Acton Media’s documentary, “The Call of the Entrepreneur,” is slated as the first item on the 2007 Agenda for the Annual Gilder/Forbes Telecosm Conference, to be held in Lake George, NY this October. The theme for the 2007 Conference is “Pursuing opportunities, celebrating entrepreneurship, and seeking the upside surprises surrounding the coming end of the local area network.” Visit the Conference website for more information and to register.
The Acton Institute hopes the documentary will crush the popular myth of business as a “zero-sum game.”
Jay Richards, the director of Acton Media, told an audience at a Heritage Foundation screening that the “point is that human beings create wealth; it’s not a zero-sum game.”
The film addresses the critics of capitalism while acknowledging that capitalism’s defenders are sometimes too theoretical. “The Call of the Entrepreneur” discusses aspects of entrepreneurship in “moral” terms seldom used by libertarians.
“We consider ‘God’ a public word,” Mr. Richards said.
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.
Arnold Kling had the opportunity to screen The Call of the Entrepreneur and published his reactions to it on Tech Central Station. In this rave review Mr. Kling, in the first paragraph, calls The Call both the “most subversive film” he has ever seen, and “a threat to tyranny everywhere.” He points out that while the film uses the so-called “G-word,” it avoids the scare-tactics that “An Inconvenient Truth,” also a religious film in his view, makes use of and is based around a much more rational exploration of evidence.
Thomas Woods from the Mises Institute blog has posted his thoughts on the Call of the Entrepreneur. Woods praises the film saying, “For once, the moral dimension of entrepreneurial activity is brought to the fore and celebrated. For once the heroes are creators, not political hacks.”
If you haven’t yet heard about the film, check out the trailer at www.calloftheentrepreneur.com!
There are two new items that should be noted in the Acton Bookshoppe. The first is The Call of the Entrepreneur DVD which is now available for pre-order. The DVD is not expected to ship until the fall but you can start lining up for one of the first copies right now.
The second item is The Call of the Entrepreneur Study Guide by Rev. Robert Sirico. The study guide touches on many of the same themes as the DVD, including the zero-sum-game fallacy, the importance of entrepreneurs in driving the economy and creating new wealth, and the necessity of limited government, rule of law, and property rights in a free-market society. The study guide also expands to topics including the significance of Judeo-Christian tradition in relation to capitalism.
Stop by the Acton Bookshoppe today and see whats new!
The London Premiere of the Call of the Entrepreneur has been confirmed — you may RSVP here. This event is sponsored by the Institute for Economic Affairs and will take place at the Cass Business School in London starting at 5:30pm on Wednesday, 20 June, 2007. This event will include refreshments before the film and discussion time and a reception following.
Please remember to visit www.calloftheentrepreneur.com for up-to-date information on premiere locations and times. We will also soon be adding a list of public screenings hosted by volunteers around the country.
Iain Murray, blogging for The Corner on NRO, has this to say about The Call of the Entrepreneur:
I must say [The Call of the Entrepreneur] is the best visual exposition of the moral basis of entrepreneurialism and free enterprise I have ever seen.
By sketching the tales of three men who have taken risks – amazingly big risks in one case – and created not just money but wealth, it underlines the importance of free enterprise to what used to be called the commonwealth.
A warning: you may choke up at some of the human tales it tells. I certainly did. This is no economics lecture, but the true, very human face of free enterprise.
If you haven’t yet seen the trailer for this film, or if you’re interested in learning more, please visit www.calloftheentrepreneur.com.
The Call of the Entrepreneur will premiere in Hawaii on May 23 and May 24, 2007. The premiere will be sponsored by the Grassroots Institute of Hawaii in cooperation with the State Policy Network and the Acton Institute. Those of you familiar with SPN may notice that this corresponds with the 2007 Pacific Rim Policy Conference – admission is free with pre-registration for that conference. The premieres will be held at 3:15pm at the Waikiki-Sheraton Hotel.