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Posted Sept. 28, 2012 10:45 a.m. by dylan
In - 800 CEO Read Blog
➻ So it seems that, for all the folks out of work, and despite the fact that the median wage in this country has remained stagnant for decades and actually declined over the last ten years when adjusted for inflation, the only way the national conscience is stirred on labor issues these days is when it affects the outcome of a National Football League game.
Forgive me for quoting a partisan source here, but it seems to me that Dave Zirin at The Nation has the right perspective on this whole debacle:
[T]he entire country received a high-def, prime-time lesson in the difference between skilled, union labor and a ramshackle operation of unskilled scabs. When [Wisconsin governor] Scott Walker is sticking up for the union, you know we’ve arrived at a teachable moment worth shouting from the hills. People who care about stable jobs with benefits and reversing the tide of inequality in the United States should seize this moment. We should ask ... politicians of both parties drinking from the same neoliberal fever-swamp, Why do you think we need skilled union labor on the football field but not in our firehouses, our classrooms, or even our uranium facilities? Similarly players need to be asking questions to the owners: how can you actually posture like you care about our health and safety ever again after subjecting us to this hazardous environment the first three weeks of the season—or, as Drew Brees tweeted, “Ironic that our league punishes those based on conduct detrimental. Whose CONDUCT is DETRIMENTAL now?”
I think using this as a teachable moment for the larger economy would be apt. First of all, it seems to me that the reason the economy tanked in the first place is that we removed the referees from the field of finance and business. It turns out that the economy, like football, is a lot more free when it is fair, when the playing field is level, when everyone's playing by the same rules, and when the rules are enforced evenly across the board. Second, maybe we can find a way to put our teachers in shoulder pads or pinstripes and turn schooling into a spectator sport? Spelling bees do seem to be becoming very popular these days. Can we look into full contact spelling bees?
➻ Turning to those that train our workforce, Nicholas Carr—author of The Shallows—had a great piece yesterday over at Technology Review about The Crisis in Higher Education. With college tuition forever rising and (as mentioned above) wages stagnant, many are turning to online education.
Carr sets the scene by turning the clock back a century:
A hundred years ago, higher education seemed on the verge of a technological revolution. The spread of a powerful new communication network—the modern postal system—had made it possible for universities to distribute their lessons beyond the bounds of their campuses. Anyone with a mailbox could enroll in a class. Frederick Jackson Turner, the famed University of Wisconsin historian, wrote that the "machinery" of distance learning would carry "irrigating streams of education into the arid regions" of the country. Sensing a historic opportunity to reach new students and garner new revenues, schools rushed to set up correspondence divisions. By the 1920s, postal courses had become a full-blown mania. Four times as many people were taking them as were enrolled in all the nation's colleges and universities combined.
The hopes for this early form of distance learning went well beyond broader access. Many educators believed that correspondence courses would be better than traditional on-campus instruction because assignments and assessments could be tailored specifically to each student. The University of Chicago's Home-Study Department, one of the nation's largest, told prospective enrollees that they would "receive individual personal attention," delivered "according to any personal schedule and in any place where postal service is available." The department's director claimed that correspondence study offered students an intimate "tutorial relationship" that "takes into account individual differences in learning." The education, he said, would prove superior to that delivered in "the crowded classroom of the ordinary American University."
We've been hearing strikingly similar claims today. Another powerful communication network—the Internet—is again raising hopes of a revolution in higher education. This fall, many of the country's leading universities, including MIT, Harvard, Stanford, and Princeton, are offering free classes over the Net, and more than a million people around the world have signed up to take them.
Now, obviously the U.S. Mail is not the internet (after all, mail service is reliable in rural America), but it's always helpful to look at analogous circumstances when deciding how to proceed with a similar idea or innovation. Albert Einstein famously said that the definition of insanity "is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." I would argue it's also insane to deconstruct what has worked very well in the past. An affordable education and an organized labor force built the strongest middle class in the world here in America. Online education has the chance to be a great force for good, even freedom, in the world if we can figure out how it supplements (rather than supplants) the current educational infrastructure and helps keeps costs down, rather than becoming our generation's mail correspondence courses.
➻ Now, on to publishing—another former ivory tower losing its luster. Peter Osnos, founder of one of my favorite publishers—PublicAffairs—wrote an interesting article for The Atlantic last week about Paul Krugman and the Economics of Books.
Krugman's publisher is the highly respected W. W. Norton & Company, founded in the 1920s and notable because, among other reasons, it has been owned by its employees since the 1960s. Norton's other authors include Michael Lewis, Joseph Stiglitz, Stephen Greenblatt, and Fareed Zakaria, as impressive a group of writers and thinkers as any in the country. Fortunately for Norton, it was not one of the five major publishers targeted by the Department of Justice in its antitrust allegations over e-book pricing.
[...] The list price for the book is $24.95, and every bookstore I called is selling it at that price. You can also order it directly from the publisher's website, but that comes with a shipping charge and sales tax where required.
Here is where the pricing becomes interesting. Amazon's hardcover price is $14.71, with no shipping charge for customers who pay an annual fee of $79 for Amazon Prime and two-day delivery. The Kindle edition is $9.48. At BN.com the hardcover is $14.71, but the e-book price is $13.72 (BN.com has free shipping for orders over $25). Moreover, in the Barnes & Noble bookstore, the hardcover is $24.95. On Apple's iBook, the price is $11.99. The Sony store charges $14.99, and on Kobo, which was recently named the e-book provider in the coming year for independent booksellers, the price was $15.49. Only Google Play matched Amazon at $9.48.
So, given these choices, what would you do? [...] Publishers believe that Amazon's goal is to condition its millions of customers to the lowest prices available for the hardware it sells and the content they carry, with the ultimate intention of driving vendors to accept less for what they sell. Mike Shatzkin, an oft-quoted publishing consultant, told the New York Times, "I think everybody competing with Amazon in the ebook market had better fasten their seatbelts."
In her opinion, approving the DOJ settlement with the publishers, Judge Denise Cote removed any obstacle to discounting with the argument that consumers have the right to expect the lowest possible price. "It is not the place of the court," she wrote, "to protect these bookstores and other stakeholders from the vicissitudes of a competitive market." For now, the estimable output of W. W. Norton, including Krugman's End This Depression Now, will continue to be available at a variety of prices. But over the longer term, with possibly serious consequences for the viability of publishers and booksellers, the odds favor the public's instinct to get the best bargain. To reiterate a crucial point I have made before: Publishers will always need the revenue to support authors and the staffs that edit, produce, and market their books, and to provide a reasonable profit for their owners. If the squeeze becomes too tight, the result will be fewer books that matter—like End This Depression Now—whether in print or digital formats.
Low prices moved consumers from the Main Streets of America to shopping in big box stores on the edge of town a generation ago, and now they're moving us from the edge of town to shopping online. The publishing industry is a microcosm of this trend, a bellwether of where we shop. Neighborhood bookstores took a hit when Barnes & Noble and Borders arrived on the outskirts of our communities, and now both the big box stores and independents must compete with Amazon, a company that employs no one and pays no taxes in your hometown (though I suppose that may change when same-day delivery becomes a reality—as it surely will). I just hope we don't all pay a price for the low prices we're paying, and that the companies keeping consumer prices low are also keeping the well-being of the American worker in mind—being that the consumer and worker are largely the same people.
After all, if Gallup Chairman James Clifton is right, the real battle for economic ascendance is not going to be in the price wars, but in The Coming Job Wars.
➻ But, as Wal-Mart stops selling Amazon Kindles, it seems that the war for consumers, not skilled workers, is only escalating.
➻ All this while another of my favorite publishers Knopf Remembers Longtime Editor Ashbel Green. From Kara Bloomgarden-Smoke at The New York Observer:
Mr. Green, who was known as “Ash,” started working at the publishing house in 1964 and went on to edit over 500 books by a stable of well-known authors, political figures and journalists such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Vaclav Havel, George H.W. Bush and Walter Cronkite.
“I really think that most editors wake up each day hoping they’re going to find something they love,” Mr. Green told the Missouri Review in 2000. “I have a real sense of excitement when a new writer comes in with a novel or a collection of stories or an idea for a political book–someone you feel has a fresh voice, whom you can publish with a lot of enthusiasm.”
Mr. Green was also known for helping young editors.
He was both a friend and mentor to Andrew Miller, who came to Knopf from Vintage to take over Mr. Green’s stable of writers when Mr. Green decided to retire in 2007.
Mr. Green would invite Mr. Miller and their assistant over to his Upper East Side apartment for drinks about once a month—a kind of involvement with younger editors that is rare in book publishing.
“He was a mentor to me by example,” said Mr. Miller. “He never had a bad thing to say about anybody. He was unflappable. He handled bad news with equanimity. He handled authors and agents so well and was always so kind—which is harder than it seems.”
Hopefully some of the editors he mentored are passing that spirit on, keeping the industry honest as they strive to keep it up-to-date.
➻ We'll get there, but Why Is It So Hard?
2011 Business Book Awards: The Short List
Posted Jan. 4, 2012 7:40 a.m. by 800-ceo-read
In - 800 CEO Read Blog
What was the Best Business Book written in 2011? Watch this 90 second video and find out more.
Ok, so we didn't tell you what the best book was. We didn't even tell you what the winners of each category were. But below, you'll see the books that made our short list of the best business books of 2011, ordered by category.
Demand: Creating What People Love Before They Know They Want It by Adrian J. Slywotsky with Karl Weber, published by Crown Business
Little Bets: How Breakthrough Ideas Emerge From Small Discoveries by Peter Sims, published by The Free Press
Once Upon a Car: The Fall and Resurrection of America’s Big Three Automakers—GM, Ford, and Chrysler by Bill Vlasic published by William Morrow
The Quest: Energy, Security, and the Remaking of the Modern World by Daniel Yergin, published Penguin Press
The Responsible Business: Reimagining Sustainability & Success by Carol Sanford published by Jossey-Bass
Being the Boss: The 3 Imperatives for Becoming a Great Leader by Linda A Hill & Kent Lineback, published by Harvard Business Review Press
Great by Choice: Uncertainty, Chaos, and Luck—Why Some Thrive Despite Them All by Jim Collins & Morten T. Hansen, published by HarperBusiness
I Moved Your Cheese: For Those Who Refuse to Live as Mice in Someone Else’s Maze by Deepak Malhotra, published by Berrett-Koehler
We: How to Increase Performance and Profits Through Full Engagement by Rudy Karsen & Kevin Kruse published by John Wiley & Sons
You Need a Leader—Now What?: How to Choose the Best Person for Your Organization by James M. Citrin & Julie Hembrock Daum, published by Crown Business
Breaking the Fear Barrier: How Fear Destroys Companies From the Inside Our and What to do About by Tom Rieger, published by Gallup Press
Designing for Growth: A Design Thinking Toolkit for Managers by Jeanne Liedtka & Tim Ogilvie, Columbia Business School Publishing
Escape Velocity: Free Your Company's Future from the Pull of the Past by Geoffrey A. Moore, published by HarperBusiness
Good Strategy/Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why It Matters by Richard P. Rumelt, published by Crown Business
Reputation Rules: Strategies for Building Your Company's Most Valuable Asset by Daniel Diermeier, Ph.D., published by McGraw-Hill
Marketing & Sales
Brand Relevance: Making Competitors Irrelevant by David A. Aaker, published by Jossey-Bass
Brandwashed: Tricks Companies Use to Manipulate Our Minds and Persuade Us to Buy by Martin Lindstrom, published by Crown Business
The Thank You Economy by Gary Vaynerchuk, published by HarperBusiness
Users, Not Customers: Who Really Determines the Success of Your Business by Aaron Shapiro published by Portfolio
We First: How Brands and Consumers Use Social Media to Build a Better World by Simon Mainwaring published by Palgrave Macmillan
Entrepreneurship & Small Business
Eat People: And Other Unapologetic Rules for Game-Changing Entrepreneurs by Andy Kessler published by Portfolio
The Entrepreneur Equation: Evaluating the Realities, Risks, and Rewards of Having Your Own Business by Carol Roth published by BenBella
The Lean Startup: How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries, published by Crown Business
Making It Happen: Turning Good Ideas Into Great Results by Peter Sheahan, published by BenBella
The Method Method: Seven Obsessions That Helped Our Scrappy Start-Up Turn an Industry Upside Down by Eric Ryan & Adam Lowry, published by Portfolio
Break Your Own Rules: How to Change the Patterns of Thinking That Block Women's Paths to Power by Jill Flynn, Kathryn Heath, & Mary Davis Holt, published by Jossey-Bass
Harper's Rules: A Recruiter's Guide to Finding a Dream Job and the Right Relationship by Danny Cahill, published by Greenleaf
It's Not About You: A Little Story about What Matters Most in Business by Bob Burg & John David Mann, published by Portfolio
Tell To Win: Connect, Persuade, and Triumph with the Hidden Power of Story by Peter Guber, published by Crown Business
Uncertainty: Turning Fear and Doubt Into Fuel for Brilliance by Jonathan Fields, published by Portfolio
Innovation & Creativity
The Accidental Creative: How to Be Brilliant at a Moment’s Notice by Todd Henry, published by Portfolio
Best Practices Are Stupid: 40 Ways to Out-Innovate the Competition, by Stephen M. Shapiro, published by Portfolio
Brainsteering: A Better Approach to Breakthrough Ideas by Kevin P. Coyne & Shawn T. Coyne, published by Harper Business
Disciplined Dreaming: A Proven System to Drive Breakthrough Creativity by Josh Linkner, published by Jossey-Bass
The Innovator’s DNA: Mastering the Five Skills of Disruptive Innovators by Jeff Dyer, Hal Gregersen, & Clayton M. Christensen, published by Harvard Business Review
Finance & Economics
The Coming Jobs War by James Clifton, published by Gallup Press
Currency Wars: The Making of the Next Global Crisis by James Rickards, published by Portfolio
Fixing the Game: Bubbles, Crashes, and What Capitalism Can Learn from the NFL by Roger Martin, published by Harvard Business Review Press
The Price of Everything: Solving the Mystery of Why We Pay What We Do by Eduardo Porter, published by Portfolio
Retirement Heist How Companies Plunder and Profit from the Nest Eggs of American Workers by Ellen Schultz, published by Portfolio
Stay tuned next week when we announce the winners from each of these categories, and the following week we'll announce The Best Business Book of 2011! The suspense!!!
Introducing the Candidates: Entrepreneurship & Finance
Posted Dec. 21, 2011 2:07 a.m. by sally-haldorson
In - 800 CEO Read Blog
Over the course of this week, we will be introducing, by category, the candidates for the 2011 800-CEO-READ Business Book Awards. Even though only one of the candidates can win the big prize, good business books deserve an audience, and perhaps one on this list will be the winning book..to you.
Today, we take a look at the candidates in two categories, Entrepreneurship/Small Business and Finance/Economics.
- The Big Enough Company: Creating a Business That Works for You by Adelaide Lancaster, Amy Abrams | Portfolio/Penguin US
- Eat People: And Other Unapologetic Rules for Game-Changing Entrepreneurs by Andy Kessler | Portfolio/Penguin US
- Nothing to Lose, Everything to Gain: How I Went from Gang Member to Multimillionaire Entrepreneur by Ryan Blair | Portfolio/Penguin US
- The Method Method: Seven Obsessions That Helped Our Scrappy Start-up Turn an Industry Upside Down by Eric Ryan, Adam Lowry with Lucas Conley | Portfolio/Penguin US
- Great Again: Revitalizing America's Entrepreneurial Leadership by Henry Nothhaft | Harvard Business Review Press
- The Entrepreneur Equation: Evaluating the Realities, Risks, and Rewards of Having Your Own Business by Carol Roth | BenBella Books
- From Idea to Success: The Dartmouth Entrepreneurial Network Guide for Start-Ups by Gregg Fairbrothers | McGraw-Hill Professional
- The Lean Startup : How Today's Entrepreneurs Use Continuous Innovation to Create Radically Successful Businesses by Eric Ries | Crown Publishing Group, Crown Business
- Making It Happen : Turning Good Ideas Into Great Results by Peter Sheahan | BenBella Books
- The Startup Game: Inside the Partnership Between Venture Capitalists and Entrepreneurs by William H. Draper, III | Palgrave Macmillan
- Will Work for Shoes: The Business Behind Red Carpet Product Placement by Susan J. Ashbrook | Greenleaf Book Group
- Selling Sunshine: 75 Tips, Tools and Tactics for Becoming a Wildly Successful Entrepreneur by Tony Hartl | Greenleaf Book Group
- Bold: How to Be Brave in Business and Win by Shaun Smith and Andy Milligan | Kogan Page
- The Growth Map: Economic Opportunity in the BRICs and Beyond by Jim O'Neill | Portfolio/Penguin US
- The Price of Everything: Solving the Mystery of Why We Pay What We Do by Eduardo Porter | Portfolio/Penguin US
- Retirement Heist: How Companies Plunder and Profit from the Nest Eggs of American Workers by Ellen E. Schultz | Portfolio/Penguin US
- Currency Wars: The Making of the Next Global Crisis by James Rickards | Portfolio/Penguin US
- Fixing the Game: Bubbles, Crashes, and What Capitalism Can Learn from the NFL by Roger L. Martin | Harvard Business Review Press
- Boombustology: Spotting Financial Bubbles Before They Burst by Vikram Mansharamani | Wiley
- The Future of Value: How Sustainability Creates Value Through Competitive Differentiation by Eric Lowitt | Jossey-Bass, An Imprint of Wiley
- The Coming Jobs War: What Every Leader Must Know About the Future of Job Creation by Jim Clifton | Gallup Press
- Banker to the World: Leadership Lessons from the Front Lines of Finance by William Rhodes | McGraw-Hill
- Pinched: How the Great Recession Has Narrowed Our Futures & What We Can Do About It by Don Peck | Crown Publishing Group, Crown Publishers
- The Most Important Thing: Uncommon Sense for the Thoughtful Investor by Howard Marks | Columbia Business School Publishing
- Guaranteed to Fail: Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the Debacle of Mortgage Finance by Viral Acharya, Matthew Richardson, Stijn Van Nieuwerburgh, Lawrence J. White | Princeton University Press
- Borderless Economics: Chinese Sea Turtles, Indian Fridges, and the New Fruits of Global Capitalism by Robert Guest | Palgrave Macmillan
So which book is going to win the Entrepreneurship and the Finance categories and be in the running for the 800-CEO-READ Best Business Book of 2011? We'll announce the shortlist and winner in January!
The Coming Jobs War
Posted Oct. 4, 2011 3:00 a.m. by jon
In - 800 CEO Read Blog
Right now, some of us are sitting in positions we've held for years, and looking forward to staying that way. Others are scrambling to prove their worth in a highly competitive market. Yet others still may have given up, after years of trying to find work, with no hope in site.
The Coming Jobs War, by Jim Clifton, says the situation is going to get more intense for each of those groups. And while an entrepreneurial spirit is certainly important for individuals during this time, the book's aim focuses on cities' business leaders and philanthropists as the solution to the crisis.
In this case, Clifton argues, a war, as severe as it sounds, is warranted. "He states, "I don't use the term 'war' lightly. This really has to be a war on job loss, on low workplace energy, on healthcare costs, on low graduation rates, on brain drain, and on community disengagement. Those things destroy cities, destroy job growth, and destroy city GDP. Every city requires its own master plan that is as serious as planning for war."
While his research seems dire, his urgency and passion are an inspiring look at what America can and should do to turn around the marketplace, the economy, and our own personal survival. A compelling and important read.
Posted Sept. 9, 2011 10:57 a.m. by dylan
In - 800 CEO Read Blog
➻ In light of the president's speech introducing the American Jobs Act, let's take a look at some of the challenges we're facing and possible solutions. First up, we have an excerpt in the Gallup Management Journal from Jim Clifton's highly anticipated upcoming book, The Coming Jobs War. Speaking to the scope of the problem and discussing The War for Good Jobs, he writes:
The coming world war is an all-out global war for good jobs.
As of 2008, the war for good jobs has trumped all other leadership activities because it's been the cause and the effect of everything else that countries have experienced. This will become even more real in the future as global competition intensifies. If countries fail at creating jobs, their societies will fall apart. Countries, and more specifically cities, will experience suffering, instability, chaos, and eventually revolution. This is the new world that leaders will confront.
The lack of good jobs will become the root cause of almost all world problems that America and other countries will face.
If you were to ask me, from all the world polling Gallup has done for more than 75 years, what would fix the world—what would suddenly create worldwide peace, global wellbeing, and the next extraordinary advancements in human development, I would say the immediate appearance of 1.8 billion jobs—formal jobs. Nothing would change the current state of humankind more.
That may sound provocative and hyperbolic, but this was written by the chairman of the most respected statistical research organization in the world. I don't think we can very easily write it off.
➻ The Economist looks at ways the government could be Lending a hand to create jobs.
Soaring unemployment in America has created an appetite for a range of policy ideas that would have been dismissed only a few years ago. In his book, Make It In America, Andrew Liveris, the boss of Dow Chemical, calls for an industrial policy to support manufacturing, including the use of government subsidies to keep firms from moving their operations abroad. The firm has helped to try this out in Michigan, where the governor, Jennifer Granholm, who is now on Dow’s board, used a mixture of local, state and federal government incentives to lure a cluster of firms involved in making batteries for electric cars. But governments are notoriously bad at picking industrial winners, and even if they succeed, there are questions about whether their interventions provide value for money. As Ms Granholm admits, whether the battery cluster turns out to be a good deal for taxpayers may depend on America adopting tough policies towards carbon emissions. ...
Steve Case, the founder of AOL and another member of the jobs council, thinks Congress could help by passing a bipartisan “entrepreneurship act.” This could break the current political logjam by separately pushing several measures that have been blocked by Washington’s battles over far bigger reforms. For example, it could include giving visas to foreign entrepreneurs on condition that they create jobs in America, which seems a no-brainer but has got nowhere because the country’s mood has turned against immigration for entirely separate reasons. [Michael] Bloomberg wants to go further by offering visas to foreigners who agree to live in a failing city such as Detroit for a minimum of seven years without claiming any federal, state or local welfare benefits. “Overnight you would fill Detroit with people who would fill it with new jobs,” he says.
➻ In strategy + business, Arvind Kaushal, Thomas Mayor and Patricia Riedl wrote of Manufacturing’s Wake-Up Call. They write:
U.S. manufacturing is at a moment of truth. Currently, U.S. factories competitively produce about 75 percent of the products that the nation consumes. A series of identifiable smart actions and choices by business leaders, educators, and policymakers could lead to a robust, manufacturing-driven economic future and push that figure up to 95 percent. Alternatively, if the U.S. manufacturing sector remains neglected, its output could fall by half, meeting less than 40 percent of the nation’s demand, and U.S. manufacturing capabilities could then erode past the point of no return. ...
Every country needs creative, engaged, and profitable manufacturers if it hopes to have a healthy economy that supports the aspirations of all of its citizens. If you are a manufacturing leader in the United States, you shouldn’t have to go it alone. You should have support at all levels of government and culture—from Washington to the local cluster. Like all businesspeople, you must come to terms with the fact that the world has changed. But as the data shows, the U.S. has a strong base to build on. The future of U.S. manufacturing in general, and of your company in particular, can be extremely bright. The current wake-up call represents an opportunity for you to clarify your strengths, channel your investment, and create your own distinctive direction.
That is just a brief sample of the piece. If you're in manufacturing or government, or are interested in either, you should head over to strategy + business for the full article.
➻ And, of course Joseph Stiglitz has some opinions on How to put America back to work. Writing of that for Politico, The Nobel Prize Winner, former Chief Economist of the World Bank and Columbia University Professor argues that we must first dispel some common myths:
[W]e must dispose two myths. One is that reducing the deficit will restore the economy. You don’t create jobs and growth by firing workers and cutting spending. The reason that firms with access to capital are not investing and hiring is that there is insufficient demand for their products. Weakening demand—what austerity means—only discourages investment and hiring.
As Paul Krugman emphasizes, there is no “confidence fairy” that magically inspires investors once they see the deficit go down. We’ve tried that experiment—over and over. Using the austerity formula, then-President Herbert Hoover converted the stock market crash into the Great Depression. I saw firsthand how the International Monetary Fund’s imposed austerity on East Asian countries converted downturns into recessions and recessions into depressions.
I don’t understand why, with such strong evidence, any country would impose this on itself. Even the IMF now recognizes you need fiscal support.
The second myth is that the stimulus didn’t work. The purported evidence for this belief is simple: Unemployment peaked at 10 percent—and is still more than 9 percent. (More accurate measures put the number far higher.) The administration had announced, however, that with the stimulus, it would reach only 8 percent.
The administration did make one big error, which I pointed out in my book Freefall—it vastly underestimated the severity of the crisis it inherited.
He goes on to discuss some possible solutions:
There are things we can do beyond the budget. The government should have some influence over the banks, particularly given the enormous debt they owe us for their rescue. Carrots and sticks can encourage more lending to small- and medium-sized businesses and to restructure more mortgages. It is inexcusable that we have done so little to help homeowners, and as long as the foreclosures continue apace, the real estate market will continue to be weak.
The banks’ anti-competitive credit card practices also essentially impose a tax on every transaction—but it is a tax with revenues that go to fill the banks’ coffers, not for any public purpose—including lowering the national debt. Stronger enforcement of antitrust laws against the banks would also be a boon to many small businesses.
In short, we are not out of ammunition. Our predicament is not a matter of economics. Theory and experience show that our arsenal is still strong. Of course, the deficit and debt do limit what we can do. But even within these confines, we can create jobs and expand the economy—and simultaneously bring down the debt to GDP ratio.
➻ Frequent coauthors Bob Sutton and Jeffrey Pfeffer had an interesting piece in The Times urging leaders in business to Trust the Evidence, Not Your Instincts, which I think could apply in some ways to the overall economic debate. First:
Strongly-held but weakly supported beliefs about workplace practices reflect what psychologists call “confirmation bias.” When people hold firm beliefs about something, they tend to ignore, reject, and forget facts that clash with their beliefs; and remember, accept, and more readily accept facts that support their beliefs. A related impediment is the excessive self-confidence that plagues many people, especially those who wield power over others. Decision-makers may acknowledge they use a practice that is ineffective for most other people and organizations—but believe they are so talented that the usual findings don’t apply to them.
Maybe if we can use our heads instead of our guts, we can even start creating jobs again. And the preceding paragraph just happens to talk about the best way to hire when jobs are being created:
Hiring the right people is another key decision in every workplace. Many studies show that unstructured face-to-face interviews are biased; for example, interviewers prefer candidates who are likeable, similar to them, and physically attractive (even when these qualities are irrelevant to performance). Numerous selection methods are superior—among the best is to simply see if the candidate can perform the work. Yet interviews remain the primary selection method used by organizations. And we’ve often been astounded by the refusal of seasoned managers and executives to even consider evidence that interviews are a flawed selection tool.
You can find The Uncut Version of the piece on Bob Sutton's blog.
➻ Perhaps in light of what Judy Bardwick has termed The Psychological Recession, we could use a counselor of some sort. Maybe a philosophical counselor? In an age where our moods are increasingly regulated and mental states increasingly over-medicated, Philosophical counselors rely on the eternal wisdom of great thinkers. From Emily Wax of The Washington Post:
“Not everyone needs to be medicated,” said [Patricia Anne] Murphy, a thin woman with long, gray hair. “Whereas drugs can treat the body,” she said, “there may be other things that the soul needs.”
Unlike a visit to a conventional psychologist or psychotherapist, seeing Murphy won’t involve lying on a couch or reaching for the obligatory tissue box. Though she works from a home library lined with tomes by Albert Camus, Søren Kierkegaard and Immanuel Kant, Murphy takes clients outside for brisk strolls through her leafy neighborhood because Kant believed that walking helped thinking and was soothing for the soul.
The therapy is not covered by health insurance but is typically offered on a sliding scale and averages about $80 an hour for one-on-one sessions.
Of course, such therapy is not for everyone.
“It really depends on the disorder or mental health issue,” said W. Mark Hamilton, director and chief executive of American Mental Health Counselors Association. “I think the fact that [philosophical counselors] are not trained as clinical mental health counselors is a concern. . . . For someone with a serious mental issue, they need to see a trained mental health professional.”
Philosophical counselors say they immediately refer any client with clinical depression or suicidal thoughts to psychiatrists, fearing lawsuits if they make a mistake by prescribing Kierkegaard to a client who really needs Klonopin.
The field is still in its early stages. There are about 300 philosophical counselors in 36 states and more than 20 foreign countries who are certified by the American Philosophical Practitioners Association, along with another 600 who practice but are not certified, said Lou Marinoff, president of the organization and author of the international bestseller Plato, Not Prozac! Applying Eternal Wisdom to Everyday Problems.
The bushy-bearded Marinoff is the public face of philosophical counseling. Dispensing his rapid-fire Socratic-shrink shtick, he could be a cross between Woody Allen and Sigmund Freud.
Trying to overcome the grief of losing your job in a bad economy?
“Read the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu, founder of Taoism, who taught that every loss comes bundled with gain, for they are inseparable manifestations of yin and yang,” offered Marinoff. “In other words, instead of focusing on the loss, focus on the gain: Losing a job, you have just gained an opportunity to develop a latent talent and to enter a more suitable career path.”
Those mired in depression and anxiety over weight gain should turn to the French existentialist philosopher Sartre, who has much to say on the art of self-deception.
Suffering from a midlife crisis? Try a dose of Friedrich Nietzsche, who wrote in his autobiography of creating an inner 25-year-old superhero in middle age.
The next time you hear of me reading Nietzsche, start getting very worried—crisis is at hand.
➻ On Battleship Hill.