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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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Resisting Anger


I'm not a fan of the state.  It's arbitrary and highly inefficient.  Still, it's here for the time being and I try to make my peace with it even while I try to change it.  For the most part I succeed in being happy despite the state harassment we all encounter.  Trips to the DMV, pat-downs by TSA agents and interactions with traffic cops can get me irritated, but I'm generally optimistic and calm.  So why did the relatively small increase in payroll tax get me so steamed?

To be honest I'm not entirely sure. For some reason I was really struggling to not feel anger and helplessness after recalculating our family budget post tax hike.  It was not the additional amount of money being taken that evoked such deep frustration, but the total inescapability of it.   It reminded me of the feeling I had when I had my bike stolen as a kid.  I came out of the store and it was just gone.  I felt violated and insecure.  But now it wasn't a random thief who strikes once and leaves you alone; it was the state, always there and ready to demand more when the mood strikes.

If your cable bill goes up, you have options.  You can call and vent your frustration.  You can tell them the increase was not in your contract, or in the very least not clear to you.  This often results in a renegotiation.  My wife has a knack for getting utility providers to reduce their rates or offer temporary discounts if ever they make an error.  As a last resort you can always cancel the service entirely and go with a competitor or simply go without.  The state leaves no such option.

Being completely captive to this supposed service provider is disempowering.  I was recently reading a book about depression and optimism in children and one of the things that stuck out to me was how powerful early experiences of helplessness can be.  When kids are not able to experience cause and effect; when they can't take action to alter the outcome of their world, they begin to despair.  The despair often manifests as depression, bullying and withdraw.  Punishment and reward with no connection to the child's actions plant seeds that can take a lifetime to uproot.

The realization of just how vast and impersonal the state is can have a similar effect.  One day you must pay the state X, the next day the rate is Y.  There is nothing you've done or chosen to make this happen.  There is nothing you can do.

My wife asked me what the least oppressive tax environment in the world was.  At first I tried to recall some of the lists and charts I've seen, but then I remembered that it wouldn't matter.  We were both born in this country.  That means even if we moved to another country, the IRS would demand income taxes from us for the rest of our lives.  The only option is to officially expatriate, in which case the state calculates your lifetime tax liability and asks you to pay it in one lump sum.  Some "social contract" this turns out to be!

I've been to countries with a high level of government "corruption" - an abbreviated way of saying a state that does what all states do, but without the factory-like repetition and paperwork.  It's not uncommon in such places to have a state agent approach you and claim you are in violation of some or another rule.  You pay them $20 or so and they're on their way.  The rules are used as a threat to get your money.  You pay, you can ignore the rules.  Here in America it works a little differently.  Instead of one agent showing up at your door, there are fifteen hundred bagillion nestled in cubicles wrapped in drab Soviet prison style architecture.  They send you a lot of papers demanding that you get in your car and drive to them.  You fill out six forms and wait in line for three hours.  Then they tell you one of the forms is out of date and send you away because the new form is only available tomorrow.  On your third visit you complete the forms properly so you can move on to the next step, paying whatever amount they determine you must pay.  You pay them.  But unlike countries with corrupt governments, your payment here does not buy you freedom from the silly rules.  You pay in order that you may obey them.

Of course there is no doubt this kind of system is more predictable than the corrupt states.  Then again, prison is predictable too.  Predictability is something, but it's not everything.

Back to my tax bill.  I was angry.  I knew it was unhealthy and counter-productive.  I indulged in it for a little while and then decided it was time to be free, state or no state.  I went and re-read this inspiring interview with my good friend T.K. Coleman.  It got me back on track.  T.K., The Shawshank Redemption and the late Harry Browne's book How I Found Freedom in an Unfree World are excellent go-to's when I start to let the oppressors win.  If I'm free, "what can man do to me"?

What is the State? Then What?


A few good friends and I teamed up with the Mackinac Center and put together a colloquium for undergraduates.  It gets its name from Thomas Clarkson, a young man who played a major role in ending the British slave trade.  More on Clarkson here.

The reading list is intended to have an arc to it.  We examine what the state is in theory, what the state is in practice, whether the state works well compared to non-state alternatives, whether states can be improved or constrained, whether statelessness is an option, and finally how to get from the current to a better (or no) state.  There are too many excellent books and essays for each of these questions, but I'm pretty excited about the sampling we put together.

I majored in political science as an undergraduate, and I can tell you we were never asked to consider fundamental questions like these.  Nearly all of my courses and readings assumed an idealized state or talked about what a noble or just state should be like.  Public Choice theory was never mentioned, nor did we engage in serious examination of competing views of the origin and nature of states (just Plato and Hobbes) and how they actually operate.  After a few courses touching on such theories, the rest was mostly squabbling over quantitative methods for gauging public opinion and whether single member districts were more "efficient" than proportional representation, whatever that means.  It was always assumed that democracy was wonderful in and of itself and achieving and maintaining it the goal of all political action.  I don't think you'd find such religious devotion to an ideal in divinity school.

Maybe I'm trying to relive my undergraduate days vicariously through the participants, but I hope it will be valuable for them as well.  Here's the reading list we compiled.

Too Quick to Close


I am an obsessive finisher.  Loose ends and unfinished projects drive me nuts.  Things in progress do not excite me, they stress me out.  I'm always looking to cross things off, get them out of my mind and move on to the next thing.  I think this is a major asset, but it has come to be a liability as well.  The more complex and long-term what I do becomes, the more I'm fighting against my own habits and instincts.

When I complete a phase of a project and pass it on to someone I'm collaborating with, within days I'm impatient and contemplating just finishing it myself even if it's imperfect.  I want to close the case.  This results in a lot of complex, messy projects either being dealt with in too much haste, or potential projects never launched, because it is not clear how they would be completed.

I'm trying to learn to love the process and be comfortable waiting.  I'll probably never be one of those people who has 10 books going, 25 internet tabs open at once and 50 emails they've read and not responded to.  I'm trying to get more comfortable with the idea though.  Most of the time, people with many things live at once are in that position because they are not very good at deciding how much time each project really warrants and when things aren't worth any time at all.  I'm good at that and I wouldn't trade it.  Realizing how much information is best completely ignored and how many emails should be deleted is powerful.  But in my haste to purge low value tasks and complete valuable tasks, I often miss out on the richness that can come out of a slow-growing idea or a longer collaborative project.

I want to wrap this post up nicely, but maybe I'll just leave it here...

A Few New Posts


The wonderful new Laissez Faire Books has been kind enough to post a few of my articles.  You can check them out here.

Also, check out the Morality of Capitalism Series at the Values & Capitalism Project here.  My archives at V&C has a number of new posts as well.

How Radical is Too Radical? Anarchism as a practical guide to advancing liberty


An article I co-authored with Chris Nelson, published in the Libertarian Alliance's Tactical Notes series.  It's an honor to be published in this series.  Several great thinkers have discussed tactics for advancing liberty via this publication, including Murray Rothbard.  Chris and I argue that, whether or not you believe in anarchism, it is an idea that demands serious discussion and thought if liberty is to be advanced.

Article here.

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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