School, and especially college, is supposed to be a place of intellectual stimulation. Yet school only stunted my intellectual development. Throughout my school career, reading books and doing research was a mandatory drudgery: something that I almost never did when I wasn’t forced to. I was a political science major at UC Berkeley, a prestigious university. And yet almost nothing I read or heard in my poli sci classes stuck with me.
It was only after I graduated from Cal, thereby finally escaping the formal schooling system, that my mind awakened to the world of ideas and my true education in societal affairs began. When my mind had the space to roam free, my curiosity came back to life. It started with getting my first newspaper subscription, to the New York Times. I realized that, in spite of my degree in political science, I couldn’t even understand the world developments I was reading about in the paper, because I didn’t have any interpretive framework for them.
I got the idea that learning history would provide me with that framework. So I tasked myself with teaching myself the history of civilization, from the beginning to the present. I started with the first civilization, the ancient Sumerians, by reading the book Ancient Iraq, by Georges Roux (still one of my favorites). According to my Amazon records, I purchased this on December 4, 2002: a year and a half after I graduated college. I then moved on to the Egyptians, the Greeks, etc. A great resource in my studies was my Audible subscription, which gave me two audiobooks per month. I availed myself of Audible’s great collection of audiobooks covering whole historical periods, as well as source texts, like Herodotus, Thucydides, etc.
I loved watching the human saga unfold before my eyes. My mind brimmed with personal theories about why things happened the way they did, and what that said about the human condition. I went beyond my books and started doing online research to resolve specific historical quandaries in my head. After an entire youth of having my natural intellectual inclinations stifled, I was finally blooming as a thinker. It took escaping from school to finally become the scholar I was always cut out to be.
After several years of voraciously reading history, I discovered another interpretive framework: one that helped me understand both the news and history itself: free-market economics and libertarianism. That will be the subject of tomorrow’s post.