Here at Invisible Order, we’ve been doing a lot of work for Liberty.me over the last 9 months. Now that the project has really come to fruition, here’s the Liberty.me bio interview of our own BK Marcus.
Tell us about yourself, B.K.!
I was born in New York City in the Summer of Love. Across the river, there were race riots…
I’m a father, a husband, a bookworm, and a scribbler, probably in that order. I used to be a coder and a web developer. Before that I was a philosophy major. And before that I was outspoken and confused. Actually, I was outspoken and confused when I was a philosophy major, too. I’m less outspoken now.
My favorite things to read and write about are, to borrow from Ludwig von Mises‘ title, theory and history — both of which I like to approach from unexpected angles.
How did you get involved in the liberty movement?
Well, I used to be a pretty ardent lefty. I even spent half a year on a kibbutz in Israel because I wanted to experience voluntary socialism firsthand. That was a really great experience for me, but I came back fairly disillusioned with even the most peaceful form of socialism. It still took me a long time to stop treating “capitalism” as a dirty word, but I’d say my progress from collectivism to individualism was pretty steady once I returned. The World’s Smallest Political Quiz got me to start identifying as a libertarian, Wendy McElroy’s writings introduced me to the tradition, and Murray Rothbard’s books clinched the deal.
And what inspired you to join the Liberty.me team?
I’ve worked with Jeffrey Tucker for almost a decade now. He and I discussed Liberty.me as an idea before it had a name. I was even part of the conversation that chose the name. I feel like I’ve been waiting for this sort of home all my life — ideologically, intellectually, and socially.
What top three influential thinkers, writers, inventors, producers, creators have influenced you most and why?
I’ve already mentioned Wendy McElroy and Murray Rothbard. To those names I’d have to add Henry Hazlitt and Ludwig von Mises. These are probably pretty standard answers. Jeff Riggenbach has also been hugely influential for me, first as the voice that introduced me to so many of these ideas, then later as a writer. My introduction to economic principles came from Henry Hazlitt’s Economics in One Lesson, which I first experienced as an audiobook during a long work commute. Jeff narrated it, so in a very real way, Jeff’s is the voice of economic clarity for me. I later discovered his historical writing. He really introduced many of us to our tradition through his articles and podcasts.
Who are some of your favorite people to work with?
I’m going to keep coming back to a lot of the same names. Because I’ve already talked about Jeffrey Tucker and Jeff Riggenbach, I’m going to circle back to Wendy McElroy. I’ve been sort of a fanboy of hers for almost 15 years. I used to read all her stuff at iFeminists.com and in The Freeman. I’ve listened to everything she wrote for the Knowledge Products audio series (and if you don’t know that series, just search for Wendy’s name at Audible.com). So at some point I got to start working with her on her articles and books, and I had to really restrain myself from fawning. She is very gracious and charming, and handled it well when I finally let some fannishness slip into our correspondence. (I have yet to meet Wendy in person.) I’ve been lucky enough to work with many, many great heroes of liberty, but Wendy will always be special, because she was really sort of my first — my first contact with the living and ongoing tradition of liberty and letters. And I’m still pretty thrilled that we continue to work together.
As as father, do you have any words of wisdom for would-be dads out there?
Yes, I specifically have advice for fathers of sons, which is this: (1) read books aloud to your boys, and (2) let your boys see you reading books for pleasure. There is a very strong correlation between children who read for pleasure and children who do well in school and in life. And as a rule, boys aren’t reading.
I was recently talking to a bookish mom about my book-loving son, Benjamin, and she said, “You’re lucky he got the gene!” — meaning that she knows that I read a lot, so she figures, “Like father, like son.” But Benjamin’s love of books is the product of a lot of hard work by his parents.
Probably the most significant book I’ve read, as a father, is Jim Trelease‘s The Read-Aloud Handbook. The easy solution to the boys-don’t-read problem is to read aloud to your boys from a very young age. It’s really ideal if the dad reads to the son, or to the whole family, because boys take their lead from their fathers. My father is an avid reader, but for various reasons I didn’t get to grow up listening to him read aloud, so I was one of those illiterate TV-watching boys who did very poorly in school. Benjamin is hooked on books, and I credit Jim Trelease’s book for showing me how to make that happen.
What is one of your favorite childhood memories?
I don’t have too many of those before I was a teenager. I can tell you my favorite TV shows from childhood! The earliest memory that comes to mind involves my friend David and me sneaking out of my grandmother’s house in the middle of the night and heading into the woods to camp out. We weren’t smart enough to bring flashlights, so I played a handheld video game while he led me, blind and trusting, through the trees and brambles. I had to try to play especially well so the screen would light up and provide the illumination he needed to get us safely to the creekside site where we’d secretly pitched a tent earlier in the day. There we discovered that the kindling was too wet to start a fire, so we ended up burning all our toilet paper. It was a fiasco, but definitely one of my fondest memories.
If you could have a drink with anyone in history who would it be with, and why?
I’d love to have some one-on-one time with Ludwig von Mises. After visiting his private seminar in Vienna and following that group to the Anchora Verde for dinner and drinks, I’d hope to have some time alone with the man, both to learn from him, and to let him know that his legacy would last and inspire so many of us, well after things would come to seem their darkest for him. I edited his biography, written by Jörg Guido Hülsmann, and Mises has been a personal hero of mine ever since. Not just an intellectual hero, but really a role model of integrity and courage, and champion in a very personal sense. Tu ne cede malis.
You say you read and write about history. What story from history intrigues you the most and why?
I keep coming back to television history. Partly that’s because I watched so much TV as an illiterate kid (a stage that lasted a long time), but it’s also because people think of commercial TV as capitalistic, whereas it has been crony corporatist from its earliest days. And yet TV has improved over time. It hasn’t been linear, but there is definitely progress. The cartel has broken down and given way to the blessings of diversity and competition. It has really been a vindication for the relationship between capitalism and culture, and that still strikes many people as counter-intuitive. Backwards, even. I first wrote about this issue in the Journal of Libertarian Studies (PDF) and continue to explore the subject for The Freeman.
Thanks, B.K., for all you do for the liberty world and Liberty.me!