Listen Notes

Discovered via the excellent new podcast search-engine Listen Notes, a lively 2013 interview in which two bright young men interview Matt Ridley on The Rational Optimist, for about 50 minutes minus the intro and advert.


Liberty and the Golden Age of Science Fiction

Forthcoming soon an online course in: “Liberty and the Golden Age of Science Fiction” taught from an American libertarian right perspective. Looks like a bit of horror in there, too, judging by the book covers.

Those who listen to the Tom Woods Show podcast will already know about the school which is offering the course. He has a podcast about it here. Unfortunately it appears that the Liberty Classroom is an all-or-nothing recurring monthly fee, and a curious Brit can’t just buy access to this interesting new sci-fi bit of it and skip all the American history courses.

Bjorn Lomborg at The Long Now – .mp3 file now available

The .mp3 audio is now freely available for Bjorn Lomborg at The Long Now. The talk is called “From Feel-Good to High-Yield Good: How to Improve Philanthropy and Aid”. The “things to do” list starts at 17:00 minutes.

Bjorn Lomborg does cost/benefit analysis on global good. There are surprises when you examine what are the highest-yield targets in the domains of health, poverty, education, reduced violence, gender equality, climate change, biodiversity, and good governance. Reducing trade restrictions floats to the top: $1 spent yields $2,000 of good for everyone. Contraception for women is close behind, with a whole array of benefits. For health go after tuberculosis, malaria, and child malnutrition. For climate change, phase out fossil fuel subsidies and invest in energy research.

The vocal delivery is very very fast, and Bjorn’s microphone is also picking up distracting levels of sibilance. I found myself forced to load the file in Impulse Media Player to: i) reduce tempo (speed) to 80%; and ii) tweak down the sliders on the right-hand side of the graphic equaliser. Even then delivery is way too fast, given the type of content he’s trying to explain.

From the questions…

“We found one really good solution for corruption [in Bangladesh, via online eBay-like government e-procurement. After being tested for two years, we found] 12% less corruption…”.

Thomas Sowell retires from column writing

The great Thomas Sowell retires from political column writing this week, with his last “Farewell by Dr. Thomas Sowell” column. He’s turning off the flow of news and intends to spend the time saved in photographing amid the great wild places of North America. His latest capstone book is a new edition of Wealth, Poverty, and Politics for which he recently did a 43-minute interview with the Hoover Institution.


The best introductory overview of his intellectual ideas is The Thomas Sowell Reader (2011). His introductory Basic Economics: A Common Sense Guide to the Economy is well regarded, but I admit I found it heavy-going even as an audiobook. The fault was not Sowell’s, but mine. Those who just can’t absorb hours of solid economics, even when expertly explained and grounded, might instead look at his more approachable mix of real-world economics and recent history — his excellent book The Housing Boom and Bust: Revised Edition (2010). This is still one of the most readable accounts of the root causes of the recession. It leaves one with a great many memorable lessons in real markets and the unforeseen perils of leftist market interventionism in a highly interconnected world. It could be one of the best samples of Sowell’s work, for many, if you only have the time to read one.

For Sowell’s own very remarkable life story, look to his A Personal Odyssey (2002). This would make for an excellent Ken Burns-style documentary mini-series, or even a long graphic novel, if there are creatives out there in 2017 who are looking for a worthy new project in tune with our newly conservative times.

All the books mentioned above are available as unabridged audiobooks.