The Wealth Gap: Identifying Inequalities With Connor Boyack

TWS 59 | The Wealth Gap


One of the most controversial topics today is the existing and widening wealth gap between the rich and the poor. Tackling this important conversation to offer a unique and even quite controversial view, Patrick Donohoe is joined by Connor Boyack, founder and president of Libertas Institute—a free-market think tank in Utah. Here, Connor gets into the significant wealth that has spun great talks about inequality from both sides of the political aisle to create divisiveness. He goes deep into capitalism, the billionaires that keep getting rich, and moving up the economic ladder. Follow along to this insightful episode to learn more about this issue we’re facing now in our society.

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The Wealth Gap: Identifying Inequalities With Connor Boyack

Thank you for tuning in to the show. Connor Boyack is an incredible man. He’s been on the show before. We’re talking about a controversial topic. We’re breaking it into two parts. The first part is going to get into the wealth gap that is significant. Wealth inequality is a theme that’s being used by both sides of the political aisle to create divisiveness. Right now, there are a lot of upset people. This episode, without the proper context, may upset you, so go back and read the last 4 to 5 episodes.

Hopefully, that will prepare you to think rationally about this sensitive topic. The drive we have to make a difference grow and be free is evident across most human behavior. Achieving that result is what I characterize and what I’ve tried to talk to you about as true wealth. The show’s mission is to help you identify sound principles that will guide you to achieve wealth and prosperity regardless of the environment or economic circumstances. Right now, it may not seem possible but understanding the principles will allow you to understand that it’s not the environment that creates that end, it’s principles, and acting on those principles.

Through this lens, these emotionally sensitive topics will inspire you instead of infuriate you which is, unfortunately, the way in which people are looking at this topic. My compadre, Connor Boyack, has dedicated his professional life and arguably because of some threatening experiences that he’s had his whole life to defending the principles of prosperity by being involved in the political arena here in Utah. Also, by expanding that into the world of literature and education with over 21 books, most of them through the children’s book platform.

For those of you who have listened to Connor before The Tuttle Twins books, I get comments about that more than anything else that’s coming from the show. Connor is going to give you a code to get these books. I’m offering something for the rest of 2020. For those of you who purchase the package and Connor is going to give an insane discount for all of the books or the online curriculum that he has, I’m going to match that. What I mean by that is if you purchase, I’m going to pay for another either package of books or the online course that you can give to somebody else. I’m going to do that through the end of 2020.

I hope you gain a lot from this. I hope you’re able to step back and think through some of the points that we make and that it enlightens you to understand the narrative but also understand how to have a productive, and meaningful conversation with somebody else about this topic. I hope it inspires you to understand how the world has improved because of the environment that we have in which people can start businesses. They can be free to fail, free to succeed, and how that improves everybody’s life. Let’s cut to the interview. Without further ado, this is Connor Boyack.

Wealth is not the natural condition in life. Poverty is the natural condition in life. Click To Tweet

He is the President of Libertas Institute, which is a nonprofit think tank here in Utah, but it’s also an educational organization. They promote through a lot of influence up on Capitol Hill during legislative sessions. They promote the principles of liberty but they also educate the public in many different ways. Connor is also the author of 21 books. It also includes a children’s series, which is incredible. It’s called The Tuttle Twins. Connor, welcome to the show. You’re no stranger here except for those that are new and new readers. Thanks for coming back. I appreciate your time.

I’m happy to be here. I’m excited to get into the issues with you.

This is a hot one because it’s something that’s been politicized. It’s being weaponized by different political parties. It’s the wealth gap. I’m going to read some statistics which I haven’t given you in advance I’m sure you won’t be surprised. This is given the federal reserve’s stats, whether they’re objective or not. I would say it’s close to as objective as possible. In the United States is $104 trillion of private wealth in terms of money. The top 1%, $32 trillion, the next 9%, $39.1 trillion, the next 40%, $31 trillion and the bottom 50%, $1.5 trillion. There’s a gap and the gap is shown to widen. Connor, I think we are able to have a conversation that understands both perspectives. When you hear these numbers, when you hear the narrative that’s used and how it’s weaponized and politicized, what goes through your mind? How do you process that?

I’m excited by those numbers, where other people find them repugnant and see an inequality that needs to be addressed. I’m conversely excited and that’s for an important reason. What would those numbers have been like a century ago? What would those numbers have been like three centuries ago? The fact that much wealth has been created has made it so that we all live like kings. Even that bottom 50%, the bottom 10%, even the bottom 2% live like kings compared to people a century ago.

The creature comforts that we enjoy that this wealth inequality has allowed wealthy people to amass capital, to invest in research and development, and come up with new innovative conveniences. The fact that Jeff Bezos is now going to be delivering our products by drone on the same day we order them. Packing the mule over the mountain with a couple of workers that take up a three-week journey to get to you and by then, half of what you ordered has been stolen or moldy. The fact that some people have gotten rich should not distract us from the fact that everyone has gotten rich.

Wealth is not a natural condition in life. Poverty is the natural condition in life. The fact that some people have become wealthier than others doesn’t discount the fact that basically everyone has become wealthier. Everyone has a higher standard of living and it’s this system for all of its warts and bumps and everything else. It’s not perfect. It’s this system compared to any other that has allowed for that massive creation of wealth and prosperity across all the demographics that you can imagine.

TWS 59 | The Wealth Gap

The Wealth Gap: The comforts we enjoy from this wealth inequality have allowed wealthy people to amass capital to invest in research and development and develop new, innovative conveniences.


I could have guessed that you were going to say something along those lines, even though we haven’t even talked about this in detail previous to the interview. I have some statistics here that I usually will find from an opinion and perspective research, depending on the perspective. It doesn’t make the news headlines that often but one of them is Matt Ridley. He’s written a bunch of books. The one that hit me the hardest years ago was The Rational Optimist, which is when everything was falling down and he wrote this book that said that the world is amazing.

Here are some of the things that he cited in a blog post. He said, “Extreme poverty has fallen below 10% of the world’s population for the first time.” It was 60% when he was born, which was in the late 1940s. Child mortality has fallen to record low levels. Famine virtually went extinct. Malaria, Polio and heart disease are on the decline. One of the least fashionable predictions that he made was the ecological footprint. We have been able to use more sustainable resources and be more efficient with the way in which we are attentive to those initiatives.

As far as the use of land and the use of water when it comes to producing food has dropped 100%. I can keep going on and on as far as how people are coming out of extreme poverty. Peter Diamandis is more on the technological front. He’s talked about the fact that we’re approaching four billion people with smartphones. Where people are getting connected, they’re getting access to information, education, and so forth. I agree with you. There’s a disease of abundance than there is of scarcity when it comes to living the way that we live now versus what life would have been 100 years ago.

I was going to add to your list before with the proliferation of mobile phones and so forth, access to banking or cryptocurrency, sending money around, transmitting to family members and other countries. The fact that Africa didn’t get into landlines and telephone poles and all the rest. They leapfrogged over that and now have like 95% plus penetration of cell phones, even out in these remote villages where they can access Wikipedia and suddenly any villager can learn from all of the knowledge in the world.

I was a missionary in Honduras many years ago and I lived in these tiny little pueblos for two years. I remember once a week, we would get an opportunity to email the family and say, “I’m still alive out here.” We do that at these internet cafes that were crazy expensive. They were rare. The internet was horrible. Now, the same thing as you pointed out. Everyone’s got cell phones, constant connectivity, connecting all the world, creating amazing remote work opportunities where people out in these villages can go on and say, “I can do graphic design. I can do editing. I can do translation and I can do whatever.” It creates all these economic opportunities that they didn’t have before.

I care a lot about issues surrounding charity and poverty. I don’t want to sound like I’m some kind of greedy capitalist. My wife and I focus and try to lift those who are in need and find ways to serve. I know of no other economic system that does it better than what’s often called capitalism because you have the incentive for these people to go and produce. That means the Jeff Bezos and the Elon Musk and others are going to amass substantial wealth but they’re not extracting it from anyone. It’s not a zero-sum game. They’re not forcibly taking it from people. All that means is they figured out a way to serve a crap ton of people because capitalism and entrepreneurship and business is service. It’s, “I hate pulling weeds and the fact that someone will come to serve me by pulling my weeds and we have an economic exchange, I can make it worth their while.”

There's more of a disease of abundance than there is of scarcity when it comes to living the way that we do today. Click To Tweet

That is still service to me because I would rather part with $10, $20, $50 or whatever than do the weeds. Having an electric car, having drone deliveries, or whatever the issue is. These people have figured out a way to serve a ton of people rather than a few people. In my mind, that is a system that should be praised, notwithstanding that. I do think it’s important that we still look at the inequality issues and figure out even better ways to help people move up that economic ladder. It doesn’t come from the traditional. Do you remember the lobsters and the bucket story? Where you put lobsters in a bucket and as one tries to get out, the other crabs pull down, “Let’s try and pull it down so we can get up.”

That’s not how the system works. We can figure out a way to build up more people. We don’t have to tear down the 1% and take more of their money and remove their incentives to serve even more people. We can do it in a way that empowers even more people and removes those roadblocks of regulations. Even people who want to start a food truck, they’ve got to deal with a nightmare of regulations to get their foot in the door and entrepreneurship to maybe do a food truck to then do three, to then do a brick and mortar restaurant and grow an empire of franchise.

If we have these regulations and other problems in the way that prevent the people on the bottom, if you’ve got money, you can make problems go away. You can be strategic and figure out a way around them. It’s the people on the bottom who don’t have those resources. They can’t navigate the system. They’re often trapped by the system that purports to help them and puts them on the dole and says, “Here’s some money. Go sit on a couch, watch Netflix and chill while we subsidize your inactivity.” What if instead, we remove those roadblocks that don’t have the capital and the network to circumvent on their own so that they can bootstrap themselves up and be able to go to work? There’re many stories of rags to riches that you can’t say that everyone who’s wealthy gets wealthier and everyone who’s poor stays poor. That’s not reality at all but I do think there are improvements we can make to help more of those rags become riches and give even more people that opportunity.

Now, let’s cross lines because just as much as we ourselves have rationalized this, not together but in probably similar ways, the overwhelming majority does not believe this way. Let’s look at their perspective. How do you sympathize with them? How do you understand why they’ve come to a conclusion they have which could be the diametric opposite of ours? How is that being politicized?

You may have seen the video of a Black Lives Matter leader protesting outside of the courthouse saying to the camera, and to the public that it is okay that we go loot these businesses, that we do these riots, that we bash in the store windows, that we take all these apparel, toys, electronics and everything we’re taking because they have insurance. There have been other Black Lives Matter protesters who I watched a video of one woman defending the pillaging of white store owners as a form of reparations because, in her words, it was the black community that has built that business and never been able to take advantage of the profits.

The downside there is, first of all, that’s not how insurance works or why it exists. I think the first comment reflects an economic misunderstanding. She’s trying to justify theft. The second comment was more interesting to me. This notion of reparations and this long-standing injustice that certain people have been kept down. They’ve been denied these opportunities and to that, I say I don’t disagree. There have been a lot of these problems. Zoning laws were instituted because of racism. It was a way to segregate neighborhoods and keep black people out of white neighborhoods. You still have those problems to this day. Zoning boards and city councils and others will perhaps not overtly or explicitly but they can hide their bias and use zoning laws to keep certain people down and prevent them from having commercial activity in their neighborhoods or from integrating into other parts of the city or whatever.

TWS 59 | The Wealth Gap

The Wealth Gap: The fact that some people have become wealthier than others doesn’t discount the fact that basically everyone has to become wealthier.


It’s because it was illegal. They could have been fined. They could have been put in jail if they crossed those lines.

There are certainly these policies that have been in place over time that have been put in place but the tough thing I have with reparations is that you don’t have an opportunity to connect one-to-one. By that, I mean that maybe someone did something horrible 80 years ago or 20 years ago, or 150 years ago but how does that justify perpetuating the injustice by forcing someone else whose fault it is not to pay for the misdeeds of what someone else does? I sympathize. I want to help. I want to remove those roadblocks. I want to help everyone be able to flourish and have that opportunity. I just struggle with what some of the demands are where people look at that inequality, and they have this kind of aggregate perception that there’s this systemic problem. Therefore, we’re going to have a systemic solution, an aggregate solution that uses the sledgehammer and says, “We’re going to do this so that we benefit.”

In a way, that’s continuing the injustice that they’re talking about by perpetrating it on more people who are innocent of the misdeeds that they’re rightly pointing out in the past. It becomes a sloppy way. I sympathize with the problems, the solution is where it breaks down. That’s where I think if we can sit down and talk together and resolve this, maybe we’d come up with some interesting ideas. I feel like a lot of the people who speak out against inequality and who are especially vocal about it, especially in the past few months with Black Lives Matter and some of these groups, there’s a bit of an economic ignorance there and perhaps political collectivism where they’re trying to force these solutions on other people. Thereby, they become the perpetrators of the injustice they’re speaking out against.

You have this balance between very strong deep-seated emotions that go back generations. It goes back culturally. That’s when we start out talking logically about the wealth gap, it’s provable. At the same time, people aren’t going to sit back and say, “You’re right. I should think about things differently.” People have these deep-seated emotions that reinforce a perspective. For me, I try to sympathize and empathize with that. I look at some of the extreme things that human beings to this day still do to one another, do to children, do to women and do to the minorities. It’s sickening.

At the same time, you look at history and it’s always happened that way. I look at what do we do now with the “civilized society” that we supposedly live in so that the political sphere is not injecting these cheap, slighted, and shallow emotions into the narrative to gain political capital? What do you do? How do you reconcile all of this? What’s the solution because you have these deep-seated things that are not going to go away and then you have these rational things that we can show, the rich and wealthy people have created much as it relates to our lifestyle?

We use the same internet browser as Jeff Bezos. We have the same iPhone as Bill Gates. They’re not living much of a different lifestyle other than maybe the car they drive and where they go on vacation. It’s not much different. How do you reconcile this, Connor? You’re amazing at taking divisive topics when it comes to liberty and teaching people through books, through education but also promoting principles on Capitol Hill and being influential to lawmakers who clearly have one perspective. They lean toward a party. How do you reconcile all of it?

The market doesn't like uncertainty. We need to have some kind of predictability. Click To Tweet

This one is tough because over the past several months during the shutdown and everything, I’ve been talking to folks about these issues. I feel like among people who are more free-market minded, conservative, libertarian, Republican, whatever you want to call it, there’s a lot of unease in the sense that people have long felt on the foundation of society and their principles and whatever. The degree to which these riots have happened, killings, lootings and all these kinds of things, the way society and culture has been changing as a result of all these events. A lot of these people I’ve talked to have felt uneasy like those footings, the foundation of society is shifting underneath them and they feel that there’s this instability where they don’t know how to act. They don’t know how to step forward. If the ground is loose, how do I know that’s a sure footing so that I can move forward with my life?

There’s absolutely risk and the market doesn’t like uncertainty. We need to have some kind of predictability and this is a tough question for me because how do you forecast things? How do you offer a solution and try and figure out what that approach is? What I’ve seen a lot of families do is think about turning inward. It’s like the story of a tree. When there’s a drought or something to conserve resources, the tree is not going to grow that year. You look at the rings of the tree and when they’re tight like that, that’s during a year where it didn’t have growth. It was in survival mode.

It feels like a lot of families are in that mode right now where they’re trying to say, “How do I talk to my kids about these issues? What do I think about these issues? What voices do I trust?” I’ve seen a lot of these people shift from engaging online or community activism or going up to the Capitol or trying to change the world to say, “I’ve got to protect my family. I’ve got to figure out what we’re going to do and how we make sense of this.” Not only economically, like how’s our job doing but also, if society can shift this much where we’ve got shutdowns, mandates and “Karens.” We have this culture now of shaming one another like, “You’re insufficiently compliance. I’m going to call the cops on you.”

We haven’t had that before in our society. We have riots, lootings, all these blue states and Democrat mayors, letting these people run amok destroying businesses and government buildings. We’ve seen that in Eastern Europe. We’ve seen that in some parts of Asia and Africa and elsewhere. We’ve never seen that in America. That shift is disconcerting to a lot of people. I even feel this way, partially myself, where I struggled to figure out, “Is there anything I should be doing or can be doing right now that I’m not or should I be trying to maintain my balance so that when the ground solidifies a bit more, then I’m ready to move forward?”

Things seem to be changing quickly for a lot of people. I think it’s rational to be like, “I need to wait this out and see where things land.” We’ve shifted a lot. I’ve shifted personally, a lot of my energy into our children’s books, and helping families get material to have these deep conversations and talk about these ideas. It seems like that’s where an investment right now is going to yield a lot of dividends in the future, as opposed to on the policy side of things trying to figure out where to step when the ground is shifting.

I hope you enjoyed part one of this two-part interview. Come back for part two. This is where we get into education. We get into inspiring, influencing and helping kids understand the environment and how to essentially change their life with some simple tweaks. Connor has made some amazing resources available. I’m going to match through the end of 2020 any purchase you make with his steep discount, allowing you guys to give that as a gift to somebody else. Check out all those details on Thanks again. Don’t forget to tune into the next episode.

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About Connor Boyack

Connor Boyack is founder and president of Libertas Institute, a free market think tank in Utah.

Named one of Utah’s most politically influential people by The Salt Lake Tribune, Connor’s leadership has led to dozens of legislative victories spanning a wide range of areas such as privacy, government transparency, property rights, drug policy, education, personal freedom, and more.

A public speaker and author of 21 books, Connor is best known for The Tuttle Twins books, a children’s series introducing young readers to economic, political, and civic principles.

Connor lives near Salt Lake City, Utah, with his wife and two homeschooled children.

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Wealth And Inequality: Debunking Myths About Socialism With Lawrence Reed

TWS 48 | Wealth And Inequality


When it comes to wealth and inequality, it can be challenging to have a meaningful debate or conversation, especially with somebody that has an opposing point of view.

On today’s show, Lawrence Reed and Patrick Donohoe tackle these issues and share some insights on how you can take the right approach to inspire, educate, and have a positive influence over anybody.

Lawrence is the author of WAS JESUS A SOCIALIST? Why This Question Is Being Asked Again, And Why The Answer Is Almost Always Wrong, a book that debunks misconceptions about capitalism and the free markets with regards to being a follower of Jesus. He is the former President of the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE).

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Wealth And Inequality: Debunking Myths About Socialism With Lawrence Reed

Thank you for tuning into the episode. Lawrence Reed is the President of FEE. He’s also written a number of books, but his book that came out is WAS JESUS A SOCIALIST? Why This Question Is Being Asked Again, And Why The Answer Is Almost Always Wrong. He’s my guest. He was on about several months ago and it was an incredible interview. He’s so smart and well-read, but also can articulate his perspective well. I realized that we’re in some challenging times right now and I hope you are thriving. I see so much opportunity all around us to do good, to build our business and to adjust things in our personal lives for the better. Hopefully, you are taking advantage of that.

Make sure you go to the website, We have a new resource section that has a lot of the programs, the book recommendations and other free courses and digital material. It’s a resource section of the website. Additionally, there’s a link to Larry’s new book, which is available on Kindle, as well as a paperback format so make sure you check that out. His organization FEE, The Foundation for Economic Education is, I hope you learned something from this relatively short interview compared to our last one but Larry has a perspective that I know that if you had it, you would think differently.

Regardless of the subject matter as well as the context, because it’s religious in nature, don’t overlook this episode because there’s a lot of good principles and values in there regardless of what your faith is. Hopefully, you benefit from it. Thanks for connecting too. Head over to YouTube. The episode is on YouTube as well. Subscribe to the show if this is your first time as well as the YouTube Channel. Also, follow us on social media. We’re posting quite a bit there and connecting with the audience. I would love to have you subscribe. I’m going to cut to my interview with Larry Reed.

Larry, thanks for joining me. It’s hard to believe that it’s been almost several months since we did the last interview. It seems like yesterday. It was one of the favorites that I had in memory as I think back on some of the meaningful conversations I’ve had. Thank you for joining us. I’m excited about the conversation.

Thank you, Patrick. It’s my pleasure. I remember that program we did in January of 2019 very fondly. It’s on my website as a matter of fact.

I appreciate you helping me get the word out there. Larry, so much has changed since January of 2019. What I thought would be interesting before we get into this semi-controversial subject is to set some context. Right now, I have two teenage daughters in my house. It’s interesting the conversations you have and how much debate exists. Where I’ve gone to is not trying to prove that I’m wrong or put my fist down with authority, but it’s to understand them at a deeper level and where they’re coming from. It’s not assuming that they know what I know, have experienced what I’ve experienced.

It totally changes the dynamic of the conversation. I wanted to pick your brain briefly so we can set some context for the controversial subject of wealth and inequality, and specifically, your new book, WAS JESUS A SOCIALIST? Why This Question Is Being Asked Again, And Why The Answer Is Almost Always Wrong. It’s pretty controversial. What are your thoughts as you’ve experienced not the mainstream stance on economics, on political policy, and economic policy? Where do you stand with having meaningful debate and conversation, especially with somebody that has an opposing point of view?

You’re taking the right approach with your daughters, especially at a young age, young people who always have a little spirit of rebellion in them and a sense of idealism. If you come across as “I’m right, you’re wrong. You take what I give you and make it your opinion.” That almost never works. If you show that you’re open to a different view, but still from on your own and even take a bigger picture approach, also interested in whatever truth may lead you to, you’re in the long run more likely to have a positive influence over anybody, your daughters and anybody else. Sadly, these days, in academia, there’s not an emphasis on critical thinking skills that there was when I was a student. There are so many in academia now who act in the classroom as if they’ve got a monopoly on the proper viewpoints and on things like compassion or caring for other people. Their purpose is to indoctrinate rather than to inspire and to educate and encourage students to think for themselves. That’s very unfortunate. That is not going to serve students well in later life. It never does.

I look at the conversation we’re about to have and how much of that is being had. However, the levels of depths that the conversation gets to it’s very shallow. With the conversations, I get to have with people that, just a couple levels deeper, I believe that there is tremendous wisdom there. The reason why I wanted to start with that and this is for the audience is not to take a stance on we’re right and you’re wrong. If you have a differing opinion, it’s to say, “I recognize, understand that there are all opinions out there.” I take a stance of I may be wrong. I may be stating something that may have a different perspective and information than I have not been privy to.

That’s why I try to bring on experts like Larry so I can understand my own beliefs better and question them so that I can make better decisions. I can live a more meaningful life. I believe that the more wisdom that you have, the better decisions you’re going to make and the better outcomes that you’re going to have. Larry, let’s get into this idea of inequality. I’ve sent you some questions in advance. You take a look at the fact that there is inequality and it’s something that there are some pretty strong positions on both sides. What does inequality mean to you and maybe in the context of the book that you just wrote?

There is a kind of equality that I’m all in favor of. We all should be in favor of and that’s equality before the law. The law should be impartial. It should not render judgments against people for or against, based upon irrelevant criteria, but rather whether or not you did it, whether or not you deserve it or whatever. Economic equality is what’s in the news so much these days. That’s the kind of equality I talk about in the book. There are a lot of people who claim that economic inequality, differences in income and material possessions, material wealth is a bad thing and that it would be better if we equalized or what as far in that direction as we could, the material possessions of individual people. The problem with that is that no two people who have ever lived have been precisely alike.

Why should we expect that what they contribute to the marketplace and how other people’s values that in the marketplace should be the same? We’re different in terms of the talents that we have. If I tried to be a professional basketball player, my income from that will always be drastically lower than, fill in the blank, famous basketball player of now. We’re different in terms of the talents we have, the willingness to work. Some people work long hours hard. They think hard as well as work hard. That sometimes often reflected in the incomes later. We’re different in terms of our savings. If we equalized everybody tonight, materially speaking, we’d have inequality again by noon tomorrow because some people would save it and some people would spend it. It’s illusory to think that people who are not the same or very different in so many ways would somehow create equal incomes in the marketplace.

What do you see as the biggest pushback to that, as far as the conversations you’ve had, especially on very deep and obviously with a religious spin onto it?

Probably the biggest pushback, and it extends from my misunderstanding, would be that the problem is the system is rigged. Some people get unfair advantages. They work the politicians to get special benefits at the expense of other people. I’m the first to say I’m against that too. That’s not freedom and free markets. That looks a lot more like socialism, where you have concentrated power in the hands of politicians, and then they choose to bestow that power on their favorite friends. I’m against that too. That’s a legitimate response, but if you think that the answer is to adopt socialism, you’re only going to compound the problem because that’s the most corrupt system known to man. Lord Acton told us “Absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

Absolute power corrupts. Click To Tweet

The more you concentrate power in the hands of mortals, no matter what the expressed intentions may be, the more mischief and difficulties and impoverishment you’re going to have. That would be probably the number one pushback. Close behind would be there’s a sense out there always has been among human beings that whatever the cause, people should still be equal. One guy shouldn’t have more than another. When you hear that the best response is to raise questions, to ask the person, why should someone who doesn’t utilize his talents fully versus another who does? Why should one person who doesn’t save and invest versus another who does? On down the line of all the differences that define us, why should all those people be precisely the same in terms of what they earn? What about consumers? Don’t they bestow your income by choosing to buy or not to buy based upon what you’ve offered them?

It’s a fascinating question because there are lots of emotions that surround it. I believe the emotion and I haven’t necessarily thought through this well enough, but how do you see the relationship between altruism and self-interest? There’s this draw for those that have to give to the have nots and those that don’t have are the recipients. Somehow that makes their situation better, but there’s also a natural kind of self-interest in everybody. It’s wired within us for self-preservation first and foremost. How do you understand or characterize the relationship between altruism and self-interest?

I thank God every day that we are self-interested. If we were purely altruistic, nobody thought themselves and only thought about others, you would quite frequently leave yourself in a position at which you can’t help others. You’ve ignored number one, you haven’t provided for yourself. You haven’t used your own talents fully. You’re not out there creating wealth as you and your unique abilities are best able to do. If you’re not doing that, how can you help others? Self-interest is by its very nature a constructive motivation. It’s the only one that goes to the point of somebody ignoring the rights of others and takes the form of say theft or deception or fraud. That self-interest goes across the line. It becomes harmful to other people. Otherwise, it’s the most important motivation in explaining the production of this planet.

Think of the guy in Brazil who is growing coffee. He’s not doing that because he’s thinking of you. He’s not thinking, “I must sacrifice and work long hours so that Larry has coffee up there in Newnan, Georgia.” He’s doing it because there’s something in it for him. Along the way, because of that self-interest, I get coffee. I’ve seen it used in different ways. Sometimes it’s meant to mean simply caring for another person and choosing to help them. Other times, it seems to be used in terms of the desire to do harm to yourself because that makes you feel better. In the process of harming yourself, give your possessions to somebody else. Serve someone else and be a doormat in the process. That’s the most destructive form of it.

I never denigrate the personal choice of engaging in charitable activity. It’s a fine motive when it comes to the heart. When it goes awry is when some politician comes along and says, “I’m going to make you give. In fact, I’m going to take it from you and give it on your behalf.” That’s not charity at all. You don’t accomplish much. The person that you’re taking it from in the end is not going to be a better person because of it. Any more than if you take somebody to the church at gunpoint, but that person is going to end up being more religious.

Segueing into the religious topic. I know that that is the framework in which you’ve written your latest book, WAS JESUS A SOCIALIST? Why This Question Is Being Asked Again, And Why The Answer Is Almost Always Wrong. First off, what motivated you to pursue that type of work rapping in the religious context to it? What did you hope to achieve with being able to get the message across?

As I explained in the book, I’ve heard this idea for 50 years that Jesus would be sympathetic to socialism. My understanding of history and Christianity always made me wonder about that. I couldn’t square it. Everywhere I looked around the world, I saw socialist regimes being the most impressive. The ones that utilize force, the ones that impoverished their people and I thought, “How could it be that a man who said even the most important choice you have to make whether or not to accept him is going to be a matter of free will? How could that same man say, ‘When it comes to everything else, we’re going to take it from me and spend it better than you can?’” I couldn’t square that.

TWS 48 | Wealth And Inequality

Wealth And Inequality: There’s a natural kind of self-interest in everybody that is wired within us for self-preservation.


When I started reading the New Testament in great detail, which I’ve done multiple times over the decades and then applying what I know as an economist and historian, it screamed at me. This is a myth that needs to be answered, too many people falsely believe it. Every time I looked throughout the New Testament, every word that Jesus uttered, I find an endorsement of things like personal choice, private property, voluntary contracts, even supply and demand. I thought this needs to be rebutted in a way that appeals to a broad lay audience. This is not a book for theologians, although I hope they read it too, it’s for anybody who’s interested in history, the facts and what Jesus said.

What’s the response been? What are the primary takeaways and the things people are learning that may not have an understanding of economics, especially the organization that you’ve done an incredible job running, the Foundation for Economic Education? Without that, what have you seen the response from those types of individuals?

There’s been a hunger out there and the fact that the book is very unique. There’s been a rush for it. Amazon’s already sold out, but that’ll be remedied shortly. I hear a lot of people saying, and I’ve done media interviews, like crazy since the release of the book. I get a lot of this. People say, “I always thought the story of the Good Samaritan was a case for the welfare state.” As I pointed out in the book, what made the Samaritan good was the fact that he chose to help the man in need of his free will and with his own resources. He didn’t tell the man, “Call your social worker,” or “Let’s get a government program for it.” If he did, we’d call him the good for nothing Samaritan.

A lot of people are amazed to learn about the parable of the talents. No socialists could tell this the way Jesus did. Jesus talks about three guys whom a wealthy man trusts a big portion of his wealth with as he leaves for a time. He says, “When I come back out, I’ll ask each of you what you’ve done with it.” When he comes back again, told by Jesus himself, he asked the first man, “What’d you do with what I trusted you with?” The man said, “You’ll be happy with me. I buried it. I have just as much for you as you trust to be with.” In the parable, Jesus criticizes that man, “What? You didn’t magnify it in any way.” He asked the second guy, “What’d you do?” He said, “You’ll love what I did. I doubled or tripled your wealth.” Jesus praises him. He says the third guy, “What’d you do?” The third guy says, “I did even better than that.” He’s the one that Jesus praises the most. In fact, in the parable, he takes the money from the first guy and gives it to the third guy because he knows how to create wealth. I’ve had a lot of surprise audience with that.

How do you associate that with what Jesus was referring to because the talent at that time was money? There was a way in which money was weighed. The word talent is representative, the circumstances we were born in, training, natural abilities, etc. How do you equate that to those who are gifted with something and multiply that versus those who are gifted with something that doesn’t do anything with it?

The same analogy would apply whatever your gifts may be, whatever your talents, in a sense of personal traits and abilities, we are all called to make the best of it. Be the best person you can be to magnify your ability to make other people happy through the wealth that you create, the examples that you said. That’s all perfectly compatible with what Jesus would say. He was approached in the book of Luke by a man who wanted him to redistribute income. The man says to Jesus in Luke 12:13-15. He says, “Master, speak to my brother that he divides the inheritance with me.” In other words, “I didn’t get a fair share. Can you maybe equalize us or give me more?” Jesus did not say as a socialist like, “You didn’t get as much as the other guy to fix that.” Instead, he immediately rebukes the man for his ending. He makes a statement that I wish every politician would make and that is, “Who made me a judge or a divider over you?” That is a powerful rejoinder against envy and covetousness as well as the redistributive apparatus of the compulsory welfare state in my view.

Larry, what’s the best way to get the book? It’s a short read. This isn’t a novel type of book.

Self-interest is, by its very nature, a constructive motivation. Click To Tweet

It’s 160 pages. You can read it in an evening. It’s available on Amazon and also the website of Barnes & Noble. Also, in our organization, The Foundation for Economic Education is It’s available in the bookstore and other places now. There are more and more picking it up all the time. It was just released, but I’m glad to say that it’s going very well.

I am preparing to ask this question so I’m hoping it comes outright. If someone reads this, what’s the best-case scenario? How would our current environment be different if people read this, understood the message and applied it?

If they did that, if they read it and thought about it and acted upon it, they would say, “I need to spend less time lobbying politicians to either get me something or give someone else something and get involved myself in the lives of those who presently are in need. I need to put my money where my mouth is.” Socialists don’t do that. There have been books written about this. Socialists and those who claim Jesus was a socialist, they look to the state to solve problems. All you have to do is look at the federal income tax and you realize a federal budget look at the line for donations. It almost says peanuts. Not even a socialist would think that the government is the best way to solve problems. Not even they will write out a check to the government for more than they’re forced to give. If they give anything, it too is to voluntary private organizations close to home that solve problems so much better than politicians do from Washington.

Right now, there is an interesting spirit of things in our country. There was a tremendous disruption. There were some economic consequences that are being felt. There were some other things from a social standpoint with George Floyd and there are other major issues arising. The idea of inequality is a variable within it all. I see definitely a misclassification and mischaracterization of the idea of inequality. As you look at your book and the experience that you’ve had, what are some of the maybe experiences that you’ve had, where someone is like, “I got it.” They felt one way. They believe one way. They had this high praise for altruism and equality, but then suddenly I started to understand principles, natural laws of the universe and understand the message that you get across in your book. There’s obviously a number of other books that articulate some very similar values and principles.

When you put things back on the individual and when you say, “You’re spending a lot of time expecting politicians to do such and such. Why aren’t you doing that yourself?” These are matters of the heart. It is a personal choice. That’s what determines where you are, not what you say. If they’re introspective enough and they look inward and ask themselves, “Am I doing myself what I want to foist on other people through the political process?” That’s been an a-ha moment. Other times I see them happening when you address particular issues that they’ve been especially misinformed on. I do a talk and have written about the Great Depression. A lot of people think because I’ve been taught this, “The Great Depression, that was the fault of capitalism and free markets. Franklin Roosevelt saves us from it.”

When you walk them through why that’s faulty from the word go, it’s embarrassingly faulty. They are like, “Why didn’t I learn that? How come I didn’t hear that? My teachers never told me there was another side.” The issue by issue sometimes can be a very effective way to produce those a-ha moments. I’m convinced that most people who may lean in the socialist direction don’t lean that way because they’ve thoroughly read to make a case for free markets. They’ve only heard the emotional bumper stickers of the left in most cases. When you present them for the first time with what the other side is arguing real facts, logic, history, and so forth, it’s like an epiphany.

Larry, this has been a great conversation. I love our conversations and you think so deeply, but also you have humility about you that resonates well. Thank you for sharing your wisdom. Even though you’re semiretired, you continue to write and share it, so thank you for that. What are the best ways for people to connect with you?

TWS 48 | Wealth And Inequality

Wealth And Inequality: Whatever your gifts, talents, or abilities may be, we are all called to make the best of them.


People can go to my public figure Facebook page, where I use my name, Lawrence Reed. They can contact me through or they can email me at

Larry, thank you again. We’ll have to do this. Hopefully, it doesn’t take several months to do it but thank you for the book. Thank you again. This was enjoyable.

Thank you, Patrick.

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About Lawrence Reed

TWS 48 | Wealth And InequalityLawrence W. Reed is the former President of the Foundation for Economic Education (FEE). He is the former President of the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. He is the editor of the bestselling book “Excuse Me, Professor: Challenging the Myths of Progressivism”, author of the pamphlet “Great Myths of the Great Depression,” and the new book “Was Jesus a Socialist?: Why This Question Is Being Asked Again, and Why the Answer Is Almost Always Wrong.”


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