Archive for the ‘Economics’ Category

Value Destruction

Mark Zuckerberg at Facebook, now Meta, and Elon Musk at Twitter are in the process of destroying the value created by their formerly immensely successful enterprises.  A recent Economist (November 3rd) outlines their misadventures, arguing that their conglomerative aspirations have set the stage for overreach.  Zuckerberg is trying to move beyond the original vision, while […]

Perspectives on Humans and Society

I recently read Ben Wiker’s treatise 10 Books That Screwed Up the World: And 5 Others that Didn’t Help (Regnery, 2008).  He chronicles the thoughts, writings, and impacts of Karl Marx, Charles Darwin, John Mill, Friedrich Nietzsche, Vladimir Lenin, Margaret Sanger, Simon Freud, Margaret Mead, Adolph Hitler and Alfred Kinsey.  Often, these luminaries’ hallmark books […]

Markets Versus Governments

There are two long-standing debates in economics that fundamentally affect how one views the challenges our society faces.  The two sides of the first debate are often associated with Friedrich Hayek and Milton Friedman on one side and John Maynard Keynes and Karl Polanyi on the other.  Wapshott (2011) and Delong (2022) elaborate this debate […]

Layers of Complexity

Joseph Tainter’s The Collapse of Complex Societies (Cambridge University Press, 1988) presaged Jared Diamond’s Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (Viking, 2004).  Both books provide vivid explanations of how societies fail and why. Societies create mechanisms to deal with new challenges.  Walls are built to thwart Mongol hoards.  Regulations are created to deter […]

Hidden Taxation Math

Let’s say a university needs revenue of $25,000 per year per student.  What tuition should they charge?  Let’s assume there are three equal populations of students.  One third can afford to pay full tuition.  Another third can afford to pay 20% of full tuition.  The last third cannot afford to pay anything.  What should tuition […]

Let the Liar Beware

A significant proportion of our population is scientifically illiterate.  They have no understanding of the Big Bang Theory or Darwin’s Theory of Evolution.  Actually, one quarter are functionally illiterate and only one third can perform simple arithmetic calculations.  Yet, they manage to function in life quite reasonably.  They are oblivious to scientific misinformation and disinformation. […]

Human Well Being

We know quite a bit about human well being, broadly defined to include the physical, behavioral, social, economic, and political elements of the concept.  We seem to lack the will and the resources to pursue broadly based improvements in the well being of everyone.  Many of us feel that everyone is on their own, and […]

Societal Allocation of Resources

With the proposed FY 2023 federal budget, government expenditures will grow to roughly 23% of the $26 trillion US Gross Domestic Product. Even with the proposed substantial annual tax increases on high-earners’ incomes, the offsetting tax revenues are insufficient to avoid a perpetual trillion dollar deficit each year, amounting to 5% of US GDP. This […]

The Many Cultures of Academia

Recent experiences have caused me to think about contrasts among science, technology, business and policy programs in academia.  I have intensely interacted with these programs at over 50 universities in North and South America, Africa, Asia, Australia, and Europe.  My sense is that academia is an amalgam of many intellectual cultures, which do not dovetail […]

Society’s Perfect Storm

Three weather fronts collided off the New England coast in 1991 – and the subsequent movie in 2000.  The Gloucester fishing boat Andrea Gail tried to endure but could not survive the onslaught.  Everyone was lost. We have as a society encountered a collision of “fronts” that have left us reeling.  The US mortgage crisis […]

Time Horizons

We seem to think of the future, and perhaps the past, in terms of decades.  We likely recall our grandparents and, of course, our parents.  We consider our own lives and those of our children in terms of employment, education and eventually retirement.  Our overall time horizon for planning is likely 20-40 years. Our plans […]

Common Ground

Thirteen months ago, the Trump wing of the Republican party attempted a coup of the US government.  They failed despite injuring hundreds and killing several.  Many hundreds of these people have been indicted for their acts of insurrection.  Prison terms have started to result with hundreds more in the offing.  The Republican party has characterized […]

The Allure of Classic Cars

The Life of the Automobile by Steven Parissenien (2014, Thomas Dunne Books) presents a panorama of automotive invention and innovation over the past 150 years.  There have been many hits, for example, Ford’s Model T, Mustang and Taurus; GM’s ’55 Chevy, GTO, and Escalade; VW’s Beetle and Golf, and Citroen’s 2CV and DS.  The number […]

When the Unpopular Position Is Correct

Most organizations and people like to think that everything is under control, proceeding as planned, and the sought outcomes will be realized.  If anyone suggests otherwise, they will be chastised for not being team players, perhaps for having bad attitudes, or quite simply for being outright wrong.  Unpopular positions are seldom socially acceptable in organizations. […]

When the Organization Is in the Way

There are times when organizations are performing excellently but, despite their confidence, their futures are not bright.  Kodak and Polaroid dominated the film and instant photography industries, respectively.  My mother inherited a quantity of Kodak stock in the 1930s.  It provided generous returns for several decades.  People would always seek “Kodak moments” and needed a […]

The Best of Times, The Worst of Times

Charles Dickens’ immortal phrase portrays a time of radical opposites taking place at the same time in a 1859 historical novel, A Tale of Two Cities. set in London and Paris before and during the French Revolution.  Are we at a similar time of radical contrasts?  Are similar consequences likely? Current technology and economic trends […]

Who Pays Taxes

I am in the middle of reading Rebellion, Rascals and Revenue: Tax Follies and Wisdom Through the Ages (Princeton University Press, 2021) by Michael Keen and Joel Slemrod.  This delightful volume provides an entertaining history of taxation, which they define as “the extraction of resources by coercive rulers.”  This got me thinking about taxation in […]

How to Get Ahead

Let’s say technology innovations relevant to your enterprise happen every N years.  Further, it takes you M years to decide to adopt an innovation and once adopted the innovation is sustained for L years.  To remain at the forefront, you need at most M = 1 and L = 1.  That way, you will always […]

Health, Education & Productivity

A recent email brought notice of four impressive National Academy reports.  Two were 2021 reports on High Quality Primary Care and The Future of Nursing.  One was a 2017 report on Pathways to Health Equity and the other was a 2012 report on Primary Care and Public Health.  These are all impressive pieces of work. […]

Addressing Complications

The world seems to be coming increasingly complicated.  Everything seems connected to everything.  It seems reasonable to argue that this has long been the case.  Diseases migrated from the old world to the new world, as did social and cultural norms.  However, this process took years or decades. Now, accelerated by technology, it takes days […]

The Spectrum of Talent

Economic growth, many argue, stems from technological innovation.  Does technological innovation depend on the flow of STEM talent from our educational system?  That certainly was not the case in the 19th and 20th centuries.  Inventors emerged from all corners of society, few equipped with degrees in science and technology. The transformation from inventions to innovation […]

Investment Priorities

We have, of late, been focused on federal policies to assure and enhance the STEM talent pipeline in the US.  There is a widespread sense that the pipeline is not as robust as the economy and competitiveness requires.  Are we trying to “fix” STEM?  Maybe, but we need to keep priorities in perspective.  As I […]

What Has Changed

I began my career as an engineering assistant at Raytheon over 50 years ago.  Since then, I have founded and managed five high-tech companies, and held faculty positions at six universities.  These experiences led to working with 100+ companies, agencies, foundations, etc.  What has changed over the course of this journey? Increased computing power at […]

The Inequality of Hidden Taxes

The 2020-21 “multi-demic” of the coronavirus, economic disruption, and racial unrest has prompted a wealth of promising ideas for how to improve everyone’s lives in terms of health and wellness, economic security, and racial equity.  As appealing as these ideas may be, they will face enormous implementation challenges and hurdles. We have been here before […]

Theory to Practice

According to Wikipedia, “Critical race theory is an academic movement of civil rights scholars and activists in the United States who seek to critically examine the law as it intersects with issues of race and to challenge mainstream liberal approaches to racial justice.  Critical race theory examines social, cultural and legal issues as they relate […]

The Business of Lying

Bill Bryson’s remarkable book, Made in America: An Informal History of the English Language in the United State (William Morrow, 2001), chronicles the history of the English language in the US.  His chapters on travel, cooking, shopping, and advertising are particularly compelling. A key element of Bryson’s story concerns how we are convinced to value, […]

Making Money Without Providing Value

What if you could make money by selling people securities, or equivalent, that have no inherent value, but people think will eventually be worth substantially more than they paid you for them?  You can potentially make money from an endeavor that provides no value to the economy or society.  You can make money off of […]

The Wild West of Commodity Trading

I recently read Javier Blas and Jack Farchy’s The World for Sale: Money, Power, and the Traders Who Barter the Earth’s Resources (Oxford University Press, 2021).  This fascinating book reads like a novel, almost a page turner.  What will the traders do next? They chronicle the history of commodity traders of oil, grain, metals, and […]