Disrespectable Laws Deserve To Be Disrespected

When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am the Lord your God. (Leviticus 19:33-34)

In the Tucson Sentinel today we learned that a No More Deaths volunteer was arrested for sheltering two people suspected of being in the country illegally.

There is a tension in the Rule of Law that helps keep government in it’s proper sphere. It demands both: 1) That laws be respected, and 2) That laws be respectable.

There is nothing respectable about laws that lead a govt agency to promote death by exposure of overwhelmingly peaceful migrants, there is nothing respectable about laws that target for arrest peaceful citizens seeking to prevent the deaths by exposure of those same peaceful migrants.

If you support, as I do, the Rule of Law in this country, I would suggest starting by supporting changes to our immigration policy to end the inhumane treatment of foreigners and citizens alike. This is not about criminality, this is about economics. You cannot overturn the human drive to survive and prosper with a wave of the legal wand.

Until such time as the US falls in economic success such that we do not attract migrants, or that other countries rise such that migrants do not feel the drive to leave, we will face this pressure at our borders. I believe the economic and historic research that concludes we are better with these new neighbors than without them, but even if you do not, our duty is to treat our fellow human beings with dignity and kindness.

We need to wake up and realize that we as a country have been shirking this duty for many years across many realms of government. A good place to start would be reversing our century long slide into migratory isolationism and brutalism.

That moment…

A scary/thrilling moment in the life of an entrepreneur is the first time you realize that there are normal tasks of your company that both (a) must be done and (b) you don’t know how to do them.

It’s scary because it’s the first time you feel how much you rely on your team. It’s thrilling because you see how your little dream has become something bigger than you.

Selling Girl Scout Cookies

26907747_10154925391380216_6675666031665677015_nThese are the cookies I bought after an impromptu sales training on a sidewalk in the middle of downtown.

Three lovely young ladies and a couple of moms had set up on Congress, I was walking by on the way to a meeting when I heard the familiar, “Would you like to buy some Girl Scout cookies?”

I walked past with a quick, “No, thank you.”

I made it all the way to the corner of Congress & Sixth before stopping, looking back twice, then turning on my heel. I needed to help.

If you or anyone you know is involved with young women learning sales, business, project management, etc. through this excellent annual tradition, PLEASE, help them by doing better than that old stand by question.

To start, it’s great that they are asking just about everyone! That is the most important thing. We only make shots we take.

But what if we had a better first question?

The main problem with that question above is that it is known and closed-ended, i.e. people are conditioned to say “No, thank you.”

A simple improvement is to try questions that get someone to stop and think:

1. “Hello, we’re doing a survey… Can you tell me what your favorite Girl Scout cookie is?”
2. “Good afternoon… What kind of service projects do you think are most important for young women to be involved in?”

Do I know where the conversation will go from there?? Nope! But I know you will get a lot more people stopping to talk, and each active conversation is an opportunity to close that you won’t have with that old tired question.

Next, think about the value proposition, i.e. WHY should a person give you their money, WHAT are they really trading for… Here’s a hint… It’s NOT the cookies.

Once you get them talking, your potential customer should now be engaged with a real live Girl Scout. Do they know that is truly a special opportunity? It is a chance for them to hear why these young ladies are out there on the street, what they get from the program, the specific places they will go and things they will do when they and their troop achieve certain sales goals during cookie season.

Girl Scouts on street corners in downtown, out in front of grocery stores, knocking on your front door, are NOT selling cookies! They are selling good citizenship, service hours, personal development, wholesome fun, academic achievement, and all of the rest of those outcomes that Girl Scouts provides and promotes.

THOSE are the things buyers (as members of this community) receive from that money all year long… Long after the Thin Mints box has been tossed in the recycling bin.

But that isn’t the value proposition most often being sold in front of the supermarket and door-to-door… For that these young ladies need to get people to stop and talk for a couple minutes.

But if they can get to that value proposition, the final ask will be for how MANY boxes not whether $5 is worth it.

To recap:

1. Keep asking everybody!
2. Start with a question that isn’t answered Yes or No.
3. Don’t sell cookies. Sell the Girl Scouts.

And remember to make sure the girls have fun!

Open Immigration Made America Great

One thing that really did make America great (a return to which could make us great again) was our uniquely welcoming disposition to immigrants from all corners of the Earth.

Not perfectly welcoming, not a utopian brotherhood of all singing kumbaya, but UNIQUE relative to the community of nations globally. To be an “Other” has never been as strange or dangerous in America as elsewhere in the world.

Our relatively free immigration policy was a great strength for most of the history of these United States. It encouraged, not the wealthy and well-born (who were often doing fine in their home countries), but the cleverest, the most tenacious, the most determined, to brave the difficulties of a new country, new communities, new careers, to make for themselves something better.

It is that DNA to make something better that was infused in American society by our immigrant forebears. Our great prosperity and freedoms in the US is the inheritance of that heritage we enjoy today and our children’s future will be better or worse based on how we decide to treat immigrants now.

Will we follow the good example of history and open our communities to those who need our help and shelter? Or will we impoverish our material and moral selves by treating the foreigner not as a neighbor, but with insults and racism and fear.

We are not a country that was built on border walls, travel papers, and golden tickets to only “the best and the brightest”… We were a country built on this:

“Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
MOTHER OF EXILES. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!””

~ Emma Lazarus, The New Colossus (1883)

9 Things Every College Freshman Should Know… But Doesn’t.

These types of articles pop up around August and September every year. In fact, several months ago I wrote up a list of 9 things I wanted my college-bound daughter to know and I also asked my many professor and grad-degree-ed friends to chime in on what made them successful or what they would want freshmen to be thinking about.

But this type of list is invariably in one ear and out the other amidst of the firehose of information and life experiences hitting these 18 and 19 year olds all at once as they begin their post high school journeys.

But now, with some real college classes now behind them (and some accompanying scars and bruises to show for the process), I wanted to revisit the topic as they are starting or are getting ready to start their second semester. Hopefully these tips will resonate more now with the benefit of a bit of perspective under their belts.

Below is a revised version of my original list with quotes and comments added from my friends and associates in higher ed:


1. Stay AHEAD.

It is a helpful trick to think about the importance of any period of time in college as inversely proportional to how far along you have progressed (e.g. Your freshman year is your most important academic year, sophomore year the second most important, etc. The first week of the semester is the most important, the second week is next most important, etc). Continue reading

Balanced Budgets Are For Adults

I do believe corporate income tax rates are way too high, in fact I’d rather not see corporate income taxed at all… but taxes are complicated and the ONLY way to inject rationality into the structure is through the discipline of budget balancing. When you dismiss the tension that balancing act forces on the process you are left only with fictions of public relations.

There is little truth in the tales the political parties tell us in the war to gain or hold power over the lives and livelihoods of American citizens. But there IS truth (truths of balancing needs and wants, truths of hard priorities, truths of victories and losses between competing interests) in a budget where simply expenditures equal revenues.

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.