30 September 2006

Social Invention and Power

We know that progress depends on technological inventions - the wheel, the steam engine, and the computer are often cited as keys to our movement into the modern world. What gets less attention is the importance of social inventions like the church, state, bank, and corporation.

One of the reasons that we have such great technology and such amazing abilities (we can fly through the air! Talk to people on other continents! See through walls!) is that we embrace new technology and are constantly putting time and effort into improving it, greatly rewarding innovators who improve existing technology by even 10 or 20%.

Yet on the topic of social inventions, we are far more conservative, far less willing for innovation. People kill one another to squelch innovation in religion or politics. Precedent still has enormous sway with courts. Traditions within finance and business still define a great deal of how people and power are organized.

My prediction about the future? Communities that do as much to make individuals comfortable with social innovation as we are with technological innovation will emerge as the leaders of the next economy. Power and wealth will gravitate to these communities.

Cowards or Coup?

Yesterday, the senate passed a new defense spending bill 100-0. Every single Senator agreed that we should spend another half a trillion dollars on defense. It is impossible that a Senate so divided would actually have true unanimity on any topic. It seems to me that there can only be two explanations: either Senators talking about support for our brave troops are too cowardly to be accused of "not supporting our military" should they question a single dime that the Pentagon asks for, or there has already been a coup and the military no longer has to answer to anyone (a possibility strengthened by the fact that it has been half a decade since Congress has even gone through the motions of oversight of Pentagon spending, basically giving the Pentagon free rein to spend unchecked).

There is a difference between loving one's children and blindly granting every funding request that they make, without question or oversight. At a minimum one might think that at least one Senator could stand up and make this point but even that timid claim would take more courage than any Senator has yet demonstrated.

27 September 2006

George - Boy Cheerleader for Life

At times it seems as though our president is in denial. For instance, he claims that the recently released intelligence report that states that the war in Iraq has allowed Al Qaeda to recruit more freely doesn't actually say that. He wants to "stay the course" in Iraq, never really clarifying whether that course is reflected in the rate of spending, civilian causalities, troop casualties, or terrorist recruitment. For George, things are great.

Smarter people than me have argued that a great deal of our life is spent trying to get high school right. Working out the social dynamics and our role in groups, overcoming fears and knee-jerk reactions. Reliving past successes and hiding from past failures. In this context, George's behavior makes a great deal of sense.

If he had been a football coach in high school, he might be more interested in calling plays in Iraq. If he had been a player, he might be more interested in the reality that our troops face. But George was a cheerleader. His job was to turn his back on the game and keep up the spirits of the crowd, no matter what was happening on the field. Not even the worst defeats were an excuse to hang one's head or shout out suggestions for a play in lieu of cheers. George is boy cheerleader for life. It's just that simple.

Corporation 2020: Lesson From the Dot-Bomb

The dot-com boom and bust is dismissed as a typical speculative bubble, a lesson for those enchanted with the prospect of sustaining outrageous returns for more than a year or two. It could be that. It could also be a signal of something else - a latent potential in our financial system that we've yet to tap.

In today's world, trillions of dollars slosh about the globe in search of high returns. It may be that the lesson of the dot-bomb is that there is now more money than entrepreneurial opportunity. That is, if you have, say, $1,000 but only $100 worth of decent investment opportunities, you either bid up the value of those decent investment opportunities, fund some not so decent opportunities, or sit on your money, which is hard to do when the $1,000 is bidding up the value of investment opportunities so rapidly that they promise a great return.

Prices rise when demand is greater than supply. When there is more money seeking return than there are legitimate investment opportunities, prices of those investments rise ... for a time. There were actually two ways that the market could have reached equilibrium once prices were too high. One was to have prices collapse so that they aligned with returns (and this is what did happen). Another is to have the business market respond to higher prices by creating business investments - increasing quantity of investments supplied to align with the quantity of money used to demand investments (or buy stocks). That is, corporations could have become more entrepreneurial.

The lesson of the dot-bomb market was that the business world simply wasn't able to generate enough investment opportunities. This was a less a failure of the venture capital markets than a failure of corporations to imitate those markets.

Corporations are notoriously risk adverse. No one wants to look bad. Anyone who is able to closely observe management can only conclude that they don't like surprises. By contrast, venture capitalists know that a majority of their investments will bomb and look for successes to more than offset those failures. Within the portfolio of a venture capitalist, only a minority of investments will succeed. Corporations were unable to take advantage of the conditions in the late 1990s - the conditions that made expansion so favorable - because business practices within organizations are more focused on cost reduction and efficiencies than entrepreneurship and creativity.

When NASDAQ fell so far, so fast early in this century, it may not have been a problem of financial markets at all. It may have simply been a problem of corporations being unable to produce what the market demanded - more entrepreneurship.

But corporations are enamored of information and knowledge workers - the key to progress in the last economy. They still see entrepreneurship as something that happens outside of their doors and their policies reveal a blind eye to entrepreneurial possibilities within their organization. Until they change their focus, the latent potential of modern financial markets will continue to go unrealized.

25 September 2006

Pope on Crusade Against Religious Intolerance and Violence

Like so many of the policy pronouncements of the modern world, this only makes sense to people who are multitasking or lack a sense of history. Hm. Okay, okay ... I guess this only makes sense to most people.

Leadership and Potential

The potential of a child born in medieval France is very different than the potential of a child born in modern France. Potential may be something that the individual realizes, but its boundaries are largely defined by society.

The responsibility of leaders is to change what is possible - to improve the potential of the average person.

The Last Chapter of Reality TV

So, I'm sitting in a hotel last week, channel surfing and playing pop culture catch up. One of the cable channels has a show, apparently inspired by Ozzy Osbourne's, following Kiss's Gene Simmons and his family. It's a terribly self-conscious performance for a presumed reality show (although given I didn't watch the beginning or end it may not have been billed as such). Watching this, it occurs to me that there would be a simple way to put a stake in the heart of reality TV. Someone needs to make a show with TV cameras following a group of people around, filming their daily lives, and then they need a second set of cameras to follow them around to see how the crew deals with the subjects and how the subjects deal with being filmed. It'd be a reality show about how people cope with being on a reality show.

After that, we would just need a reality show that shows the audience what they look like as they watch the reality show, letting the snake swallow its tail until it disappears. What was it that Confucius said? When TV finally becomes a mirror we will see ourselves as we really are and change the channel from reality show to reality. It's an odd and circuitous route to self-awareness, but we all knew that we'd get there eventually.

22 September 2006


Competitive markets help drive down prices and raise the probability that resources will be best used. In the last 25 years, CEO pay has shot upwards from about 25X the average employee's salary to about 500X. Some argue that this tracks the escalation of salaries for pop stars, movie stars, and famous authors like JK Rowling. CEOs are the new stars of the business world, and like stars in other arenas, they are beneficiaries of the new information economy and globalization.

I'm less impressed with this argument. Nobody has to be JK Rowling but somebody has to be the CEO of GE or GM. Nobody advertises for a position described as "create a world of magic for fame and fortune." Boards do advertise (albeit informally) for someone to manage their company.

What if companies used markets as a means to drive down the price and raise the quality of one of their biggest costs? What if stockholders were allowed to use eBay to vote on the next CEO?

CEOs could campaign - taking advantage of internet technology to create broadcasts and informative web sites. They could compete with one another by offering alternative strategies for products, for process, and for work environments. Employees, who so often own a significant share of stocks, would have influence over this process as well, able to vote their stock. The process of competing campaigns would, itself, help to buttress the quality of the company by forcing every CEO candidate to respond to the ideas any candidate might put forth. Mutual fund managers could take a more activist role, looking for candidates they felt would do the most to enhance stock value because of their combination of positive impact on business profits and their affordability vs. other candidates.

This campaign could exploit auction technology, allowing CEO candidates to under bid one another and "voters" in the form of stockholders to out bid each other for particular candidates.

CEO's currently make too much and impact companies too little. Perhaps C-eBay-O's would be more affordable and help to open up a currently opaque process in a way that would allow them to have a more positive impact.

20 September 2006

Mandatory drug testing for the presidency

This week Time magazine has a cover "War with Iran." That the invasion of Iraq would be such a fiasco and that Iran would be at least five years away from nuclear weapon capability suggests that this drum beat for another war can only be attributed to one thing - drug use. Seriously. What else would explain such paranoia and delusion?

It can't just be a coincidence that the generation that popularized recreational drug use has taken the reins of power in the government and media and that both are now exhibiting such high levels of paranoia, alarm and disconnection from reality.

Drug testing for presidents. It could save lives.

19 September 2006


I’m not really pleased that eblogger has translated my birth date into an astrological sign. I’m a Virgo. We don’t believe in astrology.

18 September 2006

Clash of Religions

Two religions are destined to continually clash. They are not Christianity and Islam. Rather, they are religion as experienced by the individual and religion as experienced by society. What society needs is toleration of others; what the individual needs is separation from, and even rejetion of, others.

Huston Smith points out that he doesn't speak "language" but, rather, speaks "a language." All the talk of religion, of the transcendent, of God and souls ultimately needs a means of expression other than the abstract. In this, the individual has the need for something specific and, in a sense, something custom and true to the self. This kind of religion invariably separates the individual from the community - whether it is a group of Christians who shy away from worldly influences or the individual who loves fellowship within that group while feeling a degree of separation from even his or her group. This role of communing with something eternal - whether it is perceived as touching God, Holy Scriptures, the spiritual, the eternal, or the god within - is necessarily separating. Such a separation invariably includes, or at least connotes, a condemnation of the world or other groups who find their refuge through some other process, intermediary, or belief or even profess no need for such separation.

What the individual experiences as refuge from the world the world quite rightly experiences as rejection. And crudely or thoughtlessly done, it becomes offensive. The pope trying to declare a distinction from Islam very easily slips into condemning Muslims.

There was a time when it was laughable that communities would have to be mindful of their impact on the environment. Nature was so big and people so small that the notion of harming it was inconceivable. During medieval times, people wrote of walking through forests and not seeing sun light for days – walking through forests that no longer exist. When Christ or Mohammed first preached, it may well have seemed ridiculous to their early followers that there would some day be billions of Christians and Muslims whose desire to protect themselves from a hostile world would actually be a threat to that world.

Obviously, religious individuals need to do more to show toleration, to exhibit the side of most religions that emphasizes the love for others more than love for self. Much, but perhaps still not enough, has been made of this. Less has been made of the need for society to become more sensitive to the need of the individual to withdraw from and even reject "the world" as a means for the individual to save his or her soul.

Corporation 2020: Free Press Inside the Corporation

The first in a series of musings about corporations in the future ....

Today, the cost of "broadcasting" video has dropped exponentially. Video production equipment that once cost millions is now available for a few thousand, thanks to technology from folks like Video Toaster. Video, like print after the Gutenburg Press, will rapidly proliferate as costs plummet. (During medieval times, one man actually sold his house in order to get enough to buy a Bible.)

This suggests that a new type of journalism will emerge, doing for corporations what journalism of the 18th century did for the nation-state. Coverage of what is really going on inside of corporations has already begun with blogs. Soon, this will spread to more sophisticated forms of media, imitating the professional and argumentative tone of political media within modern democracies.

Many of the traditional corporations will likely resist this - reinforcing the notion that modern corporations are not places that grant employees simple rights like freedom of speech. Just as oppressive governments use the cover of national security, corporations will use the cover of proprietary knowledge and competition sensitive to mute their internal reporters and critics. But the enlightened corporations will embrace this as a means to check bad management, test policy options, and gain fuller involvement in the important task of policy formulation.

15 September 2006

Unwinding Keynes

About a year ago, congress passed legislation that made it harder for folks to walk away from bankruptcies, leaving the irresponsible and unlucky burdened with more debt than before. Even ignoring the audacity of this congress - the one that has reversed a record surplus into a record deficit - passing a bill that supposedly forces more fiscal discipline onto American households, this is bad policy.

About half of all bankruptcies are the result of health problems. Perhaps only 10 or 20% of bankruptcies result from what we typically think of as irresponsible spending. Many people need to incur debt just to start their careers - investing in a college education. Homes, too, are expensive and mortgage payments often leave young families with very little breathing room between fixed costs and expected income. A serious health problem that costs $100,000 or more can be just enough to tip people over the edge and into bankruptcy.

Even if this were not the case, think about the consequences of more punative bankruptcy legislation. People are willing to spend money on college, refigerators, houses, and vacations in part because they feel like if they do fail to pay they will find someway to recover. When that hope is taken from them, they will become more hesitant about buying. This could, in time, cause a perceptible slump in consumption.

During the days of debtor's prisons, there was little money and little consumption. The big factories that emerged at the tail end of this era literally produced more goods than people could buy. One of the ways that capitalists became rich was by granting credit to consumers who otherwise could not have afforded the new product that came off the assmebly lines. This created a virtuous cycle of economic activity: granting credit stimulated spending which stimluated production which stimulated employment -- and the employed could buy more which allowed companies to employ more and on it went. The economic growth of the last century has in no small part been stimulated by easier credit.

What happens when credit is tighter? The next economic slump - and there are always more slumps coming - could lead to a economic contraction that is disproportionate to its initial cause, as people cautiously reduce their spending in response to economic uncertainty. When such caution becomes widespread, it inevitably justifies itself with a recession.

Do Your Civic Duty - Bore a Child Today

100 years ago, parents fretted over keeping their children fed. Today, parents fret about keeping their children amused. Videos, theme parks, iPods, and trips to the mall are among the attempts parents make to keep their children from slipping into that dreaded state of boredom.

Yet it is unlikely that anyone who is continually amused by life will ever have the time or inclination to define a life. Leo Buscalgia once shared his response to his children complaining, "Dad, I'm bored." "Good," he responded. "Let me know how it works out."

So much lies beyond boredom - wonderful things like creativity, goal formulation, and introspection. Given that, consider it a public service to bore a child today. If you can, offer to pick up a niece or nephew, a neighbor's child, even your own child, and take them somewhere devoid of stimulation. See how it works out.

13 September 2006


Today's San Diego Union Tribune has an interesting headline: Pope Says Jihad Not God's Plan. Actually, that's not news. News would be: Pope Says Jihad Is God's Plan.

I'm amazed at how comprehensive is the coverage of sports. That's news. It includes analysis, personalities, stories, and strategy, but sports news always has a large infusion of numbers: passing yards, runs scored, field goal percentage, etc. Given that sports coverage is so focused on so many statistics, fans can easily track how their teams and players are doing. Performance is well understood and easy to track.

By contrast, news coverage of important events - like healthcare coverage, performance of schools or businesses, progress or setbacks in war - suffers from a far different ratio of analysis, speculation, and prognosis to actual statistics. That is to say, there is a paucity of statistics and an abundance of analysis. This is partly because the stakes are higher and the timeframe is longer: the sports fan can measure progress every minute of the game. Statistics measuring policy comes more slowly and the variables that impact outcomes like unemployment, crime, teen pregnancy, life expectancy, and inflation are more complex.

Nonetheless, it seems as though a news program that would focus on quality of life statistics in the same way that ESPN analysts focused on Ryan Howard or David Ortiz's homerun totals would be engaging and quite feasible in this age of 24-hour news coverage. Given that there is so much at stake in this game of policy formulation, one might think that the media could offer coverage that was as grounded in real metrics and real outcomes as the coverage of grown men playing games.

12 September 2006

Slipping From Neoconservative Philosophy to Neoconservative Faith

History will judge ….

What do you do when you demand more accountability in government and then your own government policies lead to a series of mistakes? You shift accountability out to a point in time when you are dead and gone. Pretty slick, if you can get away with it.

But what this really illustrates is that Condi, Dick, Donald, and George have slipped from the world of philosophy to faith. They no longer make assertions based on their neoconservative philosophy. Rather, they make assertions based on the neoconservative faith. “History will judge,” has become the equivalent of “God will judge.” And in this they move from bad philosophy to bad religion, for only bad religions ignore the consequences (whether they be called spirits or fruits) harvested in this lifetime and instead defer all judgment to a spiritual afterlife.

11 September 2006

Economic Performance Under Republican Presidents

1948 to 2001, average economic performance under Democratic (D) or Republican (R) presidents.

____Unemployment_______GDP Growth________Inflation

Further, all income groups did better under post-war Democratic presidents, with those in the bottom 20 percent enjoying income increases as much as four times under the Democrats as what they enjoyed under Republican presidents.

Paper cited:


Article from which summary was extracted:


10 September 2006

Beat Poets and Club Baby Seals

Dylan and Springsteen are rare. As I get older, I find it more perplexing that pop rock musicians feel obliged to imitate them - writing the music and lyrics for songs. So many of the lyrics are both inane and poorly written.

Why couldn't more musicians share the wealth with real poets, hiring them to write or at least collaborate on the lyrics to catchy tunes? In a world of iPod plugged young people, just think what intelligent lyrics could mean. A national campaign to hire poets for music could do more to raise SAT scores and IQs than reading programs.

07 September 2006

What's good enough for America is good enough for General Motors

Poll CEOs at Fortune 500 companies and you're unlikley to find more than a small fraction who would support command and control economies at the national level. Yet this is exactly what they create within their corporations. Depending on the measure, of the 100 largest global economies, corporations constitute from one-third to two-thirds of the total. GE's sales and market cap are considerably more than the GDP of most countries. Given how much better market economies perform than command and control economies, this suggests that the corporations' use of centrally-planned, command and control economies represents a huge loss of potential.

Companies try to link performance and rewards now, but most attempts miss the point. The market economy doesn't dictate to people, "Do X and we'll pay you your wage and throw in a bonus of up to 20%." The market doesn't actually give instructions, it simply gives feedback. And the rewards are not bounded by quotas but, rather, by interaction of supply and demand. Players within a market (e.g., labor market) are free to choose what to do in order to best reconcile often conflicting goals of personal satisfaction and cash flow and location and coworkers, etc.

Companies need to allow employees more freedom to choose what to do, just as market economies do. And these employees can make less or more than they might think reasonable, depending on the consequences of their choices. In this post-information age of person-to-person communication and the possibility of auctions (like eBay), internal markets could emerge. There are a variety of ways that smart companies could add enormous value to such internal markets, from mitigating the highs and lows of market swings to providing information about supply and demand trends (e.g., "project teams have recently bid up the price of C++ programmers and MS Project Analysts by over 20%"), helping to facilitate the attainment of new skills and experiences that enhance wages for employees and value for the company.

Such solutions obviously raise a number of questions, but they are the questions whose answers promise progress. CEOs need to stop imposing on their employees conditions that they would reject having imposed on them. If there is ever a assumption that ensures poor leadership, it would be that "They (the commoners) are motivated differently than we are."

06 September 2006


Earlier this summer, Democratic senator Dick Durbin got in trouble for comparing the mistreatment of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay with what Nazis did. This week, Donald Rumsfeld got in trouble for comparing critics of the war with Nazi appeasers. In response to criticism, Rumsfeld clarified that critics are not just like Nazi appeasers but also those who appeased communists.

The Bush administration has taken to calling theirs the fight against Islamofascism. In the midst of all these references to Nazis and fascists, it is worth reviewing what political ideology helped to trigger the atrocity that killed more people than now live in Canada.

Here is a definition captured on Wikipedia:

Paxton further defines fascism's essence as:
· "1. a sense of overwhelming crisis beyond reach of traditional solutions; 2. belief one’s group is the victim, justifying any action without legal or moral limits; 3. need for authority by a natural leader above the law, relying on the superiority of his instincts; 4. right of the chosen people to dominate others without legal or moral restraint; 5. fear of foreign `contamination."

Using this definition of fascism, let’s see who comes closest to the ideology – the Bush administration or its critics.

1. a sense of overwhelming crisis beyond reach of traditional solutions
The Bush administration and its apologists have argued that even civil rights have to be renegotiated in light of the threat of this new war against terrorism, suggesting that prevention of terrorist acts has priority over any traditional civil rights.
Critics of the Bush administration have maintained that terrorism calls for international cooperation and police action – treating terrorism as a crime rather than a war. In this light, the threat is no different than so many others that we’ve learned to live with.

2. belief one’s group is the victim, justifying any action without legal or moral limits
The Bush administration has launched an invasion of Iraq in spite of hard evidence of a threat to the lives of Americans from the Iraqi regime. As a result, some 30,000 to 150,000 Iraqis have been killed. The American invasion was not sanctioned by international organizations like the UN and even today the administration claims exemptions from the international criminal court. Guantanamo Bay in Cuba was chosen as a holding place for suspects in the war on terrorism because it was in location that exempted it from US or international law.
Bush’s critics have argued that holding children in Guantanamo is both illegal and immoral, and have questioned the need to kill civilians in the invasion and occupation of Iraq.

3. need for authority by a natural leader above the law, relying on the superiority of his instincts
Bush has repeatedly asserted his exemption from laws. He knew that Putin had a good soul because he looked into his eyes; he knew that Saddam was a threat because he’d threatened his father.
Bush’s critics argue that the constitution and not the former C-student from Yale is the ultimate authority in this country.

4. right of the chosen people to dominate others without legal or moral restraint
See definitions 1 through 3.

5. fear of foreign `contamination."
The Bush administration seriously curtailed the number of foreign graduate students and workers who would have earlier come to this country, a group that has previously included Andy Grove (co-founder of Intel) and Sergy Brin (co-founder of Google).
Bush’s critics have seen foreign opinion and people as not only relevant but beneficial in the commerce of ideas, much as foreign goods and services benefit our economy through open trade.

There is a reason that people revert to the Nazi comparisons. One has to do with the desire to again face a force that is clearly in the wrong. More subtly, another has to do with the recurrence of policies that trace their origins to the same uber-patriotism that sees national identity as something to be protected from real people, disregard for legal niceties that constrain one from doing “the right thing,” and conviction that the times we live in do not allow us to enjoy the same civil liberties that previous, less troubled generations enjoyed. Perhaps there is a reason that more Europeans see America as a greater threat to global stability than Iran.

05 September 2006

Simple Rules for Complex Times

I once heard a comedian question the allure of NASCAR. "Oh great. He's making another left turn. Oh! There he goes again."

There is something both necessary and assuring about having a choice between the right and the left when it comes to our politics. The moderate will fail to see in free markets (or, more properly, in big corporations) the answer to every problem. The moderate will also realize that the people's voice (or, more accurately, big government) isn't the answer to every problem. That is, the inclination to steer right or left should be dictated more by the road than one's preference to steer left or right. Imagine how freaked out you'd be riding with a driver who insisted that turning right was best - in spite of how the road curved.

I recently heard Rick Santorum debate his challenger, Bob Casey. One of the statements Santorum made was that he would never vote for a tax hike. Pretty extraordinary statement for a guy who has voted with Bush about 100% of the time and has, in the process, voted to raise federal spending to record levels. It's like having a limit on one's credit card bill payment but no limit on what one spends. No matter what the situation, Santorum will never veer left - no matter which way the road bends.

This might be as good of an explanation of a ideologue as any. Someone who has decided that the best response to complex times is to adhere to simple rules - regardless of the environment, conditions, or whose swimming pool he's driven into.

Although it seems alluring to have two choices that quite simply steer left or right (turn to the Democrats for solutions that call for new or improved government programs like universal health care or homeless shelters and turn to the Republicans for solutions that call for less regulation or taxation on businesses, thereby enabling more rapid and robust corporate responses to opporunities), reality is not so simple. It's true that we want to steer right or left at times, but if you closely monitor your steering you'll see that you rarely do either one for more than a few seconds. Good government, like good driving, requires a hand on the wheel that is more attuned to the road than the inclination of the driver to veer in one direction or the other.

02 September 2006

The Allure of Kings

I once heard management consultant Peter Block say that leadership is a collusion between control freaks and the irresponsible. As I get older, I find this claim more convincing.

It's not politically correct to contrast the Protestant and Catholic faiths, but if it weren't for the Protestant Revolution it is very doubtful that things would have changed much from medieval times. Yet plenty of people are still Catholic and plenty more Protestants have adopted the medievel model of reliance on religious leaders. There is something very alluring about the notion that one's salvation, one's peace and joy, can be outsourced like laundry.

Which brings us to politics. Like others, I find myself appalled at the direction neo-conservatives have taken this country. The over-arching theme of the neo-conservatives who own every branch of the American government - from legislation that makes it more difficult for the poor and disenfranchised to vote to repeal of the estate tax - is movement backwards towards a consolidation of wealth and power.

The progress since medieval times has moved us in the exact opposite direction of this. Even de Tocqueville commented that every half century or so, the difference between aristocracy and the commoner is lessened. Our modern world is a place where the commoner is free to make decisions about how (and if) to worship, how (and if) to borrow or invest, how (and if) to vote for policy. Neoconservatives have recently attacked these freedoms from every side, trying to legislate teaching religion in schools, and instituting harsh penalties for mistakes in credit management, retirement planning (or execution), and voter registration efforts.

Politicians and the media need to stand up to denounce any efforts that consolidate rather than diffuse wealth and power. Progress is the result of two things: steady increases in the quality of life of society's elites and a steady erosion in the difference between the quality of life of the elites and us commoners. Any effort to derail this progression that has defined the West for 500 years should be vigorously opposed, even if it does promise freedom of responsibility for one's own life.

01 September 2006

Futility of Economic Sanctions

Throughout history, tyrants have exploited the vulnerability of their subjects. This vulnerability is inevitably linked to a lack of economic clout.

So now, the US is considering sanctions against Iran. What do sanctions do? They limit economic growth. What happens when a people are economically impoverished? They lack the power to change their circumstances. If you want to make a tyrant more secure, just take away the power of his people.

Do sanctions work? Castro's decades of rule in Cuba might suggest that they don't. It's not at all clear that there are examples that suggest that they do. Oh well, I guess as futile gestures sanctions are better than war.