Interview with Ken Schoolland (1/3): Philosophy of Liberty
In November of 2011 we visited with Ken Schoolland, an associate professor of Economics and Political Science at Hawaii Pacific University in Honolulu Hawaii. Professor Schoolland is an economist, academic, author, and political commentator. He is most known amongst libertarian circles around the globe as the author of the World famous book “The Adventures of Jonathan Gullible, a Free Market Odyssey” as well as the accompanying introduction to libertarian principles titled “Philosophy of Liberty.” Over the years, professor Schoolland has written about many subjects concerning economics, education, and public policy in general, and his work has appeared in many publications around the World. He is a member of the Libertarian party in Hawaii, on whose platform he ran for US Senate in 1988 and 1990. In 2008 he threw his support behind Ron Paul for president. Professor Schoolland is currently the acting president of the International Society for Individual Liberty. Finally, Ken and his wife Li Zhao Schoolland host monthly libertarian forums under the name “The Foolish Things Salon” bringing in guest speakers, holding political discussions, and providing opportunities for people networking.
Transcript of part 1:
Jadranko Brkic: Professor Schoolland thank you for having us.
Ken Schoolland: Thank you very much for being here, I'm delighted to see you again after so many years.
Jadranko Brkic: Let's start with the prelude to the Jonathan Gullible book, and that of course is the Philosophy of Liberty. Can you tell us something about it.
Ken Schoolland: Yes, originally when I wrote this book it was with the intention of reaching out with free market ideas to an unfriendly audience here in Hawaii. Actually it will be the business radio station here, and it gathered popularity because it was not dry economic commentary. And Sam Sloan with Small Business Hawaii decided to put it into a book and use it in his school. Well, very early on I had a friend that I met in St. Petersburg, Russia, right after the fall of Iron Curtain and opening up of the former Soviet Union at the time, and we got to be talking about this stuff, he liked the idea and so he wanted to publish a book in Russia. It was the first free market book published in Russia as far as I know. And he said: you know we have some difficulties understanding certain things in Russia, we're brand new to this stuff of markets, could you tell us what property is and what taxes are, you know. So I thought OK, I'll write up a little introduction to this story and explain those things. Then it occurred to me, well this is useful in all the editions, and it's something that I now put in epilogue to all the editions of the book. And one friend of mine Kerry Pearson up in Canada liked it so much that he decided to make this a Philosophy of Liberty animation out of it, which is now in 40 languages on our website www.jonathangullible.com (downloads of the book in Serbian and Croatian)
And so basically it starts with principle that you own your life. And a Philosophy of Liberty is based on a principle of self ownership. From that you can have also other rights. And likewise, officials don't have any rights that you don't have yourself. In other words you can't say, well, I don't have a right to steal from another person, but I have the right to ask of somebody else to do it for me? No, it's still the same, officials have no more rights than any individual, and they rule by a consent of the governed, and so if we ask them to do something, we can't ask them to do something that we don't have a right to do in the first place. So that's the basic idea behind this philosophy of self ownership, you own your life, your liberty, and a product of your life and liberty, so does everyone else. And you have to treat them in a voluntary mutual exchange or honorable way in that manner. But the use or initiation of force against other people is something that you don't have right to do. And if you don't have right to do it, then you don't have right to ask the government to do it for you.
Jadranko Brkic: And the Philosophy of Liberty is so great because it is so short and straight to the point. And I'm really pleased to report to you that we in our Campaign for Freedom and Prosperity in Bosnia and Herzegovina website, we use it as the attention getter really, to get people attracted to the message of liberty. It's like the first thing they see on our homepage is the Philosophy of Liberty, so when they watch that they say “wow look at this stuff, it is so interesting, but yet it is so simple, it's like common sense, how come I never heard this before,” and they are like: “oh, okay, I should dig some more,” and that's what they do.
Ken Schoolland: That's great, I'm really pleased to see that.
Jadranko Brkic: Have you got any other feedback
Ken Schoolland: Well, yes, it's been downloaded, from our website we have it available as a download in up to 30, well, 40 languages now. And people around the World have been using it, just recently it was made available in Arabic, and we had people using it a lot in Saudi Arabia, in Tunisia, in Marroco, throughout the Middle East, so we'd like to think that it is helping support the cause of liberty, and people thinking in fresh new way. And of course you could imagine how people with power, people in power don't like this message. And throughout history, people with authority always wanted to let the general population feel that they, the rulers have some superior claim on rights than anyone else.
Jadranko Brkic: And they want to keep things complicated so that people will kind of keep out of these important decisions that govern their daily lives, whereas it's really simple.
Ken Schoolland: And it's something that pervades the government's education system usually, telling people, well you have to obey the authority figures, be content, the idea of rights is just a privilege that's given to you from government. And this challenges that whole thing, basically says that your rights begin with you, and they are not given to you by authorities. Authorities, if they have any function at all is to protect rights. But most of the time they are not protecting rights, they are violating rights, so we have to make that clear distinction between initiation of force and protection against the initiation of force.
Jadranko Brkic: Right. And what's next for the Philosophy of Liberty? I hear there is audio version in the making.
Ken Schoolland: Yeah, brand new edition that came in from Japan, from Hiroshi Yoshida. He has produced a version that has an audio narration with the Philosophy of Liberty, so it's not just words on a screen with music in the background, now it has a beautiful narration as well.
Jadranko Brkic: Wonderful, well we would really like to give you a hand with that one, for translating it into Slavic languages.
Ken Schoolland: Terrific! Yea, I think it'll make it a much more appealing to a broader audience, and one day we'll even do it into a movie, or film. That will be nice way to reach out too, especially to younger audiences. By the way, this is the Philosophy of Liberty calendar, too. We're already in November here ...
Jadranko Brkic: Actually, let's go through it because it will be good for some cut-ins. Who did this?
Ken Schoolland: Hugo van Reijen. He lives in Bali. And he has a company in Nepal that makes this out of rice paper.
Jadranko Brkic: Oh ok, I see, it's a special paper. It's really nice. These are all the little scenes from the Philosophy of Liberty.
Ken Schoolland: That's right. And actually, the front of the calendar is the whole Philosophy of Liberty.
Jadranko Brkic: This is for making money?
Ken Schoolland: Well, not really, I think he just every year picks a theme and he sends it to his friends and that sort of thing.
Jadranko Brkic: This is beautiful. Thanks for sharing that with us.
Ken Schoolland: Ok, yeah.
(End of part 1)