Penn Jillette on Capitalism, Magic and Morality

Penn Jillette on Capitalism, Magic and Morality

you're an atheist yes are you and and and more broadly your skeptic yeah James Randi is a good good friend of yours a very good friend oddly in a way Randi created me I think I think it without Randi there wouldn't be me what do you mean I mean that I hated magic hated the whole idea of magic hated hated it with the passion and I didn't like the idea of lying I didn't think that should be entertainment or they should be part of anything and I met Randy when I was 18 and he told taught me showed me demonstrated to me that you could lie in the service of truth that there was a way to tell lies or than a proscenium that that allowed you to explore truth and he showed me how you could be someone who was an outspoken skeptic and still working magic and still working entertainment and he was my was is my the biggest hero of my life I mean outside of my family and I don't think that where I am now as an atheist and a skeptic and a magician and a person you know I don't see how he could have gotten there without meeting Randy how does that dovetail with you being a libertarian well I don't know I don't really know Tim Jenison who is the founder of new tech tech companies now out of Texas that had been at the Video Toaster about I don't know 20 years ago maybe a little longer 22 years ago I was kind of your classic half-assed Hollywood hippie liberal and I hadn't thought really about anything you know and I was a big fan of science and it was an atheist and a skeptic and I was talking to Tim one night and it strangely not strangely I guess but at an artificial life conference there was an early early in Santa Fe we're both in artificial conference and then one night we got to talk him and it's one of the things that I I'm obsessed about is all of your marginal goofball groups like your skeptics in your atheists and those people that are in the minority and have no chance of winning about any battle they give these little seminars on how how to win people over how do how to get more people to your cause how to sell your case and they give you these incredibly dated Dale Carnegie jive-ass things you know make them think it's their idea have you got any idea other than extraterrestrial is what a UFO could be do you have any idea and you know and this smiling and open and accepting type stuff including you know this weird vibe of how to pick up girls or know how not to pick up girls this is the way the skeptic community should deal with women what what about talking about people there's no special category so you know those kinds of things Tim Jenison as I explained my half assed position on politics just said it wrong you're crazy no no that's wrong no no read this no no there was no politeness there was no manipulation and the lack of manipulation I believe that I am more sensitive to manipulation and condescending condescension than anything and I believe everyone's just like me if you feel like the person talking to you is we're trying to work you or condescending in any way I think it just puts up a huge wall and giving classes to people who are socially awkward and how to convince others is just saying be manipulative be condescending so Tim dealt with me as an adult which is you're wrong you're an idiot you know he talked to me as though he respected me and you have to respect someone an awful lot to say you're wrong you're an idiot and he talked to me about the idea of capitalism he's he's he's he's an Iran not he told me to read some stuff he said a sentence to me that I don't know where he got it I always think of it as him but I I imagine he'd be the first to tell you get it somewhere else but a very simple sentence where he said do you think it's morally right to punish someone who's done nothing wrong and I said no he said then why do you think it's morally right to reward someone who's done nothing right and that sentence you remember you pulled that sentence out of context it's it's mean it's harsh it kind of means nothing but in the middle of a three-hour discussion about capitalism and morality it was defining for me so what that sentence means to me is what that whole conversation was it doesn't mean that one sentence and starting then with Tim Jenison starting with one person one person not trying to manipulate me not condescending to me but actually telling me what he believed started me reading more stuff and I guess I got started reading the Cato stuff in earnest probably 15 18 years ago something about like that and I started reading a recent magazine and started I guess self-identifying as libertarian or at least capitalist or whatever you know I never know what the actual club is doing you know what the actual weather reason or Cato or libertarians or the Objectivists what each club is actually doing that week what their membership is and so on but my heart has stayed with pretty much that point of view since that conversation with Tim Jenison in Santa Fe you are a Menken and HL Mencken research fellow at the Cato Institute and you used to write the back page column for regulation magazine and well tell us about how that came about how that came about when I think when Ed Crane just asked me and I was very flattered and very happy to be to be to be asked you know speaking of heroes one of my comedy heroes before before he was politically important to me was PJ O'Rourke and I have never met PJ O'Rourke I've never met him I read I read him in the National Lampoon in 73 when I was still in high school he always struck me I mean I've always thought that one of the finest comedy writers of modern times was Michael O'Donoghue and then right below Michael O'Donoghue or but in the same class I put PG at work and I think that seeing this stuff the PG or work wrote for for Cato and having him involved was a big thing and I was I was very flattered and liked to talk to them very much it was it was it's a wonderful moment in in reading I think a book that really did make things so clear to me Parliament a horse and I remember reading Parliament of wars in my bathtub in New York City in Manhattan when you're playing on Broadway and I do most of my reading in the bathtub and I've been reading for hours about 4:00 in the morning and I'm reading Parliament a horse and pgo work just says how do we end up with this Penn & Teller economy and there was my name in his book and it was just such a such a boss thing so I think that if they'd said you know PJ your work is a is a member of the Klan would you like to join I would be sorely tempted you have boasted that your act now contains bits that make specific reference to amendments to the Bill of Rights can you talk about those bits yeah we have we we cover we covered the 1st 2nd and 4th pretty clearly in our show and we've had people producers come to us and say you know you need to do a whole a whole special of the of the of the Bill of Rights Penn & Teller present the Bill of Rights and magic tricks but we have just haven't been able to come up with a good bit about housing soldiers in private homes during peacetime it's just I just haven't got I haven't got an angle on the third amendment just can't can't get a hold of that and the Tenth Amendment is well you have to talk about everything but we do we do our flag our flag burning bit which is our First Amendment bit where we we burn a flag while wrapped in the Constitution and then restore it and then burn it again show it's done and then have it reappear while doing the the only verse of the star-spangled banner that doesn't reference God which is the third or fourth group on the shore dimly seen of the fat one that starts in the shore dimly seen is the only verse the star-spangled banner that doesn't include a reference to God which for those people who try to claim that it's a Christian nation but we did that we did that on the west wing the the B story on that particular West Wing it was written by Lawrence an auto juniors one of my closest friends and the B story we wrote together which is Penn & Teller perform at the White House and we do our flag burning and hilarity ensues as and the what troubled me about that is Martin Sheen playing the president in this liberal porn that was West Wing uses a big hunk not not against my will I wrote it but uses a big hunk of what I say from the flag in our show in West Wing and people come up you after the show and say boy it was nice of West Wing to allow you to do that bit in your show and I kind of go oh you somebody Sam and that's ours before was West Wing we wrote it for West Wing then and then the second amendment we end our show it's not as didactic as the as the first amendment bid we do the bullet catch which is a purely American magic trick now many of the magic tricks in our show we created when you speak of magic there's there's a couple very simple terms of art there is effect which is what the trick looks like and there is method which is how the trick is done in many cases our effect and our method are original they may have antecedents but the overall thing our original some of our things the effect is original but the method is something that's been used in other tricks of the times and some of our tricks the the the method is originally effect is standard in the bullet catch our method is entirely ours with with some help from from people that work with us and the effect is one that goes back to the aboriginal Americans Native Americans who did a magic act where they would catch assigned bullets from the settlers in the 17th century now maybe as a culture it's not the best idea to advertise that you can catch bullets when people are coming in to take over your country just just thinking we learned that in history you know but they did the bullet catch and we up until and we now do a double bullet catcher has never been done before and it is the effect is the most dangerous effect in showbusiness about 15 people have been killed on stage doing it assigned bullet fired each other we believe our method is safe we are frightened that maybe some of those 14 15 people also thought their method was safe but just the idea that we're willing to use handguns on stage without apology I believe makes a very strong statement not the Second Amendment and during the introduction I say we only want people on stage to assist us they say to sign the bullets who believe very strongly in the Second Amendment so that's a strong Second Amendment statement and the proof of that is that we can't do the bit anywhere we can only do it in Vegas we obviously can't do it in Canada or England we can no longer do it in the United States of America which of course Vegas is not quite part of the last time we did it in DC we had to have police officers on our payroll take the guns from us at the end of the show put them in a lockbox that that had our lock on it too because we didn't trust them and they would take it to the police station or we stay overnight then come back in for our show we would unlock they would unlock we would have for the show and they would go away but in New York we can't even do that in New York there was no way to do it we tried this is a very sad thing about the state of New York City we tried all aboveboard methods and then we tried bribery and how can bribery not work in New York City but we couldn't do the bullet catch their last we tried and so we've kind of given up doing it anyplace out of out of Vegas and then we do a major bit on the 4th amendment which we do about TSA where we we show how to bring things through a TSA screening machine and we we sell the Dean Cameron Dean Cameron a good friend of mine his security metal Bill of Rights which is the Bill of Rights on a playing card sighs a piece of metal that sets off the alarm and doesn't accomplish anything except allows you to do to be a freedom fighting performance artist and you're able to say yes I'd like to fly here take my rights and so those those bits have a very strong pro freedom whatever you want to call the the Cato Institute exact position point of view and we we self-identified during the show as libertarians you know the show is not an atheist show it's not a libertarian show I try to follow the Garth Brooks rule which is Garth Brooks is a country singer that's what he does for a living and I am a magician a comedian that's what I do for a living and the amount of times that Garth Brooks as a secular performer can mention Jesus Christ being a Christian and being an American is the amount of time I can mention being an atheist and being a libertarian and being an American and that means that I say during the show tell them I are both libertarians I say during the show I'm a non-believer Garth says during his show I want to thank Jesus Christ our Lord and I'm a Christian he has two mentions in a two-hour show we have to mention the two-hour show and I believe that makes means us that we're both secular entertainers and I'm not performing as an atheist or as a libertarian but I am performing as an entertainer who was an atheist of Bloomington

We are a Christian nation and anyone who doesn't agree is blind. The evidence is clear. Tomas Jefferson said "a man who doesn't believe in God is not a Man at all" BUT we are America AND you have the right to be Christian or not. I don't know why Atheist get upset over the fact we are or "was" a Christian nation.

Someone who never did anything right. Lol for someone to do something right on an equal plane would be an ideal but it is hardly a reality. To generalize, to ignore the details in which brought us to the great depression and the crash of 2008. Is to fail as a skeptic. You are still an idiot Penn. As a result of the great depression legislation was implemented to bring stability to the US economy and insure fair representation in media as to informing the people fairly. Why is it that in 1988 the fairness Doctrine, tin 1998 Glass Steagull was done away with, in only ten years after Glass Steagall we have the largest stock market crash since the great depression. Hand in hand with a mainstream media that has no obligation to report with accuracy any news they want, because they are no longer accountable to the people. Social security is continuously under attack of being done away with. Benefits for veterans are always being reduced built up and reduced. Penn my friend if you want to fight and argue a battle for the right thing to do for the less fortunate and a country where freedom from a hierarchical legislative body who enjoyed privilege above all else and did not feel the obligation to reinvest but only sponged of the unfortunate vand threw them in jail without bail for owing an unfair amountvof money in an economy that could not support them. No matter how intelligent a person is there is cause and effect and following it back to its root is to find the answer. So bying into an idiology that says oeave me the fuck alone, imban island is to hide out segrigate and bail on a society that has gone and going further to shit. Denial and hiding out is no answer to where this country is at ir where its going. Now you can say he's a Bernie Sanders Supporter and taunt your bullshit of American democratic socialism. But look at history. It brought balance to capitalism. It did not threaten it. It brought balance to the economy, it did not threaten it. History is your friend. Consult it.

Athiest is not a skeptics dogma but agnostic would be closer to that if a true skeptic. Penn, in this you make no sense.

They can't perform there act about the second amendment because of the strict gun laws. LMAO!! This country… ( ._.)

Jillette must be some fucked up dude by now.  He is right, that he was doing magic and making people believe the tricks of the trade without disclosing how the tricks are done or he was out of business.  And the atheism in him is a totally contradiction to his work and livelihood.  So he should follow his heart and focus on atheism.  Otherwise he is in great danger of being called a hypocrite.  I admire him.

Capitalism is magic. It magically transfers the wealth from those who create it (the working class citizens) to the rich (the people who contribute nothing to productivity)

I have tried my best to like Penn Jillette over the years, but the only emotion he evokes from me is pure disgust. The man obviously has a lot of inner turmoil which causes his eccentricities to manifest. Most of it probably comes from dealing with what he sees in the mirror every day.

There is nothing sensible about capitalism.  It's Darwinian, it pits people against each other for survival.  It gives people "special" rights and position because of wealth. That's a horrible idea.  Maybe Penn should be skeptical about the twisted Libertarian view point, which historically is NOT Libertarian at all.  Traditional Libertarianism is culled from a far left ideology akin to anarchism.  Capitalism does punish people who've not done anything wrong, the west's riches come from raping Central and South America, the Pacific rim and middle East and now China. This resulting in multi-millions of people living in abject poverty, starvation, wars geared to take resources by force, and multi-millions murdered. That's fucking punishment if you ask me and certainly doesn't seem progressive or humanitarian.

I find it hard to believe that those who have the majority of the wealth have done nothing wrong just as I find it hard to believe those who have the least amount of wealth have done (or could do) nothing right. That entire quote is just incredibly assumptious and fundamentally wrong.

@8:50"We haven't got an angle on the third amendment." –I would actually think that would be one of the easier ones, given the latest FLIR, and sonogram technology that the cops are using to see inside people's houses. What was the intent of the Founders? Before this technology, you have to physically go inside the box to see what was inside the box. It almost seems to lend itself to "magic" or illusion.

Penn is just an ass. He's lost respect from former fans, now he's using atheism to pull a few more bucks in from the fringe. It may work, I don't know. It's all he has left…so sad.

Libertarianism is about the rich keeping their wealth and fucking everyone else. It is a recipie for social ruin and titanic failure. If you think that it is in any way a message for contemporary society you are unhinged.

Penn Jillette should be regarded as an idol to anyone with an above average IQ, who believes in facts and not non sense fairy tales. And someone who thinks logically. If you study what he talks about, and really understand what he's saying. He is on the right side of every debate. Like any intelligent, logical human being should be. Only difference with him is he is famous and can publicly speak to millions at once.

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.

Penn Jillette is a living smirk and a perfect monition against the soulless and pathetic state of American education.

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 atheist. 

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.

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.


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