Update on Yonas and *Stubborn Attachments*

I thank you all for your pre-orders of my forthcoming book from Stripe Press, Stubborn Attachments: A Vision for a Society of Free, Prosperous, and Responsible Individuals (did you notice how the title draws from Liberty Fund?), due out October 16.  It is my most philosophic book, most heartfelt book, and least current affairsy book, at least in the last twenty years.

As I explained in an earlier post, all of my receipts from the book are going to Yonas (not his real name), a tour guide in Ethiopia, near Lalibela, who wishes to start a travel business.  I met Yonas during my Ethiopia trip last May.

Yonas already has received one installment of the money, due to the great efficiency of Stripe Press and Stripe proper (it is, after all, a payments company).  He has bought a plot of land and a house on that land with the money from the pre-orders to date, a modest house by your standards I can assure you but nonetheless a big step up for him.  Of course I (and he) hope to sell more copies.  Now that he has an effective means of storing and saving wealth, the next step is for him to expand the scope of his travel guide operations, and you can help him in that endeavor, while you at the same time foment enlightenment more generally.

Here is the Amazon link.

So I hope — for several reasons — that you buy and also gift copies of the book.  You might have noticed in the post below that Chris Blattman is somewhat skeptical of cash transfers as a means of bettering the lot of the poor, at least relative to his earlier views.  But this experiment differs in at least one critical way: Yonas is not randomly selected, rather he is the one person whom I thought would make the best use of the money.


It's a very generous act from you to give this money to Yonas. However, have you considered capping how much you will give him and give the extra cash to other causes in Ethiopia?

Can Stripe set up something like this for your normal Johnny Paycheck, or is this a TC special arrangement?

Buying someone a house seems like it would feel pretty rewarding.

Imagine being Yonas and finding out that the weird American you helped out in Ethiopia was going to give you a ton of money.

Tyler, can you please share more about Yonas? I understand if you want to protect his privacy. It would be fascinating to learn more about what you believe makes somebody a great candidate for unconditional cash transfer. Tyler as venture capitalist would be interesting. It seems that you favor the approach of team first, market second and product last. What makes the travel guide market worth going after?

If he is a literal person as Tyler suggests, I am sure he is a man of character and social conservatism, with a streak of local risk taking. Is there a greater theme here? A second reading? Yonas is a common name in Ethiopia, but maybe he is referencing King Yohannes I, who drove the Roman Catholics from Ethiopia, preserving (along with Armenians) the pre-Roman Christian church. This leads to the most obvious connection, Yonas is the Arabic version of Jonah. Jonah is the archetypal hero that Jason and the Argonauts, Jesus of Nazareth and Gilgamesh all resemble. He is also the prophet Rene Girard wrote about most in his works on memetic theory.

Finally, I interned for an Ethiopian entrepreneur who had developed an app that provides greater control (much more than Airwatch, MobileIron or other MDMs) of mobile devices for employers. A very interesting man who had a great team of developers in Addis, but was facing an uphill battle in the U.S. because of the intellectual property laws that gave Apple and Google so much power over the environment in which his software operated. Still, I learned a lot about startups and Ethiopia, so it was hugely valuable for me. I still need to make it to Ethiopia some day. Only ever set foot in the airport. Ethiopian Air is quite a good airline.

Audiobook version in the works?

'did you notice how the title draws from Liberty Fund'

So many coincidences in life, aren't there? Liberty Fund, Econlib, IHS, Mercatus Center, MRU - why, the very thought that there just might be a thread running through all of them is almost implausible on its face.

Unless one is organizing a moonshot, of course, in which case ensuring the proper connections is critical to success.

I am Yonas!

And the coincidences just keep happening, as the world is now welcome to enjoy the benefits of their own moon shot, as long as flight controller Cowen decides it meets his standards.

And reading the GMU press release brings back memories. Mentioning a faculty member is generally not sufficient to use state resources publicizing a private venture, but the line '35 years of student fellowships awarded by the Mercatus Center to graduate students at George Mason and at other universities throughout the world' provides the necessary cover. That the GMU and Mercatus Center press releases are essentially identical is just another one of those coincidences that just seem to be so hard to not notice when one realizes what is actually going on.

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