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The Uncle Eric Books

An Interview with Richard Maybury

Martha Robinson: Please tell us how you came to be interested in geopolitics and economics.

Richard Maybury: Americans pay very little attention to the world beyond America's borders. This is why they are continually caught by surprise by geopolitical events, like 9-11.

I was that way, too, until I was assigned to the 605th Air Commando Squadron in 1967. I was 20 years old, and very naive about the real world; I believed everything the schools had taught me about the US government.

I was nearly killed several times, and some of my friends were killed.

A tap on the shoulder from the Grim Reaper tends to focus one's attention. I gradually came to realize that what we were being told about our missions was nonsense. The politicians were sending us to die for a pack of lies. Our missions were not helping America, they were making more enemies for America.

This realization led to the question, if the politicians aren't telling us the truth, then what is the truth? I started reading history and geopolitics, and never stopped.

Martha Robinson: When did your interest in economics begin?

Richard Maybury: At the same time. One day our plane was sent to a country in Central America, I think it was Nicaragua. We were to land, spend the night in a hotel, and fly out to perform the mission the next day.

After checking into our hotel, we went for a big steak dinner at one of the top restaurants in the city. Then, stuffed with good food, we walked back, looking forward to a good night's sleep.

There was a crowd at the door of the hotel, and we had to stand and wait outside a few minutes. I was looking around, and spotted a woman with three small children on the other side of the street. As I watched, she laid down on the sidewalk, and her kids snuggled up against her. She spread her cloak across all of them, then put her head on a concrete step, for a pillow. I realized, that was where they would spend the night. This while I was about to walk to a nice hotel room, and slip into a clean, soft bed to sleep off my huge dinner.

It was a sobering experience, and later, after I got over the shock, I began wondering, why the difference between her and me? Why were Americans so rich, and millions of others so poor. That got me into studying economics.

Martha Robinson: When and why did you write the "Uncle Eric" series?

Richard Maybury: I began writing the books when I was a public school teacher, to relieve the boredom.

Actually, that's not a wisecrack, it's true in a very profound sense. The premise of the Uncle Eric series is that almost anyone can understand what is happening in the world, no matter how complex events appear, if the person has a good model, or paradigm of how the world works. A good model enables you to sort the incoming data, to separate the wheat from the chaff-to recognize the needles in the haystack.

If we do not have a good model, all data are of equal importance- everything is hay. Nothing makes sense because the needles are not identifiable. A person eventually gives up and stops watching. In other words, why read a newspaper or news magazine when you come away more confused than when you started? Better to just become a mental drop out. Turn on the TV and watch soap operas and sports, until these become your reality.

That, I think, is what most Americans do. They are much more worried about the Superbowl than about a war, recession, or inflation that could change their entire way of life because they just don't have a way to understand these things. They're interested in ball games, though, because they understand how ball games work.

I'm not against sports or entertainment, I just think a person's reality should be bigger than that. The purpose of the Uncle Eric series is to teach, for instance, how law and economics work, so that the confusion, and the resulting boredom, are swept away; a person can understand his or her world, and become more interested in it, and more functional.

Martha Robinson: I understand that your Uncle Eric books are an attempt to show a better way for students to learn instead of the way conventional schools generally teach.

Richard Maybury: As a teacher, I realized conventional schools are just big assembly lines that take kids in at one end when they are five, and 13 years later spit them out at the other end, with very few trying to help the kids understand the world they live in. Students just memorize facts, to pass the tests, then forget most of them.

I've received many letters from middle-aged people who say they wish they'd read Uncle Eric when they were teen-agers, because they'd have been a lot less confused, and today a lot richer Martha Robinson: How does your "Uncle Eric" series fit in with high school level studies?

I was a high school teacher. One day, I sat down at the typewriter and asked, what important lessons are students not taught in the schools? Then I started writing the Uncle Eric books, to fill in the gaps, to give the students a model that would help them use data they were learning in subjects like history and economics.

Martha Robinson: In terms of knowledge-what exactly should a high school graduate know about economics, history, and geopolitics? How do your books answer these needs?

Richard Maybury: Wow, that's a big question. I'm tempted to say, look at the indexes of the books, and you will get a feel for the wide range of topics they cover. Or, I could say, monetary policy, velocity, common law, political law, contracts, the Great Game between the Kremlin and London, the causes of World War I, the US conquest of the Philippines, the Spanish American War, the Barbary Wars, the consumer price index, and on and on. But, that would just be a laundry list that wouldn't mean much to most people. Let's continue and maybe in the course of your other questions I'll come up with a better answer.

Martha Robinson: Okay, in terms of graduation requirements-In my state, for example, one year of world history, one year of American history, one semester of American government, and one semester of economics, including "a comparative study of the history, doctrines, and objectives of all major economic systems," are required. Do you feel that these are appropriate requirements for students? What might be missing?

Richard Maybury: Well, certainly all those are appropriate, especially the comparative economic systems. These are explained in the Uncle Eric book, Are you Liberal, Conservative or Confused? One thing that's missing from state requirements, I think, is, how to use this knowledge to make your life better. Usefulness-that's what is so often omitted. Students learn about the Spanish American War or the Cuban Missile Crisis, then wonder, why should I remember it, I can't see how it will do me any good?

The Uncle Eric set of books take a practical approach with the material. When I write, for instance, about the Treaty of Versailles, I show how it triggered a chain of events that is affecting us in our day-to-day lives right now. If you don't understand that chain of events, you are vulnerable. If you do understand, you have a big advantage over those who don't.

Martha Robinson: In terms of credits-Your books are well-loved by homeschoolers as "supplements," but many feel that they do not offer a complete course in economics. How many credits could a student who has a good understanding of the material in your "Uncle Eric" series be awarded, and would those strictly be economics credits?

Richard Maybury: This will require a long answer, so fasten your seatbelt. It's true that the books do not give a complete course in economics. That's not what they are intended to do. Their purpose is to give the students the important ideas and ways of thinking that they are not likely to get anywhere else. Uncle Eric tries to fill in what's left out. Visualize the conventional subjects such as economics, history, and law as bricks, and the Uncle Eric books as the mortar that holds the bricks together.

In economics, for instance, most mainstream courses, specifically the so-called micro courses, will give you most of what you need. After all, at least three quarters of all economics is the law of supply and demand. Any good micro course will give the student lots of supply and demand. But they won't show how economics connects with history or law. The Uncle Eric books do that.

As for the macro courses, I was studying business and economics in college in 1971, which turned out to be a right-place-at-the-right-time experience.

Our textbooks and professors were teaching us ideas such as: In the absence of a major war like World War II, there would never be wage and price controls. The U.S. would never abandon the gold standard. It's impossible to have inflation and a recession at the same time.

We'd study these so-called facts in order to pass the tests, then go home and read the day's headlines in the evening newspapers. Wage and price controls had been levied. The gold standard had been abandoned. The US was suffering from inflation and a recession both at the same time.

We realized, neither the economics professors nor the government's economists knew what they were doing. And today, judging from all I've seen studying this subject for the 34 years since, they still don't. Their models are no good, and never were.

Uncle Eric uses the so-called Austrian model, which I believe has a much better track record. At least, the people who subscribe to my investment newsletter seem to think so. I receive a lot of letters saying, thank you, thank you, thank you.

Here's where I'm going with all that. Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises advocated the study of praxeology. If you want the single best term for Uncle Eric's profession, it would be praxeologist. Praxeology is the combination of all studies of human behavior-economics, law, sociology, psychology, politics, anthropology, religion, geopolitics, and whatever else might fit under the category of human action.

Mises' magnum opus was called "HUMAN ACTION." Mises believed that breaking down human behavior into subcategories like history or economics gives a very misleading view of how the world works. It's the old story about a blindfolded person touching parts of an elephant. Touch the tail and you think it's a snake. Touch the leg and you think it's a tree.

The Uncle Eric series does not really teach just economics or just any of the other conventional subjects, it teaches praxeology, the whole elephant.

Teaching economics, history and so forth isn't necessarily wrong, it's just touching one part of the elephant. In my opinion, it's better to take off the blindfold and study the whole animal.

If you look at the material that was studied by George Washington and the other American founders, you'll see the founders were all praxeologists. The FEDERALIST PAPERS, for instance, are a mixture of what we today call economics, law, sociology, psychology, American history, and world history. Nowhere do we see Madison, Hamilton, or Jay say, now let's talk about economics, and now let's talk about law, and now history. Sometimes they'd deal with all these subjects in a single sentence. The founders did not chop human behavior up into narrow little categories, it was all the same subject to them, and Uncle Eric believes it still should be.

The Uncle Eric books are an attempt to fill in the gaps, the missing information between economics, history, psychology, and so forth that students never see if they follow a conventional curriculum. Again, Uncle Eric is trying to put the mortar between the bricks. It's an attempt to eliminate confusion, to give the student the ability to connect these disciplines, and thereby see what others cannot.

Martha Robinson: Do you have a current illustration for this concept?

Richard Maybury: I think a great deal of the feelings and behaviors of the baby boom generation are the result of the Great Depression and World War II, despite the fact that none of the boomers lived through those disasters.

The boomers' parents were deeply scarred, and raised their children according to the experiences and propaganda of that 16-year period. I believe you cannot understand the boomers unless you understand the Great Depression and World War II-psychology isn't enough, you also need economics, world history, American history and geopolitics, at least. Praxeology.

Of course, if you think Mises was wrong-if you think human behavior can be chopped up into neat little packages, then you aren't going to like Uncle Eric. If, for instance, as you watch your child grow up, you say to yourself, oh, now she's being economic, and now she's historical, and now she's sociological, and now psychological-well, then you should burn your Uncle Eric books, because, like Mises, Uncle Eric believes every one of us is all of those things all the time.

We hear a lot of economists talk about "the economy" as if the economy were a machine. It's not. It's people, and people are not mechanisms, they are, among other things, biological organisms. An economy is an ecology. It cannot be speeded up or slowed down, it can't be heated up or cooled off.

Martha Robinson: Thanks! Now could we get back to the credits? That's an item of big concern to homeschooling parents.

Richard Maybury: Now that I think about it, the three Uncle Eric economics books (Penny Candy, Money Mystery, and Clipper Ship Strategy) are really macro economics. I never see them that way because praxeologists ("Austrian" economists) don't think in those terms. But, it's traditional in America to speak of micro and macro economics, and those three books plus Liberal, Conservative would be excellent as the macro half of the economics course. Micro is usually taught first, before macro, because the student needs to know about the law of supply and demand.

The two World War books would be half of an American history course. Most American history courses say little about foreign policy.

Thousand Year War would be a third of a world history course.

To my mind, the books should not be viewed as a supplement. To call them supplements is to give the impression that they are extra, or not necessary. The principles taught in the Uncle Eric series are the necessaries, and the conventional subjects are the supplements.

Martha Robinson: So your books would take care of the macro economics credit. What book would you recommend for study of microeconomics?

Richard Maybury: Austrians don't usually think in micro/macro terms, but if you need a text to meet state requirements, I'd recommend Microeconomics: Private and Public Choice.

Martha Robinson: The "Uncle Eric" series clearly shows a relationship between history and current events. When should students study world history and in what depth?

Richard Maybury: It's important to teach a child as early as possible that the whole world is competing to influence the child's mind. Parents, teachers, government, political activists, businesses, clergy, everyone, including, especially, the child's peers-they are all trying to shape and steer the child's thoughts. Uncle Eric is, too. We all have our ideas about what the child should think and do.

Some people have the child's best interests at heart, and some have their own interests at heart. Some, especially, in my opinion, those in government and in the child's peer group, are obsessed with steering the child in directions favorable to them.

I think I might say directly to the child, "Look, your mind is a football, and the whole world is fighting for control of it. Pay attention to what the world is doing, and why they are doing it."

For that defensive purpose alone, I'd start the child watching the daily news as early as possible. Age five, if you can make it work. Perhaps read the child parts of the newspaper, and point out on a globe where events are happening. Explain events as best you can, and that will introduce the child to world history.

Perhaps the most important purpose of the Uncle Eric books is to make the child savvy-street wise-about what's really going on, so that the child's mind forever remains the property of the child. Uncle Eric wants the child to be an independent thinker, and as early as possible an observer of outside influences.

For 15 years I've been pointing out to my subscribers that events on the other side of the world often affect us more than events in our home towns. A child who begins watching and reading the news at a very early age is one that's not likely to be blindsided very often.

I remember when I was a teacher, I had one student who was 13, and he was already reading several newspapers every day. I'd like to see all children doing that.

The news, I think, causes a person every day to ask, why are these things happening? and this curiosity will lead a child to studying the cultures and countries involved.

Martha Robinson: What do you think is the most unusual feature of the Uncle Eric series?

Richard Maybury: Probably the fact that they try to teach ethics but people read them anyhow.

Uncle Eric shows that history, economics, law-all subjects about human behavior are tied to ethics. There are rules of conduct on which all religions agree, and when these rules are widely obeyed, life gets better; when they are widely violated, life gets worse.

This is not only the case for whole societies and countries, it's so in the life of the individual, too.

As far as I know, no other book or series of books about economics, history and so forth begin with that premise. There are those that try to develop a view based on the rules of a particular religion, but as far as I know, Uncle Eric is the only person who builds from rules all religions agree on.

I've received "thank you" letters from Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, Catholics, Hindus, Muslims, Mormons, and on and on. Even if a person's beliefs are totally independent of any organized religious group, I'm sure that person will find the ethics taught in these books to be in complete agreement with his/her own.

The wonderful benefits from obeying these laws, and the horrible catastrophes from disobeying them, is the common thread that runs through all the Uncle Eric books, and in fact, through almost all my writing, including the investment suggestions.

I should point out, these principles common to all may not cover every one of a person's specific ethical beliefs, but they won't contradict them, and they leave room for an individual to add whatever he/she thinks needs to be added. The Uncle Eric books attempt to open doors, not close them.

Martha Robinson: Homeschooling families make many financial sacrifices for a parent to be at home teaching. Do you have any general advice or encouragement you can offer to single income families in today's world?

Richard Maybury: Actually, the first of the Uncle Eric books, Uncle Eric Talks About Personal, Career and Financial Security, was written with that question in mind. One part of the answer is, teach-and learn (you never learn something as well as when you teach it)-economics, finance, accounting, marketing and other money-related subjects. These not only help your child prepare for life in the real world, they will help you make better financial and career decisions yourself. These better decisions will help offset the financial sacrifices.

Another part of the answer is to build a home-based family business. Throughout all of human history, the family business has been the most reliable route to financial success. It's not a sure thing, nothing is, but it's the surest.

I'm not talking only about rising from, say, the lower-middle class to the middle-middle class. A family business gives you a realistic chance to hit a home run, to become wealthy. The first Uncle Eric book gives a lot of guidance.

Perhaps the most important point I make in Uncle Eric Talks About Personal, Career and Financial Security is that when children work in the family business, they learn how to build and run a business.

Even if, when they grow up, they don't want to continue in the business with you, they have the knowledge and skills "the real world experience" to go out and start their own. When they are 18 or 20, they'll know what most people don't until they are 40 or 50, or maybe never. What high school or college can give a child that?

I know this might sound wildly optimistic, but the idea that I was most focused on when writing Uncle Eric Talks About Personal, Career and Financial Security was, why be satisfied only with educating the children, why not make them millionaires, too?

I sat down at the computer each morning with the objective of making Uncle Eric the person who will create more millionaires than anyone else in history. Almost every chapter is based on my own personal statement that, if I'd known this when I was 18, I'd have been successful 20 years earlier than I was.

Martha Robinson: Any final thoughts?

Richard Maybury: The world really isn't all that difficult to understand. We just need a model that shows us how to know what information is important and what isn't-one that shows our minds what information to retain, and what to discard. The Uncle Eric series is an attempt to give students and teachers that model.

I'm in the very fortunate and unusual position of living the life I really want to live, so now, what's most important to me is to help others achieve the life they want. I sincerely hope that everyone who finds the Uncle Eric books helpful will pass the books on to others.

Martha Robinson: Thank you Mr. Maybury for sharing your thoughts with us.

Richard Maybury: Thank you, I enjoyed it very much, and I wish you and your readers great success in all endeavors.

Related Reviews's Economic Studies Resources Section's Civics and Government Resources Section
Review of Economics, A Free Market Reader by Richard Maybury
Review of Whatever Happened to Penny Candy? by Richard Maybury
Review of Uncle Eric Talks About Personal, Career, and Financial Security by Richard Maybury
Review of The Money Mystery by Richard Maybury
Review of Evaluating Books, What Would Thomas Jefferson Think About This? by Richard Maybury
Review of Uncle Eric History books by Richard Maybury
Review of The Clipper Ship Strategy
Review of Whatever Happened to Justice? by Richard Maybury
Review of Are You Liberal, Conservative, or Confused? by Richard Maybury