Sunday, July 19, 2009
Speaking of management, I recently read Innovation and Entrepreneurship: Practice and Principles by Peter F. Drucker. I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Here's an excerpt from the book taken from this review:
Drucker was recommended by John Drake. Here's what he had to say about Drucker:
"Sometimes, there is a dissonance between reality and the perception of reality in an industry. This may offer innovative opportunities, according to Drucker.
For example, Drucker mentions the evolution of the ship container industry. While established shipping companies focused on cutting transit time and cost by making ocean-going ships faster and more cost effective, this really wasn't the key. Ships were already very efficient in transit.
Rather, the real problem with the shipping industry was the loading and unloading of cargo, which kept ships in port and tied up valuable harbor space. When the shipping container was developed, it could be pre-loaded on land before the ship arrived. The pre-loaded container could then quickly be loaded onto the ship when the ship arrived in port. This made ocean transit much more cost effective and efficient. Drucker notes that the big cost of ocean transit was having ships held up in port, effectively tying up a capital asset without being able to utilize its full earnings capability."
"In a previous post, I have recommend Peter Druker's The Practice of Management. In my opinion, he is by far the best business writer to have lived. One of the things I love about Drucker is his clarity. Take for instance his definition of business purpose:
"There is only one valid definition of business purpose: to create a customer. "
Whether or not you agree with this definition, there is no question what his definition is. In the next paragraph, he goes on to say:
"Markets are not created by God, nature, or economic forces but by businessmen. The want they satisfy may have been felt by the customer before he was offered the means of satisfying it. It may indeed, like the want for food in famine, have dominated the customer's life and filled all his waking moments. But it was a theoretical want before; only when the action of businessmen makes it effective demand is there a customer, a market."
Drucker directly ties the purpose of business to reality. His objectivity makes Drucker stand head and shoulders above the rest. He writes in a style similar to Ayn Rand. He makes bold statements, but proceeds to justify his statement with analysis of reality and identifying the essentials. He explores all the major options (God, nature, economic forces, and businessmen) and proceeds to explain why it must be businessmen that create markets, hence customers. It is the actions of businessmen, of creating products where none existed previously, that creates the market."
Saturday, July 18, 2009
Focus — Ayn Rand Lexicon:
"“Focus” designates a quality of one’s mental state, a quality of active alertness. “Focus” means the state of a goal-directed mind committed to attaining full awareness of reality. It’s the state of a mind committed to seeing, to grasping, to understanding, to knowing.
“Full awareness” does not mean omniscience. It means: commitment to grasp all the facts relevant to one’s concern and activity at any given time . . . as against a splintered grasp, a grasp of some facts while others which you know to be relevant are left in fog. By “full” I include also the commitment to grasp the relevant facts clearly, with the fullest clarity and precision one is capable of.
“Focus” is not synonymous with “thinking,” in the sense of step-by-step problem-solving or the drawing of new conclusions. You may be walking down the street, merely contemplating the sights, but you can do it in focus or out of focus. “In focus” would mean you have some purpose directing your mental activity—in this case, a simple one: to observe the sights. But this is still a purpose, and it implies that you know what you are doing mentally, that you have set yourself a goal and are carrying it out, that you have assumed the responsibility of taking control of your consciousness and directing it . . . ."
Leonard Peikoff, “The Philosophy of Objectivism”
Friday, July 17, 2009
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
India's First Wal-Mart Draws Excitement, Not Protest - washingtonpost.com:
In Punjabi, we have an expression: When there is a wedding, everyone flocks to see the new bride,' said Kamal Gambhir, a wholesaler whose congested offices are located in this city's oldest bazaar. 'I myself had returned from a trip and came back to hear little children asking, 'Where is the new Wal-Mart?'
James Dyson: Inventing the Wright way - New Scientist:
"The development of Dyson's domestic robots - indeed his entire invention process - is being boosted by 3D printing, also known as rapid prototyping. This technology allows the creation of 3D prototypes from a design created on a computer. The design is fed into a machine, which builds the object bit by bit using twin laser beams that fuse together layers of powdered nylon or metal. The result? Almost magically, you pull out from the dust a near perfect 3D 'printout' of the prototype you may later want to mass produce."
“A strong message to Black Street” — VOICES for REASON:
The day after Bernard Madoff was sentenced to 150 years for committing a massive financial fraud, I saw the following big, bold headline in the Los Angeles Times:
A strong message to Wall Street
Think about what this headline implies. The conviction of one particular financier is regarded as a message to all financiers. That is outrageous.
Imagine if there were a mass-conviction of Mafia members and the LA Times wrote
A strong message to Italian-Americans
Monday, July 13, 2009
2. The Apollo computers had less processing power than a cellphone.
3. Drinking water was a fuel-cell by-product, but Apollo 11’s hydrogen-gas filters didn’t work, making every drink bubbly. Urinating and defecating in zero gravity, meanwhile, had not been figured out; the latter was so troublesome that at least one astronaut spent his entire mission on an anti-diarrhea drug to avoid it.
7. When Buzz Aldrin joined Armstrong on the surface, he had to make sure not to lock the Eagle's door because there was no outer handle.
9. The flag was made by Sears, but NASA refused to acknowledge this because they didn’t want "another Tang."
Many countries around the world that suffered from poverty and lived under socialist tyranny are now experiencing economic growth and prosperity. They have abandoned the 'socialist road" and have introduced, if not a free market, then at least freer market reforms. These changes have generated rising standards of living in parts of the world that have only known hunger and despair for all of recorded history.
Sunday, July 12, 2009
It was the shoes which proved to be the weak link. I used to do sprints on the treadmill with the same shoes with which I lifted weights. They were hiking Solomon hiking shoes which didn't do much for my foot (check Vibram Five Fingers - radical footwear.) I damaged my heel. During the recovery, a nearby house caught fire. While trying to help I damaged the heel even more. It didn't help that I live on the second floor and have a habit of climbing steps running. The prolonged heel damage some how affected the quads also.
I was pretty ok for a year or so but about three months back the quads started acting up again. I tried the physiotherapy which didn't help. I recently read this article on the heart scan blog which had this interesting article on creatine. The expense is a deterrent (imported stuff at twice the original price) but seems worth a try.
The Heart Scan Blog: Creatine: Not just for muscle heads:
Even if you’re not interested in building big muscles like a bodybuilder, there are health benefits to increasing muscle mass: increased bone density, better balance, and fewer injuries. Greater muscle mass means higher metabolic rate, improved insulin responsiveness, lower blood sugar. The inevitable loss of muscle mass of aging can lead to frailty, an increasingly common situation for the elderly. Muscle loss be reversed, health improved as a result.
There is a growing disconnect between the country's political class and its citizens. It was manifestly on display last month when the House approved the Waxman-Markey cap-and-trade bill, which in its final form was longer than Atlas Shrugged and which none of the members voting on it had read. That the free citizens of a free country would be served so cavalierly by their elected representatives is the sort of thing any good novelist would hesitate to invent, for fear it would seem too implausible.[via Instapundit.com (v.2)]
Over these is elevated an immense, tutelary power, which takes sole charge of assuring their enjoyment and of watching over their fate. It is absolute, attentive to detail, regular, provident, and gentle. It would resemble the paternal power if, like that power, it had as its object to prepare men for manhood, but it seeks, to the contrary, to keep them irrevocably fixed in childhood … it provides for their security, foresees and supplies their needs, guides them in their principal affairs…The sovereign "extends it's arm" with varying degrees. I have written a bit about the government holding a big stick in its extended arm, which is used liberally in India. So in a lot of countries, even the softening and bending would be a welcome relief. North Korea is another (extreme) example that comes to mind where one can't imagine anybody existing with their wills intact. The level of tyranny is mind boggling — the whole country is like a big concentration camp. Even more mind boggling is the indifference of the rest of the world. I guess most of the world is too busy trying not to get sucked into the same cesspool of totalitarianism. The response of the American government officially, is the suicidal policy of appeasement.
The sovereign extends its arms about the society as a whole; it covers its surface with a network of petty regulations—complicated, minute, and uniform—through which even the most original minds and the most vigorous souls know not how to make their way… it does not break wills; it softens them, bends them, and directs them; rarely does it force one to act, but it constantly opposes itself to one's acting on one's own … it does not tyrannize, it gets in the way: it curtails, it enervates, it extinguishes, it stupefies, and finally reduces each nation to being nothing more than a herd of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd.
The "paternal state" has its origins in the monarchies founded in power, where the people are treated as the children of the king. We still hear about England's Queen mother — mother of the peasant masses is what it implies. Coming back to U.S., check this Paul Heish article in the Capitalism Magazine about King Obama's regulatory chief 's belief in libertarian paternalism:
The basic premise of libertarian paternalism is that the government should use its power to “nudge” people into acting in their best interest, while leaving them the choice to “opt out.” If the government decides that saving money is good, it would automatically divert a percentage of your paycheck into a savings account in your name unless you explicitly declined. Supporters claim that this preserves freedom because government is only changing the default, while leaving individuals the final choice. It is merely a gentle “nudge,” not a hard push.Paul goes on to say that,"every child knows that if you let a schoolyard bully get away with one seemingly harmless “nudge,” he will then escalate into shoving, then punching, then regular beatings." India is one perfect (or should I say horrible) example of that gentle Gandhi-Nehruvian socialist nudge escalating into a bone crunching beating of Nehru's daughter Indira Gandhi's emergency in 1977.
However, nudging represents an assault on freedom, because it undermines man’s basic tool of survival — his mind. By creating a default, libertarian paternalism in essence says, “Don’t worry — we’ll do your thinking for you.” Sunstein’s book explicitly compares Americans to a bunch of Homer Simpsons in need of such guidance. If Americans surrender their minds to the government, they become easy prey for demagogues and dictators.
So is there no solution to this problem of overwhelming suffocation and oppression perpetuated by a group of people (government) on rest of us? Is it inevitable that the power corrupts and rest of us have to shrug, suffer, and swallow the bitter pill? No, we don't have to. Ayn Rand defined the nature of the government. She said that men can derive enormous benefits from dealing with one another but only on certain conditions.
The Nature of Government:
Read more about Ayn Rand’s Philosophy.
If men are to live together in a peaceful, productive, rational society and deal with one another to mutual benefit, they must accept the basic social principle without which no moral or civilized society is possible: the principle of individual rights.
To recognize individual rights means to recognize and accept the conditions required by man’s nature for his proper survival.
Man’s rights can be violated only by the use of physical force. It is only by means of physical force that one man can deprive another of his life, or enslave him, or rob him, or prevent him from pursuing his own goals, or compel him to act against his own rational judgment.
The precondition of a civilized society is the barring of physical force from social relationships—thus establishing the principle that if men wish to deal with one another, they may do so only by means of reason: by discussion, persuasion and voluntary, uncoerced agreement.
“The Nature of Government,” from The Virtue of Selfishness by Ayn Rand.
Saturday, July 11, 2009
Read the article.
"Environmentalism opposes that kind of mobility. It seeks to return us to the age of kings when the masses are restrained by a privileged elite. Sometimes they will be hereditary monarchs, such as the Prince of Wales. Sometimes they will be merely the gilded princelings of the government apparatus – Barack Obama, Barney Frank, Nancy Pelosi. In the old days, they were endowed with absolute authority by God. Today, they're endowed by Mother Nature, empowered by Gaia to act on her behalf. But the object remains control – to constrain you in a million ways, most of which would never have occurred to Henry VIII, who, unlike the new cap-and-trade bill, was entirely indifferent as to whether your hovel was "energy efficient." The old rationale for absolute monarchy – Divine Right – is a tough sell in a democratic age. But the new rationale – Gaia's Right – has proved surprisingly plausible."
Friday, July 10, 2009
This highlights the stupidity of laws which ban consensual dealing between adults. In fact in Japan you can't harvest the organs of a brain dead person even if his relatives consent to it. The cessation of brain function as human death was not accepted by Japan. This resulted in only 11 heart transplants in Japan compared with more than 2,000 in the U.S. A written will is required for organ donations and there is a ban on them from children under 15 - although this law seems set for some changes.
There was a sneaking suspicion that Jobs had paid for his transplant. It is unlikely. What is done by a lot of people is to enter a lot of queues (legal) and it helps to have a jet ready to fly wherever the turn comes up. The key question is if it really such an evil to pay someone for his organ? If the laws were changed to make payments to donors legal, the entire waiting list of 80000 people waiting for a kidney in U.S. would disappear in a matter of a year or so if not a few months and out of 20000 more waiting for other organs a majority would survive. A majority of lives will be saved unlike more than 85,000 U.S. citizens who have died waiting (pdf) for a solid transplant organ since 1995.
Countries like Spain, Norway, and Belgium have a unique solution to this problem. They consider all dead as organ donors unless they have opted out. This "presumed consent" law violates individual rights and don't take into account the individuals who have no intention of become a donor but die suddenly. In countries like India a patient can accept an organ donation only from a close relative unless a non-relative can prove that he is doing it for altruistic reasons and not money. This leads to doctors and agents who recruit kidney donors for patients for up to $10000 and a lot of kidney's being stolen from unsuspecting victims. In China there have been reports of prisoners being executed for their organs.
The Current U.S. Regulatory Framework under National Organ Transplantation Act (NOTA) specifically prohibits the sale of donor organs for transplantation though the ban does not apply to blood, sperm or ova. The solid organ donor program is purely voluntary, both for living and cadaveric (dead body) organ transplantation. The donation of organs by living people is heavily screened and the law says that people who want to donate organs should be either family or close friends. In spite of thousands of people dying waiting for an organ, there are many who see no problems with the present system. This has to do a lot with the altruistic nature of the system which is killing a lot of people.
Dr. Bruce Patsner in his article "Human Organ Transplantation in the U.S. – Crossing New Lines? ” (pdf) mentions some solutions are being implemented and some being proposed. One of them is the recent law by New Jersey which forces people getting driver’s license to make a decision about cadaveric organ donation. This is the altruist way of forcing you to take a decision, and making you feel guilty for saying no. The article mentions a growing movement of surgeons wanting to explore the option of “paying individuals money to provide an incentive for them to donate organs for transplantation after they have died.” Even here a lot of objections are raised - like donors hiding diseases (there are laws to tackle violations of contracts) and the possibility of the payment system extending to living donors.
There is a lot of opposition against the payment for organs to living donors. These are the same arguments given in cases of drug consumption and prostitution (acts between consenting adults.) The prevention of payment for organs is the worst of all violations of individual rights, as the denial of organs is the denial of life. According to Ayn Rand in “The Virtue of Selfishness”:
A “right” is a moral principle defining and sanctioning a man’s freedom of action in a social context. There is only one fundamental right (all the others are its consequences or corollaries): a man’s right to his own life. Life is a process of self-sustaining and self-generated action; the right to life means the right to engage in self-sustaining and self-generated action—which means: the freedom to take all the actions required by the nature of a rational being for the support, the furtherance, the fulfillment and the enjoyment of his own life. (Such is the meaning of the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.)
The concept of a “right” pertains only to action—specifically, to freedom of action. It means freedom from physical compulsion, coercion or interference by other men.
Update: ...With Functioning Kidneys for All by Virginia Postrel
If transplant centers could pay $25,000 or $50,000 to each living kidney donor, many more people would line up to contribute.Read the complete article.
Such payments could even save taxpayers billions of dollars. Long-term dialysis is a federal entitlement. Under a special law, Medicare covers everyone, regardless of age, who has made minimal Social Security tax payments—about 319,000 of the country’s 400,000 dialysis patients. Compared with dialysis payments, every transplant from a living, unrelated donor saves an expected present value of almost $100,000 in medical costs, according to a 2003 American Journal of Transplantation article by Matas and Mark Schnitzler, an economist then at Washington University in St. Louis and now at the Saint Louis University Center for Outcomes Research.
Eliminating the waiting list would thus save taxpayers $8 billion, or $4 billion if each living donor received a lump-sum payment of $50,000.
That purely financial estimate ignores the enormous benefits for the patients’ quality of life, of course. It also excludes the economic gains from returning to productive work—only about 10 percent of dialysis patients are employed even part-time—and the fiscal effects of paying taxes rather than receiving disability payments.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
"LOS ANGELES - Millions of fans from around the globe gathered along Sunset Boulevard to pay final respects to California today, as a slow moving funeral procession transported the eccentric superstar state's remains to its final resting place in a Winchell's Donuts dumpster in Van Nuys. The self-proclaimed 'King of Pop Culture' died last week at 160, in what coroners ruled an accidental case of financial autoerotic asphyxiation. The death sent shock waves across the world and sparked an outpouring of grief by rabid fans.
'I don't care what the tabloids and the Wall Street Journal say,' said a weeping Illinois. 'I still love you, Cali!'
The 640-mile long funeral parade route was lined with flowers, candles, teddy bears, and IOUs from millions of mourners and debtors who made the somber journey to watch the passing of the state that had once ruled the box office and industrial charts. Among them were current chart-toppers who cited California as a key influence."
You just have to read the whole thing.
In fact the rot had started a long time ago and one of the first and most important contributors to start it was Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. of the Supreme Court. In his article in The Objectivist Standard "Justice Holmes and the Empty Constitution" Thomas A. Bowden mentions the April 17, 1905, dissenting opinion of the Justice Holmes in the case of Lochner v. New York. The New York law setting maximum working hours for bakers was struck down by the majority but what really made this a landmark case was Holmes dissenting opinion.
The majority interpreted the Constitution as if it embodies a principled commitment to protecting individual liberty. But no such foundational principle exists, Holmes asserted, and the sooner judges realize they are expounding an empty Constitution—empty of any underlying view on the relationship of the individual to the state—the sooner they will step aside and allow legislators to decide the fate of individuals such as Joseph Lochner.Health has been offered as one of the prime reason for violating the individual rights, like smoking in recent times. Its origins lie in the last century which can be seen in this case when the first New York appellate court held public’s power to promote health more important than the parties’ right to make employment contracts. The court held that the state held the "police power" as a part of its sovereignty to regulate for health reasons (even though there is no mention of police power in the Constitution.) It failed to define this power and pronounced it as proper for the purpose of the public benefit.
The New York court at least used the excuse of health as the reason for violating the individual rights, Justice Holmes's in his dissenting view didn't bother to use any excuses. He simple stated the Constitution placed no limits on this police power of the state and made no reference to protecting the individual rights. What was the basis for this argument which challenged the view of Constitution as placing limits on the power of the government? Amazingly it was supported by Justice Holmes's examples of other violations which routinely took place even in those days to further violate the individual rights.
How could liberty of contract possibly be a principle capable of yielding a decision in Lochner’s case, Holmes asked, when violations of such liberty are routinely permitted by law? “The liberty of the citizen to do as he likes so long as he does not interfere with the liberty of others to do the same,” Holmes observed, “is interfered with by school laws, by the Post Office, by every state or municipal institution which takes his money for purposes thought desirable, whether he likes it or not.” For good measure, he cited several cases in which the Court had recently approved laws prohibiting lotteries, doing business on Sunday, engaging in usury, selling stock on margin, and employing underground miners more than eight hours a day—each law a clear interference with contractual liberty.That wasn't true, of course.
Holmes had to evade large swaths of evidence tending to show that the Constitution indeed embodies a substantive commitment to individual liberty. In the Declaration of Independence, the Founders clearly stated their intent to create a government with a single purpose—the protection of individual rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Consistent with the Constitution’s Preamble, which declares a desire to “secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity,” every clause in the Bill of Rights imposes a strict limit on government’s power over individual liberty and property.Holmes's dissenting view had a profound effect. His denial of Constitution as a protector of liberty was eagerly grasped by those who would have settled for any excuse to deny it.
Paul Rahe: Obama's tyrannical ambition:
Back in 1912, when Woodrow Wilson successfully ran for the presidency, he told his compatriots, "We are in the presence of a new organization of society." Our time marks "a new social stage, a new era of human relationships, a new stagesetting for the drama of life," and "the old political formulas do not fit the present problems: they read now like documents taken out of a forgotten age." What Thomas Jefferson once taught is now, he insisted, quite out of date.Holmes's dissenting view become his most damaging and lasting legacy. According to Bowden, Ayn Rand once observed that Justice Holmes “has had the worst philosophical influence on American law.”
In his bleak universe, there exists no principled limit on government power, no permanent institutional barrier between ourselves and tyranny—and the government can dispose of the individual as it pleases, as long as procedural niceties are observed. This pernicious Holmesian influence is reflected in the declining stature of America’s judiciaryToday the rot has reached the level where the debate between the main parties is about the extent that the government violate the individual rights and not whether the Constitution allows it to or not. Thomas Bowden does a masterful job of refuting Holmes's case for the "empty Constitution" and shows it to be full of content which without a doubt protects the individual rights. Read the full article.
Wednesday, July 8, 2009
"Economist Robert Frank has discovered a Ph.D powered economic perpetual motion machine that lifts itself by its own bootstraps, as explained by Mark Steyn:
The stimulus will work because enough economists are saying it will work that their prestigious postnominal credentials will impress enough of the masses into thinking it will work, which in turn will make it work."
It's Google is saying to Microsoft that if you Bing us, we'll Chrome you.