A fun quiz for Che Guevara Day

Che Guevara was killed on October 9, 1967, so here is a quiz to test your knowledge of his guiding principles. (Click to enlarge.)


For why our Che problem is more philosophical and less political, here is my article — “Our Che Guevara Problem” — in English and in Portuguese.

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Uber, Cuba, and Freedoms Small and Large [new The Good Life column]

The opening of my latest column at EveryJoe:

“Recently, I met a young man in Miami. Instead of taking a taxi I decided to try Uber for the first time. Rafael (not his real name) showed up a few minutes later. Traffic was bad in rush-hour Miami, and along the way we started chatting.

“He was a Cuban, I learned, and until recently he had been a medical doctor in Cuba. He loved the work — the challenges and benevolence of medicine — and said that he was not a politics guy. But Cuban politics had an interest in him.

“Under Cuba’s communist system, Rafael was a government employee and earned $20 per month as a young doctor. I asked him to repeat that, certain that something had been lost in translation. But, no, his salary actually was about $240 per year …” [Read more here.]


Previous column in The Good Life series: Is Education Really Too Expensive?

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Video Interview with Professor Nicholas Capaldi — Transcript

Interview conducted at Rockford University by Stephen Hicks and sponsored by the Center for Ethics and Entrepreneurship.

Hicks: Our guest today is Professor Nicholas Capaldi, who is the Legendre-Soulé Professor of Business Ethics at Loyola University in New Orleans. capaldinick-crop

Professor Capaldi was here lecturing on business ethics. You framed your discussion on business ethics in terms of two broad narratives that have dominated the modern political thought and modern cultural thought: the Lockean and the Rousseauian. So, let me first ask you to summarize the main ingredients, so to speak, of the Lockean narrative. How does that go?

Capaldi: I call it, technically-speaking, the Lockean liberty narrative, and then I would flash that out in comparison to the Rousseauian equality narrative because I think the meaning they give to those terms tells you a lot about where they going. I would make a couple of very broad historical claims, namely, that there has been this ongoing debate or discussion between Lockeans and Rousseauians over a long period of time. And I will even strengthen the historical claim by saying that all the major spokespersons in public policy debates, etc., at one point or another, are defending or attacking either the Lockean or the Rousseauian point of view. To piggyback here on a Keynes remark, just as politicians are invoking some dead economist through a philosopher they haven’t read, I would say that a lot of contemporary theorists are repeating, in contemporary rhetoric, arguments that have been around since Locke first expressed his view and was critiqued by Rousseau.

Hicks: Is it fair then to say, in a historical context, as feudalism was declining, being overthrown, then the question in the modern world is: What are we going to replace it with? And we have two answers, a more Lockean answer and a more Rousseauian answer? Fair enough?

Capaldi: Sure. Locke is looking at this, even philosophically, from a very different point of view. He is thinking of wealth in a post-feudal world as something that is not finite, but can grow.

Hicks: Okay.

Capaldi: And it grows through labor and what we’ve come to call technological projects. So, industry, technology, etc. He is in a universe, in his mind, which is capable of potentially infinite growth. He thinks that this growth would be enhanced through a market economy. And in those places where Locke discusses market issues, he clearly comes out in favor of a market being as free as possible. He is certainly very famous for arguing in favor of limited government, and he thinks government should be limited in the interest of freeing the market economy. When he discusses legal matters he is a proponent of what has subsequently been called the rule of law, which, put in simple terms, means you put as many limitations as possible on government discretion so that it doesn’t overstep its bounds and interfere with the market. And finally, in many ways the most important point he makes is that none of these institutions can be understood nor can they work unless you have a certain kind of person, a person we’ve come subsequently to call the autonomous individual, and this is very important to Locke. Now, Locke’s assumption is that society is started on a contract. He means this in a metaphorical sense, but he understands a contract to mean the following: that all negotiation in the contract begins from the status quo. That you can’t have any negotiation unless you begin from status quo. That certainly privileges some people over other people. Continue reading

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Niall Ferguson’s *The Ascent of Money*

A good paragraph from Niall Ferguson’s 2008. The Ascent of Money: A Financial History of the World (Penguin Press):

“Despite our deeply rooted prejudices against ‘filthy lucre’, however, money is the root of http://www.stephenhicks.org/most progress. To adapt a phrase from Jacob Bronowski (whose marvelous television history of scientific progress I watched avidly as a schoolboy), the ascent of money has been essential to the ascent of man. ferguson-ascentofmoneyFar from being the work of mere leeches intent on sucking the life’s blood out of indebted families or gambling with the savings of widows and orphans, financial innovation has been an indispensable factor in man’s advance from wretched subsistence to the giddy heights of material prosperity that so many people know today. The evolution of credit and debt was as important as any technological innovation in the rise of civilization, from ancient Babylon to present-day Hong Kong. Banks and the bond market provided the material basis for the splendours of the Italian Renaissance. Corporate finance was the indispensable foundation of both the Dutch and British empires, just as the triumph of the United States in the twentieth century was inseparable from advances in insurance, mortgage finance and consumer credit. Perhaps, too, it will be a financial crisis that signals the twilight of American global primacy.” (pp. 2-3)

The rest of the book is very good and very accessible reading.

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The full Theist vs. Atheist debate series

Theist vs. Atheist — What Should You Believe?

theist-vs-atheist John C. Wright and I have completed our series of articles debating key issues in religion. The full seven-round series is available at EveryJoe.com’s dedicated page and here at my Theist vs. Atheist page. Translations into Portuguese are forthcoming.

Here is the Table of Contents with links to each author’s article:

1. Is Religion Worth Arguing About?

Stephen Hicks’s opening statement. John Wright’s opening statement.

2. Are Reason and Faith Compatible?

Stephen Hicks’s statement. John Wright’s reply.theist-vs-atheist-existence-god

3. Can the Existence of God be Proven (or Made a Reasonable Hypothesis)?

John Wright’s opening statement. Stephen Hicks’s reply.

4. “Is Religion Necessary for Personal Morality?”

John Wright. Stephen Hicks.

5. “Does the Meaning of Life Depend on an Afterlife?”

theist-vs-atheist-reasonStephen Hicks. John Wright.

6. “Is Religion Good or Bad for Politics?”

John Wright. Stephen Hicks.

7. “On Balance, Has Religion Been Good or Bad for Humanity?”

Stephen Hicks. John Wright.


[The Theist vs. Atheist series was originally published in 2015 at EveryJoe. Publisher: Alexander Macris. Editor: Kori Ellis.]

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CBC discussion of corruption and power — audio


In June I participated in a discussion on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s “The Current” radio program, which according to its website is “Canada’s Most Listened-to Radio Program.”

The topic was whether power corrupts. The journalistic context included the recent FIFA scandal, scandals in the Canadian Senate, and the ongoing scandals in politics, business, and so on around the world.

Audio of the discussion can be found here at CBC Radio’s site.

(Relevant to the discussion is my article “Why Power Does Not Corrupt — and It’s Character That Matters Most.”)

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The Next Revolution in Art — my lecture in Hong Kong

[In July 2015 I gave a talk at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University on “The Next Revolution in Art.” The text of my talk follows.]

Why art matters to us

Art is a perennial human desire. We need and hunger for stories, images, and sounds that are unique, beautiful, self-affirming, and/or profound. We love to immerse ourselves in music, movies, books, paintings, and architecture.Art Powerpoint-Screenshot

But art has not always flourished in human history. In many times and places, the amount of art has been minimal while the culture focused on other activities — bare survival, military conquest, or ascetic spiritualism, for example.

Yet in a few times and places art has flourished magnificently. Those of us who love art, as well as professional art historians, find ourselves drawn to the great eras when art was produced in large quantities, enjoyed by many, many people, and was of such high quality that it survived across the generations and still speaks to us today.

Why is that? Art flourished in Renaissance Florence, for example, but not in nearby Milan. Or further back in time, Athens created a magnificent art culture, but nearby Sparta was an artistic desert. Or more recently, Paris in the nineteenth century was a hotbed of innovative art, while nearby Prussia was largely inert artistically.

Today my goal is to speak of what makes great art cities possible. In part I will speak historically, using a few outstanding examples of cities that have achieved greatness in the history of art. Our question will be: What made it possible for those cities, and not others, to build great art cultures? What can we learn from them?

And of course, we are here today in Hong Kong and Kowloon City, and our question is also about the prospects for Hong Kong and Kowloon City to join those cities that have become world centers for great art. Continue reading

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The Fountainhead (Introduction to Philosophy this week)

fountainhead-100x165In my Introduction to Philosophy course this week we are reading and discussing The Fountainhead, a great novel on the themes of independence and integrity.

In Part One, Rand’s primary purpose is to contrast the characters Howard Roark and Peter Keating. Here is a table (click to enlarge) summarizing the main events in each young man’s early career.


Roark’s career goes on a downward trajectory, and his independence and integrity seem to have made it impossible for his career to progress. Meanwhile, Keating’s career goes on an upward trajectory, and his use-and-be-used strategy seems to have made possible his financial and reputational success.

Abstracting: Roark’s character is moral but he is a practical failure, but Keating’s character is immoral and he flourishes practically.

So the question at the end of Part One is: Is there a dichotomy between morality and practicality?

Related: more posts on The Fountainhead
* Roark and Keating: First meetings.
* Toohey’s five strategies of altruism.
* Gail Wynand’s power strategy (Part 1). Part 2 forthcoming.
* Gordon Prescott: Heidegger’s disciple?
* Marcel Duchamp and Lillian Rearden.

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