Carnegie’s Uncle Aitkin Expected to Make a Good Profit Starting a Private Lending Library

Shortly after arriving in Allegheny City (near Pittsburgh) Andrew Carnegie’s Uncle Aitkin had complained in a letter:

(p. 42) “There is no possibility of getting papers or periodicals to read here for a small sum–most of the people being in the habit of purchasing them for their own use. This has been to me a great deprivation. I really find that books here are as dear as in the old country everything considered.”

Uncle Aitkin hoped to remedy this flaw in American cultural life–and make a profit at it–by starting up his own lending library. “I am now convinced that for any one to keep a library and to give works out at a cheaper rate would pay very well & I think I will be engaged in this business in a short time,–after I make a little money by lecturing etc.” Regrettably–for Uncle Aitkin and for Allegheny City’s starved readers–he never got around to setting up his business.

Source:
Nasaw, David. Andrew Carnegie. New York: Penguin Press, 2006.
(Note: the pagination of the hardback and paperback editions of Nasaw’s book are the same.)

Over-Regulated Tech Entrepreneurs Seek Their Own Country

The embed above is provided by YouTube where the video clip is posted under the title “Balaji Srinivasan at Startup School 2013.”

(p. B4) At a startup conference in the San Francisco Bay area last month, a brash and brilliant young entrepreneur named Balaji Srinivasan took the stage to lay out a case for Silicon Valley’s independence.

According to Mr. Srinivasan, who co-founded a successful genetics startup and is now a popular lecturer at Stanford University, the tech industry is under siege from Wall Street, Washington and Hollywood, which he says he believes are harboring resentment toward Silicon Valley’s efforts to usurp their cultural and economic power.
On its surface, Mr. Srinivasan’s talk,—called “Silicon Valley’s Ultimate Exit,”—sounded like a battle cry of the libertarian, anti-regulatory sensibility long espoused by some of the tech industry’s leading thinkers. After arguing that the rest of the country wants to put a stop to the Valley’s rise, Mr. Srinivasan floated a plan for techies to build an “opt-in society, outside the U.S., run by technology.”
His idea seemed a more expansive version of Google Chief Executive Larry Page’s call for setting aside “a piece of the world” to try out controversial new technologies, and investor Peter Thiel’s “Seastead” movement, which aims to launch tech-utopian island nations.

For the full commentary, see:
FARHAD MANJOO. “HIGH DEFINITION; The Valley’s Ugly Complex.” The Wall Street Journal (Mon., Nov. 4, 2013): B4.
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Nov. 3, 2013, and has the title “HIGH DEFINITION; Silicon Valley Has an Arrogance Problem.”)

Spain’s $11 Billion Per Year Slows Global Warming by 61 Hours

(p. A17) Today Spain spends about 1% of GDP throwing money at green energy such as solar and wind power. The $11 billion a year is more than Spain spends on higher education.
At the end of the century, with current commitments, these Spanish efforts will have delayed the impact of global warming by roughly 61 hours, according to the estimates of Yale University’s well-regarded Dynamic Integrated Climate-Economy model. Hundreds of billions of dollars for 61 additional hours? That’s a bad deal.

For the full commentary, see:
BJORN LOMBORG. “Green Energy Is the Real Subsidy Hog; Renewables receive three times as much money per energy unit as fossil fuels.” The Wall Street Journal (Tues., Nov. 12, 2013): A17.
(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Nov. 11, 2013.)

Farm Land Reverts to Forest as Farmers Move to Cities

OrtegaDeWingLandRevertsToForest2013-10-27.jpg “NEW GROWTH; Marta Ortega de Wing once raised pigs in Chilibre, Panama, on land now reverting to nature, a trend dimming the view of primeval forests as sacred.” Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

(p. A1) CHILIBRE, Panama — The land where Marta Ortega de Wing raised hundreds of pigs until 10 years ago is being overtaken by galloping jungle — palms, lizards and ants.

Instead of farming, she now shops at the supermarket and her grown children and grandchildren live in places like Panama City and New York.
Here, and in other tropical countries around the world, small holdings like Ms. Ortega de Wing’s — and much larger swaths of farmland — are reverting to nature, as people abandon their land and move to the cities in search of better livings.
These new “secondary” forests are emerging in Latin America, Asia and other tropical regions at such a fast pace that the trend has set off a serious debate about whether saving primeval rain forest — an iconic environmental cause — may be less urgent than once thought. By one estimate, for every acre of rain forest cut down each year, more than 50 acres of new forest are growing in the tropics on land that was once farmed, logged or ravaged by natural disaster.
“There is far more forest here than there was 30 years ago,” said Ms. Ortega de Wing, 64, who remembers fields of mango trees and banana plants.
The new forests, the scientists argue, could blunt the effects of rain forest destruction by absorbing carbon dioxide, the leading heat-trapping gas linked to global warming, one crucial role that rain forests play. They could also, to a lesser extent, provide habitat for endangered species.

For the full story, see:
ELISABETH ROSENTHAL. “New Jungles Prompt a Debate on Saving Primeval Rain Forests.” The New York Times (Fri., January 30, 2009): A1 & A10.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the article has the date January 29, 2009 and has the title “New Jungles Prompt a Debate on Rain Forests.”)

After First “Debilitating” Federal Funding, Morse Funded Telegraph Privately

(p. 37) The first telegraph line had been completed . . . , in 1844, when Samuel F. B. Morse, with $30,000 in federal funding, connected Washington to Baltimore. Morse and his partners had expected to get funding to build additional lines from the federal government, but their experience securing their first $30,000 had been so debilitating that they gave up entirely on the public sector and turned to private capital to fund their new telegraph lines. Henry O’Rielly secured the franchise and agreed to raise the capital to string telegraph poles from east to west. His plan was to extend one line from Buffalo to Chicago, the other across the Alleghenies from Philadelphia through Pittsburgh, to St. Louis, and then north to Chicago, and south to New Orleans.
Although customers were scarce and the first telegraph lines were continually breaking (or being broken by bands of boys who took great joy in throwing stones at the glass insulators that glistened in the sunlight), O’Rielly and the handful of entrepreneurs who believed in the future of telegraphy raised sufficient capital to extend their lines mile by mile. By late 1846, they had also connected Boston to Washington, via New York City and Philadelphia; New York City to Buffalo, through Albany; and in late December, Philadelphia to Pittsburgh, via Lancaster and Harrisburg.

Source:
Nasaw, David. Andrew Carnegie. New York: Penguin Press, 2006.
(Note: ellipsis added.)
(Note: the pagination of the hardback and paperback editions of Nasaw’s book are the same.)

Regulators Harass Saucy and Irreverent Buckyball Entrepreneur

ZuckerCraigBuckyballs2013-12-07.jpg

“Craig Zucker, former head of Maxfield & Oberton, which made Buckyballs, sells Liberty Balls to raise a legal-defense fund against an unusual action by federal regulators.” Source of caption and photo: online version of the NYT article quoted and cited below.

(p. B1) Over the last three weeks, more than 2,200 people have placed orders for $10-to-$40 sets of magnetic stacking balls, rising to the call of a saucy and irreverent social media campaign against a government regulatory agency.
. . .
It involves an effort by the federal Consumer Product Safety Commission to recall Buckyballs, sets of tiny, powerfully magnetic stacking balls that the magazines Rolling Stone and People once ranked on their hot products lists.
Last year, the commission declared the balls a swallowing hazard to young children and filed an administrative action against the company that made the product, demanding it recall all Buckyballs, and a related product called Buckycubes, and refund consumers their money. The company, Maxfield & Oberton Holdings, challenged the action, saying labels on the packaging clearly warned that the product was unsafe for children.
But the fuss now has less to do with safety. After Maxfield & Oberton went out of business last December, citing the financial toll of the recall battle, lawyers for the product safety agency took the highly unusual step of adding the chief executive of the dissolved firm, Craig Zucker, as a respondent in the recall action, arguing that he con-
(p. B6)trolled the company’s activities. Mr. Zucker and his lawyers say the move could ultimately make him personally responsible for the estimated recall costs of $57 million.
While the “responsible corporate officer” doctrine (also known as the Park doctrine) has been used frequently in criminal cases, allowing for prosecutions of individual company officers in cases asserting corporate wrongdoing, experts say its use is virtually unheard-of in an administrative action where no violations of law or regulations are claimed.
. . .
Three well-known business organizations — the National Association of Manufacturers, the National Retail Federation and the Retail Industry Leaders Association — banded together this summer to file a brief urging the administrative law judge reviewing the recall case to drop Mr. Zucker as a respondent.
The groups argue that holding an individual responsible for a widespread, expensive recall sets a disturbing example and runs counter to the business desire for limited liability. They contend that such risk would have a detrimental effect on entrepreneurism and openness in dealing with regulatory bodies.
. . .
Conservative legal groups like Cause of Action, a nonprofit that targets what it considers governmental overreach, have been watching the proceedings with interest and weighing taking some action.
“This really punishes entrepreneurship and establishes a bad precedent for businesses working to create products for consumers,” said Daniel Z. Epstein, the group’s executive director. “It undermines the business community’s ability to rely upon the corporate form.”

For the full story, see:
HILARY STOUT. “In Regulators’ Sights; Magnetic-Toy Recall Gives Rise to Wider Legal Campaign.” The New York Times (Fri., November 1, 2013): B1 & B6.
(Note: ellipses added.)
(Note: the online version of the article has the date October 31, 2013, and has the title “Buckyball Recall Stirs a Wider Legal Campaign.”)

Buffett’s Berkshire Buys More of Dubious DaVita

A case has been made on CNN that DaVita has committed Medicare fraud costing taxpayers many millions of dollars. DaVita has been discussed in previous blog entries on November 30, 2012, May 18, 2013, and June 11, 2013.

(p. 3D) Omaha investor Warren Buffett’s company bought nearly 3.7 million more shares of DaVita Inc. after the dialysis provider reported its earnings . . . [in the first week of November 2013].

Berkshire Hathaway Inc. said in documents filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission on Friday that it owns 35.1 million shares of DaVita.

For the full story, see:
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS. “Berkshire buys 3.7 million more shares of DaVita after report.” Omaha World-Herald (Mon., November 11, 2013): 3D.
(Note: ellipsis and bracketed words added.)