“The Deal Professor,” Steven M. Davidoff, has a good piece at The New York Times website about the indispensability of finance to our economy. It briefly rebuts the view popularized in the Oliver Stone movie Wall Street, in which financiers are portrayed as greedy parasites. I left a comment at the web page, noting that our documentary The Call of the Entrepreneur makes a similar case. I include the comment below, since it may not pass muster with the page’s comment moderator:
A documentary that explores the wealth-creating role both of the entrepreneur simpliciter and the finance entrepreneur in particular: The Call of the Entrepreneur. The film appeared on more than 80 PBS affiliates nationwide, including repeated airings in several major markets. And in what may be a first, it appeared both on PBS and Fox Business. I mention this by way of reassuring readers that the documentary isn’t screechy.
The one-hour film is a combination of narrative and expert commentary that many have found useful for explaining what entrepreneurs and merchant bankers bring to the economy, a particularly useful explanation for friends and family who wouldn’t read a lengthy article or book on the subject but will watch a documentary with high production values. It doesn’t pretend that there isn’t corruption or greed on Wall Street, but it does insist that these elements do not provide a full picture.
Full disclosure: I wrote the script for the documentary and am a fellow of the institute that created the film, The Acton Institute. The film is available at calloftheentrepreneur.com/. Also, the film doesn’t address the market distortions generated by Alan Greenspan and others, distortions that encouraged excesses in the financing world leading up to the economic crisis. Those issues are tackled at our web page on the economic crisis: acton.org/issues/economy.php/.
— Jonathan Witt
Our latest health care video short is up: “Why Consumer-Driven Healthcare Beats Socialized Healthcare.” And John Hinderaker of Powerline has an incisive analysis of the president’s speech last night to a joint session of Congress. The passage that stood out to me was this one about competition:
This seems to me to be the most critical moment in Obama’s speech:
My guiding principle is, and always has been, that consumers do better when there is choice and competition. Unfortunately, in 34 states, 75% of the insurance market is controlled by five or fewer companies. In Alabama, almost 90% is controlled by just one company. Without competition, the price of insurance goes up and the quality goes down.
In fact, Obama and Congressional Democrats have zero interest in increasing choice and competition. If they did, there is an easy solution. There are over 1,000 health insurance companies in the United States; why do you think it is that in Alabama, one company has 90 percent of the business? It is because there are major legal obstacles to insurance companies operating across state lines. State legislatures, and lots of the companies, like it this way. Competition is hard. But if Obama really wanted to expand “choice and competition” in health care, all he would have to do is go along with the Republican proposal to allow health insurance companies to sell on a national basis. Like, say, computer companies, beer companies, automobile companies, law firms, and pretty much everyone else.
The society of the future is one in which the moral distinction that is based upon the Judeo-Christian and Greek traditions will dissolve. We are moving into a Communist world; we are moving into the world that Marx wanted without knowing it and without having the kind of revolution that Marx predicted and thought was necessary. For example, the President always talks about our values. What does [President Obama] mean by values? Values are moral choices, which have no object or basis. The value is a subjective desire, not an objective truth. He does not know what he is saying; he does not know the importance. A hundred years ago, nobody would have spoken about our principles as being values.
For more on the necessity of a transcendent moral order to the development and maintenance of liberty, see Acton’s latest documentary, The Birth of Freedom. The trailer, as well as several video shorts, are available at www.thebirthoffreedom.com.
This week Radio Free Acton continues its discussion on healthcare reform. Dr. Donald P. Condit and Dr. Kevin Schmiesing are back, along with host Marc VanderMaas, to talk about alternatives to the current health care proposal and ideas for reforming the system in ways that will both increase the availability of care for all who need it and make economic sense.
If you are not already subscribed to this podcast, here’s the link you’ll want to use to have podcast episodes automatically downloaded directly into your iTunes or other audio management software.
The Obvious Expert, a blog for Empowering Coaches, Consultants and Entrepreneurs, gave a great review for The Call of the Entrepreneur today in their blog post. The Obvious Expert demonstrates that the film teaches that the call to become an entrepreneur is a spiritual calling:
But the film is not a critique of entrepreneurs; far from it. Instead, Rev. Robert A. Sirico of the Acton Institute likens the calling that leads visionary men and women to become entrepreneurs to something that is almost spiritual, comparing entrepreneurship to being like a religion in the devotion it inspires.
Even furthering their support for The Call of the Entrepreneur, The Obvious Expert attached a link to Rev. Sirico’s interview with David Asman on America’s Nightly Scoreboard which was broadcasted on the Fox Business Network.
To watch the trailer for The Call of the Entrepreneur click here or if you are interested in purchasing the video visit our Bookshoppe by clicking here.
The latest in the Birth of Freedom Video Shorts Series, this new video from Acton Media asks the question, “Was Abraham Lincoln a reluctant abolitionist?” William B. Allen, Professor of Political Science at Michigan State University gives the answer, discussing Lincoln’s views on human rights and equality.
This is the eleventh short in the series. To view the other ten videos, trailers, extended resources, or to purchase the full documentary, visit thebirthoffreedom.com.
Last week I linked to this R&L item, “The Leaky Bucket: Why Conservatives Need to Learn the Art of Story.” And two weeks ago, I discussed the relationship between environmental stewardship and economics.
You may recall that the first story featured in Acton’s Call of the Entrepreneur documentary is that of Brad Morgan, a Michigan dairy farmer. Faced with huge costs to dispose of cow refuse, Morgan’s entrepreneurial vision took hold: “His innovative solution to manure disposal, turning it into high quality compost for a variety of purposes, led to the formation of Morgan Composting in 1996, and more than ten years later the business is still going strong.”
Two news items sparked my curiosity as I opened my Sunday paper this week related to these themes of narrative and stewardship. One of the strengths of good stories is their perennial applicability. Narratives that speak to the human condition in a fundamental way will always be relevant, even if the particulars change. With that, I pass on these news items.
First, in “Turkey manure isn’t waste, it’s poultry power,” Ken Kolker and Susie Fair of the Grand Rapids Press write, “The biggest dairy farms in Michigan generate more sewage than the city of Lansing.
With livestock farms getting bigger than ever, all that manure poses a growing threat to the environment, sometimes running off into streams and lakes.”
The piece doesn’t mention Morgan Composting, but it’s clear that Moran’s entrepreneurial vision and practice of stewardship is being duplicated by other farmers facing the problem of waste disposal:
Turkey farmer Harley Sietsema plans next year to start building a turkey-litter-to-electricity plant in Howard City — the state’s first poultry power operation.
A similar plant opened recently on Scenic View Dairy farm in Fennville — manure from cows is heated and churned in enormous tanks, producing methane that powers generators.
A manure-to-electricity plant is expected to open in about a month at den Dulk Dairy in Ravenna.
The 1.2 million turkeys on Sietsema’s farms in Ottawa and Muskegon counties produce 10,000 to 12,000 tons of poultry litter a year.
Three tons of litter — which also contains bedding materials such as sunflower hulls, wood chips and alfalfa stems — is equal in energy production to a ton of coal, but it does not produce polluting carbon dioxide.
Slow-burning litter will heat a boiler, producing steam that drives a generator.
Sietsema plans to use the power to run his farms, saving him $300,000 a year.
And then there’s this piece from the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, “Garbage in, profit out”:
Waste Management Inc., heeding the proverb that one person’s trash is another person’s treasure, is spending $3.5 million to poke holes and run pipes to help the Spruce Ridge landfill expel gases that soon will run three electrical generators.
The project is part of a $350 million investment to be made by Waste Management over the next five years to turn 60 landfills across the country into sites for creating renewable energy.
These projects are examples of searches for alternative sources of energy, specifically from biomass, that results from the reduction or recycling of waste products.
These stories just reiterate the connection between sound economics and stewardship of the earth. Or, in the words of the Cornwall Declaration (PDF), “We aspire to a world in which advancements in agriculture, industry, and commerce not only minimize pollution and transform most waste products into efficiently used resources but also improve the material conditions of life for people everywhere.”
Garbling difficult (and sometimes easy) words is a common and often humorous occurrence among children, as any parent can attest. My daughter did so serendipitously the other day, pronouncing Acton’s film production as “The Call of the Entre-manure.” As chance would have it—and as those who have seen the film or its trailer know—one of the documentary’s stories is about a dairy farmer who turned his animals’ waste into a profitable business. I wondered if Brad Morgan might like to take up the moniker, to distinguish his particular form of entrepreneurship.
On a hunch (as a historian, I pay homage to the nostrum “nothing new under the sun”), I googled what I thought was my discovery of a brilliant new term. Turns out that an Omaha business not only is already using the idea—they sell “Entremanure” T-shirts!
And UrbanDictionary.com offers two definitions of the term (not appropriate for quotation here).
The UrbanDictionary usage is not what I had in mind with respect to Brad Morgan, by the way, who is as admirable an example of a real entrepreneur as one can find.