Why not dream of Utopia?

One way to think of Left Right Forward’s mission is that it’s to revive and update the dream of a practical utopia. Not long ago, respectable people all over the world believed that building utopia was a practical and realistic project. In the 1800’s, people were still in awe of the power of science and engineering. It was natural to think that its newfound magic should allow humanity to solve virtually of its practical problems — for example, to eliminate scarcity and therefore poverty.

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Video #5: Three Ways to Rebuild the Economy

Here is my favorite video of this project so far. For more info on this video project, and why I’m doing it check out this post. Here are three things America could do right now to rebuild its economy, protect the environment and get everyone to work in great jobs.

One depressing reality I’m facing as I publish these videos is that there is just so little appetite among progressives (or conservatives) for discussion of fundamental economic issues. This is the great tragedy of American politics. Even though economic issues top every poll of what most people and most voters care about, the activists on both the left and right are not that interested in thinking about the economy outside of the simple lines they’re used to. This is one of the problems that Left Right Forward is trying to wrestle with. The question is: Can we attract a new audience of community leaders who care about how the economy actually works and how we can really make it work for everyone as opposed to towing a party (or subcultural) line?

Video #4: The Story of Healthcare and Insurance in America

Here’s my fourth video of the summer. For more info on this video project, and why I’m doing it check out this post. This is coming out in time for another Senate fight over healthcare. This video came out of one of my experiments with working with a professional voiceover artist and a new professional illustrator.

This is the story about how health insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies and hospitals became super profitable at the expense of the American people’s health, and how we can fix it with Medicare for All.

It has been incredibly hard to breakthrough on YouTube. On Facebook, however, where I have a little bit of audience accumulated over the years, it’s gone much better, with my first videos getting tens of thousands of views.

Video #3: Let’s Skip World War 3

Here’s video #3. For more info on this video project, and why I’m doing it check out this post.  This was actually going to be video #1, but since it was the first, a whole bunch of lessons had to go in to making it which slowed things down. I did this one with lots of help from Allison Jester, but the problems with it are all mine.

One of the hardest things about these videos is doing the voice well. After hours of trying to record a compelling voice track, I started asking around for professional voiceover artists. It’s insane how many voiceover people are out there (and ready to work for what seem ridiculously low rates). There are also a lot of people who think, like I did, “That’s so easy, I can’t do that!” Some friends recorded tracks, but the non-pros didn’t sound any sharper than I did. Then, I tried out some pros. And they are amazing. But they all sound like ads, or movie trailers. And there seems to be no way to get them to turn it off.

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Video #2: A Very Simple Healthcare Solution

Here is my latest video — this time on healthcare! For more info on this video project, and why I’m doing it check out this post. This comes just in time for another Senate healthcare battle. Please have a look and let me know what you think. And please subscribe to the Left Right Forward channel.

I’m learning a lot about what it takes to make these videos. The first one I worked on myself in Adobe After Effects with a lot of support and work put in by Allison Jester who showed me the ropes. For this video, I handed the script over to the amazing Mike Booth. It turns out it’s very difficult to find freelance animators who can take a script dealing with politics or economics and make something without a ton of direction. And even with a ton of direction, it still usually doesn’t get anywhere. At least that’s been my experience attempting trying out a dozen or so animators this month. Maybe it would have been better to have spent this time fundraising to be able to afford more of Mike’s time and other more established animators!

First video: Where Does Poverty Come From?

Here’s the first video in my summer project to experiment with this format. If it seems a little strange, check out the paper I wrote during my fellowship at Harvard’s Shorenstein Center. Or check out this video by the influential right wing YouTuber I wrote about. (Please subscribe to our channel here.)

This format, which might be called “mansplaining with pictures” is powerful on YouTube. There are hundreds of right wing channels on YouTube with more than ten million views that use something like this format.

There are some mainstream educational channels with millions of views that deal with economic and political issues. But very few progressive ones. My hunch is that the progressive explanation of economic problems is not as coherent or comprehensive as the right wing and mainstream version. They both have a very clear core story about how the economy works at its foundation. Following on top of those, they each diverse into different explanations for the problems that we experience in the economy. But those are also clearer and sharper — and in the case of the right, more controversial — than their progressive counterparts.

So in these economics videos, I’m going to try to provide something different than the usual progressive fare on economic issues: A comprehensive and coherent explanation of where prosperity comes from, and an explanation that makes sense and is hopefully exciting about how the world economy is failing billions of people.

As the world economy stagnates and parties of hate continue to rise almost everywhere, suddenly it matters to have real answers to question around how economies can turn themselves around on purpose, and what it would take to make our economies fully sustainable while getting everyone out of poverty. This video is an initial installment. It attempts to introduce a couple concepts that are totally absent from the current discussion.