Art Diamond Interviewed on the Small Business Advocate Radio Show

Yesterday morning, Jim Blasingame, the host of his nationally syndicated “The Small Business Advocate” radio show, interviewed me on issues related to my book Openness to Creative Destruction, and “A Disney Story for Young Socialists,” my Oct. 10 op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal. You can click on the links below to listen to each segment of the interview.

Guacamole “Toast-Munching Hipsters” Can Relax: Gene Edited Avocados Would Thrive Under Global Warming

(p. B1) Last month, a team of scientists in the United States and Mexico announced that it had mapped the DNA sequences of several types of avocados, including the popular Hass variety. That research is likely to become the foundation for breeding techniques and genetic modifications designed to produce avocados that can resist disease or survive in drier conditions.

Whether they realize it or not, this could be big news for toast-munching hipsters. Already, rising temperatures are disrupting the avocado supply chain, causing price increases across the United States that have also been exacerbated by trade uncertainty.

“Because of climate change, temperature might not be the same, humidity might not be the same, the soil might be different, new insects will come and diseases will come,” said Luis Herrera-Estrella, a plant genomics professor at Texas Tech University who led the avocado project. “We need to be prepared to contend with all these inevitable challenges.”

. . .

(p. B5) “There are avocados that grow in very hot places with little water, and there are avocados that grow more in rainy places,” Dr. Herrera-Estrella said. “If we can identify genes that confer heat tolerance and drought tolerance, then we can engineer the avocados for the future.”

For the full story, see:

David Yaffe-Bellany. “Genes Ripe for Editing.” The New York Times (Saturday, September 28, 2019): B1 & B5.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story was last updated on Sept. 30 [sic], 2019, and has the title “Avocado Toast, Meet Gene Editing.”)

Hunter Hastings Posts “Professor Arthur Diamond on Sustaining Innovative Dynamism” Podcast to His “Economics for Entrepreneurs (E4E)”

The podcast episode “Professor Arthur Diamond on Sustaining Innovative Dynamism,” is also posted at the Mises Institute site: https://mises.org/library/professor-arthur-diamond-sustaining-innovative-dynamism

Mott Joined Sloan in Methodically Avoiding Durant’s Entrepreneurial Hunches

(p. A13) Charles Stewart Mott never had his name on an American automobile, but he was on intimate terms with most of the men who did (he was godfather to Walter Chrysler’s daughters). He was also crucial to the rise and success of General Motors.

. . .

By the time Mott, a graduate of Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, had returned from the Spanish-American War, his uncle Fred had added Weston-Mott, a company that manufactured wire bicycle wheels, to the family’s cider and vinegar operations. Charles went to work at Weston-Mott, soon becoming superintendent, just as the bicycle business entered into a sudden eclipse; the automobile had begun its imperial progress. Happily for Weston-Mott, most early cars ran on wire wheels, which Charles Mott supplied—$200,000 worth in 1903—many of them to the Buick Motor Co. of Flint, Mich.

At that time, Buick was in the hands of William Durant, the future founder of General Motors. Cars were being assembled piecemeal, with parts delivered from many far-flung suppliers. Durant didn’t like that, so he asked Mott to move his wheel-building operation to Flint from Utica, N.Y. According to Alfred P. Sloan, who in 1923 became president of GM and whose fortunes would be tied with Mott’s for six decades, the move marked “the first step in the integration of the automobile industry.”

The years to come would see struggles for control of the ever-growing GM, a complex and tangy story that Mr. Renehan recounts with verve and lucidity. “I like to work with Mott,” Sloan wrote of his most valuable lieutenant in his 1941 memoir. “His training had made him methodical. When he was confronted by a problem, he tacked it as I did my own, with engineering care to get the facts. Neither of us ever took any pride in hunches. We left all the glory of that kind of thinking to such men as liked to be labeled ‘genius’ ”—by which Sloan meant Durant.

For the full review, see:

Richard Snow. “BOOKSHELF; Company Man.” The Wall Street Journal (Friday, Sept. 6, 2019): A13.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the review has the date Sept. 5, 2019, and has the title “BOOKSHELF; ‘The Life of Charles Stewart Mott’ Review: Company Man.”)

The book under review is:

Renehan, Edward J., Jr. The Life of Charles Stewart Mott: Industrialist, Philanthropist, Mr. Flint. Ann Arbor, MI: University of Michigan, 2019.

“Authors Need to Eat, Too”

(p. A23) Authors need to eat, too, and we get by (or not quite, these days), by showing up at our writing places at a designated time day after day and staying there till we have fretted out our quota of words, to be sent off, after a time, to a publisher, in the hope that, two or three years down the road, a few pennies may come trickling back under the ludicrously grandiose name of “royalties.”

. . .

“There are people out there that just want everything to be free,” says Mary Rasenberger, the executive director of the Authors Guild (where I am a member), “and it’s like a religion to them.” Some piracy sites, she says, even advise users how to buy a digital copy of a book, strip out the digital rights management (D.R.M.) intended to protect the author’s rights, upload the book to a file-sharing site, and then return the book for a refund, “so they don’t even have to pay for the original.” Some sites are so insanely bent on copyright piracy that they offer their followers wedding vows, in which the couple solemnly commits to support the copying culture. “They don’t understand that writers need to get paid, and publishers are not going to publish books if they can’t make money on them.”

Since 2009, when eBooks and book piracy became a phenomenon, income for authors has declined 42 percent, according to a 2018 Authors Guild income survey, with the median income from writing now so low — just $6,080 a year — that poverty level looks like the mountaintop. By contrast, a 2017 Nielsen survey found that people who admitted to having read a pirated book in the previous six months tend to be middle class, educated, female as well as male, between the ages of 30 and 44 — and with an income of $60,000 to 90,000 a year.

For the full commentary, see:

Conniff, Richard. “Steal This Book? There’s a Price.” The New York Times (Monday, September 16, 2019): A23.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Sept. 16, 2019, and has the same title as the print version.)

Xi Suppresses Mao’s Starvation of Tens of Millions of Rural Chinese

(p. A9) Mr. Xi’s recasting of China’s history has left less and less room to reflect on traumas like the tens of millions who starved to death across the country from 1958 to 1960. That worries scholars who believe that the calamities of that time still offer lessons for China.

Harvests fell drastically short of the miraculous yields that officials had promised in the Great Leap Forward, a feverish campaign to propel China into communist plenty. As hulking collectivized farms failed, the government seized grain from peasants who were accused of hiding supplies. Starvation spread. So did persecution of peasants accused of resisting grain seizures.

Xinyang suffered worse than nearly any place in China. Out of eight million residents, about one million died of undernourishment and other abuses, according to secret official reports at the time.

In Gaodadian Village in Xinyang, two mounted stones stand etched with the names of 72 people who starved to death in this settlement of around 120 residents. The memorial, half hidden among bushes, is the only one around here, or perhaps anywhere in China, for victims of the Great Leap famine.

. . .

Mr. Wu’s son, Wu Ye, 51, helped his father build the famine memorial in their home village. He said he grasped the enormity of the suffering only after he moved to the United States and read a Chinese-language book about that era, “Man-Made Catastrophe,” published in Hong Kong in 1991.

“On the internet there’s all those people who say that it’s nonsense, that so many people couldn’t possibly have died,” the younger Mr. Wu said in a telephone interview from Buffalo. “I wanted to somehow prove that this happened.”

For the full story, see:

Chris Buckley. “Xi Lauds ‘Red’ Heritage in Land Brutalized by It.” The New York Times (Tuesday, October 1, 2019): A1 & A9.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the story has the date Sept. 30, 2019, and has the title “‘Xi Extols China’s ‘Red’ Heritage in a Land Haunted by Famine Under Mao.”)

“To Be Profitable, You Have to Have a Purpose”

(p. F2) When a group of the nation’s largest companies said last month that they had changed their mission strictly from making profits to also include benefiting “customers, employees, suppliers, communities and shareholders,” it was generally applauded as an important step in the right direction.

. . .

Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in his first public comment on the topic, flatly told me: “I wouldn’t have signed it,” stunning a room of policymakers and business leaders in Washington at last week’s DealBook DC Strategy Forum.

His explanation was nuanced: “To be profitable, you have to have a purpose. I think it’s not as simple as saying we either have a purpose or we have profits. I think the problem with creating a simple answer is it doesn’t fully explore the issues.”

He added: “I do think companies should be long-term oriented. I don’t think companies need to necessarily be focused on quarterly profits and hitting Street earnings numbers. But I think, ultimately, a business’s job is to deploy the capital correctly and to make profits.”

Stephen A. Schwarzman, the co-founder and chairman of Blackstone Group and one of only a handful of members of the Business Roundtable who declined to sign the document, also went public with his explanation in a conversation with me earlier this week: “I know why we’re in business: because people give us money to manage. They want us to earn a lot of money to give them back or else they would give us nothing.”

He said “the idea that business should be concerned” with employees, customers, suppliers and the community should be a given. But, he said, he objected to the idea in the Business Roundtable statement that profits should be listed as simply equal to the other four issues.

“I have trouble managing when I don’t know what I’m supposed to be doing,” he said, suggesting the statement gives managers too many masters. “I know what I’m supposed to be doing, which is making good investments, safely, and making a great contribution to these pension funds and regular people.”

For the full commentary, see:

Andrew Ross Sorkin. “Profits or Public Interest?” The New York Times (Thursday, September 19, 2019): F2.

(Note: ellipsis added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Sept. 18, 2019, and has the title “Profits or the Public Interest: The Debate Continues.”)