"In my country, there are no gods left." *
Insightful social commentary can emanate anywhere, from Thomas Paine (corset maker, naval mercenary) and Ralph Waldo Emerson (essayist) to William H. Whyte (urbanist) and Jane Jacobs (journalist).
As a social commentator, I use Late Enlightenment political ideas and ideals - specifically small-r republicanism - to investigate 21st-century society, politics and economics.
Small-r republicanism was meant to be a beacon of hope, not twisted into a global scourge. For example, political and economic institutions should serve the betterment of the individual, not the converse.
But we have been existing in the shadows of these institutions for quite some time, and our cynicism has caused us to lose our capacity for idealism. Yet ideals are the bridges that help us move beyond our shores, move us to reach beyond ourselves.
It's time we started crossing more bridges.
*The Cappadocian, in "Salome," by Oscar Wilde
After graduating from Purdue University in the early '80s, E.L. Beck worked as a journalist for 13 years, focusing on the automotive trade and business. During this time, E.L. covered business news in the Miami Valley, Ohio area for the Cleveland bureau of BusinessWeek, and also for the Dayton-based newspaper, The Business News. He covered the automotive industry for AutoWeek, Popular Mechanics, Car Collector and various European periodicals.
Just before leaving this field, E.L. co-authored "Auburn & Cord," a history of the Auburn Automobile Company, and a winner of the 1996 Moto Award for Best Pre-War Automotive History. E.L. was listed in the Who’s Who in the Midwest from 1996-1998.
In 1997, E.L. transitioned to channel marketing; much of his effort focused on major automakers. He engaged in business development utilizing qualitative research (intensive interviewing, case studies, ethnography) for proposals. His direct clients included Volkswagen/Audi of America, Mercedes-Benz USA, Saab Cars USA, ExxonMobil, Porsche Cars North America, Biomet, and Zimmer. During a period of consulting work, E.L.'s agency clients included BMW North America Financial Services, New Balance, Dell Computers and Continental Tires North America.
After having witnessed three major recessions during his working career, E.L. decided to return to school to pursue a Ph.D. in economics. He soon discovered that the answer to our economic turmoils did not rest in economics, but rather many of our problems emanated from the way economics is taught as a discipline.
Attending the University of Chicago for graduate school, E.L. instead concentrated in economic sociology. Before investing too much time, however, he learned the academic job market was as much of a train wreck as the wider economy.
E.L. graduated with an Artium Magister in 2007, entering the nascent Global Financial Crisis. Shortly after, E.L. established TSr (The Small r) Institute, a non-partisan policy institute that uses the lens of America's democratic republic period (1789-1860) to investigate 21st-century social, political and economic issues.
This isn’t an atavistic ideology, but an argument for decentralizing both political and economic institutions to a human scale, one wherein the individual minimizes his or her struggles with hopelessness, feelings of victimization, loss of control, or meaninglessness.