Patrick Byrne: What is your outlook?
Patrick M. Byrne is the CEO of the Internet retailer Overstock.com. Byrne received his B.A. from Dartmouth, studied at Cambridge University as a Marshall Scholar, and earned a PhD in Philosophy from Stanford University. He co-founded Overstock.com in 1997 and became CEO in 1999. In 2005, Byrne initiated a controversial campaign against "naked short selling" in which he accused a "Sith Lord" and various financial firms of sabotaging Overstock's share price. Byrne also serves as head of First Class Education, an education lobbying group that seeks to require that 65% of all educational spending be spent "in the classroom." A strong proponent of school vouchers, Byrne spent almost four million dollars in advertising for a bill that would have given Utah residents who enroll their children in private schools taxpayer-supported subsidies. The bill lost, 62-38%.
Patrick Byrne: I used to ask . . . I’ve asked Milton Freedman actually that same question, and he . . . he always said that I was lucky in that I was just a born optimist. No matter how bad things got; no matter how statist the intellectual class became in the ‘40s, and the ‘50s, and ‘60s, I was always an optimist. I always . . . I knew the books weren’t going to be burned. I thought that we would come out of it. I guess I’m not so . . . I don’t . . . I can’t be as optimistic as he was. I’ve become in the last two or three years, as I’ve discovered that the system is just turtles all the way down, I don’t think that we’re gonna be able . . . Well I think it’s a 50-50 thing whether we’re going to be able to fashion the responses that we need to deal with the largest problems we face.
Recorded on: 10/29/07
Byrne is not as optimistic as Friedman.
Is it acceptable to write a story from the perspective of someone who is completely unlike you?
- Man Booker Prize-winning writer Yann Martel, a Canadian man, has written from the perspectives of a man with AIDS, a body-switching woman, an Indian boy, and 20th-century Portuguese widowers.
- Is it acceptable to write from the perspective of someone who is completely unlike you? Martel believes these transgressions put empathetic imagination into practice, allowing your mind to go where your body cannot.
- In Martel's case, it's the recipe for great art—books that have been loved and read by millions. "[W]e are who we are in relation to others," says Martel. "But the key thing is the empathetic imagination, and the empathetic imagination is the great traveler. And travelers necessarily cross borders. And not only do they have to but it's a thrill to do so. It's a thrill encountering the other."
A review of the global "wall" that divides rich from poor.
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The inventor Nikola Tesla's esoteric beliefs included unusual theories about the Egyptian pyramids.