Interview with John Durant

Originally posted at The Primal Challenge blog. Enjoy!

I had the great fortune of being able to listen to a lecture by professional caveman John Durant at Hillsdale College last night. I also got to hang out and chat with him for the evening and he graciously agreed to do an interview for The Primal Challenge! Click on the link below to listen to the interview.

Interview with John Durant (approximately 13 minutes in length)

Topics: The gourmet hot dog party that started it all, the role of community in keeping you with your new identity, advice for people who want to start blogging or doing something in health, why so many libertarians are attracted to paleo, and advice for people just starting out with paleo.

For those of you who don’t know him, John is a barefoot runner who started the NYC Barefoot Run,  a health entrepreneur, and a libertarian who runs a popular blog on the paleo lifestyle, Hunter-Gatherer.com.

I had a great time chatting with him and learning from him. Thanks, John!

Here is a photo of John at the Hillsdale Lecture:

Summer Job

This summer I had an internship with the Foundation for Economic Education. I was based out of Atlanta where I worked with the Programs branch of the organization. We did a total of 7 week-long seminars in 3 cities (Atlanta, Estes Park, CO, and Irvington, NY) with over 600 students in attendance during the 2010 summer seminar series.

To see more about the summer, check out the Summer In Review book I put together for FEE (3.6mb pdf). It is full of my photos from the summer!

Or, for a condensed version, check out the insert I made for The Freeman (1.8mb pdf):

Happy Independence Day

Read the Declaration today. Print it out and discuss it with friends and family. It is profoundly important. Spend time going through the structure and diction. Each word is important and was not idly chosen––the words written here have power, meaning, and purpose.

Only through a proper understanding of these ideas can one know what it truly means to be a patriot.


The Declaration of Independence: A Transcription

IN CONGRESS, July 4, 1776.

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America,

When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.–Such has been the patient sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The history of the present King of Great Britain is a history of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct object the establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public good.
He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing importance, unless suspended in their operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.
He has refused to pass other Laws for the accommodation of large districts of people, unless those people would relinquish the right of Representation in the Legislature, a right inestimable to them and formidable to tyrants only.
He has called together legislative bodies at places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the depository of their public Records, for the sole purpose of fatiguing them into compliance with his measures.
He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly firmness his invasions on the rights of the people.
He has refused for a long time, after such dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the dangers of invasion from without, and convulsions within.
He has endeavoured to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.
He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary powers.
He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and payment of their salaries.
He has erected a multitude of New Offices, and sent hither swarms of Officers to harrass our people, and eat out their substance.
He has kept among us, in times of peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our legislatures.
He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil power.
He has combined with others to subject us to a jurisdiction foreign to our constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:
For Quartering large bodies of armed troops among us:
For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:
For cutting off our Trade with all parts of the world:
For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:
For depriving us in many cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:
For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences
For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an Arbitrary government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an example and fit instrument for introducing the same absolute rule into these Colonies:
For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:
For suspending our own Legislatures, and declaring themselves invested with power to legislate for us in all cases whatsoever.
He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.
He has plundered our seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our towns, and destroyed the lives of our people.
He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation.
He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the executioners of their friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.
He has excited domestic insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the inhabitants of our frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known rule of warfare, is an undistinguished destruction of all ages, sexes and conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions We have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated injury. A Prince whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.

Nor have We been wanting in attentions to our Brittish brethren. We have warned them from time to time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the circumstances of our emigration and settlement here. We have appealed to their native justice and magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the ties of our common kindred to disavow these usurpations, which, would inevitably interrupt our connections and correspondence. They too have been deaf to the voice of justice and of consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the necessity, which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor.

Day 328 – Case Dismissed

On Day 301, I wrote about getting a moving violation for passing a vehicle on the right. After weighing my options, I decided to challenge it (against much advice to the contrary). The date of my pre-trial meeting with the county prosecutor was today. I took in a highlighted copy of the Michigan Vehicle Code, photos of the spot I supposedly made the violation, a diagram of exactly what happened (including measurements of the lane and paved shoulder), and an outline of my main points about what I wanted to contest.

After discussing what happened with the prosecutor’s office, standing my ground, and constantly but politely questioning the prosecutor’s points about why she felt the ticket was legitimate, she finally dismissed the charges against me. I don’t know if she actually bought my arguments, or if she was tired of listening to me, but either way, the case was dismissed. It looks like I am exempt from the state taking my money… at least for the time being. In fact, the money I had to post as bond was given back to me.

Day 325 – Two Types of Fair Trade

I realized tonight that there are two different, commonly accepted meanings of “Fair Trade,” and only one meaning I support.

The first type focuses on paying producers a higher price for goods, typically raw materials, raw food, etc. (This is the meaning I am against.)

The second type is against products that use slavery anywhere along the production line.

I am against the first meaning and the first meaning only. The reason I am against the it is because even though it sounds like a noble idea, it actually does more harm than good. First of all, it is based on bad ideas. What is a “fair price”? In the absence of using force in a trade, the notion of a “fair price” does not mean anything. Surely, if someone was using force to make someone accept a low price, that would be wrong and unfair. That is not happening here, though. “Fair Trade” proponents advocate paying producers a higher price when the producers are willing to accept a lower price. Now, before you leave nasty comments calling me a terrible person, let me explain briefly why this is harmful. Prices send signals to both producers and consumers. Artificially bidding up prices sends distorted signals to both groups; essentially telling producers to supply more, and telling consumers to buy less. Also, it encourages other producers to enter the market, which further encourages excess supply. While this might benefit a small group of producers in the short run, in the long run it hurts both them and the entire economy, slowing growth and long-run development. Typically, harmful protectionist (redundancy, I know) legislation is used to encourage “fair trade practices.”

I obviously am in full support of the second type, though, as I believe slavery is always and everywhere wrong.

The only trade I support is free trade: trade without coercion, whether for or against the trade. (The second definition of fair trade falls into this category, the first does not.) I believe you should not be forced to buy or sell anything, nor should you be forced not to buy or sell anything, given that the seller has ownership over the given item.

If you want to help people in developing countries, the best thing to do it get rid of protectionist policies and trade with them. Trade without coercion is always mutually beneficial. Also, check out microlending. This can do a great deal more to help developing countries than the “fair trade” movement can.

(Note: Don’t quote me as being a proponent of “Fair Trade” unless you clarify what meaning of the phrase you are using. It is best to say that I support trade without coercion.)

If you want to discuss fair trade with me, please email me at: cagrimmett@gmail.com

Day 324 – Liberty Fund

Hillsdale College just had a Liberty Fund Library dedication ceremony today that I attended. Liberty Fund gave the college an entire set of the books it publishes, which is available to students in the Grewcock Formal Lounge.

For those of you not familiar with Liberty Fund, I want to give you a quick introduction in today’s post.

From Liberty Fund’s website:

Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals. The Foundation develops, supervises, and finances its own educational activities to foster thought and encourage discourse on enduring issues pertaining to liberty.

Liberty Fund does this by publishing scholarly editions of classic, hard-to-find, or rare/expensive works pertaining to liberty on multiple fronts: history, philosophy, literature, economics, and law. It makes these high-quality, well-bounded, and durable books available to the public generally at a pretty low price. Liberty Fund is a blessing for cash-strapped students.

L.F. also holds numerous conferences each year.

In my opinion, though, the best part about Liberty Fund is the massive amount of books they have made available for free online at the Online Library of Liberty. The folks at Liberty Fund also have an online library dedicated solely dedicated to economics, where they also provide a huge number of free, searchable books. This is the Library of Economics and Liberty, which is also home to the EconLog.

I highly suggest checking out Liberty Fund‘s multiple online resources. What a wonderful institution!

Day 313 – Twenty Year Anniversary of Tearing Down The Berlin Wall

Today, the Classical Liberal Organization (a group at Hillsdale I am the president of) organized a speaker panel on the topic: “The Fall of the Berlin Wall: Past, Present, and Future.” The CLO set up this panel to bring to light the reality of communism and how it affected the entire world. For far too many students today who did not live through the Cold War era, communism and its end can become just another set of historical facts. We don’t want this to happen here.

Here are the three speakers we had:

Dr. Bradley Birzer, History:

Dr. Charles Steele, Economics:

Dr. William Morrisey, Political Science:

We had a great turnout. Around 65 people showed up and filled the room we were in, even though today was a busy day at Hillsdale. The talks were excellent, and provoked some thoughtful questions. The event was a success!

If you have time, read this post Dr. Birzer had yesterday at De Regno Christi, entitled “The Priest, the Prophet, and the King.”

Day 309 – Dr. Richard Ebeling

Tonight, Richard Ebeling travelled to Hillsdale to give a thought-provoking and engaging lecture, titled “Why the Berlin Wall Came Down and Socialism Failed: Ludwig von Mises and the Power of Ideas.”

Dr. Ebeling is a prolific author, former president of the Foundation for Economic Education, and professor of economics at many different institutions, including Hillsdale from 1988-2003. In 1996, he and his wife, Anna Ebeling, obtained the lost papers of Ludwig von Mises, which had been kept in a formerly secret KGB archive in Moscow for 50 years. Dr. Ebeling is now on the faculty at Northwood University in Midland, MI.

If you are interested in what Dr. Ebeling had to say tonight, read this article he wrote yesterday.

Day 308 – Articles to Read

Have some spare time (unlike me)?

Read these articles. They are very good. I had to read three of them recently for class, and the fourth I came across a little over a week ago.

Menger: On the Origins of Money (PDF)
Hayek: The Use of Knowledge in Society (PDF)
Horwitz: Subjectivism (Google Book)
Buchheit: Applied Philosophy, a.k.a. “Hacking” (HTML)

I apologize for the lack of new photos and decent thoughts this week. I plan to get out and take some photos this weekend, when I won’t have more exams hanging over my head.

The only worthwhile thought I have right now (worthwhile to this blog, that is) is that you should not trust the hype about the 3.5% increase in GDP last quarter. Do some research and see where it actually came from. I will give you a hint: Individuals’ consumption levels stayed roughly the same, investment stayed roughly the same, and net exports roughly stayed the same. What changed? Government spending! Does this mean things are getting better? No. In fact, unemployment went up last quarter.
Beware of Christina Romer going on national news and trying to convince you that things are a lot better since GDP went up 3.5%. “It just ain’t so!”

Day 302 – Patri Friedman at Hillsdale

Tuesday, political theorist, activist, former Google engineer, and World Series of Poker player Patri Friedman came to Hillsdale to give a talk on structural activism and seasteading. Friedman is the founder of The Seasteading Institute, whose mission is “to further the establishment and growth of permanent, autonomous ocean communities, enabling innovation with new political and social systems.”

He gave a very interesting talk on structural activism and the seasteading movement. The talk was the culmination of his past few years of thought on how to change political structures in order to maximize freedom in a society while still maintaining the stability of that society. While significant work has been done on how to set up political systems to preserve a high level of freedom and stability while minimizing coercion, little –if any– work has been done on how to actually get to political systems like this. Until now. That’s where Friedman comes in.

Does this interest you? If so, check out Friedman’s essay from April on the topic of structural activism and why he thinks it is the only way to make systematic changes that will lead us to a realistically freer world in our lifetime. The essay is basically an outline of what he spoke about on Tuesday night. Also check out Let A Thousand Nations Bloom.

Day 296 – Market Anarchy Links

I originally compiled this list for Mr. and Mrs. Odell, but I thought it would be good for everyone to check out.

Introduction to Anarchy and the Law: Ed Stringham

Anarchist Theory FAQ: Bryan Caplan

What it means to be an Anarcho-Capitalist: Stephan Kinsella

But Wouldn’t Warlords Take Over?: Robert Murphy

A 5-part series from Stefan Molyneux:
1: The Stateless Society
2: Caging the Devils: The Stateless Society and Violent Crime
3: These Cages are only for Beasts
4: Disproving the State
5: The Stateless Society Fights Back – Answers to Common Questions

Small Town Anarchy: J. L. Bryan

Anarchy, Anarchy – Wherefore Art Thou?: Wilton Alston

About Market Anarchism: Molinari Institute

Anarcho-Capitalism: An Annotated Bibliography – Hans Hoppe

Center for a Stateless Society

Day 274 – Flavored Cigarette Ban

Apparently the government decided to cast its oppressive shadow over more of America and ban flavored cigarettes.

I don’t smoke, so it took me a week and a half to hear about this. This ban is garbage. I have a feeling that the FDA is just getting started with its regulations. Since a lot of people have a negative view of smoking, this was probably pretty easy to push through Congress. The oppressors legislators probably gave speeches about how smoking is ruining the health of Americans and how we need to do something about the number of young people starting to smoke.

I venture to say that the ban has very little to do with trying to stop kids from smoking and almost everything to do with finding an excuse to regulate the tobacco industry. I asked some of my smoker friends if they started smoking flavored cigarettes, or if they knew anyone who did. None of them started with flavored cigarettes or knew anyone who did. Most of them have tried cloves, but thought they were gross. Granted, this is a small sample, but I think this might hold for a lot of the youth in America. Furthermore, flavored cigarettes are more expensive, which is a huge drawback for young smokers. Think of what kind of beer young people primarily drink – Natural Light. Why? It is dirt cheap. For the most part, young smokers are not going to routinely buy more expensive flavored cigarettes. They are going to buy the cheap stuff.

Also, if the regulators really thought that flavored tobacco is what lures young people to smoke, why is every kind of flavored tobacco besides cigarettes untouched? I know a number of people who started smoking different kinds of cheap cigars (Black & Milds), then turned to regular cigarettes.

Again, just so I am clear, I don’t smoke, and I don’t think other people should smoke. That said, I do NOT want to use the government in any way to force people to stop. The government reaching out its oppressive hands and regulating industries does far more harm than possible good, even in this situation.

Here is what I predict will happen:
There won’t be a statistically significant change in the number of young people who start smoking.
–When the FDA figures this out, it will roll out more regulations under the guise of “protecting” America’s youth.
Smokers of flavored cigarettes will switch over to flavored cigars or flavored pipe tobacco, or roll their own cigarettes, if the flavor is what they are really after.
–With the increased usage of other types of flavored tobacco, more regulations will come.

Since the The Family Smoking Prevention and Tobacco Control Act is a blanket regulation that leaves the possibility open of fully regulating the tobacco industry, I predict that we will see more and more tobacco regulations coming in the next two years. (I say two years because I think the government is inefficient and it will take them a little while to get around to it, luckily.)

Do you think I am overreacting? It is just a little ban for the common good, right? Wrong. The door of regulation is now wide open. In the last year, Congress managed to move its way from regulating the financial sector to the auto industry, and now they gave the FDA the right-of-way to even more closely regulate what Americans consume.

Americans, hold on to your freedoms while you can. I fear that it won’t be long before most of them are gone.

Day 251 – “Cleaned By Capitalism”

Starting on Earth Day in 2004, Don Boudreaux at CafeHayek.com did a series of posts titled “Cleaned by Capitalism”. These posts display low cost pollution-fighting technology that capitalism has brought the world. He only did a few posts in 2004, but in the last couple months, he has made a lot more posts displaying how capitalism cleans our lives.

Check out the archives of these posts. They are really interesting, and usually things we take for granted, but would not have if it were not for capitalism!

Day 226 – Three Lessons of Freedom

In this interview with Reason.tv, the Foundation for Economic Education’s President, Larry Reed, gave three lessons of freedom we are in danger of forgetting:

1. Government can provide you with absolutely nothing except that which it has first taken from somebody else.

2. A government big enough to give you want you want, is big enough to take everything you have.

3. A free people are not economically equal, and an economically equal people are not free.


On an unrelated note, I saw a young eagle today, perching in a tree outside of the Akin family’s house. Here is a quick shot I took right before it flew off:

Day 220 – Philosophical vs Utilitarian Arguments

Brad and I drove up to his house on Chautauqua Lake this morning. On the way, we discussed some of the recent health care issues taking place in this country. (We also discussed various other things, but that is not the topic of this post.) While discussing the arguments against the health care reforms and how effective these arguments are, I was reminded of the importance of using philosophical arguments to win these types of battles.

Though utilitarian arguments are useful for certain situations, I think individuals defending liberty ought to seldom use them. Most utilitarian arguments are single-use, since they are special tailored to each situation. If you are going for a one time, quick win, utilitarian arguments can be very useful and the statistical evidence can be easily shown to everyone. Defenders of liberty, however, need to focus their arguments a little more long-term. The downside to using utilitarian arguments is that, because they are tailored to each situation, one might need many additional arguments in the future for all the new situations that arise. “You’ve won the battle, but not the war” seems to fit this–a utilitarian argument shows why one should support/oppose X but usually says little to nothing about all situations similar to X but with different particulars.

Philosophical arguments, on the other hand, strike at the root of the issue. If one can convince others that X is wrong on philosophical grounds, other arguments in the future on issues with similar foundations can be avoided. Instead of convincing people that your position on a single issue is correct, you can convince them that your philosophical outlook is correct and it will cover a whole range of issues.

As for arguing against the proposed healthcare reform, instead of attacking it as costly and poorly designed, defenders of liberty should try to convince people using one of these arguments or something similar:

Using coercion to justify and fulfill one’s preferences is wrong.
Stealing money from individuals to support other individuals is wrong.

Of course, there are many other ways to argue against the proposed health care reform. Here is a good article I recently read from the Center for a Stateless Society on a market anarchist approach to health care.

Day 198 – Last Day of YSC

Today was the last day of FEE’s YSC in Midland. I had a wonderful time this week! I met so many wonderful scholars and defenders of liberty here. Tomorrow, Brad and I are driving down to Hillsdale for a little while, then we are driving home.

To all of you who are sick of photos of speakers (especially Hank D), I am sorry. After this post, there will not be more for at least a month.

Larry White, economist and scholar on free banking:

Larry Reed, FEE’s President

Walter Block, economist and anarcho-capitalist scholar

Day 197 – Privatizing Roads

Today was another great day at FEE’s YSC. Among other things, Walter Block talked about privatizing roads, which he recently authored a book about. I also got to participate in a discussion over lunch with Block, Ben Powell, and some other students about the legitimacy of fractional reserve banking. I also went out to dinner with a group of pretty cool people from around the world and discussed various liberty-oriented topics. In addition to all of this, the weather was beautiful, so it was a wonderful day. Two photos:

Walter Block:

Larry Reed, President of FEE (in the middle, asking a question):

Day 196 – Third Day of YSC

There were some wonderful lectures today, including an immigration talk from Ben Powell, in which he destroyed every argument brought up against open borders. Another highlight of my day today was that I spent some time having a discussion with Walter Block. Also, Brad and I went to an asian restaurant for dinner, and I ate my first Korean meal: Bibimbap. It was very good, even with the fried egg on top!

A few photos from the third day:

Day 191 – An Apology to Jeff Knaebel

A week or so ago, I received a comment from David at freeofstate.org on the post I wrote about Jeff Knaebel. Here is what he wrote:

AN UPDATE ON MR. KNAEBEL
I was with Jeff in Delhi when he did this, and have news on what happened next. The police agreed with his declaration, applauded his “action that followed belief,” and let him go, stating that he could now wander freely throughout India without papers. The next day, he went back to “get that in writing,” though they said that wouldn’t happen, they’d gladly help him if he ever got in trouble. I called the embassy, and they were unconcerned, as was the Inidan office of foreign affairs, similar to the Imigration Dept. in the U.S. Later that evening, we was interviewed for the evening news on TotalTV in Delhi. He is now writing and directing a couple of websites that further his ideas. See the video clip at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jSeLVebtCds

First of all, I want to thank David from freeofstate.org for updating me on what happened after Mr. Knaebel went to the police station. I am very happy that he was let free to wander through India without papers and that the embassies were unconcerned. Given that this was the outcome, I have to take back almost all of my poorly written first thoughts. I wrongly assumed that Mr. Knaebel was going to be thrown in jail and that he willingly walked to his imprisonment. Since this is not what happened (thankfully), most of what I said no longer makes sense. I still agree with his base motivations and core beliefs, and I whole-heartedly apologize for my original criticism of his acts. After some further thought and reconsideration, I realize that he was pursuing what he thought was correct, and he was working in his own way towards a stateless society.

I suggest you all check out Mr. Knaebel’s website, freeofstate.org, and read What One Can Do.

Again, I apologize to Mr. Knaebel and wish him well. I am glad that he broke free from the chokeholds of all states.