Great Tools for Teaching Kids Economics and Liberty

Whenever my children express an interest in economics or are curious about the ideals of freedom and responsibility, I can barely contain my excitement. It wasn’t until college that I discovered, and fell in love with, economics, and it wasn’t until much later that I understood liberty as a life philosophy.

Fortunately, I can avoid stifling their budding interest by drawing demand curves or quoting Hayek and Hazlitt (though I’ve been known to do both!) and turn to some outstanding resources just for kids. Designed to introduce economic principles and the foundations of a free society to young children, these tools are interesting, engaging, and easy-to-understand—for children and adults alike!

The Tuttle Twins

The popular Tuttle Twins book series continues to grow, with 10 children’s books now available, as well as accompanying activity sheets and instructional materials. Created by Connor Boyack, a father who was disappointed by the dearth of good economic and civic content for kids, The Tuttle Twins series introduces concepts ranging from spontaneous order and how money works to individual rights and youth entrepreneurship. The latest book in the series, The Tuttle Twins and the Education Vacation, makes a case for non-coercive learning outside of the classroom.

These may seem like big ideas for small children, but Boyack says we underestimate children’s ability and interest. “I’ve been blown away at how well little kids can understand big ideas,” he says.

We get reviews from parents daily who are amazed at the same discovery and are thankful that their children are being introduced to ideas that most adults never learn.

Boyack recently launched Free Market Rules, a new weekly, family-centered curriculum for exploring free-market principles in greater depth, and FEE readers can use the coupon FORTY to get 40 percent off the Tuttle Twins books.

Nobody Know How to Make a Pizza

FEE’s founder, Leonard E. Read, wrote his famous essay, “I, Pencil,” in 1958, celebrating the miracle of the free market in facilitating voluntary exchange and producing the goods and services we want and need. This process happens spontaneously, without any central planner determining what to produce and how to produce it. Indeed, the remarkable message of “I, Pencil” is that “not a single person on the face of this earth knows how to make me.”

Now, author and economics commentator Julie Borowski offers a kid-friendly version of Read’s classic essay in her new book Nobody Knows How to Make a Pizza. Like a pencil, a pizza may seem simple to make, but it relies on millions of strangers working together peacefully and spontaneously to produce a basic cheese pizza. Borowski explains why she decided to write this book:

Over the years, many parents have told me that their kids enjoy listening to my commentary because I make learning about economics fun and simple. Some have asked if I would ever consider writing a children’s book. One day, I was re-reading Leonard Read’s “I, Pencil” when it hit me. It’s already a fascinating story, but can I make it more kid-friendly? I changed it to pizza cause, well, kids are more interested in pizza than pencils. And my illustrator, Tetiana Kopytova, did an amazing job creating cute characters with bright colors. It’s a fun, positive book that will revolutionize the way kids think about the world.

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I Know My Rights: A Children’s Guide to the Bill of Rights and Individual Liberty

A 2017 survey by the University of Pennsylvania found that 37 percent of American adults couldn’t name one right protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution, and only one-quarter of them could name all three branches of government. Clearly, there is a crisis in American civic education and a disturbing lack of understanding of individual liberty.

Author Rory Margraf wanted to address this problem by creating an accessible, colorful children’s book that easily explains the Bill of Rights and the principles of liberty to kids. He says:

I Know My Rights: A Children’s Guide to the Bill of Rights and Individual Liberty was inspired by research for an article while reflecting on the first time I was stopped by the authorities. The gap in civics knowledge, between both children and adults, indicated a crucial need for additional resources outside of brick-and-mortar schooling.

The book was so well-received that Margraf plans to release a sequel to I Know My Rights before the holidays. He adds:

I have found that the philosophy of liberty and the principles of free markets reach children extremely well.

FEE Resources

FEE also provides many high-quality resources to help young people expand their knowledge of economics and individual liberty. The free Invisible Hands video series for kids combines fun puppets and a famous YouTuber to offer an introductory look at basic economic principles. And for teenagers, FEE’s three-day summer seminars on college campuses across the country offer an opportunity for more in-depth exploration of these important ideas. Additionally, FEE’s free online courses on economics and entrepreneurship are great for people of all ages!

Parents are perfectly positioned to introduce economic and civic concepts to their children. In fact, they may be the best ones to do it. With authors now creating exceptionally good material for young children on these topics, it has never been easier or more enjoyable for parents to present these ideas to their kids and help them to deepen their knowledge throughout their teenage years.

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Added “Friction” Does Greater Harm to Good People

In my continuing “Scott Adams (is wrong) on guns” series (that’s a new tag), I have looked at many of his “halfpinions” (his word) concerning guns.

Here’s the next installment. Yes, this is something I’ve brought up before, but it bears repeating since he’s still misrepresenting the issue.

When people object to his anti-gun ideas by reasonably pointing out that bad people will still get guns and suicidal people will still kill themselves he likes to say that of course they will, but any new “law” will add “friction” to the process, and “add friction; get less of that behavior (crime/suicide)”.

Again he’s acting on the faulty premise– the assumption– that guns are bad; that they are the problem; that cutting back on their availability even a little is generally a good thing. They aren’t, and it isn’t. Starting from a flawed premise, he arrives at a dumb “halfpinion” of his own.

Yes, you might “add friction” to a bad guy getting a gun with which to violate innocent people but those aren’t the only people to whom you are adding friction. You also add friction to the good, innocent people looking to get a gun for defense at the same time you add friction to the bad guys looking to violate the innocent. You are adding friction to the girl whose crazy ex is promising to kill her. I lost a friend to this added friction about 26 years ago as she waited for governmental permission to buy and carry a gun for self-defense. Guess who didn’t bother following the friction-causing “laws”.

Who is more accustomed to dealing with added friction on a daily basis?

Who has the connections to do an end-run around your added friction? It’s not usually the good people.

It’s always going to affect those who want a gun for self-defense more than it will affect the bad guys who want a gun for offense. Add friction, you get less self-defense.

You might “add friction” to a suicidal person’s attempt to get a gun with which to end his own life. This might save a few lives– the lives of those who don’t have some other method immediately available and who will soon change their mind about committing suicide– but how many innocent lives are you sacrificing in the process? Do you really believe it’s worth the cost to trade one person who wants to die for one person who wants to live— even if those wants are temporary whims?

He pretends he’s already considering net “gun deaths”, but he can’t be. There is no way to record how many lives are saved with guns, so how can you credibly consider them? Very few of those cases ever get reported– to government or the media. Most cases of self-defense don’t result in the gun being fired. And even in the small number which do, unless a shot is fired and you’re in a town where the gunshot will attract unwanted attention, who’s dumb enough to call the cops on themselves? Even if you are in town, I’d bet in most cases the sound of a gunshot isn’t currently pinpointed if no one reports being shot. No one can know even a reasonable estimate of how many lives are saved with a gun, so there is no possible way to calculate the net “gun deaths”.

He’s only looking at half of the picture and ignoring the inconvenient part– just as he does in all his “gun control” [sic] ideas. This is his definition of a “halfpinion” which he claims everyone else is exhibiting while he’s the only one who isn’t…while he does it right in front of the world. And it’s because he starts with the predetermined assumption that guns must be bad, that guns are a problem, even as he paces gun owners by claiming to be “pro-gun; pro-Second Amendment“.

If you start with a faulty premise you’ll come to dumb conclusions because you’re thinking of the topic incorrectly.

I’ve tried to get his attention, but he ignored my attempts. He probably blocked me if he saw my tweets since I wasn’t kind or gentle with my criticism, and yes, I did make it personal because he’s personally advocating this toxic mindset. I didn’t expect to change his mind, anyway, but I want to give you the mental tools to refute the claims of anti-gun bigots whenever they crop up. They are wrong, even if they are popular and believe they are smarter than you and me.

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War in All But Name as US State Department Offers Bribes to Pirates

If at first you don’t succeed, spread some money around. The Financial Times reports that the US State Department is offering cash bribes to captains of Iranian ships if they sail those ships into ports where the US government can seize them.

The offers are funded from a “Rewards for Justice” program authorizing payouts of up to $15 million for “counter-terrorism” purposes. It’s  not about counter-terrorism, though. It’s about doubling down on US President Donald Trump’s decision to violate the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, usually called the “Iran Nuclear Deal.”

The other parties to the deal —  especially France, the UK, and Germany — don’t want to let the deal go, but also don’t want to enrage Trump by violating the unilateral sanctions he’s imposed on Iran. The Iranians, on the other hand, have made it clear that unless those other countries find ways to deliver meaningful sanctions relief, they’re abandoning the deal too. They’ve started taking concrete steps in that direction.

On July 4 — Independence Day in the United States — members of the United Kingdom’s Royal Marines boarded an Iranian oil tanker, the Grace 1, off the coast of Gibraltar. They seized ship, crew, and cargo in an act of open piracy.

The pretext for the seizure was that selling oil to Syria violates European Union sanctions. But neither Iran nor Syria are EU member states, and the tanker was taken in international “transit passage” waters. That’s like giving a speeding ticket to a driver in Hungary for violating  Kazakhstan’s speed limits.

Spain’s foreign minister, Josep Borrell, plausibly asserted that the seizure was requested by the US government. The ship was released after Iran agreed that the oil would not go to Syria (its whereabouts and destination remain unknown as of this writing).

In the meantime, a US court had issued a seizure warrant — for an Iranian vessel, carrying Iranian oil, to a non-US destination, clearly outside any reasonable definition of US jurisdiction. And the Iranians had hijacked a British-flagged tanker in the Strait of Hormuz in reprisal for the taking of Grace 1.

So now the US State Department is reduced to simple bribery in its attempts to clean up after Trump’s 2016 campaign promise to get the US out of the “nuclear deal.”

Under the deal, the Iranians went beyond their obligations under the Non-Proliferation Treaty to “end” a nuclear weapons program which the US intelligence community didn’t even believe existed. All they got out of it was some relief from sanctions that should never have been imposed, and the return of some money stolen by the US government decades ago. All the US got out of it was an empty propaganda victory.

But electoral politics required Trump to throw even that tiny trophy away. He had to either promise foreign policy belligerence SOMEWHERE or risk establishment mockery as a peacenik. Enter the Israeli lobby and Sheldon Adelson’s millions. Iran drew the short straw.

So did we. This is war in all but name and only likely to escalate as Election 2020 draws nigh.

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The Downside of Guns

I am a fervent supporter of gun rights– of all human rights. This doesn’t mean I don’t know there’s a downside to guns. It’s just that I know the drawbacks are vastly outweighed by the benefits.

Recently Scott Adams was caught pretending he is the only person with an actual opinion about guns because he pretended no one else ever considers both the benefits and the downsides, and because no one else will say how many “gun deaths” they are willing to accept in order to preserve the right to have guns.

He’s wrong about guns… again.

He stated a willingness to accept 20,000 “gun deaths” per year to “keep” the right to own guns. He says this means he’s the only person with a real opinion because unless you’re willing to put a number on it you’re only experiencing half of an opinion. He’s being misleading. Intentionally?

Putting a number on it as he did pretends that guns only kill innocent people, and ignores all the innocent people saved by guns– most of whom never make the news. Many innocent lives are saved, and many more gross violations which wouldn’t necessarily result in death are also prevented. His is a sneaky, dishonest tactic that I’ve seen used many times in the past; he’s not the first. Unless you can say with certainty how many lives (and bodies) are saved by guns, saying how many deaths you’ll accept is lying, because your numbers are meaningless. It’s less than half of the picture.

But back to the bigger topic. There have been many times I have talked about the costs and benefits of guns, and other people have been doing so since before I was born and it continues to this day. That someone like Scott has managed to avoid this information for 60+ years doesn’t mean it’s not out there. I can’t relate to the arrogance required to imagine no one else has thought of this before.

Everything has costs and benefits. Nothing is immune to this natural law.

But, for the record, here’s another list (and analysis) of the downsides to guns.

  • Bad guys use guns to intimidate and murder. Bad guys include muggers, cops, rapists, IRS agents, inner-city gangs, the military, bank robbers, kidnappers, evil loser mass-shooters, and other archators.

This drawback is negated by the fact that good guys can use (and often require) guns for a real chance at stopping the bad guys without being hurt in the process. To save lives. Wouldn’t you rather have even the hope of a chance to fight back and win than no option better than cowering and waiting to die?

  • Suicidal people use guns to kill themselves.

This is negated by the fact that suicidal people can– and do— use other methods to kill themselves. Look at Japan if you doubt this. If someone wants to kill themselves there’s probably nothing you can really do to stop them. Yes, they might be slowed down if there’s not a gun available– and some of those might then change their minds about killing themselves. But how many? And will that number exceed the number of lives saved with a gun?

Plus, suicide is a human right, even if you don’t like it being exercised.

  • Guns scare people.

This is negated by the fact that someone, somewhere is scared of any object you can think of. I knew a kid who screamed in terror every time she saw a balloon, and working in pet stores I was astounded at how many people are deathly afraid of birds.

Plus, the fact that guns scare people is part of their utility. That way you don’t usually have to shoot the bad guys; just let them be scared by the sight of a gun so they’ll run away or surrender.

  • People have accidents with guns– which results in tragic injury and death.

People have accidents. No further words are necessary. Education and familiarity are the best way to reduce the rate of accidents with guns and other tools– as has been happening for decades now, even as the number of guns goes up. Education and familiarity are even more important where kids are concerned. It’s a bad idea to regulate or ban something just because a certain number of people will always manage to have accidents. Everything would be banned if that were a legitimate criterion.

There may be others I’m not thinking of right now, but if so I’d be willing to bet I’ve considered them in the past, and probably even discussed them. Maybe even on this blog.

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Triggered into Archation

People get triggered easily when an issue affects a loved one. Drugs, health, sex, crime, etc., etc.

Principles get tossed.

Reason goes out the window.

That’s when, suddenly, “there oughta be a law” sneaks out of the closet where it had been buried years ago and gets treated as a reasonable response to the situation. As if archation is ever OK.

I’ve tried to avoid that trap in my own thinking, but I know it’s not easy, and I understand why some people can’t avoid it.

When I see it happening to someone else in a conversation I try my best to just walk away without a final shot. It would be pointless. No argument will cut through. Once triggered, most people are unreachable.

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Rights as a Human Construct

Are rights a human construct? Yes, obviously. As are ethics and empathy and many other things humans value to some degree. You might see those constructs expressed in similar ways in some other animals, especially among the Great Apes, but they only truly reach their human form in humans.

Rights are a human construct in that they only matter between humans, or between humans and something humans want to treat in a human-like way.

Rights don’t exist apart from sentient beings. They only exist within the brain, while still having consequences, with regard to interactions between those bearing the brains, in the physical world. The Universe doesn’t have rights or respect rights otherwise.

A rock will never respect anything’s “rights”, nor will a mosquito. The rock has no consciousness or will (free or otherwise) and a mosquito just does what it must to survive long enough to reproduce– it doesn’t concern itself with anyone else.

Being a construct doesn’t mean rights are imaginary. They are real– at least when you are speaking of human interactions. Life doesn’t turn out well if you don’t respect the rights of others at least a little bit. If you didn’t, you’d be worse than the worst psychopath, and you wouldn’t survive long. You’d be everyone’s enemy and everyone would be doing all they could to end you.

So, rights are a useful construct. And as long as I’m dealing with other humans (or creatures I want to treat humanely) I will respect rights and will expect mine to be respected by other humans as well.

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