Government War on Drugs Kills 92 Year Old Shut-In Who Defended Her Home

 

As a live-and-let-live libertarian, I think the war on drugs is a waste of money and a violation of rights. 

Consider the news report of the police breaking down the door of a 92 year-old Atlanta woman, who defended her property, and was shot dead.

 

In the CNN report, the woman’s 75 year old niece expresses understandable outrage.

 

View CNN’s airing of a WSB report by Eric Phillips, broadcast on Weds., Nov. 22nd.

 

Examine Your Assets and See If, and Where, They Can Add Value

In Gerstner’s book, there is an intriguing passage in which he defends turning IBM into an integrated services firm.  As an aside, he says that it might not now have made sense to build up IBM’s diverse assets, but now, having them in existence, it made sense to use them.  And he points out that even in the age of modularity, many customers needed, and were willing to pay for, a company that was able and willing to put everything together for them.

At first glance, this comment might seem at odds with the economist’s dictum that "sunk costs are sunk."  But Gerstner was not advocating the integration of IBM services because IBM had historically invested a lot in building up the parts of the organization.  He was pointing out that diverse parts, if properly integrated, would provide substantial added-value to an important sub-group of customers.

 

Here is the relevant passage from Gerstner:

(p. 61)  Unfortunately, in 1993 IBM was rocketing down a path that would have made it a virtual mirror image of the rest of the industry.  The company was being splintered—you could say it was being destroyed.

Now, I must tell you, I am not sure that in 1993 I or anyone else would have started out to create an IBM.  But, given IBM’s scale and broad-based capabilities, and the trajectories of the information technology industry, it would have been insane to destroy its unique competitive advantage and turn IBM into a group of individual component suppliers—more minnows in an ocean. 

 

The reference to the book, is:

Gerstner, Louis V., Jr. Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance? Leading a Great Enterprise through Dramatic Change. New York: HarperCollins, 2002.

“Come With Me, If You Want to Live”

Schumpeter famously stated that creative destruction is "the essential fact" about capitalism.  Was he right? 

To determine what is "the essential fact" you need to first answer the question "essential for what purpose?"  If the purpose is "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" then I think you can show that creative detruction is indeed the essential fact about capitalism; in the key sense that with creative destruction you have a form of capitalism that is best able to enhance "live, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness."

The Terminator famously said "Come with me, if you want to live!" ("Terminator 2: Judgment Day," 1991).  Life is a choice.  You can choose death instead.  Most people, most of the time, choose life. But there are examples of choosing death.  E.g., Leon Kass, an oft-quoted "expert" on medical ethics issues, is against current efforts to lengthen the human life span:

(p. D4)  While an anti-aging pill may be the next big blockbuster, some ethicists believe that the all-out determination to extend life span is veined with arrogance.  As appointments with death are postponed, says Dr. Leon R. Kass, former chairman of the President’s Council on Bioethics, human lives may become less engaging, less meaningful, even less beautiful.

“Mortality makes life matter,” Dr. Kass recently wrote.  “Immortality is a kind of oblivion — like death itself.”

That man’s time on this planet is limited, and rightfully so, is a cultural belief deeply held by many.  But whether an increasing life span affords greater opportunity to find meaning or distracts from the pursuit, the prospect has become too great a temptation to ignore — least of all, for scientists.

“It’s a just big waste of talent and wisdom to have people die in their 60s and 70s,” said Dr. Sinclair of Harvard.

(And there’s the occasional hermit, like the unibomber, who chooses to live a brutish life without electricity and indoor plumbing.)  So long as I, Arnold, and our compatriots, are allowed an island somewhere to peacefully pursue life, I do not much care what Leon and his friends do.  My argument, and the book I am writing on creative destruction, are not written for Leon.  They are written for all those who choose life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.

 

The NYT quote related to Leon Kass’s praise of mortality, is from p. D4 of:

MICHAEL MASON.  "One for the Ages:  A Prescription That May Extend Life."  The New York Times  (Tues., October 31, 2006):  D1 & D4. 

 

Good Management Takes Guts and Time

Gerstner recognizes that decentralization is sometimes a good thing, but thinks in some ways the trend has gone to far in business—some business functions may be efficient to centralize: 

 

(p. 246)  I’m thinking here of common customer databases, common fulfillment systems, common parts numbering systems, and common customer relationship management systems that permit your customer-service people to provide integrated information about everything a customer does with our company.

On the surface it would seem that these are logical and powerful things to do in an enterprise.  Nevertheless, they usually require profit-center managers to do something very hard—relinquish some of the control they have over how they run their business.  Staff executives, consultants, or reengineering teams cannot do this without active line management involvement.  The CEO and top management have got to be deeply involved, reach tough-minded conclusions, then ensure that those decisions are enforced and executed across the enterprise.  It takes guts, it takes time, and it takes superb execution.

 

Reference to the book:

Gerstner, Louis V., Jr.  Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance? Leading a Great Enterprise through Dramatic Change.  New York:  HarperCollins, 2002.

To FDA, Death is Not a Disease, So FDA Won’t Approve Drugs to Lengthen Life

ResveratrolMouseLifespanGraph.gif  Source of graphic:  online version of the NYT article cited below.

 

(p. A1)  Can you have your cake and eat it?  Is there a free lunch after all, red wine included?  Researchers at the Harvard Medical School and the National Institute on Aging report that a natural substance found in red wine, known as resveratrol, offsets the bad effects of a high-calorie diet in mice and significantly extends their lifespan.

Their report, published electronically yesterday in Nature, implies that very large daily doses of resveratrol could offset the unhealthy, high-calorie diet thought to underlie the rising toll of obesity in the United States and elsewhere, if people respond to the drug as mice do.

Resveratrol is found in the skin of grapes and in red wine and is conjectured to be a partial explanation for the French paradox, the puzzling fact that people in France enjoy a high-fat diet yet suffer less heart disease than Americans.

The researchers fed one group of mice a diet in which 60 percent of calories came from fat.  The diet started when the mice, all males, were a year old, which is middle-aged in mouse terms.  As expected, the mice soon developed signs of impending diabetes, with grossly enlarged livers, and started to die much sooner than mice fed a standard diet.

Another group of mice was fed the identical high-fat diet but with a (p. A18) large daily dose of resveratrol (far larger than a human could get from drinking wine).  The resveratrol did not stop them from putting on weight and growing as tubby as the other fat-eating mice.  But it averted the high levels of glucose and insulin in the bloodstream, which are warning signs of diabetes, and it kept the mice’s livers at normal size.

Even more striking, the substance sharply extended the mice’s lifetimes.  Those fed resveratrol along with the high-fat diet died many months later than the mice on high fat alone, and at the same rate as mice on a standard healthy diet.  They had all the pleasures of gluttony but paid none of the price.

. . .

For the Food and Drug Administration, if for no one else, aging is not a disease and death is not an end-point.  The F.D.A. will approve only drugs that treat diseases in measurable ways, so Dr. Westphal hopes to show that his sirtuin activators will improve the indicators of specific diseases, starting with diabetes.

“We think that if we can harness the benefits of caloric restriction, we wouldn’t simply have ways of making people live longer, but an entirely new therapeutic strategy to address the diseases of aging,” Dr. Guarente said.

 

For the full story, see: 

NICHOLAS WADE.   ‘Yes, Red Wine Holds Answer.  Check Dosage."  The New York Times  (Thurs., November 2, 2006):  A1 & A18.

(Note:  ellipsis added.)

 

Here is a link to an abstract of the research report in Nature (which, by the way, is usually considered one of the top journals in science):

http://www.nature.com/nature/journal/vaop/ncurrent/abs/nature05354.html

 

For Major Changes, CEOs Need to Change Who “Calls the Shots”


Some of the best advice in Gerstner’s book concern ‘execution’ issues of rewards, incentives, and who has the power to make which decisions.  Consider:

(p. 249)  If a CEO thinks he or she is redirecting or reintegrating an enterprise but doesn’t distribute the basic levels of power (in effect, redefining who "calls the shots"), the CEO is trying to push string up a hill.  (p. 250)  The media companies are a good example.  If a CEO wants to build a truly integrated platform for digital services in the home, he or she cannot let the music division or movie division cling to its existing technology or industry structure—despite the fact that these traditional approaches maximize short-term profits.

. . .

I knew we could not get the integration we needed at IBM without introducing massive changes to the measurement and compensation system.  I’ve already explained that the group executives who ran IBM’s operating businesses were not paid bonuses based on the unit’s performance.  All their pay was derived from IBM’s total results.

When a CEO tells me that he or she is considering a major reintegration of his or her company, I try to say, politely, "If you are not pre-(p. 251)pared to manage your compensation this way, you probably should not proceed."

 

The reference for the book is:

Gerstner, Louis V., Jr.  Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance? Leading a Great Enterprise through Dramatic Change.  New York:  HarperCollins, 2002.

(Note:  ellipsis added.)

 

Managers Get, Not What They Expect, But What They Inspect

Louis Gerstner is well-known for down-playing the ‘vision’ thing. he emphasizes that seemingly more mundane issues are often more important than the lofty ones. For example, one of Gerstner’s key insights is often ignored in business: most workers perform well, when management takes the time and effort to observe performance, and to reward it when it is good:

(p. 250)  I have already pointed out that people do what you inspect, not what you expect.  Leaders who are thinking about creating true integration in their institutions must change the measurement and reward systems to reinforce this new direction.

(Note: italics in original. Also, see related passages on pages 212, and 230-231.)

 

Reference for the book:

Gerstner, Louis V., Jr.  Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance? Leading a Great Enterprise through Dramatic Change.  New York:  HarperCollins, 2002.