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A weekly show about politics and liberty, featuring conversations with top scholars, philosophers, historians, economists, and public policy experts. Hosted by Aaron Ross Powell and Trevor Burrus.

A weekly show about politics and liberty, featuring conversations with top scholars, philosophers, historians, economists, and public policy experts. Hosted by Aaron Ross Powell and Trevor Burrus.
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A weekly show about politics and liberty, featuring conversations with top scholars, philosophers, historians, economists, and public policy experts. Hosted by Aaron Ross Powell and Trevor Burrus.






Can We Reduce the Footprint of the Fed? (with George Selgin)

Prior to the 2008 financial crisis, the Federal Reserve had a long-standing policy of maintaining a minimal footprint on the credit system. According to Selgin, the Fed use to be a “lean and mean” player in the credit system. However, on the eve of the 2008 financial crisis they made some changes to decades’ old policies that they believed would aid the financial instability of the country at the time. In retrospect, we can now deeply analyze where the Federal Reserve misstepped. What is the...


Resisting State Injustice (with Jason Brennan)

Everyone has their own moral judgements and in many cases they can be and are misapplied. Jason Brennan explains how his new book When All Else Fails is not a call to resist all governments, but more of an exposure to how we apply our moral judgements unequally. What is the rule of self defense? Is it okay to act in self-defense against a government agent? If your government is illegitimate, is it virtuous to resist? What is the moral parity thesis? What is the difference between authority...


The World is Getting Better (with Marian Tupy)

Human Progress is not linear. The curve of human progress is a jagged one. Many of us are convinced that the world is worse, but as Tupy explains, that is due to one of our many biases. It seems as though our memory of bad events outweighs our memory of all the good we see on a daily basis. For example, what took you 60 minutes of work to buy in 1980 took only 21 minutes of work to buy in 2017. What is the goal of humanprogess. org? Why do we notice bad occurrences throughout our lives more...


Is Wall Street Overregulated? (with Todd Zywicki)

Zywicki starts off by simply explaining what a bank is and what it does. It is surprising how many people don’t actually know what their bank does for them. Early in life you are a borrower in order to buy a house or a car, later in life you become a lender to that same bank. Unfortunately, there has been so much regulation in the American banking system that there is no room for innovation which caused the phase out of mom & pop neighborhood banks. What is a bank? What is Glass-Steagall?...


Why Being Poor is Expensive (with Ryan Bourne)

Ryan Bourne joins us today to discuss the intricate hardships that the poor in the United States are experiencing. Some suggest that the United States should raise the national minimum wage, thinking that will solve some issues of the impoverished. Others believe that the poor have different buying and spending habits than the rest of the population. What do poor people spend a majority of their money on? How does regulation of services actually hurt the poor? How does coning affect housing...


Bringing Wealth to the Poor (with Michael Tanner)

Michael Tanner joins us for a well-rounded conversation about what drives poverty in the U. S. including; felony convictions, lack of education, and housing policies. Tanner claims that in the U. S. there is no rational design behind our welfare programs, and that it is a conglomerate of special interests. The poorest Americans are among the wealthiest in the world, but that doesn’t mean that poverty does not exist in the U. S. How does the right and left vary on their ideas about how to...


Teaching Economics (with Steve Horwitz)

The newest addition to the libertarianism. org editorial staff, Steve Horwitz, joins us to debunk some global myths about economics. We dive into how good economics is about tracing out the patterns of unintended consequences that emerge from the choices individuals make in the face of uncertainty and based on the information and incentives created by the price system. Are people interested in economics? Is economics rooted in individual choice? What was the study of economics prior to 1920?...


Free Thoughts/Power Problem Crossover: Are Libertarians Isolationists? (with Trevor Thrall and Emma Ashford)

Trevor Thrall and Emma Ashford from Power Problems Podcast join us to discuss the nuance differences between isolationists, non-interventionists, and pragmatic realists. When it comes to foreign policy, the way U. S. officials make decisions is largely based off the fact that the United States maintains and all-volunteer military. This military is the most powerful in the world, considering the U. S. spends more on defense than the next seven countries combined. There are many reasons for...


What are State Constitutions Good for? (with Hon. Jeffrey Sutton)

Honorable Jeffrey S. Sutton is a judge for the United States Court of Appeals in the Sixth Circuit. His book 51 Imperfect Solutions is framed around four stories which he uses to illustrate the interplay between state and federal constitutions. The four stories are; school funding, the exclusionary rule, eugenics, and mandatory flag salutes. Sutton believes that many of the state constitutions are actually closer to codes than constitutions. Many states have constitutions that are so long...


The Public Creation of the Corporate Health Care System (with Christy Ford Chapin)

Starting in the 1930’s, the American Medical Association (AMA) reluctantly agreed to accept a health insurance model because they feared the federal government would overreach into the health care sphere. They decided that the best way to protect themselves was to have only the insurers finance health insurance. A huge component of this was that every physician would be paid for each service they provided during a patients’ visit. Essentially, the AMA drove health care costs up by...


Derailed: The False Promises of Trains, Subways, and Light Rail (with Randal O'Toole)

There tends to be cost overruns when the government undertakes a grand infrastructure project. This is exactly what happened when the government contracted companies to build the railways across the United States in the 19th century. Randal O’Toole stresses that with the introduction of the automobile to America, it allowed everyone to travel. Prior to the automobile boom, only the middle-class & the wealthy could afford to travel via railways. Today, there is a misperceived notion that...


Understanding Impeachment (with Gene Healy)

The concept of impeachment was not new at the time of the Constitutional Convention. The Framers thought including the ability to impeach the Chief Magistrate to the Constitution was extremely important. However, today it is hard to picture in our polarized political climate that there would ever be a super majority in the Senate in order to impeach and remove a president. Were there debates about including impeachment in the Constitution at the Constitutional Convention? What is the scope...


Emerging Tech (with Matthew Feeney)

Like economic policy, it can be hard to judge the relative freedom of tech policy. Depending on the tech policy we are referring to, the United States is still a massive hub and innovator. That is not to say that we do not have current regulations that may inhibit innovation of certain emerging tech sectors. Naturally, with new technology, comes fear of the unknown and we have to make sure that we do not succumb to those fears. Listening to fears could result in limiting our ability to...


Regulation Magazine Fall 2018 (with Peter Van Doren)

If you are a regular listener of Free Thoughts, you are surely familiar with Free Thoughts fan favorite Peter Van Doren. Today, Peter Van Doren joins us for special bonus episode of Free Thoughts to discuss the latest issue of Regulation Magazine. If you like what you hear, you can check out Regulation online by heading to cato. org/regulation. What percent of American consumer expenditures actually end up in China? Is trade to blame for the disappearing manufacturing jobs? Why does the...


Understanding Pakistan (with Sahar Khan)

Sahar Khan explains the complicated history of Pakistan, and its’ relationship with the U. S. , from its designation as an independent country from Great Britain in 1947. Is a majority of Pakistan Muslim? What is the difference between a Sunni Muslim and a Shi’a Muslim? Do they get along? Are their other divisions between Muslims? What is the government structure of Pakistan? Did September 11th, 2001 change the relationship between the U. S. and Pakistan? What military groups does Pakistan...


The Coddling of the American Mind (with Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff)

America has roughly 4500 institutions of higher education. In a majority of those institutions, there aren’t any students shouting down, sometimes violently, guest speakers. These widely-publicized events tend to occur in left-leaning parts of the country, most notably the Northeast and the Western seaboard. However, heightened levels of anxiety and depression within student populations is readily visible across the country. Greg Lukianoff and Jonathan Haidt join us to discuss their theory,...


The Many Myths About Adam Smith (with Jesse Norman)

Jesse Norman believes that many books about Adam Smith miss two key parts of his work. The first being some technical consequences associated with Smiths’ work on economics. The second is that he was part of the Scottish Enlightenment, which was not a result of questioning religion, as the Enlightenment in other parts of the world was. Norman explains how Adam Smith’s life progressed to the point of where he produced The Wealth of Nations. Norman thinks of Smith as not only the father of...


Laughing about Politics (with P.J. O'Rourke)

P. J. O’Rourke offers comedic relief about the state of our politics from his unique journalistic perspective influenced by the “sunshine” of the 1960s. O’Rourke has worked for many notable publications such as the National Lampoon and Rolling Stone Magazine. He has had two New York Times #1 Bestsellers; Parliament of Whores and Give War a Chance. He is currently a correspondent for the Atlantic as well as the H. L. Mencken Research Fellow at the Cato Institute. Why does show business and...


How Superpowers See the World (with Christopher Fettweis)

Chris Fettweis joins us this week to discuss his book Psychology of a Superpower: Security and Dominance in U. S. Foreign Policy. Fettweis argues that as a country, Americans, tend to be so fearful of our perceived enemies that we are willing to spend much more on national security measures than is neccessary. Ultimately, we may end up doing more harm than good. What is unipolarity? Is the United States the most fearful country in the world? Do we spend more money on national security...


Is Public Transportation Worth It? (with Peter Van Doren)

Do enough people benefit from public transportation considering the amount of money poured into those politically-driven endeavors? Peter Van Doren joins us this week to break down this issue. The percentage of people who use public transit on a daily basis is higher, for obvious reasons, in urban areas. However, even in a city like Washington, D. C. , only “700,000 people use the public metro rail system in comparison to the 5 million who commute downtown by car. ” Van Doren argues that...