Wilson’s Advice to Conservative Academics: “Be Twice as Productive and Four Times as NIce”

(p. A13) Pat Moynihan once reportedly told Richard Nixon (who was known for his disdain for intellectuals), “Mr. President, James Q. Wilson is the smartest man in the United States. The president of the United States should pay attention to what he has to say.”
. . .
At one point in my academic career, I called Jim for advice about how best to navigate the waters of liberal academia when one is openly conservative. “Simple,” he told me lightheartedly, “Be twice as productive and four times as nice as your colleagues.” It was a formula he himself had followed.

For the full commentary, see:
ARTHUR C. BROOKS. “OPINION; Social Science With a Soul; Life for James Q. Wilson was like a roadside curio shop, full of hidden and unrecognized intellectual treasures..” The Wall Street Journal (Sat., March 3, 2012): C4.
(Note: ellipsis added.)

Today Is Tweflth Anniversary of Democrats’ Infamous Betrayal of Elián González

GonzalezElianSeizedOn2000-04-22.jpg“In this April 22, 2000 file photo, Elian Gonzalez is held in a closet by Donato Dalrymple, one of the two men who rescued the boy from the ocean, right, as government officials search the home of Lazaro Gonzalez, early Saturday morning, April 22, 2000, in Miami. Armed federal agents seized Elian Gonzalez from the home of his Miami relatives before dawn Saturday, firing tear gas into an angry crowd as they left the scene with the weeping 6-year-old boy.” Source of caption and photo: online version of JENNIFER KAY and MATT SEDENSKY. “10 years later, few stirred by Elian Gonzalez saga.” Omaha World-Herald (Thurs., April 22, 2010): 7A. (Note: the online version of the article is dated April 21, 2010 and has the title “10 years after Elian, US players mum or moving on.”)

Today (April 22, 2012) is the twelfth anniversary of one of the darkest days in American history—when the Democratic Clinton Administration seized a six year old child in order to force him back into the slavery that his mother had died trying to escape.

Workers Want to See Compensation Related to Contribution

This is a great example contra (or at least qualifying) Daniel Pink’s claim that all you need do for knowledge workers is provide them enough money so that they can provide for the basic needs of themselves and their family.

(p. 145) The public offering process brought details of the intended allocation of Pixar stock options into view. A registration statement and other documents with financial data had to be prepared for the Securities and Exchange Commission and a prospectus needed to be made ready for potential investors. These documents had to be reviewed and edited, and it was here that the word apparently leaked: A small number of people were to receive low-cost options on enormous blocks of stock. Catmull, Levy, and Lasseter were to get options on 1.6 million shares apiece; Guggenheim and Reeves were to get 1 million and 840,000, respectively. If the company’s shares sold at the then-planned price of fourteen dollars, the men would be instant multimillionaires.

The revelation was galling. Apart from the money, there was the symbolism: The options seemed to denigrate the years of work everyone else had put into the company. They gave a hollow feel to Pixar’s labor-of-love camaraderie, its spirit that everyone was there to do cool work together. Also, it was hard not to notice that Levy, one of the top recipients, had just walked in the door.
“There was a big scene about all that because some people got (p. 146) huge amounts more than other people who had come at the same time period and who had made pretty significant contributions to the development of Pixar and the ability to make Toy Story,” Kerwin said. “People like Tom Porter and Eben Ostby and Loren Carpenter–guys that had been there since the beginning and were part of the brain trust.”
Garden-variety employees would also get some options, but besides being far fewer, those options would vest over a four-year period. Even employees who had been with the organization since its Lucasfilm days a decade earlier–employees who had lost all their Pixar stock in the 1991 reorganization–would be starting their vesting clock at zero. In contrast, most of the options of Catmull, Lasseter, Guggenheim, and Reeves vested immediately–they could be turned into stock right away.
“I decided, ‘Well, gee, I’ve been at this company eight years, and I’ll have been here twelve years before I’m fully vested,’ ” one former employee remembered. ” ‘It doesn’t sound like these guys are interested in my well-being.’ A lot of this piled up and made me say, ‘What am I doing? I’m sitting around here trying to make Steve Jobs richer in ways he doesn’t even appreciate.’ ”

Price, David A. The Pixar Touch: The Making of a Company. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2008.
(Note: italics in original.)
(Note: my strong impression is that the pagination is the same for the 2008 hardback and the 2009 paperback editions, except for part of the epilogue, which is revised and expanded in the paperback. I believe the passage above has the same page number in both editions.)

For Daniel Pink’s views, see:
Pink, Daniel H. Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. New York: Riverhead Books, 2009.

Stevenson and Wolfers Find People in Rich Countries Are Happier

StevensonWolfersMaltilda2012-04-04.jpg “Betsey Stevenson and Justin Wolfers are the go-to pair on what some might call “lovenomics,” having produced much research on marriage, divorce and child-rearing. They are shown at home with their daughter, Matilda, and family dog, Max.” Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

(p. 1) . . . when Ms. Stevenson, 40, and Mr. Wolfers, 39, start talking about say, diapers or nursing, the conversation takes an odd turn. Suddenly, words like “inputs” and “outputs” — the economic kind — creep in. Mention loading the dishwasher and he tosses out “fungibility.” The low cost of two big teddy bears they bought for Matilda gets Ms. Stevenson ruminating on productivity gains.

If they don’t quite sound like the rest of us, that’s because these two Harvard Ph.D.’s form a sort of power couple in the world of the dismal science, or at least a certain corner of it. Faculty members at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania, and currently visiting fellows at Princeton, Ms. Stevenson and Mr. Wolfers have become the go-to pair on the economics of marriage, divorce and child-rearing. That they are themselves a couple — unmarried, for tax reasons they regularly cite — adds to the allure.
. . .
Their research shows that men have grown happier as women have become unhappier. (Why? They don’t really know.) Are people in rich countries happier than people in poor countries? (Yes.) And contrary to popular belief, they show that the divorce rate in America has been falling, not rising, for decades. They cite a number of possible reasons, including more balanced expectations between men and women about how a marriage will actually work, as well as the fact that fewer people are marrying in the first place.
. . .
(p. 4) LAST month, Ms. Stevenson and Mr. Wolfers presented new research into what is known as the Easterlin Paradox. First documented by the economist Richard Easterlin in the 1970s, this concept involves the link between economic growth and happiness. The idea is that, within a given country, people with higher incomes are more likely to be happy, and yet, for the most part, the average level of happiness doesn’t vary much from rich countries and poor countries. What’s more, as countries become richer, their populations don’t become happier.
Using a red laser pointer to highlight PowerPoint graphs, Ms. Stevenson told a group of economists, psychologists and other experts gathered at the Russell Sage Foundation on the Upper East Side of Manhattan that earlier research had failed to take into account that as people and countries grow richer, it takes a much bigger amount of absolute dollars to raise incomes, and thus happiness.
So while it could appear that increases in happiness flattened out after incomes reached a certain point, “the richer you are, the more dollars it takes to give you the same increase in well-being,” Ms. Stevenson said. “To get a 10 percent increase in income, you need more dollars than when you are poor.”

For the full story, see:
MOTOKO RICH. “It’s the Economy, Honey.” The New York Times, SundayBusiness Section (Sun., February 11, 2012): 1 & 4.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the review is dated February 11, 2012.)

“Dematerialization” Means More Goods from Fewer Resources

(p. C4) Economic growth is a form of deflation. If the cost of, say, computing power goes down, then the users of computing power acquire more of it for less–and thus attain a higher standard of living. One thing that makes such deflation possible is dematerialization, the reduction in the quantity of stuff needed to produce a product. An iPhone, for example, weighs 1/100th and costs 1/10th as much as an Osborne Executive computer did in 1982, but it has 150 times the processing speed and 100,000 times the memory.
Dematerialization is occurring with all sorts of products. Banking has shrunk to a handful of electrons moving on a cellphone, as have maps, encyclopedias, cameras, books, card games, music, records and letters–none of which now need to occupy physical space of their own. And it’s happening to food, too. In recent decades, wheat straw has shrunk as grain production has grown, because breeders have persuaded the plant to devote more of its energy to making the thing that we value most. Future dematerialization includes the possibility of synthetic meat–produced in a lab without brains, legs or guts.
Dematerialization is one of the reasons that Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler give for the future’s being “better than you think” in their new book, “Abundance.”

For the full commentary, see:
MATT RIDLEY. “MIND & MATTER; The Future Is So Bright, it’s Dematerializing.” The Wall Street Journal (Sat., February 25, 2012): C4.

The book mentioned by Ridley is:
Diamandis, Peter H., and Steven Kotler. Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think. New York: Free Press, 2012.

“Scratch a White Liberal and You’ll Find a Bigot”


Source of book image: http://www.mediabistro.com/fishbowldc/files/2011/10/my-long-trip-home.jpg

(p. C1) As a social studies major in his junior year at Harvard, Mark Whitaker attended a debate on the subject of ethnicity. One participant was the chairman of the department. Mr. Whitaker stood up to raise some questions.

“What would you tell someone who didn’t have a clear ethnic identity?” he asked. “For example, what would you tell someone who had one parent who was black and another who was white? Who had one parent who was American and another who was European? Who had moved dozens of times as a child and didn’t have a specific place to call home?” Everyone in the room knew that Mr. Whitaker was talking about himself.
“I guess I would say that that’s too bad,” the professor answered. “In the future I hope we don’t have too many more people like you.”
Mr. Whitaker recounts this story in “My Long Trip Home,” a book filled with as much family tumult as Jeannette Walls described in “The Glass Castle” and a racial factor to boot. It’s a story that registers not only for its shock value but also for the perspective and wisdom with which it can now be told.
The episode did not anger him, he said. He saw it as his professor’s Freudian slip, “exposing a wish to hold on to a sense of certainty about his roots in the face of a gathering demographic storm that threatened to wash them away.” But Mr. Whitaker’s troubled and combative black father, who is the book’s central figure through sheer force of personality, had a more heated reaction. “As I always say, scratch a white liberal and you’ll find a bigot,” Cleophaus Sylvester Whitaker Jr. told his son.

For the full review, see:
JANET MASLIN. “BOOKS OF THE TIMES; Born Along the Racial Fault Line.” The New York Times (Mon., November 7, 2011): C1 & C4.
(Note: the online version of the review is dated November 6, 2011.)

The book under review is:
Whitaker, Mark. My Long Trip Home: A Family Memoir. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2011.


“Mark Whitaker” Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited above.

Add to Your List of Marketing Mistakes

(p. 142) The consumer products arm of Disney–the group responsible for licensing toys and other tie-ins–was also slow to see the potential of Toy Story. It was a case of out of sight, out of mind: Toy Story was in production hundreds of miles away. Preoccupied with two other forthcoming releases, Pocahontas and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, Disney Consumer Products left the Pixar film on the back burner. When Guggenheim met with one of the division’s senior licensing executives in December 1994, he was alarmed to discover that she saw no licensing potential in the film.
“We put together a presentation reel of scenes from the film that we’d already completed, and material on how the film was being made” Guggenheim said. “We were taking that around the company so people could get a feeling of what this film was all about.”
The executive told him, I don’t know how we’re going to do toys for this.
“What do you mean?” Guggenheim queried. “It’s Toy Story. You know, Toy . . . Story.”
Yes, she said, but you have all these toys that already exist–Mr. Potato Head, Speak & Spell, all that stuff. How are we ever going to make money off that?
“But you have all these original characters. You’ve got Buzz, you’ve got Woody.”

Price, David A. The Pixar Touch: The Making of a Company. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2008.
(Note: ellipsis and italics in original.)
(Note: my strong impression is that the pagination is the same for the 2008 hardback and the 2009 paperback editions, except for part of the epilogue, which is revised and expanded in the paperback. I believe the passage above has the same page number in both editions.)