That Papola Talk Last Night
Last night’s session at the Austrian Scholars Conference was nothing short of magical. After a full day of presentations on new research, and a fascinating and well-delivered talk by Caroline Baum of Bloomberg, John Papola, maker of the Hayek-Keynes rap, presented his video and then gave a talk about how it was made.
All the technical details were fascinating. We learned about the creative process and how the music came to be written. We learned about the paths not taken and why they chose what they did. We heard about how John personally drove to Barnes and Nobel to pick up the copy of the General Theory that makes an appearance in the first scene. We heard about the marvelous 16-hour stretch of filming.
There were moments when John brought down the house. For example, he jokingly spoke about the affinity between libertarianism and rap. There is the belief in gun rights. And drug freedom. People laughed uproariously about that. But then he went one better: he said that after all the rap community is on the gold standard.
Mostly, however, I must say that what I found inspiring about John’s talk was its freshness in overall philosophy. Several points stood out to me. He spoke about the need to put aside whatever factionalism exists within the Austro-libertarian community, about which he knows and cares nothing, in order to focus on the larger goal of educating for liberty.
He drove home the point that we live in a new world in which information is spread in unpredictable ways, and how the old command-and-control model of learning is evaporating. That means that we must be willing to take new risks and use every means possible to get the word out in every format. It means that the state is at a major disadvantage here but so is any institution that is unwilling to evolve and progress.
I also appreciated his interesting point about how important it is to assume that your audience is smart. Never talk down to them. Don’t take cheap shots. Always be fair. Never think of yourself as rallying a tribe but rather think of recruiting others into the smart set. It was striking here how much he sounds like a combination of Nock and Mises, and yet he is experimenting with this model in new and surprising ways.
He is a very young man and he was speaking before a community that included some much older and well-established scholars. And yet everyone present was really inspired, and learned from him. After all, he was repeating old wisdom but repackaging it in a lovely way. It was especially touching to hear Roger Garrison’s comments on the video and the talk. Here we had the meeting between the older generation and the young one, the established scholar and the artist in new meeting. Somehow it all seemed to work. The mood after John finished was nothing short of exuberant.
We were all honored to have him here. It is probably the last thing he imagined doing two years ago but he served a crucially important role at this conference in his comportment, craft, and even philosophical pedagogy. We are all in his debt.