My epistemic enterprise in 2018 is called “The World Systems Project”. While it is similar to the STEMpunk Project in a number of ways there are also a number of important differences. It is going to begin with more focus and significantly more structure, becoming more open-ended as time goes on.
The core of the project will be economics. I am starting with the Austrian Economics Home Study Course to deepen my knowledge of a particular branch of free-market economics which takes its name from the fact that it began in Vienna in the late 19th century. This is supposed to take 52 weeks but at my current rate should take less than half that. There are also some extremely good courses at Mises Academy which apply Austrian economics to historical depressions, delineate the ways in which Austrianism differs from Objectivism, defend the gold standard, and other such electrifying subjects;
I will likely take some of them, but I have not decided yet how many.
Then I will turn my attention to Marxist economics. In the interest of full disclosure I will say at the outset that I am strongly opposed to Marxism and have been criticizing the philosophy for the better part of a decade. But I also firmly believe that intellectual honesty is among our scarcest resources, and I think it is extremely important to closely study ideas with which we do not agree. While I have been reading primary and secondary sources on Marxism since college, there is doubtless still a lot which I do not understand. With this in mind I will spend the bulk of my time taking David Harvey’s comprehensive walk-through of Marx’s “Capital”.
From what I gather Harvey is among the world’s foremost experts on Marxism, so I’ll be getting the real thing. There will be further excursions into the thickets of primary sources: I have an edited volume of the writings of Marx and Engel’s which I’ve only read about 30% of, and I’d like to get straight some of the ideological differences between these two giants and Trotsky, Stalin, Mao, Lukacs, Bakunin, and the other denizens of the far-leftist pantheon.
Once that’s behind me I’m going to spend a little bit of time brushing up on the dominant neo-Keynesian paradigm. I shan’t spend months on this because I have read four or five standard economics textbooks over the years and so have a reasonable grasp on how mainstream economics is done. The most important thing will be to discover the ways in which this mode of thinking disputes what I’ve already learned about Austrianism and Marxism.
I anticipate this taking most of 2018, at which point things become a good deal fuzzier. There are several short books I want to write: one about the private provision of roads and highways, one about free-market environmentalism, one critiquing the Scandinavian model of socialism, one about healthcare reform; I have been getting invites to attend and speak at finance conferences for years, maybe I’ll finally get around to doing that; I find myself becoming more interested in day-trading and angel investing, and armed with a substantive body of economic expertise mayhaps I could begin my journey to becoming Boulder’s Paul Graham.
It’s not likely that I will have much time left with all of the above, but there are lots of things which could follow under the “World Systems” banner besides economics. If I’m able I want to read some books on intellectual history and history more generally, explore David Friedman’s writings on legal systems and the private provision of law, and maybe brush up on political philosophy.
I do hope to hear from all of you with comments and suggestions. Here’s to a productive 2018!