Socialism, like the ancient ideas from which it springs, confuses the distinction between government and society. As a result of this, every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all. We disapprove of state education. Then the socialists say that we are opposed to any education. We object to a state religion. Then the socialists say that we want no religion at all. We object to a state-enforced equality. Then they say that we are against equality. And so on, and so on. It is as if the socialists were to accuse us of not wanting persons to eat because we do not want the state to raise grain.”
― Frédéric Bastiat, The Law
Check out this very refreshing and well-written article from Forbes, wherein the author makes a strong empirical, mathematical, and historical argument lauding the advantages of the gold standard – specifically, how it benefits the middle and working classes.
I should preface this post by clarifying that I foster a deep ideological resentment towards both political parties and our political system (more accurately, all political systems) in general. However, if there’s one thing I resent even more, it’s the spreading of blatant disinformation.
The fearmongers who comprise our media and government are asserting that a failure to raise the debt ceiling will result in a default on our bond interest obligations then before you know it, yada yada yada, “dogs and cats, living together – mass hysteria!”
This is nothing more than an attempt to keep our decades long habit of deficit on its course towards complete and utter financial ruin. What the pols et al. don’t admit is that we can obviously pay the bond interest – we’d just have to do it at the expense of some other entitlement program, the defunding of which would mean political blowback.
Ultimately, the continual raising of the debt ceiling is a far more ruinous prospect than not raising it; why the heck do we even have one if every time we approach it we raise it?
I’m entirely unconvinced that the Republicans would object to raising the debt ceiling if they were in power – for quite a while it has served as nothing more than a political tool of the out-of-power party to berate the party in-power, regardless of which party is in which position. After all, Obama decried the raising of the debt ceiling as a Senator in 2006, and its been raised 55 times since 1978.
If you want to hear it straight from a far more informed and articulate person than I, might I recommend a few awesome videos from the amazing Stefan Molyneux:
Apparently Jeffrey Katzenberg (of Dreamworks SKG) offered Vince Gilligan et al. $75 million for three more episodes of Breaking Bad with the requirement that that they be distributed as thirty six-minute clips via a VOD platform.
Vince declined. That’s true dedication to the sanctity of his art.
An interesting read from Forbes from the perspective of Ross Ulbricht’s unsuspecting roommates in San Francisco, who describe themselves as “Walt, Jr.” to Ulbricht’s “Heisenberg”.
It’s interesting that just prior to his arrest Ross had a number of fake identification documents seized out of the mail en route to him from outside the U.S. – it would be unfortunate if he just missed his opportunity to skip the country. I consider Ross to be a modern-day hero – aside from the whole contract hit thing.
Here’s a particularly infuriating selection from the Eureka Police Department’s press release concerning the acquisition of a $700,000 – yes, $0.7 million – armored vehicle to “be made available for use during critical incidents”:
The original cost of this vehicle to the federal government was in excess of $700,000.00, however, the only cost to the Police Department was the shipping cost from Washington State to Eureka.
The procurement of this life saving vehicle could not have been possible except through the Defense Reutilization Program which provides equipment and supplies of every nature to state and local public safety agencies at no cost.
“No cost”? Seriously? The $700,000 was financed either by federal taxpayers, or debt, which is subsequently robbing the savings of Americans via inflation. Just because it was paid for by a large swath of people across a large area – with a minuscule local incidence – does not make it “free”.
More importantly, however, we citizens need to be mentally indexing these vehicles in preparation for the Zombie Apocalypse.
Product Management is the business role which – in most industries – decides which problems their products are supposed to solve for consumers. It is a practice which, when applied in a specific business, generates 30% greater profits – on average – over other firms in that industry which operate without Product Management. The hard part is uncovering solvable problems which either many potential customers would pay a little to solve, or a few would pay a lot to solve.
The central directive of Product Management is to “listen to the market” – which often requires that one stop listening to oneself. In recent years – namely with the growing pervasiveness of online, in-browser product solutions – Product Managers have become even more adept at determining the most pervasive problems to solve for prospective consumers; no longer limited to consumer feedback. In fact, many Product Managers now value observation over feedback.
Specifically, observation of human action. If one accepts the a priori premise that man acts with limited means to achieve scarce ends – always aiming to maximize his utility – then by extension one can reasonably assume that consumers will readily buy any solution which maximizes utility to the greatest degree. Those companies whose Product Management teams most comprehensively observe the Axiom of Action in practice, and act accordingly themselves, simply do better.
Eric Ries, a true innovator in the realms of both Product Management and Product Development, has documented and built a method around the concept of innovation accounting in his masterful work, The Lean Startup. The book lays out a framework for a quantitative measure of validated learning derived from providing minimum viable products to actual users, then refining those products incrementally and testing user behavior through innovative methods such as split-testing. Data driven decision making is key to success within the lean startup model.
Ultimately, the goal in any deployment of the method is to maximize return on investment as early as possible through observations of a minimum viable product starting as early in the process as possible – without investing large amounts of time and capital only to find out that no one wants the solution.
Ries also describes other companies as roaming in the “land of the living dead” – turning a profit, but not as big a profit as perhaps it could or should. As such, these companies drift into complacency fueled by merely satisfactory margins and increasing negligence of the evolving needs of the market.
Perhaps such a company used to visit consumers in the environments in which they employed the solution in order to observe user behavior, but no longer does: how is it deciding to improve its products for greater sales and profits? Based on the whims of those at the top rather than on a scientific and careful measure of customer preferences? Companies consistently making decisions based on assumptions and anecdotes generally fail in often dramatic fashion – albeit after varying amounts of time. BlackBerry and Nokia come to mind as soon-to-be victims added to the list of examples of creative destruction.
Beyond a deference to human action, Product Management inherently recognizes the principle of economic profit with one of its own: that it is not worth remaining in an industry unless one can dominate – securing the top or at least the number two spot (and correspondingly significant market share). Generally, Product Managers must prepare themselves to determine when this situation occurs (or is imminent), and make the hard choice to pivot into another market segment or persevere within the current one (to use Ries’ terms).
To disambiguate Ries’ use of the term startup, he defines it as an organization dedicated to creating something new under conditions of extreme uncertainty. So any change, whether a retail product or service or a policy change within an organization, benefits from employing the lean startup model.
Lastly, like Leonard Reed in I, Pencil (as well as Milton Friedman), Ries recognizes that the sum of the whole in the business world is greater than the whole of its parts – in the sense that some of the most effective businesses are those who measure efficiency on their ability to figure out what solutions consumers value the most in as quick a manner as possible, even if that means having individual staff in the overall process who have extended idle periods.
Whereas Austrian Economics represents an academic philosophy of the driving force behind any market, human action, Product Management is the corresponding practical implementation centered around observing that action and optimizing it.
Mike Masnick over at Techdirt “gets it”; although the likes of guilds and unions often decry technological improvements as job-killers, Mike exposes the argument as short-sighted and largely absurd. Innovation may be responsible for some “creative destruction” in the short-term, and employees may need to write-off their investments in human capital as sunk costs, innovative disruption almost always leads to higher-value (and generally, higher-paying) adjacent occupations to fill the employment gap.
Here’s a great satirical work from 19th century French economist and philosopher, Frédéric Bastiat, in which he writes from the perspective of the Luddite candlestickmaker’s union appealing that the French government blot out the sun to prevent unfair competition from the sun: http://bastiat.org/en/petition.html
Government is a disease masquerading as its own cure.
Planes, Trains & Automobiles, with Jason Bateman as Steve Martin’s character and Melissa McCarthy as John Candy’s character; but without as elegant a dance between the comedic and touching – goes a tad overboard in the feels department. Overall, ok – bonus points for a funny reference to The Fountainhead.