New Book Teaser: How to Name Your Kids?

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Thanks to everyone who has backed this book project on KickStarter so far!

I want to share a section from the book today that I find particularly delightful.

Antony Davies is an economist, policy researcher, writer, speaker, and entrepreneur.  But his contribution to this book is about none of those things.  It’s about being a dad.

Ant has six children and asks, “Why haven’t you had a bunch of kids?”

The chapter answers many practical questions about large families, from budget issues to travel and health.  Today I’m going to share a section about a dilemma I never really thought about.

When you have a lot of kids, how do you name them for the right mix of beauty and efficiency?


What do you call them?

Names are a problem. We spent months selecting a name for our first child, Erika. We thought about how it sounded, what it meant, whether it had a long-enough shelf-life so it wouldn’t make her sound like some old lady just as she was hitting her college years. Ladies named Mavis, Opal, Inez, and Violet weren’t born 80-years-old. They just lost the shelf-life lottery. We were better at naming our second child, largely because I am a science-fiction freak and my hero, Isaac Asimov, had died just before our son was born. So Isaac it was. Our church friends thought it touching that we named him after the one of the biblical patriarchs. We didn’t have the heart to admit that we named him after a lecherous chemistry professor who wrote wicked sci-fi.

After the first two, naming becomes easy. You already have a list of potentials in your head from previous research. You also have recyclable first-picks that you couldn’t use because of gender issues. We knew that one of ours was going to be named Ivanka. Which one depended entirely on who showed up first with the appropriate plumbing. By the time you get to #4 the months of researching and trying out different names and spelling variations gives way to grabbing the first name that doesn’t rhyme with something crass so you can sign the paperwork and get out of the hospital. I figure that’s why hospital employees all wear name tags. It’s to give parents ideas. “OK, the baby gets the next name that comes down the hall. Wilbur.

Crap. Well, that’s the luck of the draw. Now sign those papers and let’s get out of here before they find something else to charge us for.” Of course, with names come nicknames. At first, you’re proud to tell people your baby’s name. “She’s Ivanka, after my wife’s mother. Actually, there’s been one Ivanka in each generation in my wife’s family going back five generations. Our little Ivanka is the sixth of that name.” But that doesn’t last. Where names are concerned, poetry takes a backseat to practicality. As soon as a kid acquires locomotion, she’s gone. She doesn’t need to be able to walk on two legs. Heck, she doesn’t even need to be able to crawl. As soon as your kid figures out that flailing arms and legs aren’t merely for expressing displeasure but can be harnessed for migration, she’s out of there. Nature has given young children the triple advantage of being quick, quiet, and small enough to fit into tiny spaces.

When you want to sleep, they’re louder than a frat house on homecoming night. But when they’re getting into things they shouldn’t, they’re like incontinent ninjas. Sometimes the only way you can find them is by following the smell. So, with locomotion comes the need to summon the little tykes. And this is where practicality comes in. When you finally put that name to work, you’ll regret not having picked an industrial-strength name like Bob. You can keep saying “Bob” until the cows come home. “Bob, where are you?” “Bob, come here!” “Bob, don’t bite the cat!” But if you picked a poetic name, now is when you’ll regret it. Try repeating “Beatrix” or “Jacinda” ad infinitum. This is why God invented nicknames. The nickname is the name you should have given your kid but were too embarrassed to pick. It takes a while to whittle a flowery name down to something that can be used easily on a day-to-day basis. And you can tell how much trouble a kid gets into by how quickly the parents adopt an industrial-strength nickname. Over the course of about three days, our lovely Ivanka became “Vonky,” then “Schpanky,” then “Schpank,” then “Spank,” then “Hank.” Hank is an industrial-strength name. You can shout it all the livelong day, and the last use will be as potent as the first. It’s one of those names that lends itself to yelling. You can put some serious air pressure behind that opening consonant, and the hard “k” at the end cuts off the sound to an immediate and ominous silence.

“Hank” is the air horn of the naming world. “Beatrix” is the kazoo. But nicknames bring their own baggage. At even at one syllable apiece, with a lot of children, nicknames can quickly add up to a lot of words to remember. Our last two kids, Alexander and Benjamin, were born just a year apart. Since we both abhor the nickname Alex, we announced his nickname before we left the hospital. “He shall be known as Xander.” We also abhor “Ben,” but since “Jamin” sounded like a reggae stoner, #6 was straight-up “Benjamin.” As they tend to be inseparable, my wife has taken to calling Xander and Benjamin (as a conglomerate), “Xanjamin.” Kind of like Branjelina meets the Brady Bunch. “Xanjamin” exhibits a bit of creative flair, but at three syllables it’s not industrial-strength. Plus, if you want to summon just one of them, you have to go back to either “Xander” or “Benjamin,” which means that you now have three names to deal with instead of merely two. The efficient solution we evolved is to give each of them the same nickname: kid. Alexander is “kid.” And so is Benjamin. If we need to refer to one of them, we say, “the kid.” As in, “Tell the kid to take out the trash.”

And if the wrong one shows up, the other one is, by definition, “the other kid.” As in, “Kid, come here. No, the other kid.” Last in the telling, though not the lineup, is Simon. Simon is the middle child. You hear about middle-child syndrome, where the poor middle child is ignored because he’s not needy like the teenagers or cute like the babies. Middle children, the story goes, grow up to be meek and unsure of themselves. Middle children stay in the shadows of their more-outgoing siblings. Simon does not have middle-child syndrome. If there is an opposite of middle-child syndrome, that’s what Simon has. Picture George S. Patton as a teenager. On a battlefield. In a tank. That’s Simon. When told that their older brother would be staying at college over the summer, the other children were sad. Simon’s response was: “Excellent. That means we all move up in rank.” Simon brings our total to six and, since six is divisible by two and three, we have developed a shorthand way of describing subsets of the children. The elder two are “The Majors.” The middle two are “The Minors.” And the kids are “The Minis.” In order, they are girl-boy-boy-girl-boy-boy. That makes it natural to refer to the first three as “Round One” and the second three as “Round Two.” With six kids, one can construct 63 unique subsets.

Given that it would be quicker to identify them individually than to remember all 63 possible combinations, any further subsets aren’t worth more than a “Am I looking at you? I mean you!” The entire set is known as “The Babies,” a cute and cuddly name that, to their unending chagrin, we regularly use even though two are in college and one in graduate school.

Support the campaign for ‘Why Haven’t You Read This Book?’ and help bring it to publication…and claim an early copy.

Book Update

We’ve had 98 wonderful individuals back this book project on KickStarter so far, and we’re just under $1,000 away from our goal to get the editing, layout, design, and publication done.

Thanks to everyone who’s been a part of it so far.  I’m excited to send you your beautiful finished copy of, “Why Haven’t You Read This Book?”

If you haven’t yet, join the campaign and back the project.


When Chasing Your Dream Ends Up Sucking

Join the other supporters of the KickStarter campaign to launch and publish the book!

One of the most interesting chapters in “Why Haven’t You Read This Book?” is by Courtney Derr about her adventure with her husband traveling the globe, primarily by motorcycle.

Courtney and H.J. had an itch they’d wanted to scratch for many years, but both were stuck in the 9-5 grind with jobs too good to give up.  The timing was never right.  Instead of waiting and hoping and delaying, or demanding a perfect list of justifications to go chase their traveling dream, they said, “Why not just do it now?”

So they did.

They saved up their money, quit their jobs, and set out to explore parts unknown.  Courtney’s a great writer and there’s no way to do justice to the narrative she shares in the chapter.  The ups, downs, twists, and turns are entertaining and inspiring.  But the thing that most sticks out about the chapter is this:  They didn’t enjoy probably the majority of their trip.

They ended it sooner than planned and had plenty of bad weather, motorcycle and emotional breakdowns, and all the other downsides experienced by anyone on a long road trip multiplied many times.  Rudeness, safety concerns, language barriers, food sickness, and many more travails.

This chapter was a really important one to include in the book because this is not a book about rose colored glasses and berainbowed cat poster motivation.  It’s about taking charge of your life.  One of the things that happens when you choose to “do you” instead of succumb to status quo pressure is that you reap the rewards.  One of the other things that happens is that you own the downsides too.

Despite the less than glamorous aspects of the story, Courtney and her husband do not regret their decision.  Part of self-exploration is realizing that you’re different than you assumed.  Your tastes, preferences, pain and risk tolerance may not be fully found out.  The thing is, you can’t really know yourself by reflection alone.  You’ve got to act on your desires, dreams, and hunches.

Had they not journeyed out into the wild they would have enjoyed life less back home.  They would always have a fallback to play the blame game and claim their struggles or unhappiness were because they were never able to travel like they wanted.  They would always wonder if they were missing something big.

Now they have a bunch of memories, some great, and some tough (though the tough ones begin to turn great over time too), and the clear knowledge of what the traveling experience is like and to what extent it can and cannot give them the life they desire.

You can’t trade that.

Check out the chapter, “Why Haven’t You Traveled the World” by supporting the campaign and claiming your copy of the book.

You won’t know until you try!

You can also learn more at their great website,

Teaser: Why Haven’t You Read This Book?

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I’m thrilled about a new book I am editing called, “Why Haven’t You Read This Book?”

It’s about flipping the burden of proof to open up a world of possibilities. It’s about asking ‘Why not?’, instead of, ‘Why?’

This episode includes a bit about the book and teasers from 5 of the 11 authors about the content of their chapter.

Help Me Publish A New Book!


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I’m so excited about this book.  The basic idea has been one that infected me about five years ago and I haven’t been able to ignore it.

It’s simple.  Instead of demanding elaborate justifications for doing some big, crazy, out of the norm thing, demand reasons why not.  In other words, flip the burden of proof so that the status quo demands damn good reasons and that wild dream of yours is assumed to be a good idea until proven otherwise.

The project has been a blast to work on.  The book is made up of 10 chapters written by 11 different people, all of whom stopped assuming their dream was too impractical and just went for it.  It’s part personal story, part inspiration, part information, and part how-to.

Drop out of school?  Move to a new city?  Write a book?  Quit your job?  Start a business?  Travel the world?  Audition for American Idol?  Have a bunch of kids?  Fly first class?  Climb a mountain?

Why not?

This book is very personal for me because this question is the breakthrough that led me and my wife to move away from a place we didn’t realize how much we hated until we left to a place we love.  People would ask us, “Why would you move to a city where you know no one?  Why would you leave your roots?”  Our answer became simple and immediate.  “Why not?”

We realized that if we demanded perfection from any change we’d never make one.  If you need a long list of guarantees before you make a move, you’ll probably never do it.  Instead of demanding good reasons to move to a specific city, we started demanding good reasons to stay.  When we scrutinized the status quo we realized it didn’t have much going for it.  Why not leave?

I’m excited to get the eBook, paperback, and hardcover finished product on the shelves and in your hands.  But I need your help!

There is a KickStarter campaign live now to raise the funds to pay for turning the draft into a beautiful book.  We’ve got everything lined up and we want to do it right.  I hope you’ll be a part of bringing this book to life!

Check out the campaign to pledge your support and claim your reward – from copies of the book to having an author come speak to your event.

Why not?

Better Off Free

11275_1658524154373144_4693890827086546057_nLiberty.Me was kind enough to publish a collection of essays I put together about a year ago in book form. Better Off Free spans a decade of my life, and in many ways tracks my intellectual journey.  It was fun to compile and I hope it’s enjoyable to read.  Special thanks to my good friend Zak Slayback for his fine editing work.

You can buy it in paperback on Amazon.

Alternatively, you can download the PDF, ePub, or Mobi file from Dropbox here.

I share the introduction to the book below, to give you an idea what it’s all about.


Better Off Free – Introduction

This book does not present one unified thesis or argument, as it is a collection of articles and blog posts spanning nearly a decade and many different topics. There is, however, a central theme that runs through it and loosely ties the essays together. That theme is simple: freedom is better than force.

The moral and practical reasons for the benefits of freedom and the dangers of force are explored from various angles throughout the book. You can think of each essay as an individual point about this or that topic, standing alone with its own color, and the book as a blank canvass. As each point dots the backdrop, you begin to see when you back up something of a single image, like an impressionist painting.

The essays are ordered and sectioned to provide some kind of flow and structure, but it ought not to be taken too seriously. The order is almost a reverse-chronology of my own intellectual journey. It begins with the most radical ideas, and works backwards through how I came to them.

I began exploring economic thinking, which helped me see the folly of central planning and the power and beauty of spontaneous order. Section 3 is mostly concerned with these ideas. Along the way, I was surprised to find that some of the same principles overlapped with the moral order. Section 2 deals with the moral side of freedom.

Economics is not a normative discipline, but once the paradigm shattering nature of economic thinking permeated my brain, it turned me into a relentless questioner, which bled into all aspects of my life. I began to see the state as not only very inefficient and ham-fisted, but as deeply inhumane. This was not an easy evolution. I was dragged, to paraphrase C.S. Lewis, kicking and screaming to the radical conclusion that the state is a clumsy and barbaric farce at best, and a tool for the deepest evil at worst.

This was a rather depressing realization at first. It took time and intellectual effort to work out what, exactly, the implications of my newfound radicalism were for my own life and work. It took time to see the beauty of unplanned order more than the folly of states, and the empowering nature of human coordination instead of fear of it being disrupted.  Section 1 is, more or less, where I arrived.

I’ve always wanted to make people’s lives better. I started in humanitarian missions but wanted to do something on a more fundamental level – teach a man to fish and all that. I entered politics, thinking that’s what creates the policies and institutions we live under. I was wrong; politicians are followers and lagging indicators, not the creators of institutional change. I explored policy research and education and the popularization of economic thinking, which felt far more productive. I’m now in the realm of entrepreneurship, seeking to create the kind of alternatives that theory and history show to be better than the state-dominated status quo.

The journey is not over, nor will it ever be. This book shares points along the path that led me to a major transition from asking what works for society to seeking what works for myself in my own individual life. How can I be free?

Understanding the larger economic and social systems around us is incredibly valuable and instructive, not to mention enjoyable work, but at some point it comes back to you. Is your hope for a fulfilling life in the hands of other people and powers, or your own? What keeps you from being free?

I will only add one final disclaimer. Section 2 uses religious language and references, primarily Christian, as many of the essays were written for Christian audiences. If that’s not your thing, you can ignore the religious terminology and, I think, the arguments still stand. If you value life and find violence distasteful for any reason, the ideas in that section will hold true.

I hope you enjoy this collection of ideas. Many of them were originally published elsewhere in magazine or blog format for places like the Mackinac Center, the Western Standard, The Freeman, The Values & Capitalism Project, Libertarian Christians, the Mises Institute, Laissez Fare Books, Liberty Magazine, the Libertarian Alliance, and others. Thanks to these publications and so many other organizations and individuals that have helped me along my intellectual adventure.

Be free.


November, 2013