I’ve already posted about my chess teaching, and my grocery store work (here and here), my next job was as managing editor of the Austrian Economics Newsletter, for 1980-1981. I was only eighteen (and nineteen) then, so for me this was a big step up.
I was responsible for commissioning content, making sure authors got their pieces in on time, editing those pieces (along with the editor proper, Don Lavoie), proofreading, picking up all the copy and delivering it to the typesetter, and coming up with ideas for future features. I wrote a few short pieces too, conference coverage if I recall. Part of my job was managing Don as well, though overall he was extremely generous with his time and also easy to work with. Note that all of this work was de facto pre-computer.
From this job I learned a few things:
1. Most of all, I was grateful to Don for taking a huge chance on me. A while earlier, I had driven to a party at his house in Brooklyn and spent a few hours with him. One core lesson here is show up! If I had not gone to Don’s party, almost certainly none of this would have happened. At the time, the drive from New Jersey to Brooklyn seemed a little daunting to me, but my Auseinandersetzung with the BQE went fine.
2. I began to suspect all the more that “keeping track of things getting done” requires an innate predisposition, though a bad upbringing can squeeze it out of you. But a lot of people just can’t or won’t do that, even if they are very smart.
3. The most fragile element of the supply chain was keeping the typesetter in line to deliver material promptly. We were just never going to be a major customer of his and thus we were not a priority. I just had to keep on bugging him, and I was afraid he would find out I was only an eighteen-year-old.
4. Parents matter! My father and mother owned and ran a magazine (Commerce, affiliated with a chamber of commerce in NJ but they owned and ran it), and there I was at age eighteen, helping to run a mini-magazine. Coincidence? I don’t think so. And my mother dealt with typesetters all the time. My grandmother helped with the editing and the proofreading.
Here I am at an older age, still co-running a magazine of sorts, namely MR. (Some of you help with the proofreading — thanks!) You could say it is affiliated with a number of groups, starting with GMU, but it is owned and run by…you get the picture.
5. The issues of the Austrian Economics Newsletter all came out in an orderly fashion, so I considered my work there a success. Don and I also pushed each other in broader and more empirical directions, away from the earlier Austrian praxeological approaches. The Newsletter helped make Austrian economics a broader tradition.
6. Managing your boss is a big part of most jobs. Again, Don I found easy to work with, and I learned a great deal from him, but he did need a co-worker who could appreciate his ideas and listen to his “speeches.” I feel I served that function well. I did see that Don was onto ideas that represented real advances in Austrian economics, and to this day Don is underrated. He was the best and most influential Austrian economist of his generation, but is not universally regarded as such (he passed away prematurely of cancer at the age of 50).
7. As a young person, you can advance much more quickly if you are doing something outside of the mainstream. That is yet another reason to be on the lookout for “weird” talent.
8. One of the more important things I learned was “what it means to know everyone/everything going on in a particular field.”
9. I don’t recall exactly how the job ended. But I think that version of the newsletter was discontinued, and Don stopped doing it, more or less at the same time. (Later it was taken over by the Mises Institute and became a very different product; the Mercatus publication Market Process was the true successor.) I was very glad to have done it, but after two years or so I was ready to move on to the next thing.