The Birth of an Idea


Just because something is inevitable doesn't mean it's easy.

I used to think having an idea I believed in was the hard part, and once I had it, acting on it would be easy.  When you get an idea that you know you must act on - a thought you must put into words, an expression you must create - and you know there is no choice but to bring it into being, the real challenge starts.  It's a process not dissimilar to pregnancy.

If you have been trying to get pregnant for some time, it is a relief when you do.  But things don't get easier just because the eventual child is all but inevitable.  You have the knowledge that birth is coming.  You also realize how much has to be done between here and there.  There are moments of panic when you consider you have no nursery, no diapers, no baby clothes, no stroller, no idea what challenges may come, no knowledge of all the things you might have to do to care for the child.  There are other times when you feel completely at ease, resting in the knowledge that what you have created will come to fruition in due course.  You have a vision of life with a child, and you know that vision will be fulfilled and somehow everything you need to get done will get done.  Of course, you still have to do it.

The seed of an idea that moves you, once planted, will - must - grow.  You know it must be created, expressed, brought into the light.  But how many things are there to do first!  How can you handle them all?  How can you fill that space between now and then with the things that must precede the birth of the idea?  How can you prepare to raise and nurture it once it emerges?  Yet you know you will, because the idea is going to happen, just as the child is going to come.  Nature must run its course.

The mental, emotional, and spiritual challenges of pregnancy reveal the unique process of moving from potency to act; from knowledge of a new life, through gestation, to birth and beyond.  The near inevitability of the outcome is joyous and overwhelming.  Being 'pregnant' with an idea has many similarities.  It's right to experience the tension between complete relief that the new creation is coming, and uneasiness with the knowledge of all that must happen first.  Your job is to do two contradictory things at once: relax and let it happen, and actively ensure the process and preparations move forward.

Creativity = Hard Work and Ignoring Everyone


A few links to get you thinking about creativity:

Marketer and cartoonist Hugh MacLeod's great booklet, "How to be Creative"

Designer Jonathan Adler's presentation on keeping other people's opinions out of your creative process.

Bad Arguments Against Immigration


Originally posted here.

The Economic Argument
Arguments against immigration on economic grounds basically boil down to “They took our jobs!”. Some feel that allowing people to freely cross borders will result in a flood of low-wage labor that will “steal” jobs from natural born citizens. Labor is a factor of production, just like raw materials or financial capital. Restricting the flow of capital and labor will always decrease economic prosperity. Access to more resources – human or otherwise – always increases wealth and opportunity. If this does not make sense to you, I recommend Frederic Bastiat’s “What is Seen and What is Unseen”, chapter 7, as well as his brilliantly satirical “Candle Maker's Petition

The Culture Argument
Others argue that immigration must be restricted in order to protect the nation’s unique cultural heritage. I submit to you that any culture which must be maintained by force is not an authentic culture and is probably a bad one. Cultures freely arise because they provide benefits to those who participate in them. Cultures are always changing. Getting government in the business of protecting culture is dangerous and counter-productive. First, who gets to define what constitutes culture? Bureaucrats don’t have the best track record in such matters. Second, do we really want to live in a culture that is forced upon us by government prohibitions, restrictions and mandates?

The Welfare Argument
Advocates of limited government sometimes argue against immigration on the grounds that immigrants make use of the welfare state and increase the cost of government. State-sponsored welfare programs are a problem. Stopping immigration because immigrants might use welfare programs treats one tiny symptom, not the problem itself. If you routinely tossed open cans of tuna on your front lawn and found the neighbor's cats hanging around your property, would you try to ban cats or would you clean the up the fish?

Though I think the vast majority of immigrants immigrate for jobs, freedom and opportunity, I’m sure some come and make use of government handouts (though less than U.S. Citizens, and likely less than they pay in taxes). The handouts are an attractive nuisance and should be addressed on their own merits, not by attempting to ban the free movement of people.

The Safety Argument
Some argue that allowing easy immigration will bring bands of criminals into their country and make them less safe. First, if something is a crime it is already, by definition, illegal. Threats to life and property are already supposed to be addressed via the existing police and justice system. Putting up a wall and stopping anyone from crossing it on the grounds that some of them may be criminals is ludicrous. By this logic, governments should perpetually engage in random home searches because they might discover criminal activity.

Closed borders probably don’t stop criminals, but let’s pretend that they could; if we could keep foreign criminals out by keeping out anyone foreign, what would we gain? We’d have spent tons of resources keeping out foreigners, most of whom aren't criminals, and we’d have that many fewer resources to fight domestic crime. Banning people from movement because some of them may be criminals is even dumber than banning gun ownership because some people may use them for crime.

A Better Argument
Freedom to immigrate can be defended from several angles, but I believe the most important argument is based on rights. Imagine you and I have pieces of property that share a border. You wish to traverse my property and I wish to let you, but lawmakers prohibit it. What business do they have dictating whether we can make decisions about our own property? Sure, they were democratically elected, but what business do others have of voting to determine how you and I peacefully use our property?

What if government issued a decree that business owners were prohibited from hiring anyone born on a Tuesday? It’s no different when they prohibit hiring anyone born in another country. Shouldn't the business owner be free to hire whom he wishes? If an individual wishes to travel, work, buy, or sell peacefully and all other parties involved agree, why should government prohibit it?

When you think up other arguments against immigration, ask yourself why they should not also be applied in state to state immigration? City to city? Home to home?

At bottom, I think much anti-immigration sentiment comes from a fear of people unlike us. I support anyone’s right to be prejudiced, or to associate only with those of like culture. But putting that attitude into public policy not only hampers wealth and progress, it violates my right to associate peacefully with whom I choose.

Interview with a Decamom: Heather Hinkle


IMG_8390How many people know a mother of nine with a tenth in the womb? I’m related to one. Don’t hold that against her. She’s got children between the ages 2 and 12, with one set of twins in there.

IMM: I guess the obvious question to ask a mother of (nearly) ten is, why? Are you trying to field a baseball team?

HH: No, I hate sports. I love children and so does John and we always wanted a large family. We (obviously) have left our family planning to God!

IMM: Did the experience of growing up with such an angelic and genius younger brother cause you to desire tons of kids?

HH: Quite the contrary...it really made me doubt the wisdom of humanity propagating. I'm always fearful of my children displaying 'Isaac-like' behaviors.

IMM: Do you ever worry that each individual child won’t get enough attention with so many in the house? How to you try to remedy that?

HH: It's definitely something both John and I contemplate and my full thoughts on the issue would take up more time than your readers would want to give. However, ways in which we try to combat it are by taking the older children to a special store they like, such as a bookstore, or taking the younger ones to the play-land at the mall. It can also be something as simple as one of us playing board-games with them once the smaller ones are in bed.

IMM: Are people generally kind and happy for you when they see you with all your kids, or do you get dirty looks? What’s the most surprising comment you’ve gotten?

HH: It's interesting, but we've found in the south that people seem the least accepting of our large brood. This manifests itself by complete disinterest/ignoring of us. I'm not sure why this is, but we were approached/asked questions a lot more whilst living in the midwest. Once a lady at a store basically forced me to take a twenty dollar bill from her, to buy something for the family and another time an individual asked John how much money he made!

IMM: OK, you’re a homeschooling mom with a massive family. The picture most people have in their mind is of a giant farmhouse and a bunch of kids churning butter, wearing bowties, and giving each other violin lessons. Does that describe your home life?

HH: Nothing you listed describes us...except the bowties, which we don religiously. I think most people would be surprised to see that we live in a neighborhood, have a relatively small yard and our house is decorated really well!

IMM: Hardest and most rewarding parts of having such a big family?

HH: My pregnancies are definitely the hardest part for our family to endure; I wish I felt well and enjoyed them, but it is the exact opposite. It's a sacrifice for all of us to endure eight months of me feeling sickly. And the weight...ugh! I look like Martin Short's character, 'Glick' for my last two or three months. It's hard to pinpoint what is the most rewarding aspect, but one would definitely be watching the kids interact with each other and how much they enjoy it...when they're not arguing, of course!

IMM: Do you ever feel constrained by the fact that you are primarily defined by the size of your family? Do you feel held back from going after other things you want in life?

HH: Not especially; I feel I have plenty of other interests, etc. that define me. There are definitely times where I feel held back from pursuing other things I enjoy, but on the whole I feel that motherhood has propelled me to be more creative, organized and good with managing my time.

IMM: How long does it take you to get everyone ready and out of the house?

HH: You'll find out in a few weeks, when you and your lovely bride come to watch them! If we are talking Sunday morning, it's about an hour-and-a-half to two hours from awakening to pulling out of the driveway. If it's a normal day where we are just getting in the car to run an errand, it's actually fairly quick, maybe 10-20 minutes.

IMM: How many loaves of bread do you go through in a week?

HH: Nine. I really have to keep my eyes out for good prices on bread, because we don't care for Wonderbread and the like...though I'm not trying to besmirch their fine name. Buy-one-get-one deals are the best!

IMM: Do your kids seem to like being in a big family? Do any of them ever complain about it?

HH: Well, judging from the strained looks on several of their faces in the accompanying picture, I think it may be a hardship for them! They all really like it; they generally start praying for a new baby shortly after I have given birth! I encourage them to delay that prayer for awhile, so I have some time to recover and enjoy feeling well. In conversation you will hear them say, "They only have five children in their family"!

IMM: How many kids do you plan on having?

HH: As I said earlier, we leave family planning to God. But I hate vague answers such as that; my feeling is we will end up somewhere around sixteen.

IMM: Do you recommend having a big family to others? Are there some people you think would be better with a small family, or do you think it can work for anyone willing to try?

HH: I do think having a big family is extremely rewarding and I try to be encouraging to people about it, while still being real. I think most people would benefit from having a large (or larger) family, but the reality is you have to be extremely dedicated with your time, resources and emotional energy. People very rarely say they regret having another child, but more often regret not having had more.

IMM: If you could go back to just before you started having kids and give yourself one piece of advice, what would you say?

HH: This is a tough one, but I think it would have to be 'Everything is a phase that will end, but will move into another phase'. I know that wasn't very sage; I wish I could say something that made me look smarter and others would consider hanging on their fridge.

IMM: In the midst of raising and homeschooling all these kids, you've launched a business. What was the inspiration? Can you tell me about it?

HH: My business is called Bliss and Brahm and it is a clothing line specifically for twins which will carry coordinating items for boy/girl multiples. It is in the very rudimentary stages, but is really exciting in the sense that I am doing this from start-to-finish, from helping to design the sketches for the pieces to getting them shipped out to the buyers. My inspiration came eight years ago when I was searching for matching outfits for my own boy/girl twins and could not easily find items. The name came from my twins' middle names!

IMM: Do you have a website or Facebook page? When will products be available?

HH: I do have a Facebook page called Bliss and Brahm. I wish I had an incentive to offer your readers to 'like' my page, but I'm going to count on the fact that you have been pounding into them the positives of free-market and entrepreneurial business ventures and hope that will compel them! My website is slated to be up in early July and we are actually launching our first line of clothing in March of 2014. I realize that seems a long way off, but the world of fashion runs on its own timeline. In the meantime, my website will allow browsers to see our progress and weigh in with their own thoughts and ideas.

IMM: Thank you!

College: A One Sided Sorting Mechanism


I recently listened to an excellent EconTalk podcast with Arnold Kling discussing technological changes in higher education.  Kling pointed out the main role universities play is sorting, not forming.

There is a somewhat romantic idea among the populace that education molds and shapes young lumps of clay into the men and women they ought to be.  In this view, what school you attend is very important, because they have the power to mold you for better or worse.  Kling combats this notion by reference to studies that have tracked students accepted to Ivy League schools: They achieve the same level of success whether they attend the Ivy League school or choose instead to go to a lower ranked college.  In other words, it's the type of student that goes to Harvard, not the type of student Harvard creates, that makes for success.

For employers, this sorting mechanism significantly reduces their hiring cost.  Kling described the process as a coin sorting machine, where you dump in a pile of loose change and is sorts all the quarters, nickels, dimes and pennies.  An employer looking for a certain skill level would be at great pains to sort all the applicants, but the type of institution from which they have a degree does a lot of the work for them.  What a student majors in also play a part in the sorting process.

Though this works reasonably well for many employers, it's pretty inefficient.  Does it have to take four years and a few hundred thousand dollars to sort out who excels at what and who's worth interviewing for which roles?  The signal sent by many degrees is getting weaker as more and more students flood into schools.  With the exception of the top schools, many middle of the road universities have turned into massive degree mills.  The printing of more degrees makes those already in circulation worth less to employers.

But there seems to me a worse problem.  Even if college serves as an effective sorting mechanism for employers, it is seriously deficient as a sorting mechanism for employees.  After all, a career is a two sided affair.  It's not a matter of businesses finding out what you're good at and allocating you there; it's primarily about you finding what you love and what helps you get the most of what you want for the least of what you don't.  The student needs a sorting mechanism to discover what industries, what kinds of work, and what companies they like.  College doesn't have a lot to offer here.

Most degrees do not entail any kind of on the ground experience in the business world.  In fact, most classes don't even talk about what different kinds of work are like.  You may enjoy learning philosophy, but that fact alone doesn't do a lot to tell you which career paths are your quarters, nickels, dimes and pennies.  Students spend tens of thousands and a good chunk of their time tumbling through a system that gives employers some valuable info about who they are, but it provides the student with little info about who these employers are.  It's like a dating service where only one side gets to view the profile.  It's not uncommon for graduates to spend the first five or ten years of their career discovering what kind of career they want to have.

There are a lot of things students can do to remedy this problem.  They can seek knowledge, ask people with experience, take a wide range of courses, and explore different majors.  But at the end of the day, nothing beats genuine experience in the world of commerce.  As it is, most students are expected to cram that in an internship for a semester or two.  That's a lot of time and money to burn if you don't walk away with a good idea of what makes you come alive.

The Choir’s the Only Audience Worth Preaching To


All learning is self-motivated.  No one has ever successfully crammed a belief down the throat of another.  Enough brow-beating can coerce someone into changing their actions, but it cannot change their heart.  Even absent heavy-handed tactics, telling someone they are wrong will never induce them to alter their worldview unless they are already seeking.

Engaging those without some level of curiosity in your ideas is a waste, unless you enjoy it for its own sake.  But that's the really peculiar thing; no one does.  When people get frustrated by discussion, it's not because their open-minded interlocutor is asking too many good questions and seeing too much merit in the other side.  It's because the hidebound counterpart can't even work from the same basic assumptions, and resorts to illogical arguments or ad hominem.  That's not because the wrong words are being used, it's because the wrong person is being talked to.

A lot of people claim to love debate as a format for discovering what is true.  It supposed to be more balanced and less dogmatic than a presentation on just one side of an issue.  It seems just the opposite in practice.  Never have I seen a debate where a debater says, "I've really learned a lot and changed my position!"  Of course, it's the audience who are supposed to learn, but that too is a rarity.  People watch debates for the spectacle, and to cheer when their side scores a rhetorical point.  There is nothing wrong with this in itself, but if a person were genuinely uninformed and wanted to learn about an issue, a debate would be the a poor way to do so, as the emphasis is on posturing and outwitting, not enlightening.  When defenses are up, nothing gets in.

If your goal is to be understood, or to help others see how a change in mindset could better their life and the lives of others, the choir - those who have self-selected into the space where your ideas are discussed - are the best audience to preach to.  If you value your own happiness, abstaining from street corner sermons to uninterested or hostile passersby is a must.  There are many derogatory sayings about talking to people with similar ideas, but it should be the opposite.  All the grumpy, hateful, fruitless and frustrating conversations happen when people walk away from the "echo chamber" and shout into ears that don't care to hear.

Don't waste your breath on people who have not signaled somehow that they are interested in your ideas.  You'll live a happier life, and reap the immense rewards or real, back and forth, give and take conversation that builds the mind of truth seekers on both sides.  You learn to dance where you can freely try, in a studio with other dancers, not at the Bomont chapel.

Do What You Love, or Have it Easy?


The hardest thing to do is what you love.

It's a long and difficult process to discover what you love; what truly makes you come alive.  It includes a series of epiphanies about your own errors of judgement and direction.  It demands brutal self-honesty.  It requires tedious and dangerous trial and error.  It cannot be found by mere reflection, but deep reflection has to occur alongside experimentation.  None of this is easy, and you're never done.  You change, and what makes you come alive changes.  The journey toward it is endless and adaptation and adjustments of your goals are continuous.

That's just to discover what you love.  Once you've begun to remove the chaff and hone in on a direction that makes you fulfilled, actually moving in it is even harder.  You have to muster the grit and determination to move toward it, even when the individual steps themselves are grueling.  You have to continue to remind yourself of what really awakens your love of life, and not let yourself off the hook pursuing anything less.

It's much easier to find and do what you mildly enjoy, what you can tolerate, or even what you hate.  Anyone can stop the discovery process short and find what feels comfortable in the short term.  Anyone can choose not to chisel away the distractions; not to get to the core of what makes you fulfilled.  Anyone can treat what they love as an unattainable object that exists only to torment and tease.  Anyone can come up with mediocre, safe, reasonable, sound, and predictable goals and activities.

People say when you do what you love you never work a day.  It's easy to hear that and envy those whose profession seems to be something they have a lot of fun with.  It is true that when you're in the zone pursuing your passion, it doesn't feel like work.  But discovering that zone, and making yourself enter in is more work than anything.

Some people think work is hard because they're not doing what they love.  In reality, they haven't been able to do what they love because they're not willing to work hard enough.

Finding and re-finding what you love, and moving toward it every day, is the hardest thing in the world.  It is also the most worthwhile.

Obey the Law (of Demand)


The fact that walls and violence are needed to slow the flow of immigrants into this country is proof that more immigrants are economically beneficial.

If immigrants did not create wealth, they would have little incentive to come here.  In a market of voluntary exchanges, both parties benefit from trade.  For every immigrant who can command a higher wage in the US than elsewhere, there is an employer on the other side of that transaction, who benefits more from hiring the worker than not.  Wealth is created.

How much wealth is being left on the table by restricting immigration?  The evidence suggests quite a lot.  If immigrants consider it worthwhile to spend days sneaking through the dessert to avoid border patrol agents and face the very real threat of dehydration and death, the potential payout must be pretty significant.  That means a lot of value for both parties to the exchange.  Despite all the policies and restrictions passed, markets continually push towards equilibrium.

What's odd about all of this is how revealing it is of our capacity for self-deception.  Americans push for laws that restrict immigration.  Many say that their preference is for fewer.  Yet when they take action in the market place, they reveal that what they really find valuable is just the opposite.  While the laws of the land say fewer immigrants, the laws of economics, reflecting preferences, beg for more through the price signalling mechanism.  Imagine a robot fluent in both English and the price "language" of economics, programmed to interpret the desires of Americans.  Americans would be screaming, "Don't come here" with words, and begging, "Give me your tired!" with dollars.  I think we're more honest in the face of trade-offs.  I'd program it to obey actions, not words.

We see the same double-mindedness with bans on box stores, import restrictions, drug prohibition, and a slew of other regulations.  Black markets are evidence of what people value.  If you have to use force to stop something, it's because people really like that something and opportunities for mutual gain exist.  The more force required, the bigger the potential win-win being squelched.

If you want to know what people value, not just what they claim to value, the law of demand is a better indicator than the law of the land.  Those who follow this law, despite what the rules say, are listening to the true desires of consumers and taking on huge entrepreneurial risk to satisfy them.  How much wealthier we would be if we'd get the state out of the way and let these win-wins occur unencumbered.

Isaac Morehouse


Isaac Morehouse is the CEO of Crash, the career launch platform, and the founder of Praxis, a startup apprenticeship program. Isaac is dedicated to the relentless pursuit of freedom. He’s written some books, done some podcasting, and is always experimenting with self-directed living and learning.

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The Ever Moving Goalposts of Arguments for College


 

You have to go to college to get a good job and make money

Actually, college grads have an average of $35,000 in debt and 60% of them have no job or jobs that don't require degrees.  Those silly earnings statistics have the causation backwards.

 

But you still need to learn skills for the real world!

Actually, employers report that college grads are completely unprepared for what's needed in the real world.  You can learn all the skills you need better, faster, and cheaper through an apprenticeship.  College tends to foster all the worst skills; the type that make humans dull rule followers, easily replaceable by machines.

 

You can't be so one-dimensional and materialistic.  The liberal arts are important to becoming well rounded person.

Precisely why you shouldn't go to college.  Student knowledge of liberal arts is the same when they exit as when they enter school, and none of them like going to class anyway.  Anyone who is interested can read books and articles or take classes for free or incredibly cheap and get a far better liberal arts education.

 

It's not about the knowledge, it's about the network!

College networks are incredibly limited and uniform.  Anyone can build a rich, diverse network through work, travel, social clubs, or any number of ways that don't cost six figures or take five years.

 

It's not about the specific job, skills, knowledge, or network, it's about the glories of the unique campus environment, the parties, the football, the four year escape to live and grow up!

Anyone can move to a college town and have all that and more without ever paying tuition or registering for classes.

 

Employers still need a degree as a signal of hireablility!

Actually, fewer and fewer require it and even those that do care far more about things that actually signal value creation.  A degree is one of the weakest signals on the market and the most expensive.  There are more ways than ever to get great jobs and stand out without wasted time or wasted dime.

 

Some jobs have mandated legal requirements for a degree!

Yes.  Yes they do.  And they shouldn't.  Of course, many of those jobs are "prestige" careers that students don't actually enjoy but feel like their parents need them to pursue like law or medicine.  Even there, opportunity to innovate and work in those industries as an entrepreneur without the costly credential exist and are growing rapidly.

 

But old people and parents might look down on you if you don't do it!

Yep.  They look down on just about everything young people enjoy, create, and do well.  They'll adjust.

Whether People are Good or Bad…


I posted a quote by C.S. Lewis to Facebook about decentralized power being valuable not because everyone is so good they should have some, but because humans are imperfect and no one should have a lot.

An interesting discussion ensued in the comments.  It's easy to misunderstand what I take to be the core insight of the quote; that freedom doesn't depend on the moral goodness of people.

Here's my own take:

Markets and freedom work and benefit all whether people are good or bad.

Government control, on the other hand, is unnecessary if people are good and deadly if people are not.

Whatever your views on the goodness or badness of human nature, government is an unnecessary evil.

I happen to think people are self-interested, which is neither good nor bad.  When you try to force them to be good, they become worse.  When you let them freely pursue their own self interest, they become better.

76 – FwTK: Politics Sucks, Flexible Schedules are Hard, Fringe Theories are Great


Today we discuss why you have to be free before you expect the world to, not the other way around.  We talk about why politics is disempowering, why it's so hard to not let your job get in the way of your work, and why fringe theories are great for society.

Recommended in the episode: But What if We're Wrong, Patterson in Pursuit, Meditations on First Philosophy by Rene Descartes.

This and all episodes are available on SoundCloud, iTunes, YouTube, and Stitcher.

It Took Me Ten Years to Launch…and I Don’t Regret It


My brother and I started a business when I was 19, but is was never the business or anything I was really passionately committed to.  After that failed, I worked for other people for the next decade before Praxis, which had been a rough idea I had since age 17, was actually launched.

This wasn't a bad thing for me, and there's no way I would have accumulated the knowledge, network, skills, confidence, and experience needed without it.

Today I share 3 reasons you should work at a company before you launch your own.  Check it out, and relax a little.  As long as you're not doing stuff you hate, you're probably moving closer to your dreams.

If You Hate This Post You Hate Truth


Just about every argument for school is actually an argument for the value of education that proves nothing about the value of school.

Just about every argument for law is actually an argument for the value of order that proves nothing about the value of law.

Just about every argument for welfare is actually an argument for the value of compassion that proves nothing about the value of welfare.

Just about every argument for the military is actually an argument for the value of security that proves nothing about the value of the military.

Just about every argument for regulation is actually an argument for the value of safety that proves nothing about the value of regulation.

Doublespeak is alive and well. Those who succeed in making the name of their pet policy linguistically interchangeable with a basic universal value always get to play offense.

Name it and claim it!

Isaac Morehouse


Isaac Morehouse is the founder and CEO of Praxis, a startup apprenticeship program making degrees irrelevant for careers. Isaac is dedicated to the relentless pursuit of freedom. He’s written some books, done some podcasting, and is always experimenting with self-directed living and learning.

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