My *Stubborn Attachments* podcast with FT Alphaville

Stubborn Attachments is the advance peek bonus book I offered to those who pre-ordered The Complacent Class.  I once described Stubborn Attachments as follows:

In that work, I outline a true and objectively valid case for a free and prosperous society, and consider the importance of economic growth for political philosophy, how and why the political spectrum should be reconfigured, how we should think about existential risk, what is right and wrong in Parfit and Nozick and Singer and effective altruism, how to get around the Arrow Impossibility Theorem, to what extent individual rights can be absolute, how much to discount the future, when redistribution is justified, whether we must be agnostic about the distant future, and most of all why we need to “think big.”

Here is the FT Alphaville blog post, with a link to the podcast, and here is the iTunes version of the podcast, it is unlike any other podcast I have done.  About the book, Cardiff Garcia writes:

Unlike the last few sequences of Tyler’s longer published works — the books on culture and economics, the self-help via economics wisdom books, and the Stagnationist trilogy — Stubborn Attachments is foundational Tyler. It represents the Tyler from which the distinctive contrarian and provocative and educational and speed-reading and culture-savvy and eccentric Tylers all emerge.

It is also the most comprehensive expression of Tyler’s particular brand of libertarianism that I have read.

There is also a “desert island” section of the podcast, where Cardiff asks me which bodies of film, for instance which directors, I would most want to have on a desert island.  He also asks me to construct my NBA “Dream Team,” which indeed I do for him.


The big difference between Cowen and his aversion to reality and the boy wonders and their aversion to reality is that nobody is throwing billions at Cowen. Life is unfair.

Say what?

Shorter TC: "Stubborn Attachments" is TC in the world of hypothesis (looking forward, not based on facts), while the published TC, "Great Stagnation", "Average is Over", "Complacent Class" is TC is the world of scientific theory (looking backwards, based on facts). We all know that reality is scientific theory but all the fun stuff, inspirational stuff, including religion, is based on the world of hypothesis, metaphysics, myth.

Bonus trivia: is the art and science of invention ingrained or teachable? Society to date assumes that it is ingrained (you either have it or you don't, it can't be taught) but I posit it's teachable, and a better patent system would increase Total Factor Productivity.

Mark Twain: [The first thing you want in a new country] “was to start a patent office…A country without a patent office and good patent laws was just a crab, and couldn’t travel any way but sideways or backways.” – from ‘A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court”.

Regarding facts and futures, I have the audio playing, as I read

On critical theorists and modern conservatism.

You can listen and read at the same time? Impressed by your multitasking. I think Trump is less a theorist than an opportunist who seizes on memes, archetypes and cliches to sucker his audience, like PT Barnum. Was impressed by his presidential run, I never thought he should have even won the primary. His legacy will be defined by North Korea: whether he can nuke them before they nuke US (us).

A thought or two for a later, more on-topic thread. Trump seems to be a guy who succeeded with System 1 thinking, even though it got him in trouble a fair amount of the time. He doesn't really do System 2, which is why he can be charmingly guileless when he says that he is surprised at the presidential workload.

Trump voters should just declare temporary insanity and begin again.

Tying this finally to *Stubborn Attachments*, they should look for new leaders with practical and achievable plans for prosperity.

oh thanks so much - I just couldn't find anyone anywhere willing to give an opinion on trump and now I've found it in a random contrib on the MR blog, of all places! NOW I know what to think about him!

The way to read any anonymous comment, or funny-named comment, is to turn it over in your mind, to see how it fits your experience and the external reality.

"successful societies are based on false beliefs".

Yes, Positivism was a dead end road but lots of people still are now aware of this outcome. False beliefs indeed, but they can also be described as "useful lies". There's some value when humans agree on something. Even if that something is not true, like love.

In the last 2 centuries philosophers have been like smartass 16 years olds pointing at hypocrisy, contradictions and false beliefs of people. But, we need some adult that replies "yes, but those lies are useful because X & Y reasons". We need some help to grow out of being sassy existentialist and postmodern adolescents. I don't think Tyler is up to this task, but he's a great science/philosophy communicator.

'In the last 2 centuries philosophers have been like smartass 16 years olds pointing at hypocrisy, contradictions and false beliefs of people.'

So Hume misses the date cut off, as he points out that there is absolutely no logical reason to assume that just because something repeatedly occurred in the past, that this is a reason to believe that causation in terms of the future is actually a valid assumption.

Meaning he pretty much undercut the entire edifice based on that unprovable faith, at least from a rigorously logical perspective.

Some think that the only philosophers since the Greeks who are worth reading are Hume and Kant. Some aren't too sure about Kant.

P.S I did like "the Stagnationist trilogy". I hope it films well and spawns lots of sequels and prequels.

But, Hume was no fatalist. He pointed at the "problem" and then suggested his 8 point list to asses causality relationships.

Do you have a list of the major societally useful lies that you could share? Among them, which lies have been compared to verified and as yet undisconfirmed theories and found to produce better societal outcomes? How are such lies judged to be lies? By attempts to falsify them? If so, what has happened when the scales have fallen from the eyes of the polity? In the case of societally useful lies that are deducible as falsehoods, how is it that they go unnoticed? Finally, are some societally useful lies more valuable than others? If so, how are such lies measured?

Fascinating stuff. Someone should launch "The Journal of Societally Useful Lies" in which even more economists could p-hack their way to tenure on the back of absurd claims; but they should get it done before the null hypothesis racket is pwned. On the other hand, you might try laying off the determinism-and-tonic for a bit and see if a clearer picture of love doesn't emerge.

I'll mind your cynicism and provide a down to earth example: child rearing. We follow our instincts, not the "truth"..........and that may be a great thing.

Useful lie: all human beings are created equal.

"We need some help to grow out of being sassy existentialist and postmodern adolescents."

Heh. True words. I think Internet could be causing this. Goes for many other disciplines in academia where people can collect status with stupid nonsense.

The trick is that in most social lies, being one of the people that understands the lies often provides major personal advantages, so those societal lies can't really last, and eventually we all end up in an inferior equilibrium: It's just a slower moving tragedy of the commons. We see this in the US right now: The base of the US mythos lasted quite a bit because just rejecting the lie altogether isn't helpful, but ultimately the slide down towards a less productive mythos is inevitable.

“successful societies are based on false beliefs”.

It reminds me of Napoleon saying “Society needs religion," even though he was borderline atheist. When you look at the US: 1932 to 1980, and China up to recent times, you see “very successful” societies which were based on questionable or downright untrue premises. Then you have the US: 1980 to today which I would describe as "kind of unsuccessful,” and based on false neoliberal beliefs.

'I outline a true and objectively valid case for a free and prosperous society'

Where the Nazis were just a road bump, undoubtedly.

I am down to the appliances picture in *Stubborn Attachments*. Based on what I have read so far, I agree with everything, but I would put emphasis on different syllables.

Tyler is a funny guy. We need more of this stuff up front, and not as discouraged reading.

Amused to see the AC Cobra pick. I checked prices on clones just 2 days ago.

I would say that I arrived at a Common Sense Morality by a different path. Rather than constructing it from elite philosophy, I just observed it as human nature. Every society past or present has wrestled with wealth and status versus charity and redistribution. They have all come up with something that, let's face it, does some good while preserving wealth and status as features of their societies. Such is life.

Claim: A superposition of all human societies would produce a Common Sense Morality as a template.

“successful societies are based on false beliefs”.

As an atheist it troubles me to think that a rigorous attachment to individual liberty might only be possible in a church-going Protestant society. Too often, as religiosity wanes, people migrate to the paternal embrace of the state.

I don't even get that excited about creationism in schools anymore. Because it seems like less of a threat than secular progressives who have turned universities into China circa 1966.

"I don’t even get that excited about creationism in schools anymore. Because it seems like less of a threat than secular progressives ...": on reflection I think you are almost certainly right. Is there anything to be done about it?

Stop whining is a good first step for you crybabies.

Does anyone do an audio link to the podcast for download without using I tunes?

Looking forward to it. I was able to find it by searching for FT Alphachat podcast (not ville).

".... the distinctive contrarian....."

When i see all the positive trump policy posts , this is what first comes to mind.

I wonder if TC could provide a list of texts that are similar to "Stubborn Attachments." By 'similar' I mean books in which authors reveal their "foundational" ideas.

I also wonder what, if anything, would allow more authors to write their "foundational books." I imagine that they'd be released later in their career. I think establishing the genre of "foundational books" more strongly would encourage people to write a "foundational book" rather than a memoir, noting that memoirs sometimes achieve a similar end. Perhaps there could be a publishing house that offers authors or thinkers a chance to write these books at a certain point in their career, though I'd want to insulate this move from offering celebrities another outlet to restate past glories or theses. I wonder if a useful format might begin with a sort of blogging that culminates in a book or long essay.

Anyway, if TC is looking for blog post ideas, here are two, or one and a half -- maybe they can be combined.

Ryan T - great suggestion. For the record, I am not sure TC reads these comments (I certainly hope he does not read all the comments on all his posts - that would be way too much of an expense of time for anyone!) . Stop reading if you don't care about an anonymous commenter's list of 'foundational books' - but if you do read on, I hope I will not have wasted your time. So .... Not that you asked me, but here are a few of the foundational (for their author) books which I have found to be fascinating, in their way (others may come up with much better lists, and I recognize most people will think why not just take a few days off from work and relax with friends at the seashore instead of reading foundational books - but this comment took less than 10 minutes to write, so don't feel bad, I have not gypped the seashore accounts) - Urs von Balthasar, Glory of the Lord, volume 3, in which he describes how the pre WWI works of Peguy (in particular, the poem named after Eve, the Eve from way back when) redeem the unredeemed epic of Proust (who in turn redeemed, in his friendly well-spoken way, quite a few not-quite accurate philosophers)... Ruskin, the Seven Lamps of Architecture (available fairly cheaply from the beloved Dover Publishers).. Maritain, Un Paysan de la Garonne... Tolstoy - the Diaries of My Wife (this one is superficially Christian but it focuses so much on secular love and secular joys and secular heartbreaks that it is almost libertarian at heart, from the just-past-Golden-era (in Russia, the golden era of poetry and art was the 1820s and 1830s) love between Sofia and the lad Leo to the 60-years-later pain of getting a letter about one's son being taken prisoner of war in the first months of the horrifying war which began the 100 years war we are still suffering from ... the last two or three hours, almost shriven, of Finnegans Wake (read out loud, mostly from Sandyhas, Sandyhas - not just a Sanskrit word, also a good name for an Irish beach in an Irishman's dream); Hemingway's Over the River and Salinger's Raise the Roofbeams; Jane Austen's last two novels are amazing; and for the atheists reading this comment, Medawar, Chandrasekhar, and Popper all had nice retrospective moments in their last published books. For internet commenters, there are great psychologically foundational passages in Muggeridge's Chronicles of Wasted Time reflecting on the vanity of writing too many words.

Of all the mentioned books, the Ruskin may be closest to my heart. Of all the artists, the architects and painters are the ones who are luckiest younger: and that is what we all hope for for those we care for: to have as many blessings as possible as young as possible, with future blessings following on. Picasso, of all people, understood how unimportant art is, compared to not being a self-centered stubborn fool. Well some of his "foundational" quotes seem to support that.

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