That Time I Got to Interview S.E. Cupp

That Time I Got to Interview S.E. Cupp

Just a few months after meeting her for the first time, I got to interview S.E. Cupp at an AFF Happy Hour. This photo is from when I met her because reasons.

Here’s my write up, for and originally published at Doublethink magazine.

An Interview With S.E. Cupp

Interviewing a polished, professional television personality like S.E. Cupp is a pleasure. The verbal tics are absent. Cupp speaks like your favorite writer writes. Which makes sense, because a writer is what Cupp started out as, and writing is still her first love. But it only makes sense, considering her stunning looks, pleasant voice and verbal precision, that she’d be roped into a television detour.

I got to sit down with Cupp when she stopped by a Doublethink happy hour Wednesday night. She arrived, stunning in impeccable hair and makeup, literally right after wrapping up an episode of CNN’s new Crossfire, which she hosts along with Stephanie Cutter, Van Jones, and Newt Gingrich.

We grabbed a booth at Mackey’s Public House in downtown D.C. and got right into it as fans clamored for the chance to meet her.

How has your time at Crossfire been?

It’s really liberating to be able to talk about one topic in a night.

Is this something you’ve always dreamed of?

No! I don’t know how I’m here. I’ve always wanted to be a writer. And writing jobs are what I had through college and after college. When I wrote a book about politics, my publisher put me on TV to promote it. I was writing and going to TV to support it. And then it became a full-time job. And, it’s been a lot of fun. I’m still, very much a writer. I’ve got a weekly column at the New York Daily News and a monthly column at TownHall. I still write books. That’s still very important to me. But, doing TV is a different muscle.

You have to have fun, so the viewers have fun. And I like answering the questions I know the people at home have.

How do you break down an issue to be simple enough for television without being patronizing?

I’m not smart enough to be patronizing on television. I’m really not. And that’s not false modesty, I’m smart. But I think to be patronizing, you really have to think you know more than everyone else. I know I don’t. So, to me, the challenge is to be unpredictable. So, I know what I think. I have to constantly remind myself that not everyone knows what I think. And I have to ask interesting and provocative questions. And bring up points that I don’t think anyone’s brought up. Because I think in this business you do the best service when you present a panoply of ideas. One person’s ideas they just spout at you all day, I don’t think you really learn a lot about the world. You might learn a lot about that person’s ideas. But I try to incorporate a lot of different ideas, a lot of opinions, in addition to mine, so we can actually explore an issue in a meaningful way.

Do you worry about following other prominent television news anchors and saying something that will get you in trouble?

I think in this business you have to worry a little about crossing the line. I never want to offend people. That’s not an interesting exercise for me. I’m sure it is for other people. It’s not for me. And I never want to cross a line that damages my credibility.

That said, you can’t really go on with a governor. You can’t go on restricted. You have to go on like, “I’m having a conversation with my friends. And I’m gonna say what’s on my mind.” And hopefully you have an internal governor that sort of guides that for you. Because if you go on TV scared every minute of what you’re gonna say or offending someone, it isn’t interesting. And it doesn’t feel real or authentic.

So it’s a balance. It’s a balance of being deliberate, with what you say, knowing, okay, I’ve got a controversial topic tonight, I’m gonna be careful. Or saying, okay, this is really lighthearted, I’m not going to plan for this. I’m just gonna go out and say what’s on my mind.

It’s knowing where the line is, and knowing when you mean to cross it, and when you don’t.

Do you think it’s harder for conservatives?

You know, I’ve seen conservatives get in trouble [and] I’ve seen liberals get in trouble. I think it takes a longer time for audience outrage against liberals to really reach maximum effect than it does for conservatives.

But conservatives do pretty well. I know that there is a media bias. But at the same time I’m reluctant to dwell too much on it. Because if you look at the success of Fox News, of conservative talk radio, of conservative print media, we really own a big market share of broadcast and print media.

We do really well. So it’s hard to feel bad for ourselves too much. Even though there is a double standard. There is a media bias that exists. But we’ve luckily found a way around it. Instead of playing on their channels, we’ve created our own.

Do you think it’s harder for women?

I can’t speak to the male plight. But when I’m speaking to my male colleagues about some of the things that are directed my way they share with me that it’s not quite the same for them. Being a woman, you get both the hatred that O’Reilly gets and Sean Hannity gets, we also get, along those same lines, misogynistic hatred that they don’t get.

But also, and this is something that very few of us talk about, we get the stalker-y, “I’m in love with you” kind of thing, which – I’m sure some men get it, but that’s predominantly a phenomenon that women pundits and women on television have to go through. And nothing feels more violating, honestly, than the death threats and the uncomfortably intimate emails.

That’s something that you just compartmentalize, and you say, I’m going to do this job regardless. And whatever happens, happens. Otherwise, it would paralyze you. You wouldn’t do this, because it’s not fun to be the object of that kind of attention. But, you just put it aside and realize that other people are going through it too and hope for the best.

How do you balance offering libertarian views in the conservative sphere?

I think it’s a healthy tension. I think, rather than try to get all of us to agree on everything, it’s much more interesting when we don’t. I wish we would do it civilly. And not calling each other out or trying to kick people out of the movement. I really do believe there should be a big tent where we celebrate our intellectual diversity.

I’m glad libertarians are here. I’m glad conservatives are here. And I think at heart, most of us are internal libertarians. We have an immediate aversion to government control, Big Brother, nanny state stuff. We really are self-reliant and independent.

The conservative would suggest that a lot of the libertarian impulses and policies are just hard to implement. They’re not as practical. I think if we can work together as conservatives and libertarians we can turn those libertarian impulses into conservative policy that’s actually winnable, electable, sellable. And that’s when we all win. But when we stand on opposite sides of the aisle dividing conservatives and fight with each other, I think that makes for some interesting arguments, but doesn’t necessarily move us forward.

But are there drawbacks to associating libertarian ideas with a tainted social agenda?

Probably. I wouldn’t say tainted. As a social conservative, I think there’s a way to stand up for those ideas that’s, in fact, not entirely unlibertarian. But, I think if libertarians wanted to exist on their own island, sort of an isolationist libertarianism, unaffected by the part of conservatism they disagree with, hey, they’re free to do that. I don’t think that would be a long-term winning strategy for libertarians. Ron Paul didn’t become President. Ron Paul’s never going to become President. Rand Paul has a slightly better chance. But I don’t think that he’s going to be the next President.

So I think, again, this isn’t an either/or. I think we should be working together. I wrote a column a long time ago about Rand Paul needing Paul Ryan and Paul Ryan needing Rand Paul. Ryan could stand to be a little more libertarian. And I think Rand could stand to be a little bit more conservative. And if they worked together, I think our party could be unstoppable.

If it’s not in the interest of libertarians to win elections, then we’re just talking nonsense. No one cares about any of the conversations. I want conservative values to be implemented. And I don’t care if a libertarian gets us there or a Republican gets us there. I want us to get there. And I want us all to work together.

What are some of those conservative values you want implemented?

Number one is tax reform. You wouldn’t find a person in the country whose daily life is impacted by anything other than taxes more on a day-to-day basis. It’s everyone’s first concern. How much they’re making, who’s taking it, what it’s going to, what do I get to keep? And the tax system is so burdensome. No one understands it. It’s punitive on all the wrong people.

So I think if Republicans could come up with a winning message on tax reform, that’d be huge.

I’m gay rights and pro-life. It’s not really part of my agenda to make policies on either of those issues. My policies are mostly fiscal and then some national security stuff. But I think [the issue of] taxes is number one. It crosses all parties, all genders, all ethnic groups. I mean, it affects everyone.

New Report Details Bitcoin’s Potential Threat to the Federal Reserve

New Report Details Bitcoin’s Potential Threat to the Federal Reserve

The Congressional Research Service, aka “Congress’ Think Tank,” recently made public their report on Bitcoin, Bitcoin: Questions, Answers, and Analysis of Legal Issues. The fascinating report details in sparkling prose the history, uses, threats and regulatory implications of the world’s best-known cryptocurrency.

The report’s most interesting part deals with the impact Bitcoin might have on the Federal Reserve. According to these experts, widespread adoption of Bitcoin could severely curtail the effectiveness of the Fed’s monetary policy.

The report describes the Federal Reserve’s mission as aimed at achieving “stable prices, maximum employment, and financial market stability.” It’s impossible to know the counterfactual. But many are entirely unsatisfied with both the nation’s employment rate and the continuing financial crises which led to its most recent rise.

For some of these people, Bitcoin is a personal escape hatch from wealth-destroying inflation. As the report dryly notes, “Some may find the removal of government from a monetary system attractive…Unlike the dollar, a Bitcoin is not legal tender nor is it backed by any government or any other legal entity, nor is its supply determined by a central bank. The supply of Bitcoins does not depend on the monetary policy of a virtual central bank.”

However, as more people choose to escape inflationary monetary policy to cryptocurrency, the Fed becomes less and less able to easily artificially inflate the money supply.

At Bitcoin’s current scale of use, it is likely too small to significantly affect the Fed’s ability to conduct monetary policy. However, if the scale of use were to grow substantially larger, there could be reason for some concern.

The main threats posed to the Fed by widespread Bitcoin use are Bitcoin substantially affecting how much money is in circulation and/or substantially reducing demand for dollars.

Basically, if everyone is exchanging Bitcoins instead of dollars, dollars are just hanging out. The Fed would then need to tighten monetary policy to be able to have any impact on their value.

Also, a substantial decrease in the use of dollars would also tend to reduce the size of the Fed’s balance sheet and introduce another factor into its consideration of how to affect short-term interest rates (the instrument for implementing monetary policy). However, the Fed’s ability to conduct monetary policy rests on its ability to increase or decrease the reserves of the banking system through open market operations. So long as there is a sizable demand by banks for liquid dollar-denominated reserves, the Fed would likely continue to be able to influence interest rates and conduct monetary policy.

There are many impediments to wide-enough adoption of Bitcoin to threaten US monetary policy. The two biggest ones, according to the report, are the fact that it’s not yet widely adopted, and its potential for deflation.

But, if Bitcoin does get big enough to potentially threaten US monetary policy, or the Federal Reserve gets worried enough that it might, we may see a surge in regulation and selective law enforcement for Bitcoin businesses. New regulations and prosecutions will likely continue to be justified under the guise of preventing other crimes and protecting consumers.

Hopefully, however, instead of the federal government checking Bitcoin, the very real possibility that people will leave the dollar en masse for Bitcoin will be an effective check on the federal government. We’ll see.

The Feminism of Ludwig von Mises

The Feminism of Ludwig von Mises

While Ludwig von Mises is well-known as a revolutionary in economics, his efforts to revolutionize the makeup of economists is not as familiar to most of his fans. He sought to help the world understand that although they were discounted and pushed out of academia, if allowed, women could offer tremendous value to the study of scarcity.

His was the academic world of interwar Vienna, one of the most vibrant and revolutionary in the world. Out of this cultural mix came some of the most brilliant thinkers of the twentieth century and the intellectual movements that still shake our world. Freud, Mahler, Spann, Machlup, Wittgenstein, Neurath, Schumpeter, Morgenstern, Mises, Hayek, Weber, Weiser, Popper . . . their names and legacies make waves to this day.

The interdisciplinary mix of ideas and influence gave us marginalism in economics, mathematics in the social sciences, modernism in music, positivism in methodology, psychotherapy in the study of the mind, and preserved the general spirit of liberalism in an age that saw it dissipating nearly everywhere else. Liberalism was a central theme in every sphere: economics, arts, sciences, politics, and relations between the sexes. No area was left untouched, and advances in one area spilled over to other disciplines.

But one notable fact stands out about this otherwise patchwork quilt of high-level academic giants: Women were not welcomed in academia. Only in 1897 were women even admitted as students in philosophy at the University of Vienna. Medicine and law came later. But this was only as students. Advanced degrees were still taboo. To be a professor: impossible.

While women were flourishing in literature and in popular writing and music, the barriers remained high in official institutions. Then, as today, the market paved the way toward an inclusive society while the academy lagged behind the culture. This meant that women were effectively prevented from being credentialed and hence were blocked from ever being considered serious contributors to the world of ideas.

The great intellectual entrepreneur Ludwig von Mises was dedicated to changing this. He knew what it was like to experience exclusion. Despite tremendous academic achievements and access to the great minds of his day, Mises was never able to obtain a position at a university—and he was hardly alone in this plight. It took the completion of a full treatise on money in 1912 to get an unpaid position at the university. Meanwhile he had to pay the bills; he worked first at a law firm and then later at the chamber of commerce.

Even before women were allowed into the program in 1919, Mises taught a course on banking at the university in which most of the students were women from the department of philosophy. It was the excluded professor teaching the marginalized students. This experience must have had a big impact on him: He began writing his book Socialism at this time, in which he addressed (among other things) the way capitalism became history’s major force for liberating women from violence, as well the claim of socialists that collectivism was the only authentic path toward women’s liberation.

Instead of ceding to collectivists the essential conversation about how to overcome cultural and institutionalized sexism, Mises took the problem seriously and offered his own solutions. And Mises’s argument on gender equality sounds revolutionary even today.

Woman’s struggle to preserve her personality in marriage is part of that struggle for personal integrity which characterizes the rationalist society of the economic order based on private ownership of the means of production. . . . All mankind would suffer if woman should fail to develop her ego and be unable to unite with man as equal, freeborn companions and comrades.

His reconstruction of the history of sexual relations puts a fine point on what the principle of violence meant for the status of women in history. Here he sounds positively Friedanian (see Betty Friedan’s 1963 book The Feminine Mystique written a half century ago):

Unlimited rule of the male characterizes family relations where the principle of violence dominates. Male aggressiveness, which is implicit in the very nature of sexual relations, is here carried to the extreme. The man seizes possession of the woman and holds this sexual object in the same sense in which he has other goods of the outer world. Here woman becomes completely a thing. She is stolen and bought; she is given away, sold away, ordered away; in short, she is like a slave in the house. During life the man is her judge; when he dies she is buried in his grave along with his other possessions. With almost absolute unanimity the older legal sources of almost every nation show that this was once the lawful state of affairs.

Under the law of violence, writes Mises, the result is subjugation.

The principle of violence recognizes only the male. He alone possesses power, hence he alone has rights. Woman is merely a sexual object. No woman is without a lord, be it father or guardian, husband or employer. Even the prostitutes are not free; they belong to the owner of the brothel. The guests make their contracts, not with them, but with him. The vagabond woman is free game, whom everyone may use according to his pleasure. The right to choose a man herself does not belong to the woman. She is given to the husband and taken by him. That she loves him is her duty, perhaps also her virtue; the sentiment will sharpen the pleasure which a man derives from marriage. But the woman is not asked for her opinion. The man has the right to repudiate or divorce her; she herself has no such right.

This is a devastating criticism of all forms of State power but socialism in particular. In practice, socialism means not the empowerment of workers or the collective ownership of the means of production. It means the central role of the State in the organization of all economic and social spheres of society. And as Mises explained many times, the state only has one means at its disposal: violence over person and property. Therefore, to advance socialism as a policy means to elevate violence as a principle and hence, indirectly, to restore the relations between men and women to a precapitalist position in which violence (and not contract) was the basis for association.

In other words, it was precisely because capitalism freed women from violent relationships as a social norm that he favored it as an economic system. Capitalism is, in practice, the way to realize the vision of feminism in practice. In this sense, Mises says, “so far as Feminism seeks to adjust the legal position of woman to that of man, so far as it seeks to offer her legal and economic freedom to develop and act in accordance with her inclinations, desires, and economic circumstances—so far it is nothing more than a branch of the great liberal movement, which advocates peaceful and free evolution.”

For Mises, this deep conviction was not just a theory but something to put into practice. Therefore, when he was in a position to do so, Mises actively promoted the interests of women in academia, insofar as he was able. Biographer Jorg Guido Hulsmann explains:

Mises was one of the few men in a leadership position who actively promoted young female intellectuals. Lene LieserMarianne Herzfeld, and others wrote their doctoral dissertations under his supervision. Lieser, Herzfeld, Ilse MintzMartha Stephanie BraunElisabeth Ephrussi, and others were regular members of his private seminar. It is true that he could get none of them a professorship—he could not do this even for his male students, or even for himself. But he could help some of them to obtain one of those coveted jobs that earn a living while allowing the pursuit of intellectual interests. Again this was the case with Herzfeld and Lieser, both of whom were employed at the Association of Austrian Banks and Bankers.

Each of these women became accomplished in a field of study—economics, translation, art history—their value as professionals seen and cultivated by Mises himself in defiance of deep traditions that shut women out of such careers.

Consider the irony here. If you ask anyone on the contemporary left about Ludwig von Mises, they have a quick answer about who he is. He is that reactionary old man from Vienna who imported capitalist ideology to the United States after the war, a man who looked backward in time with the desire to bring back nineteenth-century-style institutions and culture. But the reality is different. In the global hotspot of progressive ideas in 1920s Vienna, he stood out as a progressive as regards women’s rights: “one of the few men in a leadership position who actively promoted female intellectuals.”

Of course, the folks at FEE understand Mises’s mentoring of women scholars. One of the most profound relationships came from his mentorship of Bettina Bien Greaves, who wrote and edited a number of groundbreaking books, including multiple editions of Mises’s Human Actionand worked on staff at FEE for much of her long career.

Now, consider the ongoing controversy over non-discrimination law and so-called affirmative action, which seems to push the interests of women over men, a major source of the backlash against feminism and fodder for conservative activists everywhere. Was Mises himself practicing a form of affirmative action as conventionally understood? No, because he didn’t favor the interests of women solely on grounds of sex. Rather he saw women intellectuals in Vienna as an undervalued human resource. This is not “preferential treatment” but an act of entrepreneurship: discovering value where society had overlooked it. This is what entrepreneurs do every day in the world of physical resources. Mises applied the same foresight and judgment to the world of ideas.

Here we see a contemporary example of what it means to be a feminist: to overcome historical biases emanating from the age of violence and to proceed onward to advancing free association and contract as a principle of the social order. Does that require entrepreneurship—that is, seeing value where it had otherwise been overlooked? Yes, and not just over material resources, but also over a certain class of people who have been traditionally undervalued as resources—that is, as colleagues who might work in productive partnerships toward common ends.

That Mises genuinely concerned himself with how society is robbed of women’s essential contributions through sexism is a clarion call for today’s individualists. Mises criticized not only State curtailments of women’s freedom, but those emanating from the culture as well. He rightly called out as an impediment to women’s liberation sexual objectification, even private and non-State-sponsored forms embedded in cultural assumptions and traditional laws and practices.

His example points the way to a correct understanding of feminism today. How can we as free-marketers argue that the market is the source of prosperity through innovation and then sit idly by as its effects are curtailed by gendered expectations, especially those embedded in the violence of law and those emanating from cultural and social bias?

How can we ignore the violation of human rights embedded in laws that prohibit remunerative birthing services, impose violence against peaceful sexual exchanges, and ban or curtail such vocations as midwifery? Leaving aside moral disagreements about abortion, how can we claim to support individual liberty then support politicians who seek political advantage by cynically threatening the nationalization of offspring, sexual relations, and, in particular, women’s decision making over their own unique biological functioning?

The age of contract has not yet arrived, not for everyone. There is still so much work to do. How much value is left to be revealed by sweeping away barriers to free association and by overcoming historical biases? And who is most likely to accomplish this great goal, bureaucrats or entrepreneurs?

Mises shrewdly knew that leaving to the socialists the question of how to rectify the wrongs of sexism would be a deadly mistake for free marketers. And it still is. But he also was personally aggrieved by women’s underrepresentation in academia, so much so that he personally fought to make it right to the fullest extent he could.

Let us take up his call to take the situation of women seriously, to discover value where it has been overlooked. Mises was a feminist before it was cool. All free marketers should be too.

This post was written with the amazing and talented Jeffrey Tucker and was originally published at The Freeman.

Spontaneous Order in the Cocktail Lounge

Spontaneous Order in the Cocktail Lounge

We’ve got another awesome Sex and the State guest post! If you would like to submit a guest post, please fill out my contact form with an brief outline of what you want to write about.

It’s Friday night after a long week at the office. You gather a few tolerable co-workers and head out for some spirited refreshments. The elevator doors nearly meet before an arm halts their convergence. It’s New Guy from the marketing department, at once svelte and awkward. Not expecting him to accept the invitation, you ask him to join you. To your surprise, your cohort increases in size by one pair of thick-rimmed glasses.

While there’s unspoken agreement amongst your group that Corner Bar is the manifestation of mediocrity, it always ends up being the watering hole of choice. You’d be willing to venture down the street to East Tavern, but Julia would surely complain about the loud music. Likewise, West Café would be a welcome change of scenery, but Stan would protest because of the high number of “youths.” So, Corner Bar it is—familiar, established, and non-controversial.

Your group posts up at a table along the wall. After an uncomfortably long wait, a waitress approaches to take everyone’s drink order. Stan leads off with a rum and Coke, the alcoholic equivalent of white bread. Julia follows with a light beer, and Mike and Dana follow suit. Batting clean-up, you request a gin and tonic.

Now it’s New Guy’s turn. “Negroni,” he says with a reserved confidence. Stan leans over to Julia and snickers, “Sounds racist.” “Serve it up, please,” adds New Guy.

Within a few minutes, the waitress returns bearing libations. Starting from the left, she passes out the drinks one by one. The Negroni is last. New Guy proposes a toast in celebration of a hard week’s work. Everyone at the table merrily raises a glass and serial clangor ensues.

Once immersed in petty small talk, you become intrigued by New Guy’s beverage. “What exactly are you drinking?” you inquire. New Guy describes the drink in detail, answering your multiple follow-up questions regarding how he happened upon it, what he likes about it, and if that’s always his potion of choice. “Would you care to try it?”

You’re tepid at first. The drink’s nearly mystical aura makes you pause before accepting the generous offer. Delicately grasping the martini glass, you bring the liquor to your nose. A single waft is all you need to realize that the Negroni is unlike anything you’ve ever encountered. Sprightly floral gin, subtly sweet vermouth, and rich herbal Campari coalesce perfectly into a magical red elixir.

And then comes the moment of truth. Your lips touch the cold rim of the glass. For everyone else, this ephemeral moment is like any other. For you, it seems to last a lifetime. Time stops as the intoxicating liquor touches your tongue. You savor the liquid for as long as you possibly can.

Heretofore unfamiliar sensations overwhelm you. At once, you experience joy, fright, wonder, and insatiable curiosity. All of your past drink decisions are immediately called into question. You become bemused and annoyed: what took me so long? Suddenly, you feel inexplicably different from everyone else.

New Guy reclaims his drink as you summon the waitress to order a Negroni for yourself. Twenty minutes later, everyone at the table except Stan is drinking one. While no one realizes it at the time, you’ve each broken a lifelong pattern of playing by the rules and wondering why you’re not having any fun at it.

You consider ordering a Negroni for Stan. He must try one! If there’s one staring him straight in the eyeballs, he’ll be compelled to take a sip. Before ordering, though, you rethink your plan. Maybe Stan isn’t ready. How would you have liked it if New Guy ordered for you?

You realize your best strategy is not to force the Negroni upon others. That would only compromise its valor and charisma. You must set an example. Whenever it’s your turn, you’ll order with a reserved confidence. Like New Guy, you’ll stand poised and prepared. You won’t coerce others into ordering a Negroni; rather, you’ll let natural curiosity get the best of them.

Faces may contort at the first sip of the Negroni’s stringent bitterness. Its price may turn some away. The Negroni isn’t perfect, but it can always be improved: better gin, better bartender, better company.

Alas, there will still be a demand for bad drinks—those everyday concoctions with which people are so blindly content. At the very least, you’ll know that you’ve discovered something with more substance, more flare, and more livelihood. Even one other individual discovering it because of you is a win for both you and the Negroni. After all, it only takes one spark to ignite a flame and only one flame to engulf a forest.


Joseph S. Diedrich holds a degree in music composition from the University of Wisconsin, where he currently attends law school. He is a libertarian blogger, author, and speaker. Connect with him on LinkedIn and Twitter (@JSDiedrich).

My Most Funnest Radio Interview Yet!

My Most Funnest Radio Interview Yet!

On Thursday Sex and the State guest poster (his latest), radio personality and friend Joey Clark invited me on the Happy Hour show on News Talk 93.1 FM out of Montgomery, Alabama.

It was a really fantastic time, mostly because Joey is super familiar with what we’re trying to do with Sex and the State and super on board with the mission. Thanks so much for having me on Joey and I can’t wait to publish more of your stuff!