The Enlightened Caveman

Caveman Radio – End The Fed – Wed March 10th 9-11pm EST

Another show in the can.  This one was especially fun because I had David Hillary joining me from New Zealand.  David is a banking and monetary policy expert.  He is the author of the blog, Lost Soul.  Very smart guy.

(Gotta love the Internet – making it possible to do a live call-in radio show with hosts on opposite ends of the planet.  Truly amazing.)

You can download the mp3 here.

I think the show went well.  We tried to use Ron Paul’s book as a hub for a broad discussion on banking and monetary policy.  David has been educating me over the last couple of weeks on the three major points of view relative to these topics.

  • Keynesians – people who believe we need a Central Bank and a strong Federal government to manage our economy
  • Rothbardians – people who believe we should abolish central banks and other prevailing aspects of banking (including the fractional reserve system) and return to a gold coin monetary standard
  • Free bankers – people who believe we do not need a central bank, but we do need a gold standard, and we need to maintain the Fractional Reserve system

Ron Paul is in the Rothbardian camp.  His book, therefore, focuses on all of the terrible things that are the result of the Fed, fiat currency (currency not tied to anything concrete), and the fractional reserve system.  David and I fall into the Free Banker camp.  (This is a position I’ve adopted as a result of my investigations and talks with David.)  So we took the main points of a few Paul’s chapters to discuss the flaws in the Rothbardian approach and to illuminate the value of Free Banking.

Lots of good stuff there.  We covered everything from how banks are supposed to work (it probably isn’t what you think) to what the gold standard is, how interest rates work, and the role of the Fed in our society.  In the end, we conclude as Ron Paul does – we should end the Fed.  However, our reasoning is completely different.  Ron Paul’s big hangup is mostly with the Fractional Reserve system, though he attributes most of the so-called problems from it to the Fed.  Of course, he also is very upset with our fiat currency, so he wants us to return to a gold standard.  That, in itself, is also a good idea.  But doing that without a Fractional Reserve system is frankly impossible.

In the end, David put forward a completely workable way to move from where we are today to a free banking model.  We can get there, folks.  We just need some folks in Washington who are in favor of real change (as opposed to the fake change that was sold to America in 2008).

So have a listen and form your own conclusions.

Caveman Radio – From the “Born To Run” Episode

Last night’s show was fun.  There were a few live listeners, so things are picking up!  Still no callers on the program (at least none who were calling about the topic), but that’s ok.  It’s a short show, so I’m fine with doing it all myself.  (Though it would be fun to have some back and forth to mix things up.  Hint.)

Anyway, here’s the stream of the show.  Hope you enjoy.

You can also download the MP3 here, if you’d rather pull it into your mobile world.

Please leave comments here if you have any thoughts or suggestions.  I went ahead and sprung for the premium membership, so I can do a 2-hr show if I want.  But that would require some audience participation, or I’d end up playing 5-10 songs during the course of the program.

And finally – here are a few links to some things mentioned during the show, and a couple of extras that you might find entertaining.

  1. Eric Orton, Christopher McDougall’s coach in Born To Run, has a social network at  Check it out for videos on proper running form, strength-building exercises, and circuit training.  He also has Training Programs for purchase – ranging from strength-building to training for half-marathon, marathon, and ultra-marathon distances.
  2. Dr. Daniel Lieberman is a Harvard professor of Biomechanics.  He is featured in Born To Run, and he has recently put up a website that communicates some of the latest research that has been published by his group.  It’s got tons of information on human evolution and how it relates to running.  It also covers running shoes and the difference in force associated with heel-striking versus midfoot striking. Go to to get the details.  Very interesting.
  3. If you want to read some interesting stuff from barefoot extremists, check out Barefoot Ken Bob’s site.  Yeah, that’s really his name, and he looks EXACTLY like you’d expect.  Interesting reading, but not my bag.
  4. Here’s Scott Jurek’s site.  He’s just flat-out amazing.
  5. And for those who have read the book and would like to see some pics of the Tarahumara and of some of the scenes from the book, check out Luis Escobar’s site.
  6. And here’s Caballo Blanco’s site.  It’s exactly what you’d expect.
  7. Lastly, if you’re really interested in the Ultramarathon deal, check out Tony Krupicka’s blog.  Not only is he a badass runner, he’s also a gifted writer – his recollections of races are terrific.

Jack White, the Rat Race, and the Rejection of Easy

Last night, I watched the recent documentary called, It Might Get Loud, which revolves around a meeting of three electric guitar virtuosos, each from a different generation.  The elder statesman is none other than Led Zeppelin’s Jimmy Page.  The mature, but still in his prime, slot is held by U2’s The Edge, and the younger generation is represented by one of my absolute favorite musicians, Jack White (The White Stripes, The Raconteurs, and Dead Weather).  It’s a terrific film from a lot of different perspectives, but the ethic espoused by Jack White really hit on something I’ve been dwelling on for quite some time.  Right at the beginning, he comes out with this…

Technology is a big destroyer of emotion and truth. Opportunity doesn’t do anything for creativity.  Yeah, it makes it easier, and you can get home sooner.  But it doesn’t make you a more creative person.

White expands on this idea again and again by talking about his need to struggle as a musician.  He purposefully strips things down to make it harder to create something emotionally meaningful.  He uses guitars that are cheap and won’t stay in tune.  He arranges the instruments on stage in a way that is inconvenient, so even the act of getting to the organ after playing the guitar is difficult.  The idea is that pushing through the hardship is what leads to creativity and emotional truth.  When it’s too easy, finding truth and beauty is too hard.  It seems paradoxical, but I think Jack White is on to something that can be generalized way beyond creating art.

The processes for obtaining the things we want and need are so streamlined these days that I wonder if we aren’t slowly optimizing all of the beauty and joy out of our lives.  Before I go any further, let me just say that my focus here is not on technology as an evil; this is not a Luddite’s lament.  What I want to talk about is what we’re using all of this technology for.  I think I know.

We want everything to be easy.  But why?  In theory, when something is easy, it takes less time to accomplish.  Okay, so we want more time.  I’m onboard with that.  But for what?  So we can work more? Come again?

It sounds crazy, but I’ve been noodling on this for a long time, and that’s the best I can come up with. It seems that those who are the best at optimizing every little thing in their lives also tend to be the people who work the most.  At least that’s the world I live in.  So the next question is why work so much?  I’m assuming that work for work’s sake isn’t the goal.  So what is?

This is where the caveman thing comes into play.  If we’re not paying attention, we simply fall into the norms of our social group.  We adopt the goals of those we interact with the most.  At my stage in life, my social surroundings are other thirty-somethings (some with kids, some not), all focused on achievement.  It’s trite to say they’re after the brass ring, but it’s not far off.  Bust your ass now so you can get the promotion, which requires you to bust your ass even more to get the next promotion. The distant hope is that the brass ring brings a level of happiness and contentment – and ease – that makes it all worthwhile.

And what of technology?  Well technology makes it possible to dispense with the mundane so you can focus on work.  Why go to the store twice a week when you can go to Costco once a month?  Why visit the local library when the Internet is a click away?  Why call when you can text?  You get the idea.

But what if all of this ease, which just gives us more time to pursue the goals most present in our social groups, is eroding the possibility of finding real satisfaction in life.  After all, it’s called the rat race because it is an endless, pointless pursuit – a constant footrace on a wheel that never stops turning.  With every perceived success, we take on another goal, which invariably takes up more of our time.  How do we get off?  For this, we go back to Jack White.

What happens when we try to reject easy?  What happens when we purposefully place the coffee maker in the laundry room?  I’ll admit, I’m not good at this.  There’s an old saying, “Leave it to the lazy man to find the easiest way.”  That’s me.  But it’s acute laziness, not chronic laziness that afflicts people like me.  I want this or that little task to be easy because I want to devote my efforts to “bigger” things that really matter to me.  But maybe that’s the problem.

What if this quest to optimize all of the little things is causing me to completely lose sight of the good economist’s favorite axiom – life is about tradeoffs?  More and more, I’m finding that what’s really happening is that we’ve collectively bought into this idea that we can have it all.  By optimizing here, I can have something else there.  In the end, when I would previously have had to choose between two wants, I now can have both.  Is this good for me?  Jack White would say no, and I’m really beginning to think he’s right.

This is an illusion, this notion that we can have it all.  By buying songs one at a time, I’m missing the songs on records that I’d love ten times more than the hits.  Tradeoffs never go away; we just lose the ability to spot what we’re giving up.

So is that it?  Reject easy?  Manufacture hardship?  There are consequences, though.  Putting aside the obvious changes in terms of “productivity” that come with rejecting easy, what about the social implications?  What about that nagging feeling that we’re not keeping up?  It’s genetic, ya know, so it will reveal itself one way or another.

Honestly, I don’t know how do this.  I just have a feeling that it is the right thing to do.  I’m going to start by picking one easy thing every day and doing it the hard way.  Who knows.  Maybe in a week I’ll realize that this is the dumbest idea I’ve had in a while.  But I want to try.  It just feels wrong to race to the table at every meal so I can be spoon-fed a huge helping of easy.  What am I giving up?  I need to find out.

I’ll keep you posted.

Caveman Radio – Born To Run – Wed, Feb 17th, 11pm EST
February 12, 2010, 10:35 pm
Filed under: Books, Endurance Sports, Enlightened Caveman Concept, Enlightened Living, Science

Here we go.  Round two.  It’s on the schedule.  If you haven’t read Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen, tune in to hear why you should.  If you have read this book, tune in and participate in the discussion.  I’ll provide a brief overview of what’s there – for the uninitiated – and then we’ll get into the good stuff – from how I personally have changed as a result of reading the book to the notion that our society is slowly disintegrating the best of our humanity.  The latter idea ties very well into the Enlightened Caveman concept, so I’m excited to get into that.  And I’m excited to have some people call in with their own stories and points of view on these topics.

Same deal as last time – go to my Blog Talk Radio page at showtime and click the “Click to Listen” link.  I hear that sometimes the page seems to have nothing on it.  If that happens, just keep refreshing.  The service is free, and I suspect they periodically make it suck to lure hosts like myself into paying for the premium service.  Such is the strategy in a world of freemium.  Anyway, when you get to my page, you’ll see a number to call in if you want to be part of the show.  Be sure to send an email to me at the email address you see in the masthead above.  In the subject line, put your phone number – the one you’re calling in on.  Then in the body, tell me what you want to talk about.  This is poor man’s phone screening, but I think it’s workable.

Okay – hope you can make it.  If not, stop by after to grab the podcast.

Notes from Intellectuals and Society

In case the radio thing isn’t your bag, here are my takeaways from Thomas Sowell’s latest (and perhaps most important) book – Intellectuals and Society.  Most is paraphrasing what I took to be important points from the book, but some of my own interpretations are mixed in, as well.

1.  Intellectuals are defined by Sowell as people who make their living off ideas.  So this would be someone like a historian or sociologist, not a brain surgeon or engineer.  This is key because the circumstances associated with being supported monetarily by the production of abstractions lead directly to many of the problems that are discussed in this book.

2.  Intellectuals generally have very little likelihood of achieving mass acclaim by succeeding at their chosen area of expertise.  For example, it is unlikely that a historian who is an expert on the Civil War will ever be famous for that expertise.  Yes, he or she may be well-known among Civil War buffs, but that’s about it.

3.  There are normally no external criteria for determining the success or failure of an intellectual’s ideas.  Whereas an engineer who builds a bridge has objective external evidence of success or failure – the bridge stands safely for an extended period of time – intellectuals need nothing more than the approval of other intellectuals to succeed.  For example, one intellectual is granted tenure by a group of other intellectuals.

4.  Intellectuals find themselves in an emotionally unsettling place after they “arrive” in intellectual circles.  Far from being the smartest person around – as most no doubt are as they are growing up – being a tenured PhD in a sea of other tenured PhDs leaves little room for distinction.  In other words, the status engine that was stoked all through life is suddenly sputtering and choking.  (This is my addition – connecting the book to the Enlightened Caveman concept.)

5.  To assuage this emotionally unsettled feeling, many intellectuals venture thoughts and opinions in areas for which they have no expertise.  For example, Naom Chomsky, the esteemed linguist, fancies himself a political affairs and history expert, so he holds forth ad nauseum about politics and foreign policy.  Truthfully, he has no more expertise in these topics than the typical above-average college-educated person.

6.  The reason an intellectual ventures beyond his or her expertise is due to perceived status.  (Again, my interpretation.)  That is, many, if not most, intellectuals think themselves cognitively superior to the masses – mainly because they have been treated as such for most of their lives.   They “get it,” while the rest of us do not.

7.  When intellectuals venture beyond their expertise, they almost always do so in an iconoclastic way.  In other words, they say the opposite of what most people believe.  (Yet again, I’m extending Sowell’s thesis based upon my own observations in the context of the Enlightened Caveman concept.)  This only makes sense because an intellectual holding forth about something everyone already believes would have little, if any chance, of getting mass attention.

8.  Mass attention, by the way, is always available to intellectuals who stray beyond their expertise to alert the masses of how wrong they are about this and that.  This is because of what Sowell calls The Intelligencia – “…individuals would include those teachers, journalists, social activists, political aides, judges’ clerks, and others who base their beliefs or actions on the ideas of intellectuals.”  The Intelligencia loves intellectuals because, by peddling their ideas, the halo of superiority of rubs off on them.  They, too, can think themselves cognitively more advanced than the average rural dolt, since they can both recognize “the truth” when they see it and they have the job of delivering that truth as far and wide as possible.  This, incidentally, stokes their status engines, which is why the distribution of nonsense is so pervasive.

9.  By being insulated from reality, intellectuals are free to see the world as they would like it to be (versus as it really is).  They, therefore, reject the constrained vision, which suggests that man is deeply flawed by nature, and that no institution or understanding is going to change that.  Instead, they prefer to see mankind as unconstrained – that is, humans are perfectible if only the broken institutions and culture surrounding them are fixed.  This unconstrained vision underlies the ideas that emerge when most intellectuals stray beyond their areas of expertise.  (Examples – capitalism is bad, poverty is responsible for crime, etc.)

10.  Sowell distinguishes between what he calls special knowledge and mundane knowledge.  Special knowledge is what intellectuals have – it is very narrow in scope, but deep and comprehensive in understanding.  Mundane knowledge, however, is very wide in scope and often is very simple.  Intellectuals naturally think of special knowledge (which they alone have) as far more important than mundane knowledge, which is distributed haphazardly among the masses.  In other words, knowing about the mating habits of the Kalahari in Africa is much more important than knowing how to frame a house.

11.  This disregard for the critical importance of mundane knowledge in the day to day affairs of most people leads intellectuals to conclude that their special knowledge (confined as it may be to a particular area of expertise) gives them the right, nay, obligation to direct the social and economic affairs of society.

12.  Intellectuals, therefore, frequently weigh in on matters for which they have very little knowledge, no stake, and no consequences for being wrong.  For example, rent control.  Intellectuals assert that rent should be affordable to poor people, so rent prices should be controlled.  However, they know nothing about the role of the price of rent in conveying the realities of real estate scarcity in a particular area.  They have no stake in the property they seek to control – that is, they lose nothing by not being able to charge enough for rent to cover the mortgage.  And there are no consequences if the objective – providing affordable rent to poor people – is not achieved.

13.  In fact, success for an intellectual pursuing a policy is the enactment of that policy, not the results of the policy.  Intellectuals do not go back to see if the policy and/or program they advocated actually led to what they wanted to happen.  And if the results of those policies turn out to be the opposite of what they asserted, they will either attack the person bringing the results as biased with an axe to grind, or they will suggest that the policy was not executed properly.  In no case will they admit that either the vision – affordable housing for all poor people – was flawed (i.e. not possible) or the means by which they chose to achieve it – rent control – was intractable.  Again, there are no consequences for being wrong when you’re an intellectual.

14.  Intellectuals, though they claim to be the purveyors of reason and intellect, rarely engage in logical, dispassionate discussions with people who disagree with their assertions.  This, in my opinion, is directly tied to their perceived status.  How dare we, the inferior masses, question them?  Instead, they resort to personal attacks as to the moral (or rather, immoral) driver behind the criticism.  If you’re against rent control, they accuse you of wanting poor people to freeze to death.  They rarely, if ever, actually discuss the pros and cons of whether rent control actually helps poor people.  (Here’s a hint – it doesn’t.)

15.  In summary, in conjunction with a willing Intelligencia, intellectuals are ruining our Republic at a breakneck pace.  No doubt, they occasionally help push us forward when the grip on the status quo has long since been unnecessary (i.e. legalizing gay marriage).  However, on the whole, the damage they do far outweighs the good.

16.  To counter this, we need only return to reliance on the principles of logic in our public discourse.  Obviously, we need intellectuals in society, but we need them to stick to what they know, and we need a society that knows when they venture too far afield.  For example, if a person offers an assertion, he or she must be willing to be met with a counter-assertion and must be willing to defend the first assertion on logical grounds, if possible.  When this does not happen – because the critic is attacked or there are no logical grounds – we must reject immediately the original assertion.  Next, we must cease conferring credibility on experts in one field when they hold forth in another for which they have no expertise at all.  And when the media is a party to this intellectual shell game, we need only change the channel or stop reading.

I think that’s a little more organized version of what I took away from Sowell’s book.  (More organized than the hour-long radio rant.)  As I said, it’s an important book, and nothing would please me more than the general recognition of the doom that is being brought upon our society by these alphabet soup children who know nothing of reality and who are clamoring to be important at any cost.

Enlightened Caveman Radio – Episode 1
February 4, 2010, 12:22 pm
Filed under: Books, Caveman Radio

Well, last night was the first installment.  The attendance was, shall we say, pretty much non-existent.  That’s ok.  11pm EST is a bit late, I know, and since it was my first attempt, it’s probably best that I was basically speaking into space.  Here’s the audio if you want to listen to what went down.  (It’s a big file, so don’t be surprised if it takes a while to get started playing.  Patience, Jedi.)

(Here’s a link to download the mp3.)

It’s somewhat structured at the beginning because I had a clear idea of what I wanted to say to establish the ground work.  But the last 45 minutes are literally off the top of my head, no notes or anything.  And it shows.  I don’t think it’s bad, per se, but I could definitely deliver that material better if I did it again.

Frankly, and I knew this going in, it’s hard to really appreciate how difficult it is to be good at talk radio until you try it.  As I’ve listened back, all I hear is stammering and speeds varying from painfully slow to rapid fire fast.  But I think in long spans of time, so I chalk this up as a learning experience.  I have a few things to work on for next time, but I think I like this.

Let me know what you think…and let me know if there are any specific books that you think would be good to cover in the future.  The next book I’ll be discussing goes off in a completely different direction – Born to Run: A Hidden Tribe, Superathletes, and the Greatest Race the World Has Never Seen, by Christopher McDougall.  Easily one of the best, most inspirational books I’ve read in a long time.  Think “Enlightened Caveman meets long distance running” because that’s the tie in.  Date and time to be announced.  I’m virtually guaranteed to at least double my audience, so that’s exciting!  Hope you can make it.

(P.S. – the bumper music in the audio above is a song called “Oyster” written and performed by me and my friend, Park Ellis.  You can hear the entire song over at his blog.)

Enlightened Caveman Radio – Maiden Voyage

Okay.  This site has languished for far too long. It’s time to get back to it.  But since I’m way short on time these days, I’ve decided to try my hand at something new.  Thanks to Al Gore and other inventors of the Internet, I can now host my own call-in radio show online.  So this Wednesday, Feb 3rd, I’ll be hosting the first one – the Maiden Voyage – at 11pm EST.  (That’s to accommodate as many time zones as possible, so forget about the Leno/Conan crap and come on.)

I’ve been noodling on exactly what to do with this concept.  I could just ramble for an hour on various topics, taking calls and having public discussions, but that seems a little narcissistic.  If possible, I’d like to add value for a listener/participant beyond just hearing my point of view on a variety of topics.  So, the plan is to cover a book in every show.  In some cases, they’ll be current books that have come out recently.  Other times, I’ll pull in some of what I consider to be classics.  In all cases, I’ll be connecting the book to the Enlightened Caveman concept where applicable.

The upcoming show will be about Thomas Sowell’s latest book – Intellectuals and Society.  I’ve read a lot of his work, and this one seems like a culmination of some of his best ideas.  In short, this book rocks, and I think it’s really important that as many people as possible absorb what it’s saying.  If you’ve read it, great.  Show up and we’ll discuss it.  If you haven’t, no worries.  I’ll give you enough of a flavor for the book that you can either decide you know enough, that you could care less, or that you have to pick it up right away.  Regardless, the discussion will center around the ideas in that book, and you’ll have the chance to call in and voice your thoughts on the matter.  (And don’t let the title spook you – this isn’t meant to be a high-brow, brainiac kind of discussion.  Quite the contrary, as you can see, if you check out the Amazon page.)

To be honest, I have no idea what to expect here.  I have no problem holding forth (i.e. bullshitting) at length on a wide range of topics, and I love a spirited discussion.  But it’s the logistics of managing calls coming in and all of that at the same time that has me a little nervous.  Nevertheless, I want to do this, so nerves be damned.

Here’s how it’ll work…

I have a show page on – (  When it’s showtime, just head to that page and click the “Click to Listen” link.  That’s it.  The audio will come on and you’re rolling.  There will be call-in number there, which you can use to get on the air with me.  (Of course, I’ll have to figure out how to screen callers, etc., so no promises I can get more than a few people on.)  There’s also a phone number you can call if you want to listen on your phone.  That’s pretty cool.  But wait!  There’s more.  If you miss the live show, you can download an MP3 of the show from my BTR page, or you can actually subscribe to the podcast of it in iTunes.  In a word – BADASS!

So come on Wednesday night.  Let’s tawk.