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Isaac Morehouse


Isaac Morehouse is the CEO of Crash, the career launch platform, and the founder of Praxis, a startup apprenticeship program. Isaac is dedicated to the relentless pursuit of freedom. He’s written some books, done some podcasting, and is always experimenting with self-directed living and learning.

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Current Reading List


What I'm reading, or about to start reading (or re-read, or pick up and finish). Chances are, the list will accumulate new additions faster than I remove completed books. The ability to not finish every page in a book is one I'm trying to hone - without it, I'll never cover all I want to!

Envy

Phi

The Collected Works of Armen A. Alchian

Young Pioneers

The Problem of Political Authority

A Pattern Language

An Apostle of Peace: The Radical Mind of Leonard Read

Moral Principles and Political Obligations

Two Cheers for Anarchism

The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind

The Job of a Parent: Create Free Space


Neighbors, ideologies, governments, social norms and other institutions and beliefs work to create a sense of duty and loyalty in individuals from the day they are born.  Even if some of these institutions and ideas turn out to be good, early fealty to them is often based on guilt for who a person is, shame at what they do, fear of retribution, or ignorance of alternatives.  One of the jobs of a parent is to act as a barrier between these pressures and their kids.

When people call a child "sheltered", it's usually meant derogatorily.  But a good shelter is what all kids need.  Not walls that keep them in, but walls that keep some of the strongest forces that seek to mold them at bay.  A seedling needs a protected area in which to gain strength and deep roots before it can weather the strongest winds and weeds.

It's crucial that this safe space we create for our kids be full of windows and doors - opportunities to explore the very forces that we want to provide a buffer for.  Kids are curious, and the more they have access to information and ideas in a context without coercion, fear, ignorance, guilt or shame, the better conclusions they will draw about them, and the more equipped they will be for the world.

It's harder than it may seem to create this space.  I think of the times when, far from protecting, I act as an amplifier of the forces of the world.  When your child loudly asks a question considered embarrassing by the mores of the day, it's very easy to shut them down or project your own embarrassment on them.  It's not easy to take all the social heat yourself, shield it from your kid, and respond generously.  When kids naively explore the world, we should let them, rather than cajole them into the conventional conclusions and behaviors.

Kids will run into the norms of the world, no doubt about it, but at least parents can ensure they don't get smacked with it in the sanctuary of their own homes.  Don't let the walls of your house be those coming in on them, before they have strength to resist.  Let your kids be expansive and boundless!  That's how they'll gain strength and identity and an ability to respond to the world around them with ease and freedom.

Process vs. Content


I spent the weekend at a conference discussing education, and what kind of program or curriculum is ideal for young students.  It struck me how easy it is to overestimate the role of the content of an educational program and underestimate the role of process.

One professor said he's noticed that teachers who teach courses on comic books are no less likely to get students thinking about important concepts than those who teach philosophy.  The key is the quality of the teaching.  A good teacher can help students discover truths using a wide variety of curricular materials, where a poor teacher can't wring enlightenment out of the best.

The process also matters in other ways.  Who owns the education of the individual?  If it's the individuals own responsibility, and they primarily bear the costs and benefits, you get something much different than when students are a third party to a transaction between others.  Some self-selection, a level of interest on the part of the student, the freedom to direct their own inquiry - these are process related and are probably more important than the content of the education.

Process also maters to the method of how the individual educational processes are determined.  Do a small number of students or educators or bureaucrats determine what kind of system everyone will go through, or are myriad competing methods allowed to emerge?

It's easy as a parent to worry too much about what books my kids are reading, what lessons their learning, and other content concerns.  I need to be reminded from time to time that kids are curious and eager to learn just abut anything if the process is conducive.

First, Do No Harm


Last summer I had a trip to the emergency room that highlighted one of the perversities of the medical industry in the United States: Health practitioners are prevented from helping patients because of regulatory hurdles erected by the state at the behest of vested interests.

We were on vacation in a small town on the shore of Lake Michigan, and I experienced some intense stomach pains. When the pain persisted, I wondered if it might be my appendix and decided to hazard a trip to the ER to get it checked out. Fortunately, my appendix was fine and the pain subsided not long after I arrived at the hospital. Unfortunately, my experience in the ER was painful for other reasons.

I arrived late at night to a small but clean new building. There were only two other people in the ER waiting room and there were several nurses and hospital personnel on hand to take my information. I was in the system and seated in no time.

Then I waited for an hour and a half.

Given that effective pricing mechanisms are not available to the hospital, the long wait actually makes sense as a way to weed out the more frivolous ER visitors. Hospitals are required to see everyone who comes in, and virtually no one pays directly for their health services, so the incentive is to abuse the ER with visits of low importance. Making patients wait a long time is one of the only means available to the hospital for reducing low value visits. Indeed, one of the two patients there before me left during this time.

Finally I was admitted. A very energetic 30-something nurse took my vitals and inquired to the nature of my visit. I discussed my abdominal issues at length, and he looked very thoughtful and excited, like an engineer relishing the challenge of a puzzle he knows can be solved. He asked a slew of good questions, some of them unexpected to me. He looked pleased in a Sherlock Holmes kind of way.

Now I was excited. I could tell he had several ideas about my condition. He said, "Well, you have to wait for the doctor." He paused and lowered his voice a bit, "but I can tell you that I don't think you're in serious trouble … I've got some really good ideas on what's going on and what you can do about it. I've seen and experienced what I think you're dealing with."

This was great news! I've had on and off unexplained stomach issues for a number of years, so I was eager to hear his thoughts. I asked him to elaborate and he looked a little dismayed. "I'm not a doctor. It would be outside of my professional boundaries if I told you more. The doctor will be in soon." Then he left.

I was irritated, but glad at least that he seemed so energized and full of ideas. I was hopeful he'd talk to the doctor—and the doc could share his thoughts. I waited.

I waited some more.

After 45 minutes, I wandered into the hall (revealing hospital gown and all) looking for signs of life. I rounded a corner and came to a room where six or seven nurses were hanging around chatting. I asked if the doctor had forgotten about me. They casually said he'd come soon and returned to their chit chat. I went back to the room. At this point the pain had subsided quite a bit, and after my vague conversation with the nurse, I was convinced I was not in danger. Still, I wanted his thoughts. The nurse poked his head in again, seeming to feel sorry for me and, showing signs of frustration said, "Sorry, the doctor will be here soon. Hang tight."

I waited another 45 minutes. Nothing.

I was tired, feeling better and getting grumpy. I had no cell signal, and I knew my wife was worried. I wandered the hall one last time with no result, so I decided to leave.

As I drove back to the cottage, I couldn't help thinking of the frustrated nurse who seemed to have some helpful information he was dying to share with me but couldn't. Why couldn't he? Because he's not a state-licensed doctor, and state-licensed doctors have made sure they are the only ones allowed to provide certain information.

The public justification for medical licensing laws is that they protect patients from bad service. The idea that state bureaucracies are the best way to guarantee good service is laughable. Just visit the DMV. The laws do offer protection, but not to patients. They protect doctors' economic interests from the competition of other health practitioners with less training who might offer services at lower cost. This is an ethical problem for the medical profession.

The famous medical creed, "First, do no harm," means that doctors ought not intervene with a patient if the intervention might cause more harm than doing nothing. But what about legal intervention? Left alone, I would have happily paid the nurse for his insight into my discomfort. He would have happily offered it. The doctor's cartel, far from doing nothing, intervened with the long, blunt arm of the law and prohibited this interaction from taking place. In doing so, they caused harm to me by denying me information that could prove valuable to my health. In this case, it was not an emergency, but it very well could have been. There are instances of medical services prohibited by regulations that cause severe illness or death.

In South Carolina, where I now live, a law was recently passed banning midwives from assisting in home births if the mother has previously had a C-section or is otherwise considered a "high-risk" birth. The nurses and doctors advocated this law. It reduces the growing competition from the more personal, convenient and far less expensive home birth practitioners. Of course you can't reasonably make it illegal for so called high-risk mothers to have home births across the board, because sometimes it just happens. So the law only makes it illegal for a midwife to assist. The result has been an increase in unassisted high-risk home births and an increase in medical problems as a result.

In both cases, the doctors' lobby violates the creed to do no harm. Rather than letting people follow their planned course of action, professional associations concerned with the economic interests of their members run to the state and demand intervention that prohibits voluntary exchanges and does harm to the patients.

Milton Friedman argued long ago against medical licensing because it raises the cost and reduces the accessibility of medical services. Not only is it a bad practice for these economic reasons, but it is unethical as well. If doctors have an ethical obligation not to interfere with a patient when it might do harm, they should start by opposing state licensing regimes that do just that.

Originally posted here.

Commerce is Better Than Education


I've recently read several essays on education by some of the American Founders.  These writings have in common a belief that good education will promote civility, manners, advances in agriculture, manufacturing, and morality.  It seems to me effect is confused with cause.

It's not education - at least not formal education or schooling - that produces industriousness and social cooperation, but social cooperation and industriousness that increases knowledge and education.  Commerce is the great civilizing force in the world.  The greater and freer the extent of trade, the more scope individuals have to exercise and explore their abilities and the greater the incentive to obtain knowledge of value to them.

When people are free to reap the rewards or pay the costs of their endeavors, they have every incentive to improve.  This incentive leads to advances in industry, arts, and even culture and values.  Peaceful, mutually beneficial transactions bring the greatest returns, and these require knowledge and respect for other cultures, proficiency with products and processes, and constant adaptation and learning.

When commerce happens, the incentive exists to become educated.  No one need impose an educational plan on their neighbor, and no one has the ability to know what kinds of knowledge their neighbor needs.  We over-estimate the role that education plays in determining the kind of world we live in.  In reality, markets do most of the heavy lifting, and education follows and fills in the well-worn paths etched by exchange.  You could expend all the energy in the world trying to ensure more young people learn your favorite subject.  But if the market signals excellent returns in a different field, people will flock their despite what they've been trained in.

We needn't fret so much about what kind of educational systems exist around us.  We do need to do everything we can to ensure free exchange is unhampered, and myriad educational opportunities will flower as a result.

Isaac Morehouse


Isaac Morehouse is the founder and CEO of Praxis, a startup apprenticeship program making degrees irrelevant for careers. Isaac is dedicated to the relentless pursuit of freedom. He’s written some books, done some podcasting, and is always experimenting with self-directed living and learning.

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