Tuesday, December 21, 2010

2010 in Review

Since 2007, I have apparently published two-hundred and twenty separate blogs under the "Logicology" banner.

I know many of these have been excessively long, but I have always basically prided myself on making sure I am thorough. I do my best, and whenever possible I try to keep records of sources and link to more in-depth discussions of ideas that I write about. It's always been my intent to keep this blog as professional, and ideas-based as possible, while leaving most of my personal life out of it.

Generally, I don't find my personal life to be that interesting or that worth posting publicly, and that's kinda what Facebook was always for anyway... But then, as my business and personal life intertwine (as, by the way, I think they should), it becomes harder to separate one from the other. So naturally the events of the past several months have slipped through the cracks. I still don't feel compelled to explain everything, but in what proved to be one of the biggest mistakes I've ever made, back in July, I moved out of Los Angeles and straight into the maw of heart-break. The full details are irrelevant, but it all turned my life upside down and now I'm stuck digging my way out.

So for the first time in a while, I decided to start pursuing some more "stable" work arrangements.

One of these was a potential job with the Texas Public Policy Foundation. Unfortunately, I learned today that that job wouldn't be happening, so for the short term it's back to square one... Well, not square "one", as I have definitely built a decent business on my own.

Anyway, I liked everyone over there, and to my knowledge, they liked me. In fact, I was told today that they had initially planned to make me a substantial offer, however, as has been the case for many people and many businesses, the economy basically got in the way. Originally, they were hoping to hire two new people, one to produce multimedia (me), and the other to work within their communications (marketing) department.

However... As it turned out, they had to make a tough choice and cut one new potential hire, and they decided to focus on the marketing side. I can't really blame them. If I had a marketing department that wasn't just myself, I'd probably be focusing my attention in it right now too... Alas, I have to do all jobs myself, as is the deal when you strike out on an entrepreneurial journey such as mine.

I wish the TPPF all the best, and of course I suggested that I might be available to do contract work if they so needed as well. They seem to be a fine organization... Thing is, I really was looking forward to the idea of moving to Austin. I do feel like the move to the East Coast was such a spectacular failure that having a good reason (and means) of leaving that part of the world seemed like a great thing for me. I still think it is, of course, but now I no longer have a vector. At least... Not at the moment.

An interesting alternative just cropped up in Washington D.C., but perhaps I'll have to save any details about that until I know what the opportunity is.

So we shall see what 2011 holds for me. Perhaps it will be a break-out year. I'm sitting on a half a dozen good-to-great video ideas and at least one fabulous musical idea right now. The musical idea is easy enough to put into action. But the video ideas need sponsors. Preferably substantial sponsors... As yet I'm not sure who that will be (but I have a couple ideas). If anyone reading this is interested in finding out more, by the way, just email me and I will give out some more information.

At any rate, I've been reflecting on the events of 2010, and I have to say, this year has been a year of extremely high, highs, and low, lows to match.

CitizenA Media put out its first(ish) video on "The Fear of Violence: Government vs. Liberty" last December, and then I made the popular "Profits" video shortly there-after, and the company has been driving towards new media for "education and advocacy" ever since. Under the CitizenA label, I've done video editing for a Los Angeles DA campaign; a small "mini-documentary" at a Young Americans for Liberty tax-day protest/rally at UCLA's campus; multiple scores for the Institute for Justice videos on topics ranging from the serious (such as compensating bone marrow donors) to the ludicrous (like onerous government licensing requirements for beauticians and yoga studios) to the profoundly influential (such as this video depicting the 5 years after the Supreme Court's decision in Kelo vs. New London).

One of my IJ scores even made an appearance on John Stossel's Fox Business show, "Stossel".

Then we get to the really cool stuff... The Moving Picture Institute fellowship, which produced the Bill of Rights videos, and what might be my favorite achievement of the year; "America's Economics Knowledge Deficit" for the Foundation for Economic Education:

Toss in a bunch of smaller jobs (including a couple for the folks at www.AntiWar.com), arranging a Peter Pan musical, producing videos I made for my own purposes, and a couple great parties, and 2010 wasn't too bad at all...

At least, it was without including the single, but immensely negative downside to the year caused by my decision to put faith in the wrong person. That whole sequence of events... Moving out of Los Angeles, the emotional devastation of having one's trust broken, blah blah blah.... It wasn't good.

That said, I'm not one who tries to dwell too much on personal set-backs.

There's work to be done, getting back out into the "real world" of mainstream news and middle class living that I always re-discover when visiting my parents, I realize just exactly how much work there really is left to do.

In the last few years, there has been a wonderful up-tick in videos and articles focusing on decent economics... Even a fair bit on the Austrian School. Folks at a bunch of organizations - like Douglas French of the Mises Institute- have been positively excited about it. For instance, French's recent article, "Flooding the World with Truth" says;
"Our time is coming. Of this I'm convinced. The explosion of the Austrian School into the popular media is so large and so vast that it is impossible to keep up. We're in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, the Financial Times, all over the television, in journals and hundreds of books, and in every other conceivable media outlet."
That's true. There has been a great new resurgence of Hayek, Mises, Bastiat and even though people don't quite realize it, Menger & Böhm-Bawerk.

This is undeniably good, but the benefits and scope are, in my opinion anyway, vastly overstated.

I've now been out on the town to malls and multiple bookstores, and the TV here is often set to the irritating drone of the likes of Lawrence O'Donnell, Jr., Rachel Maddow or the mostly-tepid comedy of Jon Stewart or Steven Colbert. And while there are few people on TV more hostile to rational economic reasoning than someone like Lawrence O'Donnell (except perhaps, Keith Olbermann himself), I don't for one second suggest that Fox or CNN, or any of the other TV networks are contributing anything better...

But here's the truly important point; TV news viewer-ship is still a fraction of the size of the audiences for weekly entertainment shows, and far less influential in a lot of ways because of the nature of how susceptible people are to confirmation bias when told information directly vs. how people adopt ideas that are presented as entertainment or as "generally accepted". News puts people in antagonistic modes of thinking. Things that confirm people's existing beliefs get through, all else is usually tossed aside. But movies, most TV and other forms of entertainment don't make people take sides. People accept the premises as presented and don't think very much at all about what is being taken in.

Now... Stuff like "Fear the Boom and Bust" is perfect in a lot of ways!

But only if people actually understand it. And I suspect far fewer do than should... I know that outside of my core group of friends, who are and uncommonly informed and active group, few people I encounter anywhere have the slightest clue what Mises or Hayek were all about, and even fewer actually care enough to learn more. It's kind of a downer, but I'm only saying this because I do care.

If you want to see a good barometer of what information people are getting exposed to, and what information is truly in the popular zeitgeist, go to your local Borders or Barnes & Noble. Or check out your local movie theatre.

My experience from the past couple days of doing just that suggests that we're in a lot of trouble still. I'm going to go back to one such bookstore and do a more thorough examination, but on a limited glance, when Robert Reich's book; "Aftershock: The Next Economy and America's Future" is placed at eye-level with a prominent display, and Peter Schiff's new book on how an economy grows is buried on an invisible shelf bad ideas are still getting center stage.

And if I seem to be cherry-picking here, the ratio of good books on economics to the nonsense was... well... not good.

I took some pictures... My favorite pair of images comes from this book:

The book claims to be "everything you need to know about how the economy works and where it's going", as I'm sure you can see from the subtitle.

So I pick up the book, curious to see what they have to say, and as I'm browsing its table of contents, I see that the second chapter is titled, "Three Great Economists".

As one might expect, my mind wandered to all of the brilliant figures in economics that have profoundly influenced the field in the last few hundred years. Friedrich Hayek on the limits of knowledge? Bastiat on broken windows and the unseen costs? Jean Baptiste Say on production and demand? Maybe even Murray Rothbard on political economy, the state and the Great Depression? Even Milton Friedman talking about capitalism & freedom? Don't be silly...

Let's get real. Of course they included Adam Smith... That was hardly even worth "guessing". The grand-daddy of economics was a shoe-in. But who were their other two "great economists"?

Check it out for yourself: over there on the right.

Yep. John Maynard Keynes and none other than Karl Marx. Please... Someone explain to me a single idea that Karl Marx contributed to the subject of economics that has any validity what-so-ever.

From Labor Theory of Value (which he didn't even invent), to the perpetuation of zero-sum idiocy, Marx is nothing but a stain on the field - and oh yeah, he wasn't actually an economist! He was a philosopher, a political theorist, and not even a very good one.

So yeah... That's what was at my local Borders. What's at yours?

I'm willing to bet you won't find much better than this... I may go to Powell's Books in Portland later this week, and I'll try to take some video or pictures and maybe get a third example and talk about this in more detail, but the point here is that as great as it is to have some decent ideas showing up in the pages of the Wall Street Journal and on Freedom Watch with Andrew Napolitano, the way to tell where the mainstream ideas actually reside is by observing the cultural and (ironically) commercial barometers like what ideas show up in the popular entertainment people are watching and what ideas people are going to the bookstore to read about.

If any of the mainstream stuff I've been observing lately is any guide, it ain't "Human Action" (which by the way, hasn't actually been for sale in any of the bookstores I've been to yet). Don't even get me started on the big-time movies of the past (a bit more than a) year like Avatar. I mean... Bad economics are the bread & butter of the film industry.

So that's sort of my final thought for 2010....

It's been an excellent year in a lot of respects,, both professionally for me, and for the advancement of liberty in America.

A lot of headway has been made in the form of getting good ideas that had no seat at the table at all to receive a tiny bit of attention. "A seat" is better than "no seat" at all... But don't mistake that headway for being enough, or really even all that substantial at all. "We" definitely need to build on this year's successes - and there have been a lot of good moments, to be sure - but looking up from the cloistered vantage point of anyone who is surrounded by their intellectual allies, I suspect that while the sound economics voice has grown, so have all the voices supporting the ludicrous, destructive ideas that got us where we are today.

To anyone who's interested in a peaceful, prosperous society, we still have an immensely long way to go.

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