Optimists Get It Right Less… But When It Counts.

Pessimists and naysayers are “usually correct”… However, being “usually correct” also means you’re probably boring and will be wrong about the most impactful things.

Optimists are not those with rose colored glasses. They are those willing to endure the inconveniences of failure, often repeated failure, in pursuit of new and better states of being and knowledge. Optimists are the scientists, explorers, entrepreneurs, innovators, authors, and others who are willing to try and fail, try and fail, try, try, and try again.

Here are a few places where I am may be wrong but I CHOOSE to be an optimist:

1. I think Americans are soon (next 10 years) going to break with the current 2-party paradigm. I think the next substantive party will be one which eschews nationalism and populism, reasserting America’s classical liberal roots.

2. I think we will learn to trust private healthcare again. To let the vast majority of health decisions be made and paid for directly between patients and providers, while developing a system of third party funding focused on the care of marginal need-based cases.

3. I think we are going to continue to break away from schooling by zip code to great benefit. I think there is demand and innovative vigor in the educational space that has been pent up by our focus on primary government provision. I think the future of education will be modular and customizable, combining in-person and virtual learning spaces, based on student interests and family needs.

4. I think automation will lead to net job gains in the future. As software and hardware capital become better capable of taking over execution-based jobs, I think it will lead to the continued flowering of new creation-based work.

5. I think cryptocurrencies and other blockchain applications are going to gain broad acceptance. This will allow radically reduced transaction costs enabling currently impossible products and services. It will decentralize power structures (monetary and political) to the benefit of individuals and minority groups.

6. I think my local community in Tucson is going to experience an economic and cultural renaissance over the next 20 years as we reinvigorate our entrepreneurial spirit and develop closer ties with our Mexican neighbors.

7. I think the spread of capitalism will continue to make the world healthier, wealthier, cleaner, and greener. I believe innovation driven by technologists and entrepreneurs will produce ever improving options for better living all around the world. In particular, I think the next 20 years will finally see Africa begin to experience the same economic transformation that we saw first in Western countries and we see now in Asia.

8. I think the decline of the studio development model is one of the greatest innovations in the history of media production. It has opened the doors of film, television, and video to innumerable new creative voices and an amazing geyser of entertaining, beautiful and important work has emerged. I think this trend will strengthen and expand over the next couple of decades as new business models continue to develop and new people get involved in financing projects.

Where are you willing to stick your neck out and possibly be wrong, but in pursuit of something better? Where are you an optimist?

The Tucson Weekly Bashes An Honorable Man

Economist Steve Horwitz posted today on Facebook about something he labeled “a priori biography”:

“You start with an axiom (“libertarians are evil”) and you deduce from there. There’s no testing against empirical fact. Rather you can spin out an entire theory of modern libertarianism… right there in your armchair without ever having to find source material to support it.”

This seems the perfect description of David Safier’s recent column in the Tucson Weekly (https://www.tucsonweekly.com/…/koch-brothers-infiltrate-pim…).

In his article, Mr. Safier calls out the three authors of a new textbook designed to provide curriculum for high school teachers in the areas of ethics, economics, and entrepreneurship. He characterizes this textbook and their work as “infiltrating” high schools to spread libertarian “ideology”, apparently solely due (no other evidence is provided) to funding the U of A’s Center for the Philosophy of Freedom has received from the Koch Foundation (though he points out this project was actually funded by the Templeton Foundation).

Who are these devious authors who are trying to infiltrate our high schools and indoctrinate our youth???? Mr. Safier names them, but oddly provides no further elaboration. So I’d like to help out.

One is Dr. Cathleen Johnson, an economist specializing in experimental techniques and colleague of Nobel Laureate Vernon Smith. The second is Prof. David Schmidtz the Eller Chair of Service-Dominant Logic, Kendrick Professor of Philosophy, and founding director of the Center for the Philosophy of Freedom. The third is Prof. Robert Lusch, the longtime head of the University of Arizona’s Department of Marketing and most recently the executive director of the top ranked McGuire Center for Entrepreneurship at Eller from 2010 until 2015.

The quality of work from both Johnson and Schmidtz over their careers is evidenced by the lengths of the published records and speaks for itself (literally, just Google them). Further they are both available and may respond to Mr. Safier (or not) as they please. However, I think those of us in the community who have benefited from Prof. Lusch’s career need to speak out on his behalf.

Why?? Because unfortunately he passed away earlier this year.

I was first introduced to Robert Lusch by a college roommate who had the opportunity to work with him and be directly introduced to his ground breaking work into what he and his coauthor Stephen Vargo termed “Service-Dominant Logic”, which Wikipedia summarizes as the idea that, “…all exchanges can be viewed in terms of service-for-service exchange…” This work reshaped thinking within much of the marketing field, evidenced by Lusch and Vargo subsequently receiving awards such as the American Marketing Association’s Harold H. Maynard Award for “significant contribution to marketing theory and thought” and the Sheth Foundation Award for “long term contributions to the field of marketing.”

While his work was a guide to me as an entrepreneur and marketer, I unfortunately never met Prof. Lusch, and I don’t know enough about him to know whether he would accept even the label of “libertarian” that Mr. Safier would like to stick on him. But I certainly can reject the possibility that he would ever accept a characterization of his work as libertarian “ideology” or “indoctrination” as Mr. Safier further claims… A claim he makes without ANY references to the actual textbook material, without ANY interviews with the authors or teachers involved, without reviews from ANY experts who might be able to provide competent feedback.

Prof. Lusch was an academic of the highest standing in higher education, a man who was respected throughout his field, and whose work was the solid foundation of the work of many others, both within academia and modern commercial marketing. If you want to hear more about the man David Safier is choosing to malign from those who actually knew him, you should read the “In Memoriam” piece published last March by UA Communications (https://uaatwork.arizona.edu/lqp/memoriam-robert-lusch).

All three of the authors of this textbook are owed better from a “news” publication within their own hometown (I feel the Tucson Weekly should look closely at the quality of Mr. Safier’s “reporting” going forward), but Prof. Lusch’s memory and his family are owed an apology for this article so long on horrid innuendo but completely lacking evidence.

On a broader note, this is the terribly shallow, fact-lite, ad hominem and mud slinging that too often has masqueraded as “journalism” in Tucson and that so many good local journalists have been working to overcome (some linked herein). We don’t all have to agree, but if you are going to jump into the fun fun world of public debate, bring your A-game, not your D, F or whatever Safier and his editor obviously think are worthy of publication.

A Columbus Day Rant

I am a libertarian “directionalist”.

This means I believe individual liberty, associative freedom, and relatively unfettered commercial exchange are “North Stars” at which we should aim over time. It means I believe we should successively progress, through commercial innovations and societal evolutions, towards communities which operate peacefully with fewer and fewer areas of coercion and prohibition.

This “directional” focus (vs “destinational”) is what allows a libertarian like me to, for instance, acknowledge the shortcomings of Thomas Jefferson while seeing his politics and philosophy as a huge step forward in the world; a man to be praised for contributing to the progress of humanity’s welfare.

On the other hand, it also allows a libertarian like me to differentiate those who were enemies to the cause of liberty. Including those that originated the transatlantic slave trade like Christopher Columbus, and those who were hell bent on preserving American slavery in the 19c like the Southern secessionists and military leaders.

These are people who harmed the cause of freedom and human welfare. They should be remembered but not honored.

Generations to come should look back on us in the same way. As with technology, we should be judged not by the standards of the future, but by how much individuals contributed towards that future during the time we had.

So many figures from the “Great Men” school of history were actually horridly destructive to the liberty and well-being of their fellow mankind; they moved society in the wrong direction. However, we can use people like Columbus and his cohort, to see and understand the limits and norms of their time, in order to more clearly see those individuals who rose above, who did better, who moved us in the right direction.