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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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Smith, Smith Everywhere


Everywhere I turn I see a theme: decentralized, unplanned order is superior to rigid top-down plans.

Popular economist Nassim Talib's new book, Antifragile is about, "Things that gain from disorder".  Historian James C. Scott's latest book is called, Two Cheers for Anarchism.  A few years back I read a pop-business book called, The Starfish and the Spiderabout the "Unstoppable power of leaderless organizations."   Then there's this discussion of the 2004 book, Sync, on, "The emerging science of spontaneous order."

What do these have in common?  None of the authors describe themselves as libertarians, and only some of them reference F.A. Hayek or other libertarian thinkers who are known for the idea of spontaneous order.  This is exciting.

At first I noticed this trend and thought it was interesting how Hayek's ideas are so fundamental that they are being explored in all disciplines by all kinds of thinkers.  But really, it goes back to Adam Smith (who doubtless drew on ideas from many others before him).  One of Smith's core insights was that individuals pursuing their own interests unwittingly produce a broader order that benefits all.  It seems simple.  Yet this observation is so deep and rich with explanatory power that we might easily overlook it's staggering implications.  Hayek's work, among others, extended this insight and asked more questions about why and how unplanned order is superior to top-down dictates.

Today we see not only an extension of this idea in theory, but widespread application. Websites like Wikipedia were founded on this insight.  User-generated content and the network based framework of the web are live experiments in decentralized order.  The self-policing of blogs and forums and the customers reviews on Amazon and Yelp put the idea to test for all to see.  It's increasingly difficult to be unaware of the "invisible hand"; it's becoming more visible every day.

Many who are tapping the power of this insight don't necessarily extend it to society at large.  As I said, most of the works referenced above are not full-fledged calls for libertarianism.  Still, the power of decentralization, the clunkiness of monopolistic bureaucracy, and the beauty of the unknown and emergent are more understood than ever.  Understanding breeds acceptance.

Seeing is believing.  So is doing.  A generation that believes in the power of voluntary cooperation because they take part in it every day is no less valuable than one that reads libertarian theory.  The future is open, unknown, and bright.

Without Narrative, Vision, and Imagination, the People Perish


I had a friend who assured me sometime around 2000 that the internet wasn't going anywhere.  He was a smart guy, and even worked in the tech world.  Still, he couldn't foresee any way the internet could grow large and fast enough to accommodate demand, especially because there was no reliable revenue model.  He predicted it would skyrocket in cost and be used only by big players with a lot of cash.

Today free internet at speeds then unimaginable with content beyond the wildest dreams of that time is ubiquitous.  But he was not a fool.  He just lacked imagination.  It's possible that the relatively high level of expertise he had with the technology actually made him less able to see beyond its current applications.

We can laugh at predictions like this, but how often do we have small imaginations about our own present and future?  We tend to overvalue the status quo because we cannot think of any other way.  The world is replete with examples if we open our eyes.

At the very time my friend was struggling to see a way companies could offer internet access for free broadcast television and radio were already doing it and had been for decades using advertising as a revenue source.  His focus on what was immediately before him prevented him seeing what was all around him.

We suffer not only from inadequately appreciating the present and the possibilities of the future, but blindness to the past as a clue to what is possible.  I listened to a recent discussion over whether a coercive government monopoly was needed to provide firefighting services.  For nearly twenty minutes there was back and forth as the discussants struggled to think up a viable business plan absent tax funding.  If left to decide roles for the state, this group may have concluded firefighting had to be one, as the free market just couldn't do it.  The problem with this conclusion (like that of economists who claimed the same for lighthouses) is that for the majority of history firefighting was privately provided.

In order to make the world a freer, better place we need a combination of three things: narrative, vision, and imagination.

Narrative is our story about the past.  If we don't have enough facts or we interpret them through an incorrect theoretical lens, our narrative about what was will be incorrect.  If, for example, we persists in the false assumption that firefighting and lighthouses have never been privately provided, or the American West was a violent and disorderly place before governments took hold, we will be incapable of accurately seeing present and future possibilities.

Vision is how we see the present.  Do we see harmony and assume that legislation is the only thing keeping mayhem at bay?  Or do we see the beautiful and complex workings of spontaneous order? Our vision will determine how comfortable we are with freedom.  Through state-colored lenses we will live in fear of the chaos around the corner and be reticent to allow our fellow man liberty to experiment, try, fail, succeed and progress.  If our vision expands and we begin to see the way individuals cooperate and coordinate for mutual benefit absent central direction we will welcome and embrace freedom.

Imagination is what we believe about the future.  It determines what we think possible.  If we zoom in too close to the problem at hand we get stuck and fail to allow for the unknown.  We don't have to know what will be, or even what precisely is possible.  We just have to be humble enough and learn from the patterns of past and present that all our assumptions are going to be blown to smithereens by human creativity.  Don't try to resist it.  Expect it.

Only when we have the right narrative about the past, the vision to see the beauty of the present, and imagination enough to allow for the wonders of the future will we have the freedom to create it.

Heaven & Hell


Between every other
Odd-numbered November

You tell us that we’re slaves
So you might as well be master

After all you gave your last slaves
Plenty of bread

Half put out our hands
And half just shake our heads

You call it greed when I give five
To a man I see is poor

You tell me I don’t care
You say it should be more

So you shake me down and take my cash
And give the guy just four

Everything you do with guns
You love me when you make your runs

But I ain’t dumb, I know
That after the show

You’ll tell me what to drive to where
And charge me just to get there

It’s for my good you know
Your conscience tells you so

You’re on your way to heaven
But the place you’ve made me live in

Is nothing short of hell
It’s nothing short of hell

There’s gotta be something
There’s gotta be something free

 

This place got kinda twisted
So much quicker than you'd think

You’d think we’d learn our lesson
After watching others sink

But inside the little Social Clubs
The kids are taught to trust and love

Anything but self
They put it on the shelf

They serf the wake they should be mourning
And mourn the greatest gift of all

Instead of taking warning
Instead of taking warning

There’s gotta be something
There’s gotta be something free

 

When I sleep I seem to find it
I find it ‘cause I dream

I guess it’s time to find a way
To dream instead of waking

To take what’s for the taking
To see with eyes wide open

What I used to see while sleeping
The things I once was weeping

Are blessings for the reaping
Blessings for the reaping

It ain’t wrong to take some joy
In my own free will

It ain’t wrong to take some joy
In my own free will

You dance your ‘righteous’ dance
I’ll gladly take a pass

And dream while I see
I really am still free

‘No’ Saves Resources


In most jobs, the goal is to 'get to yes'. But all the focus on yes can cause us to under-appreciate the immense value of no. No saves resources. Those resources can be redeployed to productive ventures, like turning more maybe's into yes's.

Unfortunately, it's not fun to say no. People like to be liked and they like to be nice. When a question, invitation, request or commitment is hanging out there to which we'd like to say no, we often run away from it, ignore it and say nothing, hoping it will go away. We assume our neglect will send a message to the asker that will make them stop asking without putting us in the uncomfortable position of telling them no to their face.

The problem is, no answer doesn't always mean no. It can mean yes, I forgot, maybe, not now, how about a slightly different version, or any number of things. It does not send a clear signal to the seeker that lets them know whether, to what extent, and in what way they should spend more time and resources pursuing an answer. This means the next most valuable items on their list have to wait.

I have come to love hearing no. Of course, I'd always rather hear yes, but apart from yes or variations of it (yes later, yes with modifications, etc.), no is the best response. No answer is the worst. It means all my effort gained me nothing. I have no idea whether or not to keep going or how much time to put in. I'm back at square one.

This is true in every industry and circumstance I can think of. It's true in sales. It's no less true in accounting, dating, or parenting. No creates value by freeing up resources to pursue other ends. Don't be afraid to say no. You just might be helping the person on the other end of the question.

If Brevity is the Soul of Wit…


Damn.

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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