Are Philosophers Stupid about Politics? [The Good Life]

[First published at]

Full disclosure at the outset: I’m a philosopher, and this new series of columns on The Good Life will often be about human nature, knowledge, the meaning of life, and of course politics.

So let me start by indicating some of my colleagues’ opinions about politics.

A favorite party game for philosophers is to argue about who the most influential philosopher of the twentieth century was. Three names are always near the top of everyone’s list.

* Jean-Paul Sartre, the chain-smoking, café-haunting, woman-chasing French Existentialist philosopher.
* Martin Heidegger, the German metaphysical thinker, famous also for his affair with Hannah Arendt while she was his student.
* In the English-speaking world, Bertrand Russell, the logician and essayist, also noted for his many extra-marital affairs.

A pattern is beginning to emerge: Smart and sexy — that describes philosophers excellently.

But now consider their political views:

Sartre defending Marxist-Stalinism long after the revelations of just how murderous that regime had been.

Heidegger was a member of the National Socialist party the year Adolf Hitler came to power and never recanted his beliefs in the theory and practice of Nazism. (He lived until 1976.)

Russell, over the course of a long career, consistently blamed the United States for most of the world’s problems and in a lecture suggested that might be better if the Nazis won World War II.

So there’s a natural question: Is there something wrong with philosophers?

Philosophy has a reputation for attracting deep thinkers whose quest for wisdom can serve as a model for all of us. The unexamined life is not worth living, Socrates taught us. And when committing to the highest values in our private lives and to effective policies in the public sphere, we should be able to turn to our strongest minds for guidance. And since politics is a major component of the life well lived, what wisdom can philosophy bring to bear on politics?

To put the problem in perspective. Those of us living in the mostly-free, democratic republics have political disagreements. We argue about who should pay for my contraceptives and whether unemployment benefits should be extended and how much toleration should be extended to suspected terrorists and whether private or government schools best serve children. The language often is heated, and friendships and family relations are often strained as a result.

But note that we are all committed to the same general set of values: rational family planning, encouraging the unfortunate to get back on their feet, tolerance and safety, and quality education. Intelligent and decent people can disagree about how best to achieve those goals.

Now compare those debates in a relatively free democratic-republic with the theory and practice of alternative political regimes — various versions of socialism, theocracies, tribal dictatorships, and so on. Nations such as the former Soviet Union, China, Iran, Uganda, and others serve as recent examples of political experimentation on a large scale.

And the experimental results are in. Social scientists estimate that the Soviet communists killed over 47 million of their own citizens. The Chinese under Mao Zedong killed perhaps 38 million. Hitler and the Nazis killed about 21 million. And countless others’ lives were stunted, as they were forced to live in fear and material deprivation.

Those numbers do not include the death toll from the wars those nations were involved in. They are only “democide” numbers — that is, the killing of people by their own political leaders. For more, I recommend Professor R. J. Rummel’s work; here is the Wikipedia entry on Democide.

But our important question for today: What does it say about philosophy that its most famous representatives lent their great prestige to the most murderous regimes in recent history? (Or perhaps in all of history, depending on how one estimates the death counts of the Mongol khans, Napoleon’s empire, the Crusaders, and so on.)

Why did Sartre advocate Marxism in the first place, and how could he not change his mind as the data came in? What led Heidegger to become a Nazi, and why was he silent for three decades after about its horrors? Why was Russell so opposed to the United States and so blasé about the prospects of a victory by Hitler?

We should have high standards for our philosophers. They devote their lives to thinking about the hard questions. So we can and should expect them to be smarter, better informed, to think through issues more deeply, and to be less prone to foibles.

And we live in a complicated, division-of-labor society, in which we can’t all know everything. So we expect specialists in many areas to get it right and provide guidance to the rest of us.

To be fair, there were philosophers in the twentieth century — Karl Popper, Friedrich Hayek, Ayn Rand, John Searle, and others — who warned us about the truly dangerous regimes. And we can be thankful to the earlier generations of philosophers — John Locke, Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill, and others — who developed and defended the political principles that enable so many of us to live in freedom and prosperity.

So philosophers can get it right, but they can also get it wrong. So as we start this series of articles on The Good Life, it’s worth reflecting on the occupational hazards of philosophy.

* Is philosophy so abstract and theoretical that it leads philosophers to be incapable of making connections to actual practical reality?
* Are philosophers, like other smartypants-types, so full of themselves that they too easily think they can solve the world’s problems?
* Or is it the opposite problem — that too many philosophers have frail egos and can’t admit making mistakes, even when their theories lead to disaster?
* Could it be, as Russell suggested, that philosophy’s questions are just too difficult for us, so a strong dose of modesty is called for when making philosophical pronouncements?
* Or maybe it’s only a quirk of the twentieth century, when so many intellectuals turned against liberal democracy and became enamored of more authoritarian politics?

On these questions and others, feel welcome to comment below, with all the usual caveats about civility and quality argumentation. I will weigh in with my own views — but please feel welcome to challenge me and be prepared to be challenged. That is how we sort out the difficult issues.

We all need philosophy. We are a smart species, and we survive and flourish to the extent that we successfully exercise our intelligence to identify the true, long-range principles to live by. But intelligence also means learning the hard lessons from our mistakes, including the sometimes disastrous mistakes of our most brilliant philosophers.

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Stephen Hicks is the author of Explaining Postmodernism: Skepticism and Socialism from Rousseau to Foucault and of Nietzsche and the Nazis. He blogs at For future columns on The Good Life, feel welcome to send your philosophical questions and moral dilemmas to him at

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[My other columns on The Good Life.]

My “Liberalism: The Fifteen Best Arguments” in Reason Papers

My article “Liberalism: The Fifteen Best Arguments” [pdf] is now out in Reason Papers 37:2 (Fall 2015), pp. 108-132.

I make fifteen arguments for the free society — the ones that I judge to be most essential and most influential. The arguments are:

Reason-Papers-image1. Liberalism increases freedom
2. People work harder in liberal systems
3. People work smarter under liberalism
4. Liberalism increases individuality and creativity
5. Liberalism increases the average standard of living
6. The poor are better off under liberalism
7. Liberalism generates more philanthropy
8. More outstanding individuals flourish under liberalism
9. Liberalism’s individualism increases happiness
10. Liberal societies are more interesting
11. Tolerance increases under liberalism
12. Sexism and racism decrease under liberalism
13. Liberalism leads to international peace
14. Liberalism is the most just system
15. Liberalism is more moral in its political practice

Along the way I cite the contributions made to those arguments by the giants in the history of liberal thought: Aristotle, John Locke, Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill, Ludwig von Mises, Friedrich Hayek, Ayn Rand, Milton Friedman, and others.

My follow-up article, “The Fifteen Best Arguments Against Liberalism” will be published in the next issue of Reason Papers. Both are part of my forthcoming book project entitled Liberalism: The Meaning of Political Life.

Thanks to the editors — professors Carrie-Ann Biondi and Shawn Klein — for their professionalism and helpful suggestions.

Review of Nietzsche and the Nazis — the Polish translation

nn-polish-cover-3dHere’s a review of my Nietzsche i naziści. Moje spojrzenie, tłum. I. Kłodzińska, (Chojnice: Oficyna Wydawnicza Fundacji Fuhrmanna, 2014).

Its author is Ks. Janusz Chyła, who is on the theology faculty at the Nicolaus Copernicus University in Toruń, Poland. It’s published in the journal Teologia i Człowiek.

To my knowledge, this is the fifth scholarly review of the Polish edition. nn-front-cover

[More information about the original English edition of Nietzsche and the Nazis and Nietzsche i naziści, Moje spojrzenia.]

Book chapter forthcoming: “Entrepreneurship’s Relationship to CSR”

I have a chapter forthcoming in this new volume:

CSR, Sustainability, Ethics & Governance: Building New Bridges between Business and Society

Editors: Hualiang Lu (Nanjing, China), René Schmidpeter (Cologne, Germany), Nicholas Capaldi (New Orleans, USA), Liangrong Zu, (Turin, Italy)
Publisher: Springer Books.
Date: 2016


Entrepreneurship’s Relationship to CSR (Prof. Dr. Stephen R.C. Hicks)

This chapter rethinks the start of business ethics. The author agrees that the Corporate Social Responsibility model of business ethics has been a leading paradigm. But the author notices that CSR practitioners usually take large firms as representative of business and address their ethical issues; this, he believes, leads to over-generalizing. But most people do not work in mid-to-large corporations; rather, they are sole proprietors, in a partnership, in a family firm, or in an entrepreneurial venture. Also, every large corporation began as an entrepreneurial venture. Therefore, the author argues that business ethics should begin where business begins. In other words, business ethics begins with entrepreneurship. The author first situates ethics in an entrepreneurial context to identify the core values, virtues, and vices of business. Then he addresses how those ethical issues scale as the business succeeds or fails at growing into large corporation.

[More information forthcoming upon publication.]

O livre comércio faz de você uma pessoa melhor


Logo cedo, vesti minha jaqueta de couro argentina, calcei meus sapatos indianos e entrei em minha caminhonete japonesa. Eu parei em um posto de gasolina da British Petroleum e conversei com seu dono, um mexicano. Para pagar por tudo isso, dei a minha primeira aula do dia — cujo tópico era um filósofofrancês, utilizando para tal um texto traduzido ao inglês por um polonês-americano e impresso no Canadá — para um grupo de estudantes, 1/3 dos qual era composto de estudantes estrangeiros.

No intervalo da manhã, tomei um café torrado italiano com grãos Arábica de Ruanda, muito obrigado.

Quando os economistas falam dos benefícios do comércio, eles se referem à divisão do trabalho e à vantagem comparativa. Há muito tempo, Adam Smith usou o exemplo de uma fábrica de alfinetes para mostrar que dividir uma tarefa complexa em pequenas partes é muito mais eficiente que optar por fazer tudo por conta própria. David Ricardo cita o exemplo do vinho português e do tecido inglês. Devido às diferenças de habilidade dos trabalhadores e do clima, ambas as nações estariam em melhor situação se Portugal se especializasse na produção de vinho, e a Inglaterra se especializasse na produção de tecido, negociando, ao final, vinho em troca de

Contraste-o com um exemplo contemporâneo — o cara que montou um sanduíche refinado por conta própria — depois de gastar US$ 1500 e seis meses de esforço. O sanduíche que comerei no almoço custará US$ 5 dólares e esperarei cinco minutos, em média.

O comércio nos permite ser mais eficientes, e quão mais extensas as nossas redes de comércio, maiores serão as chances de desfrutarmos dos talentos alheios, da mesma forma que eles desfrutarão dos nossos.

Apesar da importância dos benefícios econômicos do comércio, eles são somente parte da história geral do valor, dado que, inerente à prática comercial, está um conjunto de compromissos de valor profundamente morais.

Em primeiro lugar, as pessoas que comercializam entre si têm de ser produtivas. Isto é, elas têm que criar algo de valor para oferecer na troca. Pense em uma transação comercial básica: eu crio galinhas que produzem ovos, e você planta trigo para produzir farinha. Cada um de nós está comprometido com a sua própria vida, sendo totalmente responsável pelos seus atos e pela sua própria sobrevivência.

Em segundo lugar, cada parte tem que exercer a troca por meios voluntários. Eu escolho oferecer ovos em troca de farinha. Você é livre para aceitar — ou rejeitar a minha oferta e fazer uma contraproposta. Nós chegamos a um acordo e procedemos com a troca. Cada um de nós está comprometido com uma negociação pacífica.

Nós chegamos a uma relação ganha-ganha, já que ambos ganham como consequência da troca supracitada. Eu me beneficio da farinha que você produziu, e você se beneficia dos ovos que eu produzi. Você trabalhou para agregar valor à minha vida, e meu pagamento foi merecido por você. Eu trabalhei para agregar valor à sua, e eu recebi um pagamento em troca. Imbuído nisto está um tipo de justiça: as pessoas recebem o que merecem.

E, finalmente, chegamos ao orgulho e ao respeito. Ser um negociador é ser alguém que trabalha para agregar valor ao mundo, que lida com outras pessoas de forma paFeature_freetrade_2cífica, que sabe que outrem merece desfrutar do melhor como resultado, seja na forma de riqueza material ou de sentimento de dever cumprido. Isso é orgulho. O negociador trata os outros negociadores como indivíduos auto-responsáveis com algo valioso a oferecer, livres para seguirem o caminho que desejarem. Uma transação comercial ganha-ganha é uma interação calcada no compromisso. Isso é respeito.

Contraste o negociador com o predador no mundo dos negócios — aqueles que roubam, fraudam ou extorquem. Os predadores não geram valor — em vez disso, eles deixam a produção para outras pessoas e simplesmente a tomam pela força. Um predador não conquista o seu espaço — e sabe disso. O orgulho não é possível para ele. O predador tampouco respeita suas vítimas — ele necessariamente as considera fracas, já que somente a fraqueza delas permite que ele as explore. A predação é um modo de existênciamutuamente desumanizador.

O que serve para o comércio entre dois indivíduos também se aplica ao comércio internacional.

Pense em todas as coisas que geram desentendimento entre as pessoas — fanatismo religioso ou político, tribalismo, sexismo, etnocentrismo, e todas as outras formas de teimosia das quais os seres humanos são capazes por um grande número de razões.

Quem é comprometido com a ética do comércio busca avaliar os outros em termos de sua habilidade produtiva — e não pela cor da pele ou partido político. Ele está comprometido com o respeito pelos outros como agentes responsáveis — e não os analisa como sexo frágil ou idólatras. Ele está comprometido com oferecer o seu melhor ao mundo e buscar o melhor que os outros têm a oferecer — não teimosamente ignorando ou menosprezando as conquistas dos indivíduos de outras culturas.

O comércio não é a solução de todos os males. Mas ele indubitavelmente impulsiona o comportamento civilizado, e concede a todos um incentivo a relevar ou desaprender quaisquer preconceitos irracionais que possamos ter.

Esse foi o ponto de Voltaire quando ele notou — com alguma surpresa — que, na Bolsa de Valores de Londres, pessoas de diferentes religiões negociavam felizes e pacificamente uns com os outros. Fora da Bolsa, os católicos poderiam perseguir os protestantes, protestantes poderiam perseguir protestantes, e ambos poderiam perseguir os judeus — mas dentro da Bolsa, cristãos, judeus e até mesmo alguns muçulmanos trocavam sorrisos, apertos de mão, e certificados de ações em nome do benefício mútuo.globalization

É também por isso que nos lugares mais comprometidos com o livre trânsito de bens e ideias — portos livres de Pireu e Amsterdã, zonas de livre comércio de Hong Kong e Panamá, pólos tecnológicos como o Vale do Silício — é que encontramos as maiores taxas de participação independentemente da posição política, da etnia, da raça ou do gênero.

O ponto é que o livre comércio não é somente economicamente bom, mas também incorpora um conjunto de compromissos morais de princípios: produtividade e responsabilidade, interação voluntária e pacífica, benefício mútuo e justiça, orgulho e respeito.

E tudo isso tem implicações para muitos de nossos debates atuais sobre política econômica: deveríamos permitir o livre fluxo de ideias, bens e pessoas transfronteiras — ou deveríamos erigir barreiras de censura, tarifas, e cotas de imigração?

Se tornarmos o comércio mais difícil, não somente impomos custos econômicos sobre nós e os outros, nós impomos custos morais ao erigir barreiras que tornam mais difícil para nós avaliarmos os outros em termos de sua criatividade, produtividade e realizações efetivas. E se reduzirmos o número de relações comerciais ganha-ganha através das fronteiras nacionais, aumentaremos a facilidade com que as pessoas reincidam em posturas primitivas de nós-versus-eles.

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hicks-stephen-2013“O livre comércio faz de você uma pessoa melhor” Por Stephen Hicks. Tradução de Matheus Pacini. Revisão de Ivanildo Santos III. Artigo Original no “The Good Life”. Visite Publicações em Português para ler os últimos artigos de Stephen Hicks.

Stephen Hicks é o autor do livro Explicando o Pós Modernismo e Nietzsche and the Nazis.

Arielle John on entrepreneurship in Trinidad — transcript of video interview

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

Hicks: I am Stephen Hicks. Our guest today is professor Arielle John, who is teaching fellow in the Department of Economics at Beloit College. Professor John was here to speak with us on culture and entrepreneurship with special reference to Trinidad, her native country. arielle-john-500-px

In your talk you gave us some striking statistics about the relationship between culture and entrepreneurship. You started with a breakdown by ethnicity, or the various segments of Trinidadian society. And, to contrast to that, with the participation in self-employment and entrepreneurship. What were those numbers like?

John: Trinidad is an interesting country ethnically. The two majority segments of the population are Indians, who are descendants from Indian indentured servants; they comprise 40% of the population. African Trinidadians comprise about 37%, so they are about equal. Beyond that, about a fifth of the country, or 21% of Trinidadians, report themselves to be mixed; usually that implies they are a mix between Indian and African. And there is a small minority of individuals who are European descendants, also Chinese and Syrian-Lebanese and they comprise two percent of the population. They are the smallest group in the population.

Now, when we look at self-employment statistics we find that within that minority group [European, Chinese, and Syrian-Lebanese descendants], about 35%-36% of those individuals are self-employed — they are business owners. The next group with the biggest category of business owners are the Indians. About 25% of those individuals are considered self-employed. Mixed individuals, perhaps about 20% of that group are self-employed, and blacks in Trinidad have a below average self-employed rate at about 16%. So that’s the breakdown.

Hicks: So, your area of investigation is the effects of ethnic culture, and possibly racial culture, on the widely varying self-employed entrepreneurial ranges.

You also spoke about entrepreneurship and entrepreneurship is complicated in some respects, but you broke it down into two basic moments that you call the Kirznerian moment or the Schumpeterian moment. What are those?

John: Obviously, the decision to become an entrepreneur involves many factors over time and place. For Israel Kirzner, the defining moment of being an entrepreneur is the moment when you discover an opportunity, and usually that happens in a surprise fashion. You are going about your way, and suddenly you realize there are needs that people want met and you know exactly how to do that. So for Kirzner the defining moment is identifying the opportunity.

Hicks: He is emphasizing the cognitive elements in entrepreneurship.

John: Absolutely. For Joseph Schumpeter, what defines an entrepreneur is the doing. For Schumpeter, exploiting the opportunity and actually bringing a product to market or changing how a supply chain works or changing some aspect of production — that is what makes you an entrepreneur. So, in doing something creative, destroying the old way of doing things, the doing aspect of entrepreneurship is what Schumpeter focuses on. So there appears to be two moments of entrepreneurship, the moment when you identify the opportunity and the moment when you actually exploit the opportunity.

Hicks: Okay, so the next question is about culture and those two moments of entrepreneurship. So, in trying to figure out how well or not well a culture fosters the identification of opportunities and the exploiting, right, of those opportunities. joseph_schumpeter You also had a definition of culture earlier, an explication of what culture is. What is culture?

John: Culture is one of those words that is ambiguous and hard to make concrete because it’s so abstract. But I think there is a very good definition of culture from the anthropologist Clifford Geertz. He refers to culture as an historically transmitted pattern of meanings, a system of inherited conceptions. So culture is essentially defined as the shared meanings individuals have about the objects and about the people and about the actions in their lives. They share meanings together, and those differ from culture to culture.

Hicks: So one then asks what meaning, so to speak, entrepreneurship has within a group of people, and to what extent there is a history; those will be connections that we want to make.

Coming to Trinidad in particular, you had three hypothesis about the intersection. One was about Kirznerian entrepreneurship — the identification of opportunities and how that is in Trinidadian culture. What is your hypothesis there?

John: Well, my hypothesis there is that Trinidadians across all of the ethnic cultures are fairly prolific in identifying opportunities. I confirm this by doing interviews with Trinidadians, and I sat them down and asked them: Tell me about your job, or your dream job, and instead of people identifying opportunities to be technicians, to be doctors, to be educators, people identified specific entrepreneurial activities. So they saw themselves as being self-employed one day, and not only did they know that they wanted to own trucks and rent trucks, or start restaurants, or start hairstyling businesses, they had actual plans for how they were going to achieve these businesses. They had a diverse number of reasons, but what really struck me was that they were good at discovering gaps where consumers had demands that were not being met. They were very good at identifying opportunities.

Hicks: And that was across all of the different ethnic cultures that you identified earlier?

John: Yes.

Hicks: With respect to Schumpeterian moment in entrepreneurship, what is your hypothesis there for Trinidad?

John: Well, clearly according to the statistics I mentioned earlier, the ethnic cultures are not equal exploiters? According to the data, the white, Chinese, and Syrian-Lebanese Trinidadians are the best exploiters, and the blacks are not necessarily good exploiters. Indians are seen as the emergent business class.

Now there can be several cultural reasons for that. When I looked at the history of the different groups, I realized that there could be some historical, cultural reasons for these disparities. White, Chinese, and Syrian-Lebanese, to some extent, brought their cultures with them, from where they came from, e.g., from China, from Syria. They brought with them their entrepreneurial attitudes.

Not only that, once they arrived in Trinidad they kept close kinship ties and they formed business associations. So, an individual who belongs to that ethnic group has a support system, has a group of people who are aware of what it takes to be a good exploiter. They have technical advice, they keep their kinship network close, and that’s fairly true for Indian Trinidadians as well. But when it comes to black Trinidadians, they don’t have those close kinship ties. They never developed them across their history.

Hicks: Is that because they were largely brought in as slaves?

John: They were.

Hicks: And that destroys kinship connections?

John: That destroys kinship connections. Over the years blacks, as opposed to Indians and Chinese, have given different meanings to certain jobs. Public service, education jobs, and professional jobs are highly valued in the African culture in Trinidad. So an individual who is trying to climb the social ladder or make something out of himself, you know, chases prestige, is not likely to use business to exploit those dreams. They are likely to become more educated and avoid business altogether.

Hicks: Professional jobs in established institutions. You also mentioned some dimensions of dependence versus independence in post-colonial history of Trinidad. Trinidad became a country, you mentioned, in 1962. So this is within a couple of generations that we have a new culture, but nonetheless, dependence and independence are not equally distributed. What are the issues there?

John: I believe that coming out of colonialism, more people started to see business opportunities as something that they could do, they could take charge, they could aspire to be anything they wanted to be, which is why, I think, across cultures, Trinidadians are opportunity identifiers. But they are not necessarily, in terms of the ethnic groups, all equal opportunity exploiters, for these dependence reasons. So blacks and Indians coming out of independence were more dependent on the state, even after Trinidad was not a colony anymore.

There were social programs to try to get them to become businessmen, to take care of them, and I think that decreased their incentive to try to make it on their own. Within those families, living with your family well into adulthood and relying on your parents for money, that is still seem as normal in those ethnic groups. And so, again, that diminishes the incentive to become an entrepreneur and to make one’s own way through life. So, these cultures’ dependence transmits across generations and determine who actually, even though they may have ideas, feels a sort of real need to exploit the opportunities. And those who are more dependent don’t feel that need strongly.

Hicks: They are striking — the statistics on differences in entrepreneurship participation across ethnic groups and racial groups. Also, according to the degree of education.

You also had to break down by sex, and there is a marked difference in the participation between males and females in all ethnic groups and all levels of education. What are your thoughts on the gender or sex differentiation stats?Flag_of_Trinidad_and_Tobago.svg

John: There are gender differences in employment across cultures, across nations, across time, and across jobs, right, so not just self-employed versus employed. Most fields, right, you see that choice gap. And I am not clear what the reason is, but I do think sometimes men have different goals. Sometimes women have more family goals, whereas men may aspire to be businessmen or to be very involved in their jobs. And I think there is a fundamental difference when it comes to the actual choices men and women decide to make on their own.

Hicks: The male/female rates in Trinidad aren’t different from male/female rates in other cultures and places?

John: I don’t think that they are, even here in the USA, I don’t think that they are. Well, there may be a higher percentage of women becoming entrepreneurs in the USA, but women here also generally are more self-sufficient and have a higher income.

Hicks: Okay. Toward the end of your talk, after emphasizing various elements of culture, you said your research shows an importance of institutions of certain sorts in fostering or squelching entrepreneurial participation rates. What do you mean by institutions in the Trinidad context? How does that fit in to your research?

John: When I talk about institutions, I am talking about the formal rules of the game within a society. The rules that tell you what you are allowed to do, where you are allowed to participate and not allowed to participate. I am not really talking about informal rules. I am talking about formal, official rules within Trinidadian society.

Hicks: Would informal rules be on the cultural side? And formal rules would be institutions?

John: Yes, informal rules refer to norms. The formal rules, the institutions operating in Trinidad, certainly apply to everyone. Of all ethnic groups in Trinidad, these are rules that are on the books. They don’t apply to blacks any more than they apply to whites or Indians. So there are institutions in Trinidad and Tobago that I believe, and that I think economic theory would predict, that are beneficial to entrepreneurial identification and exploitation in the first place. In Trinidad and Tobago, private property rights are respected and enforced, so if an individual decides they see an opportunity and they want to follow through with it, they can purchase the piece of land, they can purchase the building, and they don’t have to worry about it being confiscated. Private property rights are perhaps not as strong as in more developed nations, but, still, if individuals want to own properties, they could. Also, in Trinidad, I think the rule of law is respected, so individuals aren’t treated differentially. And so I think in Trinidad, as economic theory predicts, this incentivizes people to be comfortable with coming up with business ideas and going after these ideas because they know that, if they do the face the law in any point in their business dealings, they won’t be treated unfairly or differentially,

Hicks: So the law is noble and consistent, and so people can factor that in and that encourages entrepreneurship?

John: Definitely.

Hicks: All right, a fascinating set of issues. Thanks for being with us today.

John: Thank you, thank you very much. It was great to talk at Rockford University.

[The original video interview with Professor John follows.]

Smallpox — Jenner’s ending the scourge

In the mid-1700s:

“Smallpox was the scourge of these times, just as the plague had been in the seventeenth century, or leprosy toward the close of the Middle Ages. A medical treatise published in 1774 calls it ‘the most universal disease.’ In France, ninety-five out of every hundred persons contracted it; one out of seven perished as a result.”[1]

Dr. Edward Jenner
Dr. Edward Jenner, 1749-1823

Enter Edward Jenner, who exemplified the best of Enlightenment-era science and medicine in pioneering the practice of vaccination.

In 1796, Jenner intentionally injected a patient with cowpox and then smallpox to demonstrate the effectiveness of vaccination. Subsequent tests were successful, and by 1801 Jenner was confident enough to predict that “the annihilation of the Small Pox, the most dreadful scourge of the human species, must be the final result of this practice.”


[1] Claude Manceron, Twilight of the Old Order, Volume One of The French Revolution (A.A. Knopf, 1977), p. 51.
[2] “Jenner and the Eradication of Smallpox.”