42: Economics, Pirates, and Anarchy with Pete Leeson

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Hosted by
Will Jarvis

In this episode, we talk with GMU Econ professor Pete Leeson about how groups can coordinate without governments, the pirate code, and a whole lot more. 

Some books we mentioned:

The Invisible Hook by Pete Leeson

Unarchy Unbound by Pete Leeson

WTF, an economic tour of the Weird by Pete Leeson

Human Action by Mises

Will Jarvis 0:04
Hey folks, I’m William Jarvis, along with my dad, Dr. David Jarvis, I host the podcast narratives. narratives is a project exploring the ways in which the world is better than it has been the ways it is worse in the past or making a better, more definite future. I hope you enjoy it.

If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe. You can get on our mailing list, find show notes, transcripts, as well as videos at Nerdist podcast.com. Thanks. So Pete, how are you doing tonight?

Pete Leeson 0:47
I am terrific. How are you? Well,

Will Jarvis 0:49
I’m doing great. And I want to say we have Cooper Williams here as well, my friend, he’s a big fan of your work. Pete, I wanted you to just give us a really high level overview of some of the things you’re interested in and your work. I know, you’re an economist at George Mason. And I’ve read quite a few of your books. And I’ve got some questions here. But I wanted you to give the kind of opener if you could.

Pete Leeson 1:09
Sure. So I’m an economist at George Mason. And I am, I guess, a little bit hard to pin down in terms of the the area of economics that I do. Um, I kind of do, you know, to be blunt, whatever strikes my fancy, and the things that strike my fancy, I think are sometimes a little bit, you know, weird, a little bit unusual. And that, you know, makes it makes it hard to say that I have a field, but I guess the closest thing to my field would be probably be something like law and economics or maybe property rights, economics, new institutional economics. You know, for me, what economics is about is it’s an approach, it’s a way of thinking. And so you know, whatever puzzles or peculiar things a person might see in the world, you can apply the economic approach to it. And so, you know, that’s just kind of what I go around doing is noticing weird stuff, and then trying to reason through it economically.

Will Jarvis 2:09
That’s great. And I actually saw a talk you gave at George Mason, and I got the impression that there’s kind of a central theme I’ve spotted throughout your work. And it’s that, you know, you can look at certain cultural practices from the outside that look really weird, or they look kind of irrational. And if you actually dig in, they they make a lot of sense, is that a fair kind of analysis?

Pete Leeson 2:34
I think that’s a, that’s a great analysis, one of the things that motivates me is, so I think about economics as being rational choice theory. And starting from the premise that people have goals, and that they pursue those goals as best as they can, given their constraints. And so the incredible variation and variety of behaviors that we observe in the world, some of which are quite familiar to us, others of which seem very foreign, are not driven so much by differences in people’s brains, you know, in their psychology, or even in their preferences, but are instead driven by differences in the constraints that they face. And so, you know, one of the things that’s fun for me that I find, you know, really challenging and enjoyable is to is to try and look to practices that are, at least superficially, very hard to rationalize that wouldn’t seem to fit within that approach, you know, things where it would seem like you would need to invoke people being stupid, or people having weird cognitive quirks or something like that, in order to explain it, and then trying to reason through it in a way that just relies on differences in I guess, more observable constraints.

Will Jarvis 3:46
That makes sense. Could you give kind of an example of one of those practices maybe like the hot water or deal in medieval Europe or something like that?

Pete Leeson 3:53
Sure. Yep. The hot water ordeal is a great one. So for hundreds of years, between at least the least going back as far as the ninth century, up through the early 13th. Throughout Christendom, the way that difficult criminal trials were adjudicated was on the basis of what are known as ordeals. And the most famous one is probably the one that you mentioned the hot water ordeal, wherein a priest so priests were the judges, they conducted these things, would boil a pot of water and then throw a stone or a ring into it. And they would ask the criminal defendant who was called a probe and the plunges arm into the water and pluck the object out, and then they would wrap up his arm and revisit it three days later, and see whether or not his arm was festering and full of or whether it seemed unscathed. And the idea the The, the, what we would call superstition. Underlying this practice was a religious belief called judiciary day the judgment of God. And the idea was that God would make sure that the water didn’t boil an innocent defendant. In doing so reveal his innocence to the court. And vice versa, if the defendant were guilty, he would let the water boil them, proving his guilt to the court. And so on the basis of the defendants of the probands reaction to having plunged his arm into the boiling water, they determined his his guilt or innocence. So that’s how the, that’s how the hot iron ore deal worked. And the key to understanding it. So, you know, superficially, this is a very, very silly way of trying to determine whether or not accused criminals are guilty or innocent. Because it would seem like everybody who plunges their arm into the boiling water is going to get boiled, right. So you know, we’re just going to be convicting everybody left and right. But one of the puzzles, actually, if you look to the historical research on this on these things, is that the overwhelming majority of people who plunge their arm into the boiling water, were in fact unscathed, which, you know, should give you give you a clue that something else was going on. Obviously, the water wasn’t boiling, barring again, a miracle of God. So I’m gonna, I’m gonna put that take that question off the table. And so, you know, the question is, will How does this work? And what’s the deal with the people not getting scathed? And my thinking was, is really simple. It’s just requires that we, as you know, economists or people trying to understand the practice, put ourselves into the shoes of the people who were engaged in the practice. And if you do that, so if you imagine that you two held this judiciary day superstition, that you believe that God would let the water boil you if you were guilty, and that he would make sure the water wouldn’t boil you if you were innocent? Well, that would influence your incentive to be willing to when the court asks you to plunge your arm into the water, either do so or not, and instead, either run away, which some some people did, or confess, which would basically be the same thing, in which case, you would often get a reduced punishment for having confessed. So what the logic what the incentive effect of this is conditional on people’s superstitious belief, right, is that only the innocent people will be willing to plunge their arm into the water because they expect to, you know, have a cool, pleasant feeling and to be exonerated in the process. And so guilty people would instead run away or confess. So condition, a lot of defendants willingness to undergo the ordeal, the priests who are administering it could infer their guilt or innocence correctly. You know, in economic lingo, we say that the specter of the ordeal created a separating equilibrium are only innocent guys would want to do it. Guilty guys wouldn’t want to do it. And so by virtue of their choice, they are essentially, the defendant is revealing his private information about his guilt or innocence to the court, which is exactly what the court wants to do. So it’s this really this this pretty clever, I think institution for trying to leverage and tap into defendants private information about their guilt or innocence. In order in order to achieve this separation. Now, the second part of it comes into play, which is that obviously, it’s the only the innocent guy wants to put his water his hand in the water. So the priest knows he’s innocent. But there’s a problem unless the water, which is supposed to be boiling is in fact rendered non boiling. And so what the priests needs to do is to turn down the dial on the stove, so to speak, to make sure that the water Right, right.

And if you look to the rules, so since these were ecclesiastic procedures, as I mentioned, we’ve got basically, clerical rules that you were to follow priests were to follow when administering your deal. And what you see is that they are more or less directing the priest in various ways to make, how to turn down the dial on the stove to make sure that the the guy who is undergoing the ordeal doesn’t In fact, get burned. And so that explains the the outcome that we that we observe of most guys not getting burned. Now, I should say, and I know I’m going on long here. So I’ll wrap this up quickly for you. But I should say that in the stylized example that I gave, we imagined putting ourselves in the shoes of the defendant who believed perfectly in the case that I gave that God definitely was behind the ordeal, and that there wasn’t any priestly chicanery going on. It turns out, though, that the system is quite robust, not perfectly so but quite robust to skepticism. And the upshot of this is the, the greater the probability that criminal defendants repose in the possibility that it’s not really God who’s behind the ordeal, but that instead, it’s the priest, the more often the priests needs to basically, in fact, convict some guys who are putting their arm into the wall. Gotcha. And that preserves the separating equilibrium, excuse me. So in any event, that’s how I think trial by ordeal actually function

Will Jarvis 9:37
that I really liked that and it actually I had this idea after your talk while I was driving home, I was thinking about Tilak spikes. You put a spike on the steering wheel, what if we installed Tilak spikes on all cars, except there’s some percentage of them that were real and fake and you could, you know, modulate that percentage judging by you know, so people would think if they all thought everyone thought they were real, everyone would drive Much more safely than they presumably do. Yep. That’s interesting. So should we should we be more skeptical than we are about changing or like criticizing traditional norms? Because of findings like this?

Pete Leeson 10:15
I’ll tell you what, I think yes. But that’s a kind of, to my, you know, perhaps warped mind, I think is a increasingly unpopular view today. My view is that this sort of this sort of reasoning, or deals is just one example. I work on a lot of this different types of practices along similar lines, but the one thing that I’ve come away from is it sort of seems to point to is a sort of conservatism in how we would think about norms that they they develop, even ones that look utterly dumb and barbaric on the surface. And that’s the hard part, right? It’s easy when norms seem innocuous, or when they perform obviously useful social functions like you know, shaking hands or something or smiling when you meet someone instead of spitting in their eye. You know, but burning people I mean, I should point out or trial by ordeal is used today, in in contemporary Liberia in at least half the country in the rural parts of the country. Well, their governmental system of justice is so corrupt and dysfunctional, and oftentimes simply inaccessible to the rural population, that they continue to rely on a customary mode of adjudication called sassy wood, which takes a couple forms, just like medieval ordeals. And one of them is just that is the classic, you know, boiling, boiling pot of water or carrying a burning piece of iron, which is also used in the Middle Ages. But the sassy wood one is actually a trial by poison ingestion. It takes its name from a SAS wood tree, which has a poisonous substance in its bark. And, you know, a witch doctor or a community leader and elder mixes up this poisonous concoction and gives it to a criminal defendant. And it’s the reaction of the criminal defendant has to imbibing the poison that determines his guilt or innocence. So it survives today. And one thing that you that you’ll find, if you look to UN documents, for example, on these on these practices, is that there’s, you know, obvious tremendous hand wringing, right, not about this,

Will Jarvis 12:12
but burning people with poison them.

Pete Leeson 12:14
Exactly, exactly. And I get it, you know, I mean, I totally I get it, obviously. But I think what what we’re missing here is two things. One is how this custom developed and has persisted for centuries, because it performs some socially useful function. At least that’s how I think about it. And that’s one reason why I think we, again, points to this kind of cultural conservatism, even with barbaric practices. The other thing that the hand wringing misses is the constraints. So why in Liberia, are they in fact relying on sassy wood? Because they don’t have well functioning governmental courts or otherwise, for that matter? And so, you know, it kind of suggests that, at least in the short run, if you think about that as a limitation, in the long run, you might say what we need to do is to improve formal judicial institutions in Liberia. That’s a separate issue. But okay, you know, that’s a reasonable response. But it tells you in the short run, if you eliminate sassy wood, you’re simply going to increase if my argument is right, anyway, if my thinking about it as correct, you’re going to increase criminal activity, you’re going to harm rural life, things worse, exactly, now help them. And so that’s again, that, you know, kind of a first do no harm cultural conservatism type approach, I think, which says, you know, maybe there’s some wisdom in this thing that looks really dumb, which would be why people who aren’t dumb have done it for so long. And maybe it exists because it’s filling some hole that isn’t otherwise filled. And so, yeah, that’s how I think about it.

Unknown Speaker 13:49
I just want to jump in here, I still feel like there’s some kind of tension between the, the stability of these practices and the the flow of information. And that’s the latter phrase is kind of coming from, I don’t think you use the word flow of information. But you talk about information efficiency, and the cost of information in your logic is a Harsh Mistress essay. And I’m just curious about that, because it seems like if we, you know, it from like a, from a thickness perspective, right, if we’re going to consistently apply a certain epistemic rule to improve the world as the good economist that we are using just static analysis, and you know, our limited perspective, then, should we adopt a stance of, you know, of questioning of, of sort of deconstruction, or something of information that might be sort of hidden from us, or should we be on the, you know, or should we should, should we adopt some other norm that is more nuanced?

Pete Leeson 14:56
Well, I think I get one of the way I interpret what you’re getting. Tell me tell me if this is wrong, but sort of like the noble lie idea, right? Do we? Do we want to embrace the noble lie? Or is it instead our duty to sort of point out, hey, this is horseshit, you know, and let’s not base things without basically no trials on these bases, it might not be a noble lie.

Unknown Speaker 15:16
It could also encompass things like a presumption of guilt or innocence in a particular court, like so the court of public opinion is very much in the West is very biased towards people who claim victimhood status, because we like the idea of erring on that side of things. Right. So I like that’s an example of something that’s not maybe not a noble line so much as a particular heuristic.

Pete Leeson 15:44
I guess, you know, I think that’s maybe true right. Now, I don’t know if that’s, that’s always been true. But But I think, with respect to the victimhood status, piece of it, but I guess, I don’t think that we, for whatever this is worth the Royal we, I guess have a choice about the matter. So in a way, I think it’s that’s not the right way to to approach it. I the way I think about it is there are these, you know, belief systems that basically emerge, and they are challenges to the emergent Dodge, honestly, they’re challenged endogenously. And that’s all part of the sometimes that leads the systems to be eroded. Right, even if they were, even if they were performing a socially useful function. So, you know, back to medieval ordeals for one quick second, the reason that that system went away, was that the church, the Catholic churches, which sanctioned the process, the the process, and in fact, considered making ordeals, like a sacrament, practically, there was there were these canonical disputes about whether or not you know, God actually was was cool with this. And in the end of this debate, they kind of decided, like, you know, what, God doesn’t like this, this is tempting God, we’re not supposed to do it. And so they said, you know, ordeals are no more they pulled out the religious rug from underneath them, that caused the the faith that the belief that was required to make them work to collapse. And so the system had to be abandoned. But I don’t quite remember why I was saying that, but but the point is that the the, the challenges to the beliefs and the extent to which the belief sort of continue, I think of as part of this, you know, total process that tends to be pushing. In the end, this is where I always get into trouble, but pushing in the right direction. And by the right direction, I mean, the direction that kind of definitionally is, is sensible, given all of the constraints at that moment in time. And that’s what the logic of the harsh misters is kind of about. So I that probably doesn’t address what you were getting at at all. But

Unknown Speaker 17:50
what it does, actually, I think, you know, it, I think the point of it is, what you’re saying is to center our, you know, our lack of understanding or center or ignorance about the way that these processes emerge. And I guess what that leads me to then is, you know, it seems like the systems that you’re talking about are well contained systems from from some historical perspective. Whereas like, the internet seems to be internet culture seems to be sort of leaking out, right. It’s sort of seeping in uncovering more and more of the human experience and sort of uniting it in a global, as I said before, like a public court of opinion. And so it sort of seems like it is a force that’s eroding all of those. A lot of systems like that. Potentially, I’m curious if you agree with that idea.

Pete Leeson 18:46
I think it’s eroding some but creating others. That’s that’s sort of I guess, what I’m, what I’m getting at is, is that, you know, I don’t know if the rise of the Internet isn’t necessarily a good example of this, what I’m about to say, but this is, again, just to keep the theme to use to use the example because I think it’s useful for deals in the contemporary United States, even we have, you know, we have more deals, they’re called polygraph tests. And lie detectors are not they’re not real right? And that you can’t physiologically measure whether someone is lying or telling the truth. That’s their scientific, lack of validity is why they are not admissible in most jurisdictions and courts, but they’re still used heavily in the private sector and in the public one in all the procedures that are leading up to basically the court now why it’s because I To my mind, they’re useful. They work just like we’re deals do. The logic is I think the same. Now, if you go on the internet, this is why I was mentioning this. You can look up the fact that, you know, polygraphs are BS. And yet, if you walk down the street, I know some really well educated bright people who who insist the polygraphs are real. You know that they actually there they they are, they can tell if somebody’s lying or telling the truth. So, you know, maybe we just haven’t had enough time. But even with that information at your fingertips, and with someone pointing you to it, they can insist, in fact, the opposite. And I think, you know, bully for them, that’s great, because that means that there’s we’re gonna have some further ability to get some some additional leg leg work out of polygraphs in terms of sorting potential lie detector takers, in so far as people continue to persist in in the false belief that, again, probably not exactly what you had in mind, but, you know, the broader internet culture. So one of the things that I’m interested in, that I’ve been interested in for a little while is sort of this, you know, for lack of a better word, like wokeness, this, someone else had, this has a great, I’m gonna use it, try and use it as the title of the paper, the Great Awakening, someone call it, someone called it, I

Will Jarvis 20:57
thought it was great, that’s really good.

Pete Leeson 20:59
Right. Um, and, you know, I kind of assumed it’s associated with a lot of stuff, but one of the things that I associated with is, you know, the idea of, of safe spaces, which have been especially popular on college campuses, or at least that’s what people claim, it turns out that the evidence on this is kind of hard to come by, which is one of the things that slowed me, slowed me up in this project. But in any event, so, you know,

Unknown Speaker 21:25
I guess they’re saying, from your, from your eyes,

Pete Leeson 21:27
they’re sat here,

Unknown Speaker 21:28
they’re safe from your data gathering at the very least. Right?

Pete Leeson 21:32
Right. Right. Um, you know, from a personal perspective, I am not a fan of the kind of stuff that goes along with that, but just from my own, you know, personal view, that doesn’t mean however, you know, it’s challenging to me as a result of this. But that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t, in fact, perform some socially useful function that ultimately on that is sensible. And so trying to rash and I think that the internet is connected to its rise quite, quite clearly a social media in particular, and which is kind of where my, where my thinking has been on this project. But in any event, so that’s an example of a development, I think, quite quickly, we’ve seen, you know, in the, in the past 10 years, at the at the furthest back, you would go, you have this, this, this pretty rapid change, I think, in the wit, in collegiate culture in some way. And it’s one that I don’t like, but that doesn’t mean that it’s not, you know, socialist, that it’s not performing an important social function. And so trying to use the economic way of thinking to reason through that, you know, is the kind of thing that, that I’m interested in. But the point is that, while that are one of the points is that, while that great awakening, may be destroying, and I think is destroying a lot of pre existing norms, and ones that I happen to personally, personally, like, it’s creating new norms. Right. And so that’s the thing, it’s not, it’s not challenging and eliminating something. It’s challenging, eliminating something and replacing it. And that’s kind of the evolution of these things to my mind is the when something goes out, something else comes in, you know, when ordeals went away, the the lacuna was filled by trial by jury in England and the inquisitorial procedure on the continent that it was out of the demise of or deals that those systems arose. And so, you know, it’s, it’s always the insofar as it as a normal social practice is performing a which is of course contested, but is performing a socially useful function. If that function still needs to be filled, when one practice goes away, something else needs to do it. And so, you know, it’s not voids and vacuums when this stuff goes away, it’s new stuff.

Unknown Speaker 23:54
Right? Which kind of leads me to my the other question I had from reading this essay, which was that you in the essay, you argue that the world is maximum maximally efficient at any given snapshot of time, because it changes when constraints on the maximizers when the constraints on the maximizers are changed, so, like at any given snapshot of history, everybody is maximizing and that is the best that can be achieved given the constraints on the agents in the system. And then, you know, you go on to say that these the institutional rearrangement rearrangements can happen when the information flows, to tell us how to do that rearrangement. So, these maximizers that are driving your your maximizing process like that those look like convergent processes to me, would you say that, that’s, that’s fair?

Pete Leeson 24:45
Yes, but I should say that your fancy with convergent Talk, I’m a bass I’m a really simple guy. So, you know, these kinds of things are beyond my paygrade I believe. I believe I am answering properly and saying yes. But I’m not entirely sure because I don’t know what the divergent alternative looks like, from what you’re in your mind.

Unknown Speaker 25:07
Right? Okay, that’s totally fair, I’m kind of just coming at this from an angle of like evolution, right? I mean, it sounds like like like any, any maximizing or minimizing process is, is basically trying to, to maximize an objective and then reach a position where there’s no better or better alternative that you can glimpse without doing further exploration and right. And that’s where the cost of information comes in, in the way that natural evolution works is that it generates a lot of divergent processes for free as part of the process, and then it prints those down. So I guess I’m wondering, like, we know, it seems like that, where’s the divergent half of the process in your work? Like, what do you see is fulfilling that divergent function in in human systems?

Pete Leeson 25:54
But what Tell me more about what, give me it an evolutionary analog? What’s the divergent function so that I endured?

Unknown Speaker 26:02
Yeah, so so for example. So when the when cars were first invented, you know, you have, you have one company who is have a couple of companies who are innovating in that space, and they proliferate a bunch of different ideas about what a car should look like. And then some of them are more fit or less fit to the environment. And so some of those companies are going to go away, and that’s the market process at work is creatively destroying. And replacing those cars, you know, the best car in that cohort with whatever is, you know, the next best car. So like an evolution, the, the analogy would be, you know, speciation, and then a changing environment means that some of those species die off. And in the end, the will and specifically the genes that lead to fitness are proliferated. So So basically, the point of this is that evolution doesn’t converge just like one boring thing that just survives everywhere. You know, you get all this other extra fancy stuff along with, you know, the algae,

Unknown Speaker 27:06
the fun guy.

Pete Leeson 27:08
Yeah, I mean, I guess the, to my mind, the reason that we don’t, that all institutions don’t look the same, is because constraints vary across space and time. Right. So if that’s just I think in your in your setup, but that’s just the difference in environment. To my mind that that is the only thing that that accounts for well, to my mind, analytically, analytically, the way we ought to approach it approach it is that that’s the only thing that the only thing that we’re allowing to to vary to explain the variation in practice. Gotcha. The the process that you described, the market process that you described, and the evolutionary, the actual evolutionary analog are, yes, broadly, certainly how I think about the evolution I get, I suppose, of institutions, you still have, you know, as we were sort of saying a moment ago, you have institutions that emerge, I think, to perform some to perform some function and are, they are fit to that environment, right? They reflect the constraints of that environment. But those concerns, what is what are the constraints, so the things that are given for one environment, right, or for one set of people are choice variables for other people. And so ultimately, that constraint can change. There are things obviously exogamous to the analysis, and when that changes, what is fit, changes, because the environment changes. And so things tend to move again, shift around in such a way that they are now appropriate to, to to the new environment. What is underlying all of that is the is the assumption. So it’s the premise, I’m not claiming to, to evidence in any way of that individuals maximize that premise I take to be the starting point of economics. It’s what defines economic analysis to my mind. And so it’s a it’s the hard core, if you will, it’s not something that that is that that I question. It’s, it’s my assumption going in. And I understand, you know, and this is a little bit of far afield, probably. But behavioral economics, of course, is sort of all the rage nowadays. And that means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. But one of the things that it means to some of the people who are the most important in that literature is that it is challenging the assumption of maximization. And to the extent that, that it is doing that, it is to my mind, even though they even though it’s presented is not a radical alternative to economics. It is. It is a radical. I don’t think it’s an alternative, but it’s a radical challenge to economics.

Unknown Speaker 29:46

Pete Leeson 29:48
maybe that’s not either neither here nor there, but that’s

Unknown Speaker 29:51
sort of how I think about it. No, that makes that makes sense. Yeah.

Will Jarvis 29:56
Great. So I P, we’re just talking about institutions and I had this question, this is a little bit of mystery redirection here. But how could pirates, copper cooperate or coordinate without some kind of higher formal authority?

Pete Leeson 30:11
Great question. So yeah, I mean, to me, Caribbean pirates, which I, I’ve studied a bit, are fascinating for a couple of different reasons. But the thing that I, the thing that I thought was the most fascinating about them from the outset was simply that they existed, right? So, you know, I mean, you take the, the traditional kind of hobby and you know, perspective on things. You have these these people who are devoting themselves to theft and violence as a way of living, they obviously can’t appeal to government to produce cooperation to make sure they don’t steal and, you know, behave violently toward one another internally, given that they’re criminals. And so you’d think the whole thing would never get off the ground. And, you know, and by the whole thing, I mean, pirate cruise, and this was crucial for piracy, because unlike other kinds of criminality, not all but many kinds of criminality, like pickpocketing, you know, that’s a one man show, at least in principle, you can do that by yourself. You can burglarize homes by yourself. You can’t successfully overcome a, you know, 200 ton merchant ship by yourself, you can’t create a pirate ship by yourself, you need to work together as a team. And so, you know, you have this problem of team cooperation that exists in legitimate firms. But on top of that, you’ve layered this social problem. Because pirates in a pirate cruise in addition to being profit maximizing firms, were also little floating societies, I mean, the guys lived together in addition to working together for months at a time at sea. And so you have to be able to govern the workplace environment and the sort of social environment for lack of a better term along with it all without the ability to rely on on the state to do so. And which brings me to the second thing that I that I thought was, was fascinating and shocking. It’s very surprising to me when I was studying pirates, which is that the solutions that pirates developed to govern themselves, since they couldn’t rely on the state to do that actually looks a whole hell of a lot like the system of governance that we use at the state level in these here, United States. Oh, really? Yeah. But pirates developed it. More than half a century before, you know, America’s Founding Fathers put pen to paper. So they developed a system of why think what can be reasonably described as constitutional democracy, obviously, at a far smaller, far smaller scale, but you know, complete with with checks and balances. And they did so equally, incredibly, to my mind, they did. So if the historical the primary source documents are to be believed, they did. So with the consciousness, the awareness that America’s founding fathers had about the paradox of government. So they were what they were concerned about was the following. We need to have leaders of these quasi military vessels in order to successfully overtake prizes, right, merchant ships, we need that. But if we empower captains, in particular, you know, to lead us what’s going to prevent the captain from using that power to prey on us. And that’s the paradox of power. That’s Madison’s paradox of power, you know, if men were angels, and so on. And so

this will, this issue was particularly salient I suspect in in pirates minds, because most pirates had had formerly been merchant sailors. Oh, interesting. And so merchant ships of this period, in contrast to pirate ships, which were these, these floating democracies were rigid hierarchies. And the there they were efficient organizations, they were profit maximizing, given the goals of merchant shipping and the nature of merchant sailor labor. But they led to a lot of abuse of merchant ship captains at merchant sailors expense. And so in fact, that’s what led some merchant sailors to actually turn to piracy, they would mutiny, and then turn that, turn that ship around and aim it at emeth Enterprise. And, you know, that’s not how all of them became pirates, but that’s how many of them became pirates. So they use they develop the system of constitutional democracy had that sense the pirate code, you know, you see in the Pirates of the Caribbean movie franchise and on Black Sails, I don’t know if you’ve seen that show. It was on Showtime or HBO for a while. Anyway, that’s a real, a lot of stuff that you see in pirate fiction is, you know, fiction, but that’s a real that’s the real deal. They actually had these codes they seem to have quite stringently followed them, and in my estimation, that was crucially responsible for their ability to be as successful as they were. And they were wildly successful in one dimension, which is they’d be you could make as a pirate in one successful voyage, what it would take a decade or two to earn as a merchant sailor. The downside was that piracy obviously was very risky now, so was merchant shipping, okay? But pirate piracy added yet another layer to that. And so, piracy, the golden age of piracy only lasted for, you know, a dozen 15 years before, that’s the Golden Ages, like Blackbeard and all the guys that we think of when we think of pirates, but all the movies and stuff are based on or supposedly grounded in an anyway, so it was a short lived, you know, short, live, epic. Um, but for that, for that brief period of time in which they were going, you know, they didn’t turn on each other and have, you know, crew implosion immediately, which is what you what the Hobbs in reasoning would suggest, or conventional wisdom would suggest you had, you know, a pretty well oiled machine. So,

Will Jarvis 36:02
how did they solve that collective action problem of not just deciding, you know, we’re on a ship together, three of us, you know, Pete, you’re very experienced, you know, a lot about pirates, we just don’t go over and take, you know, George township or something like that. What was it just an unwritten expectation that if I don’t do this, and we don’t violate the norm, they won’t happen?

Pete Leeson 36:23
Well, which norm? Do you mean? So they, there were two? You mean? Yeah. How did the crew members stop from plundering each other? or How did different pirate crews prevent each other from attacking each other,

Will Jarvis 36:34
different pirate crews, sacking other pirate crews.

Pete Leeson 36:37
So at the height of the Golden Age, there were only about 2400 pirates total.

Will Jarvis 36:43
Got it.

Pete Leeson 36:43
So there’s, and they were in crews of about, you know, 80 or so. So you’re looking at around 30 crews. Most of these guys, most of these 2400 were traceable back to you know, a few captains or other pirate officers. So they sailed with each other on different ships. They spent their their landed time at landed bases like in Madagascar or more famously, the Bahamas, right New Providence. And incidentally, their geographic clustering their little their landed pirate bases in between expeditions where they would hang out made it much easier to exterminate them. Because the British government was like, Hey, you know, let’s go over there and suppress them, which is effectively what they did. But so it was these were repeat players, so to speak. I

Will Jarvis 37:31
see that makes

Pete Leeson 37:32
sense. racking over time. Yeah. And that’s how they did it.

Will Jarvis 37:38
That makes a lot of sense. I had another question here. It’s unrelated. But I think it’s pretty interesting. What truth do few economists agree with you on?

Unknown Speaker 37:48

Will Jarvis 37:50
that’s a big one. It’s a hard one. So you might if you can’t answer, that’s all right.

Pete Leeson 37:53
No, there’s I would say my I most people disagree with me about everything. That’s all. Early stuff seems to be certainly my the reviewers of my papers. And my friends, my friends do too. I would say, you know, to me, a an uncontroversial claim is that efficiency always is logically implied by our starting premise of maximization. And if I if you if I said everything is efficient, most economists including most, most of my friends at gmu resist that. Now, it’s, that’s a little bit misleading in the sense that you can usually over the course of a few minutes of arguing we can reach an agreement, I think, essentially, but their takeaway is that well, that’s pointless and tautological, which I agree it is. And but therefore pointless and useless. And that you know, and it’s missing some crucial things. Whereas My view is that no, it’s critically important, even though it’s a tautology, and part of its critical importance is that it frames the way that we approach economic problems, and how we think about our job as an economist, but also and then how we analyze actual phenomena. So I think it’s quite important. But I would say that’s, you know, certainly one that that that comes to mind or closely relate almost almost the same thing. You know, I My position is that all behavior is rational, which is really just a different way of saying that, that everyone maximizes knows people think that that’s wrong. You know, most economists are not libertarians. And that’s a little bit of a different ballgame, of course, because it’s not you know, libertarianism is not a science. It’s a worldview, right? My libertarianism is informed by the science of economics. But you still have to take this you still have to take some a whole bunch of normative judgments, and then combine that with the science of economics I think to get to an end anomic type libertarianism. And so most many economists, I think, you know, are definitely not on board with that. But that may be may be more a function of a disagreement on the values on the ends than they are on the science. Now, having said that, and that was Milton Friedman’s view, incidentally, having said that, I think that that is actually eroding a bit. I think that economists, there’s increasing disagreement at the level of the science. And part of that, I think, is because we have lost the Common Core, that Maxim maximization that I was saying, you know, that’s one of the I think, neglected costs of where things have gone is that we have, we have, we have different starting premises. And so the science, the logical deductions, there are going to lead us to different places. That’s just on the theory side, right. I mean, there’s also another thing that is, of course, contributed to this enormously is that empirical work, empirical work in economics is much more important and much more possible and much more relied upon than it was historically, simply because we’re able to do it now. Much more cheaply. And so that, uh, that, you know, look at the debates about the effect of the minimum wage on its disemployment effects, right, economists can debate that now, in a way that, you know, I don’t know, 70 years ago, probably wouldn’t have made sense to debate it. Because, you know, prior to lots of, of an increasing number of empirical studies on the issue. It was simple. And given that people had this core belief in to my mind maximization, it was like, Well, look, demand curve sloped downwards. So here’s going to be an effect, right? That’s what this this simple model says. And there was agreement about that about that simple model.

And, you know, to my mind, and this goes back to tautologies, and so on, and why I think they’re important, to my mind, you know, the nature of economic laws, is they are tautologies. They’re deductions from a premise. And so they are tautological. You know, the law of demand is a tautology to my mind. Most economists, I think I shouldn’t I would wager most economists, they don’t view it that way. The law of demand is to them in has an empirical component to it. Now, I think it has empirical usefulness. But to me, it’s not empirically derived. But if you think of it that way, well, now all kinds of stuff is up for grabs. Right? Now, when we’re doing all kinds of new empirical studies that are possible that weren’t before, we’re going to start questioning the laws of economics, because when I find, you know, some evidence that seems to contradict demand curve, so downward, since my, my understanding this such a person’s understanding of the law of demand is that it’s based on empirics Well, that means we need to rethink the law of demand. Whereas from my perspective, if you’re finding such evidence, you are simply the evidence is inconsistent with the assumptions of the, from which the, from which the laws derived, right, you’re, you aren’t holding something else constant, for example. And so it’s a different way. It seems silly, maybe an obvious, but it’s a these different, uh, I don’t know, epistemological approaches, I suppose to the nature of economics, I think matter in the end for how we think about, you know, real world policy issues, because that in turn sort of, is influenced by how we think about the nature of these economic propositions with respect to empirical data. So, yeah.

Will Jarvis 43:46
Do you think there is been too much focus on empirical work? I know that’s a common, like Austrian critique out here.

Pete Leeson 43:54
Is that much focus on empirical work? No, I wouldn’t. I wouldn’t put it that way. I think that i think i think people misunderstand what the sensible Austrian position actually is about empirics. And it’s kind of what I was just getting at. So, the first thing that I would say is that from my Austrian perspective, okay, so, other Austrians may disagree, but I think many would agree the laws of economics are have this therefore, what we call economic theory, right? Is our logical deductions. Okay, so like the Pythagorean Theorem, they are not testable, empirically testable propositions, what they are, are analytical tools for making sense of for understanding the world. Okay. And so, what role then does empirical evidence have? Well, an enormous role, because Mrs. Wright he wrote this, this great book, he called it his greatest book, but a lot of people haven’t read he wrote it and published in 1957 is called fear. theory and history, I recommend the history, you gotta read it. And his point was, look, there’s these two things. This is what we care about theory and history. Economics as such, is theory. And then that analytical lens is a way for doing what he called history, which was simply meant to empirical work. Okay, it’s our lens. So the whole point, this is how important empirics are, the whole point of doing theory is so that you can do history. Okay? So it’s, we’re always doing too little history, too little empirical work, and in some sense, okay. But empirical work, and here’s where there’s a little bit of nuance doesn’t have to mean econometrics can mean econometrics. Because there’s nothing wrong with econometrics, no sensible Austrian denies the usefulness, the tremendous usefulness in many cases of econometrics. But that is not the only type of empirical work that is available. And quantitative data upon which econometric analysis is based is not the only type of data that we can use. It’s not the only in some cases, quantitative data aren’t available to evaluate, to interrogate a particular piece of history, right, an empirical phenomenon. And so we need to use other types of evidence and get at it in other ways. And so that is their that is their view. So it’s this simultaneous, broader view of what empirical work means be so it goes beyond econometrics. And it’s an understood it’s a different approach to what what the theory is relationship to the empirics are the empirics aren’t they can be testing your model, they can certainly do that, right, that Austrians believe, at least from my perspective, sensible Austrians believe that your model can and should deliver testable predictions, right things that we’re looking to see whether or not this is consistent with the data in the world, which doesn’t have to again, be econometric, but often will be and can be. But what it’s not going to do it what it can’t do, is ultimately falsify the, the theory that the most meta theory that is underlying an economic model, right, which is going to come from maximization and law of demand and so on. Right? It can’t do that. Because those are just logical propositions that frame our thinking, for how we develop models that then develop testable predictions that tell us things, for instance, about whether or not the assumptions of our models hold in this particular case, for instance, so I don’t know if that helps or not, but that’s the that’s To my mind, the a sensible and Austrian Of course, employment sensible, because it’s my view, but I think other others hold it. approach to to empiric. So it’s not doing too much. I think the common and to my mind, reasonable critique is that oftentimes, if you define empirical work strictly as econometrics, okay, then there’s going to be some pushback. So they, you know, I don’t think that that’s right. And I think many Austrians don’t don’t think that that’s right. If you say that that’s the only way to do empirical work, there’s going to be disagreement, if you say it’s the only useful way to do empirical work, there’s going to be disagreement, and if you construe what the empirical exercise is doing,

at odds is what I described, then there would be pushback. The other thing, which is closely connected to that, is that because of the of our increased ability, so it’s both a simultaneous increase focus on identification, which in econometric analysis, and the and our ability to to have access to increasing amounts of data and to perform such analysis more cheaply. There has as a consequence of that, Ben, in part a, what I’ve recognized as a growth among younger economists have the belief that econometrics is economics. And no, to my mind, it’s not so there’s another there would be another disagreement. To my mind, economics is the theory part. Right? It econometrics is a statistical analysis. Okay, so statistics are statistics. They’re great. Yay, we need to use them, but they are not the economic piece. You can have an economic study and economic analysis without any econometric analysis without any empirical analysis, in fact, whatsoever, whether it’s qualitative data or quantitative data, but you can’t have an economic analysis regardless of what the nature of your empirical component is, without the economic theory piece of it. So you know, That I think that idea is foreign. It’s not really talked about a lot. But I think it’s foreign, at least implicitly, to a lot of younger some younger economists that I, that I come into contact with who I think conceive of economics, essentially as econometrics. And that I think is is mistaken. So it’s not about don’t do econometrics, or don’t do empirical or That’s crazy. To my mind, but but it recognizing the importance of something at the same time, you want to understand how it it’s it’s correct relationship to this other thing, which is what we are actually I to my mind should be trained in as economists. It’s the first and foremost crucial emphasis is on the economic approach, it’s on that theory side, because that’s the lens, that’s how we’re going, that’s going to determine the types of data that we collect, and the way that we analyze it, how we interpret what we’re finding in the data, whatever the nature of that those data are. So these are kind of tools to explore the theory then, is a good way to, to model it. The theory is yes, the theory are tools to explore the world and the world is the empirical evidence data.

Will Jarvis 51:12
Got it? That makes sense. Cook, did you?

Unknown Speaker 51:15
Yeah, yeah, I wanted to jump in. So basically, it like along the lines of the lens of using evidence to understand history or to understand to illuminate theory, and the hope that we could do that. People in behavioral economics, as you mentioned before, are more likely to view psychology, or sort of facts of the human condition, biologically, to like, as foundational to a correct interpretation of history, both forwards and backwards. So I guess my question is twofold. Like, what do you think are the biggest problems with trying to use those insights from behavioral economics to make yourself more rational? And what would you say to someone who’s use psychology as more foundational than the laws of economics?

Pete Leeson 52:07
Well, man, I mean, it’s so what what I would say to them nothing other than, you know, good on you. You know, I tell it’s not it’s not me, it’s not my approach. But if my view is let 1000, flowers bloom, so I have my own views, obviously, and but my view is, let 1000, flowers, Google, let everybody have their view and do whatever they want. I think people should be encouraged to do whatever they want. And, you know, let let things you know, sift out as they will. That’s how that’s my approach to it. The reason that I personally don’t think that psychology is is useful in economics, is because well, partly, this is just, this is just a, I don’t want to call it taste, but I don’t know what else to call it. It’s sort of is, it’s what is a satisfy? See social scientists, again, people get fancy with stuff, social science, to my mind, in the end, involves a there’s like a gut level for each different scientist or consumer of the science that sort of like, what is a compelling type of argument or explanation to me? Okay, I don’t think we can really adjudicate between those people pretend like we can, but in my experience, we basically can’t I find compelling answers to puzzles, you know, trying to understand the empirical world, ones that are arrived at that follow the very rigid and narrow rules of the traditional orthodox economic approach. Now, if you said, Well, why do you find that most compelling, I can come up with some, a couple of reasons, like one of them that I would would say is that it doesn’t feel it feels rigorous to me, not in the, you know, snotty, mathematical way that some people use the term rigorous in economics. But in the way that like, it is, it basically gives very few I think, degrees of freedom to the researcher, it says, look, in the economic approach says, there’s just this one thing, there’s constraints, it can move in and out. So like, think about the budget line moving further out or closer to the origin, and it can pivot, okay, relative prices, everything needs to be explained by virtue of that. That’s what it says. So those are pretty strict rules. And people are maximizing. And so, you know, I find compelling at that gut level, I find I find those to be satisfactory answers. The types of answers that that approach gives to trying to explain empirical phenomena. Psychological stuff, to me feels kind of ad hoc, because there isn’t an underlying there isn’t an underlying theory. I mean, you know, my honest, the reason to my mind that economics historically has been so damn successful. relative to other social sciences, is because we had this common core. We had there, there was one core, it was maximization. And then here, here’s a bunch of shit that flows out of that, right. And that’s what we had. And it’s to me, I love it. It’s awesome. That commonality allowed us, I think, to I’m not saying it’s perfect by any stretch, but it allowed us to really build on the on what, what we each other were doing, and to move to move ahead in a singular direction, whereas other social sciences didn’t have that thing about, you know, sociology, which is, by the way, I people will often say to me, oh, really, you’re just a sociologist, Fine, whatever, I’m not bagging on sociology, or anybody else. I’m just saying, from a theoretical perspective, they didn’t have that common core, there’s a special theory for this, and a special theory for psychology, the same thing. So when you let this stuff in, you’re basically permitting to my mind ad hoc theory, you’re using it as an appendage within the economic approach to kind to get yourself out of a tight spot to explain something where the, the Orthodox tools, it’s like, how are we could we possibly explain this without invoking? And then pick your favorite cognitive bias, for instance, right? I, to me, that’s not compelling. Now, the counter to that one counter to that is that people will say, but it’s empirically validated, we showed in the lab that the guy really did hold on to the mug for longer than you know, the endowment. I don’t find any of that stuff compelling. I really don’t. That’s just my gut level. To me, it feels like we’re making stuff up. But you know, what do I know at this? I’m just a guy. So that’s, that’s the gut level thing? And I think the that’s the true, that’s my honest answer is that, at some level, what different social sciences are doing is saying, here are the rules of what counts as an acceptable explanation for some thing that we’re observing in the world. Okay, so they’re all we’re all trying to observe the same stuff. We’re all looking at the same world, right? And the rules,

Unknown Speaker 56:56
what’s up, right, and trying to do causal inference?

Pete Leeson 56:59
Yes. Yep. So these different rules, basically, you know, are the different types of explanations that the different disciplines provide, and some of them are more appealing to some people than others? You know, I have nowadays increasingly, I’ll run out of students in classes, you know, and they’ll say, you know, what, what about the psychological there’s a competing psychological explanation? And, you know, a lot of times it depends on the particular case, but a lot of times, it’s like, that could be, you know, I don’t know, to me, that’s, that’s not a compelling way to answer. I don’t find that satisfying. It doesn’t seem plausible. To me, it feels ad hoc. But that’s going to vary across people. So yeah,

Unknown Speaker 57:41
so I’m reminded of one of your quotes from this paper, which is, economics has no laws of motion. And I really liked that, because it was just it sort of, like, I don’t know, encapsulates it encapsulates a lot of things. But but the the people you’re that we’re describing here, psychologists are trying to have laws of motion. Would you agree that social science has no laws of motion?

Pete Leeson 58:05
Man, you ask hard questions, I think, yeah. Look, I you know, I consider this as what I don’t want to say these things that I sound like a jerk. And it’s really just my obviously, just my opinion on stuff. So to me, social sciences, economics. Okay, I think the so that’s the the, the the only approach that speaks to me. So I just want to stick to, and that’s really the only the only approach that I am even, I wouldn’t say that I’m competent in that approach, either. I’m slightly more competent in the economic approach than I would be another one. So I’m not in a good position to, you know, to comment, but

Unknown Speaker 58:44
that’s fair. Yeah.

Pete Leeson 58:45
Okay. Let me off the hook. I appreciate it.

Unknown Speaker 58:50
To me to put you on the spot there.

Pete Leeson 58:52
Great quote, you asked great questions. I’m just being a jerk. I, you know, with all this stuff, I always just, I love talking about this stuff with people. But I always worried because I think, you know, I’m always just offering obviously, my view. But I think my view is right. But a lot of views like at the gut level, you know, how do I defend what I get? You know, I’ve thought about this stuff quite a bit, you know, how do I defend How would I defend this, you know, such in such a view? And it’s like, well, it seems right to me, but it sounds so unscientific to say that, you know, but I actually think when like people read papers, reviewers read papers, across disciplines, you know, that’s kind of how they evaluate them. They might pretend that there’s this other thing, especially true with empirical stuff. There’ll be like, you know, they’ll come up with all the you violated the exclusion restriction, and you know, all this, it’s like, okay, maybe, really, let’s be honest, you either kind of think this story is cool and like buy it basically, or you don’t know you’re making up stuff to reject it, which is fine. But I think everybody would be better off if we were if we were just honest and said, You know what, this seems like this. rings true to me, like, it just does, you know, and here’s some ways that you can strengthen it or this doesn’t ring true to me. And no matter what you do, I’m probably not going to buy it. But you know, maybe here are some ways you can strengthen it. Given that that’s your approach. You know, I think that’s a that’s a reasonable thing to do. But nobody wants to do that, because everybody wants to put on their phony white lab coat and walk around and act like, you know, it’s this, it’s like, come on, you know, it’s just people take it’s just not in my mind. It just isn’t that way. There’s there’s as much art for lack of a better word as there is science and we would be reasonable to my mind to recognize it, but it’s fun to be unreasonable to so what the hell

Will Jarvis 1:00:38
Oh, and there’s some tell about even the the word social science, you know, we call chemistry, chemistry. Physics. Is physics, not physical science. I don’t know. But that’s just my that’s my pet theory. Yeah, it’s

Unknown Speaker 1:00:51
very highfalutin. There’s a lot packaged up in that.

Will Jarvis 1:00:55
Well, Peter, got just a few more minutes. I’ve got a couple overrated underrated. I’d love to throw at you if you okay. Yep. Somalian governance. underrated. overrated.

Pete Leeson 1:01:07
Okay, let’s dive to I don’t want to give a long winded answer, but I have to give a slightly okay. Yeah, good. I don’t know. I’m not I haven’t followed closely what the status of the Somalia governance situation is right now. So what I can tell you is Somalia governance, circa you know, 2000. underrated? For sure. That’s a period of statelessness, which again, may or may persist right now, I don’t know this. I know that there have been more attempts and that they have a more. They have more of a formal government than they did before. But they’ve had they had the Transitional National Government, the transitional federal government. They had previously attempted these things and it remained effectively stateless, but the stateless period tremendously underrated.

Will Jarvis 1:01:55
Excellent, excellent. Let’s say democratic domino theory, an overrated or underrated

Pete Leeson 1:02:04
I wrote a paper on that. So I would probably say overrated but it’s kind of cool. But I overrated gotcha. Mieses. underrated, massively underrated, perhaps the most underrated economist of the 20th century

Will Jarvis 1:02:20
criminally underrated and what would you recommend reading wise for me this? I know you mentioned one work, I think was theory in history

Pete Leeson 1:02:27
theory in history was what he was a big fan of. I actually love human action. That’s my favorite book. A lot of people. I mean, it’s really long. And some people find it difficult to access, which I get it’s, you know, hard going in the beginning. I didn’t find it that way. I personally, I read it when I was pretty young. And, you know, tons of it. I’m sure it still does goes over my head. But I found it pretty approachable, especially if you’re kind of like, if you’re philosophically minded, in some sense. The first part of the book is epistemology essentially, and so. Um, if you’re philosophically minded, I think you’ll especially like it but in a more but a super approachable book by muses, is liberalism. liberalism, gotcha. liberalism, the classical tradition. 1927 awesome book, easy read short. It’s kind of like some of his greatest hits, combined with his worldview in a more explicit way than human action offers.

Will Jarvis 1:03:24
Gotcha. Related high IQ. overrated underrated?

Pete Leeson 1:03:28
Guy, you’re gonna kill me on this. Okay, so I have I have two answers to this underrated in the grand scheme of you know, life and profession and so on. Okay, because high IQ is awesome. I love high IQ. I have to clarify that. However, relative to me says he’s massively overrated and this is what a lot this is what people I think. They don’t get like high it’s Nobel Prize. I always say Oh, it’s it was a you know, a posthumous Nobel Prize for thesis, which is totally being a complete jackass. so unfair. But I say it anyway, for a long time. I love them both. But to me, there’s no comparison I think nieces is, is I get far more out of nieces. And there’s another example most economists, even Austrian economists would have the opposite have the opposite view? I think so. Yeah. So he’s, he’s, you know, the world always needs more high IQ. But really what they need is lots more nieces and I just high IQ is like they probably aren’t gonna read me says but they might read Hayek and so it’s like, Alright, here you go have some higher

Will Jarvis 1:04:35
and I know why is over determined, but it was high, just a better salesman. I mean, why? I just I’ve never understood that.

Pete Leeson 1:04:44
You know, I think part of it is the writing style. Okay. Gosh, I think part of it is that part of it is the so this is related to the writing style, the personality difference. Oh, yeah. You know, hi. You could read Hi, when you read Hi. It could be like, you know, you would think to yourself, I this is like these he’s fertile with ideas. And I see all these ways for you read me pieces. And it’s like, it’s a closed system. I figured it out. Here’s what it is unrelated to you. Okay. That’s how it comes across. Now I am not turned off by the ladder. I actually think the ladder is cool. And I don’t think he is saying it’s closed. But it comes across that way. So I think high IQ appeals to people because it seems like you know, it’s, it’s pointing a way forward where you can build on these things, whereas measles is just like I did it. And now you get to read it, you know, and by the way, I you know, reading it is like I’m a native German native Osbourne I’m writing English as a second language. And there’s some long ass sentences here and the syntax is weird and whatever, but I get I enjoy the books. Most people though, is a little bit better on that.

Will Jarvis 1:05:55
Gotcha. I’ve got one more here, Jim Buchanan.

Pete Leeson 1:05:59
Are underrated. underrated again, but I’m always a jerk with this. So underrated but among my friends, I always say he’s overrated. So this is you know, he’s, again, totally underrated. So high. But again, it’s really Tillich is is more underrated. You see what I mean? That’s what that’s the argument that I that I give is that you can’t in an awesome if you can, and won the Nobel Prize, should have won the Nobel Prize.

Will Jarvis 1:06:26
I love to like it. And he’s written all these books on everything. I mean, you go and you look down through it. And I’ll I’ll go scroll through some times, just pick a random one on. I’m just right on history and all these different subjects. Really interesting guy.

Pete Leeson 1:06:37
He is phenomenal. And what I what I appreciate about him and I I give a hard time to my friends about Buchanan is that Tolik was an economists economist, whereas you can and thought there were like limits to economics, and that at some point, economic analysis should stop and we should basically do political philosophy. And my thought was, until it’s thought rather, was basically, you know, no economics the whole way through. And I that is right up my alley. So

Will Jarvis 1:07:05
that’s great. Just keep going. beaucoup. Do you have any parting questions before we let Pete go?

Unknown Speaker 1:07:10
Yeah, I have one last question. Are you a pessimist or an optimist? optimist?

Pete Leeson 1:07:16
Well, always an optimist, but I’m also a massive complainer about everything. So

Unknown Speaker 1:07:24
what makes you an optimist? Um,

Pete Leeson 1:07:29
you know, I should have an answer that, I guess. Partly, my research makes me an optimist. So when I see people in very difficult problems, situations past and present, finding remarkable solutions to those problems that I never would have thought of that most people aren’t, you know, you wouldn’t just really smart people sitting down in a room aren’t going to just come up with it. Right? These things develop over time. And that wherever that force comes from, whether it’s maximization combined with competition, something else some some other kind of evolutionary pressure, whatever, wherever that comes from, I think it’s real and very powerful. And I sleep well at night, given that.

Will Jarvis 1:08:16
That’s great. That’s what Pete, do you have any final thoughts? Where can people find your work? Where should we send them?

Pete Leeson 1:08:22
You should send them to my website, Peter leeson.com. That’s, I’ve got all my, you know, papers and stuff up there. They should check out my books, the invisible hook, the hidden economics of pirates. anarchie, unbound, why self governance works better than you think. And WTF and economic tour of the weird. And, yeah, hopefully somebody, you know, checks about and enjoys them. Awesome. Thanks, Pete. Sure thing. Thank you. Absolutely. Pleasure to meet you. Yeah, you see.

Will Jarvis 1:09:00
Well, that’s our show for today. I’m William Jarvis. And I’m will join us next week for more narratives.

Transcribed by https://otter.ai

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