A Guided Tour of My Literary Output
2014 was the year I feel I finally found my voice as a writer.
Early in the year, for various reasons, I switched to writing under pen names, one of which was “Edutheria.” My biggest Edutheria project a story-based educational series on liberty and economics I started in February called “The Action Odyssey.”
Teaching in general has long been a passion of mine, and education has always dominant throughout my career, from minoring in education at UC Berkeley, to teaching at a renowned children’s science museum, to tutoring school kids at a learning center, to running my own successful after-school enrichment learning business, to teaching algebra at a private middle school, to developing, launching, and directing the Mises Academy.
And teaching Austrian economics through story has been a particular interest of mine ever since 2009, when I created, under the pseudonym “Lilburne,” a web comic series called “Human Action Comics”: one of my first projects as a budding proponent of Austrian economics and liberty.
“The Action Odyssey,” although a text-only story and not a comic, was “Human Action Comics” brought to the next level. Like HAC, TAO started with Crusoe economics and worked its way up. But my understanding of praxeology was much stronger when I wrote TAO, so it is much more rigorous.
Also, TAO integrated my passion for mythology, which played a heavy role in my past enrichment learning program. Instead of Robinson Crusoe, my first protagonist was the mythical hero Odysseus, who also had his own problems with island shipwrecks. In the first two chapters, “The Action Odyssey Begins” and “A Lonely Odyssey,” the narrative device I used to convey the basics of isolated human action and production was to have Odysseus suffer a head injury during his shipwreck, so that the goddess Athena, as a pedagogical deus ex machina, would have to re-teach him how to think clearly about action so that he can more successfully engage in human action.
Then in the third chapter, “From Raiders to Traders,” I introduced Odysseus’s adversary from The Odyssey, Polyphemus the Cyclops, who filled the role that the character “Friday” usually performs in Crusoe economics teaching examples. The violent, and then peaceful, interactions between the two characters served as teachable moments for Athena to explain the basic concepts of predation and exchange.
In the fourth chapter, “Up From Barbarism,” Athena uses the crisis concerning Polyphemus to teaches Odysseus about comparative advantage, the division of labor, civilization, and barbarism.
My other pen name early in the year was “The Radical Propertarian,” or “RadProp” for short, under which I wrote essays on the beautiful Medium.com blogging platform (which I still use as sort of a mirror blog for DanSanchez.me). As RadProp, I started dabbling in foreign policy writing for the first time. In “Land of the Free, Home of the Belligerent,” I explained Hans Hermann Hoppe’s theory of the “Paradox of Imperialism,” and applied it to the US-Russia crisis over Ukraine. Robert Wenzel reprinted the essay in his high-traffic blog, Economic Policy Journal.
Another RadProp column I wrote was “Libertarian as Balance,” rejecting the notion that libertarianism is either “left” or “right”.
A big change happened in April, when I saw Captain America: Winter Soldier. I walked out of the theater brimming with the insights I felt the film conveyed about the state. I thought that a thoroughly Rothbardian analysis of a brand new movie would be perfect for LewRockwell.com. But I decided that, if I was going to try to get it published there, I would want it to be under my own name, and not a pseudonym. So I dropped the pen name, and sent it to Lew, who liked it, and ran it. It was very gratifying, because I hadn’t had an article on LRC since 2012. It was also reprinted on the Mises blog. This essay was also the first of many in which I tried to offer a penetrating analysis of the state as an institution.
Once I dropped my pen name, I gradually started republishing old RadProp and Edutheria articles under my own name. Of these was “Property vs. Intellectual Monopoly,” in which, as concisely and precisely as possible, I set forth why intellectual “property” doesn’t make any sense. My favorite parts of this essay are (1) my recasting of what “monopoly” is, and how it is antithetical to property, (2) the novel argument I use against the pro-IP “innovation” talking point and (3) the “breach-filling” part that not only shows the folly of IP, but provides a vivid analogy for understanding the market economy itself.
Then in May I waded into the “thick/thin” debate that was then taking place in libertarian circles, in an essay in which I critique my friend Charles Johnson, as well as Sheldon Richman. Lew ran this piece as well, and Tom Woods cited it on his podcast.
Later that month, I returned to economics writing (which, in prior years had been my focus) by adapting, per Mises Daily editor Ryan McMaken’s request, an unscripted lecture I gave at the Mises Insitute into an essay called “How Inflation Drinks Your Milkshake.” This essay ran as a Mises Daily as “How Inflation Picks Your Pocket,” and was also reprinted by LewRockwell.com, Mises Canada and Laissez Faire Books.
Then I commented on the Bundy Ranch news story then current, applying Hoppe’s privatization theory in “How to Desocialize Bundy Ranch.”
Later in May, I returned to state analysis, once again using a Hollywood film (The Matrix) as a vehicle, in “Rothbard’s Red Pill.” The seed of that essay was a Facebook status update I had posted earlier in the year in observance of Rothbard’s birthday.
“I remember when the scales fell from my eyes and I saw the state for what it truly is and always has been. I was sitting in my car, listening to a Murray Rothbard audiobook from Mises.org. My life and career were forever changed.
He would have been 88 today. Thank you Professor Rothbard.”
Then in May, I reprinted an old Edutheria called “Spencerian Parenting,” which is my personal “peaceful parenting” manifesto, in which I apply the libertarian insights of Herbert Spencer to the subject. When I was Mises Daily editor, I ran the Spencer article that I cite here as a Mises Daily, along with the favorable note that Murray Rothbard had written about. My friend Ana Martin (who I interviewed at the Mises Institute) shared my essay on her hugely popular Facebook page The Libertarian Homeschooler, and it has had legs ever since. It has accumulated 3,700 views on Medium.com alone.
May was a big month for me, because after publishing the five May articles above, four of which were very successful in terms of venues, views, and feedback, I adapted an old RadProp Facebook status update into another highly successful essay. In it, I take Hoppe’s “Paradox of Imperialism” and Robert Higgs’s “Crisis and Leviathan” doctrine, and fuse them to set forth a “Cycle of the State.” The article was particularly well-received by Austro-libertarian scholars, from senior academics (Higgs himself), past Mises summer fellows (including Jakub Wisniewski, Xavier Mera, Jim Chappelow, and Jonathan Newman), and Mises University students (several of whom knew of me largely because of it).
Then I wrote a series of four articles exploring issues in property theory. I wrote these mostly for myself, as an exercise in figuring out what I think about these tricky issues.
Then in June, I reprinted a formerly-pseudonymous big project which, if I were to ever write a deductive treatise on praxeology and economics, would essentially be the first chapter of it.
A few days later, a brilliant point made in an interview by my number one hero Will Grigg set my mind afire, thinking about the culture wars that were waging at the time, and how Misesian analysis sheds light on them. The result was the closest thing to a “tour de force” that I’ve written, “Warfare Sociology and Identity Politics,” which was published on LewRockwell.com.
I had ended my “Cycle of the State” essay stating that exactly how to break the cycle of the state, “is a matter for another essay, but spoiler alert, it does not involve warfare or any other kind of aggression.” It actually ended up being a matter for two more essays. I published the first one, which sets up the basic framework for the answer, in June, calling it “Peacefully Staring Down the State.” It was reprinted at LRC and Mises Canada.
At this point, in June, I had been avidly listening to antiwar champion Scott Horton’s internet radio show as a podcast ever since he appeared on the Tom Woods Show in March. Scott is such an amazing host and explainer, with such a strong command of the relevant history, that even though foreign policy had never been a focus of mine (drawn, as I had been, to libertarianism mostly from the economics angle), that within less than 3 months of listening to his show, I was so passionate about the subject (especially about the rise of ISIS that was then occurring), that I wanted to start writing about it more regularly. One of Scott’s brilliant rants about Dick Cheney and Iraq inspired me to write an article fleshing out his point. The result was an article titled “The Unraveling of Iraq is Playing Out Just as Dick Cheney Predicted.” To my great surprise and pleasure, it was featured on Antiwar.com, as well as LewRockwell.com, and Laissez Faire Books.
For my next foreign policy article, instead of focusing on warmongering personalities, I delved into the historical details of the Iraq War (focusing on Fallujah as a case study) and used the Austro-libertarian perspective to explain why so much of Iraq was then falling to ISIS. This too was featured on Antiwar.com, as well as LRC.
Intellectually wading in the horrors of war was incredibly wearying, especially since it was so new to me. So, next I took a break from foreign policy and analyzing the systemic evil of the state to write about economics once again, in a short article about Obama’s housing policy. I was very surprised to see this piece published on the mega-site Infowars. “That’s a lot of eyeballs!” I said on Facebook. “Lot’s of wild-eyed eyeballs,” one of my cleverly snarky friends replied. It’s also on LRC.
Then in early July, I was amazed to see Tyler Cowen, generally considered a libertarian, argue in his New York Times blog that major wars indirectly provide a big boost for the economy. I had to respond. Here’s the piece on LRC. Scott Horton himself liked my response so much, that he invited me onto his show to talk about, which, obviously, was a huge honor. However, I wasn’t super happy about my performance this first time around, so I was glad that it was only his special LibertyChat web broadcast, and not his regular show.
Then Russell Brand made this great video attacking a Fox News dolt, so I wrote an article about that, unfavorably comparing Fox News correspondents with jihad-preachers like Anwar al-Awlaki. Daniel McAdams liked it so much, he reprinted it on the Ron Paul Institute web site; another first for me, and of course, a huge honor. It’s also at LRC. The libertarian political philosopher Gary Chartier also messaged me to tell me he liked it. Even my niece Natalie shared it, which pleased me most of all!
Then on July 9, I was bowled over when Eric Garris, cofounder, along with Justin Raimondo, of Antiwar.com, asked me to become an Antiwar.com blogger. This was so wonderful and amazing to me, because I had started intensely learning about foreign policy from Scott’s show less than 4 months ago, and I had written my first foreign policy article under my own name less than 4 weeks ago, and here I was, already an Antiwar.com blogger.
The only thing more astonishing to me than that was when I had gone from having my first-ever economics blog post published as a Mises Daily in March of 2009, to less than a year later being hired part-time to remotely develop and launch the Mises Academy, to less than two years after that having the supreme honor of having my own office at the Mises Institute, and having my heroes as my bosses and colleagues.
It is rapid developments like that which assure me that I’ve truly found my calling. And for that I am unspeakably grateful.
Later in July, during the week-long Mises University conference, which is now invariably the biggest, most exciting event of my year, the great Tom Woods approached me during dinner. I recounted what he said on Facebook.
“Tom Woods made my evening tonight when, after this meeting of liberty giants [pictured above], he told me that Judge Napolitano told Lew Rockwell that I have been writing some great stuff for LewRockwell.com, and asked whether I was at Mises U this week. When informed that I indeed was, he said that I should come find him to chat before the conference is over. Wow!”
The next day, I found Judge Andrew Napolitano (who now regularly teaches at Mises U) in his office, and he told me personally that every day he has an assistant print him every LewRockwell.com article for him to peruse, and that he makes it a point to read every single one of mine.
As wonderful as that and so many other happenings at Mises U were, the outside world was casting a troubling shadow. As I wrote at the time:
“It’s so strange to have Mises U, the greatest, most hope-inspiring week of my year, coincide with one of the worst weeks in memory in terms of facing recent news (Gaza, US/Russia relations, the NYPD murder of Eric Garner, etc). I almost forget it all when I’m meeting bright young libertarians and deep in fascinating discussion with students and faculty. And then I look at my phone and it all comes rushing back. Kind of an emotional roller coaster ride.”
So, in the after-hours of the days after Mises U ended, I coped the best way I knew how: through more writing. Here is the best piece I wrote for Antiwar.com (also on LRC and DanSanchez.me) on Israel/Gaza.
Also see these five shorter posts written for Antiwar.com on Gaza and Ukraine:
And here are a pair of long pieces I wrote, motivated by the events in Ferguson: “Give Up Your Police State or Live Under It” (Antiwar.com and LRC) and “We Need Cops Like Mike Brown Needed a Hole in the Head” (Antiwar.com).
The great Robert Higgs Facebook shared my Gaza piece (commenting “Well said, Danny. The greatest barbarians in this event are perfectly obvious.”) as well as my “Hole in the Head” piece, commenting (“Outstanding article.”).
While I was living in Taiwan in 2011, my main writing focus was articles explaining the doctrines of Ludwig von Mises. In part to promote the Mises Curriculum program I had just developed and launched for the Academy, I returned to that project in August of 2014, explaining Mises’s doctrine concerning ideological change.
That put me on a Mises kick, which continued with a piece on Mises and J.R.R. Tolkien (Antiwar.com and LRC) in World War I, which I wrote to commemorate the centennial of that worst of all disasters. This resulted in another Scott Horton interview, in which I did much better than the first. Both Will Grigg and Robert Higgs particularly liked this one, which warmed my heart to no end.
My third article (also on LRC) using a film (the Lord of the Rings trilogy, this time) as a vehicle for analyzing the state was a joy to write. The ideas had been kicking around in my head for so long, that when I finally sat down to hammer it out, it practically wrote itself. Plus, it may be my most artfully constructed essays. It garnered a couple of really nice compliments from readers in its comment section:
“Not sure it can be laid out much more clearly or concisely. Well done.”
“You are quickly becoming one of my favorite writers, and this column is an example of why.”
In my next essay, I offered a refinement to the definition of the state, which I think is quite useful, and also further discussed the issue of the fall of the state. My friend Pete Earle, himself an outstanding essayist, characterized it as “brilliance,” and it was favorably reviewed by Thinking Machine Blog. One commenter, Larry Ruane very kindly wrote:
“I can't begin to tell you how thrilling this essay is to me. I have been studying and promoting (although not nearly enough) liberty for 40 years, and thought I had "seen it all" in terms of great arguments for liberty. It is a joy to see something like this, new and fresh. I love this idea of what defines the state (legitimacy, rather than territorial monopoly). This is exactly the right way to understand Somalia, for example."
In my next two essays, I go further into the past than previously for lessons about foreign policy issues of today. This first one (also at Antiwar.com) goes back to the 18th century, and resulted in a third interview with Scott Horton.
And this next one (also at Antiwar.com) goes all the way back to ancient times. This was fun to write, because I got to extensively reference my favorite historical writer, Will Durant. Robert Barsocchini reviewed it very favorably at Washington’s Blog and LRC.
I went back to explaining basic economic concepts, adapting another unscripted lecture of mine into an essay discussing a great economics comic by the antitax political prisoner Irwin Schiff. His sons Peter (the famous Peter Schiff who predicted the housing collapse) and Andrew both contacted me to thank me for writing about their father’s book. This one was also reprinted by Mises.org, LRC, and the major financial blog Zero Hedge, which indicates that it has accumulated 28,229 reads.
A return to parenting and education with another Edutheria republish…
A bit of state analysis, this time using Spider-Man…
A return to property theory…
A return to “The Action Odyssey”…
A couple bitcoin-related essays that had been sitting in my Google Docs…
Another Edutheria republish…
More on property theory and IP…
A republished old Mises Academy blog post...
For weeks, I had been longing to retrieve a comic book from California, because it makes such a great foreign policy point, and I thought it would make for a great article. Finally I found it when I went home for Thanksgiving, and shortly after, hammered this out for Antiwar.com (and DanSanchez.me).
I was whining about this angle not getting coverage on Antiwar.com and other libertarian sites, until I realized how stupid I was for forgetting that I could just write an Antiwar.com post about it myself (DanSanchez.me). This was featured in the Antiwar.com weekly email.
My broken windows article was originally shaping up to be over-long and unfocused. So, instead I spun-off a whole bunch of it into this separate article, and I’m glad I did.
I’m considering collecting some of these articles into self-published books. I definitely already have enough for a book on the state. And I may have enough for one on foreign policy and one on the police state. Any ideas for titles would be much appreciated. I also might want to collect a bunch of 2011 Mises Dailies, plus some more recent pieces, into a book called Understanding Mises.
Thanks so much to all my readers, friends, colleagues, and teachers for all their support and wisdom in 2014.
As for world developments this past year, as sad and horrifying as many of them were, there are reasons to be optimistic about public reaction to them. As I recently posted:
“2014 was significant, more than anything else, for being the year that citizen photojournalism, the alternative internet, and social media bypassed the servile media gatekeepers and finally began to reveal both US cops and the IDF to the world for the brutal, lying, murderous bullies they are.”
Here’s to finding hope and even fun in continuing, and hopefully ramping up, the hard-fought intellectual battle of words and ideas for liberty and against war, cops, the Fed, and the state-entire in 2015.
[If you would like to contribute to my efforts, visit www.dansanchez.me/donate/ Thank you very much for reading my work and for your support. Happy New Year.]
Also published at Medium.com: