurist circles, but on mainstream publications and forums? And yet that is exactly what has happened to Death is Wrong – certainly the most influential and provocative of all of my endeavors to date. I am thrilled that it is precisely my pursuit of this most fundamental and precious goal – preservation of the life of every innocent individual – that has achieved greater public exposure, controversy included, than anything else I have ever done.

Review of “Death is Wrong” by Adam Alonzi

Quote:

Death can be cured. Let this sink into your brain, not because it is comforting, but because it is true. Even obvious truths will not gain acceptance unless we vigorously campaign against the falsehoods. Death is not something to embrace, and it is not something to ignore. To turn it into a matter of metaphysics or “bioethics” is insulting to those who, by no fault of their own, are burdened by the ailments of old age. There are many extraordinary men and women who could go on working for hundreds of years if their stars were not designed to dim so soon.

Reason is the founder of The Longevity Meme (now Fight Aging!). He saw the need for The Longevity Meme in late 2000, after spending a number of years searching for the most useful contribution he could make to the future of healthy life extension. When not advancing the Longevity Meme or Fight Aging!, Reason works as a technologist in a variety of industries. 

This work is reproduced here in accord with a Creative Commons Attribution license. It was originally published on FightAging.org.

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Bob Lane Reviews “Death is Wrong” on LifeVsDeath.com

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Categories: Education, Philosophy, Science, Technology, Transhumanism, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
April 12, 2014
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Bob Lane has written an excellent post about Death is Wrong on his site LifeVsDeath.com. Read it here. Mr. Lane writes that “This is an important step in a long-term effort to win minds and change attitudes. I applaud the author’s efforts and plan to share a copy with my 15-year-old. […] Even if you don’t have children, please consider supporting the author in what he is trying to accomplish.”

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Mr. Stolyarov Interviewed by Stephen Euin Cobb on The Future And You – Part 2

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Categories: Education, Philosophy, Self-Improvement, Transhumanism, Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

The New Renaissance Hat
G. Stolyarov II
April 9, 2014
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Stephen Euin Cobb, host of The Future And You podcast, recently interviewed me about Death is Wrong, life extension, visions of the future, and related topics – including a brief discussion of my novel Eden against the Colossus (2003-2004) and my play Implied Consent (2004-2005).

The second half of our excellent conversation was just posted as this week’s episode of The Future And You. Find it here.

Here is the link to the MP3 file of our interview: http://traffic.libsyn.com/thefutureandyou/TFAY_2014_4_9.mp3

You can also listen to the first part of our interview, posted on April 2, 2014. Here is the MP3 file for Part 1: http://traffic.libsyn.com/thefutureandyou/TFAY_2014_4_2.mp3

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