Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Trees of Life

There are two things that are deeply destructive: 1) conservative elements that resist change (among these I would include those Marxists who object to capitalism because the change of capitalism means that new things displace old things), and 2) progressive elements that discount the past and want change for the sake of change. Both are destructive. If you want to destroy an economy and a culture, either one of these will do. Stagnation or cancer -- the result is the same: death.

Capitalism is creative destruction. That results in ever-increasing wealth as new ways to do things displace old ways. Less expensive, more efficient ways replace more expensive, less efficient ways. Entire industries have their workforces shrunk until 1-2% of the population is all that is needed for, say, agriculture (which feeds the other 98-99%) -- an industry that once took up practically everyone's time. Thus goes manufacturing as well, replaced by service and creative workers. And automation will one day replace the service people. There may soon be a day when you can check into a hotel without bothering with the hotel front desk clerk. Just find your name, sip your card, and get your keys. All that will be needed will be a manager. Don't think that will happen? How often do you bother with a bank clerk rather than go to an ATM machine?

The healthiest cultures are those that are what one may term a progressive natural classical culture. Frederick Turner proposes such in his books Natural Classicism, Beauty, The Culture of Hope, and Natural Religion. Such a culture exists in tension between the evolutionary past and classical art and the future, making it new. Progressive art is lost -- it's nothing anybody wants to experience. A conservative classicism is covering territory already covered. Natural classicism is rooted in our evolved psyches, yet bringing in the contemporary world, investigating who we are in our changing social situation. Such art stands on the edge of the known world, deeply rooted in it, while simultaneously setting out to discover strange new worlds and undiscovered countries. More, true natural classicism is also deeply cosmopolitan. Like capitalism, it finds creative inspiration in diversity.

Both a healthy economy and a healthy culture are spontaneous orders. They exhibit bottom-up emergence and order, are nudged through top-down immanent criticism (which is very, very different from top-down control or regulation), and grow naturally and healthily from their roots. They can be destroyed by either cutting off the growing stems, where the leaves are, taking in the light, or by cutting off the nourishing root.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Ectodermal Cells

While showering this morning, the temperature went up suddenly. I hate it when that happens because my skin is particularly sensitive to high temperatures. I can't stand taking a very hot shower (or eating very hot food). While adjusting the temperature down, I began thinking about the relationship between skin cells and neurons -- both are derived from the ectoderm. Might skin cells participate a bit more in the sense of touch than just being a place where sensory neurons end/begin? Even a slight electric potential might contribute to the sense of touch. The sensory outreach of the body would thus be greater than we have thought. How far-fetched is this? Well, glial cells have been shown to have more than mere support functions, actually participating in electrical transmission. What might it mean if the skin is part of the sensory order? Or is it just that my neurons are particularly sensitive? That I wouldn't doubt.

I will note that it is interesting, too, that our language for emotions tends to be the same as our language for touch. We have "feelings," we are "hurt" and "wounded." We are de-"press"-ed and im-"press"-ed. Coincident?

Friday, May 27, 2011

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Economist on Peter Thiel

The Economist has a nice short piece on Peter Thiel's 20 Under 20. I have written on this program before.

If anyone knows Mr. Thiel, perhaps he might be interested in the work of a libertarian Ph.D. in the humanities who has some ideas on developing language pattern analysis software and software to predict protein functions from primary structures (a holdover from when I was working on a Master's in molecular biology). I'm a tad over the age of 20, though, I'm afraid.

Job Hunting

I haven't been posting quite as much over the past few weeks as I typically post -- on any of my blogs. The reason is that I have been spending most of my time online looking for and applying for jobs. As they say, if you don't have a job, your job is to look for one.

In other words, I am no longer working at the hotel. From the perspective of time available to read and write and blog, it was a great job. From the perspective of pay and good use of my skills and education, it was a horrible job. Having that job was a terrible misallocation of my skills and education -- not, it seems, that anybody else is interested in making use of any of them. Nobody can quite seem to figure out what it is that I do. "Interdisciplinary scholar" isn't on anybody's radar.

So I've gone from being a mere misallocation of human resources and underemployed to outright unemployed. What is a B.A. in recombinant gene technology with minors in chemistry and English, a M.A. in English, and a Ph.D. in the humanities who writes on spontaneous orders to do? I have made no headway in academia or think tanks. And apparently education is no longer considered equivalent to experience (I applied for a technical writing position that required a B.A. and 2 years of experience, and was told that I wasn't qualified for the position -- never mind that if I in fact were hired by an English department, they would no doubt ask me to teach the technical writing class precisely because of my technical background). The only advice I get is the generic kind, that I should try to get into academia or think tanks (I agree). What I need are specific leads, specific jobs, and people helping me to get a specific job.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Discussions of the Moral Order

Over at Coordination Problem Steve Horwitz makes the case for the acceptance of same sex marriage as a natural evolution in the moral order. As one can imagine, that resulted in a discussion of the morality of homosexuality itself (the acceptance of which is also evidence of the moral spontaneous order at work). Despite Steve's attempts to keep the discussion about the evolving moral order itself, a few of us ended up tackling the morality of homosexuality itself. The entire discussion is worth reading, I think. Particularly Richard Ebling's comments (which are always brilliant when he leaves them at Coordination Problem and at Think Markets).

One result is that Mario Rizzo decided to enter into the fray over at Think Markets. He raises the problems inherent in social orders other than markets in general, and the moral order in particular. As that discussion takes off, it should be very interesting.

Of course, I am particularly interested in the idea of the moral order. I have published on it at NOMOI (pg. 3), and of course here on my blog.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Monday, May 16, 2011

David Mamet

A very interesting article on David Mamet. It's about his realization that he was never a leftist in the first place. More, we learn he's a critic of what students are taught in college: “If we identify every interaction as having a victim and an oppressor, and we get a pellet when we find the victims, we’re training ourselves not to see cause and effect.” That observation is, sadly, all too accurate. I see it all too often.

I love Mamet's works -- indeed, I have a great admiration for minimalist literature, even though my own work has been described, repeatedly, as maximalist. Yes, even my plays end up having long soliloquies.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Austrian Economics and Literature Poetry Writing Contest

Austrian Economics and Literature is having a poetry writing contest!

The subject of the poems must be, of course, on economics. The poems will be judged on both the author's demonstration of economic knowledge and on poetic form and skill.

Here are the rules:

1. The subject of the poems must be on economics. Naturally, metaphorical treatments are acceptable.

2. Poems are to be submitted to me, Troy Camplin, through my email address: zatavu@aol.com

3. Co-bloggers cannot enter.

4. All judgments are final and cannot be contested.

5. Deadline for entries: June 30, 2011

6. The winning entry will be posted on Austrian Economics and Literature and the author of the winning entry will receive a signed copy of my book, Diaphysics.

Friday, May 13, 2011

Our Bias Against the Foreign; Our Bias Against Spontaneous Orders

Robin Hanson asks why restaurants are held to a higher standards of food preparation than individuals. It is an interesting question. He then points out that we seem to prefer:

•Individuals over firms
•Non-money over money exchange.
•Natural over artificial chemicals
•Old over new practices
•Human over machine control
•Locals over foreigners
•Non- over for-profit organizations


Here's my answer:

All of the things people show bias against are “foreign” in nature. Perhaps a test of one’s true cosmopolitanism is the degree to which one accepts all of these foreign elements. The only seeming outlier is non-profit over for-profit, but if we consider that we evolved to believe the world was a zero-sum game, so positive-sum games are also “foreign” to us. Thus, zero-sum non-profits that engage in mere transfers vs. positive-sum creation of profit value are preferred.

I will also note that we also prefer organizations of any sort -- whether nonprofits, firms, or governments -- over spontaneous social orders. Since we evolved to live in hierarchical organizations -- tribes, which are really larger versions of chimpanzee troops -- we feel more at home in such organizations. Which is why people consistently show preferences for organizational structure over spontaneous order structure (as we see in their votes for regulations by an organization like the government, even though the evidence is strong that it weakens the spontaneous economic order).

It is an uphill battle to fight against our bias against the foreign, but it is most certainly worth it. The virtue of cosmopolitanism needs to be extended. To do that we need to understand that these biases have their roots in that extended xenophobia. Too often people just exchange one kind of anti-foreign bias for another. You can, after all, separate right from left simply by noting their biases from the above list:

The left prefer individuals over firms, government organization over spontaneous order, non-money over money, natural over artificial, new over old, human over machine, non-profit over for-profit, and no directional bias regarding foreigners over locals.

The right prefer firms over individuals, government organization over spontaneous order, money over non-money, no bias on natural and artificial, old over new, no bias in human and machine, for-profit over non-profit, and locals over foreigners.

Most libertarians show no bias over any of these things.

Naturally, things change over time. The left listed above is the postmodern left; the traditional progressivist left, which was more collectivist in nature, downplayed the individual, preferred the artificial, and preferred machines. There are elements within the postmodern left that prefer the foreign over the local.

It seems that the degree to which we have these biases, or which side we are biased against, is related to our world views. To the degree that the "unnatural" or "foreign" side is associated with cosmopolitanism and civilization, we can see a connection between ideology and acceptance/rejection of civilization. Where does the libertarian fit into this? Those who do in fact accept both sides equally are comfortable with both aspects of their human nature. The low number of such libertarians is telling about who we humans truly are.

Promoting Trust Through Guilt and Institutions

In order for an economy to work well, there has to be widespread trust. Where does trust come from? Well, Sanford Ikeda argues, with Jane Jacobs, that trust emerges due to the presence of the right institutions and structural elements in a city/economy. This is no doubt correct. Yet, recent psychological research, done in conjunction with two behavioral economists, shows that guilt also plays a significant factor in creating trust and cooperation. People cooperate both because the brain rewards itself whenever one cooperates -- it feels good -- and because people try to avoid the negative feeling of guilt. Free markets break down if there is little trust and, thus, cooperation. Yes, that's right, one of the cornerstones of the free market is cooperation, every bit as much as competition (the two are not mutually exclusive).

What does it mean, though, that guilt is a factor in promoting trust? Well, this suggests that more rather than less guilt is beneficial for the creation of free markets (or, at least, enough to promote a high level of trust). Thus, we need institutions that promote guilt, which help us to believe that guilt is good. At the same time, we must always be aware that guilt can be appropriated for anti-market purposes as well, such as support for redistributionist policies. Like anything, guilt can be used for good or bad purposes.

Monday, May 09, 2011

Melina and Daniel

Because everyone loves babies! (Okay, one is 4 and the other is almost 20 months -- but they're still MY babies!)

Sunday, May 08, 2011

On Treating Each Other Well

In a somewhat different context, William Easterly reformulates Kant's ethical formulation that one should act as though one's actions should become a univeral moral imperative by asking how you would like it if you were portrayed or treated in the same way as you portrayed or treated another:

If you don’t pass that test – if you say, ‘no I would hate that,’ then you shouldn’t do it. Reciprocity is really at the heart of equality.

This is another way of saying that one must empathize to be moral. Which I think makes it closer to true morals than Kent's rationalistic approach. It is a matter, too, of respect. You should treat others as you would want to be treated (both Easter;y and Kant are really both reformulating the Golden Rule). If you want respect, be respectful. If you want to be loved, love. If you want to be treated well, treat others well. This is the heart of morality -- and of equality.

You will note that all of the above are kinds of mutual exchange that benefit each party. There is nothing wrong with that. It is at the heart of reciprocity itself.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Creative Destruction -- A Poem

I posted a poem on the nature of economic recessions and recoveries over at Austrian Economics and Literature. It was picked up by Allen Mendenhall and reposted on his blog, The Literary Lawyer.

Friday, May 06, 2011

Unemployment and Creative Destruction

I am reading Schumpeter's Can Capitalism Survive?, and in it he says, "I do not think that unemployment is among those evils which, like poverty, capitalist evolution could ever eliminate of itself" (17). But, as he points out, neither does unemployment really increase over the long run, even if it can be high for long periods due to various interventions (17-20). He also points out that, while this is true, it is also true that under capitalism, within capitalist countries, poverty has been effectively eliminated (even more so now than when he was writing, around 1942), as each round of creative destruction improves peoples' material conditions. He also points out that efforts to reduce unemployment can in fact have the effect of increasing poverty. This is because it stagnates the process of creative destruction, which is the engine of capitalism for Schumpeter.

I certainly have little doubt, considering what Schumpeter says about the nature of creative destruction, that he would oppose bailouts, deficit spending, etc. during a recession, as these things only bolster already-existing firms that need to be swept away. He argues that unemployment would be expected to rise during a recession, because those people being laid off are being laid off from companies that need to go away, to make room for the new companies on the rise. Schumpeter's macroeconomics is thus about as anti-Keynesian as one could imagine. Not surprisingly, it is also much more accurate to economic reality.

Thursday, May 05, 2011


Self-organizing networks -- aka, spontaneous orders -- describes a wide number of social orders, including economies, the arts, and science. MIchael Polanyi wrote some of the earliest work on science as a spontaneous order, and this work has been developed and expanded on by Bill Butos and Thomas McQuade. And now some recent work shows that science is a self-organizing critical system, meaning it undergoes phase transitions -- which are also known as paradigm shifts. These insights apply equally to other spontaneous orders, like economies and the arts. We see sudden shifts in style in the arts, and we see sudden shifts in economic organization as well. The latter are typically punctuated by recessions (heaven forbid if such coincide with the conditions described by Austrian Business Cycle Theory, as that is when we get things like the Great Depression, and perhaps the Great Recession as well).

For the individual, though, who wants to be important, there are also lessons here. One way is, you need to gain attention if you want to succeed. The second way is, you need to do something important, which brings you back to one. Of course, as many of the celebrities who are famous for being famous know, you don't have to have done two to accomplish one.

Manic Creativity, Depressed Analyticism

An interesting piece of research shows that depression actually has cognitive benefits: "depression may promote analytical reasoning and persistence -- that is, qualities useful in complex tasks." Overall, "depressed individuals perform better than their non-depressed peers in sequential decision tasks."

For bipolar people, mania often correlates with a great deal of creative output.

Artists very often are mildly bipolar. Too much mania or depression are debilitating, but both in moderation seem to create artists. And, as it turns out, depression seems to promote analytical reasoning. It seems that a fully self-aware mildly bipolar individual could take advantage of each in their work -- focusing on creative endeavours when manic and analytical endeavours when depressed. Such a person might make for a good scholar with such a division of labor, with it brought together when both tasks are done.

The Laws of Economics Apply to Education II

Economist Donald Boudreaux asks what would happen If Supermarkets Were Like Public Schools. For some reason we let the market take care of feeding us -- which is certainly of incredible importance (one could even say it's a matter of life and death) -- but find the idea of the market taking care of a luxury good like education absurd. (Just because it's a luxury good, that doesn't make it unimportant!)

A Thiel Education at UnCollege

My post, A Thiel Education, has been crossposted at UnCollege. The idea behind UnCollege is interesting, and worth checking out.

Monday, May 02, 2011

Why Harvard and Yale Had to Merge

I'm a rather important figure in this satiric future of education written by Jane Shaw at Minding the Campus.

Why I Would Rather Write Poems and Plays

“Let me write the songs of a nation, and I care not who writes its laws.” -- Andrew Fletcher

The last two works of Deirdre McCloskey, The Bourgeois Virtues and Bourgeois Dignity, both argue that culture is the vital element to a society adopting free markets. Indeed, one must have a culture of liberty to have political and economic liberty. This seems to be the thing missing in people’s attempts to get political and economic liberty. We too often think that we need to go right to the top and make political changes there. This is ironic considering the fact that one of the bases of our support for economic liberty is the realization that the most efficient, wealth-producing system is one that is a bottom-up spontaneous order. It seems logical, then, that we target society in a bottom-up fashion as well. And this means changing the culture. But how does one get a culture of liberty?

First, one does not get a culture of liberty through propaganda. You have propaganda when you place politics before art. Propaganda is Important and is, therefore, big and dull. Nobody takes propaganda serious except the propagandist. So it is important that propaganda is avoided.

I am sure that there will be those who will point to Ayn Rand’s novels as the prime example of how I am wrong. But Rand’s novels actually prove my point. Yes, The Fountainhead and, especially, Atlas Shrugged, have their famous speeches – however, one will note that these speeches 1) come at the end of the novels, after the reader has been drawn in by the plot and the characters, and 2) are in fact central to the plot itself. We are willing to put up with Galt’s speech only because we enjoyed the excitement of the train racing down the newly laid Rearden metal tracks and the mystery of the disappearing creators, and because it clarifies what is going on and why.

This brings me to my second, related point: a culture of liberty can be established only with an arts and humanities of liberty. We need poets, novelists, playwrights, song writers, and even musicians and visual artists who have an underlying ideology of liberty creating works of art. Please note that the art must come first; the underlying ideology will come through on its own, in the world view, in the plots, in the characters. We must remember what Bastiat said, that, “The worst thing that can happen to a good cause is not to be skillfully attacked, but to be ineptly defended.” Within the arts, propaganda is an inept defense. It shows that the ideas presented are not natural, that they cannot be naturally represented in works of art and literature. Thus, it is important that the work of art be beautiful first and foremost. Among such works I would of course include those of this year’s Nobel Prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa and the poems – including two epic poems – of Frederick Turner.

Another thing that is important is that we have pro-liberty artistic theories. Aesthetic and literary theory is dominated by Marxist interpretations when it comes to the analysis of the political and economic elements of the arts and their production. However, there is good news on this front. First, we have Paul Cantor and Stephen Cox’s book Literature and the Economics of Liberty, which acts as an introduction to the field of free market literary analysis. To that I would humbly add my own essay on The Spontaneous Orders of the Arts, and the blog I coauthor, Austrian Economics and Literature. Then there is the theoretical work of Frederick Turner, such as Natural Classicism, Beauty, The Culture of Hope, Shakespeare’s Twenty-First Century Economics, and Natural Religion. These works could go a long way toward establishing a literary theory of liberty based on the concept of beauty.

Finally, we need more pro-liberty philosophers, providing the moral, metaphysical, epistemological, political, ontological, etc. foundations on which a culture of liberty must be established as well. It is easy to list the Austrians one should read: Mises, Hayek, Polanyi, and Rothbard, among others. More broadly, one should also read J.T. Fraser’s works on the philosophy of time, Aeon Skoble, Nozick, Acton, Adam Smith and the other Scottish Enlightenment philosophers, and, if I may humbly add once again, my own Diaphysics. Works of philosophy provide the intellectual foundations for liberty and, thus, for a culture of liberty.

Philosophy, theory, and the arts and literature all help establish a culture of liberty precisely because they are the humanities. They help to establish the fact that liberty is deeply human, humanizing, and humane. Or, at least, they could and should. We have seen these areas dominated by inhumane, anti-liberty, anti-humanistic, anti-liberal ideologies much more than by the kind of humane-pro-liberty, humanistic, liberal ideologies necessary to establish a culture of liberty. Yet this does not have to be the case. If we begin targeting the culture – by creating great works of art, plays, film, novels, and philosophy, and by patronizing those arts, attending those plays and films, buying those novels and works of philosophy, and talking about them – then we can establish the necessary conditions for political and economic liberty to dominate in our world.

Sunday, May 01, 2011

A Thiel Education

“Education may be the only thing people still believe in in the United States. To question education is really dangerous. It is the absolute taboo. It’s like telling the world there’s no Santa Claus.” – Peter Thiel, Co-Founder of Paypal

Those of us who have been arguing that we are facing an education bubble know what Peter Thiel, whose recently established 20 Under 20 fellowship to teach twenty young people about how to turn their ideas into real businesses I have discussed before, is speaking about. And if you understand, as Thiel does that “A true bubble is when something is overvalued and intensely believed” (TechCrunch), then we know for a fact that the latter, at least, is in place. As for the former, well, with prices rising well above the inflation rate for decades now, and more and more people like me with overwhelming student loan debt and gross underemployment, and more younger people moving back home because they cannot find jobs, a pretty strong argument for it being overvalued can be made.

But surely knowledge, learning, and education cannot be overvalued, can it? As a Ph.D., I may be biased in this, but I would have to answer, No, those things cannot be overvalued. There is no such thing as too much knowledge, learning, and true education. Especially in a world increasingly dominated by creative workers. But when we talk about an education bubble, we’re not talking about learning, we’re talking about schooling. A more accurate term would perhaps be a “schooling bubble,” for that is something we can certainly have. The problem is that we have mistaken schooling for learning. The advocates of schooling seem to think that schooling is, in and of itself, of value, regardless of what, if anything, you learn. This is supported, unfortunately, by economists who measure “human capital” by whether or not you have a Bachelor’s degree—meaning, if you have a Bachelor’s degree, you have human capital, but if you don’t, you don’t. This is regardless of whether or not you in fact know anything or have any skills to speak of.

As Thiel points out in TechCrunch, people go to college because they expect to be able to get a better job. They are not typically going there to read Chaucer, Shakespeare, or Kafka (as someone who has taught literature, there is little question about the truth of this), and very often they cannot be convinced that they should. In addition, if you are interested in business, you will get an MBA. Yet the reality is that an MBA trains you for little more than middle management. This truth was captured in a joke a friend of mine, an economics major, told me. Q: What does an MBA call an economics major? A: Boss. (My friend, coincidentally, is a V.P. for a major bank—achieved in his late twenties.) Further, it is unlikely you will get a job in your field of study, you are likely to start at the bottom of any corporation that hires you once you do graduate, just as you would without a college degree, and that corporation is going to have to train you anyway, since you haven’t learned anything the corporation needs you to know. Finally, colleges do nothing to prepare you to be an entrepreneur. That, at least, is what Thiel proposes to do with his 20 Under 20 fellowship, something which cannot be provided by more traditional forms of education.

It is true that a university education at its best can teach you well-established skills, structures of known things, and even challenge your thinking. At a university, you can participate in discovery in the sciences, of course, and you can learn what is known so you become aware of the existence of gaps in knowledge—two things necessary for the sciences to advance—but a university education cannot teach you how to be innovative, entrepreneurial, creative. All too often, I have seen formal education kill those very things. I have seen great painters, poets, and fiction writers become technically much better, but conceptually much worse. I once witnessed in a fiction writing class a fellow student revise a story that was powerful in its language and imagery, a true stylistic triumph, and make it tame and typical—all because of the recommended changes of the professor and other students (and despite my overwhelming support to keep the style). Even in creative writing courses creativity is too often stamped out. When I was working on my M.S. in molecular biology, I grew so frustrated at the fact that technology did not exist to do any of the projects I came up with, and that I was encouraged to do something with the technology available rather than try to find a way to do what I wanted, that I eventually decided to drop out and get a M.A. in English (where, as I just noted, I found the same thing in a different form). To remain innovative, you have to retain a rebelliousness that education often crushes. And if you do retain it, you are likely to suffer once you graduate, since too often it is the conformists who get the jobs, not the rebels. One has to battle hard to keep one’s creativity through college, and then, all too often, one finds that fight unrewarded in the end. Unless, of course, one strikes out on one’s own, and becomes an entrepreneur. But that is something a college education leaves you utterly unprepared for.

In the end, it is not the number of years in school which matter. Rather, as Richard Florida observes in The Flight of the Creative Class, “It takes genuine learning—both in and out of our classrooms, and teaching both the fundamentals and more advanced, creative problem solving to build an economy” (33). None of our schools, at any level, do that.

So it should not be surprising that someone like Peter Thiel should see this situation and conclude that something needs to be done. Of course, with it being Peter Thiel, the solution is both correct and controversial. Indeed, it is not surprising that people like Jacob Weisberg (whose idiotic comments I discussed in my earlier post on Thiel's fellowship) in Newsweek have railed against Peter Thiel’s 20 Under 20 fellowship. Of course, one has to get most of the way through the article, through Weisberg attacks on Thiel’s political ideology and lifestyle, to even find out this is the article’s topic. Weisberg’s attitude is no doubt more connected to Thiel's being a libertarian rather than a good, feels-shame-at-his-wealth leftist billionaire—but the ostensible issue, the one that has Weisberg up in arms, is Thiel’s Fellowship. As Weisberg describes it,

The Thiel Fellowship will give entrepreneurs under age 20 a cash award of$100,000 to drop out of school and pursue their business ideas. In announcing the program, Thiel made clear his contempt for U.S. universities, which, like governments, he believes, cost more than they’re worth and get in the way of what really matters in life, namely tech startups.

Oddly, it’s not quite expressed this way at the Thiel Foundation's website. Nowhere does it say anything about "having" to drop out of college. Nor does it preclude anyone going back. Rather, it points out that, through the fellowship, the Foundation will help educate those who win. They will no doubt receive the kind of education entrepreneurs really need—which cannot be achieved at a university. Invention and creativity are two things that cannot be taught at any university, by any professor. It can be encouraged, or crushed, but not taught. And too often, it is crushed.

But Thiel’s libertarianism is not really what’s at issue here. What kind of education do people like Weisberg expect students to get when he argues that those who don’t go to college will “avoid the siren lure of helping others or pursuing knowledge for its own sake.” I had no idea that college was supposed to teach you about “helping others.” And as for “pursuing knowledge for its own sake,” while I value the education I received in the humanities, I'm not so narcissistic as to believe that, therefore, everyone should have my kind and level of education. Unfortunately, too many highly educated people are so narcissistic. Peter Thiel is not. No doubt Thiel, despite having a graduate degree himself, has looked around and noticed a strange truth: very few successful entrepreneurs have college degrees, or at least have college degrees useful to their business ventures. Recognizing a reality outside of himself, he wants to help creative people learn what they need to learn to succeed. That doesn’t sound so bad.

Thus, I celebrate Thiel's Fellowship. It is designed to counter all of these aspects of formal education. With it, ideas will be given the space to grow into innovative products. Thus, it's the sort of thing that will in fact help grow our economy and, thus, improve people's lives. I look forward to more 20 Under 20s, and perhaps even 30 Under 30s and 40 Under 40s. We need more entrepreneurship of the kind provided by those great non-graduates Mark Zuckerberg, Sam Walton, and Bill Gates. Billions of lives have been improved just by these three people alone. Why? Because these people have learning, and not just schooling. They have skills, not certificates. They may not have human capital, but they most certainly have creative capital. It seems that that is what is truly important, something Peter Thiel, with the Thiel Fellowship, shows he understands.