Sense of Purpose, Not Greed, Is Reason Multimillionaires Keep Working

(p. 10) I’ve often wondered why the so-called Masters of the Universe, those C.E.O.s with multimillion-dollar monthly paychecks, keep working. Why, once they have earned enough money to live comfortably forever, do they still drag themselves to the office? The easy answer, the one I had always settled on, was greed.
But as I watched the hours slowly drip by in my cubicle, an alternative reason came into view. Without a sense of purpose beyond the rent money, malaise sets in almost immediately. We all need a reason to get up in the morning, preferably one to which we can attach some meaning. It is why people flock to the scene of a natural disaster to rescue and rebuild, why people devote themselves to a cause, no matter how doomed it may be. In the end, it’s the process as much as the reward that nourishes us.

For the full commentary, see:
TED GELTNER. “ON WORK; Bored to Tears by a Do-Nothing Dream Job.” The New York Times, SundayBusiness Section (Sun., NOV. 22, 2015): 10.
(Note: the online version of the commentary was updated on NOV. 21, 2015.)

For Movies, Film Option Survives Digital Advance

(p. B1) Faced with the possible extinction of the material that made Hollywood famous, a coalition of studios is close to a deal to keep Eastman Kodak Co. in the business of producing movie film.
The negotiations–secret until now–are expected to result in an arrangement where studios promise to buy a set quantity of film for the next several years, even though most movies and television shows these days are shot on digital video.
Kodak’s new chief executive, Jeff Clarke, said the pact will allow his company to forestall the closure of its Rochester, N.Y., film manufacturing plant, a move that had been under serious consideration. Kodak’s motion-picture film sales have plummeted 96% since 2006, from 12.4 billion linear feet to an estimated 449 million this year. With the exit of competitor Fujifilm Corp. last year, Kodak is the only major company left producing motion-picture film.
. . .
Film and digital video both “are valid choices, but it would be a tragedy if suddenly directors didn’t have the opportunity to shoot on film,” said Mr. Apatow. director of comedies including “Knocked Up” and “The 40 Year-Old Virgin,” speaking from the New York set of his coming movie “Trainwreck,” which he is shooting on film. “There’s a magic to the grain and the color quality that you get with film.”

For the full story, see:
BEN FRITZ. “Movie Film, at Death’s Door, Gets a Reprieve.” The Wall Street Journal (Weds., July 30, 2014): B1 & B8.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the article was dated July 29, 2014.)

Price Theory Paradox When Gas Prices Fall

(p. A3) When gas prices fall, Americans reliably do two things that don’t make much sense.
They spend more of the windfall on gasoline than they would if the money came from somewhere else.
And they don’t just buy more gasoline. They switch from regular gas to high-octane.
A new report by the JPMorgan Chase Institute, looking at the impact of lower gas prices on consumer spending, finds the same pattern as earlier studies. The average American would have saved about $41 a month last winter by buying the same gallons and grades. Instead, Americans took home roughly $22 a month. People, in other words, used almost half of the windfall to buy more and fancier gas.
. . .
Professors Hastings and Shapiro showed that households adjusted their gas consumption much more sharply in response to changes in gas prices than in response to equivalent changes in overall income. In the fall of 2008, for example, as gas prices fell amid a broad economic collapse, consumers responded as if the decline of gas prices were the more important event, significantly increasing purchases of premium gas.
Moreover, this behavior was prevalent: 61 percent of the households made at least one irrational gas purchase. People “treat changes in gasoline prices as equivalent to very large changes in income when deciding which grade of gasoline to purchase,” they wrote.

For the full commentary, see:
Binyamin Appelbaum. “When Gas Becomes Cheaper, Americans Buy Fancier Gas.” The New York Times (Thurs., OCT. 20, 2015): A3.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary was updated on OCT. 19, 2015, and has the title “When Gas Becomes Cheaper, Americans Buy More Expensive Gas.”)

The Hastings and Shapiro article mentioned above, is:
Hastings, Justine S., and Jesse M. Shapiro. “Fungibility and Consumer Choice: Evidence from Commodity Price Shocks.” Quarterly Journal of Economics 128, no. 4 (Nov. 2013): 1449-98.

What If Steve Jobs Ran the I.C.U.?

We’d like to think that medical intensity and competence in the real world mirror the intensity and competence of television shows like ER and House. But too often it is like the horrible surreal story told below. What if we deregulated medicine to open it to the product and process innovations of intense innovative entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs, Jeff Bezos, and Sam Walton?

(p. 7) Omaha — I’ve been watching the monitor for hours. Natalie’s asleep now and I’m worried about her pulse. It’s edging above 140 beats per minute again and her blood oxygen saturation is becoming dangerously low. I’m convinced that she’s slipping into shock. She needs more fluids. I ring for the nurse.

I know about stuff like septic shock because for more than 20 years I was a transplant surgeon, and some of our patients got incredibly sick after surgery. So when I’m sitting in an I.C.U. in Omaha terrified that Natalie, my 17-year-old daughter, might die, I know what I’m talking about. I tell the nurse that Natalie needs to get another slug of intravenous fluids, and fast.
The nurse says she’ll call the doctor. Fifteen minutes later I find her in the lounge at a computer, and over her shoulder I see a screen full of makeup products. When I ask if we can get that fluid going, I startle her. She says she called the resident and told him the vital signs, but that he thought things were stable.
“He said to hold off for now,” she says.
“Get me two bags of saline. Now,” I tell her.
She says, “I’m calling my supervisor,” and she runs out of the lounge.
. . .
I know I shouldn’t be my daughter’s doctor. They taught us the problems with that during my first week in medical school.
. . .
But right now, I don’t care about any of that. I’m the one with experience taking care of really sick patients, and if I know she needs more fluids, she’s going to get them.
I break into the crash cart, a box on wheels full of stuff they use to resuscitate patients. I pull out two liters of saline solution and run both into Natalie’s IV in less than 20 minutes. Natalie’s pulse slows and her blood pressure rises. An hour later, after the nursing supervisor and on-call resident finally arrive, I’ve finished infusing a third liter. Natalie finally looks better.
This wasn’t the first time during Natalie’s illness eight years ago that I broke my promise to just be her dad. It started a week earlier when she came into the den and showed me the blood she’d coughed up. I suspect a father without my experience might have chalked it up to flu. Maybe because I was a transplant surgeon, and always considered the worst possible cause whenever a patient had a hiccup, I took her to the hospital. I was worried the blood meant she had a bacterial pneumonia, a bad one. And it did.
On the way to the hospital, Natalie took a deep breath and looked at me. “Am I going to die?” she asked. I’m convinced that she would have been dead before morning had I not been a doctor, and one who could recognize septic shock when it affected a normal teenager.

For the full commentary, see:
BUD SHAW. “A Doctor at His Daughter’s Hospital Bed.” The New York Times, SundayReview Section (Sun., SEPT. 6, 2015): 7.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date SEPT. 5, 2015.)

The commentary quoted above is adapted from the book:
Shaw, Bud. Last Night in the Or: A Transplant Surgeon’s Odyssey. New York: Plume, 2015.

Professors Oppose Diversity by Discriminating Against Conservatives

(p. A23) One of the great intellectual and moral epiphanies of our time is the realization that human diversity is a blessing. It has become conventional wisdom that being around those unlike ourselves makes us better people — and more productive to boot.
Scholarly studies have piled up showing that race and gender diversity in the workplace can increase creative thinking and improve performance. Meanwhile, excessive homogeneity can lead to stagnation and poor problem-solving.
Unfortunately, new research also shows that academia has itself stopped short in both the understanding and practice of true diversity — the diversity of ideas — and that the problem is taking a toll on the quality and accuracy of scholarly work. This year, a team of scholars from six universities studying ideological diversity in the behavioral sciences published a paper in the journal Behavioral and Brain Sciences that details a shocking level of political groupthink in academia. The authors show that for every politically conservative social psychologist in academia there are about 14 liberal social psychologists.
Why the imbalance? The researchers found evidence of discrimination and hostility within academia toward conservative researchers and their viewpoints. In one survey cited, 79 percent of social psychologists admitted they would be less likely to support hiring a conservative colleague than a liberal scholar with equivalent qualifications.

For the full commentary, see:
Arthur C. Brooks. “Academia’s Rejection of Diversity.” The New York Times (Sat., OCT. 31, 2015): A23.
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date OCT. 30, 2015.)

The Behavioral and Brain Sciences article mentioned above, is:
Duarte, José L., Jarret T. Crawford, Charlotta Stern, Jonathan Haidt, Lee Jussim, and Philip E. Tetlock. “Political Diversity Will Improve Social Psychological Science.” Behavioral and Brain Sciences 38 (Jan. 2015) DOI: http://dx.doi.org.leo.lib.unomaha.edu/10.1017/S0140525X14000041

After Hiding Under Desk, Student Wants Gun to Protect Self and Others

(p. A1) ROSEBURG, Ore. — A week has passed since J. J. Vicari huddled underneath a desk while gunshots exploded in the classroom next door. Now he is thinking about guns. Not about tightening gun laws, as President Obama urged after nine people were killed at the community college here. But about buying one for himself.
“It’s opened my eyes,” said Mr. Vicari, 19. “I want to have a gun in the house to protect myself, to protect the people I’m with. I’m sure I’ll have a normal life and never have to go through anything like this, but I want to be sure.”

For the full story, see:
JACK HEALY and JULIE TURKEWITZ. “Common Response After Killings in Oregon: ‘I Want to Have a Gun’.” The New York Times (Thurs., OCT. 8, 2015): A1 & A18.
(Note: the online version of the article was dated OCT. 7, 2015.)

Haiti Stagnates Under Crony Capitalism

(p. A13) A May 2015 World Bank “systematic country diagnostic” on Haiti is instructive.
. . .
As the World Bank report notes, Haiti suffers from crony capitalism that holds back economic growth.
. . .
The record of Haiti’s elected politicians, since the transition to democracy at the beginning of the 1990s, is dismal. The political class still uses its power for personal aggrandizement, as the infamous dictators François Duvalier and his son Jean-Claude did for almost 30 years.
Just as discouraging is that after more than two decades of going to the polls, Haitians have yet to taste economic freedom, and emigration has become the only option for those who hope to get ahead by hard work. The World Bank reports that between 1971 and 2013 gross domestic product per capita “fell by .7% per year on average.”
. . .
The World Bank authors gently speculate that there is “little competitive pressure.” They observe this “could be the result of high legal or behavioral entry barriers” and this “could facilitate tacit agreements among families/groups to allocate markets among themselves, which may harm productivity and incentive to innovate.”
This is polite jargon for collusion, which Haitians already know. They also know that absent the political will to open markets to competition, elections won’t matter much.

For the full commentary, see:
MARY ANASTASIA O’GRADY. “Diagnosing What Ails Haiti’s Economy; The World Bank fingers cronyism, of which Bill Clinton was for years a symbol.” The Wall Street Journal (Mon., Oct. 12, 2015): A13.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the commentary was updated on Oct. 11, 2015.)

The World Bank report mentioned in the passages quoted above, is:
HAITI: TOWARDS A NEW NARRATIVE SYSTEMATIC COUNTRY DIAGNOSTIC, May 2015.