Penn Jillette on Capitalism, Magic and Morality

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Penn Jillette, H.L. Mencken research fellow at the Cato Institute, is the louder, bigger half of the magic/comedy team Penn & Teller. He and Teller co-host a series on Showtime that looks to debunk junk science, scares and scams with reason and logic.

Interview by Caleb O. Brown. Video produced by Caleb O. Brown, Austin Bragg and Evan Banks.

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Author Keith Pinto (9 months)
This man is my libertarian hero, he is the one that introduced me to
freedom. What other people of the modern times influenced you all?

Author ImA Real (7 months)
Penn Jillette is an intelligent and entertaining fellow and a master at his
craft. He expresses a compassionate and somewhat tolerant attitude. He
seems to be a genuinely likable man. He has displayed some stubbornness
and pride as do we all. I applaud his rational embrace of the Libertarian
politico, but do not understand how being an atheist is such a large part
of who he is. The first question in the interview was about being an

The things I oppose and the things I embrace define me, not the things I
believe or do not believe. Like most people, I do not even think about
most of the things I believe or do not believe unless some new evidence
comes along or someone brings it up in a conversation. For example, I am
sure Penn Jillette believes the Pythagorean Theorem. He does not define
himself by it as did the mystic society that once existed around it.

I don't oppose all the things in which I do not believe; nor do I embrace
all of the things in which I believe. Penn Jillette made it clear that he
opposed, even hated, "magic," a very big part of his life. If he opposes
religion, God, spirituality, and the like or those who embrace them, I
could understand the reason his atheism is such a big part of who he is
and his need to announce it twice in every performance; but he claims NOT
to oppose them. Garth Brooks embraces Christianity. Embracing a disbelief
is absurd.

I don't believe in "magic" but enjoy watching illusionists perform. I
enjoy watching and trying to figure out the "trick", but do not oppose or
embrace "magic" like Penn Jillette does; I don't give it much thought. I
believe in energy and forces that I cannot see, because I am convinced the
evidence or the argument for it is sufficient. I am more interested in
learning what is true, rather than wasting energy trying to prove something
is not true or that someone else is wrong, unless I embrace or oppose that
argument as a primary part of my identity or I feel that my safety and
well-being depend upon it. Trying to prove a negative is an exercise in
futility. That is why our constitution does not require that you prove you
are innocent.

I embrace Christianity. I do not oppose atheists. I am convinced the
knowledge of God is innate within every human being. It can be repressed,
ignored, rejected, etc. The job of Christians is not to criticize or
condemn atheists and non-believers. It is to be an example and share the
love of God with them, just like Jesus did. It was the hypocrites Jesus
criticized, not the uninitiated. If love is not your motivation, you are
not a Christian, but a wolf in sheep's clothing. Christians do not hate
atheists. They do not wish them harm. They simply love them, because they
deserve it.

Author Andrew DeFaria (2 years)
"Do you think it's morally wrong to punish somebody who's done nothing
wrong? If so then why would you believe to reward somebody who's done
nothing right?"

Author Amy Tucker (2 years)
Love Penn Jillette.

Author Francesco Santora (15 days)
Oh Penn, as a guy who literally grew up at the Booth School of Business I
gotta tell you: You've been Punked. that punishment reward flip is soo old
and so wrong. This is not the forum but it's an all wood floats therefore
all that floats is wood argument.

Author Steve Lolyouwish (2 years)
Penn Jillette (from Penn & Teller) speaking his mind about how he came to
libertarianism, capitalism, atheism, etc. Solid.

Author chad0219 (8 months)
I enjoy Penn's thought process and his honesty. I find that I agree with
him on most things including the libertarian approach to government. God is
where I disagree but I fully respect his opinions on the matter. I would
love to catch one of his shows someday.

Author Justin Palmer (2 years)

Author Don O'Neill (5 months)
Penn Jillette is a living smirk and a perfect monition against the soulless
and pathetic state of American education.

Author Evan Banks (2 years)
Normal-sized styrofoam cup at 8:22. Penn Jillette is a biiiig dude.

Author Sarah Lee (2 years)
Just found this one. Nice work Mr. Brown. Jillette is one of those people
who doesn't force-feed people his system of beliefs. For this, he is
invited to my fantasy dinner.

Penn Jillette on Capitalism, Magic and Morality!

Author Chad Spacey (2 years)

Author Neil Taneja (2 years)
Great Penn Jillette interview. He credits Tim Jenison with his turn towards
Penn Jillette on Capitalism, Magic and Morality

Author Mark Collins (6 months)
My atheist hero and my libertarian hero.

Author sleedolfine15 (1 year)
The great depression was the inevitable outcome of the fed's easy credit
policy during the 1920s,a policy which led to a credit driven boom. The
inflation of the money supple during this period led to an unsustainable
boom in both asset prices & capitol goods. The fed belatedly tightened
monetary policy in 1928,but too late to avoid a significant contraction.
Afterwards,the economic interventionism of both Hoover and FDR
lenghtened(17years)this depression. History repeats itself.

Author Brian Hayek (10 months)
You're just like the god of the HOLEY bible. 100% crazy fucking asshole.

Author Brian Hayek (10 months)
Do you even read every comment i make? I told you why SOCIALIZED with a Z
is a failure in the united states. 125 trillion in unfunded SS
medicare/caid prescription drug liabilities and growing by multi trillion a
year. Without SS its still over 100 trillion unfunded. Economic
calculations under any form of socialism are impossible.All forms of
socialism fail just like it will in the united states and sooner than u
think. Walk away from the liberal non sense.

Author Riasat Khan (1 year)
Are you talking about him not believing in psychics??

Author TheRiiiight (1 year)
"there will always be things for the people to do." You state it as if it's
a fact. During the great depression did the people just starve and sit
around because they were stupid? When you're unemployed and broke and
everyone around you is unemployed and broke what are you going to do? You
have no capital to start a business and if you did you'd have almost no
customers who could afford anything. That's the perfect recipe for a
violent communist take over like early 20th century Russia.

Author burnhippiesforfuel (1 year)
the machines give us time to do other things. it allows labor to go toward
things we wouldn't otherwise to work on.

Author lec0621 (1 year)
In other words, you believe that an unbiased analyst can somehow, magically
make biases in the raw data disappear? DId I get this right? If so, you
know nothing of statistical analysis. Sporadic outliers can be sometimes
ignored but bad data yields faulty analysis. Every time. As far as your
second paragraph, it's hogwash. If someone can prove psychic abilities,
Randi's million would be chickenfeed. Such a person would probably not even
challenge Randi. Instant fame + fortune.

Author Andrew Rusher (1 year)
Do you even consider the drug war when you talk about guns? NO they don't!
They only talk about TOTAL GUN DEATHS % compared to other nations..WELL DUH
we have the most guns, but overall the MURDER RATE is LOWER IN THE USA then
other nations...your only FOCUSING ON ONE FACT..that isn't even the
important fact...the important fact is MURDER RATE, which the USA's murder
rate isn't even near the worst, not to mention most of its caused by GANG

Author Robvern M (1 year)
On capitalism there are two books that I found changing, for those that
like to read try these Clive Hamilton and Richard Denniss' book, Affluenza:
When Too Much is Never Enough, and The Life You Can Save: Acting Now to End
World Poverty by Peter Singer. These books changed my thinking regarding
economics and money, which enable my wife and I to be self funded retires
at 40. We both had average income jobs.I HAVE NOT AFFILIATION WITH EITHER
BOOK OR THE AUTHORS. We now travel the world for fun.

Author guyboy625 (1 year)
No, it's perfectly reasonable not to believe in psychics if you have no
evidence for them. Randi pretends to be open to evidence for psychic
ability, but in fact he's far from it, as seen in the way he dismissed
Sheldrake's dog experiment. Understandable, since it would make him lose a
million dollars. What he's good at is deceiving people, and making sure
other people don't deceive him, but he's not good at science. His whole
"prize" cannot be taken seriously from a scientific point of view.

Author guyboy625 (1 year)
Randi lies in the service of what he *thinks* is the truth. He has a
preconceived notion of reality and refuses to have his mind changed. This
is what sets him apart from scientists, who have the humility to confront
their own fallibility.

Author JtK27 (1 year)
I figure that the harm in depriving people who need the help is much
greater than the harm that the fakers cause. The monetary loss is temporary
and arbitrary, the person having to live with constant pain or disability
can't be repayed in anyway if deprived proper care.

Author mikebri527 (1 year)
And you still haven't given me your sources for your net job loss numbers.
Are you just repeating more left wing talking points? If you're going to
state facts then site your source. If not, then leave them out. I have no
time to deal with amateurs that don't know facts.

Author mikebri527 (1 year)
So you mean to tell me that all the people that were building carriages to
be pulled behind horses just shriveled up and died when the automobile was
created? I can't believe that was the case. They (like those whos jobs were
replaced by machines) found employment elsewhere.

Author jshalom65 (11 months)
The Federal Reserve is NOT the government ! It is a private,for profit
organization that is wholly unconstitutional.

Author Andrew Rusher (1 year)
yeah..but financially no one should take care of anyone, but you also got
to take in consideration some of my views on the economy like CEO pay caps,
minimum wage based on yearly profits of the company, end lobbying, end bail
outs, and allow TRULY free market...people would be able to take care of
their families without government aide..but things are so whack we "think"
we need social programs, but its not the issue its a band aid that don't
fix healthcare.

Author awakennomore (1 year)
Arizona loves guns, perform here.

Author canteluna (1 year)
"I never said it was the only goal. Stop putting words in my mouth." & I
never said that you said it was the only goal. "So you mean to tell me that
all the people that were building carriages to be pulled behind horses just
shriveled up and died when the automobile was created?" You wouldn't be
trying to put words in my mouth would you?

Author Gordon Bradley (1 year)
Value ? Then why do we have an advertising industry ? What does it achieve
exactly ? Billions spent on conning dummys into buying overpriced crap ?
Surely not.

Author gogothewind123 (10 months)
I would also remind you that that was a period of mass use of child labour,
over exploitation of resources both natural and human, urban squalor,
corruption, social injustice and generally not caring if the poor lived or
died. Then we introduced socialised medicine, education, welfare, market
regulations and labour unions which hugely improved standard of living and
life expectancy for those who needed it most. Would you look at that,
government is more effective than unconnected individuals.

Author bob along (1 year)
Where I wonder do you get your info. Do you pull it straight out of your
ass? Or is it from the NRA's web site? Our murder rate is 4 times that of
England. England 1.2 per 100,000 vs. US 4.8. ??? We are in the bottom half
of the stats. Just keep making up shit, it really helps your argument..

Author sleedolfine15 (1 year)
The great depression was caused by government and kept going for 17 years
by interventionist economic policies. Speaking of starvation,the New Deal
actually destroyed food to artificially keep farm prices high. People
weren't stupid,but it's hard to help oneself when your government is waging
war against you. We didn't have a violent communist revolution. What we got
instead was corporatism which is a variation of fascism.

Author JtK27 (1 year)
What you're saying is basically: "If we didn't allow corruption there would
be no corruoption". Neither money or goverment are inherently corrupt. But
they're forms that allow people to gain disproportionate amounts of power.
I think that we need both markets and goverment. And a lot of informed
citizens that are able to involve themselves in the politics of it all.

Author JtK27 (1 year)
Haha, that made me smile.

Author Andrew Rusher (1 year)
no we leave the markets to themselves, and have our guns and to keep that
threat in the back of their minds, and then have a ready CIVILIAN militia
say "hey if you don't clean up, your going to have to answer" and the
military would split, because their oath is to the PEOPLE and the
CONSTITUTION first (though it says president now as well it was added by a
pro-slavery democrat to hold down slaves so they shouldn't say that) but
still most will split in the military and join the civilians.

Author Ryan Ferretti (11 months)
If a man starts at 50 grand, & invests & grows that money into 600 million
dollars, at what point is anyone else other than him, entitled to the net
amount of his earnings? I always hear liberals talk about how certain
people have so much and should give it to those who need it. Sure, life is
unfair. Some people end up with much more due to luck, better genetics,
etc. etc., but, that fact doesn't mean anyone is entitled to one penny out
of the millions. They did nothing to generate that wealth.

Author robonez (1 year)
Tonight I have watched 3 Penn Jillette-interviews and 4 Gene
Simmons-interviews. Not planned at all, these things just popped up,
probably based on things I've watched before or something. I was a huge
Kiss-fan for many years, and I dig Penn and Teller. The thing that I'm left
with though, after these interviews, is that Penn Jillette is brilliant,
and Gene Simmons is a retard.

Author Brian Hayek (10 months)
Part 3. When politicians have omnipotent like power the first things that
will be bought and sold are the politicians. If what you said is true the
American middle class would have never existed. The middle class existed
because the united states is the closest thing to laissez-faire that has
ever existed. You may as well be bragging that government has broken the
legs of the poor and middle class and has handed them crutches. Without
government they couldn't walk! Without government they could

Author Harmon Bean (11 months)
yepp! i think america needs people like them further up in the "system"
personally it would be amazing to even just hear those 3 have a

Author mikebri527 (1 year)
The bottom line is that we as consumers understand one very important word:
VALUE. We typically will not pay ridiculously high prices for inferior
products. We prove that time and time again with our purchasing habits.
Manufacturers know this and have to react to it. All that being said, I
still say that it's better for a lot of people to pay lower prices for
goods then to have a few people get high wages. And again the best example
is the unions at GM and Chrysler.

Author Brian Hayek (10 months)
And you have the authority to deem people "fucks"? I don't think someone
who believes in fictional hell has the mental capacity to properly judge
people. Such a short snide comment tells a lot about you without even
knowing you.

Author Enedrapvp (1 year)
Just look at Disability now. It is the most perverted and abused social
system in the United States. It requires almost nothing to receive it. My
girlfriend's mother has been on it for many years for "back problems". She
moves around fine. If we noticed that there was a problem with disabled
people in our nation, charities would rack up, and many would compete to
earn the profit that some of them decide to take. It's impossible to do
when you make the entire country poorer with forced services.

Author Brian Hayek (10 months)
Part 3. If morally you can not accept to see the suffering of others GET
READY to help ease it. Americans will learn what real poverty is during ur
life. Gold Guns and Gardens. He who saves one life saves the world entire.
You may not believe the reality i have just told you but u wont be able to
ignore the consequences of ignoring reality. The united states government
is a snake eating itself and we should be glad it will DIE because of its
own corruption.While i live let me have a FREE COUNTRY

Author Brian Hayek (10 months)
Depression and unemployment are not caused by laissez-faire. These are
things caused by government. What you state is great myth and some is not
even placed in the right century. Socialized medicine came about in the
20th century and it has been a great failure. Unless you think ponzi
schemes are sweet. Socialism never works at anything. The united states has
125 trillion in unfunded SS medicare/caid prescription drug libabilities
and growing by multi trillion a year.

Author jshalom65 (11 months)
Okay,I'll cop to that,but that's part of the deceipt of it,it has the
patina,the veneer of federality and gov't.sanction,which is the tip of the
iceberg hiding the grave danger that lies beneath,the greed, the
amorality/immorality and blind worship of money,the parasitic
UNCONSTITUTIONAL money mafia that has been. allowed to have it's merry
lootingly destructive way way for nearly 100 years.The results have been
the great depression,every recession,2008,everyone overextended on

Author Scott Fulton (9 months)
to blindly go forth into the future without learning for mandkinds past
mistakes is narrow minded

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