Today’s guest is Edward J. Lopez of Western Carolina University. We discuss his book, Madmen, Intellectuals, and Academic Scribblers: The Economic Engine of Political Change, which was co-authored with Wayne Leighton.

Does major political reform require a crisis? When do new ideas emerge in politics? How can one person make a difference?

In short: how and when does political change happen? Madmen, Intellectuals, and Academic Scribblers tackles these big questions, arguing that ideas and entrepreneurship are the key ingredients in any episode of political change. Authors Wayne A. Leighton and Edward J. López begin with the first lesson in economics — incentives matter — and artfully explain how the lesson applies throughout political life. Incentives explain why democracies often generate policies that impose net costs on society, and why these inefficient policies persist for years.

Yet beneficial reform does sometimes occur. So Madmen goes beyond incentives to offer a framework in which political change channels its way from ideas in society, through society’s shared institutions (i.e., its rules of the game) , which in turn shape incentives. This type of change is seldom easy, because new ideas for shaping the rules of the game must overcome two forces in society: widely shared beliefs and powerfully vested interests. Yet at certain political moments – perhaps during a crisis, but not always – shared beliefs and vested interests begin to weaken, and the opportunity for reform emerges. Within this framework, Madmen shows why certain inefficient policies eventually get repealed (e.g., airline rate and route regulation), while others endure (e.g., sugar subsidies and tariffs).

See More See Less


Leave us a review, comment or subscribe!

Meet the hosts


  • I’ve written a new children’s book that uses a fun story and engaging illustrations to convey the ideas in Bastiat’s The Law to kids age 6-10. It’s called The Tuttle Twins Learn About The Law. Here’s the website. If this book sells well, we’ll be turning it into an entire series. Each book will focus on a different aspect of liberty: the non-aggression principle, division of labor, intended/unintended consequences, etc. etc. We’ve got plenty of available material to persuade adults to support liberty, but there’s a big void in the marketplace for educational material for kids. We’re going to be filling that void.

    Jump to Discussion Post 12 replies
  • Investment Biker is a wonderful mix of motorcycle adventure, economic investment in emerging markets and world culture written by Jim Rogers after he and his companion traveled the globe for almost two years and covered 105,000 km on BMW motorcycles. Now twenty years have passed and you can gauge how well Roger’s observations on the breakup of the USSR were and what came of the regions he traveled through. As he enters and exits numerous smaller countries in Africa and South America you see how he learns about people’s trust, or lack of, in their state operations. Upon that you begin to see how his investment works and what kinds of regulations stifle economic development. All the while stamping 50 countries in their passports. If you happen to be in Birmingham you can see Jim and Tabitha’s well traveled bikes at the Barbers Motorsports Museum.

    Jump to Discussion Post 1 reply
  • Is the only good war story an anti-war story? Many of my favorite books about war are books that can be interpreted as anti-war books. Bring your favorite war stories to our discussion in the Bookworm Hangout: at 8 PM ET. WW 1 soldiers on the march. Books I’m likely to bring up: The Iliad; The Things They Carried; A Lake in the Woods; Farewell to Arms; and All quiet on the Western Front. Feel free to add to this title list with your own selections.

    Jump to Discussion Post 5 replies
  • Hi everyone,   to make the Leonard E. Read‘s life work more accessible for anyone to read, we’ve decided to publish his whole library in ePub, Mobi, HTML and PDF formats without reserving any rights, making it free for everyone to read, share, edit and sell. An early draft version of the first two books, Accent On The Right and Anything That’s Peaceful (including the essay I, Pencil), as well as the first three pamphlets from the library, Conscience On The Battlefield, Endowed By Their Creator and Instead Of Violence are already available at the Liberty’s Library. In case you’ll find the venture interesting, feel free to join. The library will be CC0 licensed, so happy reading, sharing, editing and selling!   Thanks for your time and have fun reading Leonard E. Read’s work. Best, Martin

    Jump to Discussion Post 5 replies