My Interview with Sam Adams Alliance

As my regular readers may recall, I received a Sam Adams Alliance award in 2009. In anticipation of this year’s contest, Nic Hall of the Alliance interviewed past winners, including me.

The entry deadline for this year’s contest is January 28; I strongly encourage my activist friends to enter.

Following are a few of my remarks from the audio file. I appreciate Nic’s fine job of paring down my lengthy remarks.

“What I’m trying to do is serve as the go-between, between the intellectual theory of free markets and the on-the-ground activism. So I don’t do a lot of electoral politics, for instance. Nor am I in academia. But I try to keep tabs on what’s going on in the academic discussions about free markets and related issues, and distill that down and popularize it, and educate other activists so that we can be effective in moving the free-market message forward.”

“Since I started writing online [in 1998] there’s been an explosion of activity… So, even though I was one of the first online writers in Colorado, in terms of free market politics, recently I’ve been surpassed by a lot of other younger, hipper activists who have been faster to take advantage of social media… So I’m playing catch-up again even though I was one of the early ones online.”

“I’ve been interested in free market politics and the philosophical foundations of the free market since high school. And my dad had a fairly big influence on me, in that he gave me a couple of books when I was in high school. The first was Free to Choose by Milton Friedman, and the second was Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. My dad and I work together now; we write a column together for a small newspaper in Western Colorado called Grand Junction Free Press.”

“I’ve certainly been strongly influenced by Ayn Rand’s philosophy of Objectivism. A funny thing happens with Ayn Rand: her ideas seem very exciting to youthful readers, but it’s easy to miss the subtlety of her ideas. So a lot of people read her and then sort of fall out of those ideas, because they’re not seeing the greater depth there. But I had the fortune of getting back into some of those ideas and exploring them in a more deep sort of way.”

“Anybody who reads [my book, Values of Harry Potter] will recognize that there are crossover themes between what I’m finding in Harry Potter and themes in Ayn Rand’s novels. Now, of course, I don’t want to make too much of those, however. But, when you’re looking at things like the importance of free will, the importance of heroes struggling after their values, then I think there are some real similarities. But then I of course go into the differences, too, and a big part of my motivation was to explore both the similarities and the differences.”

“You see activists burn out all the time, because they have unrealistic, short-term expectations, such as some grand political victory… And when that doesn’t happen they burn out and drop out. And that’s not really the way that activism works, usually, though there can be short-term political victories. But activism really is a very long-term, educational process. And, yes, we do some practical politics, but… we’re not going to shift the culture without educating the population. And this is an inherently slow process.”

“This is a big problem that I think a lot of potential activists have. They look out there and they see some expert, whether a great radio personality or a great writer, and they think, ‘Wow, that person is so great, that I could never do anything like that.’ But the fact is that that that person started somewhere. That person started out just doing college radio, or doing a podcast, or something like that. Everybody starts small and grows from there. So if you wait to become the expert before you start doing anything, you’ll never be the expert, because you’re not building the experience. So the way to learn how to write letters to the editor is to write a letter to the editor, then send it out to your friends for editing, improve it, and eventually you’ll be able to write it with a lot less trouble… People wait for other people to do the work for them, or to push them into it, and you can’t do that. It’s too late in the game now to have that luxury. You have to get out there and be self-motivated, and jump into the game, even if you don’t know quite how to swim yet. Because, damn it, you’re not going to learn how to swim until you get in the water.”

Listen to the entire interview!